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Zamora running for McAllen commission

December 14, 2016 GMT

Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney and McAllen native Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora has filed paperwork and is running for the McAllen District 2 Commission seat currently held by Trey Pebley. Zamora is also involved in his family’s business, Zamora’s Restaurant, on North 23rd Street.

Pebley said Tuesday he intends to hold a re-election campaign kickoff event in January. The election is on May 6, 2017. District 2 is covers northwest McAllen.

Besides receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994 and a law degree from Texas Tech in 1997, Zamora, 45, said he’s lived in north McAllen his entire life. Zamora said he will run a grassroots campaign focusing on word and mouth, knocking on doors and talking to people, especially consistent voters. He will gladly accept donations, but said that’s not his main mission.

“I’m more interested in your vote than your money,” Zamora said. “I’m an open book. I will involve my personal funds — if you believe in yourself, you shouldn’t have a problem putting your money into it.”

Zamora said he’s most interested in connecting the citizens with the city, something he said that has been lacking. He mentioned multiple times being proactive instead of reactive.

“Are neighborhoods and highways being kept clean?” Zamora said. “Public safety, parks, sidewalks connecting neighborhoods. The baseball fields were voted on in 2013 and they just bid them out three years later. The Bentsen Hike and Bike trail — I know that’s a TxDOT project, but the city could be more proactive. I know I’d be more proactive in helping get things done.

“But ultimately, meat and potatoes issues are what I’m interested in. Things that will help people every day.”

The baseball complex Zamora referred to was from the 2013 bond election, which was passed to fund $15 million toward a youth baseball complex in north McAllen. After three years, the commission awarded a bidder on Nov. 28. The complex is set to be ready by November 2017, depending on when construction gets underway.

Being assistant DA is not a conflict of interest to run for an elected commission seat, according to Article 16, Section 40 of the Texas Constitution. And conflict of interest is something Zamora mentioned in his pursuit of the commission.

“Mr. Pebley has done a fine job for District 2,” Zamora said. “But he has his paving company (Foremost Paving Inc.), which doesn’t allow him to always participate in certain things.

“Unless it involves a botana, I won’t have a conflict of interest,” Zamora laughed. “So I won’t have that issue Mr. Pebley has.”

Pebley does regularly recuse himself from certain items during commission meetings, typically construction projects. The others who, at times, but not nearly as much as Pebley, recuse themselves from items are Mayor Jim Darling, especially when he was general counsel at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and there were potential conflicts of interest, and Commissioner Veronica Whitacre, who runs Comfort House.

The botana mention was a joke about him being involved with Zamora’s restaurant, which is primarily run by his mother and brothers. He handles any legal work. But Zamora said after 18 years in the legal community, it’s time to step up and help in more ways.

“I’m an extrovert and love talking to people,” Zamora said. “And that’s something McAllen can get much better at. Being open and connecting the city to the citizens.”