|Intro||American mayor and lawyer|
|Is||Rancher Politician Lawyer|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||29 October 1951, Laredo, Webb County, Texas, USA|
Pedro Ignacio Saenz Jr., known as Pete Saenz (born October 29, 1951), is the mayor of Laredo, Texas, a position which he assumed on November 12, 2014.
Saenz is the son of Pedro Saenz, Sr. (c. 1922–2014), and the late Maria del Refugio Martinez Saenz, known as Cuquita. His father died at the age of ninety-two, just two days before Saenz was elected mayor. His grandparents were Rafael Saenz, Sr., and the former Maria del Refugio Dilley.
Saenz's father was a self-educated dairyman and rancher who raised horses, cattle, goats, and pigs. During the late 1940s, Pedro and Cuquita established El Clavel Dairy Farm, and in 1950 they purchased Las Blancas Ranch in Webb County. Saenz, Sr., was named in 1983 as the "Best Conservation Rancher" and in 1996 as "Rancher of the Year". The couple is interred in the family plot at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo. Mayor Saenz still works part-time on the family ranch.
Saenz's siblings are Graciela Martinez and Rolando Saenz. A second sister, Mary Pena, is deceased.
Saenz was educated at the Roman Catholic St. Joseph's Academy in Laredo. He thereafter obtained Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Animal Science and Range Management, respectively, from Texas A&M University–Kingsville, then known as Texas A&I University, located near Corpus Christi in Kingsville. After a brief career as a range conservationist with the United States Department of Agriculture, Saenz entered law school and obtained his degree from St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. With his wife, the former Minerva "Meva" Cadena (born 1950), an educator, and their three children, Pedro Saenz, III, Monica Saenz Vigil, and Roberto J. Saenz, he returned to Laredo to establish his law practice. His office is located on Chihuahua Street in south Laredo.
Community and political life
For twelve years, Saenz was a member of the Laredo Community College board of trustees. He also served a stint as the board president. During his tenure on the board, the South Campus was established, and most buildings on the main campus on West Washington Street were renovated. He is also a former president of the South Texas Food Bank and the Laredo Affordable Housing Corporation.
In his campaign for mayor against a multi-candidate field, Saenz carried the endorsement of the Laredo Morning Times. The newspaper described Saenz as possessing "the savvy and tools to lead municipal government to the next level, with hands-on hard work, ethical performance, dedication, integrity and vision for communitywide betterment, growth and improvement ..."
Saenz won the mayoral race with 53.3 percent of the votes cast in the nominally non-partisan city contest held in conjunction with the regular November 4 general election. Jerry Garza (born 1976) finished second in the contest with 20.5 percent of the vote. A businessman, he is a former KGNS-TV news personality and former two-term member of the Webb County Commissioners Court. Garza ran unsuccessfully in 2012 for the Texas House of Representatives against fellow Democrat Tracy King of Batesville, Texas, who still holds that position. City council member Cynthia "Cindy" Espinoza Liendo (born 1975), finished third in the mayoral election with 19.1 percent. The incumbent two-term mayor, Raúl González Salinas, was term-limited; on May 27, 2014, Salinas lost a Democratic runoff election for the position of Webb County treasurer to the incumbent Delia Perales.
Within one week of Saenz's taking office, Carlos Roberto Villarreal (born 1946), the Laredo city manager since 2007, announced his immediate retirement during contract negotiations initiated by four of the eight city council members. His salary was set in 2013 at $230,000 annually. Deputy city manager Cynthia Collazo will take over Villarreal's duties pending the naming of an interim city manager. The city council must then choose a permanent successor. Villarreal said in announcing his departure, "You know you can't be here forever. I was the longest-tenured city manager here in the city of Laredo." Saenz said that he wants a city manager to be chosen through a nationwide search. He seeks an individual who will remain in the position for at least eight years. Villarreal received a large severance package upon departure, a total of $603,503, which includes eighteen months of pay and unused annual and sick leave. The council named the assistant city manager, Jesus "Chuy" Olivares, as the interim city manager.
On November 21, 2014, Saenz addressed a meeting in Laredo of the Logistics and Manufacturing Association in which he endorsed Villarreal's retirement: "I ran for change. I stand for change. ... All roads lead to the city management position."
Laredo resident Mario Ortiz disputes Saenz's account of the Villarreal retirement. In a letter to the Laredo Morning Times, Ortiz noted that the city could have delayed action until April 2015 when Villarreal's contract came up for review. This would have reduced taxpayer liability in the payout. Ortiz also said that Saenz could have vetoed the retirement buyout, particularly since four council member had voted in April 2014 to give Villarreal a $40,000 annual raise. "Mayor Saenz is not off to a good start," concluded Ortiz. After conducting number of interviews of interested applicants, the city council decided to elevate assistant city manager Jesus "Chuy" Olivares (born c. 1958) to the manager's position. Olivares is a former city manager in Eagle Pass, Texas. At the time of the decision, there was no District 7 representation on the council.
Saenz contends that he is committed to fighting political corruption and to regaining public trust in city government. He submitted a hair sample to prove that he is drug-free. He vowed to work to reduce the large rate of poverty in Laredo and to maintain sound budgeting practices. Saenz has called for an independent city auditor with jurisdiction over all city departments and offices, including the mayor, city manager, and the council members.
In March 2016, Saenz vetoed the appointment of former city manager Carlos Villarreal to the Laredo Ethics Commission. Three city council members, led by Roque Vela, the sponsor of the Villarreal appointment, failed in an attempt to override Saenz's veto.
Donald Trump visit
On July 23, 2015, Saenz and other Laredo city officials welcomed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to Laredo. In his three-hour stopover, Trump, who wore a white sports cap to shield himself from the South Texas sun, had been scheduled to meet with representatives of the United States Border Patrol, but the BP union nixed those plans at the last minute.
More than a week after the visit, which received national attention, many Laredo Democrats were still livid over the welcome afforded to the Republican candidate, though there were no endorsements of Trump's candidacy by any of those officials. U.S. Representative Joaquín Castro of Texas's 20th congressional district, based in San Antonio, scolded the Laredo officials for "rolling out the red carpet" for Trump, whom Castro claimed made "hateful comments to Mexican immigrants." The city officials issued a press release in their defense:
City of Laredo officials saw an opportunity to meet with Trump to give him a true perspective of not only the border, but the vital role that the City of Laredo plays in all issues related to border trade and security and why those issues are important to the rest of the country. ... Donald Trump has the national spotlight and the bully pulpit, and frankly everyone is listening to what he is saying. While I [Mayor Saenz], along with many here in Laredo, disagreed very much with his positions and comments, especially his characterization of Mexican immigrant and our relationship with Mexico, this wan an opportunity to engage him in meaningful dialogue that could hopefully have an impact on his rhetoric. I believe we accomplished that.
Later, Saenz told a gathering in the capital city of Austin that he felt compelled to be a "gracious host" to explain to Trump how a border wall and mass deportations were counterproductive:
I told him [the wall] was not practical ... aside from it being offensive to Mexico, which is our second- or third-largest trading partner, the cost is impractical, and it's not practical inside Texas, where the Rio Grande sometimes throughout the year is a source of drinking water for livestock. ... We're a ranching community. What are you going to do — dam the tributaries? He did change his tone a little bit. He did say maybe the wall is not appropriate for the entire border and certain sections are not conducive for that.
Saenz said that Trump misinterpreted the large crowd that greeted him at the Laredo International Airport. "When he landed, he asked, 'Is it safe for me to get down (off the plane)?' In his mind, in his own consciousness, he perceived danger," said Saenz. Though there were some protesters, the candidate faced no danger. As the two rode in Trump's Suburban, Saenz said that Trump took note of all the people who came to see him and remarked: "Hey, the Hispanics love me." Saenz replied, "No, they don't. They've never seen a white Republican before," for Laredo is 96 percent Hispanic and solidly Democratic. Actually white Republicans, including George W. Bush and Clayton W. Williams, Jr., have occasionally campaigned, mostly unsuccessfully, in Laredo.
2018 mayoral election
Saenz was first expected to face opposition in the November 6 municipal election from a self-styled "citizen journalist", Priscilla "La Gordiloca" Villarreal, who carries 90,000 Facebook followers. Villarreal's announcement of candidacy came after criminal charges against her were dismissed. Late in 2017, she was charged with two counts of misuse of official information, a third-degree felony, after publishing information about a suicide and an automobile accident.
Despite her earlier consideration of candidacy, Villarreal did not file for mayor. Instead she endorsed one of Saenz's challengers, Roque Vela, Jr., a member of the Laredo City Council from 2012 until his defeat for a second term in 2016. Vela said that the council should stop diverting money from enterprise funds to augment the general fund. He also urged the city to look at property taxes, fees and having trash picked up twice a week, rather than once. In the 2016 council election, Vela disclosed that he had been arrested for possession of twenty-two pounds of marijuana, syringes, and a firearm.
A third mayoral candidate was the current city councilman Carlos Alberto "Charlie" San Miguel (born February 29, 1968).
Based on returns in the nonpartisan mayoral election held on November 6, 2018, Saenz was forced into a runoff election on December 13 with Vela. The mayor led the balloting with 21,696 votes (47.6 percent) to Vela's 12,766 (28 percent). City councilman Charlie San Miguel finished third with 9,292 votes (20.4 percent). Two other candidates, Avelino Juarez and Randall Walden, held the remaining 4 percent of the ballots cast. Saenz then handily won the runoff contest with 13,972 votes (64.5 percent) to Vela's 7,694 (35.5 percent).