Sunday, December 13, 2009

Legendary former McAllen Mayor Othal Brand passes away

Legendary former McAllen Mayor Othal Brand passes away
McALLEN, Dec. 12 - McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez and his city commission colleagues have paid their tribute to former Mayor Othal Brand, who died Saturday aged 90.

“On behalf of the City of McAllen, we extend our warmest and sincerest condolences to the Othal Brand, Sr., family. Brand served as a public official in the City of McAllen for 30 years and he still continued to work tirelessly for the McAllen community to make it better,” Cortez said.

“He always said he loved this community and we felt the same about him.”

Brand died peacefully in his sleep at 1.05 a.m. Saturday morning at Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen. His son Othal, Jr., otherwise known as O.E., and his daughter Karen were by his side when he died.

Brand had been flown from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, by air ambulance on Friday at the request of his wife Katherine, better known as Kay, so that he could be back in his beloved Rio Grande Valley.

“Othal’s passing was uneventful and peaceful,” a family member told the Guardian and Ron Whitlock Reports. “He was given a mild sedative at 11 p.m. last night even though he was not in pain. Those at peace with the Lord go peacefully.”

The Brand family went forward with a ceremony Saturday evening at the Valley Christian Heritage School in Alamo to honor Othal Brand, Sr, and Kay Brand. O.E. Brand sang at the event.

Brand served as mayor of the City of Palms for 20 years and many of its business and political leaders say he made the city what it is today, a progressive yet financially stable municipality.

Eddie Zamora, a Republican candidate for Congressional District 15, has worked for Othal Brand Sr. and Jr. for the past five years.

“McAllen, the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, America lost a very good patriot, a good conservative, an American. He served his country, as did his wife, admirably in World War II. He was boxing champion in the Marine Corps back in 1942,” Zamora said.

“In fact, when I started working there five years ago he was still working out on the punching bags. He was a go-getter.”

Anthony Covacevich, a former Weslaco city manager who now works for Hollis Rutledge & Associates, said: “Whether you agreed with him or not, Othal Brand always had the best interests of McAllen in his heart.”

Brand was flown to the Mayo Clinic two weeks ago for tests and observations after Valley doctors found three liters of fluid on his left lung. Discussing the visit, O.E. Brand said: “It is called old age. My father jokingly said to me the other day, ‘the body is no different to a machine, eventually it just wears out’.”

Earlier this year, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, passed a resolution in the legislature honoring Mayor Brand.

As well as serving as mayor of McAllen for 20 years, Brand was a founder of Griffin & Brand, a McAllen firm specializing in growing and shipping fruits and vegetables.

Up until his death Brand served in elected office, as a member of the Hidalgo County Water Control and Improvement District No. 3 in McAllen. He served on the board with his son and another former McAllen Mayor, Leo Montalvo.

Brand was recognized with a Resolution by the City of McAllen at a meeting last January. The proclamation read as follows:

Whereas, Othal E. Brand Sr. (Mayor Brand) was the eldest of six children born to Homer and Ilee Brand (both deceased) on August 12, 1919 in Grayson, Georgia. Mayor Brand was raised in Atlanta where he was exposed to the fruit and vegetable industry at an early age following his father’s footsteps. Mayor Brand and his brother Bill, began peddling produce at an early age and with hard work and determination, established their produce business as Brand Brothers Produce of Atlanta, Georgia; and

Whereas, in 1941, Mayor Brand enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served during World War II. Upon his return from the war in the early 1950’s, Mayor Brand rebuilt the produce business and later partnered with Jack Griffin to establish Griffin & Brand of McAllen, a major refrigeration, packing and distribution center. Mayor Brand became a leading figure in the Texas vegetable industry and one of the nation’s largest vegetable producers, processors and shippers and in 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor for his significant contributions to agriculture and ranching in Texas; and

Whereas, in 1973, Mayor Brand was elected City Commissioner of the City of McAllen and in 1977 was elected Mayor, where he served continuously for 20 years until 1997. Through his leadership and vision, he was instrumental in establishing the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of McAllen and planned for McAllen’s future by acquiring land for future growth. Mayor Brand served on numerous boards and committees both on the local and state levels; and

Whereas, citizens of McAllen give credit to some of the city’s evolution to Mayor Brand as during his tenure in office, the city flourished economically as seen in infrastructure and placed McAllen on the map as a thriving city; and

Whereas, Mayor Brand has been married to Kathryn Louise since 1945 and they have four children: Lynn, Karyn, Cynthia, and Othal Jr. They also have numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren; and

Whereas, the City of McAllen hereby extends their most sincere gratitude to Othal Brand Sr. for his leadership and commitment toward the betterment of this great city;

Now therefore, I, Richard Cortez, Mayor of the City of McAllen, Texas by virtue of the authority vested in me and on behalf of the Mayor and the City Commission, do hereby proclaim January 26, 2009 as

“Mayor Othal Brand Day”

Ron Whitlock of KVEO-TV's Ron Whitlock Reports contributed to this story.

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Write Steve Taylor and Ron Whitlock

Little by little McAllen is becoming a threat to the leading inland port between Mexico and the U.S.

Little by little McAllen is becoming a threat to the leading inland port between Mexico and the U.S.

LAREDO, Tx.- While Laredo is still indecisive about building a new international bridge, McAllen, in the Texas Valley, is little by little becoming a serious threat to the leading inland port between Mexico and the U.S.

On Tuesday December 15 the new international bridge Anzaldúas will open its doors to the public. The bridge was constructed between McAllen, Mission and Hidalgo, Texas, while on the Mexican side Reynosa was the sole partner.

This new international crossing is being promoted as the longest bridge between Mexico and the U.S. with a length of almost 4 miles; and it is the third international crossing for this border region.

Roy Cantu, public information officer in McAllen said in a press release that this bridge will eventually become the shortest and fastest route to connect to Monterrey and Mexico City.

The international bridge had a total cost of 80 million dollars for the U.S. side, and it has two lanes in each direction, plus it has two more lanes for damaged vehicles that can later be used for commercial vehicles, when international trade demands it.

The bridge is located three miles up the river from the Hidalgo and Reynosa bridge.

Leaders from the community as such as ex County Judge Mercurio Martinez, warned the local authorities that time is running by and that other ports can end up winning us in the race, if we continue to have such a passive and indifferent attitude.

"It is time to move and begin to work together and get ready for the tremendous amount of international trade loads that will come especially from Lazaro Cardenas Port in Mexico," Martinez pointed out.

Unfortunately in this border the project for a new international bridge is still stuck because even though Nuevo Laredo wants to go forward with it, the Laredo authorities decided to go a step back and change the location that had already been decided on for the construction of the new bridge.

Project 45 is the location promoted by Nuevo Laredo Mayor Ramon Garza Barrios, together with the government of the state of Tamaulipas, which aims at building the bridge on the south side of the city, in a piece of land that abuts with the U.S.side, near Rio Bravo and El Cenizo, and the outskirts of Laredo.

"We need to work together and we must do it now, we can't continue waiting, it would be great if we could reach an agreement now and start as soon as possible with this project that will benefit both sides," Wawi Tijerina stated.

It must be pointed out that the Webb County authorities do support Nuevo Laredo's plan, however it was Laredo's City Council that decided to all of the sudden put a hold on the project, and move it the location to a place that seems almost impossible to build a bridge for the Mexican side.

County Judge Danny Valdez mentioned that if this not the time to build a bridge, then it is time to start with all the planning and studies, to have them ready whenever it is time to build it and thus avoid other bridges and cities to take a head start over los Dos Laredos region.

While Laredo only has "bickering", McAllen has a new international bridge in two days, and they will take advantage of the sleepiness that has taken over the Laredo authorities.