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School Board Member
La Joya High School
Texas A&I University
Leo predicts an exciting election season.
It is exciting," said former La Joya Mayor and Hidalgo County Clerk, Billy Leo. Democratic activists were pleased to see Leo at Koko's because he has been recovering from a stroke that forced him to close his general store in La Joya. He said he is thinking of reopening the store so he will have a place to catch up on all the political chisme during a hot election cycle. Leo predicts the race between longtime Hidalgo County DA Rene Guerra and his challenger, Ricardo Rodriguez, a former state district judge, would be the hottest race locally in 2014. Rene will have to work," Leo predicted. Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia was sitting with Leo at Koko's, watching a steady stream of candidates and campaign staffs come in. "Billy is Mr. Democrat, it is great that he is here," Garcia said.
La Joya Mayor William Leo said he still remembered the flooding that came with Hurricane Beulah in 1967, which sent the river flowing past the railroad tracks and rushing into homes.Thirteen people died from the storm."If the water goes over the railroad tracks that means we've got some serious problems," Leo said."In my lifetime, it's happened twice."He said he hadn't heard much about the Mexican reservoirs but felt prepared."We go through the regular training routines," he said.
Mayor Leo promotes La Joya at state, national levels
LA JOYA - Hidden in the back of his convenience store, Mayor Billy Leo has a museum of his political career. Serving as mayor for 16 years, Leo said he has made great strides for the city. He has promoted this small city at different political levels including state and national arenas. Now, after many years, Leo is contemplating retirement. The elder Leo provided public notary services to file citizenship papers for Mexican immigrants, and served on the board of directors of Great Society poverty programs to provide jobs, housing, food assistance, dental services, summer youth programs and legal aid, according to the Handbook of Texas. He fought for farmworkers' rights and organized the Hidalgo County Political League. Through his dedication to the city he was able to provide a sewage system and paved streets from funds he received from the state. "He was a very active man. At the time, La Joya was pretty dead and he activated it," said Leo. "He did many great things and I learned from him." The mayor's father also chaired the Hidalgo County Political Association of Spanish Speaking Organizations (PASSO) that was comprised of 1,000 members and was the largest group of its kind in the state. Billy Leo graduated from La Joya High School in 1965 and joined the U.S. Army where he was stationed in Korea from 1967-1969. Upon his return to the states, he attended classes and graduated from Texas A&I University with a teaching degree in political science. "I found out being a teacher wasn't like being a store keeper," he explained. "Because when I was in a bad mood I could kick a box or two and if I scolded a child he would probably shoot back at me! Teaching wasn't for me." Leo, who is one of four siblings, returned to La Joya after a year of teaching in Rio Grande City. He took over the store in 1980. "Everyone expected me to go into politics after my dad died and all the pressure came to me and I wasn't ready," he said as he adjusted his reading glasses around his neck. "It just happened by accident." While in high school, Leo helped his father with campaigns and other political endeavors. During a school board election, Billy Leo was asked to go pick up a family of three to bring them to the polls to vote. Unfortunately, Leo parked next to the opposition who swayed Leo's voters to their side. "Oh boy, my dad was furious! I had just flunked my first test. I drove eight miles to pick them up and the opposition got them. But that's how politics is," said Leo. "He got mad at me in front of everybody and I learned a valuable lesson. Don't park next to the enemy and I still had to drive them home." Leo explained that his father taught him that if a politician gives his word he should keep it. He told him to always work hard, make well thought out decisions, and walk a straight line. Leo absorbed the wisdom and was elected as mayor in May 1981 after serving as a La Joya school board member for seven years. His father died a month later. "My father did a lot and was a very intimidating 260 pounds - his voice carried out. I'm very modest and I had to force myself. I force myself to talk to people sometimes because that's not me; I'm shy," said Leo. "I am not a complete politician. I just like doing the work, but believe it or not it's hard for me to be able to talk to people." The mayor's unknown introverted nature didn't stop him from getting involved and making things happen for La Joya. During his term in the 1980s, Leo led the city as it earned funds from the state and worked hard to promote the city in Austin. If he ever ran into someone who'd never heard of La Joya, or "LJ," as he'd call it, he'd champion the city at all costs. "I would respond shockingly, 'You haven't heard of LJ? It's on the southern tip of Texas. You can't go any down further 'cause then you would be in Mexico!' It's how I promoted us," said Leo with a laugh. His promotions worked, and in 1983, Texas Governor Mark White appointed Leo to the Community Block Grant board that helped determine project funding. In that time, La Joya was able to receive $3 million in grants for South Texas. Some of the funds provided La Joya with its own water and sewer system. He also created fire and police protection. Leo was also able to get politicians to take notice of the importance of the Democratic voters in La Joya. He gathered numbers, divided and analyzed statistics of how many people voted in each city in Hidalgo County and whom they supported. "That's how we began to sell the city at the state level," he said. "They had been neglecting us as a city and community." Leo was able to help people from South Texas get hired at the state level in administration after becoming friends with Richards. Leo also has been a Democratic National Committee member for 12 years and has taken part in the Democratic National Convention for delegates for 16 years. After serving his first term as mayor, Leo served as Hidalgo County Clerk for eight years. He was re-elected as La Joya's mayor in 1996 and has been re-elected ever since. La Joya City Commissioner Angie Garza has worked alongside the mayor for years and said Leo has revitalized the city. "I don't have too many years left and my future is very simple; I have to sell," Leo said. "I would like to keep my office though. I just don't know what I would do with myself or my time if I didn't even have the store to manage." As for the future of La Joya, Leo is still concerned. There is a need to expand, but no funds available to do so. He also wants the city to attract more businesses for growth. La Joya Mayor Billy Leo reported that residents reluctantly evacuated their homes as the rising waters began to overtake residences closest to the river in south La Joya. Officials estimate 20 to 30 homes were flooded in La Joya. Mayor Leo was no different as he brought in his own trailer to help residents in the lowest parts of the city remove clothing and furniture from their homes as the water continued to rise last weekend. "We told people to at least get their furniture out," if they wanted to wait and see if their homes flooded, said Mayor Leo.
He simply wanted to get some business people together to listen to what Bill White had to say," said La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, who attended the meeting.
Leo said about 20 people attended the meeting, including state Sen. A number of physicians were also present, Leo said. Leo said White will probably "go down well"' with the business community. But, I am not sure how Bill White does with the grassroots of the party," Leo said. Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison could cause a bloodbath in the governor's race in Republican primary and I would like to see the Democrats take advantage of that," Leo said. Leo acknowledged that Democrats "do not have a good record" in Texas in U.S. Senate special elections. He pointed to Republican John Tower's victory over Democrat William Blakley in 1961, for the seat vacated by then Vice President Lyndon Johnson and to Hutchison's victory over Democrat Bob Krueger in 1993. "Special elections are monster elections. I hope that as Democrats can unite behind one strong candidate for the Senate race," Leo said. A number of Republicans have announced their intention to run for Hutchison's seat, should she resign to run for governor.
La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, a South Texas icon, longtime community leader, and Democratic activist, on Tuesday, January 8, announced his enthusiastic endorsement for Democratic challenger Eddie Sáenz in the race for House of Representatives District 40.
"The incumbent supports a Republican leader at the State Capitol who has been in office for nearly 40 years and still hasn't managed to get the job done," Leo said. Leo said Sáenz' long years of expertise on civil engineering, health, transportation, water and wastewater, and other basic public service infrastructure projects is exactly the kind of leadership needed now to make a positive difference in the daily lives of working families and small businesses throughout the district. Sáenz' die-hard Democratic principles were an important factor in Leo's decision, he said, including his opposition to the Republican leadership in Austin that has promised to push a voter identification bill again in the next legislative session. Diclofenac For Sale, Sáenz' opponent supports the Republican leadership and failed to vote against the voter ID bill in the last session, Leo said. "Eddie Sáenz is running as a Democrat and he will vote as a Democrat to protect our civil rights," Leo said, doses Diclofenac work.