PHOTO by JOE PRATHER
COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
Famously attentive to the smallest details, Mayor Susan Narvaiz hosted a re-election campaign kickoff on Wednesday choreographed to showcase what she hopes will be insurmountable support.
But she couldn’t control the weather. The outdoor shindig and the rain started at about the same time, sending partygoers sloshing for cover on the River Pub & Grill’s stage or under the nearest tent. The downpour had its silver lining coming amid the worsening drought and more than one supporter who spoke on Narvaiz’s behalf couldn’t resist calling it a good omen. Likewise, more than one speaker recalled the last serious drought in 2005 when Narvaiz’s campaign kickoff was rained upon. That year, she became the first San Marcos mayor in more than a decade to run for re-election unopposed, which naturally is every incumbent’s preferred way to run.
The prospect of election by acclamation was a theme worked into every act, starting with the off-duty police officers and firefighters who parked cars. As Narvaiz pointed out in her remarks later, both department’s respective employee associations have broken with tradition and endorsed her election to a third term before candidate filing even got under way.
‘To know that you have shown this faith in me — to say, ‘We don’t know who your opponent is going to be or if you’ll even have an opponent but we want to see you back’ — means more to me than I know how to say,” Narvaiz said.
The business and community leaders who introduced her, or smiled behind her for a group photo, included Kulabyte chief executive officer Terry Gottschalk; business owners John Diaz and Rose Brooks; school board president Judy Allen; planning and zoning commission chair Fred Terry, recently retired longtime school board member Lupe Castillo; and Time Warner executive Donna Hill, past chair of the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce. Joined by council member Chris Jones, Narvaiz presented a key to the city to Jude Prather, whose university student and business community support carried him within three votes of a council seat last year. (A Texas State University undergraduate when he was elected in 2005, Jones is the first student city council member since 1972 and, if re-elected this year would become the first elected to two terms.)
Narvaiz told the crowd she wants to continue leadership on nuts-and-bolts issues like jobs and transportation, saying the city’s annual community survey bears out that citizens want above all continued progress on “the basics.”
“The citizens get it. They understand what government is supposed to do. It is us politicians who get confused sometimes,” Narvaiz said.
In formally announcing she would seek re-election last weekend, Narvaiz touted an exhaustive list of projects started or completed since 2004 when she took office. Incumbent mayors have no choice but to run on the accomplishments of city councils they lead and the tone of Narvaiz’s press release was an reminder that she can claim substantial progress on projects ranging from the most localized neighborhood complaint to visionary initiatives like citywide wireless Internet and commuter rail. The statement took special note of what she called her ‘relentless’ pursuit of funding for Farm-to-Market Road 110, an eastern loop around San Marcos, an adjective that can be applied — for better and for worse — to just about anything the mayor sets her mind to. Underscoring her significant base, a full-page newspaper advertisement ran on Sunday in the local paper signed by more than 200 supporters.
As she has in past races, Narvaiz is sure to draw on her very human biography — a teenage mother who, as Hill said in an introduction, “wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth but earned it the hard way.” Narvaiz picked up the thread in her own remarks, saying she was humbled to live in a country where a high school dropout can become mayor of a university town.
Narvaiz has yet to draw an opponent but the most likely comer may be city council member John Thomaides, who won re-election two years ago with more than 60 percent of the vote. He told The Mercury on Thursday that he had no comment on whether he would run.
It remains to be seen if she’ll return to office the easy way or the hard but Narvaiz said she expects to return there. Still, she certainly knows from experience that she can’t control the weather, much less the political climate.