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Official continues 200 years of tradition (video)

By chirst
April 3, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.

Goliad City Administrator Larry Zermeno sits in the chapel of the Presidio La Bahia where he attended church as a child and where a sign commemorating his sixth-generation ancestor Manuel Becerra stands outside. Zermeno has followed in the footsteps of his ancestor, who was a member of the city government in the 1800s. "He's an inspiration to all of us," Zermeno said about Becerra.

His great-great-great-great-grandfather, Don Manuel Becerra, was born in the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad almost 250 years ago.

Becerra, who grew up in a 60-by-90-foot wooden home, was appointed the secretary of Goliad in 1830 and then mayor in 1832.

Today, Larry Zermeno, his fourth-generation grandson, is following in Becerra's footsteps, becoming the city administrator for Goliad.

Some of the challenges of Goliad government have changed in those almost 200 years - Zermeno does not worry about Indian attacks or an impending Texas revolution.

But he does worry about growth with Goliad's population less now than it was in 1920, according to the Texas Almanac.

"When I was interviewed, I was asked about what I would like to do to make Goliad grow, and my answer was, 'Why do we want to grow?' But once I got here, I felt that was Goliad's real need, and I'm not sure it was recognized or is recognized," Zermeno said.

Zermeno said he hopes to draw the younger generation back to Goliad by providing jobs that would attract young talent.

"We have wonderful kids who get educated, go to school and then never come back. That is a huge challenge for me - increasing the educational opportunities beyond high school in this area," Zermeno said.

Zermeno believes Goliad is an ideal place to live, as it has managed to waltz into the 21st century while maintaining a picturesque charm unique to old, small towns.

The close proximity, too, to cities like Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi make it particularly appealing, he said. That, too, was part of the reason he left his job as an auditor in San Antonio.

Pam Long, city secretary in Goliad, said Zermeno's ancestry uniquely qualifies him for the position.

"His name is well known here in Goliad, not just in the city but in the whole county, and it comes with a lot of admiration," Long said. "Community involvement, generosity - I think all of that is tied to the Zermeno name."

But in addition to the family history, Long said Zermeno has earned his position.

"There were some sleepless nights while we waited for council to make the decision. ... He is knowledgeable, not only in finance but also in management. He has both intelligence and common sense," Long described.

Goliad Mayor Jay Harvey said the council chose Zermeno for the position in February after he served as interim city administrator, not solely because of his character but because he was a "good fit for the community."

Even though Zermeno grew up in Houston, he said he has always felt called to live in Goliad and work to make it better.

"Goliad has come a long way from when I visited as a child. Before, everyone stayed in their place. Now, the organizations are integrated, just like the rest of America," Zermeno said.

Now that he is here, Zermeno said he intends to stay.

"Texas is unique. It is like there is the United States, and then there is Texas. And Goliad is really the birth of Texas, the image of Texas. It is the cowboy and the vaquero, the genesis of the cowboy. I am so very proud to be from Goliad," Zermeno said.



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