Victoria’s city manager wants the city to be known as more than the Crossroads.
“A crossroads isn’t a destination,” Jesús Garza said. “We are a destination, not simply a place that’s two hours away from here, two hours away from there.”
While reflecting on his first year as city manager in a live interview with Victoria Advocate editor and publisher Chris Cobler, Garza recalled visiting Victoria with his wife before moving for the job. Right away, he said, the two were “very impressed with the bones that the community has, very impressed with the bones that the downtown has, very impressed with the different amenities” of Victoria.
But, he said, it was clear there was room for improvement. He remembers struggling to find the city’s visitor center, and when he did, it wasn’t open. He said the city is looking at different options to see change that, since a visitor center plays an important role in having a visitor-friendly downtown.
“I could tell that there were some challenges, but I could also tell that there were a lot of opportunities,” he said.
In his role as city manager, Garza has emphasized working to create a more vibrant downtown and furthering the economic development of the city. Doing so, he said, will require investment from “a lot of players” along with the city, including the University of Houston-Victoria, Victoria College, the county, the Victoria Regional Airport and more, he said.
“I think our challenge is how can we get everybody on the same page to get all of the gears turning so that we’re in sync,” he said.
City Councilman Jeff Bauknight said he’s been impressed with the fresh perspective Garza has brought to the city.
“He’s been presented numerous challenges throughout this year and has always risen to the occasion,” he said.
Though an unexpected challenge, Garza said he’s been proud of how city staff adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and remained a government residents could count on. The goal, he said, was for the city to do what it needed so residents couldn’t tell the difference.
“If people’s trash is supposed to be picked up on Monday, let’s make sure it continues to be picked up,” he said. “If somebody wants to come in and get a permit because they’re building their dream home or starting up their business, we want to make sure they can do that.”
Moving forward, Garza will be intentional during the next year on planning, which will include creating a downtown master plan and planning how to use future debt capacity that will become available to the city in a few years. Garza will also be selecting a new police chief, which he said is “the most important decision a city manager makes.”
He said he wants to work to help Victoria’s residents find a sense of pride about what the community has to offer, rather than seeing it as a spot along a route to somewhere else.
“I think at the end of the day, everybody in the community wants to see Victoria continue to be a great place to live,” he said. “That’s very refreshing.”