When Rawley McCoy was campaigning to be Victoria’s mayor, he said he found a community that, in many ways, has drifted apart.
McCoy said that he was intentional in his efforts to reach out to people from the north, south, east and west sides of the city. He said he found that Victoria has “communities within communities,” but “we’ve simply stopped talking to one another.”
“Folks, we have a south side which is slowly dying,” he said. “And I quite frankly am suggesting to you that Victoria cannot become great if we allow that to continue.”
During his first State of the City address Wednesday, the newly elected mayor challenged himself and about 200 area leaders to “have higher expectations of ourselves and our city.” The event was hosted by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce at the University of Houston-Victoria.
McCoy said that he remembers the south side community fondly from being a child, when he spent a significant amount of time there. He said that if that part of the community dies, “we can’t move forward as a whole community.”
McCoy said he began attending Southside Community Coalition meetings before the election and has continued to attend them since being elected. The new coalition works to bring investment back to Victoria’s south side, which has historically been one of the city’s poorest areas.
At the monthly meetings, “you will find a group of people on the south side who are working hard and diligently to rebuild their community,” McCoy said.
The coalition is hosting an end-of-summer party Saturday for kids to gather outside F.W. Gross Elementary School to learn new skills, play games and get a healthy meal from volunteers.
Bethany Castro, a Southside Community Coalition organizer and executive director of Perpetual Help Home, later echoed McCoy’s comments, saying “if we are going to move forward as a city, we have to think about all of the residents of our city – especially those on the south side who feel forgotten and abandoned.”
“As Mayor McCoy stated in his address, I believe the act of coming together and making sure that all neighborhoods feel supported and heard by the city is the difference between Victoria being good, and Victoria being great,” she said.
Additionally in his address, McCoy said that the thing he has been most pleased about since taking office has been the work of the Victoria City Council.
McCoy said one of his goals as mayor is to encourage more conversation and debate about issues that come before the Council. He said that is already happening.
McCoy mentioned the recently proposed anti-camping ordinance that has piqued interest in the community. Though it’s been a contentious topic, the Council is approaching the conversation in a “very professional and thoughtful way,” he said.
McCoy spent a significant portion of his address talking about the importance of economic development and revitalizing Victoria’s downtown. He spoke highly of Victoria’s new city manager, Jesús Garza, who began his role May 20, and his understanding and experience with “making things happen in downtown areas.”
He said city leaders must work to better market the rich history of Victoria, a story that he believes has never adequately been told. When it is, he said, “It will lead to increased historic tourism, and assure us a place on the map of Texas history that we deserve.”
McCoy said leaders must be challenged to improve quality of life offerings, not only for Victoria’s current residents, but for those the city wants to attract.
“I don’t want us to settle for being just good,” he said. “I want us to strive to become the best we can be.”