A Conversation with Mayor Paulette Guajardo - The Bend Magazine

A Conversation with Mayor Paulette Guajardo

Corpus Christi’s new mayor on campaign promises, women in leadership, COVID-19, and more

By: Kylie Cooper Photos by: Lillian Reitz

 KC: What initially inspired you to enter the mayoral race?
Corpus Christi is my hometown, and as a two-term councilwoman, I saw the need for leadership with a long-term vision for our city. KC: What initially inspired you to enter the mayoral race?

I joined the race because I knew we needed a full-time mayor who would make the long-term commitment required to build real solutions for the many issues confronting our community.   

KC: Why do you feel you won against an incumbent?

PG: At the heart of our campaign was a group of volunteers committed to our city’s progress. I believe we won because we put constituents at the center of our campaign. We took every phone call, answered every email, and talked to as many residents as possible while trying to keep everyone safe during a pandemic. 

I think our vision for moving the city forward, prioritizing the concerns we heard from voters, and assuring them that I would be on the job full-time connected with people and was the change they wanted to see in our city. 

KC: What changes do you think the voting public wanted to see? 

PG: I think the public wanted to see full-time leadership with a long-term vision for our city. I believe public service means bringing more people to the table, including stakeholders and the public, to ensure that everyone is fully informed. 

KC: How do you feel about being only the fourth woman elected as mayor? 

PG: In the long history of our city, we have had 58 mayors, and only four of them were women. I want to be a role model for girls. I also want to see more leadership positions at City Hall held by women and more elected officials that are women in the future. 

Having women in leadership roles is very important because women in these roles change perceptions about who can lead and what qualities are necessary to have a leadership position. Women in leadership positions break down barriers every day and show the world what women can achieve. 

KC: Your platform ran on various campaign promises, including finding resolutions to our water supply, infrastructure issues, and public safety challenges; as well as wanting to see growth in our economy and tax base. How do you plan on accomplishing these goals?

PG: I am already working on all these issues. Our City Council and I will lead the vision and oversight with our City Manager and the more than 3,000 city employees on each of these critical initiatives. 

We are developing a short- and long-term water supply plan, improving our streets, roads, drainage, and creating a more significant public safety program. 

I focused on building our economy by assisting small businesses by creating the Small Business Pandemic Relief Program in partnership with the Port of Corpus Christi. Early in the pandemic, the city also partnered with LiftFund Inc. to approve a $2 million loan program for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. We knew that providing a loan program to keep our small businesses going was essential for our local economy. 

City Council is also building a more significant partnership with the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation to bring state and federal redevelopment grants and working directly with Governor Greg Abbott. We also need to understand that rebuilding our streets, creating a strategic plan for our water supply, redeveloping downtown and our airport are all critical parts in moving our economy forward. 

KC: How does being a native of Corpus Christi influence your perspective and guide your decision making?  

PG: This is my home, and I understand how we need to embrace our history and learn from it to

  move progress forward. Being a native of Corpus Christi also helps me appreciate our local challenges, and gives me a better framework on which to build. 

KC: How do you plan on addressing COVID-19 and how do you think the pandemic will affect public health going forward? 

PG: I work on public health every day. Since I took office, I have worked directly with our Health Director Annette Rodriguez, County Judge Barbara Canales, City Council members, and City Manager Peter Zanoni on getting vaccines to seniors and our most vulnerable populations. 

To date, the City-County Health District has administered tens of thousands of vaccines. That is a large number considering the supply we have been provided, but I know we must do more to protect our residents. 

In the first three weeks of my administration, I spearheaded the Saving Our Seniors (SOS) Homebound Program. This program brings coronavirus  vaccines to the doorsteps of our most vulnerable populations. With the help of our Corpus Christi Fire Department, firefighters can inoculate our most susceptible people weekly. 

We also cannot take our eyes off testing; we must continue to provide easy access to testing to contain this virus. I am grateful for our community’s support in coming together to provide free testing clinics and how efficient our Health District has been getting results back to people quickly. Knowledge is power, and if you know you have the virus, you can make decisions that will protect those around you. 

I recently attended the opening of a mobile testing site at Love Chrysler with my dear friend Marion Luna Brem. This site provided free rapid testing that delivered results in 15 minutes with a 96% success rate. Testing such as this, combined with the City-County Health District, can provide us with the information we need to control the pandemic.

On a personal level, I wear a mask, wash my hands, and have been giving out a lot more fist-bumps. I do work to keep my family, City staff, and my constituents safe. Looking to the future, I know that building sustainable programs to bolster our public health and safety is critical.

KC:“Full-time leadership” has and continues to be a big component of your platform. Why do you feel our city needs that and what does that actually look like?

PG: I have hit the ground running as a full-time mayor. My top priority in the first few weeks has been securing vaccinations for our city. As I mentioned, I worked to develop SOS Homebound Program, creating an inner-city vaccination site at the American Bank Center, and working with our state and federal government to secure more vaccines for our area. 

At the same time, we must provide oversight to our $1 billion budget and city projects. For example, I have been involved in the Everhart Street Project and can report that the project is almost complete, on time and on budget. Prioritizing public safety, finding a short- and-long-term solution for our water supply, and growing our economy is always at the top of my mind. 

The only way we can achieve these things is through full-time leadership. It takes a massive number of hours, working seven days a week, to make this happen. 

KC: Where do you see Corpus Christi’s greatest potential for growth?

PG: Our greatest growth potential is city-wide. We have small businesses, our downtown, the Port of Corpus Christi, large employers, a robust university, a strong community college system, and technical programs that are all key elements to our city’s growth. 

We can also do more to improve our tourism sector, creating Corpus Christi as a premier destination with our gorgeous Bayfront and world-class beaches. The young professionals in our community also inspire me. They are the future of this city, and they are opening small businesses, taking on leadership roles, and making Corpus Christi the city they want for their future. I am committed to also working with them to see the city’s full potential. 

KC: What keeps you up at night?
PG: I stay awake at night thinking about how I can make sure every senior, disabled person, and everyone who qualifies for the vaccine can get one. Personally, my parents are in their 80s, and I know what it feels like to worry about the risks they are facing during the pandemic. It is important to me that we continue to work to create access to the vaccine for our senior citizens, veterans, and most vulnerable populations. KC: What keeps you up at night?

KC: What are a few of your favorite local businesses?

PG: There are so many great local businesses in Corpus Christi. I love Made in Corpus Christi, Whataburger #1, because we are the birthplace of Whataburger, and my fellow Flour Bluff Hornet owns Treasure Island Miniature Golf and Games on the island. 

We also have fantastic downtown businesses where new local shops are opening. Along with Alyssa Barrera-Mason, Executive Director of the Downtown Management District (DMD), we ask residents to shop local! I am building a partnership with the DMD that you will hear more about soon.