Paulette Guarjardo has been sworn-in as the new mayor of Corpus Christi.
On Tuesday, Guajardo took to the lectern as the new mayor alongside some well-known names in local politics who are now serving on city council and some returning members.
Earlier in the day outgoing mayor Joe McComb, who was defeated by Guajardo in a December 15, 2020 runoff election for the seat, left to the usual fanfare and accolades. Alongside him was former councilman Everett Roy from District 1 who is being replaced by Billy Lerma.
Guajardo campaigned heavily touting endorsements from police and fire associations locally and was heavily funded by special interest money, including personal injury lawyers and out of city interests. Guajardo, a former city council member and insurance representative will no doubt have her hands full trying to payback the favor, which some feel could weigh down her priorities as mayor.
She also campaigned on the promise of being a full-time mayor, which is not part of the city charter and would have to be approved by voters for an amendment. Under the home rule charter, the city day to day functions are delegated under the direction of city staff, including the sitting City Manager Peter Zanoni.
Guajardo comes to the administrative seat in a time when the city is in economic struggles. While city service projects are moving ahead, the local unemployment rate continues to hover between 9-10%. The city’s tourism sector is also hurting amid the ongoing pandemic, even as local public health officials open so-called “mega vaccination sites” to get as many people as they vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus.
One thing Guajardo is going to have to prove is transparency of government as she takes the helm. While many complained that her predecessor was often inaccessible, Guajardo will have to make it a point to reach across those broken lines and effectively communicate important strategies for the future—something that she has not previously been overly engaged with as a member of council.
As the Texas Legislature also kicks off today, Mayor Guajardo will face growing uncertainty from that angle as lawmakers will grapple with the idea of placing mayors and county judges on equal footing, giving mayors more control of their communities during times of crisis.
In the end, the mayor is one vote on city council. But despite that, this new day and tenure in Corpus Christi will be one that defines the direction of the city for the next coming years. Because Guajardo during the campaign failed to lay out solid policy brackets beyond normal talking points, a Guajardo era government is a little up in the air.