BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) —The Brownsville Chamber of Commerce hosted a mayoral candidate forum ahead of early voting.

“We saw an opportunity to bring together all these candidates and educate our constituents,” said Esmy Villarreal, the President and CEO of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.

Villarreal said the event was coordinated through the chamber’s government affairs committee.

She said the event brought about 60 members of Brownsville’s business community.

Residents also had the opportunity to join online through ValleyCentral’s web page as each candidate shared their vision for the future of Brownsville.

“Number one priority is to wipe clean every single board and committee that exists here in the city of Brownsville. Including PUB, BCIC, and GBIC,” said mayoral candidate, Erasmo Castro.

Castro said the organizations are consuming funds that he believes should be equally distributed throughout the city.

He said he will also prioritize infrastructure and work towards making sure Gladys Porter Zoo does not lose its accreditation.                                     

Brownsville city commissioner, John Cowen, is also in the running.

He said his main focus is economic development.

“It’s about bringing in new investment, to help diversify our tax base. Provide better jobs for our community, and make sure that we have more resources as a city to be able to provide a higher quality of life for our residents,” Cowen said.

Cowen was elected to the city commission in 2019. 

He said his experience has prepared him to take the next step in running for mayor.

Brownsville business owner, Jennifer Stanton, said she is business minded and would use those skills if elected as mayor.

“I am very good with numbers. I think balancing the budget and putting the money to the right place and allocating money to the right places is imperative and it’s not being done right now,” Stanton said.

She said she plans to get things back to basic, including maintenance throughout the city like synchronizing street lights and fixing roads, and bus stops.

Commissioner Jessica Tetreau has served 12 years on the commission and is now running for mayor.

She said although she has worked on improving the permitting process to do business in Brownsville, it still needs more work.

“I still do not like that it takes people a long time, sometimes even several months. So, for me, it’s very important that people that want to do business have city staff that is willing to work with them and get their permits and inspections completed within 24 hours,” Tetreau said.

She said she will make sure the families of Brownsville come first and have a good quality of life.

If elected, Tetreau said she would be the first Brownsville native female to serve as mayor of Brownsville. The late mayor Blanca Vela was born in Harlingen and later was elected mayor in 1999.

Each candidate says they have seen a great amount of support from friends, family, and community members. 

Early voting begins April 24 and runs through May 2. Election Day is on May 6.