Laredoan now sits on Austin City Council


For travelers going to the 512 area, they might not just be going to the city of the state’s capital but also to a city where a Laredoan now sits at the top of the municipal government.

Laredoan Jose “Chito” Vela III is now the Austin City Councilmember of District IV, which is a district centered mainly on the north-central part of the city residing on the east and west of I-35. Vela won the election for his current seat Jan. 25 in a special election and was inaugurated into the office Feb. 7.

“I am about to hit three weeks serving on the Austin City Council, and I am very excited about it,” Vela said. “It has been a lot of fun so far. I am doing great and am just excited to serve the people of Austin, even moreso because the district that I am serving is about 60% Latino, so definitely this con mas ganas (with more inspiration) as it is really an honor and privilege to serve a Latino district.”

Vela says his background as an immigration attorney and because of the immigrant community residing within his district makes his work even more worthwhile. He believes his background and experience connect him more with the community he serves.

The new councilmember says representing the district is not the easiest task as it is considered one of the “poorer” areas in the city, but he has many challenges he hopes to accomplish during his tenure.

According to Vela, some of the things he hopes to accomplish is to get the light rail system in place Austin voters recently approved for construction through Austin. A large part of the project does go through his district. He also hopes to better the housing situation as many apartments are being rented at prices close to or more than $2,000.

He says housing ownership is something he wants to tackle as more houses in the city, no matter their size or condition, are now being sold for around $500,000. Vela says these high prices are forcing hard-working people out of the city and hopes he can do something to help.

Vela said the election process to get the Austin City Council seat was not an easy one as the race was very competitive. Seven candidates vied for the post after Gregorio Casar, the former city councilmember, resigned his post in an effort to run for Congress.

“It was a very quick election,” Vela said. “Greg Casar said he was going to run for Congress like in October, and then in November the City Council called the election for Jan. 25, and so everything just happened really quickly. It was just kind of like a lightning-fast election, but thankfully in the first round I was able to win as I got 59% of the vote and my next closest of the six opponents had 15% of the vote. So it was a big win, as we really got strong support and won every precinct in the district.”

Vela was born in Laredo and is a member of United High School’s 1992 graduating class. He then went to Austin to study at the University of Texas.

Both of his parents, Jose “Chito” Vela Jr. and Patricia Vela, are also from the Gateway City as his father graduated from Martin High School and his mother from St. Augustine High School. Vela said his father was also involved in local politics in Laredo as a justice of the peace and thanks him for teaching him about politics.

In Laredo, Vela would eventually meet his wife, Fabiola Flores Vela, before the pair went to live in Austin. Her roots extend both from Laredo and Nuevo Leon. Vela’s wife said she is extremely proud of her husband and knows he will work hard to make his district, and the people back in Laredo, proud.

“I am so proud of him and how all his hard work paid off,” Flores Vela said. “He wears his roots on his sleeves including telling folks about his time working for the City of Laredo, so everyone voting knew he was proud of where he came from.”

His ties to the City of Laredo run deeper than just family, as he also at one point worked for the city as the nonprofit management and volunteer coordinator from 1999-2000.

“That was my first job out of college as I went to the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and when I graduated, that was the first job that I took out of college,” Vela said.

Even though Vela can now be considered an “Austin boy,” he says he misses the Gateway City as well as Nuevo Laredo.

“I miss my family, my friends, the food, and I miss driving around town on Sunday and smelling that lena and carne asada on the air,” Vela said.


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