McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The South Texas border city of Laredo on Wednesday will swear in a new mayor who told Border Report he wants to improve the region’s health.

Dr. Victor Treviño, 74, a long-time physician who was the city’s former health authority, is to take over as mayor during a ceremony Wednesday evening at City Hall.

Treviño beat Laredo City Councilman Mercurio Martinez III in a Dec. 17 runoff election.

In a phone interview with Border Report on Tuesday, Treviño said one of his priorities will be to improve medical services in what he calls a “medically underserved” border community.

Laredo has 270,000 residents and is located on the South Texas border north of the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“We are a medically underserved areas city, and we’ve been like that for a long time,” Treviño said. “Only having one large hospital and another small one, is not enough. And we serve also our sister city” of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

There are no pediatric intensive care facilities for the city’s 270,000 residents, and he said the pandemic showed them the need for improving those services.

The lifting of Title 42 could also exacerbate the city’s limited medical structure, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court decided it would continue the public health order known as Title 42 while legal challenges play out in court.

Laredo was one of the hardest hit areas on the Southwest border when the coronavirus pandemic struck and he said officials fear that if the health policy is allowed to expire it could trigger higher rates of hospitalizations and potentially bring disease to the border city.

“I was former health authority here for the City of Laredo during the pandemic. And one of my main focuses is that we have this amount of people, we do have to look at the health part of the public public health part,” he said.

He added that extending Title 42 allows Congress to vote on more comprehensive immigration reform.

“We’re waiting to see what Congress does,” he said.

In the meantime, the city’s outgoing Mayor Pete Saenz has requested federal funding for charter buses to bus asylum seekers to other cities. And Treviño said if Title 42 is lifted then that plan would stay in place.

Laredo had several water main breaks in 2022 causing thousands of residents to lose drinking water for days. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Improving water and road infrastructures also are high priorities for him during his four year term, which runs through 2026, he said. Laredo has been plagued by massive water main breaks that left thousands of people without drinking water for several days this past year.

Not as high on his list, however, is the Binational Park River Project, he said.

That multi-million dollar proposed project would involve six miles of riverfront properties in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, set aside for eco-tourism and revitalization efforts. It would include trails and parks and possibly amphitheaters on both sides of the river for concerts to be shared by countries. It has been billed as a model for binational projects and has support from both the U.S. and Mexican ambassadors.

On Oct. 31, ground was broken for a new binational rail bridge that is part of the project and will connect both border cities.

“Public parks are always good. But we have other more important priorities we have to focus on. And we have to look at what the people want. I am the voice of the public, the mayor is the voice of the public,” he said. “The public is saying ‘let’s fix our infrastructure, let’s fix our water problems. Let’s get a city manager.’ Things that are of crucial importance that have an emergency importance.”

Treviño says he wants to continue improving “binational relations” with Mexico and their sister city of Nuevo Laredo.

This was something Saenz had focused on during his eight years in office. He was term-limited and not allowed to run for a third term.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz has served eight years as mayor of the South Texas border city. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

On Dec. 14, Nuevo Laredo Mayor Carmen Lilia Cantu Rosas and the Nuevo Laredo City Council honored Saenz for his service to the binational border communities. In a tweet, Cantu Rosas and the Mexican council “thanked Mayor Saenz for his 8 years of service.”

That same day, Dr. Marco Antonio González Valdez, Secretary of Regional & Agricultural Development of the Government of Nuevo León, visited Laredo and in a press conference honored Saenz for helping to secure the expansion of the Colombia International Bridge and improving highways that feed into Mexico, according to a tweet by the city.