EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–Sitting in the office that he occupied for four years, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo discussed his final weeks as mayor after losing the runoff election to his predecessor, Oscar Leeser.
Margo certainly faced challenges during his term, which he mentioned in his concession speech, saying he believes no mayor has had to deal with the array of calamity he’s faced in the last two years.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge to say is an understatement,” Margo said.
Closing out his term during the COVID-19 pandemic, Margo looked back on the biggest challenges of his term, including the Aug. 3 Walmart mass shooting that left 23 people dead and 23 wounded in 2019.
“Because of what we been through here with immigration then August third and now the pandemic, my response to my wife, Adair, has been I know I’m not an expert in crisis management I’m just a survivor,” Margo said.
However, he said the Aug. 3, 2019, shooting is something he still struggles with to this day.
“Oh, I’d say without a doubt August third and going to all those funerals, I don’t want to have to do that ever again.” Margo said. “Frankly, I don’t think we had a real chance to heal from that because immediately less than one year it occurred, we’re in the middle of this pandemic.”
Margo said that on a positive note, he was most proud of the economic growth under his term, such as recruiting Amazon to El Paso.
“It opened the door for a very large distribution center here and the TJX and what is 950 jobs,” Margo said. “I feel like that’s what I’ve been trying to do and one of my strengths, if I have any.”
But Margo said he knows he’s faced scrutiny as well during his term.
Most recently, Margo and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego were at odds over COVID-19 response as Samaniego tried to impose a shutdown on non-essential businesses and Margo said he wasn’t included in that decision.
” I just thought it was unfair when the small business being shutdown weren’t contributors to the spread of the virus and it was shown it was coming from the big-box stores,” Margo said. “I’m certain there’s plenty of decisions that people could second guess that’s still occurring during this pandemic.”
The mayor said the decisions he made during the pandemic came from discussing with other city and county leaders, such as health authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza and El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino, and data from the El Paso Department of Public Health.
“I think the data behind my decisions will withstand scrutiny,” Margo said.
Looking ahead to the final weeks in office, Margo said there’s not much to process the transition from one mayor to another as City Manager Tommy Gonzalez has it covered. However, he said he has some final plans in the works in the fight against the virus.
“The vaccine is being distributed, I’ve requested to see about getting more vaccines, which I’m working on,” Margo said.
As far as what he would like to see addressed in the next administration, Margo said he would like to see El Paso continue to be recognized for its uniqueness as a border city working closely with sister city Juarez on economic opportunity.
“What I tried to do in the midst of all these crises is make sure people know who we are and what we are as a region and a community,” Margo said. “I love this community and I’ll do anything I can to support it.”
Margo said his last day in office is Jan. 5, and his final meeting is on Dec. 21 to certify the election.