Delia Garza, now Austin’s first Latina mayor pro tem, calls symbolism a 'powerful asset'

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza is the first Latina mayor pro tem for Austin City Council.

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza is the first Latina mayor pro tem for Austin City Council.

By most measures the role of mayor pro tem in Austin City Hall is a symbolic title, but District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, who became the city’s first Latina to hold the position during Jan. 7’s council inauguration, called symbolism a powerful tool.

“Symbolism is one of the most important ways we show our values as a community and a representative government,” Garza said following the unanimous appointment from her council colleagues. “Symbolism is a powerful asset when fighting for those who need your voice most.”

One council member is elected to act as mayor pro tem in the absence of the actual mayor. A large part of Garza’s new duty will be to run City Council meetings when Mayor Steve Adler is away.

Garza, who is in year three of her second term on Austin City Council, will take over for former Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, District 9’s City Council representative who has served in the role since the start of her 2015 term. Tovo, who was sworn in for a new four-year term at the same Jan. 7 ceremony, called it an honor to pass the torch to Garza.

“I think Mayor Pro Tem Garza will do a fine job, and I think it’s good to have various people taking on that leadership,” Tovo told Community Impact Newspaper on Tuesday.

Garza became the first Latina City Council member in Austin upon her 2014 election victory. After serving an initial two-year term, Garza won re-election to a full, four-year term in 2016. Garza said she was honored to be the first Latina council member but said it took the city too long for a Latina to get elected.

“Being the first at something isn’t the most important achievement,” Garza said. “Ensuring that I am not the last Latina mayor pro tem will now be all our responsibility. I want young Latinas in Austin to look at our leadership and see themselves and know they can serve in this capacity or achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves.”

Council members Greg Casar and Pio Renteria, the only Latino council members on the dais, expressed their pride in seeing Garza earn her new role.

“I admire you a lot … [you are] someone who never forgets who they are and who they stand for,” Casar said. “I am proud that girls get to grow up in a city that not only has a Latina council member, but … a Latina mayor pro tem.”

Renteria, a lifelong Austinite, said the city has come a long way since the days of racial segregation he experienced in his youth.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

A screen capture of Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks at a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting
Austin Equity Office asks Travis County to be mindful when administering COVID-19 relief

Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks named several areas for continued support in relief distribution and COVID-19 test administration.

A photo of meal options from KO's Cafe
KO's Cafe expands to offer family-style meals to Dripping Springs community

The in-house culinary service at Hospital Housekeeping Servies in Dripping Springs began expanding its reach in March.

Austin City Hall was one of several downtown buildings to get vandalized. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Four Austin City Council members publicly call for Police Chief Brian Manley’s resignation

The Austin Police Department has come under heavy scrutiny for how they handled recent protests against police brutality.

Austin is starting the process to redraw the boundaries for its 10 City Council districts. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
For the first time, Austin will redraw its 10 City Council districts

Most of the process will take place in 2020 and 2021, with new boundaries in place by the November 2022 council elections.

The theater will be renovated over the next year. (Rendering courtesy EVO Entertainment Group)
EVO Entertainment Group taking over former Sky Cinemas in Dripping Springs

The Sky Cinemas space will reopen in Belterra Village on July 1 as EVO Cinemas.

SNAP, a federal program overseen in Texas by the HHSC, assists around 1.4 million eligible low-income individuals and families statewide. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Emergency SNAP food benefits extended in Texas during COVID-19 pandemic

SNAP assists around 1.4 million eligible low-income individuals and families in Texas.

Austin Automotive Center plans July relocation after 10 years in business

The business is preparing for a move from William Cannon Drive to Cullen Lane in South Austin.

Demonstrators marched in the streets in front of the Texas Capitol on May 31. (Chris Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council hears from community on police response to weekend protests

"He is in so much pain, and I can't help him," said the brother of a 16-year-old injured in the weekend's protests.

CMS also unveiled an interactive map that lets users search any nursing home in the U.S. to see its COVID-19 cases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
CMS reports 321 coronavirus deaths in Texas nursing homes, nearly 32,000 nationwide

CMS also unveiled an interactive map that lets users search any nursing home in the U.S. to its COVID-19 cases.

The city's public pool will reopen with new guidelines aimed at health and safety. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Dripping Springs' Founders Pool to officially reopen June 29

The city's public pool will reopen with new guidelines aimed at health and safety.