A farewell reception for outgoing South Padre Island Mayor Robert Pinkerton and Councilperson JoAnn Evans was held at the Isla Grand Beach Resort on the Island last Wednesday, with family, friends, local first responders, and members of the community gathering to celebrate the pair’s years of service to the city.
Evans, arriving with her husband and looking relaxed and happy, had a frightening moment briefly before the festivities began; a short choking fit had attendees momentarily alarmed, but she recovered a few minutes later with a little assistance and some water.
Pinkerton was surrounded by several members of his family as well as many fellow city staffers and colleagues. City Secretary Susan Hill was in attendance and spoke warmly about her time working with Mayor Pinkerton.
“I’m going to miss him tremendously,” Hill said. “I’ve been with the city 30 years, and Bob 22, so we’ve developed quite a relationship. He’ll be missed – he brought a lot to the table.”
Roxanne Gunzel, SPI Chamber of Commerce President, echoed Hill’s sentiments, saying, “We’re grateful for their long-term service. It’s a hard job and they both did it for a long time.”
Pinkerton has served as mayor for more than 18 years, and has been involved in local business and government for decades. An affable, low-key gentleman, it’s not uncommon to see him driving about town, or greeting people, shaking hands and enjoying a beer at a local spots on the weekend. Many considered as much charming when compared to big city mayors, who travel with bodyguards and with whom you could not get within 10 feet of without ab appointment and a full body pat down.
Pinkerton is personable and approachable, qualities SPI Councilman Sam Listi remarked about. “Ten years ago, I had bypass surgery – where else can you live where the mayor calls to offer help when you’re in the hospital?” Listi said. “I’ve known him and worked with him for a long time. It’s been a roller coaster trip – some ups, some downs, and in the end we all end up screaming … for joy!” He exclaimed with a laugh.
Listi added, “It’s a joy they’re retiring. They’ve always been there, and they’ve done an amazing job.”
When asked what initially made him want to get involved in city government, the outgoing mayor said, “The Island was growing, and I wanted to be involved in the decision making process. I wanted to contribute.”
While there have been many difficult issues to deal with over the years, a few stick out in his memory as being particularly challenging.”
“Probably some of the most difficult have been the opposing annexation attempts by Port Isabel and insuring we got the COBRA issues resolved,” Pinkerton said, adding that his most enjoyable moments are when he’s representing the city at events, with legislators, and the public in general.
When asked for advice he’d give to incoming officials, Pinkerton offered, “Some of their decisions will be tough to make because it might affect friends, but they must stand their ground of they feel the decision is in the best interest of the city. This is the toughest part of the job.”
Evans has served for more than eight years and has been active in the community prior to serving, volunteering and serving on the Task Force for the new City Hall and the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board. She talked about her time in service, and some of the difficulties that come with the job.”
“There is seldom one perfect solution that will satisfy everyone when you’re dealing with complex issues,” Evans said. “Because of this, some issues are difficult as people can get pretty passionate about them.”
She spoke at length about the many projects she’s been involved with over the years, even going to Austin twice to testify before House and Senate committees, lobbying for funds for beach re-nourishment.
“I was really nervous, but it was challenging and that made it exciting,” Evans said. “Everyone told us it was a losing cause, but in the end, we were successful with an effort that has made a huge difference in our ability to take care of the beach.”
Evans also spoke about enjoying life in a community where “there are so many terrific people who live here, creative, fun individuals. “
She added, “I have found that the people in the community may not always agree with every decision I make, but most of them always treat me with kindness and respect as I try to treat them.”
Advice Evans offered to their successors was as follows: “Remember that you are just one of six, and only the group as a whole has any authority. Look at issues from all possible perspectives and keep an open mind.”
As for her current plans, Evans will still be involved in community activities, directing plays for the El Paseo Arts Foundation and working on the Gala Committee for COC.