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Leadership style makes a difference in rural Texas city.

The rural south Texas city of Harlingen is evidence that good leadership and a focus on education are a recipe for success. This year the National Civic League declared Harlingen, population 48,000, one of the nation's ten most progressive and innovative cities through its All-America City awards program.,

Although such success depends on a whole community, the right kind of leadership makes it possible. Mayor William Card, former vice-chair of Texas Commerce Bank and currently Director and Consultant to the bank, has been Harlingen's Mayor since 1987. A former U.S. Marine Corps colonel, Mayor Card sees his role as mayor to be that of a visionary and risk taker. He believes leadership is about consensus building, team building and motivating people. His team has grown from 50 people during his first year as mayor to 400.

Harlingen's school district was the first in Texas to be selected as an America 2000 school (enacting national education goals). The city was also designated President Bush's 742nd point of light. For its Harlingen Proud project, the city won the Governor's Community Achievement award in 1991. Harlingen's successes are particularly noteworthy when contrasted with the surrounding region.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas on the Mexican border is made up of three agricultural counties - Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron. Unemployment ranges as high as 20 percent in some communities; there is a high rate of illiteracy and a serious lack of jobs and industry in the area. Per capita income in Cameron County in 1988 was 7,868, and in 1980, 56 percent of the residents had less than twelve years of education. Harlingen, located in Cameron County, has the lowest unemployment rate in the region (11 percent) and is one of the fastest growing areas in Texas. The National Civic League cited several of Harlingen's accomplishments:

* Harlingen created 4,000 new jobs in the past four years, increasing employment by 20 percent;

* Voters approved a $20 million bond to finance construction for classrooms and special facilities in the district's 21 campuses;

* The school drop-out rate went down 17 percent and Harlingen has the largest one-on- one reading mentoring program in America; and

* Community leaders build consensus to establish priorities for the city.

A focus on education:

Harlingen has demonstrated that one of its top priorities is education. The city donated a building for a literacy center. The city and a private sector foundation jointly funded a parenting program to reduce the school drop-out rate. Harlingen is contributing $2.5 million to the Texas State Technical College over the next five years for the development of vocational courses needed by area business and industry. This money will be used in conjunction with federal job Training Partnership Act JTPA) funds.

The city runs a beautification project and provides opportunities for both junior and senior high school students to take leadership in community projects.

Mayor Card has been a key player in successful economic development projects bringing major companies like Fruit-of-the Loom and General Dynamics to the area. According to Card, the top concern of business people considering the Harlingen area is the education system. He sees human resource, training and education programs in the area as economic development incentives.

Mayor Card believes that multi-community collaborations and regional strategies are the wave of the future. He is working on a regional waste disposal program, a single airport for Harlingen, McAllen and Edinburg, and provides technical assistance to smaller neighboring towns on economic development strategies.

He understands how to leverage resources for workforce development. He has been part of the private industry council which oversees JTPA funds, and is personally involved with education issues in the city - he took time off to read to students during literacy recognition day. The team he pulled together to do goals, objectives and strategic planning for the city identified the number one goal to be meeting the America 2000 education objectives.

Harlingen's recent successes, said Mayor Card, is attributed to a strong sense of community and volunteerism. He believes in empowering people, developing new leaders, providing opportunities for the city's young people, and recognizing the accomplishments of others.


Public School

* 15 Elementary Schools * 3 Junior High Schools * 2 High Schools * 15,000 Total Enrollment * Pupil/Teacher Ratio Average: 19.4 - Pre-k through sixth grade 24 - Grades seventh through twelfth * Supported by special programs in vocational education, bilingual and english as a second language, special education, gifted and talented and honors courses. * HOSTS reading program which is recognized as an award winning program at the state level. * International Baccalaureate program that allows students to place out of introductory college courses and advance more quickly.

Private Schools

* 8 Elementary Schools * 6 Offering classes beyond Kindergarten * 7 Offering religious education * 3 Prep schools * Marine Military Academy, the only prep school in the nation that follows the customs and traditions of the US. Marine Corp.


University of Texas Pan-American * Located in Edinburg, 40 miles west of Harlingen * Offers 40 bachelor degree programs; 17 master degree programs * 12,000 enrollment for fall, 1990 * One of Texas' fastest growing universities * National accreditation for School of Business and its MBA program, putting it in an elite group of fewer than 16% of the schools of business in the nation that hold such accreditation. * UTPA-Brownsville on Texas Southmost campus.

Texas Southmost College: * Located in Brownsville, 25 miles south of Harlingen * 6,000 enrollment for fall, 1990 * Academic and vocational technical school offering basic college accredited courses as well as associate degrees in fine arts.

Texas State Technical Institute: * 2,500 + enrollment for fall, 1989 * Offers over 40 programs of study at the associate degree and certificate levels * Offers training programs to meet local employment needs. Unique programs designed to reduce the cost of employee training for newly locating and existing industries.


Company Employees Product
Harlingen ISD 1,650 School District
Valley Baptist Med Cnt. 1,554 Hospital
Fruit-Of-The-Loom 980 Undergarments
Wm. J. Carter 480 Children's Sleepwear
General Dynamics 449 Aerospace
HEB 426 Grocery Store
City of Harlingen 421 City Government
Valley Greyhound Park 400 Entertainment
Texas State Tech Inst. 350 Technical College
Gorges Meat Co. 347 Institutional Meats
Mental Health & Retar. 328 Mental Health Fac.
Levi Strauss CO. 320 Ready-to-wear Clothing
Instrumentation Product 200 Electrical Components
Tex-Steel Corp. 200 Steel Fabrication
Varmicon 200 Ready Mix Concrete
Hygeia Dairy Cal 187 Dairy Products
Wal-Mart 181 Department Store
Valley Morning Star 180 Newspaper
Heritage Cablevision 180 Communications
Anderson Greenwood 164 Precision Valves
Harlingen Ntl. Bank 150 Bank
Sears, Roebuck & Co. 150 Department
Rainbo Baking Co. 140 Baking Company
Marine Military Acad. 140 Private School
AES Interconnect 125 Electrical
Valley Diagnostic Clinic 125 Health Services Center
Acetylene Oxygen Co. 110 misc. Gases
Anchor Advanced Prod. 100 Cosmetic Brushes
Valley Co-Op Oil Mill 100 Agricultural Chemicals
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report; Harlingen, Texas; includes related information on education and employment in Harlingen
Author:Furdell, Phyllis
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 24, 1992
Previous Article:Development strategies for small towns.
Next Article:GOP convention gives local leaders exposure, audience.

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