City council meeting

In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, the Del Rio City Council held a virtual meeting Tuesday night. The council approved the appointment of Dr. J.J. Gutierrez, currently Val Verde County public health authority, to serve as the city’s public health authority as well.

Del Rio City Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. J.J. Gutierrez as the local health authority for the city.

When Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano called for discussion of the measure during Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado said she had several questions.

“Do we have somebody in mind, and if so, who is it? What kind of time frame are we looking at?” Salgado asked.

“It’s my understanding that we were looking at appointing Dr. Gutierrez to also be the local health authority for the city,” Lozano replied.

Gutierrez had previously been appointed the local health authority for Val Verde County by Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. and members of Val Verde County Commissioners Court.

Lozano then asked Gutierrez if he had any comments or concerns about the additional appointment.

“It’s a lot for anyone to do, but I think in a way it kind of makes sense if it’s possible, and only if it’s possible … we all have to rise to the need, and I’ll be happy to do that,” Gutierrez said.

Salgado said she simply wanted to make sure that Gutierrez would not be “overwhelmed with everything that’s going on and answering to two different entities.”

“If he’s comfortable that he’s going to be able to do it and it’s not going to drive him absolutely nuts, which, as it is, it’s already pretty overwhelming, I don’t have a problem,” Salgado said.

Councilman Jim DeReus agreed the city did not need to appoint a separate medical doctor as the local health authority for the city, but said he shared Salgado’s concerns about “chain of command” and “who is he going to be reporting to?”

DeReus also worried aloud about “further occupying an already very busy man.”

“It’s been very hectic, but that’s seems to be my norm for quite some time now. . . My career in the last few months has been COVID and COVID only for the most part,” Gutierrez commented.

Gutierrez said he would be communicating closely with Lozano, City Manager Matt Wojnowski and City Emergency Management Coordinator John Sheedy and would continue to communicate with the county’s elected leaders as well.

Councilman Rowland Garza said the council could visit with Gutierrez about salary considerations during a later meeting.

Councilman Alfredo “Fred” Carranza Jr. said appointing Gutierrez “made all the sense in the world.”

Carranza then made a motion to appoint Gutierrez as the local health authority for the cit of Del Rio, with Lozano giving the second.

Lozano said the salary discussion would be held in executive session during the council’s next meeting, and the motion to appoint Gutierrez also would be brought back at the next meeting in the form of a resolution.

The council unanimously approved the appointment.

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