City renews contract with lobbyists
HARLINGEN — The city is lining up its guns aimed at hot issues developing during next year’s Legislative session.
Now, a three-man team is gearing up to push the city’s agenda at the state and national levels.
City commissioners have renewed a two-year contract paying $10,000 a month to Terral Smith and William Yarnell to promote the city’s interests at the state capitol.
“ They’ve done a fantastic job for us,” City Manager Dan Serna told commissioners during a special meeting. “They’ve been very easy to work with — great to work with.”
In July, the city contracted with the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce to allow Chris Gonzales, its president and chief executive officer, to serve as a legislative liaison.
As part of a contract, the city is paying the chamber $1,500 a month to allow Gonzales to work with lawmakers to push the legislative agenda in Austin and Washington, D.C.
Serna said Gonzales is meeting with local lawmakers while Smith and Yarnell work with state legislators in Austin.
“ Chris is working with them on developing the legislative agenda,” Serna said, referring to plans to promote the city’s interests before the 2019 Legislative session.
Serna said the city has worked with Smith and Yarnell for several years.
“ They are extremely important and influential in pushing forth items of interest for the city on our legislative agenda at the state level,” he said before yesterday’s meeting. “They meet on a regular basis with state legislators regarding topics of interest of the city of Harlingen and keep us abreast with any issues that affect us.”
Smith, who has served as the city’s lobbyist for several years, is a former state representative, former House Speaker Tom Craddick’s chief of staff and former legislative director for George W. Bush when he served as governor.
Yarnell is a veteran political consultant and lobbyist.
Serna said Smith and Yarnell were “extremely instrumental” in helping MRE Capital, the Kansas City, Kan.-based firm working on a $4.5 million project to renovate the Baxter Building, secure $3.3 million in federal tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
As part of an agreement, MRE Capital is in the midst of turning the 1927 nine-story building into a largely low-income apartment development while restoring it to its original condition to help revitalize the downtown area.