De Coss ready to take on city attorney role
Being named city attorney will be something new for Rene De Coss, but his mindset will remain the same: have an open-door policy and help as many people as possible.
“ The way I see it, as the new city attorney, I’m now (Brownsville residents’) attorney, in a way,” De Coss said. “Although I’m here to guide the (City) Commission, ultimately, we’re here for the benefit of the (residents). Just like I do with my personal clients here in my office, I have open doors and I expect to keep them that way.”
The Brownsville City Commission unanimously voted to hire De Coss as city attorney during last week’s meeting.
De Coss, a Brownsville attorney and municipal judge, was one of three candidates the Commission was considering for the position.
Pensacola City Attorney Lysia H. Bowling and Brownsville attorney Gerry Linan were the other applicants.
Originally, the Commission had four finalists until Denton City Attorney Aaron Leal withdrew his application last month.
“ It’s mixed emotions because, obviously, when you decide to do something, you want to succeed in whatever you undertake,” De Coss said. “When I decided to throw my hat in the ring to try to get this position, you try to succeed, so I’m happy that the city decided to take a chance on me and I’m excited because it’s going to be something new. There is going to be a lot of hard work to be done because no one’s been in that office for a while now. … In a way, I’m excited to start from scratch to see where we can take this.”
First on his agenda, De Coss will work to fill the vacant positions in Brownsville’s legal department and begin contacting other city departments to see what their needs are.
“ It’s just like any attorney servicing his clients; we see what the legal needs are and see how we can address those,” he said. “Then, as the processes are established, we’ll see how we can better those, how we can bring new ideas into how we operate and how we serve the different departments within the city.”
At-Large “A” City Commissioner Cesar de Leon, who motioned to approve hiring De Coss during last week’s meeting, said the commission is confident the new city attorney will hit the ground running.
“ Rene has been our judge for many, many years,” de Leon said. “He’s also been a district judge, so he’s seen everything. We are very happy that he’ll be able (to contribute to the city more), because he already has working knowledge being a judge for so many years.”
District 2 City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau -Kalifa said having a new attorney will benefit all city departments as well as save time and money.
Currently, the city has outsourced its legal work because it has no staff.
Tetreau-Kalifa added that the decision to choose De Coss was made because of the experience he brings to the table.
“ I really like that he was appointed by (Gov. Greg Abbott),” she said. “That’s speaks very strongly about his character and his moral integrity. If you look at his record, he had two cases appealed and the court held his decision. He’s a very intelligent man and he’s worked here for the city of Brownsville for a long time so he knows the way our system is. He knows his role. I’m very excited to see him take on this new role but more than anything, I’m excited for the taxpayers because this is the commission being responsible with their money.”
Abbott appointed De Coss as judge of the 445th Judicial District Court in Cameron County in 2015.
Aside from serving as a judge, De Coss also brings more than 20 years of attorney experience with him.
“ I was licensed in 1996 and started working that same year,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been able to work in different areas of the law. I’ve done criminal work, civil work; I’ve done state, federal, juvenile, family law, a lot of things. I think that 20 years of experience is what I’ll bring to this department and I’m hoping to put it to good use, so, hopefully, I can be of benefit to the city of Brownsville and to the community.”
Although he has yet to officially sign with the city, De Coss said he foresees finalizing the negotiations some time this week.
“ We’re in a situation where we’re all in agreement and I’m thinking the whole contract situation will get done (this week) for sure,” he said.
The position had been vacant for more than a year after the Brownsville City Commission voted to terminate former City Attorney Mark Sossi in August 2017.
De Coss said he knows the positions won’t be easy, but he looks forward to taking on all challenges and helping the community the best way he can.
“ I’m not going to change the way I operate,” he said. “I’m always going to be very accessible. I’m always going to have an open-door policy and if anyone has any questions, I’ll always be willing to help. That is the same attitude I want to take to the commission and to the many departments we’re going to be helping within the city.”