Alice Rodriguez will not seek re-election to the Waco City Council, ending the 24-year tenure of the longest-serving council member in Waco’s history and the first Hispanic woman elected to the post.
Rodriguez let the 5 p.m. Friday filing deadline pass, leaving Hector Sabido, a sales manager and city Plan Commission member, as the only District 2 candidate in the May 4 election.
Rodriguez did not return calls seeking comment this week on her plans. She started on the council in 1991 and has served since then, with the exception of a four-year period between 2001 and 2005.
A longtime advocate for neighborhoods, Rodriguez held strong ties to the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and she has had a loyal bloc of supporters in her South Waco district, which includes Baylor University, part of downtown and most of La Salle Avenue.
Rodriguez’s late husband, Joe, was president and CEO of the Hispanic chamber, which is partly funded by the city. She excused herself from votes on chamber funding but cultivated relationships with businesses and advocates in the area.
Sabido, Rodriguez’s apparent successor, had praise for her leadership. A general sales manager for Prophecy Media Group LLC, he is a native of Waco and a graduate of University High School and Baylor University.
“I’ve known Ms. Alice for many years of my life, and honestly I have nothing but respect and admiration for her,” Sabido said. “She came on the scene and represented the Hispanic community and the people of South Waco, especially her being a female Hispanic in a time that wasn’t very popular, and both her and her husband made huge strides to the Hispanic community to bring us to the table. And we have something to offer.”
Rodriguez carved out a reputation as a representative of ordinary residents looking for their fair share of city services and the preservation of their neighborhoods. She often sought for more homes to be built in her district, more minority-owned businesses to be selected for city contracts and more opportunities for her low-income constituents.
City Manager Wiley Stem III, a 41-year veteran of City Hall, has known Rodriguez for most of that time.
“She’s given her all to the city and to the council, and I think she’s just a great leader,” Stem said. “She’s been very, very enjoyable to work with. When it’s time for her to step forward, she knows exactly how to do it. She’s done it with grace, and she’s very effective. I just think the world of her. We’re going to miss her.”
A Baylor statement thanks Rodriguez for her public service.
“We deeply appreciate the many years of service by Alice Rodriguez,” it states. “She has played an important role helping move the city of Waco forward, and we are grateful for her genuine care and concern for her district, which includes Baylor University.”
City spokesman Larry Holze, who briefly served alongside Rodriguez on the council in 1992, credited her for cultivating camaraderie among members. Rodriguez was close with dozens of fellow members, especially longtime District 1 Councilman Wilbert Austin, who died in 2017.
“I think she’s been a very important catalyst, or glue, to make the whole council get along as good as they do,” Holze said.
Rodriguez’s legacy is not without controversy. In 2007, her relationship with the Hispanic chamber faced heavy scrutiny while she was president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Waco chapter, a Latino civil rights organization.
Proceedings of legal battles revealed the Rodriguezes took a trip to Las Vegas in 2005 for a chamber business conference. Joe Rodriguez testified that he used a chamber credit card then allowed Alice Rodriguez to reimburse the payments through LULAC.
A lawsuit filed by former board members of the Hispanic chamber accused Joe Rodriguez of financial mismanagement, and the city of Waco briefly suspended the group’s funding.
Alice Rodriguez was a driving force behind the Waco Hispanic Museum, which opened in 2016 at the South Waco Community Center. The museum preserves local heritage with exhibits and artifacts honoring Hispanic veterans, artists, civic leaders and more.
“Alice has been a mentor,” said Alfred Solano, president and CEO of the Hispanic chamber. “She has provided consistent support, personally, but also for our community. I think that her willingness to be the voice of the Hispanic community, and sometimes when it would’ve been easier for her to not, she always took the road for the best of the entire community, but with an emphasis on the fact that the Hispanic community needed a voice.”
She was a supporter of the College and University Neighborhoods Overlay District, which was approved in 2014 to preserve South Waco neighborhoods as Baylor University continued to grow and related development sprawled toward the neighborhoods.
“Seeing how my district has changed from when I first came on the council to what it is now was a challenge to us to help the neighborhoods,” she said at the time. “We want to protect them and the integrity of the neighborhoods.”
Rodriguez has served on several boards and committees, including the National League of Cities’ University Communities Council, the Texas Municipal League Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials and the Heart of Texas Council of Governments Executive Committee.
“It really is a great legacy, and we will miss having her on council,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said. “She’s represented her district extremely well and was always very close to the constituents, knew what they needed and worked to get them what they needed.”
The only contested Waco City Council race in the May 4 election will be for District 4, which includes North Waco. Nicholas St. John is challenging incumbent Dillon Meek, who has held the seat since 2015.
District 5 Councilman Jim Holmes, who has held the seat since 2016, will run unopposed.