Brownsville's first female mayor dies

Blanca Vela, Brownsville's first female mayor

Blanca Vela was often in the spotlight because of her late husband Federal Judge Filemon Vela and son Congressman Filemon Vela, Jr.

However, those who worked with her on a day to day basis tell Action 4 News she was a woman that stood all on her own merit - helping Brownsville progress and doing it with simplicity, giving back and respecting others.

"She was the first to preside from the same chambers and the same chair that her husband served from as federal judge for many years," said City Manager Charlie Cabler of Vela's office at the new city hall offices.

Vela was the first and only female mayor in Brownsville to this day.

She served from 1999-2003 and decided not to run for a second term.

In her late 70's, Vela unexpectedly died in her Brownsville home Wednesday morning, of natural causes.

In a statement Congressman Vela tells Action 4 News:

"My mother not only loved her family, she loved the Brownsville community and worked to make Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley a much better place. She served on the Brownsville Public Utilities Board (PUB) and co-founded the Brownsville Public Library Foundation."

Cabler adds Vela was very passionate about establishing better libraries for the community, the relocation of the west rails to a safer place in the city and education.

He said she was a selfless leader.

"Her ambition was to ensure that the city was to the standard - the best possible standard - we could get it to," Cabler said. "I don't think she ever worried about herself, as far as her getting credit."

Cabler got to know Vela and her family on a personal level as a young cop, even having talks about gardening, but as an employee working for Mayor Vela, he'll remember her most by is her humility.

"What we really loved about her was that she was always willing to sit down with us, treated everybody the same - with a smile and understanding," Cabler said.

Currently the Brownsville federal courthouse and a middle school are named after Judge Filemon Vela.

Right now, there is nothing named after former Mayor Vela, but Cabler doesn't discredit the possibility of it happening in the future.