Jacinto City Mayor Rachel C. Nunez has died after a long illness. She was 74.
Nunez passed away Friday at her East Harris County home after being ill for more than two years, said Assistant City Manager Lon Squyres.
First elected to the City Council in 2000, Nunez was Jacinto City's first Hispanic council member and in 2011 became its first female mayor, according to City Secretary Joyce Raines.
"Rachel has always been here for the people," said Raines, who first met Nunez at a training seminar 28 years ago. "She was just a great lady."
Among Nunez's various involvements in the predominantly Hispanic community of about 10,000, she helped save the town's Santa on a Fire Truck program, Raines said.
Started more than 50 years ago by the Jacinto City Volunteer Fire Department, the program grew so large that in the early 2000s the fire department was about to discontinue the annual distribution of stockings stuffed with candy and toys to the town's children.
"We took it upon ourselves - and she was the chairperson - to take over the program," Raines said.
With help from senior citizen volunteers, donations were solicited from throughout the city and about 5,000 stockings were stuffed to be handed out by Santa riding through the town on a fire truck, Raines said.
"Everybody was saddened by her passing," said Garcia, who is running for the Texas Senate. "They were talking about the great work she did."
Nunez was a "true Texas lady," she said.
Not only was Nunez devoted to her faith, she was also devoted to her community, Garcia said.
After graduating from Incarnate Word Academy in Houston, Nunez studied court reporting and trained to work as a court clerk, according to her resumé.
Early in her career she worked as a deputy clerk for Harris County and later served as chief clerk for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, Position 2.
She was a past president of Harris County Mayors' and Councils' Association, a member of the Jacinto City Zoning Commission, a member of the Hispanic Forum for the Galena Park Independent School District, and a past member of the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association.
She is survived by her husband, J. Felix Hernandez, of Jacinto City, and two sons, Charles Nunez, of Houston, and David Nunez, of Arizona.