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Raza Unida’s first Mexican’American mayor of Cotulla, longtime community organizer, took over health care organization in 1981, oversaw service growth across region
Chief Executive Officer of South Texas Rural Health Services Alfredo Zamora Jr. has announced his retirement this month from the organization after a 41-year career in which he has overseen the health care system spread across eight counties.
The Cotulla native is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, holds a master’s degree in administration and is a doctorate intern in urban development. He took over South Texas Rural Health in 1981, at a time when the organization was in danger of being closed down due to a funding shortage from the US Department of Health and Human Resources.
Zamora says of the time that he came into the organization with an extensive background in administration and planning, having worked as a community organizer from the late 1960s onwards, and had served as the first Mexican-American mayor of Cotulla under the Raza Unida Party in the 1970s.
“The era opened the awareness that Mexican Americans could acquire public leadership elected positions and lead progressive and innovative agendas for the betterment of our communities,” the retiring CEO says.
Zamora worked to expand the health care service throughout his career, and STRHS Inc. grew from a single facility with a staff of six to more than 100 health professionals working in clinics across the region.
The CEO describes South Texas Rural Health’s growth as fulfilling a mission of furthering “a medical home system of diversity in health services which serve all the health care needs of our rural communities.”
Zamora says he made it his goal to spend his career in advocating for change to enhance the quality of life in rural South Texas communities and, in doing so, he served in a number of wide-ranging capacities, both in elected office and in community service. Aside from serving on the Cotulla City Council and as mayor, he has been a trustee for Cotulla ISD, served over 15 years as member and chair of the La Salle County Appraisal District, likewise in the Community Services Agency (CSA); and on site-based committees for Cotulla ISD, and the parent-teacher organization.
Zamora was appointed by former Texas Governor Ann Richards to serve a nine-year term on the Nueces River Authority; and worked in the Wintergarden Water District, advocating for and initiating public and state congressional awareness with the formation of the much-needed water district for La Salle, Dimmit and Zavala counties to protect underground water resources. In Texas Rural Communities projects, he represented rural areas for nine years as member, vice chair and chairman of a business loan assistance program to fund new enterprise and expansion of existing businesses, and provide grants to non-profit organizations for their expanded service reach. He has also served on the board of the Middle Rio Grande Development Council and Workforce.
In health care services, Zamora was one of the association founders, representative of STRHS and chairman of various board committees. His work in that field continues, as he worked in helping found the Las Palmas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in La Salle County and presently leads the project to open a dialysis center for La Salle County, a facility set to open this year.
At the local and family level, he has been active as coach and president of the Cotulla Little League.
As CEO of South Texas Rural Health, Zamora says he believes he has prevailed in leading the organization’s mission and helped STRH diversify and improve the quality of its health care in a cost-effective manner. The organization now has facilities in La Salle, Frio, Dimmit, Medina, Uvalde, Zavala, Real and Maverick counties.
Zamora says he will relinquish his position as CEO but will remain active in community affairs and will provide assistance in projects to which he may lend his expertise and experience. He departs his seat at the head of the organization with a note of gratitude to those who have supported him in his work, those who “shared a common vision, the staff who offered dedication and loyalty to the organization’s mission, and all the public officials and organizations who supported and helped enhance the health care service to the communities.”
Zamora says he hopes to be remembered as “an advocate for the betterment of our communities.” He is presently running as a write-in candidate for election to the Cotulla ISD Board of Trustees.
“There is nothing more satisfying than to have been given the opportunity and privilege of serving the less fortunate,” Zamora says, “and I am grateful to everyone who traveled this 41-year journey with me.”