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John Treviño, first Hispanic on Council, dies

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Austin has lost another lion. Former City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem John Treviño, the first Mexican-American elected to Council and one of its longest-serving members, has died at the age of 78. According to media reports, he passed away after a brief illness. Treviño, known to his friends as Johnny, was first elected to Council in 1975, after losing a race in 1973. He was re-elected in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1985. He was also acting mayor for three months after Carole Keeton resigned in 1983. He was elected with nearly 75 percent of the vote in that final election but decided that he had had enough after 13 years on Council. His friend, political consultant Peck Young, is currently the director of the Austin Community College Center for Public Policy and Political Studies. Young told the Austin Monitor on Tuesday, “John was a part of a very special generation, and we’ve lost now two of that generation, way too quickly.” He was referring to the recent death of former Travis County Commissioner Richard Moya, the first Hispanic to hold that seat. Young said, “John helped Richard get elected, and that’s the way Johnny was – he was more interested in helping people most of the time than helping himself. John only had two campaigns: He lost one, and then in ’75 he won. I was involved in that runoff campaign. Because of the kind of person John was, in the following 13 years nobody ran against him who was strong enough to beat him. And he was one of the two people for whom the so-called ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ was formed. And a significant part of the business establishment would not run against him, but I don’t know anybody who really wanted to very much because Johnny was not the kind of person who generated antagonistic feelings. Johnny got a lot of things done, getting women and minorities involved in city programs, city hiring before anybody ever heard of a HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) program. … Circumstances change, and we’ll never see Johnny’s like again because there never will be a first, like Johnny was, or like Richard was,” or former Mayor Gus Garcia, or former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. He was “a great guy, made a great contribution to the city, not just at City Hall but also at (the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and at the University of Texas. He will be missed, but he will not be forgotten,” Young said.

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