Von Ormy, Texas in Bexar County has gone by many names since it was first settled before the Texas Revolution, but it only recently became a city thanks to the foresight and dedication of some St. Mary’s alumni, especially the town’s mayor, dual grad Art Martínez de Vara (M.A., J.D. ’07).

Art moved in with Von Ormy family while attending St. Mary’s and soon realized the small burg dealt with the same problems as their neighbor, San Antonio, but with none of the services.

“I acquired a new perspective on problems of access and lack of infrastructure – especially every time it rained,” Art said, adding that volunteer fire fighters – Art was one – had to fish people out of low water crossings. During one storm, Art began to chew on the idea of incorporation. “We thought if the county won’t help us, we should help ourselves.”

While studying the Texas Constitution in his law class, Art came across an article that clearly addressed Von Ormy’s needs But the town is within Bexar County and governed by the City of San Antonio, which meant they had the same city codes, ordinances and fees, but none of the services and taxes and they couldn’t hold local elections either. Art formed the Committee to Incorporate Von Ormy and challenged the constitutionality through petition of the State Legislature.

Their bill never made it to a vote because the hearing got their point across. Von Ormy held a local election and became a city on May 10, 2008.

“We have overcome some big obstacles and empowered our local community,” Art said. Art was re-elected to a second term in November. But he’s not the only St. Mary’s graduate working to provide services to Von Ormy. Among others are City Attorney Robert Wilson (J.D. ’95), City Marshall John Ortega Jr. (B.A. ’07), City Manager Jesus Garza (B.A. ’08, M.P.A. ’10) and two judges – James Rodriguez (J.D. ’08) and Chris Marrou (J.D. ’07).

Read more about the Von Ormy and St. Mary’s connection on the ABA Journal website.

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