Friday, May 22, 2009

Mayor trades job for Romance

A twist on a tale.

Gov. Rick Perry, left, talks with Antonio Pontes, CEO of Martifer Energy Systems, center, and San Angelo Mayor J.W. Lown in September 2008 at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.

J.W. Lown, the mayor of San Angelo in West Texas, recently narrated a video touting his town as a great place to live. Then he left to pursue another passion.

Follow your passion, it is said.

Mr. Lown resigned this week -- less than a month after winning a fourth two-year term in a landslide -- saying he was leaving to carry on a relationship with a Mexican man who had been living illegally in the U.S.
So the mayor did.

With his partner unable to legally remain in the U.S., the mayor said he realized around election day -- May 9 -- that he faced a choice: betray his duty to abide by the law by helping the man hide from immigration authorities; end the relationship, or join him in Mexico. He chose Mexico.

A, Mejico.

Mr. Lown's colleagues and constituents have rallied around him. Some said they hadn't known he was gay. Others were surprised he got involved with an illegal immigrant. Neither issue drew widespread censure or disapproval.

Neither issue?

"In this neck of the woods," said Councilman Johnny Silvas, "people are accepting."

Accepting? Have things changed.

San Angelo, with a population of about 90,000, is northwest of Austin, not close to the U.S.-Mexico border. But all across Texas, residents have business and personal relationships with Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal. Mr. Lown's family has roots in Mexico, and he has holds dual nationality.

It's about 130 miles southeast of Odessa, and a couple of hundred miles from Austin. Del Rio, right on the border, is about 156 miles, almost directly due south.

His constituents want him back. Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer said she had been besieged by voters asking her to urge the mayor to resume his duties if he can resolve his partner's immigration status. "They love our mayor," Ms. Farmer said. "Quite frankly, so do I."

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