Q&A: Muleshoe mayor to devote time to restaurant commitments

Muleshoe Mayor Victor Leal, 41, has announced his intention to resign in January. He said he plans to move to Amarillo and open a new Leal’s Mexican Restaurant.

Q: You’ve made no secret about your political aspirations. How has politics influenced your decision to move to Amarillo after spending most of your life in your hometown?
A: The assumption is that it has completely influenced it. I won’t say it hasn’t influenced it at all. But if we go to Amarillo and don’t make a go of it with the restaurant then all bets are off. My focus is on the restaurants in Muleshoe and Amarillo. We have some really ambitious plans in Amarillo and we’re looking at (expanding to) Lubbock and Midland in the next five years. That will take a full-time commitment. … Obviously we will keep our (political) options open if something available is attractive. Who wouldn’t want to be a Texas senator?

Q: Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently appointed you to the Texas Building and Procurement Commission. What is that commission’s role?
A: Building and procurement is essentially that. The agency oversees all state buildings — the capitol, the governor’s mansion and every state agency that has a building. … It’s a $50 million budget for the agency itself, just shy of 500 employees. We manage 11 million square feet of real estate.
The executive director is kind of like a city manager and he answers to the (seven) commissioners. It runs a lot like city government. We set policies and procedures and try not to micromanage the executive director.

Q: Earlier this month you had lunch with Perry and Mexican President Vicente Fox in Austin. What did you talk about?
A: We were there with about 250 other folks and had several state governors from Mexico. I thought (Fox) did a very good job with the speech he made, trying to get support from Texas, and of course the United States, to try to work visa programs that have been put on hold since Sept. 11.

Q: You’ve been mayor of Muleshoe for almost four years. What will you consider the highlight of that term?
A: I sincerely feel that some of the best folks on the planet live right here in Muleshoe and having an opportunity to represent them is what I’ve enjoyed the most. You look at the teachers that helped raise me, the coaches that coached me in Little League baseball, and I still get to see them and I get to serve them in the position of mayor. That far outshines anything else.

Q: Muleshoe police have been the subject of numerous complaints in the past few years. Are those complaints warranted?
A: I think, by and large, we have a very competent police department. We’re continuing to work as a council and with the city manager on improving that department. Whether those changes have been fast enough or not, I don’t know.
Councilman (Juan) Chavez has raised racial allegations (against police) and I think those are not warranted; they certainly haven’t been substantiated.
From my standpoint, I just think that in the police department the complaints you’re going to get are from people who are getting arrested or pulled over. The hard part as mayor is to try and decipher if the complaints are warranted or just somebody mad about being arrested.
I’ve reviewed several different tapes — audio tapes and video tapes — and I can tell you that from everything I’ve seen our policemen have acted professionally.

Q: Your family’s restaurant has been in business in Muleshoe since 1957 and has expanded into Clovis, Plainview, Texas, and soon into Amarillo. How do you keep a restaurant successful for almost 50 years?
A: One axiom my Mom always taught is to treat the guests like they’re coming to your home. She said if you do that, you’ll be successful.

— Compiled by David Stevens