McAllen Women Selected for 2023 Texas Women’s Hall of Fame

by Office of Communications | Aug 31, 2023

City of McAllen Aviation Director, Quinta Mazatlán Advisory Board Member among eight women selected statewide for their accomplishments

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Governor’s Commission for Women announced the eight extraordinary Texas women who were selected for induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in recognition of outstanding achievement in their fields and for changing the course of Texas history.  Among the honorees are Elizabeth Suarez, Director of Aviation for the McAllen International Airport and Val LaMantia, who aside from being owner and managing partner of L&F Distributors, serves as president of the Friends of Quinta Mazatlán Advisory Board. Suarez is being honored for her contributions in the field of public service, while La Mantia is being honored for her contributions in the field of business.

“In a state as large as Texas, only McAllen can have not one, but two, truly deserving women who have accomplished so much and had such an impact to their organizations and community to earn this recognition by Gov. Abbott and the Governor’s Commission for Women,” said McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos.  “I am so proud to work with such professional, intelligent, savvy business individuals, who also happen to be amazing women in their work and personal lives.”

Suarez’s professional career began in 2000 when she was hired as the City of McAllen’s first Transit Manager.  Her focus was on completing a transit terminal that would house public transit carriers, private intra-city bus carriers and international bus carriers.  In January 2003, Suarez launched Metro McAllen as a city-operated transit system, growing ridership from 275,000 to over 855,000 riders in 2013.  During her tenure, she completed construction of the Central Station Expansion, bus shelters and parking lot and other equipment upgrades and digital modernization projects.  She also secured over $20 million in Federal Transit Administration funding and $2 million in Texas Department of Transportation funding.

I 2013, Suarez also oversaw the City of McAllen’s downtown parking operation.  She worked with local merchants to fund the $6.9 million construction of a downtown parking garage, vital to the continued economic vitality of McAllen’s bustling downtown retail business.

Suarez was promoted to the position of Director of Aviation of the McAllen International Airport in 2014 and the airport’s connectivity, economic impact, commercial growth, federal and state funding and exclusive partnerships grew exponentially under her tenure.  During her leadership, McAllen International Airport has maintained the majority of the Rio Grande Valley’s market share, is the ninth busiest commercial airport in Texas and the fifth fastest growing airport in the United States. 

Other key achievements for the airport include over $66 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant awards; record passenger traffic of 875,999 passengers in 2022 and the completion of the $26 million airport expansion.  Suarez not only introduced new air-service routes to Los Angeles, Nashville, Monterrey and Guadalajara, she also created Latino cultural art exhibits and events that celebrate key Latino heritage traditions and holidays.  Finally, Suarez was also instrumental in securing an exclusive marketing partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, recognizing the McAllen International Airport as The South Texas Airport of the Dallas Cowboys, the first such partnership for the Dallas Cowboys.  

“Elizabeth is being recognized by Gov. Abbot and the Texas Commission for Women for her service and leadership in municipal government,” said McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez, P.E.  “Her impact to our organization, from enhanced transportation service to expanding economic, cultural, business or service outreach is unparalleled.  She is truly deserving of this selection into this prestigious class of women around the state.”

Suarez received her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in political science from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

La Mantia was selected in recognition of her business leadership as owner and managing partner of a beverage distribution company, her service to the McAllen community, and her role as a founding member of the STARS Scholarship Fund, furthering education for nearly 20,000 students in South and West Texas.   

The Class of 2023 Women’s Hall of Fame Honorees includes Leta AndrewsAthletics; Mary Horn, Public Service; Opal Lee, Civic Leadership; Lavinia Masters, Advocacy/Community Service; Antonietta Quigg, Science/Technology; and Charlotte Sharp, Philanthropy.

The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1984 by the Governor’s Commission for Women to recognize the achievements of Texas women. Nominated biennially by Texans and selected by an independent panel of judges, inductees include former First Ladies, astronauts, entrepreneurs, public servants, Olympic athletes, and other women of significant accomplishment. A permanent exhibit is housed at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and currently features the biographies and photographs of all recipients.

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