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Refugio City Mayor Wanda Dukes has been selected as the newsmaker of the year for the Refugio County Press. Dukes has been a prominent feature in the County Press, from running for re-election, ultimately winning, discussing city hall renovations and more. Dukes has certainly been a part of her fair share of stories.

In the April 29 issue of the Refugio County Press, Dukes made headlines during the mayoral race against candidate Misty Skrobarcek. Dukes was up for re-election during this period.

Dukes was born and raised in Refugio and has an extensive history with the Department of State Health. In 1990, she was selected to be a part of the Refugio City Council.

“I never really thought about it. ... There was a position on the city council and I was asked if I was interested in it and I said no,” Dukes said at first. However, Dukes was asked again by the mayor and decided to leave the decision up to God.

“Then the mayor at the time said ‘a lot of people recommended you. They said you would be good for it.’ I said well, I’ll pray over it,” said Dukes. “I did. There were maybe 14 other people wanting that position and the council appointed me out of that group. I finished a one year term, then the next year I decided to run and I won.”

Dukes once again became part of the news cycle when she headed up renovations for the Refugio City Hall through Rebuild Texas.

City Hall had been severely damaged after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas in late 2017. Dukes headed the project and directed the repairs. During this time, Dukes spoke on future projects she was interested in. “We’re trying to come up with some ideas (for the) water and sewer lines in some of the neighborhoods,” said Dukes. “... Our water and sewer lines are very old, so (we go out for funding) whenever we get a chance to get any money to try and do whatever we can.”

Of course, Dukes made headlines during 2021 after she was re-elected mayor of Refugio. Dukes won the race with 56.86% of the voted in the mayoral race.

After her re-election, Dukes related how she views the job of mayor. “You can’t just do (this job) 8-5 or whatever. You’re mayor 24/7, and that’s what I have been.”

Dukes was also associated with the Refugio Fire Station rebuilding efforts. The fire station finished its reconstruction on March 15 after Hurricane Harvey damaged this building as well back in 2017. After construction crews finished the repairs, Dukes sought monetary assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dukes noted during this period that she discussed the situation with FEMA multiple times. At the time of that story, she stated she was dealing with what she believed was her eighth FEMA representative.

Dukes already had contingencies in place in case FEMA did not come through. “We were already thinking about another loan so that we could cover (the project, because) it was a lot of money out of our budget,” Dukes said at the time. However, Dukes continued to work the situation with FEMA to the advantage of Refugio.

Dukes was also present at a ribbon cutting for the newly refurbished Refugio Elderly Housing Complex. Dukes had been visiting the complex throughout its reconstruction following Hurricane Harvey. During her visit, each tenant and employee at the complex greeted her by name and with familiarity. Dukes joked that she spent so much time at the apartments that some people assumed she lived there. Dukes then cut the ribbon, closing one chapter, and starting a fresh, bright new chapter for the Refugio Elderly Housing Complex.

Dukes continues to work hard throughout the year, even assisting with Christmas in Refugio, passing out gifts to children who visited Santa Claus. While Dukes has been a major part of the news cycle in Refugio this year, we look forward to seeing what else she will bring to the city as we enter the new year.

•mtamez@mysoutex.com•

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