As the old saying goes, first impressions are everything. For visitors, residents, and downtown business owners the first impression they receive from Wally Mendez is a smile followed by a hearty “hello.”
Mendez has been an employee with the City of Waxahachie for the past 18 years and is one of two employees dedicated to downtown since 2007. While Mendez is responsible for keeping the downtown business district looking it's best calling him an just an employee fall shorts of the true role he plays as a downtown ambassador.
Downtown Development Director Anita Brown describes Mendez as a person who is there for everybody and looks for a way to help in any way that he can. This can be as simple as providing advice to visitors on where to grab a bite to eat to working with business owners keeping them in the loop about downtown events.
“You know Wally being the people person that he is, it turns out that his greatest skill is his public relations and his people skills. He is more valuable to me with the relationships he builds with the building and the business owners. He is a great asset to the city," Brown said. "Any event that we have he knows about everything and where everything is in downtown. I don’t know anybody else who would walk into that position and would know that stuff. It is because he is down there on the streets every day all the time.”
Brown describes Mendez as a person who always has a smile on his face and takes things in stride. He works with the downtown merchants listing to their concerns and works with them on finding a solution that will aid everyone.
Owner of My Father's House, Antiques Dale Frie, noted that Mendez is always willing to help out where and when he can and has answers to questions.
“He is kind of a go-to guy. When events are going on in the city he is usually the one that is running the show, “ Frie shared. “You can stop him at any point, and he is willing to help and usually knows all of the answers, what to expect, and (find) out whatever I might need. Wally is a good guy.”
Frie recalled in each interaction Mendez’s faith shows because of the kindness and giving nature that makes up his personality.
Fellow merchant Amy Waters, the owner of Farm House, stated that she has had a similar interaction with Mendez over the years that does his best to be a resource for businesses.
“If something is going on, he will bring the poster by, or he will bring by what you need. You always know that he is always there for you,” Waters said. “I just think that it is good to have a person like him because sometimes the city does not know what the stores are doing. We should all be working together, and I find in some places that is not really the case.”
Amber Villarreal, who serves as the assistant city secretary and has been in a long-term relationship with Mendez, stated that he always has a big heart for the people he serves and the community he calls home.
“He just goes above and beyond to help anyone that he can. He works Monday – Friday typically but no matter where we go, he will see somebody he knows. If they are asking for help, he doesn’t say, ‘oh I am at work,’” Villarreal remembers. “He will go out of his way and take that extra step to put them in contact with that person that can help or will make a call.”
Villarreal recalled that a few years ago during the Texas Country Reporter Festival Mendez noticed a person with a flat tire on their vehicle. After speaking with the person, he got members of the city’s street department to aid the stranded motorist with an air compressor to get her back on the road.
City pride is a big part of Mendez, and when he is on the road with his family, he takes Waxahachie with him. He does this not only to start conversations with the people he meets but with the shirts that he wears to promote the city.
“He loves Waxahachie. Whether we are in Waxahachie and talking to someone who has not been downtown or he is letting people know about events,” Villarreal remembered. “Whether we are in Dallas or Fort Worth he says, ‘I want to wear my Oma’s shirt or my Waxahachie shirt’ just so people can ask him about it. He is always marketing and encouraging people to visit.”
Villarreal notes that while Mendez does a lot for the city, he is not in it to get attention drawn to him. She recalled that when Mendez had to have his Gallbladder removed, he was surprised by the number of people who came up to the hospital to visit, sent cards, or care packages to show their love and appreciation for him.
City Manager Michael Scott said that Mendez is one of the hardest working individuals he knows who strives do his best each day he comes to work.
“He has got a great work ethic, very friendly, and never met a stranger. I think that he can talk to anybody. I don’t know anyone who would have anything negative to say about Wally. He is really more than just a maintenance worker,” Scott said. “For a long time that was his title. A lot of what he started out doing was strictly maintenance but because of his personality and the way he interacts with people he became more than just a maintenance worker.”
Scott continued stating Mendez has become the face of the city in downtown by carrying himself in a positive manner. He projects that positivity onto others through conversations or the waves he gives to people as they drive through downtown. He noted that Mendez has never told a person ‘no’ instead he finds a way to make things happen.
“You know the city, as far as an organization, is only good as the employee it hires. If we are able to hire people like Wally who take their job seriously, enjoy what they do, and are good at what they do that makes us all look good,” Scott explained. “Wally in the role that he is in he reflects so positively not only on city hall and the city council but really as a community.”
He added Mendez’s actions reflect positively in the community as whole showing visitors that Waxahachie residents are high caliber folks who are friendly, have a can-do spirit, and are ready to help.
Mendez was recognized at the 2017 Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce Academy Awards with the Leadership Waxahachie Award.
“In 2017, the Leadership Waxahachie Award was given to Wally because he was a community role model who consistently showed unselfish commitment to others,” Chamber of Commerce President Sandy King said. “He met existing challenges and accepted new ones, explored non-traditional opportunities for community and broadened our horizon to include new goals. Wally continues to be an asset to our community and a pillar of positivity, hard work, and leadership.”
Mendez shared that his job comes down to one fact, which is taking pride in what you do so it reflects the best on everybody. He strives to uphold that principal each day he comes to work.
“I am really flattered that people say things like that about me. Honestly to answer that when somebody talks to you, I just try to really listen and try to help them out. I don’t try to find ways not to help them. The way that I look at it is I put in the perspective of what if I was in need," Mendez recalled. “In today’s society when we turn on the TV you hear about all of these negative things that are going on in the world. You are almost afraid to help someone because you don’t know what their intentions are. The way I look at is that I like to help somebody out when they are in trouble.”
He continued stating that one thing that everyone can do for each other is to say hello because that one friendly interaction can make all the difference in how a person’s day is going to turn out.
Mendez stated that when he started working at the city’s utility department, he was just looking for a job that would meet his needs. Over the years his role at the city has changed, but his love for the community has grown.
“I love my job, and it is one thing that I can honestly say that when I wake up, I can say, ‘God I get to go to work.’” Mendez said. “I really enjoy what I do, and I get to meet different people each day. I interact with different people by working at the city. It just makes me feel that I am blessed to be here.”
Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1451.