For three decades, Florencio "Lencho" Rendon was U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz's closest confidant and political strategist.

Ortiz announced Monday that his chief of staff will retire May 1 to spend more time with his family - a decision that shocked even the closest of Ortiz's and Rendon's allies.

Asked for comment about the announcement, local lawyer Filemon Vela, a close associate of both men for years, questioned repeatedly whether it was rumor or fact, then said, "I am surprised."

Rendon, 55, has been talking about retiring for six months and decided he needed to spend more time with his daughters, Ericka, 16, and Gabi, 10, Ortiz said.

"It's time to come to my family," Rendon said late Monday. "I have been reminded by my oldest daughter this Easter weekend that it was only the second Easter in her 16-year life that I had spent with her. They are growing up too quick and I feel that I need to be close to them."

Rendon got in on the ground floor of Ortiz's political career in the 1970s, working his way through the ranks to chief deputy at the Nueces County Sheriff's Department under then-Sheriff Ortiz. When Ortiz was elected to the U.S. House in 1982, Rendon joined him in Washington, where he has played an integral role in Ortiz's political operations ever since.

"He is the key guy because during the day I am at hearings and meeting constituents," Ortiz said. "He oversees the entire operation."

Through the years, Rendon has gained political contacts and expertise over a range of places and issues, including Mexico and the Far East. He speaks Spanish, and conversational Chinese, which he learned in frequent trips to the Far East with Ortiz

"I think he has been a great asset to the congressman," said local lawyer Rene Rodriguez, an Ortiz ally who expressed surprise at the decision. "He has the congressman's ear and they talk about everything that they do."

Rendon exercised tremendous power in Ortiz's congressional district, friends and political insiders said.

Rendon served as an adviser to numerous successful political campaigns including those of Fil Vela's wife, District Judge Rose Vela; former Nueces County Judge Richard Borchard and his successor, Terry Shamsie; former state Rep. Jaime Capelo; state Rep. Abel Herrero; and District Judges Nanette Hasette and Nelva Gonzales Ramos.

Rendon also has played a powerful behind-the-scenes role in Ortiz's district, providing "advice and counsel" in several South Texas political entities including the Ports of Corpus Christi and Brownsville, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Nueces County Commissioners Court.

"I'll put it this way, Lencho's departure is a significant loss of power, influence and prestige for the congressman's office," said Port of Corpus Christi chairman Ruben Bonilla. "Personally I have always felt that Lencho had the same access to the corridors of power as Congressman Ortiz. If you wanted something done for the 27th Congressional District it was imperative that you consult with Lencho."

Rendon was cryptic about his future.

"I plan to take a few days off," he said. "I still have a few good years ahead of me. I will be doing some work. I don't know what yet, but I know there will be many opportunities."

Rendon still intends to support Ortiz's campaigns and political efforts locally, Ortiz said.

"That was one of the things I said: 'If you want to retire you had better be on my side in my campaign,' " Ortiz said. "He is going to be helping in my campaign. It is something he and I do almost automatically after 30 years."

Rendon agreed.

"It is very, very hard to separate employment," he said. "We will still be together in soul and mind and in his future political campaigns."

No replacement has been named, Ortiz spokeswoman Cathy Travis said.

Contact Jaime Powell at 886-3716 or HYPERLINK

Rendon, longtime Ortiz aide, will retire

Political confidant wants family time

Jaime Powell Caller-Times

April 25, 2006


Rendon’s career

Late 1960s: Rendon serves as Webb County Investigator

Late 1960s-mid-1970s: Undercover officer with the Webb County-Drug Enforcement Agency Narcotics Task Force

1976: Solomon Ortiz and Rendon meet at a Texas Narcotics Officers convention in Laredo; Rendon later turns down a job offer from then-State Comptroller Bob Bullock to serve on a state task force fighting inter-border tobacco and liquor-smuggling

1977: Begins under Nueces County Sheriff Ortiz as sheriff’s deputy

1978: Promoted to chief deputy

1982: Ortiz elected to Congress, names Rendon chief of staff

1992: Rendon graduates from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C., with a B.S. in business.

2006: LULAC Council No. 1 presents a Community Leaders Award to Rendon.

RENDON Helped elect:

Richard Borchard - Former Nueces County judge, 1994-2002

Jaime Capelo - Former Corpus Christi state representative, 1997-2004

Nanette Hasette - 28th District Court judge, elected to third term in 2004

Abel Herrero - Corpus Christi state representative, elected to first term in 2004

Loyd Neal - Corpus Christi mayor from 1997 to 2005, served four terms

Terry Shamsie - Elected to first term as Nueces County judge in 2002

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