In 1519, on the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda discovered a lush semi-tropical bay on what is now the southern coast of Texas. The bay, and the city that later sprung up there, took the name of the feast day celebrating the "Body of Christ."
The spot Pineda discovered is now home to the largest city on the Texas Coast and is the sixth largest port in the nation. Key industries include petrochemical, tourism, health care, retail, education, shipping, agriculture and the military. Since its incorporation in 1852, Corpus Christi has grown into a regional hub for marketing, processing, packaging and distributing agricultural commodities for a 12-county trade area.
Corpus Christi began as a frontier trading post, founded in 1838-39 by Colonel Henry Lawrence Kinney, an adventurer, impresario and colonizer. The small settlement was called Kinney's Trading Post, or Kinney's Ranch.
It remained an obscure settlement until July 1845, when U.S. troops under General Zachary Taylor set up camp here in preparation for war with Mexico. The Army remained until March 1846, when it marched southward to the Rio Grande to enforce it as the southern border of the United States.
About a year later, the city took the name Corpus Christi because a "more definite postmark for letters was needed." It incorporated on Sept. 9, 1852. Residents elected a city council and a mayor, Benjamin F. Neal, who served from 1852 to 1855.
The city charter - a document establishing a city's principles, functions and organization of its government - was adopted in 1876. The city's first ordinance, adopted Jan. 15, 1879, made it against the law to let hogs and goats run loose.
Corpus Christi has a home-rule government with a mayor, eight council members and a city manager. The city manager functions as the chief executive officer, carrying out policy and handling operations as directed by the city council.
In 1983, the city adopted single-member districts, which allowed voters in a particular area to elect someone from their district to represent them on the city council. Single-member districts provide equal representation among communities or groups with different interests. Five city council members are elected through single-member districts, while three others and the mayor are elected at-large. The city also has over 40 boards and commissions providing a direct link between citizens and the city council and staff.
The city of Corpus Christi provides a variety of facilities and services to the community, including police, fire and emergency medical services, health, parks and recreation, which include youth and senior programs, a natural history museum, libraries, an airport and a marina. Other services include water, wastewater, gas, garbage and brush collection, recycling, street maintenance, traffic signs and signal maintenance.
The water department alone oversees more than 1,600 miles of water transmission/distribution mains and has a combined storage capacity of more than 16 million gallons. The wastewater department operates six treatment plants with a combined treatment capacity of 42.7 million gallons per day.
The city strives to be progressive in updating its infrastructure and planning for future resources, annually updating a comprehensive capital improvement program. The drought of 1996 brought statewide attention to water problems. The city, through an extremely effective regional partnership with the Nueces River Authority and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, completed construction of the 101-mile Mary Rhodes Pipeline, which transports water from Lake Texana to the city's O.N. Stevens Water Treatment Plant. In addition, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission approved the Garwood transbasin diversion as another water source proving that, through planning and cooperation, water can be secured for the region in record time.
While the city places strong emphasis on infrastructure and basic services, the organization also has a commitment to provide a variety of recreation and cultural amenities. Part of that commitment includes substantial funding for local arts organizations. Citizens and visitors can easily access any one of five libraries, or spend a fun and educational day at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. Another beautiful and popular attraction has always been the bayfront marina, located a stone's throw from downtown Corpus Christi.
To ensure the continuity of quality services, the city follows sound financial policies and practices. The city's fiscal year begins August 1 and ends July 31, and the budget is made up of six major funds. The General Fund pays for the administration of city government and traditional public services such as police, fire, streets, park and recreation and solid waste services. The Enterprise Fund accounts for services provided to the general public on a fee basis, including funds for aviation, ambulance, golf, marina and utilities. The Internal Service Fund provides goods and services for other departments on a cost-reimbursement basis, including health insurance, maintenance services and information systems. Other funds account for debt service, special revenues and trusts. To enhance economic development efforts, the city provides funding and support to the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation.
Maintaining a safe community is a major priority for the city. The Police and Fire Departments have established state-of-the-art communications systems and work closely with the county, the Local Emergency Planning Committee and industries to be on top of any emergency situation. The Corpus Christi Crime Control and Prevention District, which uses sales tax revenues to fight crime, has in recent years enabled the city to increase its police force, equipment and support personnel, especially targeting youth and neighborhood initiatives. In addition, the city's emergency medical services are ranked number one in the state, excelling in response time and patient survival rates.
The city of Corpus Christi constantly strives to continuously improve the programs and services it provides for local residents and visitors, with a special importance placed on responsive customer service. In fact, the city's organizational goal is to be a national leader of excellence in public service.