Commentary: Only Mike Sets the Pace for a Fitter, Healthier San Antonio

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Jeanne Russell and Mike Villarreal with their two children, Bella and Marcos during Villarreal's campaign launch. Courtesy photo.

Jeanne Russell and Mike Villarreal with their two children, Bella and Marcos during Villarreal's campaign launch. Courtesy photo.

As we recover from Fiesta, hold our breath for the Spurs, and settle into College Week…we find ourselves in the middle of early voting.

And in its honor I offer five reasons to vote for my husband, Mike Villarreal, for San Antonio Mayor.

#Integrity

#Understands budgets (something this guy explains way better than I can)

#Future-oriented

#Jobs&Education

#Fitness

Many people who have known Mike and I professionally associate us most often with our work toward building a stronger, more educated workforce. Only through education and training can San Antonio attract the best-paying jobs. But there are many other concerns that we also feel passionately about.

Today I want to highlight an overlooked issue, which distinguishes Mike from the rest of the mayoral candidates.

It is fitness – with all its personal and societal implications. Perhaps jump started by the extension of the San Antonio River and the “emerald necklace” of Howard Peak Linear Parks, we have seen a flowering of running, walking and cycling in San Antonio in recent years.

Former Mayor Julián Castro made this a central push with his Mayor’s Fitness Council and the first Síclovía. No one thought San Antonians would come – but they did.

Mike is the man to pick up this baton and literally run with it – leading by example.

When you understand what fitness means to you and your family, because you walk to your neighborhood school and ride your bike to the library and the bookstore, you want that for everyone. Mike will improve streets and sidewalks and lighting in ways that increase safety and get people outside talking to each other because he knows how this has improved our relationships to our neighbors, made our children healthier and more independent, and allowed us to support nearby small businesses.

Mike Villarreal and Jeanne Russell during the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Mike Villarreal and Jeanne Russell during the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Courtesy photo.

My very first mayoral campaign event was joining Mike and two of our avid marathon running friends (Neel Lane and Jennifer Espronceda) at November’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, passing out literature together as we ran the 13.1-mile half-marathon course.

In April, we ran the Race for the Cure 5K, one of those great events that reminds us about the very best in San Antonio, how the community comes together en masse to fight the social ill of breast cancer, much like our enormous Martin Luther King Jr. March sends a message that our community will not tolerate intolerance of any kind. (Shout out to 96.1’s Russell Rush for inviting us to join his team, and for encouraging his vast audience to get out and run or walk.)

Last week, in between campaign events and passing out Fiesta medals, Mike ran the Fiesta Flambeau 5K. In a month, we will run the Friends of Bonham 5K with our two children for the second year in a row, helping raise money for their public school in the San Antonio Independent School District.

Why is it important that the mayor of San Antonio embrace a healthy lifestyle? In Mike’s first campaign he walked so much knocking on doors that he lost 35 pounds. We live near the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, which has opened new doors to our family’s outdoor living. Prior to this campaign, we did our best to carve out time almost every weekend for a bike ride that took in natural beauty and our city’s history and culture. Not only is Mike the most enthusiastic backer of an interconnected linear trail system accessible to all San Antonians, he’s the guy most likely to accelerate its progress. Why? Because it’s the place he escapes to when he needs a quick run to shake off the stress. And who better to help make B-Cycle sustainable than the candidate who has actually uses it to get around?

Inspiration comes in many forms. Our long-time neighbors Maria and Jorge Morado never walked until the improvements on the San Antonio River opened up a safe place for them to stroll – now they are regulars on the trail. For them, it is not just about fitness but about living a healthier lifestyle. We’re so proud of our friend David Nungaray, a dynamic local public school vice principal who has chronicled his efforts to lose weight through a combined exercise and healthier eating routine as part of H-E-B’s Slim Down Showdown.

Fitness is a thorny topic to advance at the city level, as it involves people making decisions to eat and act healthier and the challenging issue of San Antonio’s chronic obesity and child obesity levels. But research from the city’s Metro Health department and tracking by SA2020 shows that for the very first time in recent history, we’ve seen a pivot. Instead of obesity and diabetes rates getting worse, we’re improving for the first time in decades. That’s a fragile, delicate momentum that must be nurtured and championed.

What better person to continue our city’s wonderful turnaround than someone who lives it every day?

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12 thoughts on “Commentary: Only Mike Sets the Pace for a Fitter, Healthier San Antonio

  1. As a recent grad, young professional, and SA native, I find myself looking at jobs nationwide. My focus is always on progressive cities that foster fitness, technology, the arts, and a city-center. Mike is the only candidate giving me every reason to stay in SA.

  2. All very true, and also the worst reason to vote for a candidate. Fitness is important. So is good taste, but neither is a reason to vote for a mayor. Fat people can be good mayors.

  3. I read an interview where all 4 of the top candidates answered the same questions. I was most impressed with Mikes answers, He covers all bases on a topic. He has done his homework, sounds cliché, I think it is more like he sees the issues and searches for the ideal and workable vision to carry out workable solutions . My grandfather was a politician and mayor and I understand vision. I believe Mike will move San Antonio forward progressively.

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