Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, an Elmendorf native and fast-rising CPS Energy executive on the cusp of her 30th birthday, has been selected as the new president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.
Sources told the Rivard Report that Saucedo-Herrera, originally appointed as one of the seven members of the city’s search committee to find a replacement for Mario Hernandez, who retired earlier this month after serving as president for 26 years, was invited to “throw her hat in the ring” in mid-June after the 14-member EDF Executive Committee concluded that someone in a local leadership position would prove stronger than any of the candidates that had been recruited from other cities.
Two unidentified finalist candidates from other cities and Saucedo-Herrera went through a series of in-person interviews last week with members of the executive committee and a selection of “community stakeholders” before a Thursday evening meeting of the committee settled on the young CPS Energy executive, whose current title at the energy utility is vice president of public affairs and brand management. She is the youngest person in CPS Energy history to hold a vice president’s position. A formal vote Friday afternoon was unanimous.
“We are really excited about the new direction we are taking with economic development in San Antonio,” said Wayne Peacock, the executive vice president for enterprise strategy and marketing at USAA and the chairman of the EDF executive committee and selection committee. “We wanted to find an inspiring leader who can bring everyone together in the city as an effective team. This is a big system, and we will believe Jenna is the right person to lead that effort.”
Saucedo-Herrera served as a deputy to then-CEO Doyle Beneby Jr. when the former CPS Energy executive led the utility through a period of reorganization and new strategic direction. That included his creation of what he called the New Energy Economy, with a significant investment in renewable energy sources, and a requirement that contractors doing business with CPS Energy move company operations to San Antonio or establish offices here.
That kind of innovate leveraging of the city’s assets had not been seen in public sector management.
“I was fortunate to lead some of the negotiations to leverage the New Energy Economy. The concept was all Doyle Beneby, his brainchild, but we were on the ground and had to make it happen,” Saucedo-Herrera said. “We are still working on it, but we’ve already achieved our 2020 goal of $1.6 billion in economic impact and now that goal has been stretched.”
Saucedo-Herrera is still 29 years old, but both she and Peacock expressed confidence in her preparation and her ability to do the job.
“Sheryl Sculley was 32 when she first became a city manager (in Kalamazoo, MI), and Henry Cisneros was 33 when he was first elected mayor of San Antonio,” Peacock said. “Graham Weston was 28 when he started his own company and he was 31 when Rackspace was founded.”
Until she recused herself, Saucedo-Herrera was one of seven members of the search committee that was headed by Peacock, who also serves as chairman of the 14-member EDF executive committee. Other members included City Manager Sheryl Sculley; David Marquez, executive director of Bexar County’s economic development department; David McGee, former chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, vice chairman of the EDF executive committee, and president of Amegy Bank; Ken Halliday, a senior executive at Silver Ventures, owner of the Pearl; and Jill DeYoung, chief of staff for Mayor Ivy Taylor.
Click here to read the full list of the 14-member EDF executive committee.
“Our city has a tremendous opportunity to move forward in new and innovative directions and Jenna Saucedo-Herrera is perfectly positioned to be a creative and catalytic leader,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor. “Top-flight performance by EDF is critical to our future success as a globally competitive city offering opportunity to all, because EDF will be a key collaborator on both job growth and growing our skilled workforce.”
A desire by many young professionals in San Antonio to see greater opportunity for advancement seems to be a message the Baby Boomer generation of civic and business leaders are starting to hear. News of Saucedo-Herrera’s selection for the EDF top job follows last week’s announcement that Will Garrett, 32, will serve as the head of the cybersecurity incubator Build Sec Foundry at Geekdom, a key economic development initiative that will partner closely with SAEDF as well as Tech Bloc, SA Works, the City, County and the biggest four chambers of commerce.
“Jenna is as comfortable wearing pinstripes in the board room or Converse on her feet at the Pearl,” Peacock, himself a Boomer, said. “A big part of this job is selling San Antonio and who better to sell it than someone who grew up here and chose to stay here?”
Saucedo-Herrera said she has passed up other professional opportunities outside San Antonio to stay invested in the city.
“I feel the energy and something very good happening in San Antonio,” she said. “It’s exciting and I am here because I want to be a part of it. The organization here (CPS Energy) has groomed me and the people here have taken chances on me. I think this city is ready for a new generation of leadership.”
Other leaders and executive committee members, including two former mayors, Henry Cisneros and Nelson Wolff, expressed support for Saucedo-Herrera’s appointment in a press release that was issued later Monday in advance of a Tuesday press conference.
“Jenna is the right leader at the right time. We are fortunate to have her lead EDF at this time in our city’s trajectory, ” said Cisneros, a former SAEDF chair. “She has an appreciation for San Antonio’s deep heritage and she’s passionate about economic development. Jenna also understands the challenges that will shape our future and the issues that constitute the core of EDF’s work. I am confident she will work hard to attract new companies, retain and grow existing firms, energize entrepreneurship, and help secure the industries that will prepare the job base for the future.”
“I must say, I was pleasantly surprised that the committee was so forward thinking in their selection of Jenna,” Judge Wolff said. “From my experience working with her, she has the right leadership skills. More importantly, picking someone who isn’t from the ‘old school’ sends a very clear message that it’s a new day at the EDF. I think we’ll see our current forward momentum really accelerate.”
Rackspace Co-Founder and Chairman Graham Weston echoed the need for younger generation leaders.
“I’m excited to have Jenna lead our economic development effort in the era ahead,” Weston said. “As a Millennial herself, she understands the kind of city we can become. We scoured the country looking for the right person, and we found her right here in San Antonio.”
“This is a paradigm shift for the EDF,” said City Manager Sculley. “San Antonio is a city of limitless opportunity, and there is no one better to deliver that message around the country and the world than Jenna Saucedo-Herrera. It’s a new day, and I woke up excited to see what it holds for our city.”
A formal media event and announcement is scheduled for Tuesday 1:30 p.m. at the Pearl Studio in the Full Goods Building.
From her official bio:
“Saucedo-Herrera joined CPS Energy in 2008 and has worked in various business units across the company including Corporate Affairs, Human Resources, and Information Technology Services. Saucedo-Herrera became the youngest vice president in the history of CPS Energy when she was promoted to Vice President of Public Affairs and Brand Management where she led the public affairs, corporate communications, corporate responsibility and economic development functions for the country’s largest municipally owned utility. Saucedo-Herrera also served as Senior Director of Corporate Affairs and Policy/Chief of Staff where she was accountable for Strategic Policy, Enterprise Business Planning, Enterprise Business Continuity, Corporate Quality Assurance, Board of Trustee relations, Executive Affairs, and Office of the President/CEO Operations.
“A native of San Antonio, Saucedo-Herrera holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing Management from St. Mary’s University and is also is a graduate of the RICE Executive Education program. Saucedo-Herrera is a member of Leadership San Antonio 41 and a graduate of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Alex Briseno Leadership Development Program. She also serves on several community boards and councils including, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Free Trade Alliance, EPIcenter, Business Careers High School, and United Way Emerging Leaders.”
This story was originally published on Monday, June 28.
Top image: USAA’s Wayne Peacock, head of the EDF executive and search committees, and CPS Energy’s Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, selected to be the next EDF president. Photo by Robert Rivard.