Scott Ball / Rivard Report
With a combined population of 2 million residents, San Antonio and Bexar County each are comprised of 51 percent women – but you wouldn’t know that by looking at women’s representation on City Council (30 percent), in the mayoral spot (only two in the city’s long history) , or on the Commissioners Court (again, only two).
San Antonio’s city manager, however, is a woman – and one of the best-functioning and highest-paid city managers in the United States, with decades of significant accomplishments on her watch, including the nation’s only AAA bond rating for a city with more than 1 million residents.
Sheryl Sculley’s capability and experience are matched, however, only by the level of vitriol directed against her for what she earns.
Granted, in a city characterized by generational poverty and economic segregation, any public figure earning half a million dollars – a figure completely out of reach for many of the city’s residents – might attract widespread notice and ire.
It’s no exaggeration to think that voters taking offense at Sculley’s sizable salary was why Proposition B, which limits how much a San Antonio city manager could earn, passed, even though it had no bearing on the current city manager’s salary. Less than four weeks after Prop B’s passage, Sculley announced her retirement.
I couldn’t help but wonder: Would Sculley have been on the receiving end of so much, well, hatred if she had been a man? What if it were Terence Sculley, not Sheryl Sculley? Would we instead be hearing about his extraordinary accomplishments, spoken about in a tone of respect that he had managed to score the big bucks, but was so obviously worth it? It’s something to think about.
A woman has been the director of Bexar County’s Veterans Service Office for the past five years. That is, until she was summarily removed from the position a few weeks ago in what seems like retribution for daring to run against a longtime incumbent on the Commissioners Court.
By any metric, Queta Rodriguez is a star performer. Even in the male-dominated Marine Corps, where she served for 20 years, she was one of the few who attracted enough attention for her leadership abilities to become a “mustang,” someone who goes in as enlisted and then gets promoted to officer. (Marine Corps Gen. Retired James Mattis, who recently resigned as Secretary of Defense, is another.)
Losing Rodriguez in that key role will, I predict, turn out to be a great disservice to veterans here in Military City, USA. Not only is Bexar County home to a large number of veterans, proportionally one of the highest in the country, but veteran cases also carry substantial complexity across a daunting range of service areas, from financial compensation through education, housing, health care, even burial options.
During the time Rodriguez served as lead veterans service officer (VSO), she routinely carried a caseload of 900 veterans – and yet I’d often see her out in the community, educating audiences of all kinds about the services veterans and family members might not realize they were eligible for, even at the cost of further increasing her caseload. But such was her passion for veterans, who she believed had earned that level of service. Unfortunately, when you get rid of such a qualified, capable VSO, that loss will impact veterans and family members for years to come.
Longtime VA clinical social worker Fred Gusman once said each veteran affects 50 other community members in a ripple effect. So for every veteran in Bexar County who’s now going without qualified help, that’s perhaps 50 times as many who may be affected by that loss.
For my part, I question whether Rodriguez would have been ousted for daring to run for Commissioners Court if she’d been a man. Would people have appreciated her service more, and not wanted to lose that talent and institutional knowledge? We’ll never know.
That’s two examples. Could I find more? Certainly. But I hope these are enough to make us think. If we believe, as a society, that women deserve their place at the table, then we need to make more of an effort to ensure they have proportional representation – half the seats at the table, not the occasional one.
And when women get to the top, when they’re doing commendable work , let’s not knock their chairs out from under them by treating them differently than we would men who rose to the same positions with the same level of expertise and ability to get results.
Let’s not resent them for their achievements, and find ways to demean and ultimately exclude them. Otherwise, what message are we sending to women and girls about our real level of and desire for inclusiveness? It’s time to address that elephant in the room.