Standing in front of City Clerk Leticia Vacek on Wednesday, Jada Andrews-Sullivan, Adriana Rocha Garcia, and Melissa Cabello Havrda raised their right hands and were sworn in as members of San Antonio’s City Council.
The new District 2, District 4, and District 6 representatives turned and waved at the cheering audience in City Council chambers, and hugged each other. Their swearing-in ceremony – and Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s oath of office – made San Antonio’s new City Council official.
Andrews-Sullivan, Garcia, and Havrda won their runoff elections in early June. Their victories pushed the gender balance to majority-women on City Council. This is the second time more women than men have served on City Council in San Antonio.
“We are a majority-women city, right? And we’re women of color,” Havrda said. “I’m grateful for the fact and humbled that we’re truly representative of our city. That should not be unusual, and going forward, I hope that it will not be.”
Council members used Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony as an opportunity to recognize departing City Council members. Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who gave up his seat to challenge Nirenberg for the mayor’s job, was absent, but his colleagues took time to thank him for his dedication to City Council.
“If you looked [for] somebody who had his heart and soul into his job, he certainly did,” Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) said. “He was out in the community in District 6. Every time I turned around, I would see some kind of Facebook page or Instagram post about him out in the community. I just want to say thank you, Councilman Brockhouse, for all the work he did with District 6 and the City, and we wish him all the luck.”
Nirenberg, who defeated Brockhouse in a runoff June 8, also observed Brockhouse’s dedication and service.
“It takes a lot of compassion and sacrifice to serve in this role,” Nirenberg said. “I want to say thank you in recognition of our former colleague, Councilman Brockhouse, as he moves on.”
Council members also lauded interim Councilman Art Hall (D2) for his tenure. Hall was appointed to represent District 2 in January after William “Cruz” Shaw resigned from his council seat to serve as an associate judge for Bexar County. Hall’s council colleagues specifically commended him for his role in orchestrating a land swap involving long-contested property near the Hays Street Bridge earlier this month.
“When I think of Art, I think of a great quote: ‘Leadership is all about being the first egg in an omelet,’” Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said. “Art single-handedly fixed a problem with a little bridge downtown. … Art did that by being the first egg in the omelet.”
Hall, who had represented District 8 on Council from 2003 to 2007, thanked City Council for allowing him to serve again.
District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, who completed his fourth and final term, took the microphone last, after each of his colleagues praised him for his hard work and easy-going personality. He thanked each council member individually, reminiscing about fights and jokes of days past. He added that his affinity for public service came from watching his parents serve their neighbors.
“I have this great gift in my mother and my father,” Saldaña said. He stopped, and swallowed tears. “They were the folks everybody would go to for something. You needed something cooked, a babysitter, come to my mom. Needed a roof fixed, come to my dad.
“When folks ask me how it is I got involved in public service, I’ve been seeing it in my home informally, when folks counted on my parents.”
He also thanked his parents for letting him live with them in his early years on City Council, before voters in 2015 approved giving council members a salary.
Saldaña was tapped by County Judge Nelson Wolff and Nirenberg to lead VIA Metropolitan Transit’s board after Chair Hope Andrade steps down later this month. The VIA board still needs to vote on its new chair. But for now, Saldaña said he will focus on his family, including his baby son, Eli.
“I’m going to be Eli’s old man, and I’m going to be really excited to be doing that,” said Saldaña, who earlier this year also started working for the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas.
As the council members celebrated their new colleagues, Saldaña left the chambers smiling, surrounded by well-wishers, carrying his son.