Bryan Preston, a staunch proponent of the recently approved Alamo Plaza redevelopment plan, resigned from his position as director of communications for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush this week.
Reached by phone on Friday, Preston said he had been considering leaving the General Land Office even before City Council’s crucial vote of approval for the plan on Oct. 18.
“I had been thinking about leaving for a while, and getting the vote done was my mission,” said Preston, who lives in Austin. His last day at the GLO was Tuesday.
The 9-2 vote came after months of contentious debate regarding several elements of the plan, especially closing adjacent streets to vehicular traffic, moving the Alamo Cenotaph, and establishing a single point of entry to the now-open plaza. As a spokesman for Bush and a member of the six-member Alamo Management Committee, Preston was often at the forefront of conversations surrounding the plan.
“Brian was a passionate advocate for the Alamo Plan and Texas history,” Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald told the Rivard Report. “He traveled statewide clarifying the Alamo plan from many distortions.”
Preston will be replaced on the Management Committee by Jeff Gordon, who serves as general counsel for the GLO. The committee comprises representatives from the GLO, City, and Alamo Endowment – the three agencies that have agreed to develop, fund, and implement the estimated $350 million to $450 million plan.
Preston’s responsibilities at the GLO included issues beyond the Alamo, including Hurricane Harvey relief and veteran issues, he said. “The Alamo was obviously the most prominent,” he said.
Bush’s press secretary, Karina Erickson, will serve as interim communications director.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who serves on the Management Committee, said he heard of Preston’s resignation on Monday.
The committee will convene in a few weeks to review submissions from architectural firms that want to design the new Alamo museum and to develop a timeline of events to share with the public, he said.
“We fully intend to let everyone know what’s going on … make sure that we keep everybody in the loop,” Treviño said.
For example, the state-funded preservation of the Long Barrack and Alamo church will start next month, he said. “The excitement doesn’t have to wait until 2024 [when the plaza is slated for completion] … people are going to see the progress.”
Over the past several months, Preston and other plan leaders were the target of many comments – with varying degrees of threatening and mocking tones – on social media by people opposed to moving the Cenotaph.
During an interview last month ahead of Council’s vote, Preston said there was a “turning point in the last couple weeks in which their rhetoric has intensified … [they] started naming us.”
One group opposed to the Cenotaph’s relocation posted an image of Preston’s business card, including his cell phone number, onto Facebook.
Charisma C. Villarreal, a descendant of an Alamo defender descendant and protester against the Cenotaph relocation, said she filed a complaint against Preston after a text message exchange with him in September, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Preston said Friday that he was unaware of any official complaint, adding that such a complaint would not have led to his resignation.
San Antonio’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) approved the general relocation of the Cenotaph last month, and City Council’s vote allowed staff to start hiring consultants to carry out the work. Where exactly it will end up is still undecided pending the final plaza design, which will come before HDRC for approval, but will be located some 500 feet south in front of the Menger Hotel.
“We don’t have a date yet” for when the Cenotaph will be moved, Treviño said. The Texas Historical Commission also must review and approve a restoration and relocation plan.
Before the Council’s vote, Alamo Defenders Descendants Association President Lee Spencer White hinted at an armed protest at the Cenotaph.
“There will be a day, there will be a time that we’re going to have to confront this,” White told City Council. White said the so-called “threats” are “trumped up” and should not result in law enforcement’s undue aggression or violence toward protesters. “I don’t need any more Alamo defender blood on that sacred ground.”
Treviño said he doesn’t expect any incidents when the time comes to move the Cenotaph, and the San Antonio Police Department is “prepared for all kinds of scenarios.”
“I do know that when the Confederate monument went down, it was very uneventful,” he added. “We’re going to do it right, and we’ve got to be careful.”