San Antonians Pay Tribute to Lila Cockrell’s Life and Civic Contributions

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The death at age 97 of Lila Cockrell, San Antonio’s first female mayor, prompted an outpouring of condolences and tributes to her accomplishments during more than five decades of public service, including four mayoral terms.

Here is a selection of what friends, elected officials, and others had to say Thursday:

  • “She was a matriarchal figure. A steel fist inside a velvet glove.” – Henry Cisneros, who succeeded Cockrell as mayor in 1981
  • “I am deeply saddened by Lila’s passing. She was a dear friend to me and an inspiration to all. Lila led an active life and constantly gave back to improve our community. Her leadership and dedication helped shape San Antonio. I will always cherish my friendship with Lila.” – Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who defeated Cockrell in her final re-election bid
  • “She was a strong leader who loved our community and served as a role model for future generations.” – Mary Jane Verette, CEO and president of the San Antonio Parks Foundation
  • “If there were a Mount Rushmore for our city, Lila Cockrell would be on it. I deeply valued our friendship. She was truly an inspiration to all who care about our city and admire true leadership. We will miss her.” – San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg
  • “To say Mayor Cockrell was a transformative figure would be an understatement. An innovator and rule-breaker, we are grateful to Mayor Cockrell for her leadership and celebrate the undeniable mark she left on San Antonio. Serving four terms as mayor, she revitalized the city of San Antonio and was a trailblazer for women running for office. She made the city better for everyone. It is only natural somebody as brave and fearless as her would be the first female big city mayor in Texas and the first in a major American city. Her legacy of leadership and vision for the city of San Antonio will live on for generations to come.” – Gilberto Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party chair
  • “Lila Cockrell was a towering beacon in San Antonio, a woman who defined what it is and what it means to devote yourself to the service of others. She is an inspiration to all of us.” – U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio)
  • “Her work as the city’s first female mayor, and her continued leadership at the local level, exemplified what it means to be a public servant, all while breaking barriers for others to follow.” – U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin)
  • “San Antonio lost a great pioneer and public servant. Honored to call Mayor Lila Cockrell a dear friend and a fellow SMU Mustang. Serving as the first female mayor of San Antonio, Mayor Cockrell helped make San Antonio the modern city it is today.” – State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio)
  • “Lila Cockrell was a transformational figure in the story of San Antonio, who not only made our city better, but opened doors in public service that had been closed to women for far too long. She was a pioneer and a visionary whose service will continue to impact our city and our political culture in the positive ways for generations to come.” – Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus
  • “Lila was a strong, female presence in a sea of male counterparts and she thrived. I admired her ability to lead our city with intention, tolerance, and foresight – she worked hard and made significant positive change as one of the most influential and remembered women in San Antonio history.” – Rosemary Kowalski, chairman emeritus of The RK Group
  • “I highly admired Mayor Cockrell for so many things: her tenacity to do what is good for San Antonio; her being the first female mayor;  and her commitment to San Antonio even after she left office. We worked on the river extensions and she was determined to ensure that we had the locks on the Museum Reach. So much so that we fondly referred to the locks as ‘Lila’s Locks.’ Mayor Cockrell was first class. She cared about the city, the river and in promoting women. She was all about San Antonio until the very end.” – Former San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley
  • “It is with deep sadness that our community at large, we at CPS Energy, and I personally, mourn the loss of a true San Antonio icon and pioneer, Mayor Lila Cockrell. Her impact continues to be felt on our lives today and is a testament of the benefits of great intentions, high intelligence, and consistent engagement. I was honored to have Lila as an “on-the-spot” mentor and friend. In fact, she was a friend to everyone.  For these and many other reasons, I cherished every opportunity I had to listen to and speak with her. I absolutely honor her role in paving the way for female leaders like me in our community. She was a force to be reckoned with, inside and outside our board room, as she fought for San Antonio’s inherent value and for our future. Even though I already miss her dearly, I will always remember her for her trusted guidance, mentorship, and sweetly wicked sense of humor.” – CPS Energy President and CEO Paul Gold-Williams
  • “Lila Cockrell was one of San Antonio’s great mayors, and the first mayor I worked with at The Chamber. She was a champion for greater inclusion of women and minority participation at City Hall, and one of her signature accomplishments was presiding over San Antonio’s move to single-member districts. She did it forcefully, yet in a way that overcame any rancor and pettiness. The result was asystem that works today. Perhaps one of Mayor Cockrell’s greatest achievements was successfully suing and negotiating a settlement with Coastal States LoVaca, the company providing San Antonio’s natural gas which had defaulted on its contract. One of Mayor Cockrell’s conditions for approving the settlement was locating in San Antonio the headquarters of a new company created by Coastal States. There is no Valero Energy Corporation in San Antonio without Lila Cockrell.” – Former City Councilman Joe Krier, who served as president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce from 1987-2007
  • “Lila was a true leader with political smarts and fortitude, grit, insight, and most of all, a loving heart for all things San Antonio. She was truly a blessing for our City. Her contributions to San Antonio are vast and impressive, and her vision helped prepare us for the city and success we see today. … Simply said, Lila put San Antonio on the map and developed the blueprint for today’s success. She left us with a parting love letter to the City she called home: Love Deeper Than a River, which is a wonderful window into her amazing journey. Her passion and love for all things San Antonio was evident and inspirational, and our City is indeed a better place because of the leadership, work, and vision.” – Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce

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