Bonnie Arbittier and Scott Ball / Rivard Report
San Antonio City Council on Wednesday selected attorney Art Hall, military veteran Jada Sullivan, and retiree Aubrey Lewis as the three people who will be interviewed as finalists Thursday prior to the council’s selection of an interim member for District 2. The appointee will serve until a new council member is installed following the May 4 municipal elections.
Council members interviewed 13 candidates Wednesday afternoon, including Dereck Hillyer, a retired firefighter who applied for the seat and had plans to run in May, but did not select him as one of the finalists.
Hall, a Harvard-educated attorney and investor, was the District 8 City Council member from 2003 to 2007, when Council members were limited to two two-year terms. He has lived in San Antonio for 20 years, according to his application to the City for the position, and worked at St. Philip’s College as the dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education. Hall, 48, has two homes, he said, but has primarily lived in his Eastside home for the past three years.
“My experience on Council, I think, is critical for District 2,” Hall said. “I can start from where [former District 2] Councilman [Cruz] Shaw left off. … There will be no learning curve.”
Lewis and Sullivan said they will run for the full-term seat in May. Hall said he is not interested in the position. Because he has previously served as a Council member, city staff said, Hall is not eligible to run for another seat.
“My commitment is to only serve for five months,” Hall said, adding that he thinks the law is unclear on whether he can be elected again. Regardless, Hall can “pave the way for a fair election in May” as an incumbent – even if interim – would have an advantage over other candidates.
Sullivan, a 43-year-old military veteran, owns a motivational speaking company and describes herself as a “mindset coach.” She was born and raised in District 2.
She said she is “desperate” for change on the East Side, where “children of our district deserve a lot better than they’ve been getting.”
The East Side has been historically neglected, but a recent increase of public and private investment has added gentrification and development to a list of resident concerns that includes public safety and poverty.
After her interview, she told the Rivard Report that she founded Majestic Royalty Inc., which aims to help people on a “dark path,” about one year ago.
Lewis is president of the Denver Heights Neighborhood Association. He is retired and has lived in District 2 for six years.
As a native San Antonian, Lewis said, he understands the needs of community and has built “good working relationships” with residents, City code enforcement officers, San Antonio Police Department, and others.
“I work in the community continually on a daily basis,” Lewis said. Like Hall, he said he will continue many initiatives on Shaw’s agenda, “which I feel like I believe was getting the entire city engaged.”
After the meeting, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Council members discussed Hillyer’s background during their executive session and that it was “no surprise at all” that the former City employee did not make the shortlist.
Each applicant had three minutes to make an opening statement and seven minutes to answer questions from Council members. Council then discussed which would become finalists during a closed, executive session to arrive at a consensus.
Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who criticized the Rivard Report and City leadership for releasing Hillyer’s employment information outside of the standard public records request process, did not attend the executive session.
Nirenberg has criticized Brockhouse, who used to work for the police and firefighter unions, for trying to put a union “puppet” on council. Brockhouse has said he does not know Hillyer well enough to endorse him but believes it was unfair to release a summary that showed some incidents of insubordination outside the formal process.
“Your loyalty has been called into question,” Brockhouse told Hillyer during his presentation. “I think you deserve the opportunity to stand up for yourself and defend your reputation and your community.”
“Yes, some things about me have been called into question, but I’m an independent thinker,” Hillyer said, outlining his service on various boards and volunteer mentor work at local schools. “As I was approaching retirement, [the community] looked to me and said, ‘Hey, we still need your service.'”
Hillyer retired from the San Antonio Fire Department the day after he filed his application for the appointment.
“Your loyalty lies where?” Brockhouse said.
“To the people I serve,” Hillyer replied. “All the [homeowners associations], all the schools that I’m in, all the young people I see, all my friends, family and neighbors who have urged me to take this step.”
Shaw resigned from the District 2 seat last month to accept an appointment as an associate judge for Bexar County. His last official day in office was Monday.
District 2 has the city’s largest population of black residents (21.4 percent), according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates, and has traditionally had a black representative on Council. Nearly 56 percent of its population is Hispanic.
Nirenberg thanked all the applicants for going through the selection process.
“It’s not easy to step up and raise your hand to serve. We are grateful anytime anyone does that,” Nirenberg said. “Those people will be clearly at the top of the list when we seek to appoint volunteer positions in other areas of service.”