They screamed and cheered. They held up cardboard masks bearing the likenesses of their favorite elected leader. The hundreds of people gathered at Sunset Station on Thursday warmly greeted new Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the new City Council as part of a reception organized by two chambers of commerce.

News 4 sports director Don Harris enthusiastically introduced Nirenberg and the Council members as they strolled down the staircase. Posing for a group photo, the new mayor and Council members smiled as a shower of confetti rained down.

The leaders of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce said the pep rally atmosphere was all by design. The event gave the new mayor and City Council members the opportunity to meet local business leaders and hear about the issues that are important to them.

Addressing the crowd, Nirenberg said he and the Council have a big, bold agenda for San Antonio and its business community.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg takes the stage at The Depot at Sunset Station.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg takes the stage at The Depot at Sunset Station. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“The most important thing we can do is work together to find common ground, to build business, to make sure our transportation system is moving, and make sure our City is not only talked about in Texas but around the world,” he said.

“San Antonio is open for business,” he added, prompting applause and cheers.

Nirenberg pledged to work with the chambers of commerce to address “the right issues in order to bring jobs to San Antonio, to make sure we have a good climate to grow our businesses and entrepreneurs in town, and make sure we have a great city to leave to the next generation.”

The leaders of each chamber had long been planning a joint reception to welcome the new mayor and Council. Richard Perez, the Greater San Antonio Chamber’s president and CEO, said it was simply time for his organization and North San Antonio Chamber to work together and do something special following a significant City election.

The new Council members praised the event as a welcome opportunity to hear from business people around the city.

“You spend a lot of time on the campaign trail, where you should, trying to get votes from residents, but ultimately you need the business community to help deliver some of your promises – good jobs and high-paying wages,” said Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6). “The [economic] opportunities for residents comes as result of working with the business community.”

Councilman John Courage (D9) said the reception gave him another opportunity to explore what voters hope to see from the new Council.

“I want to know what their interests and concerns are,” he said. “I want to know what the City staff’s interests and concerns are, and I want to know what my constituents’ interests and concerns are.”

“I’m going to put all those things together when I make a decision. The people that matter to me the most are the citizens and constituents of San Antonio, but I have a lot of respect for the professionals who work for the City and for the employing businesses.”

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) agreed: “There are a lot of businesses here that are interested in talking, and that’s what it’s all about – getting their perspective and feedback on what’s happening with them and with San Antonio.”

Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) said it was good to see a show of solidarity among two chambers of commerce and a new mayor and Council.

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – to build economic workforces in our communities,” he said. “That workforce development will take care of the businesses here, and educate our workforce so [people] will be efficient at the jobs they’re employed at.”

The two chambers of commerce have collaborated previously on other events and have welcomed new local elected leaders in their own separate festivities in the past, but nothing like this. The event planning and catering company the RK Group was a co-host for the reception.

Perez said a greater “air of collaboration” exists among the city’s various chambers of commerce as a result of this municipal election cycle.

“It made all the sense in the world to come together with the North Chamber, other groups, the Council and say, ‘Let’s do this thing right,’” Perez said. “Let’s bring business people who say, ‘We want to help you’ and be part of the solution.”

Duane Wilson, the North San Antonio Chamber’s president and CEO, agreed.

“We knew there was going to be a big change on Council,” he said. “We knew the people of San Antonio needed to meet their new Council people. I just think it’s a great time to do something with the Greater Chamber. It’s one of the first times we’ve ever done anything like this together.”

Wilson said he liked the format of Thursday’s reception, which was mostly mingling among the attendees, save for the presentation of the Council and for Nirenberg’s brief remarks to the crowd.

“It was short on speeches, but we wanted to give people time to meet their Council person,” Wilson said.

The success of Thursday’s event could inspire more collaboration between the North San Antonio and Greater San Antonio chambers, along with other chambers of commerce in the city, Wilson said.

Six local chambers of commerce are partnering with organizations such as TechBloc and the Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos, the Mexican Entrepreneur Association, to host a welcome reception for the new mayor and Council on Tuesday at the Pearl Studio.

“If you’re reasonable, and they’re reasonable, we can talk and collaborate for the betterment of San Antonio,” Wilson said. “In the end, that’s what it’s all about.”

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.