City Council Chambers. Photo by Scott Ball.
City Council Chambers. Photo by Scott Ball.

City Council will meet Thursday and select two interim Council members to fill vacancies in Districts 2 and 7, one day after a marathon session where 24 applicants for the two seats pitched themselves for the appointments.

One by one, each of the prospective candidates entered the B Session room from a nearby waiting room and were given three minutes at the podium to deliver prepared statements or speak off the cuff. Afterwards, individual Council members posed questions about major policy issues, past civic experience and the candidates’ personal backgrounds. Some came more prepared than others. The depth of knowledge on policy issues such as water and collective bargaining talks with police and firefighters ranged from impressive to uninformed.

Council members spent more time asking questions of the most eligible candidates. A few were thanked for their time and sent on their way without any questions. Afterwards, Council went into executive session for about an hour and then emerged to announce the names of the three finalists selected for each vacant seat before recessing until Thursday morning.

Three men were selected as District 2 finalists, and three women were selected as District 7 finalists.

District 2 Finalists

Lester Bryant is an Eastside native and a graduate of Sam Houston High School, where he later returned as president of the school’s PTSA, one of many community leadership roles he has held. Bryant is a former FBI agent who had a second career working for AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and then Rackspace. He now oversees his own wealth management and insurance practice. Bryant served as chairman of the SA2020 Committee on Education, and is a member of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood Advisory Council.

Keith Toney is a school liaison officer with both the U.S. Army and Air Force and a Vietnam War veteran. He has served as the president of the Coliseum Oaks Neighborhood Association.

Alan Warrick II is an architect and the CEO of World Technical Services, a non-profit organization that employs persons with disabilities to provide a range of services to government and private sector customers. He, too, is an Eastside native from a family long active in community service.

Among the notable applicants not selected as a finalist in District 2 was Juan Garcia, a neighbor of Mayor Ivy Taylor and the former president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association. Garcia is a high profile community leader on the Eastside and arguably the best known Hispanic in a district that has changed in recent years from being predominantly African-American to majority Hispanic. For decades it has traditionally been the single African-American seat on City Council and, for now at least, it will remain so.

District 7 Finalists

Mari Aguirre Rodriguez is a former Rackspace executive who also directed workforce and education initiatives while on the staff of then-Mayor Phil Hardberger. She is the founder of her own small business, Opt In Experts, which specializes in brand management and philanthropy. She was the founding executive director of Generation TX San Antonio. She has served as a board member of The Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, The San Antonio Area Foundation’s Hispanic Fund, the San Antonio Public Library Board of Trustees, and led the Greater Chamber of Commerce IT Committee.

Yolanda Arellano was the longtime executive director of the San Antonio Restaurant Association until her recent retirement, and also had a long career in public relations. She is a former member of the City’s Zoning Commission.

Michele Dalbis-Robledo is an enrollment advisor at Walden University, a Minneapolis-based private online university. She has had a long career in marketing, and is the former head of her homeowners association.

Notable applicants not selected as finalists included Elena Guajardo, who held the position from 2005-07 before losing her re-election bid and three subsequent efforts to win back her Council seat. She told Council members she would not seek the seat if it opens again, but was passed over. Perennial candidate Julie Iris Oldham, better known as Mama Bexar, and former City staffer John Foddrill Sr. – who was once banned from setting foot in City Hall and believes it to be the seat of widespread corruption and cover-ups, also were passed over.

The District 2 seat became available when Council elected Taylor last month as interim mayor to fill the unexpired third term of former Mayor Julián Castro, who now serves as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. Thirteen candidates applied for the position.

Click here to access the full list of District 2 applicants.

The individual who is chosen will serve three months before a special election is held on Nov. 4. The winner of that vote will hold the office until regular city elections are held on May 9.

The District 7 seat became available after Councilman Cris Medina announced he was taking a leave of absence to fulfill a military training obligation as an Air Force reserve officer at Fort Meade, MD. He is set to return Oct. 10. Still, 13 candidates filed for the two-month assignment, with one withdrawing after the fact.

At least some applicants may have filed believing that ethical charges made against Medina in a widely circulated anonymous email last month could derail his return. Medina has denied the charges, and none of the candidates brought up the allegations in their remarks. Many praised Medina’s service in the district.

Click here to access the full list of District 7 applicants.

The two new temporary Council members will be sworn in after their selection Thursday morning and the Council will return to its full, 10-person complement for the first time since former Mayor Julián Castro resigned in July and Taylor was elected interim mayor.

 *Featured/top image: City Council Chambers. Photo by Scott Ball. 

Originally published on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.