The City of San Antonio is seeking applications for open positions on several of its nearly 40 community-based boards, commissions, and committees. Board and commission appointees serve as community representatives and advisors to both council members and the mayor on specific topics.
Interested citizens may review a complete list of current position vacancies and submit applications here.
“It’s a good idea to apply now,” San Antonio City Clerk Leticia Vacek said to the Rivard Report over the phone Friday. “Several newer Council members are reviewing their current vacancies, their current membership, and some of them are already interviewing [people] for those district appointments.”
The opportunity to serve on a board or a commission allows citizens to have more voice and representation – beyond casting their individual vote during elections.
There are several vacancies on boards and commissions that focus on topics ranging from veteran affairs to public parks, from animal care to energy. The six new Council members will have much more work to do in this area than others as they consider replacing those appointed by their predecessors. Filling these vacancies is one of Council’s priorities before it returns to regularly-scheduled business after its July break.
Some of the more high-profile vacancies include positions on the San Antonio Water System and CPS Energy boards, Planning and Zoning commissions, and the Ethics Review Board. Other positions that receive less Council or media attention can be more difficult to fill.
“Some of the boards that we really need folks to take a look at and apply for are Affirmative Action Advisory Board, Animal Care Services Advisory Board, Capital Improvements Advisory Board, Citizens Environmental Advisory Board, and even City Commission on Veterans Affairs,” Vacek said. “Those are just a few examples of where we have vacancies currently.”
There are two pathways to appointment, each begins with an online application submission. If a position is district-specific, meaning you have to live in the district to apply, then the corresponding council member or members of staff reviews and interviews applicants. Then they submit a memorandum suggesting their nominee to the clerk’s office.
“I would suggest that the applicant also reach out to the Council member, and perhaps meet with them so they can express their interest more in detail about serving on a particular board,” Vacek said.
Once the clerk’s office has finished reviewing Council member’s suggested candidates, the nominees are placed into the next available City Council Agenda for approval.
The second path to appointment is through the process for at-large board appointments. Those are positions serving City Council committees. Individuals are reviewed and interviewed by all committee members before being recommended to the full City Council for approval and do not need to live in the district to be considered.
The Planning Commission, for instance, has at-large membership, a point that many Council members want to see changed because there are no current members that live south of Highway 90.
“There is very little relationship with City Council on the Planning Commission,” Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) told the Rivard Report after a meeting on the topic in December last year. “One sure-fire way to change that is to go to single-district representation appointees.”
There are certain positions that require specific experience or background in order to be considered. Some, like the Historic and Design Review Commission, call for an architectural or engineering background. But those do not make up the majority of opportunities. Interested individuals do not need to have prior education or experience in city government to participate either.
Public meeting agendas for Council and several other boards and commissions, click here, can be useful tools for applicants to familiarize themselves with meeting content and entity focus.
Councilman John Courage (D9), who was elected in June, is reviewing applications for at least eight vacant positions.
“I want to make sure that whoever serves is doing just that, serving the best interest of the people in our district and in the city,” Courage said. “That they’re really engaged, that they attend well, and that they are in a position to communicate with me and with the people in our district about what’s going on. We’d sure like to hear from the people who are representing us on those committees.”
Courage plans to host appointees at bi-monthly meetings to get a feel for what’s happening in his district.
“I feel its important, if people are going to represent our district on a board or commission, that they attend regularly and that they’re engaged and offer suggestions, ideas, or support,” Courage said.
Time commitments vary among positions, but interested applicants should understand that serving the city will require regular availability, Vacek said.
The majority of board or commission roles are advisory in nature. However, several positions are described as “more than advisory” and will directly contribute to policy formation.
“They do provide advisory recommendations to the mayor and Council, whereas your more high profile boards do provide policy through their board,” Vacek said.
William “Cruz” Shaw (D2), who previously served as chair of the Zoning Commission, believes it is a unique way to become more involved in the city’s work.
“It’s important that our community remains civically engaged, and this is a hands on way to do it,” Shaw said in an email to the Rivard Report. “Uplifting the voices of our residents is a unique opportunity to be involved in municipal government.”
Courage served on the now-defunct commission on literacy in San Antonio because of his background in education. While the group never sent direct policy initiatives to Council, they observed the city’s shared interest in establishing literacy centers in libraries.
“I believe that the contact that we had in promoting this helped to emphasize its importance to the city and the community at the time,” Courage said. “I think it was important.”
Appointments typically last two years, as long as a City Council term, although individuals may be re-appointed. There are no limits on the amount of terms individuals may serve in, but re-appointments must be made through the same application process as newcomers.
Vacancies may come and go throughout Council terms, so now is not the only time that applications may be received. Submissions may be made throughout the year as positions become available, and applications are held on file for up to one year.
This story was originally published on July 29, 2017.