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

The hours are long, the complaints many, and the pay stinks, but 14 District 1 residents appeared before City Council today to pitch themselves as good choices to serve out the unexpired term of Diego Bernal, who resigned his seat to run for the Texas House seat vacated by mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal.

It was an impressive lineup and Council took several hours to meet with candidates individually, offering each one three minutes at the podium to make their case, followed by questions from Mayor Ivy Taylor and individual Council members.

In the end, the Council met briefly in executive session and quickly emerged with three finalists – a former school board president, a critical care physician, and an inner city architect.  All three will appear again before Council Thursday morning to make a brief second presentation and answer questions. The Council will then elect one as the interim District 1 representative. That individual will be sworn in and immediately take their place on the dais for the last regular City Council meeting of the year.

With rideshare regulation the first item on the agenda, it will be baptism by fire.

The Finalists

Susan Galindo, age 56 and an 11-year resident of the district, is the former president of the Northeast Independent School Board and a former teacher of deaf students. She was the first to appear Wednesday. Her extensive public service background and calm demeanor made her an easy choice for further consideration. She brings an understanding of the Pre-K 4 SA program, and during her eight years on the NEISD board the district issued $897 million in bonds, giving her a solid grounding in finance, capital projects, and budgets.

Galindo said she will not run for the office in May if selected.

Holly Keyt, M.D., age 32 and a four-year district resident, is a critical care and pulmonary physician at the UT Health Science Center who is completing a medical fellowship, making her available for public service, she said. Keyt is a former Portland resident who “fell in love with a Texan” and moved here after attending medical school in Nebraska. She said she is “comfortable with complexity,” and brings obvious health care expertise to the job. Keyt said police and firefighters should pay health insurance premiums. She also said San Antonio needs more transportation options.

Roberto Treviño, age 43 and a 16-year district resident, is a practicing architect who offices in District 2 on Broadway. He is a board member of the Bexar County Appraisal District and his efforts to revive San Antonio’s Little Italy won an Awesome SA grant.

The 11 Other Candidates

Joaquín Gonzalez, 30, is the great-nephew of the late U.S. Cong. Henry B. Gonzalez. He listed his occupation as self-employed and has only lived in the district for nine months.

Frank Quijano Sr., age 69 and a 42-year district resident, is a retired management consultant who has worked for the Air Force, the UT Health Sciences Center, and Palo Alto College.

Christopher Forbrich, age 31 and an 11-year district resident, is a small business owner and computer engineer who made an unsuccessful run for District 1 in 2009.

Gavin Rogers, age 33 and a four-year district resident, is the director of outreach at Christ Episcopal Church in Monte Vista, where he lives in church-owned Section 8 housing and is known for ministering to the homeless and socio-economically disadvantaged.

Dru Van Steenberg, age 53 and a 12-year district resident, is a business accountant who worked on Target 90 three decades ago, and is the former president of the San Antonio Conservation Society and the Monte Vista Historical Association. She and her husband, Tim Cone, own the Olmos Bharmacy.

Bob Comeaux, age 66 and a 34-year district resident, is a retired union executive widely known as “Bob the Union Guy.” He brought the first successful unfair labor practices suit against Wal-Mart in 1976, as reported here earlier this year.

Melanie Castillo, age 37 and a 13-year district resident, is an attorney who with her husband intends to launch a food truck business and eventually run for the District 1 seat.

Kenneth Parker, age 66 and a 36-year district veteran, is a native of Chile, where his parents worked as American missionaries. He’s a retired CPA who now manages his real estate investments.

Frederick Chapa, age 44 and a lifelong district resident, worked as a District 1 constituent services manager for Diego Bernal and remains on the district staff.

Justin Nichols, age 30 and a four-year district resident, is an attorney who once ran for a seat on the Plano City Council north of Dallas. He has a record of representing LGBT plaintiffs.

Jack M. Finger, age 62 and a 12-year district resident, is a familiar gadfly at City Council meetings who habitually signs up to speak in his trademark theatrical fashion. A more subdued and respectful Finger, a sort of alter-ego, appeared before the Council on Thursday and even told Council members he has friends who are gay, despite his frequent public rants condemning “the homosexual agenda.”

“As much as I’ve been down there (City Hall), I don’t know everything,” Finger told the mayor and council. Moments later, the 10 elected officials went into executive session and quickly agreed on their three finalists.

The process resumes Thursday, 9 a.m. in City Council chambers.

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

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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.