Five San Antonio residents are part of a council Texas Gov. Greg Abbott created to help gradually reopen businesses across the state amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

In a televised address Friday, Abbott announced that the 41-member special advisory council will include five leaders with strong ties to San Antonio. They are:

  • J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, who also chairs the Bank of San Antonio.
  • Graham Weston, cofounder of Rackspace.
  • Elaine Mendoza, chair of the Texas A&M University board of regents and founder and CEO of bioinformatics company Conceptual MindWorks. Mendoza was previously tapped in March to assist the governor’s office in expanding childcare for critical workers.
  • Balous Miller, owner of San Antonio-based Bill Miller Bar-B-Q Restaurants.
  • Dennis Nixon, CEO and Chairman of Laredo-based International Bank of Commerce.

Abbott has tasked the advisory council with offering their views to his Strike Force to Open Texas, also announced Friday. The strike force includes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Abbott tapped four physicians who will offer medical input on efforts to unwind restrictions during the coming weeks. State Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt will serve as the committee’s chief medical officer. John Zerwas, vice-chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System; Mark McClellan, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration and former Medicaid and Medicare administrator; and Parker Hudson, assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at UT’s Dell Medical School, will serve as medical advisors.

“They will work together to develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19,” Abbott said. “That will enable Texas to gradually and safely begin the process of returning to work and returning to other activities while we wait for the immunizations that will end the threat.”

The governor’s proposals drew praise from San Antonio’s largest business group. In an statement Friday, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce CEO Richard Perez said Abbott is “focusing on the incremental steps necessary to reopen the Texas economy.”

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“We recognize this effort will need to balance public health considerations while restarting economic activity in a phased and gradual approach that guards against subsequent spikes in infections,” Perez said.

However, others criticized Abbott for nominating major donors and overly relying on big-business perspectives without adequately considering small businesses and vulnerable residents bearing the worst of the virus.

“When you appoint an advisory committee to deal with a pandemic, you need to appoint competent experts and those who are most affected by the situation,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a Friday conference call. “The committee he’s appointing, it’s hardly representative of Texas at all.”

Disclosure: Graham Weston, the Tobin Endowment, International Bank of Commerce, and the 80|20 Foundation are supporters of the Rivard Report. For a full list of supporters, click here.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is the San Antonio Report's environment and energy reporter.