Saying an announcement is coming soon about his role in the campaign of a presidential candidate, local business owner and longtime activist Henry R. Muñoz III said Friday he is stepping down as head of the architecture firm that bears his name.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that I have been a longtime friend and collaborator of [former] Vice President [Joe] Biden, and I’m very thankful to him that he has encouraged me not only in my work with the Latino community, particularly in immigration reform, but on marriage equality and transgender rights,” Muñoz told the Rivard Report on Friday.
“There’ll be an announcement of my role in Vice President Biden’s campaign imminently.”
Muñoz, who is not a registered architect, served for almost 30 years as CEO of the San Antonio-based architecture and design firm Muñoz & Co. The firm, which began as in 1927 as Eickenroht & Cocke, in recent years has been involved in some of the city’s most iconic projects, including the Henry B. González Convention Center, the Mission Branch Library, BiblioTech, and, still under construction, the San Pedro Creek Culture Park and a new federal courthouse.
But Muñoz has been spending an increasing amount of time during the past decade outside of San Antonio and outside of architecture, he said, applying what he’s learned to the national level and in other industries.
In stepping down as CEO, Muñoz will serve as chairman emeritus and cultural designer of the firm. Geoff Edwards succeeds him as CEO, and a name change for the firm will be announced later, he said.
“The wonderful thing about our firm is … it’s always been about interpreting culture,” Muñoz said. “I’m really looking forward to what the team of people, in particular, Geoff Edwards, who’s been with the firm for almost three decades himself, will do to continue to interpret the evolving culture of San Antonio.”
Calling himself a cultural activist, Muñoz became emotional during a conversation with the Rivard Report explaining the firm’s opportunity to design for the new Texas A&M-San Antonio campus. As a child, he recalled his aunt crusading for the first college on the South Side, what eventually became Palo Alto College. “It is very meaningful to me,” he said.
Born in San Antonio, the son of a labor activist, Muñoz attended Loyola University and joined the architectural firm that was the predecessor to Muñoz & Co. He soon became founding president of Texas Public Radio and a board member of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
Appointed by then-Gov. Ann Richards, Muñoz served a tumultuous period on the three-member Texas Transportation Commission and later as chairman of VIA Metropolitan Transit. He led a foundation to restore the Alameda Theatre and establish the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo Alameda, which closed in 2012 due to financing shortfalls.
Muñoz is chairman emeritus of a commission working to establish a Smithsonian American Latino Museum in Washington, D.C., having served in leadership roles at the Smithsonian Institution for almost 30 years.
He views the controversies and criticism during his career as inevitable. “If you try and do something that is adventurous, ambitious, that has never been done before, you will fail – it’s what you do with that failure and how you handle it,” Muñoz said. “Because you’re basically dealing with institutional change and institutions that aren’t used to seeing you in the roles in which you will play.”
Muñoz stepped onto the national stage in 2012, joining actress Eva Longoria to establish the Latino Victory Project, a political action committee that raised funds to support President Barack Obama’s reelection.
A year later, he was named finance chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the longest-tenured finance chair in its history and the first Latino and openly gay person to hold the job. In May he resigned to work on efforts backing Latino candidates around the country, including Julián Castro, who suspended his bid for the Democratic nomination for president this month.
Muñoz, 61, is a founder of Somos Community Care, a major health care provider for Medicaid beneficiaries in New York, and serves as a consultant to the nonprofit side of that business, he said. He also created Cultural Productions, a company that acts as a laboratory for designing and improving access to health care.
“I know that health care has to change,” Muñoz said, recalling how his grandmother once suffered. “She probably would have lived longer if the health care system had contemplated her condition differently, and so it started for me there. I’ve been given this opportunity to design health care change and I decided that was a challenge that I really needed to take up because the ability to impact that is very rare.”
Shortly after resigning from the DNC, Muñoz accompanied Democratic candidate Biden in June on a campaign stop at the Stonewall Inn in New York, site of a police raid on the Greenwich Village bar 50 years ago that led to protests and helped fuel the rise of the gay-rights movement. Muñoz called it one of his proudest moments. Biden also officiated at Muñoz’s 2017 wedding to husband Kyle Ferrari.
“I think other people would tell you – people who’ve run or are running for president – that I have shared my experiences with them, helped them as best as I could to think about how they would run for president,” Muñoz said.
“My main commitment is to see a change in this administration because you could probably tell that the stakes are high for a community like San Antonio, for the state of Texas, and for the nation. Given everything that I stand for, I believe that there needs to be a change in this administration. I’m gonna work … to make sure that that happens.”