Dereck Hillyer, a 34-year veteran of the San Antonio Fire Department, announced Wednesday that he will apply to become the interim District 2 City Council representative and seek the office in the May election.
Next week, City Council will appoint an interim representative to serve the remainder of William “Cruz” Shaw‘s term after reviewing applications, which are due Friday by 5 p.m. Hillyer, who delivered his paperwork after a press conference Wednesday morning, would be the eighth applicant, according to a City spokesperson who said earlier in the day that seven applications had been filed.
Shaw, who is resigning from City Council to become an associate judge in Bexar County district court, will formally leave office Jan. 7.
Two public forums – organized by faith and neighborhood groups with help from State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) – were held in late December to collect community input and vet candidates. A majority of community members that attended and emailed organizers supported Hillyer in an informal, unofficial voting process that included four other candidates, said Government Hill Alliance President Rose Hill.
About 100 people participated, Hill said.
“It is an honor … to be recognized by the people that you serve,” Hillyer said, surrounded by dozens of cheering supporters that gathered at a press conference to announce the group’s preferred candidate. “As I retire from the fire [department], I will never retire from being a public servant to my community.”
Hillyer, who was born and raised on San Antonio’s East Side, is in the process of retiring from the fire department, he said. As a member of the firefighters union, he said he supported the three union-backed propositions on the November 2018 ballot, two of which voters approved.
San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele did not return a request for comment Wednesday. Firefighters have been working under the terms of an expired contract since 2014, and the union and City have yet to begin contract negotiations.
“I think in the best interest of all, I would probably have to recuse myself [from] that process” if appointed to City Council and elected to a full term, Hillyer said.
District 2, which includes the city’s East Side, has a population of more than 170,000 and contains the city’s largest population of black residents (21.4 percent), according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates. Its population is 55.8 percent Hispanic.
Some of the biggest concerns for Eastside residents include public safety, poverty, street improvements, gentrification, and development. The historically neglected district has seen an influx of public and private investment in its near-downtown neighborhoods.
Economic development and affordable housing, Hillyer said, would be two of his top priorities if appointed to Council.
“We’re looking to strengthen the business that we currently have as well as explore new businesses, create multiple opportunities for good-paying jobs for the citizens of District 2,” he said.
Ken Lowe, a business owner and housing developer, said Hillyer is “uniquely qualified” to bring the business community, residents, and the City together to get projects done in District 2. “That’s why we’re here supporting him today.”
“We’re asking that everyone – especially our mayor along with the other Council members – would support the voice of the community,” said Rev. Patrick Jones, president of the Baptist Ministers’ Union. “They have to realize if they don’t hear us now, they’ll hear from us in May.”
Council can select up to three applicants to be interviewed next week and will vote on Thursday, when the interim Council member will take office. Along with the rest of San Antonio voters, District 2 resident will elect a full-term representative in the May 4 municipal election. The first day to apply to be on the May ballot is Jan. 16.
Jones and Hillyer applauded Shaw for his work on City Council, but Jones said Shaw should have engaged the community more in “naming a successor,” he said. Shaw has not endorsed anyone and did not attend the December forums or Wednesday’s announcement.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he told the Rivard Report, noting that there may be more applications submitted before the Thursday deadline. “Council needs to review the applications and put forth some names. … I want to make sure I get to know the individual.”
Shaw has met Hillyer, he said, but does not know him well.
“I’m glad the community’s involved, I just hope it’s the entire District 2,” Shaw said, noting that the district’s boundaries extend into Northeast San Antonio.