Checking the next box to set up a voter-approved workforce training initiative, City Council’s Governance Committee selected 11 finalists Friday for the SA Ready to Work advisory board.

The committee interviewed a total of 17 applicants, eight on Friday and nine at a Feb. 9 meeting. The candidates selected by the committee will be recommended to the full City Council for approval in March.

The final candidates for the board are:

  • Sonia Garza, vice president of operations for WellMed Medical Management
  • Peter J. Holt, CEO of HOLT CAT and chairman of Spurs Sports and Entertainment
  • Ben Peavy, local managing director of Accenture Federal Services, 
  • Rosa Santana, CEO of the Santana Group, Integrated Human Capital, and Forma Automotive
  • Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio
  • Daphene Carson, risk manager at Edgewood Independent School District
  • Doug McMurry, executive vice president of the San Antonio Chapter of Associated General Contractors
  • Bobby Olveda, field representative and president of union group Laborers’ Local 1095
  • Emily Spurlock, registered nurse
  • Jerry Graeber, senior project manager with Leonard Contracting Inc.
  • Juan Solis, vice president at TRUIST and former District 5 councilman

The advisory board will meet once a quarter and provide feedback on the new SA Ready to Work program, including on in-demand occupations eligible for tuition assistance and outside support for program participants, such as childcare. Board members will also be promoters of the program to both community and employer participants.

SA Ready to Work was approved by voters in November, giving the City $154 million to implement the education and job training initiative. Enrollment for the program is scheduled to start in September.

Though the SA Ready to Work advisory board originally had a total of nine seats planned, committee members added two more board member seats: an additional trade and labor representative and another finance representative. As currently structured, the board is composed four local employers with in-demand occupations (Garza, Holt, Peavy, and Santana), two current or previous participants of City of San Antonio workforce programs (Spurlock and Graeber), two trade or labor organizations (McMurry and Olveda), one community organization (Carson), and one training provider or higher education institution (Teniente-Matson). 

Solis will serve as the advisory board’s finance representative, a category the committee added Friday. The mayor has chosen Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) and Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) to serve as the board’s City Council liaisons.

Spurlock, who was a participant of local agency Project Quest‘s training, said she would not have been able to find secure employment without that program. And now she wants to share her experience as part of the SA Ready to Work advisory board.

“I grew up in poverty, and … I got to see the cascade of effects of that,” she said, adding she became acutely aware of the barriers poor people face. “I got to see exactly where our problems began.” 

Holt, one of San Antonio’s most recognizable business leaders, said he wants to help on the advisory board by identifying existing resources so the City’s funding can be used efficiently. He also acknowledged that San Antonians need quality education to obtain well-paying jobs later.

“I feel that that there is a pivotal moment in our community with Early Matters working on the early stuff, our public education system getting better with better leadership, with the Alamo Promise program that helps [students access higher education],” Holt said.

With so many seats to fill, the Governance Committee spent more than four hours interviewing applicants over the course of two meetings. After an hour and a half of discussion in a closed executive session Friday, committee members reconvened to announce their final selection.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg thanked all the applicants and committee members for their time and effort in the selection process.

“This is not an easy decision,” he said. “And there are a lot of great folks that, unfortunately, we’re going to work to include in other ways. But thank you again for your hard work.”

City Council is set to vote on the candidates on March 4.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.