The City of San Antonio has hired Tomika Monterville to become director of the newly-formed Transportation Department, officials announced Tuesday.

A national search for a director conducted last year attracted about 160 applicants. After several interviews with City leadership, Monterville was selected by City Manager Erik Walsh.

She introduced herself to City Council’s Transportation and Mobility Committee on Tuesday via video conference from Orlando, where she has served as director of planning and development for the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority since 2017. 

“We definitely found the right person for the job,” Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez said. “[She] has all kinds of crazy experience in transportation. … She’s got an energy that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Monterville has experience with local and federal agencies and has worked in cities large and small, Sanchez said. Her first day with the City will be Feb. 1. 

Previously, she has worked as a community planner and program specialist for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration and has held several positions for the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation in Maryland. She’s also held management positions in the Lake County Transit Division in Florida and planning positions within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Monterville has a master’s degree in transportation planning from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in finance from Howard University. She also has completed coursework towards a master’s in American studies with a focus on historic preservation from George Washington University.

“I don’t know if you’re more excited than I am, because I’ve sort of been stalking San Antonio – if you can stalk a city,” Monterville said, noting that she has been admiring the land use and transportation work being done in the region. “I actually used that as a model … to collectively work together to tie in transportation and equity and housing and affordability.”

She looks forward to listening and learning from City officials and the community to understand their perspectives and experiences with transportation. 

“I have the good fortune of transportation being my personal ministry,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity, if you’re a public official, if you’re the street sweeper, the dog walker, if you are a mom staying at home. Every decision you make in life, it revolves around transportation. It’s the great equalizer.”

The department is responsible for transportation planning and programming including the SA Tomorrow Multimodal Plan, and Vision Zero San Antonio. It was formerly a division of the City’s Public Works Department, but Walsh split off transportation into its own department after Mayor Ron Nirenberg and others called for a greater focus on multimodal issues.

Monterville joins the City as it continues to work on updating its bicycle master plan, which is now called the Micromobility Plan to include other forms of transit such as scooters. The plan will identify challenges associated with implementing infrastructure projects and complete streets as well as recommend solutions. Another element will be an implementation plan for downtown and Midtown that identifies and prioritizes street and bicycle facilities. 

After additional public and stakeholder input, a final summary report will be created later this year to guide spending on infrastructure projects included in next year’s budget and the 2022 Municipal Bond Program. 

Despite the City’s goal to eliminate fatalities on City roads, established in 2015 through the Vision Zero initiative, the total number of deaths continues on an upward trend.

“We want to reduce serious injuries and eliminate fatalities, but it all goes back to the design of the city,” Monterville said, and San Antonio was designed for the car. “We have to start designing spaces and places that incorporate modes other than automobiles.”

As someone who grew up in Southern California, she admits, “I love my car. I’m not going to beat people upside the head with ‘Yes you have to take a scooter, or yes you have to use transit.’ … We all have our unique experiences, and we want to move around differently.”

Some of these conversations will be uncomfortable because people have different perspectives, she said.

“I’m a black woman in America in 2021,” she said. “I think a lot of people experience things based on their lens. Equity is really important to me.”

The job itself is great, she added, but “my family wants to be in a city that prioritizes people over projects. … That’s what we love about San Antonio, and that’s why I’m really excited to make it my home.”

Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect that Monterville has completed coursework towards a master’s in American studies with a focus on historic preservation from George Washington University.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org