VIA buses lined in parking spaces at the refueling center.
VIA Metropolitan Transit has elected Fernando Reyes as the new board chair of the transit system. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The VIA Metropolitan Transit board of trustees unanimously voted to approve Fernando Reyes as the new chairman Tuesday.

“I am honored, humbled with getting such a reception … I know that most of you don’t know me very well,” Reyes said at VIA’s board meeting. “But I can tell you that I’m a very hard worker and when I get involved in something I try to give it 110 percent.”

Reyes was the sole candidate presented at Tuesday’s meeting; he had been tapped by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg in November to replace outgoing Chair Hope Andrade. Despite some board members’ comments last week about wanting to consider other potential choices, trustees warmly welcomed the local manufacturing executive, whose company, Reyes Automotive Group, supplies parts to Toyota. 

Reyes assured the board that he understands the importance of championing public transportation.

“As you know, I am San Antonio-born and raised on the South Side, and I used public transportation when I was first starting out, so I can definitely tell you how important it is for people that can’t afford to have a car,” Reyes said.

“I love San Antonio, and I have the time and the energy and the effort at this particular time to give back to my community. And that’s really my whole purpose for this – I’m not trying to look for another office or move on to something else. This is just an honor for me to be able to do that.”

New VIA Metropolitan Transit board Chair Fernando Reyes Credit: Courtesy / VIA Metropolitan Transit – Zoom

Reyes’ term starts on Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2022. He will join the board less than two months after voters approved a proposition that would reallocate a one-eighth-cent sales tax to bolster transit funding and will be at the helm of the transit agency as it works to expand the bus system, increase service frequency, and develop rapid transit lanes dedicated to buses.

Trustee Kristi Villanueva, who originally asked for more time to consider other board chair nominees, voted to approve Reyes. She also thanked Andrade for allowing board members to take the time to visit other options for the new board appointment.

“I would like to also comment to the board and to you, Madam Chair, how appreciative I am that you have always allowed us to voice our opinion whether we agree or not and we can all continue to have respect for each other,” Villanueva said. “As Trustee [Bob] Comeaux mentioned, it’s been a fantastic working relationship. And while I did bring some questions to the table, I enjoyed the fact that we were able to dialogue everyone together and continue to move forward in a positive manner.”

Trustee Marina Gavito echoed her colleagues, pointing to Andrade’s leadership as the reason VIA saw voters approve the proposition in November.

“I think all of us trustees know that in VIA we give a lot of our time and energy and effort to VIA, whether it’s the meetings, the prep, the follow-up, or behind the scenes getting things done,” Gavito said.

Andrade expressed her gratitude to the board for working with her, joking that she would truly be done with VIA after this year. Andrade returned to lead the board after previous chair Rey Saldaña left to work for national education nonprofit Communities in Schools as president and CEO. She reached her maximum eight years of service on the board this year.

“I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to work alongside you all, and I believe that because of the hard work of you and your staff and everything that you did, is what brought us to a successful November election,” she said. “So thank you and I look forward to continuing those friendships, to the trustees thank you all for your guidance for your support.”

Trustees Villanueva, Athalie Malone, Ezra Johnson, and Bob Comeaux’s terms also end on Dec. 31, though they are able to reapply for their positions if they want. The City of San Antonio is still accepting applications and nominations for their seats as well as the open seat left by former Trustee Amanda Merck, who left the board in July. People interested in serving on the VIA board can apply here.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.