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Growing up on the Southeast Side of San Antonio meant driving to North Star Mall to go back-to-school shopping and going to the Little Red Barn for birthday celebrations. It meant giant fruit cups from the frutería at the Missions and going with my parents to vote at Southside Lions Park. I was a happy child that loved my community and looked forward to one day giving back to it.

It also meant miles of fencing along Southeast Military Drive that kept the Air Force base separated. I remember the lines of cars every morning of people waiting to go through security to enter the base. My only glimpse inside was when my brother participated in a space camp there once. 

Later, when I was attending the University of Texas at Austin, an internship opportunity brought me back to the Southeast Side, only this time things were different. The fenced-in fortress that was once an Air Force base was now a 1,308-acre mixed-use development booming with new homes, parks, and businesses moving in and setting up shop. The development is owned and managed by the Brooks Development Authority, but we just call it Brooks.

Coming back to this area as an intern sparked something inside of me. The community I grew up in was thriving, and I had an opportunity to play a role in that. In 2016, I was offered a full-time position as the Special Events Coordinator at Brooks. Think back to Flyte! Camera! Action!, Brooks’ first public movie nights, and the ribbon-cutting for the Embassy Suites at Brooks, the region’s first full-service hotel — that was me.

But one of my biggest tasks was to change the public perception of Brooks. It was an Air Force base for so long that it was hard for people to see it differently. Though Brooks is now a community space open to the public, I would often get calls from people asking if events were for military members only.

In my current role as government relations manager, I am tasked with ensuring Brooks’ mission to promote and develop a dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive community is at the core of what we and our partners do. My everyday includes talking to elected officials, engineers, lobbyists, transportation experts, government entities, developers, planners, and even educators. I preach Brooks’ mission and vision to these groups so that my community, the Southeast side of San Antonio, is never overlooked or underestimated.

Liana Puente inspects aerial photographs of Brooks through the decades.
Liana Puente inspects aerial photographs of Brooks through the decades. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Every time I start a project, I ask myself: Who can help me get this done and how does this project impact my community?

We engage the community by hosting town halls, sending mailers and newsletters, and asking questions on social media. It’s important for us to hear what residents think about the projects we’re working on and to use their input to inform our work.

We engage partners based on influence, support, and expertise. But above everything, we work with partners who believe in the Brooks mission. Brooks was created for the benefit of the entire city and we need visionaries tied into every project who can help us achieve our goal of regional prosperity.

Recently, we secured over $5 million in funding to expand a road on campus, Aviation Landing, now known as Sous Vide Way. This expansion led to the nation’s largest sous vide plant, Cuisine Solutions, being built next to the state’s largest plastic plant, Nissei America, right here at Brooks. These two companies, both relocating their U.S. Headquarters to Brooks, have resulted in nearly 600 quality jobs for those in the Brooks region and have put San Antonio at the top of the list for international business.

Next month we have the ribbon-cutting for the Greenline trail extension connecting Brooks to the Mission Reach, a project that is nearly five years in the making. We worked with the San Antonio River Authority and Bexar County to connect the existing Greenline, a 43-acre linear park at Brooks, nearly a quarter-mile to existing trails along the San Antonio River. This connection provides the community with another opportunity to enjoy San Antonio’s attractions, while simultaneously welcoming them to the Brooks campus and region.

These projects were mere dreams at one point, but with the help of a diligent internal team and an innovative external team of consultants, partners, and support from the community, we can lean on our collective relationships to overcome obstacles.

What I do is bigger than me. The fast-paced environment coupled with being able to offer input into the future of Brooks while garnering support from our partners on the best path forward is the most rewarding aspect of my job. From the Greenline extension to improving infrastructure and continuing to provide support and justification for a much-needed police substation in District 3, my team and I continue to fight for a more prosperous Southeast Side.

Liana Puente stands next to <I>Sun Mountain</I>, a sculpture honoring the late congressman Frank Tejeda at Brooks.
Liana Puente stands next to Sun Mountain, a sculpture honoring the late congressman Frank Tejeda at Brooks. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Working at Brooks has brought a whole new meaning to “South Side pride” for me. Brooks has given me the opportunity to see my old stomping grounds flourish into a vibrant community. The fencing is down and now my friends and neighbors can see what it’s like to live, work, learn, and play at Brooks. A part of me feels like Brooks and I grew up at the same time. I’ve been here for five years, and I am looking forward to seeing what the next five years hold.

Liana Puente

Liana Puente is the government relations manager at Brooks.