The National Magazine of the Successful American Latino: Un dia a la vez is what it takes San Antonio Mayor Edward D. Garza to run his city

Un dia a la vez is what it takes San Antonio Mayor Edward D. Garza to run his city – Q&A

Armando Garcia Alvarez

Mayor Edward D. Garza of San Antonio, Texas, a 34-year-old, third-generation Texan of Latino descent, is serving his second term after being overwhelmingly reelected in May. Garza is the youngest mayor in San Antonio’s recent history.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, he created one of the nation’s first comprehensive city-county anti-terrorism plans, leading CNN to recognize San Antonio as the second most prepared city in the country after New York. Garza’s agenda for San Antonio includes the expansion of high-tech and biomedical industries, development of a skilled and well-paid workforce, revitalization of older neighborhoods and commercial corridors, modernization of local government, and the creation of new economic generators to support balanced growth. LATINO LEADERS caught up with him to ask him about his background, plans, and values.

Q. What jobs did your parents do and how did that influence you?

A. My father was a social worker and later an administrator of a substance abuse program. I worked with him for many summers, so I saw a lot of real life issues, and I saw the role of public sector in helping people who’ve fallen on difficult times.

My mother worked for USA, a military insurance company, before she became a full-time mom. She also was the president of voluntary groups and became my leadership role model.

Q. What experiences did you have growing up as a Latino that influenced you?

A. My being Latino hasn’t stood out in San Antonio, which is a multi-ethnic community. It was a good experience growing up there-my neighbors were elderly Anglos, and they took a hand in my upbringing. A mixed society has a positive impact on those who live in it.

Q. What experiences did you have as a child that made you get into politics?

A. I attribute my interest in politics to my parents, because they took me to election campaigns and civic activities back in 1977. I remember helping Joe Alderete, who was running for a city council seat. That early experience made me run for student council at Woodlawn Elementary. I lost. That was my only defeat. I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood that taught me many things in terms of urban planning and design, architecture, appreciation to detail, parks, and open space. Combining these things with my childhood civic activities, it began giving me an understanding of how elected officers and politics have an impact on communities. After my mother passed away, I felt hungry, determined to get involved in my community. I ran successfully for City Council District 7, the same neighborhood where I was raised.

Q. Henry Cisneros is known for placing San Antonio on the map and for building the Alamodome. What will you be remembered lot?

A. My top priorities as mayor are working for balanced growth, modernizing our city charter, preparing our community for job security, and education; and the list grows. Toyota certainly supports the initiatives I have developed for the city’s Southside. PGA was not a priority, but the only thing I pointed out was my ability to listen to slow things down. I feel that I may not see the fruits of my labor today, next year, or five years from now.

Q. You have called San Antonio a world-class city, but at the same time you have asked everyone to work together to grow as a sustainable community. Can you elaborate?

A. San Antonio is a world-class city today. People who come here from across the nation and the world admire what the city has to offer: our quality of life, our low cost of living, our friendly people, our unique history. Obviously, we have challenges like any big city. We must invest in our human capital, quality of life, neighborhoods, parks, and continue developing the leadership that understands our demographic history.

Q. People see your proven leadership as an open door for a successfull political career. What’s next on the horizon?

A. Un dia a la vez. I really do take one day at a time. I’m so blessed to be a mayor of the city I love so much. Four years in office is a very short time to be head of a community this big. I know that if I take my eye off the job I am doing today, I won’t be as effective. I feel that I will be able to do more not being an elected official, either at the private sector, supporting others becoming elected, and cultivating a vision for elected leaders in San Antonio. Henry Cisneros has been a mentor to me. Many Latinos in the city are aspiring leaders.

Q. Being a Latino running the second largest city in Texas and the 8th in the nation, what has this meant to you?

A. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I think like most San Antonians do. We feel very proud that our city has a community feeling to it. It doesn’t feel like the 8th largest metropolis in the country. But at the same time, we look at the numbers, and I have to act like the mayor of one of the largest cities in the United States.

Q. You became a garbage man for a day and filled a pothole to show the importance of San Antonio workers. What’s next on the agenda?

A. These events have been educational for me. We also cleaned the San Antonio River. It’s really an opportunity to understand the job of hard workers and highlight problems that these workers face daily. I just tried to bring awareness of those issues.

Q. Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

A. A healthy community is a priority. As council member, I pushed the water fluoridation issue when we were the last city in the country to do this.

A smoking ban is another issue. I would not dictate to people whether they should smoke or not, but as it relates to the impact on non-smokers in public places, I think that’s where a public official needs to make a decision.

Q. We want you to look into your crystal ball and tell when a Texas Latino will get into the US Senate or the governor’s office.

A. I think clearly that within the next ten years we are going to see a strong evolution of Latino leaders continuing to reach higher offices. Texas is a breeding ground in the United States. In the year 2040, Texas will near the demographics of San Antonio today.

Q. Who really is Edward Garza? Who’s behind the suit?

A. Most people don’t realize that I have a pretty good sense of humor. I have to be more aware of how to present myself professionally, but I enjoy being married, spending time fishing on the coast. San Antonio will always be our home.

Garza serves on a variety of local and statewide boards and committees, including the San Antonio Water System, City Public Service, and the Texas Municipal League’s Transportation Task Force and Regulation on Development Legislative Policy Committee. On the national level, Garza serves on the Advisory Board of the National League of Cities (NLC), and he is the first vice president of the Hispanic Elected Local Officials, which is a constituency group of the NLC.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Ferraez Publications of America Corp.

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