SA’s Newest Councilwomen Reflect On Their Victories
May 20, 2019 - Downtown San Antonio
Article By: Amanda Lozano - Writer, SA Sentinel
Who runs the world? Girls.
The June 8th runoff election brought three new councilwomen into the fray. Of the ten council seats, six will now be filled by women.
This is the second time in San Antonio history that the city will be run by a majority of females, happening only once before in 2008, with six councilwomen leading the city: Mary Alice Cisneros, Sheila McNeil, Lourdes Galvan, Delicia Hererra, and Diane Cibran. This council lasted until May 2009. Newly-elected Jada Andrews-Sullivan will now serve District 2, Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia will serve District 4, and the District 6 seat will be held by Melissa Cabello Havrda. Together, this passionate crew represents districts in the Westside, Southside, and Eastside, providing these historically underserved areas with new representation in these freshman council members.
All three ladies defeated their male opponents in their respective districts during runoff elections.
District 2: Jada Andrews-Sullivan
Jada Andrews-Sullivan defeated former Councilman Keith A. Toney in one of the closest runoffs, winning by 99 votes (52.13 percent of the vote). A newcomer to politics, this Eastside native is a mother, veteran, businesswoman, and a survivor of domestic violence. She advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and works as a motivational speaker.
“This is exciting to be able to work with powerful women and see the different perspectives we have regarding our districts and how we can truly make them work together and make this city a better place,” Andrews-Sullivan said. “It truly is an exciting feeling.”
In an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, Sullivan elaborated on her goals for the district. These initiatives include working on issues of gentrification, addressing crime, and uniting the community and youth through affordable programming. She understands that her community has some lower-income residences and wants them to know that they have a councilperson that will speak for them.
District 2 covers the area east of Downtown Commerce Street sprawling out towards the surrounding cities of Kirby and Windcrest, an area that has a large number of San Antonio’s underrepresented African American population. “I’m humbled and thankful that District 2 has spoken and decided that I would be the person they’d like to see represent them,” she said. “I look forward to serving them as best as I can.”
District 4: Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia
Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia won by a landslide victory, toppling opponent Johnny Arredondo with 72.43 percent of the vote.
Dr. Rocha Garcia, a marketing professor at Our Lady of The Lake University, will be replacing longtime Councilman Rey Saldaña who is currently vacating his position due to term limits and will be the new Viá Board Chair. (It should be noted that Saldaña endorsed Rocha Garcia on his way out of office.) A lifelong resident of the Southside, Rocha Garcia said she wants to “continue the momentum” of growth in the community.
District 4, running south of Highway 90 and 151, is one of the most rapidly expanding areas in San Antonio. The Mission Reach and Brooks City Base are some of the newest developments in this community.
Rocha Garcia stated that one of her first goals in office is to address the lighting issues in her district. When addressing her residents, she mentioned that an improvement as minor as brighter lighting would proactively affect the quality of life in the community by lowering crime rates.
“How can we help? Something as small as increasing lighting to target crime,” said Rocha Garcia. “It might seem like a no brainer that hasn't happened yet. Little things you assume have been done, and haven't. For a long time this district has been left behind. There is a lot of new development and growth in the northern and western part of the district, but we can’t leave the other neighborhoods that have been there for years.”
Rocha Garcia is positive that the communication skills between her and the other councilwomen will result in proactive decision making, saying that they will ‘champion together’ to tackle the issues.
“This is an awesome feeling. Just as we [the council] talk to each other, there is so much energy. We have great commutation skills, ” Rocha Garcia said. “This is going to be a great example for our children—our girls— to see so many women represent on council. It’s something that might want to empower them to do something.”
District 6: Melissa Cabello Havrda
Melissa Cabello Havrda easily overtook opponent Andy Greene with 57.02 percent of the vote. The attorney vied for the seat two years ago, losing narrowly to former Councilman Greg Brockhouse.
“I’m humbled to serve where I grew up, and feel strongly to help the people what shaped who I am,” the lifelong District 6 resident said.
Cabello Havrda calls District 6 the “Melting Pot” of San Antonio, explaining that many of the residents in the area originally come from someplace else, and that it is one of the most diverse and unique cultural areas in the city.
District 6 branches from the inner Westside, up Highway 151, extending into Helotes and Medina County. Cabello Havrda explained that due to the rapid growth on the outskirts of the district, she wants to play an integral role in addressing the concerns of residents, namely in regards to property taxes, traffic issues, green area extensions, and pedestrian safety.
Havrda said that a female majority council represents the city perfectly, as there are many women of color in San Antonio. She doesn’t want to leave anyone out, however, mentioning that “even the males on Council are excited to work together.”
“We are turning a corner. What can we do to make our city better? We aren't looking to the past, but the future,” Cabello Havrda said. “We don’t want to exclude anyone. I come from a place of inclusivity, and we want that inclusivity to reflect in the city.”
The newly-elected ladies each have different and diversified backgrounds, but all share likeminded goals. Some of these priorities include property taxes, growth, and maintaining a sense of unity and community in San Antonio.
The councilwomen were all sworn in on June 19th during the regular B-Session at the Municipal Plaza Building downtown.
San Antonio Breaking Boundaries Over the Years
Along with the majority-female city council, San Antonio has many women who have trampled down barriers in city politics.
One of these notable women is Sheryl Sculley, former City Manager. During her thirteen-year tenure, Sculley left a legacy which continues to inspire women of all ages and professions. To this day, Sculley serves as a mentor and leader to many aspiring local innovators.
Regarding the newly-elected council, Sculley offered some advice. “They are council members who happen to be women,” Sculley said. “I think they should consider that role first.”
Quoting former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Sculley mirrored her sentiments in an address to the Women’s Club of San Antonio. “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women,” reiterated Sculley.
Other former female movers and shakers in the city include Rosemary Kowalski, a prominent philanthropist and businesswoman; Lila Cockrell, San Antonio’s first female mayor; and Ivy Taylor, the city’s first African-American female mayor.
Women Taking the Lead Across the Nation
Around the country, females are taking charge in office and fighting for inclusivity and equal representation. Nevada’s State Legislation made history in 2018 with the the first woman majority state legislature, holding 50.8 percent of seats. Colorado follows closely, with women taking 45 percent of seats.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a record number of women have been elected to State Legislatures nationwide. In 2019, 2112 women will serve in state legislative offices around the U.S.
In the private sector, women continue to make moves as well. General Motors is the first major automotive company in history to have a female CEO and CFO, reversing the stereotype of cars in a male-centric culture.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the nation’s first woman suffragettes and advocate for the advancement of women's rights would undoubtably be proud. “But when at last woman stands on an even platform with man, his acknowledged equal everywhere, with the same freedom to express herself in the religion and government of the country, then, and not until then, will he be able to legislate as wisely and generously for her as for himself,” declared Stanton. San Antonio is now one step closer to realizing the future she envisioned when she uttered those prophetic words more than 100 years ago.