Looking Back at the San Antonians of the Year Since 2008

As 1200 WOAI prepares to name the tenth San Antonian of the Year on December 15th, we took the opportunity to look back at the nine recipients, what they did to deserve this recognition, and what course their lives have taken since then...









2016 - TIM DUNCAN------

2008 - TERRI HALL   From the citation--"Terri Hall, a California native and home schooling mom, came to political activism in the classic way.  When she learned that unelected officials were planning to charge her a toll to drive from her home in Spring Branch to the H-E-B on 281, rather than complaining, she took action.  Hall fully educated herself on the issues, and has become a formidable opponent to the sometimes shadowy toll road industry..."

Today--Hall has founded and heads two very active grass roots organizations, Texans for Toll Free Highways and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.  She has grown into one of the most influential presences at the Texas Capitol.  Hall helped to kill Gov. Rick Perry's controversial 'Trans Texas Corridor' system of toll superhighways, and, due to her significant presence, Bexar County remains to this day, the only major county in Texas without toll roads.

2009- JULIAN CASTRO   From the citation--"Julian Castro represents the power of potential.  Like the best football coach for your favorite team is the man who want them to hire and hasn't coached a game, the best hope for your political party is the untried but promising young leader.  The city's new mayor, as he stands on the threshold of his first full year in office, is the best representation of that potential since Henry Cisneros in the early eighties.  He is certainly hoping for a better outcome for his political ambitions..."

Today--Now 43, the label 'rising young star' has probably run its course for the now former mayor and former Housing Secretary.  Widely considered last year to be a top pick for Hillary Clinton's running mate, not being on the ticket for her disasterous campaign may have been the best political stroke Castro has ever had.  No longer untried but still promIsing, Castro is back home practicing law, writing a book, and awaiting future developments.  The signature achievement of his time as Mayor, the Pre-K 4 SA program, continues its very successful effort at boosting the city's historically poor educational record, and the reforms he spearheaded laid the foundation for the city's tech boom, both solid resume builders for his inevitable re-entry into politics.

2010 - GORDON HARTMAN   From the citation -- "Fidelity to a worthy purpose.  A successful developer, planner, and community leader, Hartman could have used his wealth to buy fancy cars, private jets, and the familiar shiny symbols of American wealth.  Instead, he built Morgan's Wonderland, the world's first theme park specifically built for disabled children and adults, in honor of his autistic daughter.  Where most people build monuments to themselves, Gordon Hartman built hope for millions of too often marginalized people."

Today--Morgan's Wonderland is expanding, and has become a global beacon for the possibilities that disabled men, women, boys and girls can offer to today's more inclusive society.  The park has won numerous awards not only for its service to the disabled, but for the example it sets, the fun it creates, and its recognition of the promise of all people.  In addition, Hartman's creation and ownership of a pro soccer team, plus his construction of Toyota Field, has given metro San Antonio's future sports offerings a truly international outlook.

2011 - WILLIAM GREEHEY   From the citation-- "Clearly one of the most successful businessmen in San Antonio's history, the founder of Valero Energy and NuStar Energy is now moving in the path of predecessors like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, and dedicating both his self-made wealth and influence to the greater good.  The Haven For Hope, perhaps the prototypical campus for the homeless in America, is what will be the first, but far from the last, example of that decision..."

Today---started with $40 million out of Greehey's pocket, the Greehey Family Foundation, headed by Bill and his wife Louree has emerged as one of the region's biggest supporters of causes ranging from education to health care.  The Greehey Research Campus at the UT Health Science Center to the Greehey School of Business at his alma mater, St. Mary's University, speak to the impact the Foundation is having in San Antonio.  A wide variety of causes have benefitted from this spirit of giving, from Alzheimer's research to Any Baby Can to San Antonio parks and libraries.

2012 - NELSON WOLFF   From the citation-- "For decades Nelson Wolff, Mayor, State Lawmaker, County Judge, has been the go-to person in the region's political world, the 'adult in the room' as he has been called by more than one fellow elected official.  It has been Wolff's ability to see over the horizon which has served him well in all of the places he has held office.  In 2012, he, more than anybody else, was able to see the future in the coming of the shale boom to South Texas, and to make sure Bexar County is well positioned to take advantage of that once in a lifetime event..."

Today--Wolff just announced that he is a candidate for a fifth full term as county judge, and completing that term at age 82 will mean he has served in elected office for the better part of five decades.  And Wolff is still sounding the alarm bell about the challenges this region will face in the coming years.  Wolff pointed out what no one else would, that the existing airport is inadequate for an emerging world city and, despite inexplicable public opposition, light rail and other alternative means of transportation will be essential to preserve critical mobility in the years to come.

2013 -- THE EAGLE FORD SHALE WORKER   From the citation-- "It was just a few years ago that the smart people were talking about 'peak oil,' the idea that the world's oil supplies were inevitably falling and ahead lay chaos, ruin, and the end of the industrialized economy.  The effort of the Eagle Ford shale boom is enormous in its reshaping of world events, and its effect on the daily lives of the tens of thousands of people from the Brush Country to the economy of San Antonio is no less significant.  It has brought unimagined wealth to rural ranching communities in places like LaSalle and Karnes Counties, forced wrenching changes in a lifestyle which in many ways predates Texas, and suddenly pushed people who for generations had lived by rhythms no more foreign than the price of cattle and this year's cotton crop to confront issues of rapid change and unforeseen growth.  It has brought the world's economy to south Texas, and in that amazing odyssey has changed everything we thought we knew about energy, world relations, and the future of the United States..."

Today--The number of men and women working in the Eagle Ford has fallen more than half, and the boom days of 2013 have given way to the steady hum of progress and growth.  Automation is also taking its toll on the work force, as more wells are now operated remotely.  The result is, rather than the man camps and blur of 2013, the Eagle Ford today is more sustainable.  The International Energy Agency reported just last month that shale oil production will allow the U.S. to be not just energy independent, but become the world's largest energy exporter by 2025, a leadership which will last for 'decades.'  So, just like in 2013, the Eagle Ford continues to change the world.

2014 - PHIL COLLINS From the citation-- "Like many  British Baby Boomers, Collins first learned about America by watching the Hollywood tale of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier in the 1950s (David Bowie, real name David Jones, took his stage name from Jim Bowie).  It is not surprising that Crockett's story made such an impression on a young man growing up in a Europe which had lost its promise amid the desolation and poverty left behind by World War II.  He saw in the story of early Texas a place where honor and courage mattered, a people for whom ideals mattered, and a culture where one person, or one small group of people, could make a real difference.  Hooked on Texas history from 5,000 miles away, Collins used his earnings as one of the world's most successful musicians of the eighties and nineties not to buy Ferraris, but to buy tangible pieces of that unique moment in the human experience.  Finally, this Englishman amassed the largest collection of Alamo memorabilia in private hands, a collection he donated this year, in two truckloads, to the Alamo...

Today--  Driven by Collins' requirement that his artifacts make up the Phil Collins Collection in a 'world class museum,' plans to upgrade Alamo Plaza, which had suffered from fits and starts since the 1980s, finally sprung into high gear.  Under the leadership of new Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the city and state started working together on a grand plan for a major renovation of the Plaza and badly needed repairs to the Alamo.  Alamo Street will be closed, the 'noise pollution' and 'tourist trap businesses' will be removed and Collins museum will be built.  Dirt on the ambitious $300 million plus project is expected to be turned starting in 2018.

2015 -- BRAD PARSCALE From the citation: "2015 will be remembered as the year tech roared into life, born fully grown as a powerful and significant player in not only local events but as a creator and shaper of a new city culture,  and shattering everything we thought we knew about the economic future of this city.  All of a sudden, San Antonio had become a net importer of college educated millennials, ready to go to work in a city known for its startups, for it's electric culture, and for its suddenly brand new future. We saw when in places like Geekdom, the unique high tech incubator.  We saw it in developments like the amazing Pearl Brewery property.  We saw it as not one but two companies, AT&T and Google, suddenly decided that providing super high speed Internet in San Antonio was a place where they absolutely had to compete.  And we saw it in newly muscular companies with a global reach and a determination to rebuild San Antonio into a true 21st Century city.  It is for that reason that Brad Parscale, co-President of the city's largest digital agency, co founder of TechBloc, and a public face of the city's breathtaking Tech Evolution of 2015, is our San Antonian of the Year..."

TODAY -- This may have been our most prescient choice of all.  Also in 2015, Parscale's firm, Giles-Parscale, signed on to provide digital services for the long shot Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  In that role, he led a team which rewrote the rules of digital campaigning, and pioneered new techniques for measuring and changing public opinion.  Parscale originated concepts like using catch phrases (Hillary Clinton's infamous 'basket of deplorables' was a top performer), and even facial expressions to gauge the public mood.  In fact, it was Parscale's personal decision to allocate web resources in the last two weeks of the campaign to Michigan and Wisconsin which is largely credited with winning the election for Trump.  Parscale continues to be a major player on the local and global tech scene.  Parscale has also become a leader in the private sector in efforts to expand San Antonio's air travel options, and he was forced to move much of his company to Florida in 2017 due to the inadequacies of San Antonio's airport.

2016 -- TIM DUNCAN  From the citation:"Like the big-shouldered Mike Ditka in Chicago or Babe Ruth, the world's first international sports superstar in New York, the best sports figures mirror the personalities of the communities they represent to the world.  There was perhaps a no better exemplar of San Antonio's culture and world outlook than Tim Duncan.  In an age filled with flashy self promoters, Tim even had to be persuaded to play pro basketball, and the quiet excellence he brought to his game is how San Antonio likes to see itself.  Not flashy like Dallas or smug like Austin, San Antonio and Tim Duncan are an understated success that doesn't thrive on the telling, but in the experience..."

TODAY -- It appears that Timmy's second act may actually be better than the first, as he used his money and time in humanitarian efforts, in a heroic effort to fly badly needed relief supplies into his storm battered native Virgin Islands.  Tim also found grace in what for many athletes would be a significant setback, the revelation that his trusted financial adviser has been skimming from his accounts to the tune of millions of dollars.  Near the end of 2017, Tim made a major donation to the San Antonio Food Bank, demonstrating that, like David Robinson before him, Tim Duncan is determined to go native, and become a major asset to his adopted home town.

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