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DeBerry, Clay-Flores Sworn On To Bexar County Commissioner’s Court As First Women In Decades

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Pct. Commissioner Trish DeBerry (left) and Pct. 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores take questions from the press during seperate swearing-in ceremonies at the Bexar County Courthouse on New Year's Day.

The two newest faces to the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court were sworn in during two New Year’s Day ceremonies on Friday.

Rebeca Clay-Flores (D) and Trish DeBerry (R) are the third and fourth women to ever be sworn onto the court in its more than 100-year history. DeBerry will represent Pct. 3 on the county’s Northside and Clay-Flores will serve the constituents of the South and far Westsides. Both take office during the significant health and financial challenges still occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During her brief ceremony with a small number of friends and family inside the Bexar County Courthouse, Clay-Flores made note she is the first woman of color to be elected onto the court.

“My hope is that the work that I am about to embark upon ensures that I may be the first but not the last,” she said. “But that I may be only the first of many more to follow not only on Commissioner’s Court but at all levels of leaders of leadership through this country and the great state of Texas and this county.”

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Clay-Flores is sworn-in inside the double height courtroom where commissioners meet.

She did not detail matters of policy priority other than being open and available to her constituents.

“The only promise I made on the campaign trail was to be present and accessible. I can’t claim to represent the community if I don’t know the specific issues and concerns,” she said.

When asked about her job as a project manager at San Antonio Metro Health, Clay-Flores said she was “done” with that position.

DeBerry, the owner of a public relations firm, said among her priorities would be property appraisal reform and support to small businesses.

“We’ve got to focus on small businesses who have been decimated during the pandemic and we need to do whatever we can to try to help those folks keep the doors open,” she said. “There are a lot of people that have been furloughed or laid off and I want to bring that small business experience to the table and really jump start the economy and put people back to work.”

DeBerry has come under fire for public contracts with entities like the City of San Antonio that could create a conflict of interest.

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
DeBerry places hers hands on her childhood bible as she is sworn into office beside family members.

Her firm, the DeBerry Group, has most notably worked on PR campaigns for the currently ongoing — and potentially delayed — renovations of the Alamo. She said over the coming month she would be announcing changes within the DeBerry Group.

“Since I was elected there’s been a lot of work done — not only with my transition onto the court — but with a transition team as far as my business is concerned,” she said. “So rest assured I have built a business and a reputation on being a very moral and a very ethical person especially when it comes to business.”

She noted that diversity in gender, race and ethnicity will bring balance to the court.

“At the end of the day I don’t want to be known for being a woman on the court. I want to be known for being a great commissioner and bringing a small businesses wheelhouse to the table to really get things done and jump start the economy,” she said.

The two take office as Bexar County begins the complicated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to populations outside of workers in the healthcare industry — known as Phase 1A — and into Phase 1B, which includes people aged 65 and older, and also people 16 and older with underlying health conditions.

More than 17,000 available vaccine appointments at the county-owned University Health System were filled in a matter of hours after opening on New Year’s Eve.

DeBerry said it would be a responsibility of the court to ensure the community feels comfortable about the rollout.

“The buck stops here with commissioners, we’ve got to do whatever we can to advocate for bringing more vaccines here to Bexar County in a very hardcore way,” DeBerry said.

Clay-Flores said the priority needs to remain on those are at greatest first for complications of the virus.

“Of course there’s going to be issues — this is something that’s never been done before — but I do think that we need to focus on our populations who are most vulnerable including seniors and those with underlying health issues,” she said.

The court currently has long-time county Judge Nelson Wolff who is in his last term as he has opted to not run again in 2022. Tommy Calvert represents the East Side of the county as the Pct. 4 Commissioner after being elected in 2014. Former State Rep. Justin Rodriguez was appointed to the court in the beginning 2019 for the Pct. 2 seat and won both the 2020 March Primary and was unopposed in the November election.

The first meeting of the new commissioner’s court is on Jan. 12.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules