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Councilman Diego Bernal To Leave San Antonio Seat For Possible State House Run

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal quietly announced his plans to step down from the city council next Tuesday, making Thursday's council meeting his last.

"Tomorrow is my last Council meeting," Bernal said. The brief bid goodbye was followed by a preview of a item on the agenda Thursday to give local businesses an advantage when bidding on city contracts.

"We will also vote on the most aggressive local preference ordinance the City has ever seen. That will give LOCAL businesses an advantage when bidding on City contracts. I'm proud of that."

Bernal came into office three years ago. He's officially into his second term and was unopposed in his re-election bid to the seat in 2013.

Bernal says his resignation letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor outlines his last day to be close of business next Tuesday.

His resignation may be a strategic move as State Representative Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat, is moving away from his District 123 seat to run for San Antonio mayor next May. That leaves an open chair in the State House.

Proof of Bernal's eye on the Texas Capitol lies in the city charter's explicit rules for council members running for another office. It says, "If a member of the council shall file to become a candidate for nomination or election to any other public office...he or she shall vacate immediately his or her place on the council."

Bernal gave hints of his future plans on Election night at State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte's watch party at Sunset Station. He said the big issues like education and healthcare are important to him.

"Those are things that affect people's lives and I'm certainly attracted to that," he said. "It's the kind of work I did before being on council anyway."

Bernal's most notable actions during his time on council included revising the city's non-discrimination ordinance to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status. He led the effort to crack down on payday lenders, and he was also at the center of the lengthy French & Michigan zoning case. Bernal's also been trying to figure out how to preserve neighborhoods and residents while still implementing progress. Because of the effort, Mayor Taylor appointed Bernal to lead the Mayor's Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods.

Bernal hasn't yet made an official announcement for his intent to run in District 123 yet.

According to the city charter, the San Antonio City Council will now appoint an interim council member to Bernal's seat because fewer than 270 days remain in the term. The City Clerk will set a date for interviews in front of the council before members vote on Bernal's temporary replacement.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.