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Video: Van De Putte's Values Shaped By Faith, Family And A Healthcare Job

Shelley Kofler
Texas Public Radio
Candidate Leticia Van de Putte, left, is a licensed pharmacist who has worked at the Davila Pharmacy on San Antonio's West Side.

Early voting in the race for San Antonio mayor begins next Monday, April 27. Today Texas Public Radio begins a series of reports that look at the personal qualities the four leading candidates would bring to the mayor’s office.  We begin by stopping at a place which helped shape Leticia Van de Putte’s values. 

Watch the video produced with NowCastSA.com below

At the Davila Pharmacy on San Antonio’s West Side Leticia Van de Putte chats with neighbors she’s known for decades, and asks about family members who are under the weather. She slips on a white medical coat and steps behind the counter to help fill prescriptions.

“This is a diabetic patient that has diabetic neuropathy,” she says as she questions whether the prescription is accurate. “We’re going to call to make sure it wasn’t an error.”

A Health Professional’s Perspective

Before her 24-year legislative career took so much of her time, Van de Putte was a full-time pharmacist who owned her business.  She says she still fills in occasionally at Davila’s, and believes that what she’s learned as a health professional would make her effective as mayor.

“I look at intervention and prevention as the first strategy on anything.  The taxpayers deserve to have their tax dollars spent wisely.  And if we can head off a problem early that really costs us a lot, then that’s a more efficient use of tax dollars.”

Family Influence

The 60- year old mother of six says her family and Catholic faith are what keep her grounded. A photo in her campaign office shows the more than 40 children, grandkids, and relatives she frequently summons for meals.

Photo of Leticia Van de Putte and her family from two years ago.

“This is called two turkeys and two hams if you get anybody together,” she says admiring the photo.  “And at least 10 pounds of potato salad and eight pounds of pinto beans.  I calculate it that way since I am normally the family cook.” 

Political Experience

In the Texas Senate, Van de Putte’s colorful, outspoken personality was often on display. It gained her national attention on June 15, 2013, when she stood with Sen. Wendy Davis during a debate on abortion rights. She spoke the words that triggered a protest by women in the gallery.

“I said, ‘at what point, must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room,’ she recalled.

Van de Putte parlayed that prominence into the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. When she lost the general election she resigned from the Texas Senate to run for San Antonio mayor, which has prompted critics to question whether she sees the city’s top job as a consolation prize.

Running for Mayor, Opponents’ Claims

“Last year I was so focused on the lieutenant governor’s race and it was an incredible opportunity,“ she said.

“But after the election I really was inundated with phone calls, emails text messages, people off the street, all asking me to refocus and come back home and run for mayor.”

“And I heeded that call. I’m proud to be running for mayor.”

Van de Putte’s opponents have targeted her for moving almost $300,000 of money from her state campaign accounts to her mayoral campaign.  Then, under fire, she moved some of the money back. 

“It wasn’t because they called me out,” she said.  “It was because it was the right thing to do. That just goes to show you I’m the type of leader who listens.  And when there’s any hint of anything, I’m going to go to the extreme to make sure (there’s no problem).”

Credit Shelley Kofler / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Leticia Van de Putte with voters attending one of more than three dozen candidate debates.

She’s also unapologetic about accepting the endorsement of the San Antonio Police Officers Association

Officers are locked in contentious negotiations with the city over their contract.  Van de Putte is quick to deny allegations she got the endorsement by promising to side with officers if elected.

“Anybody in that room during the interview process knows I promised nothing,” she said when asked if she cut a deal with officers. “What I did promise was a process that treated everybody with respect.” 

As mayor Van de Putte’s priority would be improving infrastructure: streets, drainage, sidewalks and roads.  She’s also work on “human infrastructure”, providing employee training and employer support that would help grow jobs.

How She Thinks She Compares To Opponents

When asked why she’s the best candidate for mayor, Van de Putte said this about key rivals:

“Ivy Taylor has been a good council member representing her district.  But tell me one issue where Ivy Taylor as a council member has gone out in front, has lead the charge.  And Mike (Villarreal), as sweet as he is and as knowledgeable as he is, hasn’t been able to pass any major systemic changes at the state level,” she charged.

Van de Putte’s list of her own legislative accomplishments includes sponsoring the Dream Act, which gives in-state tuition to some immigrant students; increasing criminal penalties for the sex-trafficking of children; providing college credit for military service.

Van de Putte claims she’s the candidate who can get things done.     

“I know I’m not the smartest gal at the table but I know how to get the smartest people in the room and make sure they’re focused on a goal.”

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.