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VIDEO: Small Government, Big Dreams, Meet Mr. Neighborhood

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Mayoral Candidate Tommy Adkisson rolls out a flag outside of his mother's home on Golden Crown Drive

If you asked Tommy Adkisson where to go to have a good time, he’d probably take you on a stroll through his neighborhood.  As part of our ongoing series of reports on San Antonio’s leading mayoral candidates, we took Adkisson up on the offer of a stroll and had a candid conversation about the candidate’s priorities.

(Video by NowCastSA is below)

If you walk through the Highland Hills neighborhood on San Antonio’s Southeast side, you’ll see a mix of homes. Some are in need of repair with various knickknacks in the front yard. Others have well-manicured lawns and brightly decorated facades. The sidewalks on the main roads are in desperate need of repair and the streets could use some attention. Adkisson admits the area is underserved.

“What it needs is a balance struck between [the] vanity projects that we see and hear a lot about, but which don’t help the neighbors that own this community. We ought to be able to do the big projects but not rob resources from everyday things that need to get done.”

Adkisson has spent most of the 66 years of his life here; he and his wife now live three houses away from his mother. He calls this Middle America. “There are some people who are millionaires and there are some people here who may be poverty stricken, but by and large, it’s mainly a middle class area.”

After running for public office 11 times Adkisson has acquired several titles: former state representative, and Bexar County Commissioner.  He served the county’s eastern precinct as commissioner for 16 years. But the title that really suits him might be Mr. Neighborhood, or Neighborhood Czar, because that’s where his passion lies.

When he served the Metropolitan Planning Organization, he was a strong voice calling for sidewalks, something lacking on his own street of Golden Crown.

I look around. “Your street doesn’t even have sidewalks.” Adkisson agrees, impassioned. “No! Exactly that’s the kind of nonsense the city has subjected us to.”

Adkisson says he wants to create a department of neighborhoods. That would, among other things, synchronize the lights of certain intersections.

“Intersections after 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock at night would flash red off and on instead of forcing people to stop at places that are often times dangerous to sit there by yourself hoping nobody is going to attack you.”

Even in his work life, Adkisson, who is an attorney, remains in the same neighborhood, close to home. His law office is less than a mile away, at the intersection of Southcross blvd and Goliad road. “This is a building I purchased a little over 10years ago, to house my law office and house my headquarters whenever I ran.”

He touts himself as a Texas history buff, drawing inspiration from Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. He has copies of their biographies in his office. He’s outgoing; surprises listeners with kooky, humorous comments; and seems to enjoy shaking the hands of voters on the campaign trail.

Adkisson’s TV ad underscores his message of small, non-intrusive government.  First, he’s absolutely against toll roads. Second, he objects to big-ticket projects like the streetcar. He wants to spend money on what he calls little projects that will not bust the budget.

Last year, Adkisson gave up his commissioner seat to challenge Nelson Wolff for County Judge.  He lost and then decided to run for mayor. “I had a person tell me, right as ... I think it was on election night when I didn’t make it as county judge, and he said, ‘Hey!’And I looked around, and he says ‘Run for mayor!’And I thought ‘Oh my gosh! That’s a lot of work a no pay.’”

Like some of his opponents, he’s been criticized for making the mayor’s race a second option. Unlike his opponents he admits it. “I don’t think anybody has a lock on this, falsely pure ‘that’s everything I’ve wanted to be and nothing else.’ Actually the common denominator of these offices is you want to serve, you want to serve, you want to make a difference, you want to lift up society.”

Adkisson says his proudest accomplishments include helping get the AT&T Center built; bonds for roads; flood control projects; the new trauma center at University Health System; and working to prevent repeat criminal offenses.“We have tamed the jail population; we have transformed to some extent—although it’s really in its early stage—the 75 percent return rates of our inmates into something less.”

He says public service is in his blood and his decades of experience at the state and county level make him the best choice. And if he’s elected, Adkisson will tackle the issues one neighborhood at a time.

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