Dr. Christine Drennon
Dr. Christine Drennon is the Director and Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas. Originally from Rochester, NY, Dr. Drennon earned her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Ph.D. in Urban Geography from the University of Texas, Austin. Her research is on the inner-city neighborhoods of San Antonio, the threats of revitalization and gentrification in those communities, and the slow but steady financialization of housing. That research led to a series of lectures, which prompted a community-wide conversation about equity, and was instrumental in the city’s adoption of an ‘equity-based’ budget. This new work on economic development is intended to do the same.
Cary Clack, Moderator
San Antonio Express-News
Cary Clack was born and raised in San Antonio. In 1995 he was hired full-time as a reporter and columnist. He left the paper to join Joaquin Castro’s first congressional campaign, later serving as Rep. Castro’s district director. He rejoined the Express-News as a member of the Editorial Board in 2019. In 2017 he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside
Robert T. Melvin is a serial entrepreneur-plain and simple-that has established himself as an expert in developing and growing progressive organizations that disrupt traditional ways of doing business. With over 20 plus years’ experience in economic and business development for State and local Governments, and commercial and residential real estate development projects. He spent several years buying and selling distressed properties around Texas. While constantly monitoring market trends within the residential market, he recognized the opportunity available in developing from the ground up.
Robert has become a highly sought-after speaker in the real estate industry on viability and economics of leveraging alternative technologies in home construction. He is a avid speaker regarding Entrepreneurship, Business Development, and The Art in finding Comfort in Being Uncomfortable-
- 2019 San Antonio Business Journal “Building San Antonio Awards” – Best Townhome /Condo Development
- 2016 B.E. INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR – BLACK ENTERPRISE MAGAZINE
- 2016 LEADERSHIP SAN ANTONIO – GREATER SAN ANTONIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FOR FUTURE POLITICAL AND BUSINESS LEADERSHIP
- 2015 TOP 40 UNDER 40 AWARD RECIPIENT -XAVIER UNIVERSITY
- 2014 TOP 40 UNDER 40 AWARD FINALIST- XAVIER UNIVERSITY
- 2010 PHOENIX AWARD – For Outstanding Public Service – U.S. Small Business Administration
San Antonio City Council, District 5
Teri Castillo is a community organizer and a historian of Urban Policy elected to represent San Antonio’s District 5. Castillo is the proud daughter of a United States Navy Veteran and migrant farm workers. As a life long and generational resident of District 5, Castillo has committed to ensure our public money works for the people of San Antonio.
Castillo is a proud product of our public schools and attended SAISD’s Burbank High School. Castillo earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio and completed her clinical teaching at Fox Tech High School. In 2019, Castillo earned her master’s degree in history with a focus in urban policy from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Since taking office, Castillo has brought historic investment to the people of District 5 nearly doubling the amount of bond investment at $95.6 million dollars and continues to pursue investment in basic infrastructure. Castillo has prioritized preserving and building affordable housing, while moving with urgency to meet our city’s climate goals. Castillo has built a District 5 team that takes a proactive approach responding to constituent needs, ensuring her offices goes out into the field meeting people where they are at, connecting resident to vaccinations, mortgage and rental relief, fire safety, and so much more.
Teri Castillo serves as the chair of the Westside TIRZ, she also serves as a member of the City of San Antonio’s Planning and Community Development Committee, Community Health, Environment and Culture Committee, and the Economic and Workforce Development Committee.
Castillo lives in the Historic Westside Neighborhood of San Antonio with her husband and two dogs Bam Bam and pebbles. When Castillo has a spare minute, she is on the South Side of District 5 visiting her parents or walking her dogs at Rosedale Park.
Texas Organizing Project
Michelle, the Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of TOP, is a 4th generation Tejana, born and raised in a low-income neighborhood in San Antonio. After attending Stanford University, Michelle dedicated herself to fighting for racial and economic justice and returned to her native San Antonio where she worked for ACORN, serving in various capacities including: San Antonio Head Organizer, Texas Legislative Director, and Texas Deputy Director. With two decades of community organizing experience, Michelle is responsible for raising a multi-million dollar budget, co-developing TOP’s overall strategy to create and win on our economic and racial justice policy agenda in Texas’ 3 largest metro areas, as well as leading TOP’s voter engagement program — the largest grassroots program in Texas — which has mobilized more than 3.2 million Black and Latino voters to the ballot box across the state.
Marina Alderete Gavito, Moderator
SA Digital Connects
Marina Alderete Gavito is the Executive Director of SA Digital Connects, a non-profit focused on addressing the digital divide in San Antonio and Bexar County. In this capacity, Marina advocates and drives the public sector, private sector and over 175+ Community organizations to activate on the issue.
Prior to SA Digital Connects, Marina’s career focused on tech and innovation for Fortune 500 corporations. At Rackspace and USAA she led cross-departmental teams solving complex problems while driving successful business outcomes.
She is also the founding Executive Director of Tech Bloc and successfully advocated for rideshare while increasing membership to over 5,000+ people.
Marina is a San Antonio native and uses her influence to innovate, change, and drive results to continue to help improve her community.
City of San Antonio
A native of San Antonio, Erik Walsh began serving as City Manager on March 1, 2019. As the chief executive officer of the municipal corporation, Walsh oversees 13,000 employees, manages an annual operating and capital budget of $2.9 billion and serves 1.5 million residents. Prior to being appointed City Manager, Walsh worked as Deputy City Manager and Assistant City Manager for the City of San Antonio, serving the organization for 27 years.
Throughout his tenure, Walsh has led the organization’s efforts to enhance the effectiveness and delivery of City services. As City Manager, he leads the organization’s extensive operations through strong operations management, organizational development, budget, fiscal policy, and contract management experience.
His core focus is to serve the residents of San Antonio through exceptional customer service, strong financial management, data-driven decision making and leading an employee first culture.
Walsh earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Science in Urban Administration from Trinity University. He is a member of International City/County Management Association, Texas City Management Association, and Local Government Hispanic Network. He has been nationally recognized for his contributions to the city management profession.
Walsh is happily married to his wife Sandra. The couple has two children.
Ms. Janie Barrera is Founder and Executive Vice-President of LiftFund. Established in 1994 in San Antonio, as Accion Texas, Inc., the name of the organization was changed to LiftFund in 2015. LiftFund has grown to become the largest micro and small business lender in the United States. The nonprofit organization provides loans and management training to enterprises of all kinds — from startups to long-established businesses — and operates in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Since its inception, it has disbursed more than 24,000 loans and grants totaling more than $425 million – with an impressive 96 percent repayment rate.
As Founder & Executive Vice-President, Ms. Barrera is responsible for interacting with the communities we serve and advocates for hard-working small business owners and entrepreneurs who do not have access to loans from commercial sources. Ms. Barrera has worked hard to level the financial playing field for entrepreneurs, who historically have faced considerable obstacles when seeking the financing they need to start and grow their businesses.
Ms. Barrera has dedicated her professional life to helping others. Ms. Barrera is a change-agent in the field of microfinance and helping small businesses reach their full potential. Ms. Barrera has received nationwide recognition for her accomplishments, including the Small Business Administration Financial Services Advocate of the Year and the Minority Enterprise Development Consortium’s Corporate Advocate of the Year. The San Antonio Business Journal listed Ms. Barrera as one of “Twenty Defining Players: People Who Have Helped Shape the City, and also named her as one of 2013’s “Legacy Leaders.” Ms. Barrera has served on many national, state and local boards, including the Federal Reserve Board’s National Consumer Advisory Council. President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Barrera to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and was named to the board of directors for the Federal Reserve of Dallas’ San Antonio Branch. In 2015, Ms. Barrera was named to the San Antonio Business Hall of Fame.
Ms. Barrera began her career as director of telecommunications for the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1977. There, Ms. Barrera helped found the area’s first nonprofit radio stations, KLUX and KHOY, as well as two television production studios. After completing her MBA at the University of the Incarnate Word, the Corpus Christi native remained in San Antonio where, in 1989,
Ms. Barrera became marketing director for the U.S. Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation Divisionheadquartered at Randolph Air Force Base.
Empowering people to realize their dreams, Debra Guerrero serves as a valued professional, a respected civic leader, an empowering mentor and a champion for quality affordable housing. Ms. Guerrero is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Government Affairs for the NRP Group. She is credited with opening NRP’s Texas Office in 2004 which has been responsible for the development of over 25,000 multifamily units throughout Texas. Ms. Guerrero has expertise in the organizational and financing structures involved in all aspects of public/private partnerships, as well as the intricacies, rules and regulations involved in working with local, state and federal legislative and executive agencies.
Ms. Guerrero is an accomplished leader in the affordable housing industry. She serves as the Chair of the Multifamily Council of the Texas Association of Builders (TAB) and is an immediate Past President of the Texas Association of Affordable Housing Providers (TAAHP). At the federal level she is a Vice Chair of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Affordable Housing Group, as well as a Trustee of BUILD-PAC. She is often asked to assist and provide her expertise in developing strategic initiatives focused on meeting the demand of quality affordable housing in large urban areas.
As a civic leader, Ms. Guerrero previously served in elected office as a Board Trustee of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) from 2012 – 2021 and served as a San Antonio City Councilwoman from 1997-2001. Other community board leadership roles and participation include Texas Public Radio; the SAISD Foundation; the SA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Leadership SA Class of 25 – Steering Committee Class of 38 – Co-Chair Class of 39 ; and the Texas Lyceum.
Ms. Guerrero received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University and a Joint Degree Doctor of Jurisprudence and Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin Law School and Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Gilbert Garcia, Moderator
San Antonio Express-News
Gilbert Garcia is a metro columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, host of the KLRN show, “Texas Talk,” and host of the “Puro Politics” podcast.
He has 25 years of experience writing for daily and weekly newspapers and has won awards for his writing on music, politics, sports and religion.
He is the author of the 2012 book, “Reagan’s Comeback: Four Weeks in Texas That Changed American Politics Forever” and also had one of his stories included in the “Da Capo Best Music Writing 2001” anthology.
A globally recognized software security expert, Dan Cornell has over 25 years of experience architecting, developing and securing software systems. As Vice President of Product Strategy at Coalfire, Dan works with customers and industry partners to help drive the direction of their product portfolio. Prior to its acquisition by Coalfire, Dan was a founder of and the Chief Technology Officer at Denim Group, where he helped Fortune 500 companies and government organizations integrate security throughout the development process.
Cornell is an active member of the development community and a sought-after speaker on topics of application and software security, speaking at international conferences including RSA Security Conference, OWASP AppSec USA and EU, TEDx, and Black Hat CISO Forum. He holds three patents in the area of software security.
Jenna Saucedo-Herrera is the CEO of greater:SATX, a regional economic partnership charged with growing and diversifying the region. She is also a proud alumna of Leadership San Antonio.
Ben Peavy has been with Accenture over 25 years and is currently the Office Managing Director for San Antonio. In addition to his role as OMD, he serves as the Accenture Federal Services (AFS) Chief Information Officer, overseeing the people, processes, and technologies within our company’s IT organization to enable our employees and business to support our clients and their mission. Outside of the office, Ben is a member of the Ready for Work advisory council, Democracy Prep’s Texas board, the Workforce Solutions Alamo board, and is involved in various efforts to support and develop local business relationships and the community.
A San Antonio native, Ben is an active member of his community serving as a volunteer youth basketball coach and participates in several different charity events. He currently lives in San Antonio with his wife, Kavita and four children, Tyler, Alex, Raina and Alisha.