Last Updated on January 30, 2024
This series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) Board of Directors and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers. In this special edition, the new Chairman of the Board, Jim Campbell, shares his thoughts about River Authority priorities.
Jim Campbell is a native Texan and a graduate of Roosevelt High School in San Antonio with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas A&M University. Campbell is a governmental relations and communications professional whose career has included employment in the United States Congress, Texas Legislature, and San Antonio municipal government. He currently serves as a mayoral appointee to the San Antonio Mobility Coalition Executive Committee and as Chairman of the Brooks Development Authority Board. As a resident of the King William Historic District, both he and his wife Shawn are passionate users of the San Antonio River Walk. He has been a River Authority board member representing Bexar County’s District 4 since 2015.
What do you bring to the table as the new chairman?
As a member of the board, I have taken the task of understanding the mission and operations of the River Authority very seriously. We’re currently in the middle of our Sunset Review with the state, and given my extensive background in governmental relations, as well as having been through the Sunset Review Process with another agency, I have an understanding of the challenges of this process. I believe my background will become important as the process moves from the staff level to the Legislature.
Outgoing Board Member and Former Chairman Darrell Brownlow passes the torch to new Chairman Jim Campbell.
The River Authority is a governmental agency, and I have extensive experience working in government at the federal, state, and local levels. In Bexar County, I spent eight years as a department head at the City of San Antonio (COSA). Although COSA is a much bigger agency than the River Authority, this experience has helped me to understand the functions of government and to gain experience as a manager inside a governmental entity. I also spent seven years at CPS Energy as a department-level director.
So again, I bring that background of understanding intergovernmental relations, which is critical for the River Authority. If you look at the kind of capital projects that the River Authority does, they are case studies in intergovernmental cooperation. Prime examples include the San Pedro Creek Culture Park and the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration Project, which has helped garner us significant international accolades.
I think the River Authority leadership has done a great job navigating through these projects as well as other tasks which require cooperation, whether it’s flood risk mitigation or regional water planning, and I look forward to continuing that success.
Touring the construction of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, which is a significant capital project involving intergovernmental collaboration between Bexar County, City of San Antonio, River Authority, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. From left to right: General Manager Derek Boese, Chairman Jim Campbell, Assistant General Manager Stephen Graham
What are priorities that you see coming to the forefront in this next year?
Even though my chairmanship is new, I’ve been on the board for six years. One of my goals is to connect with fellow board members and learn more about their priorities and interests. I think the role of chairman is not just about being the leader of the board, but also about facilitating the leadership of fellow board members. I also look forward to working together with Derek Boese, our General Manager, as he leads an effort to reevaluate the River Authority as an organization.
Since I come from District 4 of Bexar County, where most of our Utilities operations are based, I have a unique view of how important these services are in fulfilling a commitment to clean waterways throughout the San Antonio River Basin. I think it should be a priority to reevaluate the importance of the River Authority’s utilities in our overall structure and make sure we have the right perspective. It’s not something that people typically think of when they think of the San Antonio River Authority, yet it is a significant part of our budget and a significant portion of our personnel.
The River Authority’s Salitrillo Wastewater Treatment Plant
The safe part of the River Authority’s mission is also very important. The River Authority has a long history of being the leader in flood risk management throughout the San Antonio River Basin, and we need to continue in that capacity.
Floodplain maps, which are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local regulatory maps, are created and managed by the River Authority along with non-regulatory tools such as FEMA’s Risk MAP (pictured above)
Another priority that I foresee is our role in the revitalization of Brackenridge Park. When I first got on the board, Brackenridge Park was actually in my District, and I was delighted with that because I’ve always been a fan of the park. Personally, I think it should be the jewel in the COSA Park system. It is a tremendous asset that we have in San Antonio that outside experts appreciate more than most San Antonians. In fact, a few years ago, the River Authority allocated a substantial amount of money for a cultural landscape report of Brackenridge Park. Many people are not aware of the extraordinary historical and cultural significance of the park. While Brackenridge Park is a City park, the River Authority can play a role in implementing ecosystem restoration and green infrastructure projects along the river through the park, which is near the headwaters of the San Antonio River. I’d like the cultural landscape report that the River Authority funded to be used as a blueprint, along with the City’s master plan, to reinvigorate, restore, and enliven Brackenridge Park.
Most people know about the horseshoe area of the historic downtown River Walk, and some even get on the Museum Reach of the River Walk and head up to the Pearl. But then… they stop. Brackenridge Park and the headwaters of the San Antonio River are only a mile and a half or so upstream, unbeknownst to many people who stop at the Pearl and say, “oh, this must be the end of the San Antonio River.” We should complete the River Walk through Brackenridge Park and all the way to the headwaters of the San Antonio River on the UIW campus.
The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk
How would you encourage constituents to get involved in supporting the San Antonio River in 2022?
I would love people to get more in touch with the river. It doesn’t have to be a major outing. The more people interact with the San Antonio River and see how vibrant it is, the more they are going to support and take care of it. At the River Authority, our job is to let the public know how they can do that, like taking the River Authority’s trash initiative pledge, volunteering as a River Warrior, supporting the San Antonio River Foundation, utilizing #BeRiverProud when tagging the River Authority on social media, or using your voice to engage with officials in county or city government that prioritize the San Antonio River.
Some of Jim’s successful fishing outings along the River Walk near his home in the King William District
As someone who enjoys fishing on the San Antonio River, I’ve met many people who are surprised to find out that one, our river is healthy, and two, that I regularly catch a variety of fish. When I go out fishing, I’ll hear people say, “But you wouldn’t eat that. Would you?” and I say, “Absolutely, I would eat that! The river is clean.” I’m traditionally a catch and release fisherman, but I have eaten San Antonio River fish to validate my point.
I look forward to the work ahead as I begin my chairmanship of the River Authority. As an elected official, if you have questions or comments for me, you can contact me here. Thank you.