New Bexar County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rebeca “Becky” Clay-Flores often recalls how she and her family experienced homelessness early in her childhood.
Such struggles emboldened the now-45-year-old public servant to do whatever she could to improve her life, and those of relatives, friends and other community members.
“In many ways I am still that little inner-city girl who understands what it takes to endure hardship and yet keep on fighting for a better tomorrow,” she said.
A political newcomer, Clay-Flores unseated longtime Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez in a Democratic primary runoff last July.
She easily beat Republican Gabriel Lara in the November general election, and after a Jan. 1 swearing-in ceremony, became the first woman of color on Commissioners Court. Clay-Flores is Black and Latina.
Clay-Flores and another newly installed county commissioner, Precinct 3’s Trish DeBerry, are the first women on the court this century, following in the footsteps of Cyndi Taylor Krier and Helen Dutmer, who served in the 1990s.
The historical significance isn’t lost on Clay-Flores, who recounted being “disgusted” by the lack of previous female representation, and dismayed no woman of color had served as one of the county’s top elected leaders.
“I was also tired of my part of town being left behind and not seeing much progress in my immediate community,” she said, citing another reason to seek office.
“I’m someone who believes that if I’m going to complain about something, then I need to be willing to do something about it. So, I ran for better representation, and to serve and fight for resources for Precinct 1.”
The Brackenridge High School graduate attended Princeton University, majoring in religion with a certificate in African American studies. She then earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.
Back home in San Antonio, Clay-Flores spent years working in education and for nonprofits.
She also taught English in Tampico, Mexico, and during a stint at a private Tennessee university, recruited collegians to contribute one year volunteering in community service.
Growing up, Clay-Flores and her brothers accompanied their mom — also named Rebeca — to her mother’s native Mexico each summer doing missionary work.
“My mother exemplified servant leadership, and her example of community service instilled in us the need and desire to serve,” the South Sider said.
Clay-Flores worked for former Mayor Ivy Taylor and the Metropolitan Health District.
There, she learned municipal staff does the grunt work to help realize the ideas of elected officials, she said.
“That’s why I’m meeting with all of the county departments and staff at all levels – from maintenance workers to directors – to understand the personality and culture of each department as we move forward serving together,” she added.
As county commissioner, Clay-Flores plans to focus on economic development, property-tax relief and helping veterans. She also wants to enhance community members’ mental-health services, and break the school-to-prison pipeline.
Regarding the latter, Clay-Flores indicated Commissioners Court has influence over correctional facilities, including the Bexar County Jail and juvenile detention, which she adds should empower inmates to make better decisions about life after incarceration.
She also said the county can help ensure places of learning are equipped with appropriate personnel and programs so students, too, can make good choices going forward.
In addition, Clay-Flores pledged to be “present and accessible.” Upon challenging four-term county commissioner Rodriguez, Clay-Flores dinged the incumbent for poor communications with constituents, and failure to address some long-standing issues.
However, other commissioners praised Rodriguez’s work developing the San Antonio River Mission Reach, improving area drainage and roads, and establishing the South Side’s BiblioTech branch.
Clay-Flores said it’s a new era in Precinct 1, where she’ll help fight unfairness and be a “voice for the voiceless.”
“Many in our community experience injustice daily and have not had adequate representation in the body of elected officials who serve,” she added.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, who administered Clay-Flores’ oath of office, said government could be a positive tool if officeholders keep a proper perspective and know their decisions affect all constituents, not just themselves.
“But, sometimes it can go wrong, and that’s when a government becomes a government of ‘I’ and not a government of ‘we,’” he said.
“It’s the seat of the people, but I think you know that, you will always know that, and will never forget it,” he told Clay-Flores.
“The work has just begun and I have a long four years ahead of me to serve this great county,” Clay-Flores said.