AHCA Hosts First Meeting of District-Elected City Council
On January 3, 2016, less than a month after runoff elections, members of Austin’s newly elected but not-yet-sworn in City Council gathered at the Austin History Center to meet with AHCA’s Past Mayors Advisory Council, members of which are Austin’s former mayors. Because of the change in council structure from members elected at-large to members elected from districts, the eight of the ten council members-elect who attended were all preparing to serve on the council for the first time, which added significance to the meeting. This “passing of the torch” event gave the incoming council members a chance to sit down together as a group for the first time and get guidance from seven people who have the experience to offer it – those who have served as Mayor of Austin.
Serving up wisdom and guidance were the outgoing mayor, Lee Leffingwell, and former mayors Gus Garcia (2001–2003), Kirk Watson (1997–2001), Bruce Todd (1991–1997), Lee Cooke (1988–1991), Frank Cooksey (1985–1988), and Ron Mullen (1983–1985). Though each new council member was elected from a district, the former mayors encouraged the group to work as a team by keeping open clear lines of communication, setting goals and priorities independent of city staff, and serving the entire city, not just the home district. Questions and commentary focused
on the honor of service, remembering all the citizens don’t attend council meetings or public hearings, and the complexity of Austin government with its own utilities, airport, convention center in a multi-billion-dollar operation. The event highlighted the value of Austin History Center as a vital source of official records and irreplaceable images and documents dating from 1839.
The 2015 City Council elections were the first organized by districts since Austin’s alderman system ended in 1909. Prior to 2015, the mayor and city council members were all elected by citywide vote.
Among those participating in the Jan. 3, 2016 meeting at AHC were (left to right) former Mayor Lee Cooke, Council Member-elect Sabino “Pio” Renteria, former Mayor Kirk Watson, former Mayor Frank Cooksey, Council Member-elect Leslie Pool, AHCA President Beth Fowler, former Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor-elect Steve Adler, Council Member-elect Ellen Troxclair, Council Member-elect Don Zimmerman, Council Member-elect Ora Houston, former Mayor Ron Mullen, former Mayor Bruce Todd, Council Member-elect Kathie Tovo, and former Mayor Gus Garcia. Not pictured but participating: Council Member Ann Kitchen.
AHCA Promotes Our Austin Story
On Juneteenth, 2019, the Austin History Center Association joined with Friends of Wooldridge Square, Downtown Austin Alliance, City of Austin, PARD, Travis County Historical Commission, among other in unveiling an interpretive exhibit commemorating a little-known historic moment that took place at Wooldridge Square in 1911.
On September 29 of that year, prominent educator, author, and orator Booker T. Washington gave a speech at the site, drawing a crowd of more than 5,000 Austin residents, a remarkable number considering the total population of the town at the time was 30,000. Washington had been invited to speak by Austin Mayor A.P. Wooldridge after members of the Texas Legislature had blocked Washington from speaking at the state capitol.
Our Austin Story, an interpretive plan for Austin’s four historic squares and Congress Ave., developed the exhibit that tells of Washington’s historic speech. Mayor ProTem Kathie Tovo and Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion were the leading speakers at the June 19 ceremony unveiling the interpretive exhibit, which sits directly across the street from the entrance to the Austin History Center.