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Renteria reflects on his time on Council as D3 prepares to usher in a new member

Friday, December 23, 2022 by Andrea Guzman

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-December, District 3 City Council Member Pio Renteria is packing up his office. Council had its last meeting for the year the week before and now he’s clearing out the space for his successor. 

“I have so many certificates and all the stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years,” Renteria said. “Now I have to box it all up and take it home.” 

But beyond certificates, Renteria has collected a number of wins and losses over the years. In a conversation with the Austin Monitor, Renteria reflected on his two terms on Council and his plans for retirement. 

In particular, Renteria enjoyed his involvement with groups such as the Community Development Commission, which he chaired.

“By attending these meetings, I was seeing what was coming down the line for Austin in terms of development and the encroachment into the east side in a predominantly Mexican American community,” Renteria said. “We needed to work really hard on trying to retain all that affordable housing.”

He celebrated a move on this front with homestead preservation districts, which aim to combat gentrification, though its implementation has faced obstacles.

Another highlight from his term includes a deal that brought the Q2 Stadium and made way for Major League Soccer in Austin. 

For some, the split of the vote hasn’t been forgotten. “If you ever go down to those games and you hear their song, they say ‘7-4’ – that’s what it means,” Renteria said.

He clung tightly to his support as the matter was hotly debated“Everybody said, oh, it’s going to be a disaster.”

But Renteria predicted Austin FC would go on to gain popularity. Earlier this fall, tickets for the team’s first playoff game sold out within minutes. “People go crazy over soccer,” he noted. 

Throughout his career on Council, Renteria felt gratitude for his colleagues and optimism at serving alongside other Latinos. 

“I got elected, Greg Casar got elected, Delia Garza got elected, so now we had three brown folks on the Council.”

Now, Casar is set to join Congress after winning his bid for the U.S. House last month and Garza serves as Travis County Attorney. And Renteria is looking forward to passing on the torch for District 3. 

In a runoff race last week, José Velásquez became the candidate selected to take over Renteria’s seat when Council convenes in late January. 

“My guy won,” Renteria said. He added that Velásquez will be keeping Renteria’s chief of staff on board, as it’s important to have someone who can be involved in the transition from one member to another. 

“You also need someone that’s going to be able to teach your staff on who’s who and how do you pass resolutions and amendments and what’s the procedure that we have,” he said. 

While Renteria has plans to travel and relax in the new year, he’ll be keeping Austin close in mind. 

“Austin is always going to be my hometown. I grew up here, I was born here,” Renteria said, reflecting on what it was like to grow up in a city still coping with the impact of Interstate 35 segregating East and West Austin. “We always were fighting for our rights … but we knew that the only way we were going to get power was through the votes.”

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