One minute and fifty-three seconds have lapsed on my recording device when I finally snap to what’s actually happening. As my initial uneasiness, now justified, quietly crescendos in a windowless conference room at Windcrest City Hall in northeast Bexar County, Mayor Alan E. Baxter rapid-fires one curt query after another, having a swing at something no interviewee has previously ventured. From across the table in almost a prelude to our scheduled appointment, Baxter, candidate for Bexar County Commissioner (Precinct 4), appears to be interviewing me. “If I didn’t think you were going to do your absolute best on this interview, I wouldn’t be here,” he later says reclining in his chair. Slight streaks of gray shoot through his thick, brown hair like waves of worldliness under the stark, fluorescent light.
It’s understandable that Baxter would want to test the waters before going on record these days. After all, when Timothy Wilson, his opponent in the May 27 runoff for the Republican nomination, filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission stating that Baxter improperly filed his finance reports, it ensured the beginnings of a good, old-fashioned political showdown that may once again test the stability of Ronald Reagan’s (mostly) revered 11th commandment.
When Baxter—who identifies as a businessman rather than a politician—won his 2011 mayoral bid, his ensuing administrative success, which he credits to a business background that ranges from entertainment to professional sports, encouraged him to take his philosophical game plan to the county level. Like many who’ve answered the Barry Goldwater call, Baxter, now 50, never imagined his face on a placard until residents brought his attention to the “alleged corruption that was happening” in his hometown. “When I got involved in the government and I saw the incredible waste and bureaucracy, I was shocked,” he remembers. “I said, ‘I need to do whatever I can do to try to fix this.’”
From the start, the fixing required some boat rocking. One of the higher hurdles was the City’s relationship with Rackspace, which he describes as “terrible. The prior administrations ripped ‘em off ... allegedly.”
Personally, Baxter had to carefully contemplate running for the county seat—soon to be vacated by Tommy Adkisson—as campaign strain had already proved to be a slippery slope.
“Politics gets very dirty,” he says, illustrating with an episode from his mayoral campaign when a live snake was placed in his mother’s mailbox. “That’s when you know that you really need to make a change [in the community], ‘cause these people are real bad folks.”
The snake bit his mother.
Her riled response: “Alan, go kick their ass.”
Baxter may see his latest rival, who is mayor of Kirby, as being a better fit in the concurrent Democratic runoff.
“Tim’s not a Republican,” he says with a mild, continuous squint. “He raised taxes. He dipped into the rainy day funds. To me, a Republican is someone who’s fiscally conservative and believes that government should do what government does best: streets and infrastructure, police and fire.”
Baxter finds the Paul Elizondo Tower, the $57 million structure that houses county departments and commissioners’ offices, excessive and, more pointedly, “the biggest bunch of crap [he’s] ever seen.” If he wins, he vows to work out of an accessible field office.
“Bexar County is bigger than 11 states, population-wise,” he says. “This is not a job for an uneducated person who hasn’t made an impact in the business world.” According to his campaign website, Wilson, 32, is a 2000 graduate of Judson Learning Academy, a local, non-traditional high school. “If a guy only scores four points a game in college, what makes you think he’s going to score 15 points a game for the Spurs?”
“You know what?” he says, cupping his hand as if jeering Wilson from the other side of a basketball court, “Fix your streets!”
His tone, reminiscent of Craig T. Nelson’s persona in the TV series Coach, seems fitting. Baxter, in fact, represents college and professional basketball coaches and even equates Wilson’s complaint strategy to a football term. “You gotta throw a Hail Mary. Clock’s runnin’ out. [He’s] gotta do something. [He] can’t get [his] name in the paper. So he faxes [the ethics complaint] to the Express-News.”
But his mindfulness of Reagan’s 11th commandment—“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”—helps keep his eye on the ball.
“People think I’m too aggressive or too passionate,” Baxter says, beaming. “I’ve got no dimmer switch.”
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.