Why People Move To The Alamo City
No one can dispute that San Antonio is a city on the move. You can’t look to the skyline without counting the cranes. Our city is growing very rapidly, and new residents are moving in daily from all over the country. San Antonio has so much to offer, to people in all stages of life. It is a city that embraces the people who live and work here. This is a story of 3 ladies, all with very different stories; but the one thing that they have in common is their love for San Antonio, and their gratitude for having found a home here.
Joyce Dahlbeck – From Houston to San Antonio after Hurricane Harvey
It can only be described as fate when Joyce met her husband, Scott, skiing at Keystone, in Colorado, many years ago. Both were attending the same small Nebraska university when they met, and after dating and marriage, their lives would take them to Texas, raise a family and see their grandchildren grow up in San Antonio.
Their first Texas city, for 14 years, was in Lubbock, where Scott was working with MD Anderson as a radiation oncologist. He was also working with a cancer drug manufacturer on drug trials. Joyce worked as a real estate agent and also as a yoga instructor, but it was her knack for home staging skills that eventually led to her being recruited by Rooms To Go to be their head store designer.
As Scott’s career working with the drug company began to advance, he was asked to become an integral part of the company researching this innovative new therapy. So, the couple moved again, across the state to Houston.
The Dahlbecks were only two years into their new lives in Houston living in the suburb of Bellaire, when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, and it was one building that separated their townhouse from the bayou, that saved their home. Joyce and her husband just happened to be visiting their daughter in Dallas when the hurricane hit, but she was told by neighbors who stayed behind, that her home had been spared. She remembers, “The water got as high as our threshold, but we did not flood.”
However, many Houston residents were not so lucky. Joyce recalls that the stench of the receding floodwaters, along with the mold was unbearable. “Bellaire was ground zero for many of the water rescues, and many of our neighbors lost everything.”
Joyce was working at Cross Pointe Church and many of the donations for residents in need came through the church. She was instrumental in coordinating, organizing and distributing food, water, and clothing to those that needed help. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking to see the devastation and to know that the area would not truly recover for many years. Joyce and Scott made the decision to move to San Antonio where Scott could go back into practice and maintain his duties on the board of the drug company that was thriving. Their house sold quickly, so they packed up and found a house in the Dominion, an area that Joyce had always loved when they would visit Scott’s family in San Antonio.
Today Joyce and Scott are settling into their new home. Scott is practicing radiation oncology at the Aurora Prostate Cancer Center, and Joyce has renewed her real estate career with Phillips & Associates. The couple has two daughters. Stacie, 25, lives in Dallas, and Stephanie, 32, lives with her husband and two children just up the road from her parents in Boerne. When asked if moving to San Antonio was difficult after life in Houston and Lubbock, Joyce states, “Moving from Lubbock to Houston was a shock, but moving from Houston to San Antonio was not.”
Joyce smiles when she lists the reasons why she is happy to be in San Antonio, “Everyone is so friendly, and there is so much to do in town.” She loves to take friends from out of town to the Riverwalk, and she and Scott are still discovering great new restaurants every week. The city is very accessible without the traffic they endured in Houston.
When asked if she has any advice for those new to San Antonio, she states, “San Antonio has something for everyone. There are so many different neighborhoods, and although it is a big city, it has such a small town, friendly feel.” The Dahlbecks love the culture of San Antonio, and they are very happy that they made the move. They recently purchased a new home in the Dominion, and they are eager to make it their own. With their beautiful view overlooking the Hill Country, they don’t have any plans of leaving anytime soon. They are home.
Judy Bragg – She Moved For Love
A graduate of Roosevelt High School, Judy Bragg grew up here in San Antonio but has since moved around the great state of Texas for various career opportunities. After graduating from UTSA with a degree in Management Information Systems, Judy moved to Houston for many years where she worked with CSR software for companies integrating technology into their platforms. CSR stands for Customer Relationship Management, and according to Judy, “It is used in businesses from sole proprietorships to Fortune 500 companies, and helps a company automate all processes providing information relating to customer interactions.”
Judy has always been fiercely independent, and her career thrived, landing her in Dallas, where she spent many years working as a consultant and project manager. She established a career in Dallas training non-profit organizations on how to develop business plans, and how to develop relationships with donors who support their cause. Judy was also accredited in 2002 as a Certified Management Consultant by the Institute of Management Consultants, which represents the highest standards of consulting and a strong adherence to the “ethical canons of the profession.” It is an honor for a consultant to be recognized in this way.
As one who cherishes friendships, Judy was also one who made an effort to keep her connections in place. It was while she was a planner for her high school reunion a few years ago, that she reconnected with a friend from high school, Willie Meznarich, and reached out when his wife passed away. They became close friends and traveled to visit each other until eventually, they admitted that they had developed romantic feelings for one another. Willie had stayed in San Antonio, raised two sons, and had a great career with HEB in manufacturing. The pair dated for several months, and finally decided that life was too short to continue their relationship long distance. Willie convinced Judy to move back to San Antonio to be with him, and although Judy had never been married, Willie won her heart and they bought a house together on the Northeast side of town.
Judy has since established herself as a much sought-after project manager and corporate consultant here in San Antonio, and with Willie, she is enjoying everything that our city has to offer. “The city has grown so much. The area offers so much more with live music, great city biking, and hiking trails, and a wonderful art scene,” Judy states.
San Antonio is a city on the rise, and Judy Bragg is a generous professional. She often offers her expertise as a mentor in the pre-accelerator program at Geekdom. She and Willie plan to retire here, and can often be found enjoying the outdoors or taking in a concert. It may have taken half a lifetime to find her way back home to her hometown, but together, Judy and Willie have found a home here in San Antonio and with each other.
Dr. Colleen Bridger – A Job Brought Her From North Carolina
San Antonio was never on the radar for Dr. Colleen Bridger, so when a recruiter called her a few years ago to plant the idea of becoming the Director of San Antonio’s Metro Health, she politely said, “No thank you.” She was contacted later that week by another recruiter from the same firm about the same position.
Her husband encouraged her to reach out to the recruiters to learn more and although she felt that a position of that caliber was out of her league, she agreed to be flown to San Antonio and interview for the job.
Before becoming the Director of San Antonio’s Metro Health Department, Dr. Bridger was the Director of the Health Department overseeing a small county in North Carolina. She states, “It was a pretty big change to imagine becoming the director of the health services for a county of nearly two million people, when the county I was leading had only 135,000 residents.”
After a six-month interview and hiring process, Dr. Bridger became the Metro Health Director for San Antonio in the fall of 2016, and she and her husband, Chuck, made the move. It was a big change for them, but they embraced the opportunity and challenges that came their way.
Colleen and Chuck met in Vermont at the School for International Training. An institution to train returning peace corps volunteers in order to transition to the professional world. Now empty nesters, their daughter, Sarah, is 28 and lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, and son. Their son, Charlie, is 25 and is a 4th-grade teacher in Charlotte.
During her tenure as Metro Health Director Dr. Bridger was instrumental in creating several ground-breaking programs in San Antonio. One of her biggest projects was to address the mental health problem in Bexar County. A difficult issue, Dr. Bridger and her team identified that there was nowhere to go for someone mentally unstable and in need of immediate help. The city is now working on establishing a Mental Health Urgent Care facility which will give first responders a clear-cut option on where to send a mentally troubled person in an emergency.
Dr. Bridger is also very proud of the work that she has done to address Adverse Childhood Experience (A.C.E.). Bolstered by a study by Kaiser Permanente over twenty years ago, it was shown that trauma to individuals in childhood can lead to chronic disease, mental illness in adulthood, and produces a higher rate of suicide and Alzheimer’s. Dedicated to improving the lives of people in Bexar County, a new program to handle the inevitable problems related to A.C.E. has been started. It is called Trauma Informed Care and seeks to train medical professionals, educators and other people that may come in contact with a child in an adverse situation. She states that “When children leave their home, where a traumatic situation or lifestyle may exist, we need to have the skills to identify those particular children and find the resources to help them immediately. When the city works together for the common good, everyone wins.”
Last year, Colleen’s boss, City Manager, Eric Walsh, asked what she thought about becoming the interim City Manager while Sheryl Sculley transitioned into retirement. Being prudent, Dr. Bridger wondered if the position played to her strengths. His response to her concerns was, “You don’t have to buy the bike. I’m going to give you the bike to borrow. Just grab a helmet, ride the bike for a while and see what you think.”
Now, as the interim City Manager for San Antonio, she not only oversees the health services of Bexar County’s residents, she is also tasked with finding solutions for human services, parks and equity, and even immigration. She has answered this call with astounding success.
Colleen’s husband, Chuck, has also settled into life as a Texan. He is the Operations Manager for an organization called Up Partnership, a non-profit that helps other non-profit organizations that work to improve the lives of children. In their spare time, they like to ride the trail through Salado Creek and walk the Museum Reach portion of the Riverwalk, from Downtown to The Pearl. The Bridgers have grown to love San Antonio and plan to continue their adventure here as long as possible.
Whether you’ve moved to San Antonio for love, professional advancement, or to take on a new adventure, we all find something to love about our great city. San Antonio is on the rise, and one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the US. Our reasons for coming may be different, but our passion for this big, small town continues to unite us, and can only result in building a better and stronger community than anywhere else in the country.
*After we went to press, City Manager Walsh appointed Bridger to Assistant City Manager
By Meredith Kay
Photography by Jason Roberts