Cover Woman Trish DeBerry

Trish DeBerry



Taking Risks and Transforming Downtown

By Dawn Robinette, APR  |  Photography by Suzanne Pack


If you haven’t been downtown lately, Trish DeBerry is rolling out the red carpet – and banners, fireworks, holiday lights, drone shows, and perhaps most importantly, parking and transportation options – to change that.


As President and CEO of Centro San Antonio, the nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing and promoting the vibrant core of San Antonio, DeBerry leads the charge to keep downtown clean, safe, and welcoming, passionately working to foster a resurgence in the downtown core. Her commitment to revitalizing downtown is evident in her efforts to create and activate events like the Fourth of July and Christmas celebrations, which have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors.


“People really want to be downtown. They want an authentic urban downtown experience, but one that’s safe and enjoyable,” DeBerry explains. Her goal is to create a downtown that resonates with both locals and tourists, fostering a sense of community and excitement. “In my heart of hearts, I believe that downtown is at a tipping point, and it’s my job to push it over.”


She’s making that goal happen – and creating lasting memories along the way. Last year’s inaugural Holidays on Houston Street brought the holidays to life in a new way downtown, with 450,000 people enjoying the family events and holiday market. Stars and Stripes on Houston Street just rolled out the red, white, and blue carpet to celebrate the Fourth of July. And DeBerry is far from done.


“Houston Street is so iconic for San Antonio. When you look back at the pictures – and talk to longtime residents – it is associated with retail, commerce, and entertainment. It was the intersection of all of it. It’s our downtown DNA. We need to treat it as the icon that it is.”


Yet many locals need to be made aware of Centro and the full scope of its operations. Centro’s efforts are evident daily, from activations and beautification to maintaining clean and safe streets and addressing the complex issue of homelessness. With 115 ambassadors working around the clock, the organization ensures that the downtown area remains inviting and vibrant. These ambassadors, distinguishable by their yellow shirts, engage in everything from cleaning sidewalks to assisting tourists, while a specialized team in blue shirts focuses on offering support to people experiencing homelessness, addressing mental health crises, and providing pathways to shelters and detox centers.


“We deal with it with empathy and compassion. It may be a conversation with them about getting into a shelter, needing to go into detox – getting them to understand that something in their life needs to change.”


Listening to DeBerry energetically talk about what’s ahead for the city where she was born and raised, it’s easy to understand why she was asked to lead Centro. It’s a natural fit for the skillset she’s honed throughout her career. “I’m very blessed regarding my career journey and career path because I started in television, migrated to PR, then got into politics because I was managing campaigns.”


In 2020, DeBerry transitioned from the private sector to public service, running for and winning a Bexar County Commissioners Court seat. She then ran for Bexar County Judge in 2022. “I’ve always been somewhat of a risk taker. I ran for office, won an election, then lost an election. But I’ve always preached to young women and told myself, at the end of the day, even if you don’t get to where you want to be – what your goal is – failing forward is not necessarily a bad thing.


“When we fail, we tend to beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we are not enough. But I would say life is short. No risk, no reward. Whether you’re successful or fail, there are lessons you learn from failure and winning. There are moments of reflection. But how you pick yourself up and reach success after that failure is what defines you as a person.


“Particularly for women, this is a tough conversation because we like to play it safe because it’s comfortable. I would advocate playing it safe is not what life is about. It is about challenging yourself. It is about stepping outside your comfort zone. It is about pushing boundaries. It is about breaking glass ceilings. It is about breaking down doors. I think there’s so much more that we as a gender could be doing if we didn’t continue to say, ‘It’s a little too risky.’


“What if you turned it on its ear and said, ‘What would life hold if I was successful? And who cares if I fail?’ There will be another opportunity.”


Trish DeBerry


One pivotal moment in her career was running former Mayor Ed Garza’s mayoral campaign. Despite never having managed a campaign before, DeBerry’s communication skills and strategic thinking led to a landslide victory. “If Ed had not believed in my abilities, my trajectory would not be what it is today,” she reflects.


“It’s just one experience of many that I could have told myself, ‘Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’ But instead of should have, could have, would have, I did it.”


Despite her years behind the scenes and successful campaign work, being the candidate herself was eye-opening – and highlighted the double standard that continues to exist for women. “The race wasn’t really about my record or my accomplishments. It was that I was too ambitious that I would walk across hot coals to be the judge. Are you going to say that about a man? No, you’re not.


“We still have a lot more work to do. Whether you’re in line to be the next CEO of an organization or running for a high political office, it should not be about how you look, the color of your hair, or what lipstick you have on. It should be about your abilities and the brain that you have in your head.”


The avid sports fan enjoys reading, exercise, and music when she’s not advocating for downtown. “I love to dance. You can’t keep me off the dance floor,” she says with a smile. “I skeet shoot, so that’s a good stress reliever. I love to fish. Sometimes I feel like there’s not enough time in the year to accomplish everything I want to do because although I work hard, I like to play hard, too.”


A devoted mother of two, DeBerry’s son, Scott, is a senior at the University of Texas, while her daughter, Maddie, is studying marketing at the University of Arkansas. “My son always laughs at me because he usually texts me about a game, ‘Are you watching this? I can hear you yelling at the TV right now. It happens,” she laughs and shrugs. “I’ve always been a huge sports fan. I’m a competitor.”


Her passion for life extends to her love of travel, adventure, and even a tattoo she shared with her daughter, who didn’t believe DeBerry would go through with the deal they made as she was headed to school.


“Maddie had said, ‘We’re going to get a matching tattoo.’ We got there and went through orientation; then, it was time to get our tattoo. She looked at me and said, ‘You’re not going to do this, are you?’ I said, Maddie, if there’s one thing you’ve learned about your mother, she is a woman of her word and a woman of commitment. Let’s go get this tattoo.”


“People are so shocked when they find out I did it. Life is short. It’s a tattoo. It’s not a big deal. Plus, it reminds me of my daughter, so it makes my heart feel good.”


DeBerry approaches challenges with a blend of strategic thinking and resilience. “My best thinking is done right before I sleep,” she reveals. Whether dealing with crises or navigating complex issues, she emphasizes the importance of taking a step back, breathing deeply, and methodically plotting a course forward.


“You never know what opportunity is going to arise. My journey has been blessed with the opportunities I created for myself and opportunities that have come out of the blue that I have capitalized on,” she notes. “You never know what door is going to open. Try on those shoes, walk through that door, and I think life will hold a lot more.”


Trish DeBerry's family


Robinette Headshot 1
Dawn Robinette
Contributing Writer
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. Selected as a local expert by the San Antonio River Walk Association, she regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can also read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.
Robinette Headshot 1
Dawn Robinette
Contributing Writer
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. Selected as a local expert by the San Antonio River Walk Association, she regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can also read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.

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