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Livable Communities Interview

5 Questions for Julian Castro

The San Antonio mayor (and White House Cabinet nominee) talks to AARP about creating an age-friendly city

Update: Having been confirmed 71 to 26 by the U.S. Senate to be the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Develeopment, Julian Castro resigned as San Antonio's mayor on July 22, 2014, the same day San Antonio City Council member Ivy Taylor, an urban planner by profession, was sworn in as interim mayor.

julian castro san antonio mayor five questions

Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas. — Bahram Mark Sobhani/ZUMA Press/Corbis

En español | Earlier this year, Julián Castro, San Antonio’s popular three-term mayor, signed a letter stating that his city of 1.4 million was joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.

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AARP Texas met with Castro on May 13 to talk about his city’s increasing national profile and its local efforts to be a livable community for people of all ages.

Castro's own national profile increased today, when President Obama nominated the 39-year-old alumnus of Stanford University and Harvard Law to join his Cabinet as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While the position will require Castro to leave his native San Antonio, he’ll be welcomed by at least one very familiar face when he arrives in Washington, D.C.: U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) is Julián Castro’s identical twin brother.

1. San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-largest city. Last year it ranked 12th out of 200 in the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Large Cities list. What is the San Antonio story? Why should the rest of the country pay attention?

The San Antonio story in this 21st century is of a city on the rise. It’s a city that is growing quickly, whose livability is being enhanced — by the week, by the month. It’s a place that has always been somewhere people of different ages, perspectives, backgrounds, religions have been able to come together well, work together well, and create just a splendid city. More and more these days people are taking notice of San Antonio as a community on the move.

2. How does the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities program fit with your "SA 2020" initiative, which asked San Antonio’s residents to help set goals for what the city should be like by 2020.

SA 2020 is all about a vision for a very livable city, to make San Antonio a lively city and a place that is welcoming and comfortable for everyone. The age-friendly initiative fits perfectly with that because it’s about ensuring we don’t just focus on one age group, but that we focus on all age groups, particularly seniors as they get older to ensure that San Antonio will offer them a fantastic quality of life.

3. Why are older San Antonians important to the city?

Particularly in a city like San Antonio that is such a Hispanic city — 63 percent is Hispanic — there’s an inveterate respect for elders in the Hispanic community and the growing community that is 50-plus. It’s a great fit for an age-friendly agenda in a place like San Antonio. We know that just as our future is tied to folks who are sitting in a classroom right now, our future is also tied to the health and well-being of people who are turning 50, and older, and still have a long life to live and a lot to give to the community.

4. How can an organization like AARP make a difference in the lives of San Antonians?

One the things we hear a lot about in the 21st century are young professionals and that cities often try to attract young professionals. But the fact is, senior citizens are the fastest-growing part of the population. And senior citizens, because of their life experience, and often times their work experience and the time that they have on their hands, can be a great asset to a community that is rising, like San Antonio. Having AARP connecting people to the community and advocating well is terrific for a city like San Antonio.

5. How can city leaders, organizations and volunteers partner together to make San Antonio a better place?

One of the best ways the city can work with organizations is through our boards and commissions by getting folks to serve on them. [We can work together] on issues where we have common ground, such as the pay day ending ordinance and in efforts like SA 2020 that call on the community to volunteer. Our senior citizens are a huge reservoir of talent and ability and passion for serving the community. Getting them to participate and volunteer makes sense for San Antonio.

Rafael Ayuso is the manager of Outreach & Communications for AARP Texas.

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