Delivering his first State of the County address, Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai said the county continues to see economic growth and opportunities for even more growth three years since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon May 31 at Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Sakai said the pandemic taught community members to capitalize local strengths and resources.

“I believe that our resilience needs to come from robust growth,” Sakai said. “Bexar County will expand its role as a catalyst for change, the economic generator, and a hub for commerce, education and public health in South Texas.”

Elected county judge in November following 20-plus years on the local judiciary, Sakai reiterated his approach to governance by building consensus, advocating for the entire county and its residents, and representing unincorporated areas and the 27 cities within Bexar County.

“Over the course of my campaign, I promised to build bridges and not create division.

I promised to bring people together, ensuring mutual dignity and respect,” Sakai said. “I expect transparency, accountability and better stewardship of our taxpayer resources.”

Asking audience members to pull out their phones and turn on their flashlight, Sakai said the light symbolizes “a spark for change” in how county government engages the community.

“County government should not operate in the shadows or create silos of bureaucracy,” Sakai said. “I came into office 150 days ago with a commitment to listen and to be an informed catalyst for change.”

According to Sakai, Bexar County is poised to become a regional economic generator and a gateway to South Texas.

“We have a unique opportunity to expand our reach to Laredo, the [Rio Grande Valley], and over to Corpus Christi and more,” he said.

He said, for Bexar County to realize its regional potential, it must enhance partnerships with the local business community, modernize county governmental organization, boost collaboration between the county and the city of San Antonio, and improve local residents’ health and safety.

Sakai said he expected to receive a report on a recently requested comprehensive organizational review by June 1. He said the review will help county government improve the quality and productivity of its 5,000 employees, and to enhance the experience of county residents, vendors and partners.

“Change is coming,” he said.

While lauding workforce development and recruiting companies, Sakai said efforts to attract new businesses to Bexar County should not come at the expense of existing local small and mid-sized businesses.

"I commit to investing in our small businesses by creating programs like retention grants,” he said. “We can support local businesses by providing technical training and assistance.”

Sakai pledged to promote local health care, and biotechnology businesses and organizations; military installations; cybersecurity assets; and higher education institutions, as well as expand upon such ventures.

Sakai promised to maximize local economic development, infrastructure, public health and policing measures, and judicial reform.

He also promised to concentrate on expanding broadband access, reducing homelessness, environmental restoration, parks and recreational upgrades, public arts, and further addressing socioeconomic challenges, such as family violence, food insecurity, access to health care and the opioid epidemic.

“We must make the necessary investments to give everyone a chance to reach their full potential,” he said.