While April in the Alamo City might mean full-bore Fiesta to the multitudes who eagerly anticipate and participate in this month’s merriment and mirth, for the unflappable but always upbeat Rhonda Kolm Calvert, managing the aspects of the same “isn’t always a party.”
And how can it be? As the current president of the Battle of Flowers Association and an executive member of the San Antonio Fiesta Commission, Rhonda is uber-involved during this admittedly festive time in a way that is remarkable for its depth of commitment, confidence and competency in sorting out the complicated while maintaining motivation and morale coupled with a massive sense of mission. Whew! It’s a big job indeed that would leave most breathless, but not this passionate and purposeful ‘09er, who truly deserves a “parade” of praise. Viva Fiesta! Viva Rhonda!
One look at Rhonda’s résumé and it becomes pretty obvious that this in no ordinary individual, Fiesta time or not. Professionally, she has excelled in her many roles within the banking industry. As a child, she was smitten with the financial world after visiting a local bank and being wowed by its enormous vault. “I knew right then that this was the environment that I wanted to work in,” she explains, and boy, was she right! This lady’s been “locked in” banking ever since.
After graduating from UT Austin in 1984 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree (with honors, of course), Rhonda went on to fill multiple management positions within several Texas banks, where her innate people skills became even more honed as she adeptly tackled assignments that usually required a group input. Basically, she is good at team-building and personnel management to achieve desired goals. This talent has served her well throughout her career and in her personal pursuits as well. Today, Rhonda is the respected market president of Comerica Bank San Antonio, a role where she is responsible for leading and implementing strategic directives affecting a variety of divisions within Comerica. As she relates, “My aim is to ensure continued market growth while maximizing return on investments for all of our clients. When they win, I win.” And that mindset seems to apply to all of Rhonda’s interactions – at the bank, while chairing a Battle of Flowers meeting or at home with her beloved husband, Joe.
With Rhonda’s professional life so full, it’s amazing that she’s able to devote any energies or time to her many volunteer and community commitments, but her hours and effort she freely gives and in large amounts. One might wonder how a past president and current member of the Junior League of San Antonio and board member of the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, among other worthwhile affiliations, could also preside over the sprawling, female-only Battle of Flowers Association and help guide the Fiesta Commission too. But Rhonda, imbued with limitless oomph, spirit and optimism, somehow not only succeeds but makes it look easy as well. As she clarifies, “If you like what you’re doing at the office or elsewhere, it isn’t work, it’s a joy. And besides, I’m never bored.” Whatever — thanks to this make-it-happen marvel, many have benefited from and been inspired by her tireless, seemingly nonstop exertions. As she smilingly offers, “It must be in my genes.”
Well, those tireless exertions are certainly in high gear this month as she coaxes, cajoles, pushes and pulls the thousands who along with her labor to “make Fiesta the wonderment that it is.” While her extensive involvement with the Fiesta Commission touches on all of the colorful events and activities scheduled each April – the River Parade, Rey Feo, the Coronation, etc. – it’s the Battle of Flowers Association’s Parade (the 126th) that requires her greatest focus. Working months in advance, lavishing endless hours as the head cheerleader, she and her BOF teammates are able to coordinate participants (it can be quite a juggling act) from across the city, county and beyond, to eventually stage the nation’s largest and longest (many say best) parade handled entirely by women volunteers.
Add to Rhonda’s mix the collegiate oratory and middle school essay contests as well as the much-loved 79th annual 4,700-musician-strong high school band festival, and things get quite busy indeed for this president extraordinaire as everything crazily culminates this glorious month. Whew again! While somehow always looking fresh and relaxed, she asserts, “It’s all worth it because it’s what makes our city – culturally, spiritually and emotionally – what it is. I’m just privileged to be a small part of it.”
So when considering the rallying Rhonda and everything she has and continues to contribute to her (our) hometown, professionally and personally, this phenomenon truly does deserve a “parade of praise.” Hip, hip, hooray to Rhonda Calvert! Now smile, wave and show your shoes!
By Ernie Altgelt
Photography by Martin Waddy