Community Development Services Director
Nina Shealey fell in love with Alamo Heights on January 2, 2019, day one in her new job. It was love at first sight she explains, “Because Alamo Heights loves Alamo Heights. Residents have a true sense of pride in their community. And I like that.”
After eleven years working for the City of San Antonio (COSA), in a variety of positions, she was open to change, a new opportunity. So, when former AH City Manager Mark Browne talked with her about moving onto his team as Community Development Services Director, she readily accepted. The previous director, Jason Lutz, left AH in 2018.
Ironically, Shealey laughed, “I never actually worked with Mark Browne. Shortly after he hired me, he accepted a position with Schertz as city manager.”
She told 78209 Magazine, “I learned an enormous amount working at the City of San Antonio. I had great mentors there, including then-city manager Sheryl Sculley and assistant city manager Lori Houston.”
But Shealey had ambitions, and she still does. She wanted to move up the leadership ladder, but with 12 thousand employees and hundreds competing for the limited number of jobs she might seek, competition to advance into the stratosphere at COSA was enormous.
“I also knew I was never going to be Sheryl Sculley, city manager in San Antonio. Plus, that elusive work/life balance is important to me. In COSA, it was nearly impossible to achieve that balance. It was work all the time.”
Shealey grew up in San Antonio, graduated from Churchill High School, where she was a “Lancer Dancer,” and went on Texas State University, where she was a “Strutter.” She earned her Bachelor of Arts, in political science and philosophy, and a Master’s Degree, in Public Administration, at Texas State.
“Public service is really what drives me,” Shealey said. “Reading the works of Plato and Aristotle and seeing that theoretical ‘perfect world of government,’ and then seeing today’s world, is troubling. There is a disconnect. Part of me wanted to see if it was possible to restore government to that perfect theory. That was a grand idea, but the practicality is not there.
“I think it is so important to serve the public that I live in and the community I am around. My commitment is to do the best I can to make the government less scary and less ‘Big Brotherish,’ and more about actually addressing the needs of the community.” To a great degree that’s what drives Shealey in her daily work.
For example, she noted, “Alamo Heights is a beautiful community, but just like any smaller municipality, some of the maintenance of it has not progressed with the rest of the community. I would like to see those things restored. We have this beautiful, almost a boulevard, in Broadway, but it is no longer a walkable street. I’d like to see that returned.
I’d like to see more of a sense of community. You have Austin Highway and Broadway that bisect the city, and I hope we can make it truly pedestrian and user-friendly.”
As the director of community development services, Shealey oversees all aspects of community development for the city. She leads three community boards/commissions – the Board of Adjustment, the Architectural Review Board and the Planning & Zoning Commission.
She told 78209 Magazine her “serving heart” comes from her parents, but even more so from her grandparents.
“My mother is from Thailand. Her dad was a physician who served patients in a remote mountain community that was really very indigenous. He was the only doctor for miles. He would treat and help, and if people could not pay him with money, he let them pay in other ways because he knew the importance of providing health care to people.
“My dad’s grandfather was in the military during World War II. When he came home, he worked for General Electric and made lots of great things I wish he owned the patents for. My dad also served in the Air Force during Vietnam. He was stationed in Korea, as an engineer.”
Her mom and dad met in Dayton, Ohio, at a Fondue Party. “That’s what folks did back then!” Her dad was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Her older sister is a Neuroradiologist, living in Louisville, Kentucky. Shealey jokes her sister “got all the brains in the family.”
She and her husband, Steve, were married in 2005. They have three children – all girls – ages 9, 6, and 2.
When asked what she likes about her job she says. “It boils down to the team here in Alamo Heights, including the city council. In San Antonio, city council and staff don’t always get along. But here, we all get along. I like that. It’s a joy to come into work every day. It is a fun environment. I also enjoy time with my family. There’s a life/balance here.”
In her previous jobs, “Everything was always on fire, everything was needed yesterday. Here you have the opportunity to research and prepare. Plus,” she adds, “there’s support and appreciation for what we do.”
For now, Shealey has no plans to move on. But her goal is to become a city manager. With Sheryl Sculley as a mentor, that should come as no surprise.
By Ron Aaron Eisenberg