Board elects its vice chair and secretary at February meeting

Image: VIA Trustee Akeen Brown



Following a hard-fought election win to improve transit in San Antonio and a year of adapting service during COVID-19 conditions, VIA Metropolitan Transit is looking ahead with new members and new leadership on its Board of Trustees.

The Board this week elected a new vice chair and re-elected its secretary, one month after welcoming three new Board members and selecting a new chairman. Marina Alderete Gavito will serve as the Board’s vice chair, and Akeem Brown returns as secretary. Both were first appointed to the Board by Bexar County Commissioners Court in 2018 and were elected unanimously to serve as officers on February 23.

Among those voting were three new City of San Antonio-appointed trustees, Laura Cabanilla, Melanie Aranda Tawil, and Javier Paredes. Fernando Reyes was seated as Board Chair in January. Trustees are appointed to two-year terms and a maximum eight collective years of service.

The refreshed 11-member Board will oversee the transit agency during a period of transition as it prepares to roll out its Keep SA Moving plan, which voters overwhelmingly approved to fund in November. The election granted an additional 1/8 cent of local sales tax to support transit projects, beginning in 2026. It includes funding for significant improvements to bus service, expansion of on-demand and other modern trip options, and development of an Advanced Rapid Transit system (ART) that will allow VIA to leverage federal dollars for the first time.

Board members represent a cross-section of local industries, from education to tech and more, and experience with public service and public transit.

Gavito and Brown, both advocates for innovation and widely recognize for excelling in their respective fields, are among the youngest members on the Board with grand visions for the future of transit, including goals for expanding access, improving options, and applying an equity lens to service planning and outreach.

More about new VIA Trustees

Image: Board Member Melanie Tawil


Image: Board Member Javier Paredes


Image: Board Member Laura Cabanilla


Laura Cabanilla is vice president of Community Relations and a Community Development Officer for Wells Fargo’s Central and South-Central Texas region, Social Impact and Sustainability Group. She has served as interim president for Westside Development Corporation and as Chief of Staff to two former San Antonio City Councilmembers. She has also served on the board of the San Antonio Area Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund Committee.

Javier Paredes is the development director, a  designer, and activist for Muñoz & Company, leading a community approach to urbanism and design that focuses on social impact in public architecture. He is an active member of the community and often provides pro-bono services to nonprofits, volunteers and serves on local boards. He also lectures regularly on issues of social justice, equity, innovation districts, immigration, and the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Melanie Aranda Tawil is co-founder of SwipeTrack Solutions, LLC, and vice president of Golden Bingo Family. She is also a real estate agent with Devora Realty where she specializes in investment properties and commercial real estate. She has served on the boards of the Texas State University Alumni Association and The Public Theatre and was appointed to the City of San Antonio Small Business Advocacy Committee, COVID-19 Economic Transition Taskforce, and Small Business Advocacy Committee for the City of San Antonio.

The 11-member VIA Board of Trustees meets monthly to discuss policy issues and hear comments from the community. VIA Board meetings are generally held on the fourth Tuesday of each month.