Affiliate Spotlight: Hector Morales Jr., San Antonio Apartment Association
Hector Morales Jr. has served as the Director of Government Relations for the San Antonio Apartment Association (SAAA) for two years. Prior to joining SAAA, Morales, who holds a Masters in Public Affairs, worked for a number of elected officials and campaigns. He also has worked as a musical group tour manager and an assistant director of a film festival. NAA recently caught up with Morales and discussed Texas politics, Star Wars and what SAAA is focusing on legislatively:
NAA: What are the local legislative/regulatory priorities for this year?
HM: Some of our priorities include ensuring that local governmental bodies do not implement the latest International Code Council’s codes in a manner that will negatively impact our industry. The City of San Antonio is undergoing a code review process and we are at the table making sure that we have a say in what is adopted. Another local legislative priority is keeping a critical eye on the county’s property appraisals, as it appears that recently there have been unfair increases in many of our members’ properties.
NAA: What are your association’s state legislative priorities this year?
HM: Our association’s priorities in 2015 are to support the Texas Apartment Association’s legislative priorities, which include concerns with ex-offender housing, pre-emption of mandatory Section 8, and preventing the waiving of appeal rights for property valuations.
NAA: What races are you watching this year?
HM: We are keeping a close watch on our Governor and Lieutenant Governor races – both have women Democratic candidates (which is a big deal for Texas to have the top two state positions potentially belong to women, and one is Latina). As most Americans know, Texas has voted “red” for a long time now, but the pendulum seems to be going in the other direction now, so these two races have become pivotal of where Texas might still be, or where it may be going.
We are also following races that were not originally on the books. Here’s why: San Antonio’s previous mayor, Julian Castro, was appointed by President Obama to become Secretary of HUD, thereby triggering a lot of movement within the San Antonio City Council, and it even caused the movement of a state legislator. The result is that appointments and special elections are taking place. Lastly, we’re keeping a close watch on what has been called “the most” swing congressional district in the country, District 23, currently held by Democrat Pete Gallego. Both national parties are providing funds to that race.
NAA: What do you think are the biggest threats to the industry?
HM: One big threat I see lies in our industry’s current success. As most of us in the industry know, nationally the demand for rental housing has been comfortably ahead of supply, producing healthy occupancy rates and nice rents. But this won’t last forever, and I believe it’s imperative to plan for a time when demand will decrease. If our industry is not well-prepared, many of our members could see difficult times ahead. Another big threat I see may very well be ourselves. If we are not quick to notice the fluctuations beginning to take place across the nation, in the direction of which societal constituencies are shifting their political views, then it’s possible that we are not going to be at the regulatory/policy decision-making tables in communities across the country.
NAA: How did you get involved in politics?
HM: I became involved when a local manufacturing plant closed, thus impacting our local community’s quality of life for the worst. Before I knew it, I was helping community organizers advocate for that community’s well being.
NAA: Any special awards or skills worth mentioning?
HM: It’s been said that I have the special skill of a Jedi Master, the Jedi Mind Trick. This is that ability that Obi-Wan Kenobi used in the Star Wars movies to influence and control the minds of others, which just happens to be a fantastic skill to have in the world of governmental and political affairs!
NAA: What are the top three issues that association members consistently throw at you?
HM: Property maintenance code-type of issues, fair housing questions and eviction questions.
NAA: What are your typical day-to-day responsibilities as your association’s government affairs director?
HM: I simply sit back and read the local newspaper! Um, but that’s before 6 a.m.! The rest of the day you’ll find me wearing many different hats and communicating to all kinds of people in and out of our industry about our needs and concerns, from local to state to federal policies and regulations.
NAA: What is your favorite political movie?
NAA: What was the last “non-political” book that you’ve read?
HM: I read two books simultaneously, “Celestial Sleuth: Using Astronomy to Solve Mysteries in Arts, History and Literature,” by Donald W. Olson; and “Hunger Games”, yes, I said “Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins.
NAA: Do you miss your Blackberry?
HM: In hindsight, I miss the simplicity of the Blackberry!
NAA: Is there anything else about your job, association or personal bit of information that you would like your colleagues across the country to know about?
HM: It’s been great getting to know my counterparts across the country. Thanks guys and gals, you all rock!