The city of San Antonio today has evolved from a small Indian village nestled along the banks of a quiet,
meandering river into a major metropolitan center that thrives on its culture and history. Spanish explorers
and missionaries arrived at the village in 1691 on the feast day of St. Anthony and renamed it San Antonio de Padua.
The missionaries set out to convert the native Americans to Christianity and introduce them to Spanish society.
The first of the five missions, the Alamo, was built in 1718 by the Spanish but it would also serve as a
military post as would the other four missions. San Antonio’s first real growth is often tied to a group of Canary
Islanders who established the first civilian settlement and municipal government in the early 1730s. Over the next
century, the area would become known by other namesakes such as Villa de San Fernando and San Fernando de Bexar. In
1836, at the historic battle of the Alamo, San Fernando de Bexar was caught in the middle of Texas’ fierce fight
for independence from Mexico. A year later, the new Republic of Texas organized Bexar County and San Antonio was
formally incorporated as its seat of government.
Following incorporation, a mayor-alderman form of government was established as the city’s first administrative and
legislative body, with each alderman representing one section of the city. Town council meetings were held in English
and Spanish. Aldermen were replaced in 1915 with commissioners who were elected at-large. Voters adopted yet another
City Charter in 1951 that replaced commissioners with a
council-manager form of government, which is still used today.
City Council representatives were elected at-large until voters amended the charter in 1977 to elect members based
on geographic districts, while the mayor is elected at-large. The most recent revision of the charter regarding
term limits, occurred in 2008 when voters elected to limit the mayor and council representatives to four, two-year
terms of office.