“We’re a bridge between hospitality, knowledge, and security,” says Robert “Bob” Meade, Public Service Representative (PSR) Ambassador at Centro San Antonio.
He remembers this concept playing out one day near the Buckhorn Museum, when Bob spotted a man who appeared ill. “I was a firefighter paramedic,” he explains. “So I know when people aren’t doing well.” Luckily, Bob was able to escort the man, who was diabetic, to the nearest Walgreens to acquire the insulin he desperately needed. Once the man had taken his medicine, Bob walked with him back to his hotel. “You do what you gotta do,” says Bob, “You’re out there to help people.”
Centro San Antonio Ambassador Bob Meade is seen assisting downtowners with directions on Houston Street. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
People are exactly what the job is about, explains Bob. And that’s not always in the context of a health emergency. Sometimes it’s just about creating a friendly downtown environment for locals and visitors. “We are a friendly town. And I think the PSR Ambassadors convey that very well.”
However, the PSRs cannot do their job effectively without the large team of Maintenance Ambassadors backing them up. As Bob puts it: “They’re the ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guys, I’m just riding the ice cream on top.”
He should know, as he was a Maintenance Ambassador for five years. “I give credit to the maintenance guys for everything,” says Bob, “When people say to me, ‘This is a beautiful city.’ I say to go tell that to the women and men in the baseball caps with the pans and brooms.”
Centro San Antonio Ambassador Bob Meade is seen assisting downtowners with directions at Travis Park. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Long before Bob was a Centro San Antonio Ambassador, he served in the military. Born and raised in Chicago, he joined the Air Force at the age of 19. He was stationed in San Antonio, served a tour of duty in Vietnam, and then returned to Chicago to serve as Fire Chief of the Air Force Reserve Unit at Chicago O’Hare Airport. He served in Operation Desert Shield before retiring in 2001. Afterward he moved to San Antonio to be closer to his son and his family.
Centro San Antonio Ambassador Bob Meade at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial of San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Upon relocating here, he found out that San Antonio has the largest chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America in the United States (over 150 strong). The chapter also has the most female Vietnam Veterans in the country. He quickly joined Alamo Chapter 366, where he handled protocol at their events.
One day, the chapter hosted a service at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial of San Antonio. Bob noticed women and men in yellow shirts maintaining the streets. He asked one of them how he could get involved. That same day, he visited the Centro San Antonio Operations Center, applied to be an Ambassador, and had been hired.
The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial of San Antonio in Downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
For him, the transition from military service to retirement to employment at Centro made perfect sense. “Those experiences,” he says of his career in the Air Force, “help you to understand human nature. They also show you the benefit of teamwork.” The knowledge and skills he acquired over his life have served him well during his time as an Ambassador.
Bob explains that the Ambassador team is familiar with the local workforce and residents, as well as the Bike Patrol Officers from the San Antonio Police Department. With this local network in the neighborhood, they are able to quickly address issues or alert those who can address issues. He reports that the extra pairs of eyes on the streets are what locals appreciate most.
Centro San Antonio Ambassador Bob Meade at Travis Park. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The neighborhood network allows people to take ownership of their community and address common concerns. On the other hand, they can chat about the latest news, like the new doughnut shop on the River Walk. Bob is already directly curious locals who ask about the new addition to the downtown culinary scene.
As we look towards Fiesta, consider your friends the Ambassadors who will continue to help keep downtown clean, safe and friendly during the celebrations. On the last day of Fiesta (Sunday, April 28th this year), the downtown and veteran communities of Military City USA come together in remembrance of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The “All Veterans Memorial Service” takes place at Veterans Plaza, where Bob first encountered the Centro Ambassadors. The service is open to the public. If you would like to attend, learn more here.