Being Mayor of Austin is not only an honor, but also a hard job to follow. Mayor Steve Adler is an intelligent, humble, family man who is proud to have the title ‘Mayor’ in front of his name. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mayor Adler to get to know the man behind the suit and what he is like when he’s not in front of news cameras or on the radio. He’s living in a city known for food and enjoys it as much as the rest of us, especially when it comes to breakfast tacos and BBQ.
Mayor Adler was born in Washington D.C. and moved to Austin for law school. “I thought it’d be good to see a different part of the country than the region I had grown up in. The University of Texas was the cheapest Law School in the country and I could afford it. They gave me a scholarship so I came to Austin with no intention of staying. I love this city and I’ve been here ever since.”
Adler gained inspiration with the choice to become a lawyer, “because of all the lawyer movies that I’d ever seen and the TV shows,” he explains smiling. “It just seemed to be a tool where you could help people and do right and justice. I think the thought of being in a court room advocating for somebody or something always sounded like it would be fun.”
Not a single day is the same when you’re Mayor. Adler says, “Three days during the work week I’m working out from 6AM to 7AM. My first meeting is usually around 7:30am to 7:45am. I’ll be on the TV or radio before then. I’m then meeting with people pretty much all day long. I’ll run meetings sometimes in 30-minute intervals, sometimes an hour. There are just so many people that I want a chance to talk to and they want a chance to talk to me. I try to get out and speak to groups as much as I can, so a lot of my lunches I’m off talking to a group somewhere. I’m meeting with other council members, with people in the community, staff members, and the City Manager. It’s a day full of meetings and visiting with people. A lot of the dinners I’ll go to are for different organizations that are meeting. I try to only eat one dinner a night, but my will power isn’t perfect, which is why I’ve put on weight in this job. Then there are evening groups that I’ll meet with in the evening so I’ll usually end around 9PM. Then I go home and it’s my first chance to look at emails and to respond to my people and staff that are asking questions. Saturday’s and Sunday’s don’t look a lot different. They kind of look like Tuesday’s and Wednesdays. This is a 24/7 job, but I volunteered for it.”
Ever since Mayor Adler moved to Austin, he says the growth is one of the main factors about Austin that has changed. “Just the number of people, it’s gotten so much larger. When I was in Law School we used to go to the Stallion Restaurant that was on North Lamar just South of Koenig Lane. I think there’s a McDonald’s there now on the West Side. It used to be the Stallion and it had the best fried chicken and the best enchiladas in the city. When we would go there you would feel like you were on the outer edge of the city. The city has just grown so much. Affordability is a huge issue now and it wasn’t then. Austin used to be the most affordable big city in the state and now that’s changed. Obviously the whole tech industry is new; but the underlying creativity and entrepreneurial elements of what makes tech work in this city were all there. And Traffic.”
When you’re Mayor you’re technically not allowed to pick favorites, especially when it comes to food. I still asked what the Mayor’s favorite food is and Adler elaborated saying, “That’s always a difficult question to answer as Mayor because I don’t want to walk into a restaurant and pick favorites. I’m a breakfast taco and BBQ kind of guy. There’s a ton more restaurants than that and I enjoy them too, just look at me, I really like to eat; but those would be the foods I like the best.”
Being Mayor, Adler is always busy in the community and gets to work with the majority of non-profits in Austin. He adds, “I love that part of the job.” Before Mayor Steve Adler became Mayor, he and his wife Diane worked with a lot of non-profits in the city. “We would do a lot of it together. So while I don’t have any favorites now, before I became Mayor I was involved with the Girls Empowerment Network, Breakthrough, Ballet Austin, and The Long Center. Diane was President of The Contemporary.”
“Being able to try to have an impact on the quality of life,” is what Mayor Adler loves most about his job. “This office provides the opportunity to convene people and to use the bully pulpit in a way that can make life better for people. I love when I go to travel and I’m in a different city, either in this country or abroad and I get to say that I’m Mayor of Austin. What better deal than being Mayor of this city.”
When asked what makes Mayor Adler the most proud of Austin: “It’s actually pretty easy and it truly is the people. The people are different here. There’s a culture and a personality of people in Austin that I think is different. We are truly and genuinely a friendly city. We’re nice to people, we are creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial as well; and I love that about the city, but it really is the people. It’s interesting; there was a National survey JD Powers did that rated cities for tourists, Austin was rated after Las Vegas. We’re happy to let Las Vegas have that title because there are just some things we’re not willing to do. The reason that we were second in the country came down to one area that we are so far ahead of anybody else. The question was, ‘which city did you visit that you could see yourself living in?’ and it was overwhelmingly Austin. To me, that says a lot about our city.”
When Mayor Adler isn’t busy keeping the City of Austin happy, he loves to travel. “Travel is something Diane and I always tried to do with the girls as much as we could. My brother, sister and I are spread out all over the country. My brother is still in Washington D.C., my sister is in California and I’m down here. So we always would travel to a different city to bring the families together.” When it comes to his favorite cities, “I like New York City, but I really like Montana with the blue skies. Outside of the United States I like Prague and Paris. They’re both wonderful cities.”
If you’re interested in becoming Mayor of Austin one day, Adler says, “it’s a phenomenal job and it’s a great way I get to meet people. I thought I knew the city well and realized now that I didn’t really have a clue. There are so many things going on in so many different places in this city that you never see or hear of. There’s probably so many different paths that people could take to this job. I would say the thing to do would be to go out and enjoy as much of the city as you can. Because the person that’s in this job should probably be somebody that has as wide a reach as possible and has seen as much of the city as is possible. Someone who truly cares about the city and the people so that when they come into this job they’re really focused on what’s important to the people.”
To keep up with Mayor Adler, follow him on Twitter.
Photography by John Pesina