Nelson William Wolff has represented Bexar County in various political offices since 1971, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. After that he was elected to the Texas Senate in 1973, the San Antonio City Council in 1987 and he served as Mayor of San Antonio from 1991 to 1995. He currently serves as Bexar County Judge, a position he was appointed to in 2001 and has since been elected to five times, most recently in November 2018. He is only the second person in more than a century to serve as both Mayor of San Antonio and Bexar County Judge.
Judge Wolff works to promote and improve economic and workforce development in Bexar County. He is an adamant supporter of the emerging local tech industry and helped form the Innovation Fund, a $1 million allocation dedicated to spur jobs and growth in the tech sector.
He also led the development and creation of BiblioTech, the nation’s first all-digital public library which now serves the community through 3 main branches and several kiosks. Recently, BiblioTech has partnered with Southwest Independent School District (SWISD) for the BiblioTech Connect project to provide 100 students with internet service in their homes to support remote leaning and education in an effort to reduce the digital divide in Bexar County. BiblioTech is also partnering with the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) to create “BiblioTech EDU” in the Fox Tech High School campus area. BiblioTech EDU will serve as a model for public and school library collaboration. BiblioTech EDU will include a makerspace, robotics lab, recording studio, a children’s room, e-books and e-readers enhancing the education of the nearly 1,600 students on campus as well as local residents in downtown San Antonio.
He initiated the County's effort to successfully convince voters to approve a visitor tax-backed bond package for $415 million using a mixture of hotel occupancy and motor vehicle rental taxes. Those bond funds aided in the construction of 13 amateur sports facilities, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, improvements to the Community Arenas including the Freeman Coliseum and AT&T Center, and improvements to the San Antonio River. The eight-mile Mission Reach of the San Antonio River is a community investment that returned the river to its meandering natural state. River improvements proved vital to the UNESCO World Heritage designation for the Spanish colonial missions on San Antonio’s South Side. All together the Mission Reach and the surrounding public lands comprise a park in the middle of San Antonio's South Side that is three times the size of Central Park.
Working with Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority, and the City of San Antonio, Judge Wolff encouraged additional growth and city beautification with the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project. Phase 1 of the project opened on May 5, 2018—Bexar County’s 300th birthday. In addition to boosting economic development, the improvements project is designed to revitalize natural habitat and improve flood control. In conjunction, Judge Wolff also aided in the continued improvement of HALT (High Water Alert Lifesaving Technology) and the creation of BexarFlood.org.
In July 2008, Judge Wolff and Commissioners Court approved a $900 million plan backed by bonds issued over three years to build a new trauma center and provide other improvements for the University Health System.
Judge Wolff is focused on improving county services. County improvements in highway and flood control infrastructure have increased during his tenure. Bexar County has reformed the criminal justice system to help people with mental health and drug issues. Bexar County opened the Justice Intake and Assessment Center in April 2019. Two new sheriff substations, Northeast and Southwest, opened in November 2018 and February 2019 respectively. Judge Wolff maintains continued partnerships with the 26 suburban cities to ensure all Bexar County citizens are safe and receive the best possible services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge Wolff has been as vocal advocate for public health and workforce development to aid in the safety and recovery of the Bexar County community. The Bexar County Hospital District dba University Health System also developed and implemented a national model for vaccine distribution and administration at the Wonderland of the Americas mass vaccine site, which has administered over 460,000 total vaccines.
As Mayor of San Antonio, Wolff oversaw the establishment of the University of Texas at San Antonio Downtown Campus; construction of the Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, home to the San Antonio Missions; and the development of the San Antonio Public Library's central branch designed by renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta. Also during his four-year tenure, the City Hall Chambers opened in the Municipal Plaza Building and he led the effort to pass the largest parks bond issue in city history.
Wolff has authored five books and is an avid reader and collector of 20th Century first editions. Challenge of Change, published in 1975, is about Wolff's experience in the Texas Legislature and the Constitutional Convention he participated in and for which he was largely responsible. Baseball for Real Men reflects on life and Wolff's love of the game. Mayor: An Inside View of San Antonio Politics 1981-1995 takes a look at local politics during his and Henry Cisneros' years leading the city. Transforming San Antonio: An Insider's View of the AT&T Center, Toyota, the PGA Village and the River Walk Extension explores the four major developments in recent history that have provided urban renewal and growth for the city. Wolff's book Bexar BiblioTech: The Evolution of the Country's Frist All-digital Public Library takes the reader on a 20-year journey from his involvement in the building of a 240,000-square-foot public central library that opened in 1995 to the creation of a 4,000-square-foot digital public library in 2013. It is a fast paced journey, much like the speed of the mobile digital revolution. In its wake, BiblioTech would become the nation's first all-digital public library, opening in September of 2013.
Wolff holds a bachelor of business administration from St. Mary's University and a doctorate of jurisprudence from St. Mary's University School of Law. Throughout his life, Wolff has excelled in both politics and business.
In 1961, Wolff, his father and two brothers formed Alamo Enterprises Building Supplies, which they grew to an eight-store chain before selling in 1977. A year later with his brothers George and Gary, Wolff founded Sun Harvest Farms, a successful chain of natural food stores. They sold the nine-store chain in 1999.
Together, Wolff and his wife, Tracy, have six children and eight grandchildren.
Community Boards and Commissions
Board of Directors – International Bank of Commerce, San Antonio – Chairman
Former Community Boards and Commissions
Board of Directors – Free Trade Alliance – Chairman
Board of Directors – Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce – Chairman
Board of Directors – St. Mary's University
Board of Directors – World Affairs Council – Co-Founder and Chairman
Board of Directors – San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Board of Trustees – City Public Service, San Antonio – Chairman
Board of Trustees – San Antonio Medical Foundation
Board of Directors – San Antonio Mobility Coalition (SAMCo) – Chair
Board of Trustees – San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative (SATAI) – Co-Chair
Board of Directors – Metropolitan Partnership for Energy (MPE) – Chairman
Board of Trustees – Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio
Board of Advisors – Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation
Awards and Honors
1972 – Outstanding Young Man of the Year – San Antonio Jaycees
1992 – World Affairs Council International Citizen of the Year
1994 – Boys and Girls Club National Hall of Fame
1995 – Outstanding Citizenship Award – Council of Churches
1995 – San Antonio's baseball field is named Nelson W. Wolff Stadium
1996 – St. Mary's University Distinguished Alumnus of the Year
1996 – Humanitarian Award – National Jewish Medical and Research Center
2001 – St. Mary's University School of Law Distinguished Alumnus of the Year
2001 – Inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame
2002 – Women in Communication Headliner Award for Public Endeavors
2004 – Good Scout Award – Boy Scouts
2004 – Amistad Award – Mexican Consulate of San Antonio
2005 – The San Antonian Award – North San Antonio Chamber
2006 – Roadhand Award – Texas Department of Transportation
2007 – Junior Achievement Award
2008 – UTSA President's Award
2009 – Russell H. Perry Award – Texas Department of Transportation
2010 – Phil Hardberger - Heart of the City Award – Main Plaza Conservancy
2011 – Henry B. Gonzalez Award – St. Mary's University Law Alumni Association
2011 – Distinguished Service Award – University of Texas at San Antonio Alumni Association
2012 – Legacy Leader – San Antonio Business Journal
2013 – After-School All-Star Award – After-School All-Stars San Antonio
2014 – Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers – Government Technology Magazine
2014 – Entrepreneurial Spirit Award Gala – Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos
2014 – Pat Maloney, Sr. Public Service Award – Democrats of Northwest Bexar County
2014 – Health Literacy Hero – The Health Collaborative, Bexar County's Community Health Leadership
2015 – 20 Most Influential People in San Antonio History - San Antonio Express-News
Challenge of Change, 1975
Baseball for Real Men, 2000
Transforming San Antonio, 2008
Bexar BiblioTech: The Evolution of the Country's Frist All-digital Public Library, 2015
The Changing Face of San Antonio: An Insider's View of an Emerging International City, 2018
The Heart of Bexar County: The Restoration of the Bexar County Courthouse, 2020
The Mayor and The Judge: The Inside Story of the War Against COVID, 2022