Jade Esteban Estrada
Council candidate Johnny Arredondo
Around 2008, Johnny Arredondo began to experience an extreme pain on the left side of his neck. He says it was sheer chance that he found one of four doctors in the U.S. that could have diagnosed his condition: a glossopharyngeal neuralgia. Damage to the ninth cranial nerve was forcing him to suffer through an ice pick-like sensation.
Doctors removed the nerve, and nearly 40 stitches later, Arredondo was on the way to recovery. Still, it was the "worst nine days of my life," he reflects.
I'm sitting across from Arredondo, now 63, at La Fiesta de Jalisco Restaurant, and he's telling me how this life-changing experience made him want to do more for his community. In 2017, he ran for San Antonio's District 4 council seat against incumbent Rey Saldaña.
Arredondo lost, but he wasn't deterred.
In 2018, he ran to represent District 124 in the Texas House. Though Ina Minjarez won the seat, he decided to give the District 4 race another shot. And, on the night of May 4, he says he was "excited and thankful" to see the results — he'd forced opponent Adriana Rocha Garcia into a runoff.
Arredondo finished with 21% of the vote, Rocha Garcia with 47%. Now, like council candidate Andy Greene in District 6, he has another opportunity to rally his base.
Though the council race is nonpartisan, Arredondo — who describes himself as "very open-minded" — delights in sharing both his conservative and Christian views. As a member of Cornerstone Church, he's earned the star-power endorsement of Pastor John Hagee.
I ask Arredondo what he would he would say to people who consider some of the evangelical pastor's statements anti-LGBTQ.
"Pastor Hagee has taught us for years that you hate the sin but you love the sinner — and we are all sinners. Every single one of us," Arredondo said in his raspy voice, a result of the operation on his neck. "Pastor Hagee is not preaching on the community, he's preaching what the word of God says. [He's] told us that everyone is welcome at that church, and we don't treat them any different regardless of who they are. He's one of the kindest men you will ever meet."
Whereas every council candidate I've interviewed this election cycle has stealthily avoided endorsing either mayoral candidate, Arredondo speaks openly of his admiration for Councilman Greg Brockhouse — who also has received Hagee's endorsement.
A 20-year college basketball referee by trade — and a high school ref for 27 years prior to that — Arredondo says he's learned a great deal about listening to both sides of an argument before making a decision. That's why he believes he'd make a good council member.
He admits that, in the past, he's been quick to offer his opinion. Experience has taught him the value of hearing what others, especially D4 residents, have to say. As a consevative Republican in a left-leaning town, he's also learned how to "bite his tongue" from time to time.
"You cannot misquote silence," Arredondo says.