TABLE OF CONTENTS
Brigid Shea Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Brigid Shea was born in Minot, North Dakota in 1961. In 1982, she earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Government, Journalism, and German from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. She was a Rockefeller Foundation Journalism Fellow at the University of North Carolina in 1983 and a research fellow at Yale Divinity School from 1984 to 1985.
Shea began her professional career as a radio journalist with National Public Radio, working in Minnesota from 1978 to 1984 and in Philadelphia from 1986 to 1987. She moved to Austin, Texas in 1988 to serve as Program Director for Texas Clean Water Action, where she worked with legislators towards governmental and environmental reform. In 1990, Shea was hired as press and environmental advisor to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.
In 1991, Shea co-founded the Save Our Springs (S.O.S.) Coalition, now known as Save Our Springs Alliance, with several other civically active Austinites, including Mary Arnold, Bill Bunch, and Ann Kitchen. Shea was named the Coalition’s first director. In this capacity, she helped lead the campaign for the S.O.S. Initiative to protect Barton Springs, which Austin citizens voted to support in an August 1992 election. In 1993, the Austin Professional Chapter of Women in Communication awarded Shea “Outstanding Austin Communicator of the Year.”
Shea ran for Austin City Council, Place #4, in 1993. Her campaign was endorsed by the Austin Women’s Political Caucus, the Save Our Springs Coalition, Save Austin’s Neighborhoods and Environment, Texas Citizen Action, the Austin Progressive Coalition, the Black Women’s Political Caucus, the Austin chapter of the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and several Democratic organizations in the Austin area. In her campaign, she emphasized environmental issues, responsible economic development, and city council campaign finance reform. She was elected in May 1993.
Shea served on the Austin City Council from 1993 to 1996. Her accomplishments include legislating campaign finance reform; opposing property tax rate increases; protecting the environment, especially Barton Springs; advocating on behalf of her constituents for specific street repairs; acquiring affordable housing for the city via the Bergstrom Housing Re-use Task Force; and developing a program to save civic funds by sharing facilities among schools, libraries, colleges, and health service providers. While on the Council, Shea expressed frustration about the divisiveness of city government. This frustration, along with the birth of her first child, contributed to her decision not to seek reelection in 1996.
After leaving City Council, Shea served for a year as co-director of Texas Citizen Action, a consumer watchdog group. In 1997, she returned to S.O.S. as Executive Director and remained with the organization until 1999, when she resigned because the organization refused to support Mayor Kirk Watson’s re-election campaign. In 2000, Shea founded a business consulting firm, Brigid Shea & Associates. She worked as an advisor for corporations, governments, and non-profits, including the Lower Colorado River Association, Seton Hospital, and the City of Austin. In 2010, she won the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Environmental Excellence award for her carbon-reduction work.
She was elected in 2014 to the Travis County Commissioner’s Court for Precinct 2. She also serves on the national board of Clean Water Action and as a state board member of the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) Fund. Shea represents Travis County on the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). She was selected for the 2019 Women in Government Leadership Program of Governing magazine.
Travis County. “Commissioner, Brigid Shea, Precinct Two.” https://www.traviscountytx.gov/commissioners-court/precinct-two (accessed September 25, 2019).
The collection documents Shea's work with the Save Our Springs Coalition from 1991 to 1994. History of the organization, biographical information about board members, documentation and drafts of watershed ordinances, and various press releases and clippings are contained in the collection. A small group of materials document the Comprehensive Watershed Ordinance from 1991, including administrative documents from the mayor's task force on the ordinance and position papers from Save Our Springs Coalition about the ordinance plans.
In 1992, Save Our Springs wrote and petitioned for the Save Our Springs (S.O.S.) Ordinance to protect the quality of water coming off of development in the Barton Springs watershed. Voters approved the ordinance, and developers fought back, requiring the incorporation of the Save Our Springs Legal Defense Fund. Two organizations in opposition to the S.O.S. Ordinance were Citizens for Responsible Planning and Texas Society of Professional Engineers. Some brochures and mailers produced by these entities are contained as documentation of the opposition to the ordinance. Also included are materials dating from 1992 documenting the work of PODER and the Campaign for Responsible Technology in pressing electronics manufacturer Sematech to be more sustainable, examine environmental racism, and fund environmental research.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Brigid Shea Papers (AR.2001.011). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2002/040
Donation Date: 2001 September 21
Initial processing by Brandon Burke, Susan Rice, Kelley Whitley, and Eric Lupfer in December 2001. City Council records were separated from this collection in 2019 to create Austin (Tex.). City Council. Brigid Shea Records (AR.2019.029). Final processing and finding aid by Kelly Hanus in September 2019.
Other Finding Aid
The original finding aid to the collection also contains the inventory for Shea's City Council materials which were separated to form Austin (Tex.). City Council. Brigid Shea Records (AR.2019.029). See the original finding aid here.