Posted on February 20, 2018 by Jana Schwartz

Meet Jessica Beemer '08, '13. This Houston native jumped into action to help her community recover from Hurricane Harvey.

Photo of Jessica Beemer

With a bachelor's in political science, a master's in public administration and solid professional experience in the public sector, Beemer landed a job working with Houston City Council Member Dave Martin of District E as his North Sector Manager. In that role, she assisted with city processes and constituent services in the Lake Houston/Kingwood area.

While working for the City, the UTSA alumna developed an emergency response manual, a task that took her about a month. It included information for the Houston Office of Emergency Management, city leaders, constables, school district contacts and leaders from neighboring jurisdictions in the event she needed to make quick contact with others during an emergency.

In January 2017, Beemer became the chief of staff for Councilman Martin, serving the entire council district, comprised of Lake Houston, Kingwood, Southeast Houston and Clearlake, Texas.

Seven months later, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston, dumping more than two feet of rain over Harris County and registering seven-day readings of more than 40 inches. Beemer knew as chief of staff that she needed to get to work.

With others at the City, Beemer began to monitor river levels during the storm to assess the emergency. She also dusted off the emergency manual she had developed a year earlier to call upon partners that could help her provide emergency relief efforts to the Kingwood and Clear Lake communities. More than 17,500 homes were devastated by the storm.

"I've never prayed for rain to stop so hard in my life," Beemer remembers while relocating to the second floor of her Kingwood home. “All I was thinking about were the senior citizens on breathing machines who couldn't get out and people that I knew in flooded neighborhoods who had health issues. We knew we were running against the clock to coordinate rescue operations, and we did the best we could in a critical situation.”

Following the storm, the UTSA alumna remained in her district. She organized rescue operations, set up emergency shelters and distributed food and supplies to victims, independent of the Red Cross.

Once Hurricane Harvey passed, Beemer took it upon herself to print community maps and survey District E to assess the storm damage and support the clean-up efforts. She jumped into action and created a platform for volunteers to help clean up debris in the storm-ravaged community.

With surrounding roads impassable, members of the community began showing up in boats to provide evacuation support to Houston residents. Beemer helped direct them to areas of the greatest need, where they remained for several days.

To gather as many helping hands as possible, Jessica also turned to her alma mater for help.

“Being as embedded in San Antonio as I was when I was an undergraduate, interning in the commissioner's court and going through grad school, you become part of the city and people remember you.”

Indeed, San Antonians responded. San Antonio's Solid Waste Management crew, for example, assisted in cleaning up over 100,000 tons of debris.

“I worked very closely with San Antonio Solid Waste Director David McCary for a little over a month helping familiarize his crews with the area,” Beemer said.

San Antonio crews picked up more than 100,000 tons of debris.

Private citizens also donated time, supplies and money to help Houston's relief efforts.

Ultimately, Councilman Martin presented a City of Houston Proclamation to honor the City of San Antonio, sharing that the recognition in large part represented the effort and commitment Beemer displayed through her selfless acts and leadership.

Ingrid Wright

— Jana Schwartz