'While You Were Sleeping': Downtown San Antonio's sparkle comes from crews working all night

Centro San Antonio is agency in charge of keeping city's center clean

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter, Tim Stewart - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - You may not have noticed them but you definitely have seen their work.

Every meticulously scrubbed sidewalk, well-manicured potted plant and sparkling bus bench in the center of downtown San Antonio got their shine through the work of employees with an agency called Centro San Antonio.

They work while most of the city is sleeping, spending all night washing and wiping down the messes that other people leave behind.

Whether it’s after a Fiesta event or just another night on the town, employees make it their mission to make dirt disappear.

“We always say,  'We make it look like the party never happened," said Calen Emmons, a team leader for the street power washing crew. “We try to make it as clean as possible for everyone during the daytime so they can enjoy their time downtown.”

Emmons and his team work the graveyard shift, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

In all, though, Centro San Antonio has more than 100 people working three different shifts, doing various jobs.

The nonprofit agency is under contract with the city to keep its central area shining.

“A lot of people are unaware of how much trash can accumulate after one day,” said Gregory Valadez, another employee.

Under his direction, a different team focuses on emptying trash containers, picking up litter and cleaning off benches at VIA bus stops.

Yet another crew, meanwhile, waters and cares for all of the hanging and potted plants in the area.

Valadez says he enjoys helping to get the day downtown off to a good-looking start.

“The way I like to look at it is that I'm getting my city prepared for the day to come,” Valadez said. “One of the greatest things about this job is we're giving back to the community and we actually get paid for it.”

While it may be a dirty job, both Valadez and Emmons say they’re glad they get a chance to do it.

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