Much of our state’s rapid growth is coming from those, myself included, who were born elsewhere and got here as soon as we could. But another key source of vitality is boomerangs: those with deep roots in Texas who sought adventure elsewhere for a time and then got back as soon as they could. Sandi Villarreal, our new deputy editor for digital journalism, falls happily into the second category. She’s a fourth-generation Texan whose grandfather long owned the famed Sanitary Tortilla Company, in San Antonio, while her uncle runs two other popular local businesses: Joey’s, a sports bar on St. Mary’s Street, and Blue Star Brewing Company.

Born and reared in the Alamo City, Sandi is the third of six siblings. She earned her undergraduate degree at Baylor University, where she studied journalism and politics, with a focus on church-state relations. After a brief stint as a newspaper reporter in St. Louis, she picked up a master’s degree from the acclaimed Medill School of Journalism, at Northwestern University. Sandi joined Texas Monthly in April from Sojourners, a magazine based in Washington, D.C., that covers issues at the intersection of faith, culture, and politics. During a decade there, she transformed the magazine’s website into a popular, award-winning news outlet packed with daily reporting, investigative journalism, video explainers, and short documentaries. She also led a digital redesign that helped triple the site’s traffic within two years. We’re eager to see Sandi bring that kind of innovation to our fast-growing website.

Along with her husband, who is a Lutheran minister, and their three children, Sandi moved back to San Antonio a few months ago and says that “I’m getting reacquainted with my hometown.” She adds that she had a head start as a longtime subscriber to Texas Monthly. “The print magazine has been on my parents’ coffee table since I was a kid, and as I moved around the country in adulthood, the magazine—and its Instagram feed—kept me feeling close to home.” In her off hours, Sandi attends a boatload of kids’ activities, helps her dad at his craft winery, Whisper Path Cellars, and hikes with her family at state parks. 

While she will make frequent visits to our headquarters, in Austin, Sandi will continue to reside in San Antonio and joins a growing contingent of staffers and freelancers who live there, have lived there, or have family there. Now that Sandi’s on board, we may have to start hosting chapter meetings at Joey’s, preferably on nights when the Spurs are playing.

José R. Ralat joined Texas Monthly in 2019 as our first taco editor—and the first at any magazine. He has since attracted an enthusiastic following, and in late April the James Beard Foundation chose him as a nominee for two of its coveted food-writing awards. José was recognized for his digital Tex-Mexplainer series and for his mouth-watering cover feature “The Ultimate Texas Tacopedia.”

Just one week earlier, our art department, helmed by creative director Emily Kimbro, was named a finalist for five medals by the Society of Publication Designers, including its highest honor, Brand of the Year, for the second year running. Our art team was also named a finalist in two categories for the American Society of Magazine Editors Awards for Photography and Illustration. And in ASME’s National Magazine Awards, senior editor Christian Wallace was a finalist for “The Resurrection of Bass Reeves,” a profile of the legendary Black frontier lawman.

While we’re pleased when peers at other top national publications applaud our work, the recognition and criticism we value most comes from our readers, listeners, and viewers. Please let us know what you like and dislike, and what stories we’re missing.

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Boomerangs and Beards.” Subscribe today.



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