An Asset to the Community

Nelvin Adriatico vows to advocate for marginalized people if elected to the City Council in District J seat.

Nelvin Joseph Adriatico

At first glance, Nelvin Joseph Adriatico, 45, has quite a varied biography: CEO and broker of Core Realty, devoted husband to Avinash Thadhani, father of University of Houston poli/sci sophomore A.J., and executive producer and talk show host of Chit Chat Houston on KUBE57.

But on a closer look, these threads are
all connected.

“I’m a community advocate,” Adriatico says passionately. The Sharpstown-area resident is involved in numerous nonprofits and professional organizations, including chairman of La Rosa Multicultural Family Services, chairman of the Filipino American Caucus for Empowerment (FACE), board member of the HISD Asian Advisory Council, president of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association (APAHA) and the Houston Royal Oaks Lions Club Foundation (HROLCF), and president-elect of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA).

“I really love my community, and want all of the residents to succeed,” he says. “That’s why I do what I do. And yes, I’ve been asked to run for public office before, and I said no. But with what’s happening now with immigrants, I thought it was time to step up. I want to be the voice, to speak up for them.”

Adriatico, who was born in the Philippines, is running for Houston’s District J City Council seat. District J was drawn in 2011 as a Hispanic opportunity district. The area is
61 percent Hispanic, with a large black and Asian population as well. 

The term-limited Mike Laster was the first (and so far the only) representative of the new district. He is neither an immigrant nor Hispanic, but he is the first openly gay man to serve on Houston City Council. So being openly gay should not be a problem for Adriatico.

 “I put it out there,” he says. “There hasn’t been a problem yet, but I know it will come. I’m ready. It just so happens I’m a gay Asian, but that isn’t all that I am.”

“I really love my community, and want all of the residents to succeed. That’s why I do what I do.”

—Nelvin Adriatico

Adriatico, who attended the Victory Institute’s Candidate & Campaign Training here last spring, says that District J is home to so many immigrants that its 180,000 residents speak around 80 languages.“My slogan is the acronym RISE,” Adriatico says. “It stands for redevelopment, integration, safety, and education. What we need to do is reshape the economic and social landscape of our neighborhoods, integrate our diverse backgrounds to fight hate and discrimination, improve the safety of our neighborhoods, and educate future generations on behavior, character, and habits outside of regular school hours.”

He talks about improving the public infrastructure and putting more police on the streets, as well as fire safety. Due to the high number of apartment complexes in the area, mostly inhabited by immigrants and minimum-wage workers, apartment fires frequently crop up in the local headlines.

“So many times, I have been to these apartments after a fire to see what help the residents need, and they had no fire extinguishers,” Adriatico says. The Houston Fire Code requires a small fire extinguisher in every non-sprinklered apartment unit in the city, but a lot of renters and even apartment-building owners don’t know that.

“These people need a voice, they need someone to advocate for them,” he says. “If you keep silent, nothing is going to change.”

Besides his passion for his community, Adriatico is also ardent about sports, cooking Filipino food, singing (his campaign held a karaoke fundraiser), and animals. The couple has a rescue dog named Bella.

“My husband found her on the streets,” he says. “She had been hit by a car. He’s an even bigger animal lover than I am—he won’t even kill a mosquito! So, he brought her home and my son said, ‘Let’s keep her’—and we did.”

Adriatico believes that with the right leadership, the district can become a destination spot for the entire city due to its diverse culture and food.

“There is such a vibrant mix of people here,” he says. “Mostly because of the immigrant population. I came to this country with 20 dollars in my pocket. Immigrants are not a liability—we want to pay rent, we want to work, and we want to give back to this country. We are assets to our communities.”

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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