By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
With the symbolism and public posturing of the inaugural activities concluded, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering for high-visibility posts in the new administration is on in earnest. Here's The Insider's guide to the New World Brown Order, based on interviews with associates of Lanier and the new mayor and transition team tipsters.
Lanier agenda director Dan Jones just might stay on, Dave Walden allows, because "he's like a roach. He'd survive nuclear war." Jones, who has served under mayors Jim McConn, Whitmire and Lanier, seemed glued to Brown's elbow during the ceremonial City Council meeting following the inaugural.
Top candidates for chief of staff positions under Brown are Al Calloway, a former councilman and Lanier aide, and Larry Payne, a Council agenda director under Whitmire and onetime aide to George Greanias who now directs the Institute for Urban Education. William Paul Thomas, currently Rodney Ellis's Houston office director, may join the mayor's staff as liaison to the African-American community.
The top spot at what is perhaps the most important city department, Public Works and Engineering, should be up for grabs with the expected resignation of director Jimmie Schindewolf. Schindewolf has insisted he keep the expanded role he enjoyed under Lanier as the city's infrastructure czar -- a prerogative unlikely to be accepted by the new mayor. No clear successor is apparent, though deputy public works directors Richard Scott or Tom Roland could step in as caretakers until a permanent director is selected.
With city attorney Gene Locke bound for the downtown firm of Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton in several months, the door is open for Brown to appoint an up-and-coming associate from one of the big downtown firms. The position has historically been a stepping stone for young lawyers to build connections at City Hall before returning to their firms. Since a woman has never held the position, Brown could choose from a wide array of female potential candidates. "He'd be smart to name a Republican woman," says a transition team member who figures Democrat Brown would do well to build some bridges in that direction.
The most certain holdover from the Lanier administration is Police Chief C.O. Bradford. "As solid a lock as anybody," says one insider. Bradford had Brown's enthusiastic support when Lanier appointed him last year. In a sense, Brown may regard Bradford as his first appointment.
Brown also wants to maintain his close relationship with Garcia, and has told associates he'd like a Finance and Administration Department director the new controller can work with. That apparently won't be the current director, Richard Lewis. Brown has been chatting with former Whitmire finance chief Al Haines, now an executive at American General. Haines is a career city manager who went into the private sector to make more money.
For his communications director, Brown is considering at least four candidates. They include Maryann Young, the spokeswoman for former city controller Greanias, Geri Konigsberg, a former HISD and HL&P flack who currently works for the Harris County Psychiatric Hospital, and longtime Houston media veteran Sue Davis, currently program director at 97.1/KTLK-FM talk radio. Don Payne, the former Solid Waste Management Department spokesman who handled the media chores for Brown's campaign and inaugural, is the fourth possibility. Whitmire administration mouthpiece Mabry has been mentioned as a possible communications director -- if the position is broadened to include supervision of the Municipal Access channels.
Fire Chief Eddie Corral is considered one of the sure departees, perhaps returning to his old position of fire marshal. Corral has been hit by waves of bad publicity over the questionable activities of fire inspectors and incidents where defective pumpers were sent to fire scenes. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Houston Black Firefighters Association, two groups that have not gotten along in the past, are reportedly united in pushing outspoken union chief Lester Tyra for the top job.
Another possibility, if a Hispanic appointee is needed, is Fire Marshal Hilario "Lalo" Torres. Then there's Rick Mumey, an assistant fire chief, whose name has also popped up in transition discussions.
The Aviation Department is currently headed by an acting director, Rick Vacar, who was brought in from Orlando to be groomed to succeed retiring director Paul Gaines. Vacar has gotten uniformly high marks from Lanier aides for his interim stint and is given a good chance to stay on as permanent director.
Parks and Recreation Department director Bill Smith is widely regarded as DOA in the Brown administration. "A frog in formaldehyde in a third-grade class would have more life to him," one City Hall veteran says of Smith. Deputy parks director Susan Christian is maneuvering for the job, but a Brown insider predicts the mayor will institute a nationwide search for a director while naming an acting executive, possibly parks deputy director Mike Gaskin.
Brown also must appoint a new chief municipal court judge to replace Sylvia Garcia. Assistant city attorney and onetime district judge Berta Mejia and Municipal Court Judges Fad Wilson and Hector Hernandez are the names being bandied about for the post.
And then there are the chairmanships of the Council committees to be considered, a matter of intense interest to City Hall lobbyists trying to ensure that their clients' contracts are recommended to Council. One of the most important of the committees, finance and administration, is without a head since Helen Huey left Council.