In Through the Out Door

A new law hastens a Brown official's departure

"If she left to go to work for KPMG, I'm going to think twice about what KPMG--" Tollett stopped in mid- sentence, then concluded, "If you don't work for the city, you sure don't have any influence in getting anything through. They mean nothing to me."

HISD's Golden Dentures Winner

The much-sought-after position as Houston Independent School District mouthpiece and political spinner has gone to a 29-year-old African-American Austinite with Republican political ties and past journalistic experience. Heather Brown reported for work last week after beating out a gaggle of Houston news and public relations veterans for the $100,000 post.

Brown's pedigree is similar to that of Terry Abbott, Rod Paige's $120,000 former mouthpiece who accompanied the former superintendent to his new post as secretary of education for George W. Bush. Abbott worked as a wire service reporter before becoming a spokesman for a GOP governor of Alabama, who later was convicted of stealing inaugural funds. Brown worked in Bush's final gubernatorial campaign and then took a deputy press secretary job with Attorney General John Cornyn, also a Republican.

Brown has covered the legislature for an Austin AM radio station and has been a TV producer. She's also a UT journalism grad. That puts her a notch ahead of Abbott, whose lack of a college degree was especially glaring since he made nearly twice the salary of the highest-paid HISD teachers.

Brown, the daughter of a curriculum specialist for the Austin school district, cites her knowledge of educational issues as one of her qualifications for the HISD job. Education aside, Brown's selection indicates that a Republican political background is apparently the make-or-break requirement for district spokesman these days.

Payback Time

Among the audience at last week's mayoral campaign kickoff for Orlando Sanchez was City Council colleague Gabriel Vasquez. That drew puzzlement from several City Hall insiders, who note that Vasquez generally has voted with Mayor Lee Brown against the Republican bloc on council that usually includes Sanchez. Did Vasquez's presence indicate support for Sanchez in the developing three-way contest that includes Councilman Chris Bell?

Nope, says Vasquez. He claims he was simply returning a courtesy extended when he was involved in a bitter run for City Council and the Democratic Hispanic establishment lined up against him.

"Orlando made some very statesmanlike comments about the [council] race that were pivotal in explaining to the Hispanic community what it was all about," explains Vasquez. He indicates he now considers the debt repaid and has no plans to back Sanchez's mayoral bid.

Sanchez may get more sustained backing from a good pal he squired to a River Oaks garden party hosted by Rich and Nancy Kinder the weekend after the announcement.

Attendees report that Sanchez, divorced with a young daughter, spent the evening in a tête-à-tête with 65-year-old Margaret Alkek Williams, a millionaire divorcée famous on the party circuit for low necklines and ostentatious displays of jewelry. She's also noted for favoring worthy causes with her largesse.

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