Back in the Saddle

A former mayoral staffer resurfaces at the county

Barely two months after he abruptly resigned as Mayor Lee Brown's chief of staff, former city parks director Oliver B. Spellman has returned to the public arena with a new job in local government. Spellman is one of three top lieutenants hired by incoming Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.

The commissioner describes Spellman as "one of the best I could find to accomplish all I need to do for Precinct 2."

Spellman, widely considered Brown's best department head during his four-year tenure at parks before moving to chief of staff, does not deny that the reason he resigned his city post was that he flunked a drug test (see "Oliver's Story," November 7). But he says alcohol abuse was the motivating factor for his seeking help and that he has successfully completed an extensive rehabilitation program at Memorial Hermann Hospital and is attending weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny that," says Spellman of the drug test issue, citing "circumstances I prefer not to get into." But he claims his serious problem involved alcohol.

"You can be 49 years old and all of a sudden realize you have gotten yourself caught into a routine that maybe other people can handle, but for me it had a progressive effect," he says. "I was drinking daily, and for a long time I never realized how much because it was never during work…My alcoholism was the start and end point for my daily activities.

"Did I make some poor choices? Probably. Do I believe that I have addressed the issue and voluntarily did that on my own? The answer is yes."

Spellman says he now feels better than he has in years. "I don't expect any overwhelming compassion and forgiveness from anyone. I'm here to face whatever consequences I have to face."

Commissioner Garcia says she and Spellman have discussed his problems and she is satisfied he is dealing with them.

"He had a personal challenge and one he has faced up to and worked through," explains Garcia. "That's good enough for me."

Garcia has named Spellman her operations director. Two other former deputies who served under Garcia when she was city controller, Sharon Adams and Roel Garcia, are also part of her new county management team.

Spellman will use his parks expertise to help improve county facilities, as well as work on the agenda and the budget process for Precinct 2.

The transition from city to county comes at a steep price to Spellman's pocketbook. He goes from a $126,000 yearly salary in the mayor's office to $79,000 in Precinct 2, a pay cut of nearly 50 grand.

The bureaucrat is not complaining.

"If that is the most significant consequence I have to deal with, that is not a big issue," he comments. "My relationship with my kids and my family and people I care about is much more important to me."

No Good GOP Deed Goes Unpunished

In case you missed the brief announcement in the midst of the holiday hubbub, First Court of Appeals judge Sherry Radack is the winner of the contest for a gubernatorial appointment to the panel's chief justice position over fellow jurist Adele Hedges (see "Walk Softly and Carry a Big Husband," December 26).

Apparently Governor Rick Perry's folks shied away from Hedges because of her previous pitching for the position during an Austin visit where her husband, Dan, endorsed Perry over Democrat Tony Sanchez. Sanchez then ran attack ads claiming that the former U.S. attorney had made the endorsement in hopes of getting his wife the appointment, and the charges drew statewide media coverage. The couple denied any linkage.

"Now both of them are really steamed," one source chuckles about the governor's Hedges-hopping exercise. "Dan goes out of his way to endorse the guy, who then turns around and screws his wife."

The moral of this story: Think twice before endorsing a Rick.

 
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