Texas Monthly Talks

Houston Mayor
Bill White

Bill White


Notes from Evan Smith

"The first thing you notice is that he doesn’t have any Elvis in him, as Molly Ivins might have said—not even a smidgen. Bald, modest, wonkish, with a deliberate way of speaking that verges on eye-gougingly boring, Bill White might have done better in a job that doesn’t require so much interaction with people. Then again, there’s a kind of charismatic anti-charisma to the 53-year-old mayor of Houston that feels reassuring and refreshing at a time when so much of politics in public life is built on a foundation of fluff. And he is, not incidentally and without question, an enormously capable, competent, community-minded public servant ... which is why, inevitably, at a time when his Democratic party is itching for a comeback in Texas, everyone says he should and assumes he will run for governor, maybe even as soon as 2010. The subject of all the Great White Hope talk demurs — imagine that — but the fact is, the San Antonio native and Harvard and UT Law grad better get used to that kind of chatter. Now that he’s been reelected to a third and final term as mayor, there’s nothing between him and daylight, and, as we know, political insiders abhor a vaccuum. White’s enviable resume only adds to the speculation: After fourteen years as a plaintiff’s lawyer and, eventually, partner at a top Houston firm, he served as Deputy Secretary of Energy in the Clinton administration, then returned home to Texas to get in the oil business and take over the chairmanship of the state Democratic party. For seven years after that, he was CEO of an energy, real estate, and construction company, and then, in 2004, ran to lead one of the nation’s largest and most ethnically diverse cities — the certain underdog in a race that pit him against a popular Hispanic Republican and a longtime African American state legislator. He confounded expectations back then by winning, just as he could confound them again in a bid for higher office." - Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 1.10.08