January 5, 2024

The Honor of a Lifetime

As I prepare to pass the gavel Monday evening, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for having had the privilege of serving our wonderful community.  When I started on this journey 17 years ago, never could I have imagined where it would lead.  For a job I wasn’t looking for but somehow found me, my eight years as Mayor have been a positively transformative and meaningful time in my life.  I am forever thankful to you, the people of Bellaire, for allowing me this opportunity.

I’m humbly proud of all we have accomplished together.  Having first come on board, as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, just as we were getting underway with a new Comprehensive Plan, it has been particularly gratifying for me to have played a role in the physical redevelopment of the city, both public and private.  We’ve rebuilt our City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts buildings, realized the vision of Evelyn’s Park, and facilitated the reconstruction of our school campuses, reinvesting in and bringing our public spaces up to the same high standards we set for ourselves elsewhere.  Our revitalized commercial areas are thriving with exciting new restaurants and retail, and with sustained interest in further development to support and complement our residential quality of life.

Flood control has obviously been a top priority and we’ve made great strides in addressing it, with the engineering now completed for actionable large-scale improvements that will have the most significant impact in reducing our flood risk in extreme rainfall events.  Working with our regional partners, we’re well positioned to attract the outside funding it will take to implement these ambitious projects.  Locally, through the Rebuild Bellaire and Better Bellaire bond programs, we’ve put a dent in our long-term street, drainage, water and wastewater infrastructure needs, though we do still have a long way to go.  By strengthening our building and development regulations we’ve made the city more resilient and increased our protection against future storms.

All the things that make Bellaire the ideal place to live, work, play and raise a family have remained at the forefront.  From our first-rate Police and Fire departments to our award-winning Library and Parks and Recreation programming to everything in between, we’ve maintained and even enhanced the high-quality services and amenities our residents enjoy, while also keeping the tax rate in check.  Through strategic planning we’ve built upon our past successes and laid the groundwork for continued progress.

And we’ve done all that despite being dealt our share of challenges:  Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19, substantial organizational change and uncertainty (due in part to the Great Resignation and its outsized effect on local governments, among other factors), the freak Winter Storm Uri.  For my part I did my best to lead with a steady hand through these difficult times, but it says far more about our collective strength as a community that in each instance we’ve emerged even better on the other side.  Still, it’s not only about what happens to us, but also what we do to ourselves—in this age of intense polarization we’ve emphasized civility, restored stability and come together as #OneBellaire.

City staff have been there with us every step of the way, and Bellaire wouldn’t be the special place it is without their immeasurable contributions.  Day in and day out they’ve shown this is more than just a job; for them it’s a calling.  They bring to work a public service mindset and a contagious passion that brings out the best in all of us.  My sincere thanks, personally and on behalf of our community, to all the staff I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside.

So too must I acknowledge and publicly express my deepest appreciation for my family, whose considerable sacrifices have enabled me to do what I do.  It’s not just the late meetings, but also the nights and weekends spent trying to keep too many balls in the air.  My first child having been born six days after I was sworn in on Council, he and his sister have never known their dad not to have two jobs.  It’s been a lot to ask, but they’ve also been my inspiration.  Not only to leave for them a better city they will one day inherit, but also by my own example to help instill in them the value of service and a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.  My wife has cheerfully shouldered all the extra burden because she believes in that as much as I do, and in me.

I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes, attributed to Abraham Lincoln:  “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”  Hopefully I’ve achieved that in my time in office.  As Mayor I’ve done my faithful best to fulfill the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me.  I’ve given it my all, and then some, but from this experience I’ve gained so much more in return.  I thank you for that, and for blessing me with the honor of a lifetime.