Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Visit from Bill White, Mayor of Houston

Last Friday Mayor Bill White of Houston stopped by to visit CityWalk. He spent about two hours with us, touring the building and then sitting down for a conversation about affordable housing and homelessness. Mayor White was most gracious.

[Picture to your right: Gerald Britt, CDM, Mayor White, Larry James, CDM, John Greenan and Johnice Woods, CDCDC]

I think it’s a not very well kept secret that Mayor White is considering running for the United States Senate if Senator Hutchinson, as expected, resigns to challenge Governor Perry in the Republican Primary. I assume that his visit was part of an effort to get out to other parts of the state to see what’s going on and what’s on people’s minds (I am sure that Mayor White wasn’t visiting with us to try to raise campaign donations!).

Having a chance to talk to Mayor White made an interesting contrast to the conversations that I’ve had with our own Mayor Leppert. Both men are intelligent and well-informed, but there are some obvious differences in their personalities. Mayor White seems very much a take charge sort of person—the kind of person that likes to get at it and get it done. Mayor Leppert seems more a consensus builder that prefers to listen to all sides and then try to reach a decision that everybody can support.

I have to wonder if that isn’t in part a reflection of the systems of government that they each work in. Houston has a strong mayor system where once Mayor White decides what he wants to do, then he can usually make it happen. For example, in the affordable housing area Mayor White meets once per month with city staff and once per month with a group of affordable housing developers and under his leadership the City of Houston has made a lot of progress in building affordable housing.

On the other hand, Mayor Leppert works in a council-manager form of government here in Dallas where, in essence, the mayor is only one of fifteen council people. The power the mayor has depends on his ability to persuade. The office has very few inherent powers.

It’s an interesting question to ponder. Were Mayor White and Mayor Leppert drawn to seek an office that fits their personality, or are their mannerisms shaped by the needs of the office? If Mayor White had to work under Dallas’s system of governance, then perhaps he would rely on consensus building, while if Mayor Leppert was working in a strong mayor system, making he would simply take charge and make things happen.

I don’t know the answer, but both men are extremely competent and the cities of Dallas and Houston are lucky to have such high quality executives at their helm.

1 comment:

  1. You most likely nailed it with the 'shape of the office' notion, seeing as each one was a corporate executive during a major expansion period for his company.