Pair to lead Tx­DOT re­vamp

Team tasked with open­ing state agency to change

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By Ben Wear

The re­con­struc­tion of the Texas Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion took on two ex­pe­ri­enced ar­chi­tects Fri­day.

Jay Kim­brough, a for­mer chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry, will be paid al­most $360,000 in salary and ben­e­fits over the next 14 months to run the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of a small team be­ing as­sem­bled.

Howard Wolf, who re­tired from the Ful­bright & Ja­worski law firm in 2003 af­ter 44 years and is act­ing chair­man and gen­eral coun­sel of Fal­con Seaboard Co., a cor­po­ra­tion owned by Lt. Gov. David De­whurst, will as­sume more of a chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer role, of­fi­cials said.

Wolf is serv­ing as a vol­un­teer and will not be paid a salary.

Their task: Take the vo­lu­mi­nous anal­y­sis and rec­om­men­da­tions of a re­cent, 627-page man­age­ment re­view of Tx­DOT, as well as ear­lier cri­tiques by the Texas Sun­set Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion and var­i­ous au­di­tors, and make gen­uine change at the agency in charge of Texas high­ways, air­ports, ru­ral tran­sit and fer­ries.

Given the $2 mil­lion cost of that man- will be paid al­most $360,000.

age­ment re­view re­leased in late May, Kim­brough’s com­pen­sa­tion and what will be paid to other team mem­bers, man­ag­ing an over­haul of Tx­DOT could cost some­thing close to $3 mil­lion. Bill Mead­ows, who serves on the five-mem­ber Texas Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion, which brought on Kim­brough and Wolf, said it would be money well-spent. Mead­ows said al­though the agency’s district of­fices do yeo­manly work build­ing and main­tain­ing trans­porta­tion fa­cil­i­ties, he has been less sat­is­fied with what’s go­ing on at the top.

“My frus­tra­tions have re­ally been more man­age­ment, vi­sion, di­rec­tion,” Mead­ows said. With money dry­ing up for Tx­DOT, Mead­ows said, “we bet­ter be cre­ative, we bet­ter be in­no­va­tive, we bet­ter be open. My ex­pe­ri­ence is that we are not al­ways there.”

Kim­brough, 62, has spe­cial­ized over the past 15 years in parachut­ing into trou­bled Texas govern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies and, through an ag­gres­sive man­age­ment style ap­pro­pri­ate to his early adult­hood as a Ma­rine, mak­ing things change. Aside from his most high pro­file jobs, serv­ing as con­ser­va­tor briefly of the Texas Youth Com­mis­sion in 2007 and as Perry’s chief of staff in 2008 and 2009, Kim­brough also in­ter­vened at the Texas Com­mis­sion on Al­co­hol and Drug Abuse, the Texas Com­mis­sion on Pri­vate Se­cu­rity and, most re­cently, the biode­fense pro­gram at Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity. Un­til this hir­ing Fri­day by Tx­DOT, he was a spe­cial ad­viser to the A&M board of re­gents.

Kim­brough has “a great track record,” said state Rep. Joe Pick­ett, D-El Paso, chair­man of the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee. “I know the guy. He’s not go­ing to take any (guff) from any­one, in­clud­ing me.”

Aside from his long and var­ied ser­vice as a part­ner with Ful­bright & Ja­worski, Wolf, 75, has served on a num­ber of cor­po­rate boards over the years, of­ten as chair­man. He has been in pri­vate law prac­tice in Austin since 2004. He served two terms on the Sun­set Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion, start­ing in 2003, as a De­whurst ap­pointee.

The mas­sive re­view of Tx­DOT by Grant Thorn­ton, one of the six largest ac­count­ing firms in the world, cited Tx­DOT’s in­su­lar cul­ture of en­gi­neers — over­whelm­ingly with de­grees from the Uni­ver­sity of Texas and Texas A&M — as “a tremen­dous strength, but also can act as a tremen­dous in­hibitor to in­ter­nal change and to the abil­ity to un­der­stand, ac­cept and re­spond to an evolv­ing ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment.”

Jay Kim­brough

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