out­spo­ken Wolf again gets the call to help out state

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - JA­Son EM­BRY

Lt. Gov. David De­whurst says he joked re­cently with Texas Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion Chair­woman Deirdre Delisi that she should re­cruit re­tired Gen­eral Elec­tric hon­cho Jack Welch to re­struc­ture the Texas Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

Then he tossed out a name that’s more fa­mil­iar to state govern­ment, and cer­tainly fa­mil­iar to De­whurst: Austin lawyer Howard Wolf. Delisi and her fel­low com­mis­sion­ers later agreed, and ear­lier this month they tapped Wolf as one of two ini­tial mem­bers of a team tasked with re­struc­tur­ing Tx­DOT.

Much of the at­ten­tion on the Tx­DOT shake-up has fo­cused on the other mem­ber of that team, Jay Kim­brough, who is Gov. Rick Perry’s for­mer chief of staff and fre­quent fix-it guy for strug­gling agen­cies. But don’t over­look Wolf. Wolf has done this sort of thing be­fore. In the 1970s, he left Ful­bright and Ja­worski for a year to turn around Texas Air Corp., which later be­came Con­ti­nen­tal Air­lines.

In nearly 12 years as a statewide of­fice­holder, De­whurst has re­peat­edly turned to Wolf when he needed an im­por­tant job filled. He’s one of those folks around the

Capi­tol — some­times lob­by­ists and some­times, like Wolf, not lob­by­ists — who have no spe­cific govern­ment or cam­paign jobs, but are known to be close to top of­fice­hold­ers.

Be­fore De­whurst ran for of­fice, he ran an en­ergy and in­vest­ment com­pany named Fal­con Seaboard, and Wolf, who re­tired from Ful­bright and Ja­worski in 2003, would some­times help him struc­ture deals. Af­ter De­whurst was elected land com­mis­sioner in 1998, he tapped Wolf to help him as­sess changes needed at the Gen­eral Land Of­fice.

As lieu­tenant gover­nor, De­whurst ap­pointed Wolf to the Sun­set Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion, a panel of law­mak­

House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man Joe Pick­ett, D-El Paso, said he hears … that Wolf isn’t afraid to dive deep into state is­sues.

ers and mem­bers of the pub­lic that pe­ri­od­i­cally re­views state agen­cies. He also nom­i­nated Wolf for a com­mis­sion that Gov. Rick Perry tasked with rec­om­mend­ing changes to the state tax struc­ture in 2006.

Wolf is also the act­ing chair­man of Fal­con Seaboard. De­whurst de­scribed Wolf’s as a nonex­ec­u­tive role, and he said Fal­con Seaboard’s in­ter­ests have been re­duced mostly to De­whurst’s ranch, some cat­tle, some land and a hand­ful of small in­vest­ments. Wolf is not in­volved with the blind trust that holds De­whurst’s in­vest­ments in stocks and bonds, De­whurst said.

“Howard Wolf is an ex­am­ple of the kind of men and women that we ought to be try­ing to talk into of­fer­ing them­selves for pub­lic ser­vice,” De­whurst said. He also noted sev­eral times that Wolf, who was out of town this week and un­avail­able for com­ment, won’t take a salary for his Tx­DOT role.

Wolf will as­sert his in­de­pen­dence. When the Sun­set Com­mis­sion re­viewed the Texas Al­co­holic Bev­er­age Com­mis­sion, Wolf wrote a po­si­tion paper crit­i­ciz­ing “a cor­rupt sys­tem that no longer serves the pub­lic in­ter­est” and that pro­tects the whole­sale dis­trib­u­tors of al­co­holic bev­er­ages in Texas. When the Dew hurst ­ap­pointed chair­man of the Sun­set Com­mis­sion, for­mer Sen. Kim Brimer, re­fused Wolf’s request that his com­ments be in­cluded in a com­mis­sion re­port, Wolf protested even louder.

“The sys­tem is so cor­rupt that it can­not tol­er­ate some­one say­ing that the em­peror has no clothes,” Wolf said then.

Now Wolf and Kim­brough will try to mod­ern­ize Tx­DOT’s en­gi­neer­heavy lead­er­ship struc­ture. House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man Joe Pick­ett, D­El Paso, said he hears from col­leagues that Wolf isn’t afraid to dive deep into state is­sues.

“That’s sure not a bad thing,” Pick­ett said.

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