outspoken Wolf again gets the call to help out state
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.