Turner names czar to lead recovery efforts
Ex-Shell head will ‘push us forward’; Bush to oversee housing relief
Former Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Houston native, will lead the city’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner says.
Former Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Houston native, will lead the city’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Thursday.
Turner said he wants Odum to push local leaders out of their comfort zones, not only coordinating with public officials and leaders from the business and nonprofit sectors but also highlighting what steps the city must take before the next storm strikes.
“I’m not looking for a report. We have a whole lot of reports,” Turner said. “What I’m asking Marvin to do is to push us forward, to be a part of the rebuilding process, to push us to do more at all levels, to push us to make this city more resilient.”
Meanwhile, in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush to head the state’s housing recovering from Harvey.
Among Bush’s duties, Abbott said, will be the distribution of $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant money to fund local infrastructure repairs, along with a “direct repair” program that will allow payments to homeowners to undertake their own repairs without the usual red tape.
“The goal is to quickly address local needs in each area,” Abbott said, adding Bush will work with state recovery czar John Sharp
and local officials to determine the funding needs in all of the Harvey-damaged areas.
Abbott said the initial funding was included in a congressional appropriation approved last week that state officials have characterized as a “down payment” on what eventually could be more than $150 billion in federal recovery assistance.
As of Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated nearly 80,000 homes in Texas experienced at least 18 inches of flooding; of those, more than 23,000 received 5 feet of flooding.
Abbott said details of the expedited home-repair initiative will be announced next week.
He and FEMA regional administrator Tony Robinson said the goal is to speed up recovery payments to homeowners so they can get their residences repaired faster than in the past.
This will be the first time such a program has been used, Abbott said, adding that it will be aimed at short- and long-term housing needs for Harvey victims.
Here in Houston, Odum, who led the rebuilding of Shell’s Gulf facilities after Hurricane Katrina and has worked with governments around the world, said citizens should expect him to learn from past storm recoveries, coordinate effectively with myriad partners and know that “speed counts.”
“This is an urgent situation for a lot of people. Those immediate needs won’t be forgotten,” Odum said.
Odum, 58, grew up in west Houston and graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Houston. He stepped down as chairman and president of Shell a little more than a year ago.
“What I’m asking Marvin to do,” Turner said, “is to help us get out of our comfort zone and put those things out there that we know can make a difference and then help to drive the public and the private sector to get it done.”
To that, Odum patted the mayor on the shoulder and said, “I got a free card to make the mayor really uncomfortable, so what more can I ask for?”
Turner noted that Congress will take up a second tranche of recovery funding in the coming months, and that the city should do everything it can to secure funding for large-scale projects that would lessen the impact of the next storm.
“We’ve got the focus of the nation. We have the focus of all our officials at the state and other levels,” Odum said. “Now is the time to identify what needs to be done on a longer-term basis and get those movements locked in rather than addressing that on the back end of this process.”