Gov. Perry picks Eckels, Newby to lead Hurricane Ike recovery and coordination effort

Brian Newby

Brian Newby

Robert Eckels

Robert Eckels

Governor Perry has designated a former Harris County Judge and the Governor’s current chief of staff to “co-lead an effort involving residents, business leaders, and local and federal officials focused on ensuring Texas communities devastated by Hurricane Ike get the resources necessary to rebuild.”

This move probably reflects the governor’s appreciation for the magnitude of the recovery effort and the slow initial FEMA response that has drawn severe criticism for local elected officials.  The governor’s performance in the rebuilding effort will be scrutinized against those of Louisiana and Mississippi in rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.

One of the Governor’s new appointees is his current chief of staff, Brian Newby,  Newby was appointed chief of staff in June 2007. He previously served as Gov. Perry’s General Counsel, having been appointed to that position in November 2004.  According to the Governor’s office Newby was a partner at Cantey & Hanger, L.L.P., where he specialized in the areas of commercial litigation, regulatory, employment and business law. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Air National Guard. He serves as staff judge advocate for the 136th Airlift Wing, Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. He has served on the Texas Tech University Board of Regents from 1999 to 2004. He has also served on the board of directors of the Tarrant Regional Water District.

A long-time resident of Fort Worth, Newby is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He is a member of the Texas Bar Association where he served on the State Bar Mentor Committee, is past-president of the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Black Bar Association, and former director of the Tarrant County Bar Association and Tarrant County Bar Foundation. He was named Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Tarrant County Young Lawyers Association in 1987.

Here is the Governor’s press release on this…

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today announced that former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and Brian Newby will lead a Hurricane Ike Recovery and Coordination Effort. Newby will step down from his current role as the governor’s chief of staff to co-lead an effort involving residents, business leaders, and local and federal officials focused on ensuring Texas communities devastated by Hurricane Ike get the resources necessary to rebuild.

“There are a whole lot of moving parts involved in putting this area back together and it requires determined, focused leaders who can start immediately and guide the effort to a speedy conclusion,” Perry said. “Judge Eckels and Brian Newby have the right combination of experience, people skills and access to statewide leaders necessary to get the job done right and done quickly. I will miss having Brian as my chief of staff, but this job is that important to our state.”

While serving Harris County, Judge Eckels was instrumental in the area’s preparation and recovery related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, working side-by-side with the state to get area residents the assistance they needed.

“Ensuring that the state fully recovers from the devastation of the storm is of paramount importance,” Perry said. “That is why I asked the highest ranking person on my staff and the former highest ranking official in Harris County to undertake this assignment-I want people to know that, when they raise a concern with Judge Eckels or Brian, they have my ear, too.

Newby, Perry’s former top lawyer for more than two years and chief of staff since July 2007, will work with Eckels to assemble working groups of county judges, mayors, business leaders and experts to fully assess and document the damage from Hurricane Ike, and to work with the Texas congressional delegation in seeking Texas’ full share of federal aid.

The goal of this effort will be to gather input from all stakeholders in Southeast Texas, and make sure their voices are clearly heard in Washington with the ultimate goal of ensuring Texas is treated fairly when it comes to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

“Texas learned a lot of helpful lessons from Rita that have helped us prepare for subsequent storms like Ike,” concluded Perry. “Unfortunately, one of those lessons came when the federal government promised to fund Texas’ recovery from Rita at the same level as Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, but delivered substantially less,” Perry added.

Gov. Perry will announce a new chief of staff soon.