Elected officials from the 13 counties that comprise the Houston-Galveston Area Council gathered on Friday for the general assembly of the organization and the installation of new officers for 2011.
Outgoing Chair Kerry Neves, a member of Dickinson City Council, welcomed the delegates and special guests including Shaun P. Davis, executive director of the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission and Walter Diggles, executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
Neves called on H-GAC Executive Director Jack Steele to review the past year and the mission of the organization.
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“What we really do is to help local governments and citizens in this region prepare for prosperity, prepare for progress,” Steele said. “And that’s what we did this year. We helped our region prepare for progress in many ways; and that work will continue in 2011.”
Steele said transportation is key to the future.
“So this last year we updated our basic regional long range transportation plan that sets the far horizon vision,” Steele said. “At the same time, since Houston is in the process of becoming an even more important logistics center than we are now - and that will continue as the Panama Canal project is completed and we become a major cargo center – we focused on the goods movement industry and put together enhanced plans for goods movement.”
Neves said that he ended his year impressed with the work of the H-GAC.
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“It has been a really excellent year; I have really enjoyed serving as chair,” Neves said. “It has been a real joy to work with everyone. I find H-GAC to be just an excellent – excellent – organization. It so well represents this 13-county region.”
Manvel Mayor Deloris Martin presented a gavel to Kneves and recognized the 2011 board of directors, then former Montgomery County Judge Mickey Dieson, a past chair of the H-GAC, administered oaths of office to Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal, who will serve as chair for the next year; Mayor Martin, who will serve as chair-elect; and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett who will serve as vice chair.
Doyal said he is looking forward to his year. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“Councilman Kneves, you’ve set the bar high, I will do my very best to follow your lead,” Doyal said, acknowledging financial challenges facing the region in the legislature and elsewhere. “But I think as a group, if we continue to work through those challenges we will come out at the end of this year farther ahead than where we are today.”
Doyal introduced Congressman Kevin Brady, the featured speaker. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“I appreciate the forward thinking vision of H-GAC,” Brady said. “You guys can’t afford to stand around. You have to be looking ahead, solving those problems before they get to you. That’s your day every day.”
Brady said there have been changes in Washington since last November's election.
“We have a new House of Representatives, a conservative House of Representatives, who believes as I do that our top priorities have to be getting this economy back on track and tackling the dangerous deficits our country is facing today.” Brady said, noting that the recovery has been "painful".
He urged the elected officials in the audience to prioritize their requests for federal funding.
“Take the dollars you are receiving today at H-GAC and your council and your commissioners court and your organization; start identifying what those priorities are,” Brady said. “Sit down with us and tell us what those priorities are, what programs really work. Because, I guarantee you, if you don’t do it others are going to prioritize it for you.”