Kathy Whitmire was the first woman mayor and Lee P. Brown was the first black police chief of Houston (and any major US city). He later became Houston's first black mayor. Ann Richards had won as Texas State Treasurer and would become governor. My political science degree was focused on social policy and I saw such hope. And, my friend told me about a job opening at city council.
There was a caveat. While the position was working for one of the first two women in the Houston City Council, Christin Hartung was a Republican. We determined the benefits of having such a unique experience outweighed any policy differences. And, this was a time when decorum (for the most part) still existed.
I was hired by her overly protective and paranoid right-hand man, who told me that I was now a semi-public figure, and my words and actions in public should never reflect poorly on the council member and ... did I ever have subversive materials mailed to me???
Though I spent free time in the multi-culturally staffed office of George Greanias, whose district included the gay and arts centered-area of Montrose in which we lived, my focus was constituent services and with Houston's famous lack of zoning and complex of codes and plans, my days were spent problem solving. My disagreements with Christin were surprisingly few and mostly about how her wealthy constituents (in the “Silk Stocking District”, as it included the über-wealthy in River Oaks) took a disproportionate amount of her attention, but, she let me do what I could for folks with fewer resources.
It was thrilling in ways. I knew most of the city news before it was reported and was privy to member-to-member pre-council meeting negotiations.
And, Christin taught me some surprising things. That there was a feminist point to wearing high heels – it put me more in eye line with the men I needed to solve constituent issues and thus avoided, for the most part, the "don't worry yourself, little lady" brush offs. That you could abbreviate "thank you" as 10Q. And, when she gave me a makeover as a wedding present (I think she was a bit horrified that I only wore mascara and some powder), that, even if a River Oaks woman was just going out to play tennis, she needed to think in layers, lots of them . . . foundation, contour, eye and lip liner and so much more that I almost wrecked on the way home when I didn't know who was looking back at me in my rear view mirror.
The biggest thing I learned was that my skills were better suited to advocacy work and that I did not want to run for public office. Ever.
And now, looking back, that there can/or could be decency and human compassion across our divisiveness.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]