Tag Archives: Comptroller of Public Accounts

I'll miss Patterson most of all

I’ve given some thought to the Texas statewide officeholders who are leaving public life at the end of the year.

Who will I miss the most?

It’s a close call. Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs can be an interesting and delightful interview subject. She’s full of one-liners and has put me in stitches on more than one occasion in the years I’ve known her, first when she was elected agriculture commissioner and then as comptroller.

Combs finishes second, though, to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Patterson burst onto the state’s public attention by being known as the “gun guy,” a state senator who authored the state’s concealed-carry bill in the mid-1990s. He wanted the state to make it legal for Texans to pack heat under their jacket, provided they pass a test that demonstrates they know how to handle a firearm.

He is proud of his Marine Corps service and the tour of duty he served in Vietnam. He campaigned actively on that service. Indeed, his job as land commissioner put him in charge of the state’s veterans home loan program, which he administered with great pride.

Patterson also has a tremendous self-deprecating streak. The first time I met him, he introduced himself to me as a guy who finished in the “top 75 percent of my class at Texas A&M University,” where he said he “managed to cram four years of college into six years.”

Texas doesn’t have quite the colorful cast of characters inhabiting public offices that it used to have. Too many of them have taken themselves more seriously than they take their responsibilities. Gov. Rick Perry is Exhibit A. I won’t miss Perry in the least.

Jerry Patterson, though, reminds me a bit of the old-school Texas pol who is unafraid to poke a little fun at himself. We need more — not fewer — like him in public life.


Calling all bean counters

Roll this one around for a moment: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Doesn’t sound like too sexy of a political office, correct? It can be. Several Republicans and perhaps one Democrat seem to think it’s an office worth seeking.

And why not? It can be a stepping stone to bigger things.


Comptroller Susan Combs, a Republican (as if that’s a big surprise), decided not to seek another term as comptroller. Her absence from the 2014 GOP primary ballot has brought out a small and perhaps gathering crowd of potential successors.

The Texas Tribune reports that when Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn walked away in 2006 to run for governor, no such crowd of candidates emerged in her wake.

Combs’s departure is different.

Look at it this way, the office of comptroller — who, in effect, is the state’s bean counter in chief — has been a launching pad recently for a couple of notable Texas politicians. The late — and legendary — Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, served as comptroller before becoming state attorney general and then lieutenant governor; Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp served as comptroller before launching two unsuccessful bids to become lieutenant governor.

Strayhorn thought it would lead to a higher office for her as well, but by my reckoning she didn’t wear her political notoriety as gracefully as some others who preceded her in that office.

The comptroller’s main job is to ensure the state meets its budget requirements. The comptroller issues fiscal projections that enable the Legislature to budget state money for the next two years. It can be a hum-drum job, but it also can serve as a platform for budget policy ideas.

The race for comptroller might not get the blood pumping furiously. It’ll be worth waiting to see who emerges next year from the political battlefield and how that individual handles a really big job.