Since time has become such a precious commodity in my new role as Houston mayor, I must bid a sad farewell to my OutSmart column.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this monthly column over the past decade. I tried to make it informative, but not dry, lest I be accused of being a “non-charismatic policy wonk,” as a couple of writers dubbed me during the campaign. (Okay, I’ll admit it. If I see a broken traffic light or water main driving around town, I either call 311 or have someone report it. I can put people to sleep talking on and on about city issues, especially complicated, esoteric ones. Ask my kids.)
As I look back over the 100 plus OutSmart columns of the past decade, what strikes me first is the variety—city services, permits, departments large and small, new department heads, public life, and the growing number of GLBT public officials. That’s one topic I wrote about repeatedly, but not the only subject that kept drawing me back. City HIV services and the city’s improving Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) always needed more publicity and attention. Ironically, one of those new department heads I wrote about was Police Chief Harold Hurtt. As you may know, he resigned in mid-December knowing I wanted to replace him.
The columns readers talked about were always the most personal. The ones that generated the most feedback described the long journey to adopt my two daughters, Marquitta and Daniela. Those articles were certainly the most personal and hardest to write. My favorite was a Father’s Day message to my late father and grandfather.
I will miss speaking directly to my own GLBT community through this column. I will, of course, continue to speak to the GLBT community, but I will also speak to, and for, the many communities that make up this great international city.
Houston mayors must take every opportunity to show off Houston to the world. I’ve fielded a staggering number of media interview requests over the past month, split between “Wow! Houston elected a lesbian mayor” and “How could this happen in Houston?” I tried to shine my election media spotlight on this amazing city and talk about its diversity and tolerance. I certainly hope the world views Houston differently now.
Perhaps it’s fitting that time will prevent me from writing monthly columns. I do promise to turn in occasional ones—and you can always follow me on Facebook. The columns served as a kind of journal of my public-service career, from at-large city council member to city controller, and now, mayor. They also served as a benchmark for the community. We elected an at-large city council member, then two, with Council Member Sue Lovell. We elected a lesbian city controller. And in December, we helped elect an openly GLBT mayor of the fourth largest city in the United States. Being accepted as full and equal American citizens still eludes us. We have, however, arrived at a new place in Houston and in this country. We sit at the head of the table here. And from this vantage point, more and more things are possible.
Did I mention that I really love this city?
As mayor of the City of Houston, Annise D. Parker is the highest-ranking openly GLBT-elected municipal official in the U.S. Her webpage is AnniseParker.com.