OUT FOR CHANGE: The Right Time

Bill Baldwin decided to seize his moment and enter the race for City Council At Large Position 4.

Bill Baldwin

One day after the Houston GLBT Political Caucus declined to endorse a candidate in the Houston City Council At-Large Position 4 race, Bill Baldwin, 54, announced he would run for the seat.

“If there was an overwhelming candidate, they would have endorsed,” Baldwin says. “I’ve been asked to run for office before, but it just wasn’t the right time. I was building my business.” He owns a real-estate company, Boulevard Realty, that is one of the largest gay-owned businesses in the county.

“But when Amanda Edwards jumped to the U.S. Senate race, the council seat became open and I thought, why not? If I wait four more years, I’ll be 58.”

At press time, there were five candidates in the citywide race, and he admits there are some very nice people running. But Baldwin says his vision is unique. This year the mayor, controller, and all 16 council seats are up for grabs, with the election scheduled for November 5 and the runoff for December 14.

Although Baldwin calls Houston home, he was born in Athens, Texas, and considers Huntsville his hometown. That’s where he went to high school and graduated from Sam Houston State University. He was married and has two grown children who are also Sam Houston alumni. He has maintained good relations with his family after he came out in 1997.

“I left my career, my family, and moved to Houston to start over,” Baldwin says. In 1998 he went to work at Karen Derr Realtors, then bought the boutique company in 2008 and renamed it Boulevard Realty. He recently opened their new headquarters office in the Heights—one that he helped design.

“It’s more of an open concept, with the office on the second floor,” Baldwin explains. “The first floor is called YourSpace—like a community center where people can stop in for coffee or a glass of wine. There’s Wi-Fi and a copy machine, so they can work there instead of going to Starbucks.”

“What I love about Houston is the quality of life here. With more people moving here, there is going to be more traffic and development. We need to figure out how to accomplish that without losing the quality of life.”

There are also yoga classes and art shows, most of which are completely free. He says it’s about connectivity and building a community, which is how you build a business—or a campaign.

“My first decade here,” says Baldwin, “I was all about getting people elected who shared my vision of Houston.” Under Mayor Annise Parker, he worked to strengthen the city’s historic-preservation policies, and under Mayor Sylvester Turner he co-chaired Turner’s Quality of Life Transition Committee. Baldwin was then appointed a City of Houston Planning Commissioner. He has also served on the Walkable Places Committee and the North Houston Highway Improvement Project Steering Committee. He also works for and fund-raises for various nonprofits, including Houston Relief Hub, which he founded as a hub for donations, relief, and volunteer opportunities after Hurricane Harvey. It stayed open for three months after the hurricane, and then transitioned into the City of Houston’s official delegation to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Baldwin’s historic home in Woodland Heights was famous as a venue for fundraising events for politicians and nonprofits alike. Baldwin made real-estate headlines last year when he sold the property in three days, for just shy of $3 million.

Currently, Baldwin lives in a townhome near Riverside Terrace with his partner of four years, Fady Armanious, who is the creative director of Tootsies. But the couple also bought land in their beloved Heights, and they plan to build a dream home there. They enjoy entertaining, and attend multiple events almost every evening. Baldwin also enjoys running, cycling, and reading. 

“What I love about Houston is the quality of life here,” Baldwin says. “[With] more people moving here, there is going to be more traffic and development. We need to figure out how to accomplish that without losing that quality of life. If you want somewhere to walk to—a restaurant, a store—get ready for somebody to park in front of your house. That’s the reality. In the Heights, I used to get in my car and drive to Montrose to eat. Now I can walk to great eateries, but that means more traffic.”

One of Baldwin’s priorities, if elected, will be HERO 2.0, after the effort to pass the first Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was roundly defeated in 2015.

“I’m all the way in for that,” Baldwin says. “We are a world-class city; we need to do it. I think Mayor Turner should bring it back again.” Another hot-button issue in this year’s election is firefighter pay raises. After the controversy over Prop. B, a voter-approved pay-parity proposition, erupted in court battles, threatened layoffs, and failed mediation, the matter could cost Mayor Turner the race this year. In fact, the firefighter’s union endorsed one of his opponents, Council Member Dwight Boykins, in the mayor’s race.

“I was against Prop. B,” Baldwin says. “Do the firefighters deserve a raise? Absolutely. But the proposition wasn’t sustainable.”

Before he had announced his council run, a recent article in one of the city magazines called Baldwin a “future mayoral candidate.” Does he have higher aspirations?

“Not at this moment,” he laughs. “I’ll entertain it, but let’s see if I win this first.”

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This article appears in the October 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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