Terry Keel — a former House member, parliamentarian and Travis County sheriff — will leave his current gig as executive director at the Texas Facilities Commission for a newly created position at the Texas Department of Agriculture.
The new assistant commissioner position will have both consumer protection and border security as part of its portfolio. By taking the new job, Keel will also be reunited with his former House colleague, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Sid Miller.
Citing threats to farmers and ranchers by Mexican drug cartels and human traffickers, current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has made border security one of his signature issues. Among other things, he set up a website to both collect news articles on crime at the borders and to collect personal testimonials from ranchers and farmers on the border.
The hiring of Keel gives a clear signal that Miller intends to continue the agency’s focus on the border.
In other Ag Department news, Miller announced on Thursday that he’s recruited Wyoming’s Department of Agriculture director, Jason Fearneyhough, to be his second in command.
Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick announced on Thursday announced a trio of staff hires, highlighted by his decision to keep Karina Davis as Senate parliamentarian.
Davis has held the position since 2004. "I have worked with Karina for eight years,” said Patrick in a statement. “She has done an excellent job in one of the Senate's most important positions. I am excited to have her back.”
Marian Wallace, who has worked on Patrick's staff on education issues since 2007, will be Patrick's education policy adviser. Also, Vickie Miles will stay on as lieutenant governor receptionist.
Martinez Fischer has thus far tried to position himself as an heir apparent to the seat, rolling out a list of supporters last month that included one former occupant of the Senate seat (Joe Bernal) and the widows of two others (Greg Luna, Bob Vale).
That pre-positioning will continue at Saturday’s campaign kickoff event. Bernal and Vale’s widow, Teresa, are scheduled to join Martinez Fischer. Also set to participate is state Rep. Justin Rodriguez.
Another member of San Antonio’s House delegation, José Menéndez, has said he plans to run for the Van de Putte seat.
Brent Goleman, a former legislative staffer and co-founder of online legislative tracker GalleryWatch, has announced that he will run for the House seat being vacated by state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington.
Goleman, a Republican, resides in Bastrop. Kleinschmidt, who was first elected to represent the Central Texas-based House District 17 in 2008, is leaving the House next month to become general counsel for the Texas Department of Agriculture.
If it seems like an unusually busy calendar for fundraisers next week, there’s a reason for that.
The last day for officeholders to receive political contributions is Dec. 13, a month before the new legislative session begins. The moratorium on contributions begins the next day, and lawmakers won’t be allowed to raise money again until June 22.