Tribpedia: Tom Leppert

Tom Leppert, currently running in the Texas GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, is a businessman and former mayor (2007–11) of Dallas, where he lives with his wife, Laura. They have three children.

Born on June 15, 1954, in New York City, Leppert was raised in Glendale, Ariz., where his mother moved to be closer to family after his father died.

Leppert received his bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting at Claremont McKenna College outside of Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he was awarded a full scholarship at Harvard Business School, where he received his MBA in 1979.

After graduation, Leppert joined the private sector, first working for McKinsey & Co. In 1984, he got his first taste of public life as a White House fellow under President Ronald Reagan. While in Washington, he met and married his wife Laura; their first date was Reagan’s inaugural ball in California.

Returning to business, Leppert began his steady ascension up the executive ranks, first with the Trammel Crow Co. (living, for a time, in Dallas), then as president and CEO of Castle & Cooke Properties. He spent a decade as vice chairman of the Bank of Hawaii, then in 1999 became chairman and CEO of Turner Construction Co. headquartered in New York, the largest commercial builder in the U.S. Leppert says that during his seven years with Turner, profits were greater than in the previous 97 years combined.

While with Turner, Leppert moved part of the company from New York to Dallas and moved there himself, where he quickly emerged as a civic leader, sitting on business, medical and education boards and working to upgrade the Dallas Zoo.

In 2005, Leppert joined the board of directors at Washington Mutual and was serving on the audit and governance committee when it collapsed, the largest bank failure in U.S. history. Leppert blames the housing bubble and federal regulators for the implosion.

In 2006, Leppert left Turner to “focus on his family, faith and nonprofit work prior to embarking on his next business challenge”–– a challenge that turned out to be a 2007 run for Dallas mayor.

Forced into a runoff by a crowded pack and a close vote –– Leppert led with 27 percent of the vote –– he went on to defeat his opponent, former Dallas City Council member Ed Oakley, 58 percent to 42 percent.

Leppert’s tenure as mayor was marked for a time by unusual equanimity among city council members, a core of whom voted with him 92 percent of the time. The major themes of his term were lowering crime, improving education and luring new businesses to Dallas. He can point to success with jobs –– AT&T moved its headquarters there from San Antonio –– and crime rates, adding 200 new police officers to the force.

The mayor’s job is non-partisan in Dallas, and Leppert, a Republican, has found his mayoral tenure used against him in the primary season as he vies for the U.S. Senate seat. In a race where all the major candidates are boasting their conservative credentials, opponents have labeled Leppert “leftist,” excoriating him for trying to win federal stimulus dollars for a downtown convention center hotel, expressing support for the reviled (and now defunct) housing assistance provider ACORN and marching in gay rights parades. ­­But Leppert has put forth a very conservative agenda, in most ways indistinguishable from the other frontrunners: Repeal Obamacare, sharply reduce the size of the federal government and lower taxes.


Republican Tom Leppert makes a point during the TPPF's U.S. Senate candidate debate in Austin on January 12, 2012.

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