Public Notice: A Mayor (and a Superintendent) for All of Austin: Kirk Watson, Matias Segura set to lead city, school district – News
Kirk Watson speaks to supporters after his runoff win (Photo by Jana Birchum)
Just after Election Day, much was made of the fact that while Kirk Watson won the mayoral race overall with 50.4% of the vote, he actually trailed Celia Israel in Travis County, where 97% of us live, by 17 votes. “Kirk Watson has been elected mayor of Austin for a third term — and he’s got Williamson County voters to thank for it,” was the lead in the next day’s wrap-up. But last week the county clerk announced that when all the provisional ballots were verified and counted, Watson won Travis County by 30 votes – 55,292 to 55,262, or 50,014% of the county’s vote (for you stats, the original margin of Israel needed an extra decimal, at 50.0077%). There’s no real difference, but it’s a small morale boost for the former and future mayor, which was evident in the statement he released in response: “I’m happy that with the provisional votes now counted, the campaign Ours also prevailed in Travis County. Like Williamson and Hays counties. However, the narrow margin certainly underscores the urgency of coming together in our community around new ways to solve old problems. I look forward to working with the City Council, city staff and leaders of the community to start making real progress in the new year.”
Indeed, he may feel more urgent than he initially did when he decided to run for office. Watson was first elected mayor over a quarter of a century ago, when the job was very different from what it is now. He sat through his share of marathon meetings during his four-and-a-half years on the dais, but was often able to use his personal charm to sweet-talk or twist an arm in a way that might not be so easy. now than it used to be.
Meanwhile, the next City Council aims to be very activist. Some are also inexperienced in the ways of the municipality and the realities of their work. Concerned about getting things done, but perhaps unclear on how to get there, or about the unintended consequences, I suspect that as a group they will tend to “move fast and break things,” as Facebook’s motto once went . And Celia Israel would have been the natural leader of that group; indeed, it was actively supported by at least three incumbent CMs. But she lost and they got Watson instead, which could be difficult. So how he and his Council react to each other will be interesting to watch.
Then, he is only for two years, until the mayoral elections coincide with the presidential cycle. So there’s another question: Will he want another full term? And will voters want him at that point? That part will likely depend on how well he does with his Council.
Acting AISD Superintendent Matias Segura (Courtesy of Austin ISD)
Also last week, in our other local elected body (apologies to the Austin Community College Board, which just doesn’t do anything controversial enough to get our attention), the Austin ISD Board of Trustees on December 15th voted unanimously to appoint Matias Segura as the next interim district superintendent; he will take over the reins on Jan. 3, when current superstar Anthony Mays will head Alief ISD in the Houston area. Segura is a conservative choice by the board: He has zero educational experience — as chief operating officer, his expertise is in construction and real estate management — and AISD Equity Officer Dr. Stephanie Hawley was a popular alternative, seen as someone who would shake things up more. But Segura’s mother was a teacher, and he himself is an AISD graduate, and he must have impressed the board in his interview, because even the most activist members were enthusiastic and even emotional when they welcomed him into the new role, though temporary be he – they expect to hire a new permanent superintendent in June. Meanwhile, even in the caretaker role, much of Segura’s attention will undoubtedly be focused on his operational role as the county begins work on the $2.4 billion bond package that voters approved last month.
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