Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Perry appoints Underwood, Holmes to fill vacant Texas Transportation Commission slots

Perry fills transportation commission vacancies

Lubbock cotton executive, Houston real estate developer fill out five-member panel.

January 09, 2007

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

Gov. Rick Perry appointed a Lubbock cotton executive and a Houston real estate developer to the Texas Transportation Commission on Monday, filling one longtime vacancy and allowing a holdover commissioner to finally step down.

Central Texas, which will remain unrepresented on the five-member commission, had not been expected to get one of the long-awaited appointments.

Fred Underwood, president and chief executive officer of the Trinity Co., a cotton bale storage facility, will fill the slot left open by the June 2005 resignation of Robert Nichols.

Nichols, a Jacksonville businessman, left the commission for a successful run for the state Senate. Nichols will take the oath of office today.

Ned Holmes, chairman and chief executive officer of Parkway Investments, a real estate development and management company, will fill the traditional Houston spot on the commission. He replaces John Johnson, whose term expired in February 2005.

Johnson, the last appointee of former Gov. George W. Bush still serving, was commission chairman from 2000 to January 2004. He continued to serve after his six-year term expired, pending Perry's appointing a replacement.

Underwood and Holmes may take office immediately but must be confirmed by the Texas Senate, or their service will end when the Legislature adjourns in late May.

If they are confirmed, Underwood's term would end Feb. 1, 2009 (completing Nichols' term), and Holmes' would last until Feb. 1, 2011.

The commission, which controls what is now a $7.5 billion a year Texas Department of Transportation, is considered a plum gubernatorial appointment.

There could be more news to come: The terms of commission Chairman Ric Williamson, a Weatherford oil executive and the primary spokesman for Perry's aggressive tollway agenda, and Hope Andrade of San Antonio end in February.

bwear@statesman.com; 445-3698

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