Friday, January 04, 2008

Rick Perry snipes at critics of toll road policy and the TTC in Ric Williamson's eulogy

Gov. Perry remembers transportation chief Ric Williamson

January 3, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

WEATHERFORD -- Gov. Rick Perry remembered his friend, the late Texas Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson, as a deeply loyal, courageous and passionate Texan.

"When a genius comes into the world you will know him by this sign: Dunces will be in confederacy against him," said Mr. Perry, quoting satirist Jonathan Swift in describing Mr. Williamson.

The governor, a former Austin roommate and longtime friend of Mr. Williamson's, spoke at an memorial service held in the Weatherford High School auditorium on Thursday. Mr. Williamson died of a heart attack Sunday. He was 55.

Several hundred gathered to say goodbye and listen to stories about Mr. Williamson's colorful life. Mr. Perry and others who served in the Texas House recalled the late night lectures, fondness for flip charts and absorption of details -- not to mention a heavy Camel cigarette habit and love of guns -- that characterized living and working with Mr. Williamson, who has kept an apartment in Austin for more than 20 years.

"Because he was my friend, he believed in me," the governor said in a eulogy. "He stood by me in every fight. We'll miss him greatly."

Also speaking were longtime friends, former Texas House colleagues and Amadeo Saenz, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, the sprawling state agency for which Mr. Williamson's commission had set policy.

“It is difficult to believe that we have begun the new year without our chairman at the helm," Mr. Saenz said. "Governor Perry, you will appoint a successor to Ric Williamson, but no one can really take his place.”

Mr. Saenz recalled that Mr. Williamson's tenure as chairman coincided with a period of enormous change -- and controversy -- for the agency.

“With a roll of mints and a love of good discussion, he produced some of the longest meetings of the Texas Transportation Commission on record," he said. "What seemed like an endurance race to many people was a genuine effort to produce discussion and attention for the issues that he thought would shape the fate of his children and mine.”

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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