- Team P
Eight Years of GLO Accomplishments
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
As I complete two terms as the 28th Land Commissioner for the Great State of Texas, my heart is filled with immense pride as I reflect upon our accomplishments. I am thankful to our great team of professionals at the General Land Office for their efforts in doing “more with less,” their flexibility during the most devastating storm in Texas history and the COVID pandemic, and their altruistic sense for serving higher causes.
I campaigned on the idea that private sector principles are needed in government. Upon taking office, we immediately went to work with a spirit for service and achieving government efficiency in the State's oldest agency.
Advocating for “leaner and cleaner” government is something I will continue to do, particularly in the executive agencies that spend more and more taxpayer money but accomplish less than ever for the people they committed to serve.
Now, I’d like to give you a look back on what we achieved over the last eight years.
I took the position that reforms are needed across all executive agencies as it relates to contracting, conflicts of interest, and transparency—by starting with my own agency.
I reformed GLO's contracting processes, eliminating no-bid contracts in nearly all circumstances. I created the Director of Open Government Position to overhaul the GLO's standards for open records requests and uphold the highest standards of transparency within our government.
Established a Compliance Division to monitor the GLO contracting process to prevent conflicts of interest and to ensure transactions are accomplished openly and fairly across the Agency.
Reduced government spending, leading by example. I required all my directors to justify each expenditure every year, rather than the conventional method of adopting last year's budget and increasing it based on CPI or other measures utilized in D.C.
As the only non-judicial statewide office holder in Texas to have served in the military, I felt compelled to advocate for veterans during my time as Chair of the Veterans Land Board. In 2016, I initiated the "Year of the Veteran" at the GLO by attending and hosting over 100 veterans' events. Through this journey traveling throughout the state with veterans of all backgrounds, we developed many ideas to better serve these Texas patriots.
I initiated the Unaccompanied Veteran Burial Program upon learning that many patriots passed without next of kin claiming or initiating the process of burial at Texas State Veterans Cemeteries. We have successfully increased awareness, having multiple burials with over 400 individuals in attendance. As of November, we have buried 180 Veterans without known next-of-kin as part of this program. Other states are now looking at creating their own programs to replicate our success.
I commissioned the 9th Texas State Veterans Home in Houston. The project was completed in 2020 and immediately began housing Texas Veterans, bringing the total of Texas Veterans living their golden years in the care of the VLB to over 1,000. Additionally, the Veterans Land Board unanimously decided to create a 10th home in Fort Worth.
In first term, I worked to create a new website for veterans that streamlined access to services and benefits. Four years later, we expanded services once again, increasing access to information regarding all VLB programs.
To better connect service veterans to the community, I created several initiatives, including "Mail Drop," a letter-writing campaign that encourages citizens to write the Veterans residing in our VLB Nursing Homes and thank them for their service and sacrifice. Nearly 1,700 Texans now engage with our Veterans monthly.
As I examined the incredible stories from our Voices of Veterans program, I realized we were not capturing the stories of our post 9/11 veterans. I authorized the creation of Next Gen Warrior, a series to capture the success stories of post-9/11 Veterans as they leave the battlefield and transition into civilian life. Throughout this series, nearly 100 post 9/11 Veterans' stories were added to our collection, while 247 Veterans' stories have been archived.
Many veterans in nursing homes celebrate their centennial while in our care. This led us to create the 100 for 100 program, helping Texas State Veterans Nursing Home residents celebrate their 100th birthday. For each birthday celebration, our team requested 100 cards from the community. Each call for cards resulted in thousands of Texans responding and showering our veterans with well wishes and respect. Since the creation of the program, 8 Texas Veterans have celebrated their 100th birthday with us.
Perhaps a hallmark of my time at the GLO was being known as the "technology Commissioner," leading the implementation of new programs and technology across the Agency. It also marked the first time that artificial intelligence was integrated into the VLB's daily operations to expand customer service for Texas Veterans through a virtual assistant, aptly named "Maverick." Maverick utilizes cutting-edge A.I. solutions and is designed to save Veterans time and frustration while navigating their benefits. To date, 4,410 Veterans have received assistance from Maverick.
As the only former educator to serve statewide and considering the GLO provides a large source of revenue to K-12 public education, I engaged in "A Conversation with our Future," visiting 50 schools across Texas. These weren't typical “politician" school tours. Instead, I taught a Texas history lesson in each classroom with GLO archives, restored maps, and even a cannonball fired at the Battle of the Alamo. Through this year-long exploration of Texas education, we interacted with students, parents, and front-line teachers, leading to meaningful discussions with state and local elected officials on how to improve education in Texas.
From this experience, I was able to better leverage the GLO platform to help champion school choice reform in Texas. We should place a priority on all types of educational systems, including homeschool, public, private, charter, intercity, rural, and dual language. We need to continue advocating about the need for greater accountability and more results in public education.
Post-COVID, we developed and rebranded the previously created GLO education website to streamline information access and lesson plans provided by the GLO for use by Texas educators and parents. New content is continually created, providing more resources than ever before to teachers across Texas. To date, we've created 16 new lesson plans for Texas teachers.
Four of these lesson plans utilized Voices of Veterans oral history interviews to bring Texas Veterans' tales of valor and bravery to life inside our classrooms. Lesson plans take interviews from each conflict dating back to WWII and help students learn from primary source interviews.
In perhaps the most obvious “common sense” moment of my time as Commissioner, I advocated for Texas children's rights to engage in free enterprise and operate lemonade stands without the overreach of government regulation.
Energy & Property Rights
Bringing real-world energy sector and asset management experience to the GLO, I sought to modernize the manner in which the State leased oil and gas minerals to maximize revenues for K-12 education. In partnering with EnergyNet.com, we pioneered the effort to enable online bidding for energy lease sales. Today, the PSF is performing better than ever, generating the highest returns in history. In fact, in 2022, we recorded the highest revenues in GLO history, generating over $17 billion in revenue.
Being a good steward of natural resources requires robust legal defense, and we were successful in defending Texas lands. We won a major victory for Texas schoolchildren, standing up to the federal Bureau of Land Management's illegal land grab, protecting state assets for years to come. We fought abuse of the Endangered Species Act by successfully contesting how U.S. Fish and Wildlife defined the status of the Golden Cheeked Warbler in Central Texas.
Given the emphasis on reform and process updates, we generated record-breaking returns for oil and gas and distributed the largest allocations in history to the school children of Texas. In 2019, for the first time in history, oil and gas revenues generated over $1 billion in revenue for the PSF, enabling us to send even more PSF money to students and classrooms across the state. In 2022, we broke that record, generating over $1.7 billion in revenue.
As the energy industry came under attack by the Biden Administration's overregulation, I launched the "Year of Energy" initiative, working with industry stakeholders to create a comprehensive, "all of the above" energy approach for Texas. Traveling across the state to examine workforce readiness programs at the high school level, I brought the oil and gas economy to life inside classrooms, joining TXOGA and Commissioner Todd Staples to engage with students in understanding how important the energy industry is to our great state.
There is no doubt that Texas' economy is based on oil and gas. However, Texas has embraced our God-given natural resources while encouraging conservation and driving clean energy innovation. This unique and comprehensive approach has put Texas at the forefront as an international energy producer. Texas leads the nation in energy sector innovation without government intervention. Under my leadership, the GLO forged into new renewable energy leases, generating $230,056.97 from wind energy and $829,635.30 in solar leases.
As COVID-19 swept across the nation, I led the School Land Board in taking action to mitigate the 2020 oil and gas crisis during COVID-19, waiving penalties and interest on late royalty payments. Further, I called on the President and Congress to act by filling our strategic petroleum reserves and consider other free market options to safely and fairly get the critical oil and gas economy back up and running.
Established the Texas Defense Task Force to identify federal overreach and fend off threats to the Texas oil and gas economy, following Governor Abbott's executive order for state agencies to prepare to protect Texas' energy industry in the years ahead. The Task Force has worked to ensure that Texas energy is preserved for generations to come by legally defending the state's invaluable energy resources both here at home and in the courthouse. Texas oil and gas is the backbone of our great state. Not only does the energy industry power our homes and businesses, but it also serves as a critical job creator and makes our state such a desirable place to live. The jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Texas families must and will be guarded through every legal action taken. President Biden's actions against the oil and gas industry will produce a chilling effect against energy workers.
As a student of history and former Board member of the Texas State History Museum, I knew that the Alamo had been forgotten by leadership and that it was time to restore the Church and Long Barracks while planning a future museum to better articulate the heroism and selflessness demonstrated during the siege of 1836.
Over two legislative sessions, we secured over $130 million to address long-overdue preservation work for the Alamo, ensuring the remaining structures are around for another 300 years to come. In addition, we established a historic partnership with the city of San Antonio and key stakeholders to reunite and restore the Alamo Battlefield, closing the street in front of the church that created car traffic across the sacred ground where the defenders gave their lives for liberty—this is the first time since 1836 that the battlefield is under State control.
Among several cannons, our team restored and returned the Alamo's iconic 18-pounder cannon to the Alamo battlefield. In the Fall of 2022, I was proud to unveil the completion of the Alamo Collection and Exhibit Building on the east side of the State footprint to display the iconic Phill Collins Alamo Collection.
Led GLO in passing new legislation that allows the Save Texas History program to accept private donations, allowing the GLO map program to begin acquisition of new historic Texas maps, such as Zebulon Pike's atlas of six printed maps, detailing the exploration of Spanish Texas. The maps provided new material for researchers of early Texas history to understand how our state came to be. In total, we obtained 420 new maps and documents for the agency's collection. To increase access to the incredible collection of maps and documents in the Land Office Archives, I set out to digitize the collection so that Texans across the state and nation could easily access their history. In total, our team scanned 3,388,299 maps and documents into a digital archive that is freely accessible to the people of Texas.
Historically, the GLO helps Texans recover from natural disasters across our great state, and as a hurricane victim myself, it is a role I take very seriously. By far, the most devastating storm in our state's history was Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall three times, caused over $120 billion in property damage, and killed 39 Texans. On my watch, we immediately responded through partnerships with FEMA and HUD to assemble the largest housing mission in American history. We have helped build or rebuild over 5,792 homes, with 467 under construction, and 1,356 awaiting construction, ultimately assisting over 84,000 Texans. By all accounts, the GLO has repeatedly outperformed other disaster response organizations across the Country.
The Harvey Recovery Mission assigned to the GLO was the first time in our nation's history that the federal government and state government have partnered together to help Texans recover from disaster. I've consistently advocated for expediting federal funds through letters to federal officials and engaging with Congressional leaders on both sides, and focused on efficiently and effectively administering disaster recovery and mitigation programs so that these funds do not languish in Washington, DC – but it isn't easy. While we all learned a multitude of lessons during this process, I personally watched as Texans were subjected to the federal government's endless array of red tape and changes in administration.
As such, I made it a personal mission to reform federal disaster relief laws and firmly believe that Congress needs to learn these lessons from Texas now before catastrophic events hit Americans in other parts of the country.
While many associate Texas with the “wild west” and endless pastures, Texas truly is a coastal state. With Texas' critical position as the nation's number one energy producer, and a key partner in the import and export of food products, the Texas coast is a crucial location for our national economy. There is no doubt that improved coastal protection measures are needed to ensure our state and nation's stability for years to come. With 367 miles of Gulf beaches and more than 3,300 miles of bays and estuaries, Texas has one of the longest coastlines in the country.
As Land Commissioner, I've led the GLO as we accomplished milestones, from managing the public coastline, preparing for hurricane and disaster preparedness, running adopt-a-beach programs, conducting Oil Spill Prevention and Response efforts, to re-nourishing beaches, and serving as a local partner in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the creation of a coastal barrier system.
Completed the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study, also known as the Coastal Texas Study, which proposes a comprehensive plan to reduce damage from storm surges and restore the ecosystem. Ultimately, the study was approved by the United States Congress.
Led the Agency in completing 14 beach renourishment projects, totaling 7,226,124 cubic feet of new fill.
Implemented 369 beach clean-ups with 93,233 volunteers in cleaning up 1,966,518 pounds of trash from Texas shorelines.
The Agency responded to 5,132 oil spills and worked with the community to turn in 1,737 vessels, giving Texans a means to voluntarily and legally dispose of their vessels before they become a danger to the public or environment.
As you see, we implemented a full agenda over the course of eight years and four legislative sessions, knowing that time was short and that the people of Texas expected nothing less. I firmly believe that nearly every government agency should operate with the same sense of urgency and join the cause to make government more responsive to the people we serve.
I want you to know that this fight doesn’t end here, in fact, it is only beginning. I hope you will continue following me on social media and stay engaged with my quarterly newsletter where I will keep you posted on the latest in government and events of the day. I want you to be part of my team that continues to call for "leaner and cleaner" government and stands behind highly qualified Republican candidates that can help get it done.