The Texas Municipal League has selected Martha Castex-Tatum, Houston’s vice mayor pro-tem and District K council member, as its president-elect.
The 100-year-old League exists solely to provide services to Texas cities, according to its website, and Council Member Castex-Tatum is looking forward to leading the statewide organization starting in October 2021.
Castex-Tatum has served as Houston City Council member since winning a special election in May 2018 and began her first full4-year term in January for District K, which encompasses the 5 Corners Improvement District.
Castex-Tatum has planned COVID-safe events throughout the last several months in her district. She will host a district-wide holiday meal-sharing event at the Fountain Life Center, 14065 Main St., on Dec. 19 and invites all residents to drive through and pick up a delicious holiday meal. She will also continue her yearly tradition of giving turkeys to the seniors in District K, in partnership with several sponsors and faith-based organizations.
She made time to talk about her new role, plans for her district and what she is looking forward to the new year. (Questions and answers were edited for clarity):
Congratulations on your selection as president-elect of the Texas Municipal League. How were you selected for this position?
There is an application process and a nomination committee for TML, which interviews candidates and presents their choice to the entire board for a vote. There were three candidates vying for the presidency, and based on my experience and interview, the committee selected me as the strongest candidate.
What do you hope to accomplish when you assume the role as president of TML?
My main goal is to advocate for Texas cities. I want to ensure we are working with our state elected leaders to ensure our public policy does not harm cities and benefits our shared constituents. I served on City Council in San Marcos TX prior to returning to Houston and serving in my current position. I believe I bring a unique perspective in being able to speak from my experience in a small city like San Marcos and now in my current position in a city the size of Houston. One of the reasons I thought it was important for me to run for a statewide position like this is I want to be more involved in what is happening in the Texas Legislature. So much of what happens in Austin affects our cities. Serving on the TML board gives me another opportunity to foster relationships and advocate for local authority — collaborating with our statewide elected officials representing our shared constituency in a meaningful way.
Will this provide you the opportunity to highlight District K and if so, how?
I had a great opportunity last month at the National League of Cities Summit to highlight a pilot program in our district. I was a presenter at the conference and shared our relationship with NURO with elected leaders from all over the country. While on the Transportation and Infrastructure Services panel I spoke about the NURO driverless vehicles, and their partnership with Kroger, CVS, Walmart and Domino’s Pizza to provide curbside deliveries safely to our homes. Autonomous vehicles add another opportunity to meet needs in our community. COVID-19 has amplified the need for these vehicles in our community, especially with their contact-less deliveries.
What should residents and businesses know about working with you to accomplish future goals in this area?
I want to restore people’s faith in government. I think for so long people have been so cynical about government. It pains me when I hear people speak ill of elected leaders who are working so hard on their behalf.
We have to make sure we are communicating our achievements and working with residents on the things that they desire to improve their quality of life. My staff and I are committed to communicating and working alongside our residents, business owners and anyone in our community. We will work together to get things done, and if there is something the council office cannot do, we will help to find the right jurisdiction to make it happen. I want people to know that the District K office is their partner. I say it all the time, that usually the people who are closest to the concerns typically have the most viable solutions. Engagement is a two-way street and if I expect residents to engage, I want to make their efforts worthwhile, effective and fun.
COVID-19 has taken over our lives and remains a top priority, as it should. Looking beyond COVID-19, what do you feel is a priority in your district?
Flood mitigation projects remain at the top of the list. I have dedicated myself to keeping these projects moving. When I campaigned, I committed to making sure — to keep the conversation alive on the importance of flood mitigation projects in areas that have experienced repetitive flooding. I am excited about the improvements we have made over the last three years. We have moved forward with land acquisition for the Spellman Detention Basin, additional detention at Willow Waterhole and South Post Oak , stormwater swales on three lots, and most recently the purchase of 6.5 acres of land on Chimney Rock Road for additional greenspace. For those areas that have repeatedly flooded in our district, we cannot forget the impact that the heavy rain events have had on their lives. Flooding continues to be one of the “hot button” and most critical issues throughout our city.
Tell us about something that is happening in your district that most people would not know about.
The City Wide Anti-Litter Program stemmed from the diligent work we are doing in District K with our #CleanStateofMind initiative. When I came into office, one of my priorities was to clean up the district. I wanted the district to have a visible facelift. I implemented what we call our District K Hot Team. This is a team of employees hired to be on the ground daily. They pick up bandit signs, illegal dumping, litter in our esplanades and respond to calls from residents reporting trash and illegal dumping. When we can remove unsightly trash quickly, we alleviate additional trash being dumped in the same space.
We have seen a real change and people are more cognizant of what they do in our community. We have more (anti-dumping) cameras in the district and we are working with our management district and HPD to fine people and let them know that we will not tolerate the illegal dumping in our community. I want to represent and live in a safe and clean community we can all be proud of.
Council Member/Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum
Office phone: 832.393.3016
— Interview by Jessika Leal