The Houston Chronicle reports that Chris Newport, the director of the regulatory department at City Hall, will become Mayor Annise Parker’s newest Mayoral Chief of Staff. Newport will replace Waynette Chan, a longtime Parker veteran who retires next week. Meanwhile, Harry Hayes –the Solid Waste Department Director– will become the Chief Operating Officer of the city while continuing, for the time being, in his current capacity. The COO post was freshly minted following the announcement of Chan’s impending retirement; simply put, they had to divvy up her responsibilities into two offices.
Mike Morris, who wrote the aforementioned Chronicle article, compiled a short biography on Newport, who will only be Parker’s second Chief of Staff while Mayor. Newport is a navy veteran and has an origin around these parts. While the Chronicle article notes Newport’s recent experience with both the Animal Shelter and the 311 question system, I frankly think his biggest impact upon the political zeitgeist in recent months has been his vociferous contributions to the debate over Uber and Lyft. Since this issue predominantly revolves around updates to the City’s taxi regulations, the Chief Regulator has been at the forefront of the debate.
There is one more issue that I think is important to preemptively note before the simpletons try to make another “phony scandal” out of it, and that is Newport’s compensation. You see, last year in the midst of Parker’s re-election bid, KRIV (the local Fox affiliate) tried to make an issue out of the fact that the Mayor’s staff received pay hikes when they got promoted. Simply put, they compared their salaries at City Hall before Parker became Mayor, when many worked in the Controller’s office, to after she became Mayor. This could become an issue once more.
A cursory search of the Texas Tribune‘s government salary database will show that, in his current capacity, Newport receives compensation of roughly $77,000 a year. The current Chief of Staff, Chan, gets paid $160,000. Now, there is no law that says Newport must also receive that much money, but either way he is getting a huge raise, probably somewhere around the order of double what he used to make.
Hayes, the new COO, already makes upward of $150,000. Given that he is the inaugural holder of this new post, I do not know what to think about his new salary, but am skeptical he would receive a similar type of pay hike.
Hopefully, KRIV learned their lesson last time and will not peddle the same garbage a second time. But in case they didn’t learn, I will have this to point back on. Anyways, I wish Newport the best in his new endeavors.
UPDATE: Upon further research, the salaries cited by the Tribune were only current as of August 2011. The current salaries of Chan, Hayes and Newport may, in fact, be higher.