Eckels, Newby to lead state's Hurricane Ike recovery effort

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 15, 2008, 6:15pm


AUSTIN – A former Harris County judge and the chief of staff for Texas Gov. Rick Perry are set to lead efforts to help the state recover from Hurricane Ike.

Former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and Brian Newby will be co-leaders of the Hurricane Ike Recovery and Coordination Effort, according to an Oct. 15 press release from the governor's office. Newby will step down from his current role as the governor's chief of staff.

The effort will involve residents, business leaders and local and federal officials focused on ensuring Texas communities devastated by Hurricane Ike get the resources necessary to rebuild.

"There are a whole lot of moving parts involved in putting this area back together and it requires determined, focused leaders who can start immediately and guide the effort to a speedy conclusion," Perry said. "Judge Eckels and Brian Newby have the right combination of experience, people skills and access to statewide leaders necessary to get the job done right and done quickly. I will miss having Brian as my chief of staff, but this job is that important to our state."

While serving Harris County, Judge Eckels was instrumental in the area's preparation and recovery related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Ensuring that the state fully recovers from the devastation of the storm is of paramount importance," Perry said. "That is why I asked the highest ranking person on my staff and the former highest ranking official in Harris County to undertake this assignment-I want people to know that, when they raise a concern with Judge Eckels or Brian, they have my ear, too."

Newby, Perry's former top lawyer for more than two years and chief of staff since July 2007, will work with Eckels to assemble working groups of county judges, mayors, business leaders and experts to fully assess and document the damage from Hurricane Ike, and to work with the Texas congressional delegation in seeking Texas' full share of federal aid.

The goal will be to gather input from all stakeholders in Southeast Texas, and make sure their voices are clearly heard in Washington with the ultimate goal of ensuring Texas is treated fairly when it comes to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

"Texas learned a lot of helpful lessons from Rita that have helped us prepare for subsequent storms like Ike," concluded Perry. "Unfortunately, one of those lessons came when the federal government promised to fund Texas' recovery from Rita at the same level as Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, but delivered substantially less," Perry added.

Perry will announce a new chief of staff soon.

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