On March 9th the West Houston Association (WHA) hosted a Harris County Update with David Berry who recently assumed the newly created role of Harris County Administrator. Utilizing a fireside chat style format, Alia Vinson, partner with Allen Boone Humphries Robinson and WHA Executive Committee member, moderated the discussion and took questions from the audience.
During the discussion, Berry expressed a passion for raising quality of life in West Houston and across the county. He suggested that we do not have to continue to do things a particular way just because they were done that way in the past. Instead, he considers himself an out-of-the-box thinker who says that focusing on return investments is the right way to go about long-term planning. In explaining where his office falls within the county system he suggested that if there is a policy issue, reach out to the elected officials, if it is a process issue let his office know. Regardless of the issue, he plans to collaborate and support the commissioners and judge.
With Texas historically being one of the most affordable places to live, “affordable” or “reasonably priced” housing, has become a hot topic of discussion as housing prices continue to rise in Houston. When asked how West Houston Association and Harris County can collaborate on the issue of affordable housing, Berry stated that the issue boils down to 4 focus areas: the permitting process, infrastructure investments, regional mobility, and public-private collaboration. If Harris County wants to see progress soon, organizations and government agencies must collaborate and communicate, working together for the greater good of the community. Berry suggested tracking housing and permitting, and for members to let his office know how things are going. He is open to hearing their thoughts and concerns on the process.
In discussing flood funding, Berry stated “getting one-sixth of the money is better than zero, but it’s not enough.” The county is watching what is happening at the federal level with HUDs response to the GLO actions and commented that “there should be accountability.” Regarding what WHA can do for flooding, Berry stressed how our efforts have been helpful and we should continue to “beat the drum” as it is likely we will need another round of bond funding to continue to improve flood resiliency.
During the question-and-answer session, Zach Hodges, President of HCC Northwest, and WHA Education & Workforce Committee Chair, highlighted the issues on creating feeder programs to the trade industries. Berry suggested that the county is interested in working on this and looks forward to a dialogue on education and workforce in the region.
The new county office is guided by five key principals: best workforce, exceptional services, one government, clear success, and efficient operations. It is led by Administrator David Berry, a collaborator, problem-solver, communicator, active listener, and passionate Harris County resident who shares WHA’s vision of making the community a better place to live, work, and play.