Texas health and human services chief to retire this year
Hawkins called 'budget whiz' but couldn't solve all problems.
Friday, May 15, 2009
The Texas official in charge of everything from food stamps to the troubled institutions for people with disabilities announced Thursday that he will retire this year.
Albert Hawkins, 56, health and human services executive commissioner since 2003, did not say exactly when he'll step down.
"We're all part of something bigger than each of us, something that provides value beyond our measure to millions of Texans," Hawkins told employees in an e-mail Thursday. "I'm proud to have been a part of an organization with such a noble mission."
Hawkins oversees five agencies, 50,000 employees and a $25 billion total annual budget, including state and federal money.
He "has the toughest job in state government," said Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low- and middle-income Texans. "He was honest and delivered about as much as this underfunded, overwhelmed state system could deliver."
A former budget director for then-Gov. George W. Bush who also worked for Bush in the White House, Hawkins is known as a budget whiz.
He "has been a quiet but powerful force in state government for decades," Gov. Rick Perry said. "His budget expertise is renowned, and he has brought compassion and a commitment to quality to every job he's had."
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, who is on the House budget-writing team, called Hawkins "a walking, talking Wikipedia" and a "phenomenal human being."
One of Hawkins' first tasks as commissioner was overseeing the consolidation of the state's 12 health and human services agencies into five, which stemmed from a law written during a 2003 budget crunch that also made cuts to state services.
McCown said that Hawkins didn't solve the state's problems with processing applications for programs such as food stamps and Medicaid in a timely, accurate way. But McCown said that was largely because the Legislature didn't provide money for enough staff.
State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, said lack of financing from the Legislature might also be to blame for problems that the U.S. Department of Justice found at the state schools for people with mental disabilities.
(Mr. McCown, please. It had nothing to do with "not enough money for staff"- but everything to do with a rush to privatize to line the pockets of Perry's buddies. The state staff that had BEEN in place WERE processing cases timely and accurately before the entire privatization mess. Where do you think all that enhanced funding from the feds came from? No, staff left after they got "pink slipped via email" because the "powers that be" CONVINCED the legs that "private" could do it better, faster, and cheaper. I wonder what the TRUE numbers are to the amt of money that TIERS/call centers/etc have truly cost Texas compared to what it cost BEFORE all this mess)
In March, Corpus Christi police said they obtained videos showing employees of the state school there organizing fights among residents.
Hawkins drew sharp criticism for an extensive privatization effort: a deal with Accenture LLP (later canceled) to enroll Texans in public assistance. And an agency he oversees was key in the 2008 child-welfare raid on a West Texas ranch owned by a polygamist sect.
(Has Texas gotten their payments BACK from Accenture yet? Or have they swept all that under the rug?)
Perry has not named a replacement. But Hawkins let the governor know earlier this year that he didn't want to be reappointed, so Perry's office has begun interviewing potential replacements, said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Perry.
Among those, Castle confirmed, is Lowell Keig, general counsel for Youth & Family Centered Services, an Austin company that provides health, education and assisted living services to troubled children.
He is a former chief of the attorney general's Elder Law and Public Health division.
Keig, who did not return a call seeking comment, has given thousands of dollars to Republican candidates since 2001, including at least $3,000 to Perry's campaign, according to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
(Fabulous, another Perry crony- I wonder if this is all because Perry is going to lose his behind in the next election, and wants to hurry and appoint someone else......)
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