Sharp good choice for Aggie chancellor…or any task

Willis Webb

There’s a lot to like about John Sharp, the new chancellor for the Texas A& M University System.

I liked him instantly in 1982 when I met him in Caldwell County as he campaigned to be the state senator for that district. I’d just become the editor-publisher of The Lockhart Post-Register, the county seat newspaper.

Sharp and I had a mutual friend, Pat Patton who was a force in the Democratic Party not only in Caldwell County but in the state. And, in those days, the Dems ran the state. The GOP takeover was still a few years away.

Pat spent a little time briefing me on Sharp and told me he was “going places.” He was a state representative in a neighboring district, campaigning to be the state senator. The senatorial district included not only Sharp’s then-current representative district but Caldwell County and a few others as well.

I found Sharp to be affable, easy-going and very well versed in how state government works and the concurrent politics of the process. He is an A&M graduate as is one of my brothers. Fortunately for me, our paths crossed a few more times. He made campaign stops wherever I was newspapering. Mine wasn’t the only community newspaper he visited. Sharp understood small towns and they always got a lot of attention no matter what office he was holding.

After serving as state senator, he was elected to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission. Then came his two terms as state controller.

Something everyone should like about Sharp is that he is a man of ideas and someone who seeks solutions to problems. While controller he effectively ended fraud in the federal food stamp program in Texas with a “credit card” for the stamps called the Lone Star Card. He gives credit where it’s due: Sharp related that a 21-year-old man called him on the phone and volunteered the basic idea for solving the food stamp problem.

Sharp also established the Texas Performance Review, an ongoing audit of state government. That audit identified more than $ 8.5 billion in taxpayer savings. It also changed the way Texas government does business through such programs as:

• Council on Competitive Government

• Texas School Performance Review: helped public school districts save more than $350 million.

• Texas Window on State Government: the official website of the controller’s office, enabling citizens to engage the state agency.

• Texas Tomorrow Fund: a pre-paid college tuition plan.

• Family Pathfinders: a welfare reform plan, designed to take people off welfare rolls by helping them find productive jobs.

• Organized the Texas Lottery Commission so that operating expenses were reduced, enriching the state treasury by more than $1 billion. • Headed the Texas Tax Reform Commission which designed a bipartisan education plan for the state. It was adopted by the Texas Legislature.

The last time I saw Sharp in person was while he was controller. He came to Jasper to check out a problem about Lake Sam Rayburn. He offered a solution in a matter of minutes.

Then, he put a chaw in his mouth, climbed in a boat with a guide and researched all the ways a man can employ to catch bass in a day’s time on one of the best bass lakes in the nation.

Sharp is a very good politician. State universities have to maneuver through a lot of political minefields in order to get proper funding to operate.

Those of us who are non- Aggies tend to make a little fun at A&M’s expense, but no matter what you think or say about A&M, they do occasionally make good decisions and John Sharp should prove to be one of the very best choices the Aggies could make.

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2011-09-15 digital edition

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