Mayoral candidate profile: Gene Locke
Gene Locke’s goals as the possible future mayor of Houston include an expanded police force, more efficient transportation and an opportunity for him to give back to the city he credits for his success.
Locke, an attorney, has held many prominent positions over the years, including, chief-of-staff for Congressman George Thomas ‘Mickey’ Leland, Houston’s city attorney and partner in his own law practice, all which he attributes in part to the City of Houston.
‘Houston has been a great place of opportunity for me,’ Locke said.’ ‘My story is I came with nothing ‘- everything I’ve accomplished, Houston has been a part of.’
Locke grew up in East Texas and decided to come to Houston after high school in order to attend the UH. The year was 1965, and UH had only begun admitting black students in 1961.
‘It was the beginning of the breakdown of Jim Crow segregation.’ It had previously been a private school with segregated status,’ Locke said.’ ‘In 1964, they began recruiting African-American athletes, which sent a signal that the school was on the front end of change.’
While at UH, Locke led a number of campaigns urging the University to promote inclusion and opportunity, not separatism.
‘I led the Committee on Better Race Relations to bring students together from different racial backgrounds,’ Locke said. ‘ ‘I led the fight to get more minority faculty at UH, more minority administrators, more scholarships and financial aid for minority students, and I was in the forefront of the fight for the black history class and led the fight for the African-American studies program, which led into the Mexican-American studies program.’
Locke worked his way through college and later through South Texas College of Law.’
‘ Upon completion of law school, he moved to Washington, to assume the role as chief of staff for Leland.’ That position opened his eyes to the critical nature of government in individuals’ daily lives.
‘It showed me the role government can play in people’s private lives. We assisted with social security benefits, with Veterans’ benefits, immigration, international relations,’ Locke said.’ ‘It gave me a perspective on all of those, particularly how federal government and local government are tied at the hip, and (how) the local government needs to have good representation and work with officials in D.C. to make sure we are getting our agenda served in Houston.’
After returning to Houston, Locke joined the private law firm of Andrews Kurth, LLP. Later, he accepted an appointment by Mayor Bob Lanier to be the City Attorney.’ In this role, he was involved in the revitalization of downtown.
‘Before my time as city attorney and before Bob Lanier was mayor, downtown was a ghost town at night and on weekends,’ Locke said. ‘I made a conscious effort to bring businesses back.’
Locke has negotiated contracts for some of the city’s largest venues, including the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park and Reliant Center.’ He also was key counsel for the Bayport expansion and Metro’s negotiations for the light rail system.
Locke sees transportation as a key issue to be addressed if he is elected mayor.’ His list of solutions includes a more efficient bus system with reduced fares and the completion of the light rail lines.
Safety is another key issue in Locke’s campaign, which he would begin to address by increasing the number of police officers on the force and utilizing community policing.
Locke also said he plans to work with other agencies to create an independent crime lab, as opposed to the police-run lab which has been plagued with problems.
While elections tend to focus on voters, Locke expressed concern and a feeling of responsibility for all Houstonians, including the growing homeless population.
‘They are human beings; we are our brothers’ keepers, which means we have to do constant outreach,’ Locke said.’ ‘Providing transitional housing is the first step to bring people back and with that would come significant counseling.’
Locke’s motivations for wanting to become the next mayor of Houston are driven by his devotion to the city.
‘This is an opportunity to give back to my city,’ Locke said.’ ‘This is what I want to do.’