Walle, who has represented Texas House District 140 since 2009, will lead the county's recovery and relief efforts as officials begin looking at how to reopen different elements of the local economy.
"As we lead the response to this crisis and I continue to focus on protecting lives, we need someone who will be laser-focused on helping families right now and combating the long-term economic effects and long-term human impacts of this crisis," Hidalgo said during the press conference. "We want to make sure that there is somebody who wakes up every day thinking exclusively of this."
Walle has been tasked with ensuring recovery and relief efforts in Harris County are inclusive, fast and coordinated and that the county brings in as many federal funds as possible to help fund programs, Hidalgo said. She stressed the importance of making sure people don't "fall through the cracks," including small-business owners, minority- and women-owned business owners, and the workers themselves, including undocumented workers.
As czar, Walle will also work to ensure food distribution continues to be available for families in need and internet remains accessible to children who are learning from home, among other duties, Hidalgo said.
Walle said he plans to work with a variety of stakeholders—including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, the private sector and government officials—to quickly bring resources to the area.
"This crisis is dire, and it’s serious, but we have an opportunity here to show the country how to move forward," he said at the April 20 press conference.
As state representative, Walle serves on committees for appropriations, higher education, local and consent calendars, and redistricting. During the press conference, he pointed to his experience as a legislator in navigating recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
The recovery czar position will be unpaid, Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo declined to provide specifics on what the reopening process will look like in Harris County, reiterating the importance of increasing the number of tests being conducted and their turnaround speed. She said the county will be following guidelines issued by Gov. Greg Abbott last week, including allowing hospitals to begin performing elective procedures again and allowing nonessential businesses to start offering retail to go starting April 24.
Hidalgo said intake at local hospitals of new COVID-19 cases has been flat. Hospital leaders have told her they are in a good position to start offering elective procedures but are closely monitoring intake to see if it starts rising again, she said.
The city of Houston will also name a recovery czar that will work collaboratively with Walle, Hidalgo said. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is expected to make that announcement at 3 p.m. April 20.