Mayor announces changes among Houston’s top-level staff

Council Member Robert Gallegos, Arturo Michel, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Ron Lewis.
Arturo Michel, second from left, will return to the role of Houston city attorney after the departure of City Attorney Ron Lewis, far right. (Courtesy city of Houston)

Arturo Michel, second from left, will return to the role of Houston city attorney after the departure of City Attorney Ron Lewis, far right. (Courtesy city of Houston)

As the year comes to a close, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a series of changes Dec. 3 among the highest level of his staff.

City Attorney Ron Lewis is departing for a new position that Turner described as “once in a lifetime” but said a more formal announcement about the job is still forthcoming.

Lewis has led the city through numerous legal battles since Turner appointed him in 2016 during his first term.

“You can always count on him to shoot straight,” Turner said of Lewis.

Lewis oversaw the city’s legal strategies in its case against the Houston Firefighters Association’s Proposition B, a voter-approved mandate requiring equal pay between firefighters and police officers of equal rank. The suit is still awaiting a ruling from the 14th Court of Appeals.

Lewis will be replaced by Arturo Michel, former city attorney from 2004-10 under Mayors Bill White and Annise Parker.

“Arturo has an extensive amount of experience in the public and private sectors,” Turner said. “He is a leader in training for public governing bodies in ethics, open government, and contracting and procurement. He is an outstanding lawyer who will be an asset to my administration and will work in the best interest of all Houstonians.”

Also included in the staff shakeups were the retirements of Solid Waste Department Director Harry Hayes and Fleet Management Director Victor Ayers, whose department oversees equipment needs for other city departments, such as police, fire and solid waste. A replacement for Ayers has not yet been announced.

Turner, who, at times, fought back tears, said that Hayes, who served as director for 13 years, is retiring partly due to health concerns. Turner acknowledged Hayes’ work leading debris pickup operations after storms including Hurricanes Ike and Harvey.

“There does come a moment in time when your family and your own health must come first,” Turner said.

Hayes will be succeeded by Carolyn Wright, a nearly 40-year employee of the city. She will first serve as the interim director of the department.

Houston Parks Department Director Steven Wright also announced his departure for a similar position with a different city. Kenneth Allen, a 20-year parks department employee who currently serves as the director of recreation and wellness, will take on a role as the interim director.

Turner said that unlike Carolyn Wright and Allen, Michel was not given an interim title because he has already served in the position before.

“For the others, we will take it one day at a time. ... They are very confident and capable,” Turner said.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.