The city of Houston will have a new mayor starting Jan. 1, and current Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke about his hopes for the city's future during his final State of the City address Sept. 27.

What happened

Turner used the address to recount his accomplishments during his two terms since first being elected Houston mayor in 2015, including several projects that the next mayor will inherit:
  • An Inwood Forest stormwater detention basin project that will provide flood damage reduction to more than 4,400 structures when completed in 2026
  • The reconstruction of the city's municipal court building, which was damaged during Hurricane Harvey and which the Federal Emergency Management Agency preliminarily agreed to fund with $54.2 million earlier in September
  • The construction of a new Solid Waste Northeast Transfer Station that will be built in March 2025
  • Completion of the North Canal flood diversion project along White Oak Bayou, which is in the design phase
  • The completion of the Sunnyside Solar Farm, which will be operational in 2024
  • The planned transformation of the city's George R. Brown Convention Center, which received $2 billion in funding during the 2023 legislative session
"If you simply measure by what we have done, that means when the term ends, the work we have done comes to an end," Turner said. "It's about the things we have done that will unfold in the years to come."

Quote of note

Although the city's next mayor is still to be determined during the Nov. 7 election, which will likely lead to a runoff election in December, Turner spoke about lessons he learned while leading the city that he said the next mayor should take into account.

"I am not anxious to leave. If I could run again, I would," Turner said. "But a word of advice for those who seek to follow me: Be careful of what you promise. Be careful of what you criticize, because you haven’t looked under the hood."

With 23 city departments and 22,000 employees, Turner said it will be critical for the next mayor "to have capable people up and down in those departments."

Citing Houston's diversity, Turner also said relationship building and meeting people in the community are critical parts of the job. If the next mayor does not focus on relationships, Turner said it would risk the city becoming more segregated.

"You can’t lead the city just from City Hall," he said. "When you have the most diverse city in the U.S., people want to see you in their neighborhood; people want to see you at their events."

What else

Turner spoke about working with people and groups that he differs from ideologically to find compromises. During his rundown of major upcoming project, Turner specifically referenced the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, which the city initially fought against before reaching a compromise with the Texas Department of Transportation, and which some environmental and racial justice groups still take issue with.

Turner also spoke about how he worked to advance a Climate Action Plan for the city in a way that also involved collaborating with the city's energy community.

"Even when I was chair of the United States Climate Mayors, I refused to demonize our energy community because the city of Houston is based on the energy community," Turner said. "We wouldn’t have the medical center without the energy community. ... So why would I demonize someone that helped make this the great city that it is? But can we work together to address climate change? Energy transition has been done in collaboration with the business community."

What's next

Turner said running the city of Houston requires being futuristic, including in how members of the city's various boards and commissions are evaluated.

As far as his own future, Turner said he plans to "soak it all in" over his remaining three months in office.

"Whatever comes next for me will be just icing on the cake," he said.