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Kathy Whitmire Interview
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Kathy Whitmire Interview. March 26, 1996. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. July 13, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/45.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(March 26, 1996). Kathy Whitmire Interview. University of Houston Barbara Karkabi Living Archives Recordings. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/45

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Kathy Whitmire Interview, March 26, 1996, University of Houston Barbara Karkabi Living Archives Recordings, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed July 13, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/45.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Kathy Whitmire Interview
Creator (Local)
  • Ely, Jane
  • Whitmire, Kathryn J.
Publisher Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program; The Friends of Women's Studies
Place of Creation (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Date March 26, 1996
Description Jane Ely interviews former Houston mayor Kathy Whitmire, a political science professor and the first woman to be elected to Houston City government. She talks about growing up as a shy girl and mentions how she graduated with a BBA and Masters in Accounting at the University of Houston. Eventually she begins to lean towards politics, and she recalls the beginnings of her career in the government. She continues to talk about her experiences running for office as city controller and mayor, such as her opponents and the policies she campaigned on.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas
  • Women and politics
  • Mayors--Texas--Houston
Subject.Name (Local)
  • Whitmire, Kathryn J.
  • Ely, Jane
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Moving Image
Format (IMT)
  • video/mp4
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b4555844~S11
Digital Collection University of Houston Barbara Karkabi Living Archives Recordings
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name 2011_17_004.m4v
Access File Run Time 01:30:07
Transcript Living Archives Kathy Whitmire interviewed by Jane Ely (of the Houston Chronicle) March 26, 1996 at the Menil Collection [Introduction of Interviewer and Kathy by the MC is inaudible and hard to transcribe] Interviewer: Well, let's start with the very beginning. Kathy: Alright. When would that be? Interviewer: When you were a little girl in Houston, Texas. What kind of little girl were you? Kathy: Believe it or not, Jane, I was a shy little girl. Interviewer: Um . . . (laughter) Kathy: Without much to say. Interviewer: Hasn't changed a lot, has it? (laughter) At what point in your life, Kathy, do you think that you would be . . . When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up? Kathy: Oh, I don't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn't know about very many options. My mother convinced me that it was very important that I should acquire some skills that would allow me to support myself, so that I would not find myself in a situation of financial dependency. Interviewer: Did that go beyond stenography and . . . Kathy: No, I didn't really know anything beyond that, to tell you the truth. Interviewer: You grew up kind of in the northeast side of town, didn't you? Kathy: Right, I sure did. Interviewer: And then I think you're kind of legendary for being the shy little girl who took two buses to San Jacinto. Kathy: Oh good. There are very few people in town who know about that - my first encounter with public transit (laughter) - the Pioneer Bus Company that had the franchise for northeast Houston. Interviewer: Why really did you decide to do that? Go to San Jacinto. Kathy: Oh, to do something new and different and I felt I was going to Marshall Junior High in northeast Houston. My brother was unlike me. My brother was very outgoing and he was a speech champion and did a lot of debating and things like that. He was a year ahead of me in school. I felt very much in his shadow and I thought it'd be fun to go someplace else and strike out on my own. Interviewer: Did you have to consciously overcome your shyness to do it? Kathy: Not to go to school on the other side of town. No. Interviewer: You were up to taking a two Pioneer bus rides to do it. Kathy: Right, right. I could manage that. Interviewer: What did you . . . Did you start to deal with your shyness by the time you were in high school? Kathy: No. Oh no, I was all the way through college and still afraid to get up in front of a group of people and say anything. Interviewer: Then how in the world did you get on the rifle team? (laughter) Kathy: When I was in high school at San Jacinto High School, I thought it would be fun to run for an office and I ran for several things. But one of the things I got elected to was to be what was called a sponsor in the ROTC since at that time ROTC was only for boys. The only way girls could be in ROTC was to be elected by the boys to be a sponsor. So that's what I was. Interviewer: Well, if you're shy, how did you run for office? Did you have to go talk to all the boys? Kathy: I had to talk to the boys. That's right, Jane, I sure did. Interviewer: What did you tell the boys, Kathy? Kathy: I don't remember. Don't remember about that. Interviewer: Why did you go to the University of Houston? As I recall, you went first to Southern Methodist. Kathy: You have really boned up on my history. . . this is good. I did. Interviewer: I'm running out. Kathy: Why I did . . . I was always interested in doing something new. I had had an uncle who was trying to counsel me about my academic career. He was an engineer. He had gone to the University of Houston, but he said "You know it would be better if you could go to Rice, because Rice really has the highest academic standards." I went and applied to Rice and ultimately I got admitted to go to Rice although it took them a while to get down to me on the list. But they ultimately did tell me that I could go to Rice and at that point they sent me some material about where I would be living in one of the colleges on the Rice campus. At which point my mother said, "Oh no, you won't be needing to do that because you'll be living at home since it's right here in Houston." By then, not knowing I was going to be accepted at Rice I had already applied to Southern Methodist University also and had been accepted there. So, at that point, having heard from my mother that I'd be living at home if I went to school in Houston, I decided that SMU looked like a really great school. (laughter) And I went up there. Interviewer: How long did you stay? Kathy: I only stayed one semester. Interviewer: Why did you not stay longer? Kathy: I must have had a good reason. I think it had something to do with a boyfriend that I had in Houston at the time. Such things seemed awfully important at that point in my life and I decided to come back to Houston. Interviewer: Then you met Jim at UH. You didn't know him before? Kathy: No, I did not know him. He was not the boyfriend in Houston. To make the story even better, he was at Baylor that year and he only stayed one semester. And for whatever reason, decided he didn't like Baylor and so . . . Interviewer: I can understand him not liking Baylor . . . (laughter) Kathy: So we both ended up at the University of Houston, but I didn't meet him until my junior year. Interviewer: When did you decide to be a CPA? Kathy: I guess about the time I came to the University of Houston. For some reason, at that point, I enrolled in the business school and listed accounting as my major. I didn't have a very good reason for it, but Interviewer: But you could spell it . . . Kathy: That's right. As students often do when they're freshmen in college that seemed like a reasonable thing to do and so that was what I did. So, I studied accounting in school and being a CPA seemed like the right thing to do after I had the degree. Interviewer: When did you first become aware of politics? Kathy: Well, that was back in high school. I remember pretty clearly while I was at San Jacinto High School studying American History that politics seemed very important and very enticing. I already knew that my dad talked about it all the time. And so, I began to think that politics was a really important thing to be involved with while I was in high school. Interviewer: Were you very aware of the local politics that were going on or were you thinking in . . .? Kathy: Well, I was thinking more about those things that we studied, like American History and the people who were running for President and that sort of thing. Although, to my dad's credit, he did point out when there were mayoral elections and what he thought about the candidates and there was one other tidbit along those years. The Houston Independent School District managed to have a fairly controversial school board. Always there were controversies at the school board and they were on Channel 8, on public television. One of the activities around my household in those early years of television was to gather around the television and watch the school board meetings which were on public television. (laughter) Interviewer: It was terrific entertainment, as I recall. Kathy: It was good entertainment. (laughter) Interviewer: Did you have a side? Kathy: No, I don't think so. Interviewer: You married before you could vote. Is that right? Kathy: That is true because you had to be 21 to vote and I was 20. Interviewer: Were you still in school? Kathy: Right. I was a junior at the University of Houston. Interviewer: So, you all married and finished school? Kathy: Right. Interviewer: Son of a gun. Kathy: We managed to finish school in spite of being married. That's true. Interviewer: Do you remember the first election you voted in? Kathy: You know, I've tried to figure that out because I think it may not have been until the '68 Presidential election, but I'm not a hundred percent sure about that. There may have been one in '67 where I got to vote. Interviewer: Do you remember who you voted for? Kathy: No. (laughter) Interviewer: You don't remember or you won't . . . Kathy: I like the way you put that: Do you remember who you voted . . . No, I don't even remember which election it was, Jane, so I sure don't . . . Interviewer: Who did you vote for in '68? Kathy: Who did I vote for in '68? I voted for Nixon. Interviewer: What about a primary? Did you go to a primary? Kathy: I don't remember. We didn't have primaries in those days for the Presidential elections. We had those precinct conventions. Interviewer: Well yeah. Kathy: Right. Oh, that's what you're talking about. No, I didn't go to the precinct convention. Interviewer: You just went to the general election and you voted for Nixon. Kathy: Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. That's the way I remember it. Interviewer: Well, that's a good enough way. I mean, you remember it better than anyone else would. Kathy: Okay. Interviewer: Who did Jim vote for, you think? Kathy: He probably voted for Nixon also. Interviewer: So, you certainly were not a dedicated Democrat at that point in your life. Kathy: No. I was not. Interviewer: Who'd you vote for in '72? Kathy: Nixon. Interviewer: Gee! (laughter) You stuck with it didn't you. Kathy: Right. I did. By then I was already going to the Democratic precinct conventions. Interviewer: When you . . . you to people who knew you in those days were a political wife. Kathy: Mmmhmm. I know . . . which was what I had intended to be. Interviewer: You did intend to be and you were aware of it and I mean, you never once thought about doing it yourself at that point. Kathy: Oh, I started thinking about being in politics myself probably about '72 because that was when Barbara Jordan was running for Congress. And, that was when Sarah Weddington was elected to the Legislature and Kay Bailey was elected to the Legislature and [first name inaudible] Thompson. I was seeing other women get elected then. So, I certainly was thinking about it by then. Interviewer: Was your plan to wait until Jim won and then you'd run too or did you . . . Kathy: Oh, I didn't really have a plan because by then I was doing something that was very, very challenging. I was pursuing my career in public accounting which is something else that other women were not doing. It was just as challenging as running for office. So, that's really what I was putting my personal career emphasis on at that point and encouraging Jim and supporting him in his political career. Interviewer: Were you involved in the actual political process which Jim went through to win election which for a city election at that time probably was not as detailed and consuming? There was once a much shorter period of time they ran. Kathy: I don't remember it that way at all. My husband ran for city council in 1973 as Jane remembers well. She was covering it at that point and I recall that he started planning that campaign in the early spring. Seems like it went on a long time. Certainly all through the summer we worked on the campaign and all through the fall. Interviewer: Well, was that your first real involvement in the mechanics of politics? Kathy: No, actually my husband's younger brother had been elected to the Legislature the year before in '72 and we worked on his campaign, went door to door passing out literature and, you know, worked to organized volunteers and that sort of thing. So, that was . . . Being a legislative district, when we first had small districts in Houston, that was a different kind of campaign because it was an example of true retail politics in that small district with only twenty precincts in it. We had that experience in '72 and then Jim's experience of running in the city-wide election for City Council in '73 when he challenged Frank Mann. He learned a lot about running against an incumbent . . . Council members too. Interviewer: When did you get involved in the cable television? Kathy: That was '73. In '73 I wandered down to City Hall one day as we were beginning to plan Jim's campaign for that fall. I had taken a week of vacation and I went into City Hall to see what was going on. The day I happened to be there, there was a great uproar in the City Council meeting. A lot of people from major cable television companies were there complaining about the fact that the City Council was getting ready to award a franchise for cable television to some local person who was reported to be a friend of the Mayor and didn't really have much experience in putting cable television in a major city. It looked like a pretty interesting issue to me. So I got involved in working against the franchise after the City Council went ahead and awarded it. Interviewer: If you curse your cable television, you owe it all to Kathy Whitmire? Kathy: No, if you wanted cable television back in 1974 and '75, I guess I was one of the people who kept you from getting it because we organized a little group called the Citizens Cable TV Coalition of which I was the president . . . and this while my husband was running for City Council. This was just something I did for fun on the side. We got five hundred petition signature because that's all it took to overturn a franchise that had been awarded by the City Council, that is to call a referendum on overturning it. So that called a referendum and we campaigned for people to overturn that franchise and they did. So another one was not awarded for five more years. Interviewer: Kathy, when did Jim die? Kathy: In 1976, the end of November. Interviewer: When did you run for Controller? Kathy: In 1977. Interviewer: Was that a part of the grief recovery? Were you doing any of it to justify . . . Kathy: Come on! I mean there were some people in Houston at the time who were rude enough to suggest that my campaign for Controller was just a good thing to keep me busy after I had lost my husband. Interviewer: A lot of people did that. Kathy: People were pretty rude who suggested that, I thought. Interviewer: All right. I just wanted to get it on the record. Kathy: Not many of them said it to me. Apparently some others said it to you. Interviewer: Yes. It was . . . I think that at that time it's safe to say that you started out with the image of the little, the brave little lady who was kind of carrying on until you got to a few debates, as I recall. Did you have runoff in that election or did you just flat out win it? There were twelve of you or something. Kathy: No, there were five of us. There was a runoff between me and Steve Jones. Interviewer: Steve Jones . . . Kathy: Remember him. Interviewer: Whatever happened to him? Kathy: He ran for the Legislature several years later and was defeated by Ashley Smith. That was the last time I saw him. Interviewer: You'd remember I'm sure. Kathy: Oh, I remember because also another thing he did. I guess I did see him another time along then because he was a surrogate speaker for Jack Herd's campaign for Mayor. Interviewer: Didn't work good, did it? You were the first Controller, no Lionel I guess. . . Kathy: To do what? Interviewer? To have an identity. Kathy: Lionel Castillo ran in '71. In fact, one little think of history that we didn't cover was when it became clear that the former Controller, Roy Oakes, was really not doing the job and hadn't been to the office in months because of his ill health, actually my husband had considered making that race in '71 and did not make it, just decided . . . I mean we were pretty young and weren't quite prepared to do it. Then Lionel Castillo jumped into it and I still recall that my husband thought well gee I have much better credentials for that position than he did, but sure enough Lionel managed to win and was a very well known city Controller. Interviewer: In a great sense that victory could be attributed to television. As you remember David Gallant went and interviewed Roy Oakes and the deal was he wasn't supposed to do anything but just ask him questions that he could kind of nod to. Kathy: I didn't remember that, no. Interviewer: He asked him a lot of questions. The poor fellow had trouble answering. That had a big impact. Okay, you were the second to have an identity. You were probably the first to have any skills of arithmetic. Kathy: I don't know. I'm not going to comment on that one. Interviewer: But you pretty much reorganized it, didn't you? the Controller's office? Kathy: I did. Yeah. I tried to get some things done in the Controller's office. I really liked that job. I came to it as someone who had worked in the public accounting profession for nine years and felt that I had some specific issues I wanted to work on. Even persuaded you Jane to write an article about pension plans one day while I was running and took a lot of talking to convince you that the financial soundness of our pension plans was really something that we ought to be writing an article about. Interviewer: As I recall, the principle way you convinced me was to have me talk to the Acting Controller who said that anyone who believed in a pension plan was a fool. Kathy: That was Henry Kriegel. Interviewer: That interested me a whole lot. Kathy: At any rate, I appreciated you writing that article because as a candidate for city Controller without much money, I was trying awfully hard to get some press coverage. Interviewer: And that race . . . You know that was kind of one of the last one's in Houston that I can remember being done at civic clubs and . . . Kathy: The last city Controller's race that was carried out at civic clubs? Interviewer: Well, yeah, pretty much. Kathy: I don't know. I don't know. I always went to lots of civic club meetings. I'd see Eleanor Tinsley out there. She went too. There were a lot of us who showed up at civic club meetings. Frank Mancusa used to come to some of them and he'd say you know I'm here campaigning for the candidate vote because that's mostly who was there . . . the candidates, particularly - yeah, you were there too - particularly when we had the all at-large City Council up until 1979. All these candidates for all these positions running all over the city going to civic club meetings. We got to know the other candidates quite well. Interviewer: Real well. You were involved in doing the district council stuff as Controller, right? Kathy: I was . . . Interviewer: Weren't you the [show]????? on that. Kathy: No. I was City Controller at the time that the Justice Department refused to pre-clear Houston's elections after the annexation of Clear Lake and Alief in 1978. When the legal department went ahead to file the information that's required under the Voting Rights Act about those changes in our voting as a result of those large annexations - and they were both very large - the Justice Department basically said "no" and the City Council faced the fact that they had to do something to change the system or there weren't going to be any more elections in Houston. The result was that the City Council finally agreed upon the 9-5 system that we still have today. They submitted it to the voters for referendum and I campaigned against it, as a matter of fact, because I was for a larger number of districts. Interviewer: Were you? Kathy: Mmmhmm. Interviewer: Well, that's . . . Kathy: And actually I. . . perhaps what you remember . . . My husband had been involved in the City Council district issues himself very actively along with the League of Women Voters and a number of other good groups who were campaigning for districts back in the early seventies when all of the Council members were at-large. We were involved in getting petitions signed to put a referendum on the ballot to change to a district system in the early seventies, I think '73, '74, around in there sometime. I think probably one of my first opportunities to be on television in Houston was when my husband and I and maybe a few other folks from the Houston Jaycees had set up a table out in front of the Houston Zoo to get petition signatures about single member districts and the park police came out and started to arrest us and made us leave. That was my involvement in the single member district issue. Interviewer: You were Controller at the first Metro election, were you not? Kathy: I was. Interviewer: And you did show for that. Kathy: I supported that, yes. Interviewer: That was, gee wiz, that was McConn right? He was mayor? Kathy: Yeah, that was the Metro election. There had been a previous Metro election that lost in '73 and I had opposed that, but probably was not important enough for anybody to know I opposed it. Interviewer: And you were for the one that won when you were Controller. And you were like co-chair of it. Kathy: No, I don't think so. Interviewer: Oh I think so. Kathy: Oh, well, maybe so along with you know five hundred other co-chairs probably. Interviewer: I remember that I questioned the fact that. As I recall you and a Republican and I said that made two Republicans and that made you awfully mad, as I recall. Kathy: I see. Interviewer: Because you were very non-partisan at the time. Kathy: Okay. Interviewer: What . . . in truth. Okay, when you first ran for Mayor, as I recall you were so determined to be open and answer all questions to show that you were tough enough to take them on that we finally begged for relief. Kathy: I don't remember that.. Interviewer: It was a challenge. I mean we had gotten down to what's your favorite color and do you use catsup on your french fries because you were going to stay and answer all the questions. Kathy: Okay. I don't remember that, but it makes a good story. Interviewer: It's true. Kathy: Okay. And you would remember it. Interviewer: I remember that. It's one of the only times in my life I ever had to call uncle in a press conference, to say you'd beaten me down to get me to stop. What did you kind of mirror and envision yourself being? Why did you run for mayor? Kathy: I ran for mayor because I was very disappointed in the way the city was being run and having been City Controller then for a little over three years, I had seen it from the inside and felt that a lot of money was being wasted and that the system was very closed and that a lot of people didn't have a chance to participate, didn't have a chance to participate in city business, didn't have a chance to participate as members of the staff, as department heads, didn't have a chance to participate in deciding what was going to get done in the city, what streets were going to get widened and things like that. So, those were big issues with me and those were the reasons that I wanted to run and wanted to defeat the incumbent was to change the system. Interviewer: When did you decide to run for Mayor? Kathy: I decided at the end of January in nineteen . . . whatever year that was . . . '81. Interviewer: Had you already had one of your famous stand up, stand off shouting matches with McCann before then? Kathy: Oh sure. A long time before then because by then I was in the middle of my second term. Interviewer: When you ran for Controller the first time which you won, there was a good deal of conversation and reaction about the fact that you were a woman which was somewhat offset I think in some people's minds because you were a CPA. Kathy: So that made it okay for me to be a woman. Interviewer: That made it kind of okay for you to be a woman. Kathy: That's right. (laughter) And actually that was my impression of how people perceived the situation at that time. Interviewer: I think it was a big factor. Well when you ran for Mayor there was certainly a segment of the population who thought it was quite strange for a woman to be running and they were people who had always had a rather large say in who would be Mayor. Do you remember what you did to capitalize or disguise or whatever it is that your a woman when you first ran for Mayor? Kathy: Well, sure. I remember trying to disguise the fact that I was a woman by always wearing business suits and trying to look very dignified and professional and this is like . . . not to disguise the fact that I was a woman but to counteract it, just as we were saying before. It was okay for me to be a woman and run for mayor because I was so businesslike. I don't think that was a makeover. I think I've been looking that way pretty much during my years as Controller. Interviewer: Awwww . . . Kathy: No? Interview: You don't think that . . . When you first looked at Controller, you wore frocks and long hair. (Laughter) Kathy: I did have long hair. You're right. I had those horn rimmed glasses to go with it. Interviewer (responding to audience comment): No, no the bow tie didn't come 'til she ran for Mayor. (Laughter) Kathy: Well, they weren't in style then. Interviewer: Once she tied that thing around her neck, she's so hard headed she wouldn't take it off. Kathy: While I was Controller, I read that John Malloy called "Dressing for Success" and that was where I learned about wearing bow ties. Interviewer: As I recall, you had a whole rack of them. Kathy: I did. Interviewer: You still have that rack of bow ties? Kathy: I don't think so. I think I did manage to get rid of that along the way. Interviewer: After you were elected Mayor were you scared? Kathy: No. Interviewer: How did . . . did you have to then again overcome a lot of resistance because of the perception that a good many people had of you as "that little lady." Kathy: I'm not sure what you mean about that. Interviewer: Once you were in office and had to start dealing with being a Mayor and the Mayor of Houston is, as I think you and I have agreed in the past, in terms of raw power just one of the most powerful people in the world. Kathy: No actually, we've not agreed on that. Interviewer: Oh good. We can argue. Kathy: Members of the press routinely make that statement, but the truth of the matter is that the City Council has more power than the Mayor does. Interviewer: But the Mayor sets the agenda and frequently prevails. Kathy: Well, I don't know. Mayors do prevail if they work hard at it, but if a majority of city council wants to do something different the mayor has no veto power in Houston as mayors do in some other cities. So the majority of council can prevail and indeed they can put items on the agenda as Jim Greenwood taught me in his first term on City Council when he was managing to put things on the agenda and post them on the board and so forth. So, we always allowed City Council members to just request that something go on the agenda and we always put it on. Interviewer: That's because you were a gullible kid. Kathy: No. That was because the lawyers on City Council had convinced the lawyers in my administration that they had that power. So, we acquiesced and unfortunately in more recent years I don't think the Council has had the kind of leadership to get that done. So, they don't do it anymore, but they certainly did back in my early days. The Mayor of Houston is a very good political position to be in in terms of being able to get things done, but it's not the raw power that is often painted by journalists in town because for one thing . . . for one thing, it has an independent City Controller that can just raise all kinds of havoc as many of us have demonstrated through the years and also because of the powers that City Council has. Interviewer: All right. I mean, we'll not take these people's time arguing. Kathy: Okay, we won't argue about it. Interviewer: We'll do this at another time. It's your interview. There still is a great deal that the Mayor of Houston can do and certainly there was a great deal that was perceived do-able by not just journalists in Houston. Kathy: Oh, and perceived doable by me too or I wouldn't have run. Interviewer: And one such thing being - even that you may have had to have Council approval in some sense - you ran Public Works and you ran all the departments and theoretically if Council couldn't get organized, you could have done a great disservice to a member of the Council, in terms of maybe not having the streets as well taken care of or the garbage . . . Kathy: I suppose a mayor could do that, but that's something that in my view would be highly immoral and unethical and I would never have considered doing it. Interviewer: Never. Kathy: Right. I feel strongly about that. I think it's absolutely tragic for mayors or anybody in politics to use their power in that way. Interviewer: Still, going back to the perception of you, when you came in as a woman and as I recall the day of your inauguration you went to the inaugural ball and were somewhat overwhelmed and left and . . . Kathy: No, by the press coverage. Interviewer: I wasn't there, Kathy. I wasn't bothering anybody. Kathy: And I would have been overwhelmed by you. It was the television cameras that got the best of me. Interviewer: And there was again the reaction of the little lady . . . Kathy: Mmmhmm. Interviewer: Sort of an "Oh my god, she fled." (Laughter) Interviewer: Were you conscious of coming back and bringing a lot of the heavy city political players in terms of the kind of money men or the so-called establishment bunch - which I've never understood what is an establishment in Houston but maybe you do - in bringing them into accepting you so that you could be Mayor? Or did you just simply go on and be the kind of mayor you wanted to be? Kathy: Right, I did not see that as there being a certain group of people whose blessing you had to have in order to do the job and I thought that that's what the election was about was to demonstrate that, you know, if you have the majority of the votes, then you got the opportunity to see if you could do the job. I had an advantage in the campaign in dealing with the issue that you mentioned - people who traditionally put a lot of money in city elections - because the people who traditionally put a lot of money in city elections traditionally put their money in the incumbents election and that year the incumbent was Jim McCann, and Mayor McCann did not make the runoff. Since I led into the runoff and since a lot of those people who were contributing to Mayor McCann already knew me on a personal level because I'd been City Controller for four years - so that, you know, it wasn't that I was some unknown - most of them contributed to my campaign in the runoff against Jack Herd. The majority of those people that you would identify as the establishment were indeed on my team in that short two week runoff that we had. So, that kind of took care of the issue. Interviewer: That was the election that the . . . What was . . . Martin said, "Tough enough to . . . . Oh, you called on Herd to come out and fight like a man. Kathy: Right. We had a full page ad in both papers, I believe, that said - it was because we couldn't get Jack Herd to agree to a debate - and it said, "Jack Herd, come out and fight like a man." I thought it was a very well done ad, too. Interviewer: It was. It was a terrific, it was a brilliant ad. Kathy: I had nothing to do with coming up with it, but when somebody mentioned the idea to me, I thought it was wonderful. Interviewer: And you got terrific mileage out of it for a long time. Kathy: Mmmhmm. We did and we had the debate too. Interviewer: And you wiped up with him as I recall. Kathy: I don't know that it even mattered because it was the night before the election by the time we had it, but we did have the debate. Interviewer: What . . . You were Mayor of Houston for ten years and we just heard a whole slew of your accomplishments. . . Kathy: Oh, okay, thank you. Interviewer: . . . spieled off. Let me ask you first . . . During that ten years you went through a rough time for at least a couple of reasons I think and I'm sure you'll disagree with me. Kathy: A whole bunch of reasons. Interviewer: One is that the mayors before you had put a lot of stuff off that maybe should have been dealt with. Seems fair to say. Two, the economy . . . Kathy: That was the biggest problem. Interviewer: . . . took a big nose dive and . . . Do you feel that you overtly did something? Kathy: . . . to cause the economy to make a nose dive? or that I overtly did something to get through that? Interviewer: Sure. What? Kathy: What did I do to get through the problem of the economy being in trouble? What I did was divert a substantial amount of my energy, effort and time as Mayor that I would like to have used on management reforms and things like that to economic development. That became the thing on which I spent the majority of my efforts and the efforts of my administration. Of course, the more visible pieces of it had to do with in 1984 when we joined with various people in the business community and elsewhere to form the Economic Development Council to serve as kind of an umbrella for our community-wide economic development efforts. Interviewer: A task that's not been done much since you left us as mayor. Would you have continued it if you'd stayed in office? Kathy: Well sure. I was so much in the habit of debate then I wouldn't have thought about anything else, but no I think Houston is certainly not back in the boom times again and certainly there is a need for municipal as well as private sector activity in the economic development sphere. Interviewer: Do you think that you kept the city government in a pretty good financial position through all that? Kathy: Oh, I know that we kept the city government in good financial condition through the difficult times. I mean that's probably what I got the most criticism for and had the most, took the most political hits over, is that if we didn't have the money, we didn't spend it and if that meant that the grass didn't get cut, the grass didn't get cut. When we got to the point that we just didn't have enough money to even keep going, then we raised taxes. So, I mean those were the tough issues, you know. When we were not spending money, we laid off a lot of employees. So we took a lot of serious hits, but we did keep the city in good financial shape in that we didn't go off and spend money that we didn't have. Interviewer: Apart from the last one, what was the roughest election you had as mayor? Kathy: When Louis Welch ran against me was the roughest election that I had. In 1985. Interviewer: More so than . . . Was it as important to you as '83? Kathy: '83? '83 when Bill Wright was the man who ran against me? See, we could have taken a poll around the room to see how many people would remember that. Interviewer: He's the one who borrowed kids for the parade. Kathy: I didn't recall that part. He had actually worked in my campaign in '81 when I was running against the incumbent mayor and he ran against me two years later. He ended up not being as serious of a challenger as people thought he would be, but I mean there was no doubt that Louis Welch was a serious challenger. Interviewer: Indeed. Did . . . why did you beat Louis Welch? Kathy: I think because we out campaigned him and because you know not saying that the campaign deserves all the credit. I would say that the message of our campaign is that we've come too far to turn back now. This is a new Houston. We've made progress. We don't want to go back to the old days and we tried to make that picture very clear - that here was the mayor from the sixties. Do you want things the way the were back in the sixties or do you want to go forward with us? So that was the message of our campaign. Interviewer: In some respects, Fred Hofheinz who was the mayor elected after Welch, was thought to be a progressive, new kind of guy . . . Kathy: Absolutely. Interviewer: . . . and yet that image really didn't stick with him a whole lot in . . . Kathy: Oh, I thought it did while he was mayor. Interviewer: Well, I think probably while he was mayor, but if you were to ask most people now - and of course it may be the time span on it - but you were considered the candidate who put together, perhaps not consciously, but came up with a coalition of pretty progressive people who had appeal to the minorities as well. Is there . . . There were really no minority cards played or at least well-played in your first mayoral race. Kathy: What does that mean? Interviewer: Well, somebody may have tried, but . . . I mean traditionally before you became mayor there were always these tremendous fights, particularly over the black community and it would involve . . . For example, Hofheinz, when he ran against Briscoe, a lot of flyers appeared in the black community. Kathy: That said, "Vote for Hofheinz," you mean. Is that the point? Interviewer: No, it said Briscoe was a very bad man. Kathy: Oh, okay. No, I didn't know about that. I was running for Controller then. I must have missed it, but I don't remember that occurring during my campaign. Interviewer: I don't think it did. Kathy: But the minority vote was very important and the black vote particularly because it was such a large vote. We made a strong effort in my first mayoral campaign when we had this large field of candidates - fifteen of us. We made a strong effort to get as much of that minority vote as we could. Now with all these candidates and with the fact that one of them was Justice of the Peace, Al Green, and also that Mayor McCann had a lot of black support, I think we got about 20% of the black vote going into the runoff. But then in the runoff we got it all. So, I mean it was a very important factor in my election. Interviewer: But you held that coalition for an extraordinarily long time. If there was a tradition in Houston, it was that it always required a coalition of black and white voters to elect a mayor the first time, but then it tended to fracture one way or the other. You held it. Kathy: Mmmhmm. Interviewer: To what do you attribute that? Kathy: Oh, I think that . . . I would attribute that to the fact that we made a real effort to include the black community in the administration and that was most visibly symbolized by the fact that we had a black Police Chief. That was not the singular event, but that was the most visible symbol. Interviewer: And it was a striking symbol. It was a . . . How aware of that when you. . . You know that you're enough of a politician that you're going to tell me that the only thing you cared about was the police chief's qualifications and just be an absolute all time, bang up, best police chief, that . . . Kathy: That's a pretty good argument, isn't it? Interviewer: That out of the way, How conscious were you of what you were doing and what impact it might or might not have? Kathy: I was totally unconscious of it, at that time. Actually, Jane you know me well enough probably to understand this, because that was a decision I made when I'd been Mayor for about two months. I have to tell you when I'd been Mayor for about two months, the concept of needing to put together the politics to run for reelection was not an idea that had yet entered my mind. I'm sure it had entered Glenteen Cassion's (????) mind. But it had not entered mine. Interviewer: And so you really did . . . Kathy: That was something that I was very fortunate. Not everybody knows this, but when it was decided by the current Police Chief that he did not want to continue to serve into my first term, that was B.K. Johnson, then I was trying to decide what to do about it and it was actually Eleanor Tinsley who said we ought to have a nationwide search. I've continued to give her great credit for suggesting that because it was not an idea that I conceived on my own. Then even more important, it was Jim Kettleson who was chairman of Tenneco who had been a very important supporter of mine who stepped forward and said that he would arrange for an executive search firm to contribute their services and he would get some money raised to pay the necessary expenses, so that I could have an executive search firm to make this national search for me and that I did not have to get the City Council to approve it because they probably would not have. So, due to the good work of Eleanor and Jim and all these people and the search firm, Spencer-Stuart who did a very good job, we were able to choose from a wide array of superior candidates for Police Chief. I never had heard of Lee Brown. In fact, I never knew there was a black Police Chief in a major city. At that point, that came as a surprise to me. Fortunately for me all these factors fell into place and I was able to make a very good selection. Then I was able to secretly contact Council Members and line up the eight votes before anybody knew about it. Interviewer: No, somebody knew about it. Kathy: Who? Interviewer: I did. Kathy: Well, why didn't you tell anybody? Interview: For a variety of reasons that I'll explain to you sometime. Kathy: Wow, that's pretty interesting. Interviewer: By bringing in Brown, you had two things to overcome. One, he was the first Police Chief in certainly anybody's memory who had not come from within the Department. Kathy: In forty years. We did research that. There had been another one forty years earlier. Interviewer: . . . and he was black. And at that time the police department was . . . suffered with a terrible image. Kathy: And had no blacks above the rank of sergeant. Interviewer: And that was probably one or two, max. Kathy: Mmmhmm. There were a few sergeants. Interviewer: And I think an Hispanic lieutenant. Kathy: I think so. Interviewer: Did it go . . . Once you had named him, did you get any reaction? Somebody call you up and tell you you were a fool or did somebody . . . What happened? Kathy: Well, we had the Ku Klux Klan demonstrating in the Council meeting. (Laughter) And Councilman John Goodner out in Alief decided to hold a town meeting on the subject at which the Ku Klux Klan was very present and people were yelling and screaming. There was quite a reaction. Certainly, it was a national press event that was widely covered. Not only was it unique for Houston, but one of the pieces of information that Lee Brown had that I didn't have was that it was the first time that a white mayor had appointed a black police chief in any city. Interviewer: Did you at any time think that . . . I know that you wouldn't have questioned your good judgment in appointing this really swell Police Chief . . . but did you ever think 'Gee it would have been easier if there had been a good white guy from within. Kathy: No, I didn't really think about that at all. It actually wasn't hard. Like I said, it all just kind of fell together and worked very well and the City Council members were very supportive. We got I think ten votes on City Council which was more than enough. Interviewer: Okay, continuing on the theme of police chiefs, when Lee Brown left, you who had done away with the position of Women's Advocate . . . Kathy: I didn't do that. Jim McCann did that. Interviewer: That's right. I take it back. Kathy: Thank you. Interviewer: Okay. (Laughter) . . . appointed a woman Police Chief. Kathy: Mmmhmm. Interviewer: With the exception of the Police Department that seemed to be more readily acceptable to the community. Kathy: Actually, that was very accepted within the Police Department. Betsy was quite well received within the department because she'd come up through the ranks. I mean there were a few folks who didn't like Betsy, but the ranking file generally thought she was okay. Interviewer: Well, for about fifteen minutes maybe. Then that became a kind of fight to the end of your tenure as Mayor with the Police Department for with which you've never had particularly . . . Kathy: Not really. Interviewer: . . . warm relations. Kathy: I didn't find that to be any different than it had been before. Interviewer: So you were unfazed by that aspect. Okay, there are a couple more things that you probably will not want to be remembered by, but stand out in your career. One of them is gay rights referendum which certainly turned into a (coughing and talking at the same time) brouhaha if you will. Kathy: To put it mildly. Interviewer: And brought national attention to the city. A lot of different assessments made of it. What's your assessment of it? Kathy: My assessment of the Gay Rights Referendum was that it was a very unfortunate event. The reason it was so unfortunate is because an issue was put on the ballot that allowed people to vote not about the issue that was on the ballot but about whether or not they liked having gay people around, and whether they had good, warm fuzzy feelings about people who were gay. And the majority of them, a very unfortunately large majority of them, didn't' have such good feelings. So, the vote was very, very negative. Interviewer: Well, the idea, as I recall, was that it was to guarantee that there would be no discrimination with the city of Houston in hiring gay people. Kathy: That was what the issue was, but that's not what people voted about. Interviewer: And it seemed to have gotten terrifically out of hand. I was on the road a lot that year. It was a presidential election year and I Kathy: You missed it. Interviewer: I'd get a graph here or there. I remember Glenteen Cassion (unsure of name and spelling) calling me and asking me what I though about such a thing. Kathy: What'd you tell her? Interviewer: I said from my wisdom of New York City I think, where I was at the time, sounds like a right to work vote to me Glenteen. I don't see how you can lose with that in Houston, Texas and then I came home and Steven Oates, he had arisen from the, wherever Steven came from, and John Gugner is still bitter that he didn't get full credit for the gay-bashing. How did it get away? Kathy: Well, I don't know. I thought it was a problem from the beginning. I'm glad you and Glenteen thought it was okay. Quite frankly, in the '83 election when the gay political caucus in Houston was so strong having been on the winning side two years earlier that Council candidates were lining up fighting for their endorsement and fighting with each other over their endorsements. That group decided in its wisdom to quiz every council member on this issue, every council candidate and to get commitments in advance that council members would support an ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual preference in city government. And they said, oh this is very, you know, not much to it and I told them at the meeting it was a bad idea. I just . . . I was not comfortable with it. I told them that there is no discrimination, that is our policy. We are happy to make that our policy. We are happy to publicize it, but passing an ordinance is not really going to get you where you want to be at this point. They insisted on doing it anyway 'cause they felt that they were that strong. They pushed the council members for commitments and once the council members were there, they pushed them to follow through on it. And they did. And it was a close vote on Council. When the vote on Council is 8 to 7, I mean that doesn't bode well for how it's going to fare out in the public. So, I mean, I thought it was a very, very hard issue to win from the very beginning. Interviewer: Why did you campaign for it? Kathy: Because I believe in it. I mean I do believe in gay rights. I do think people deserve to be treated equally and not discriminated against. It was a position that I had taken within the administration. I voted for the ordinance. I didn't want it overturned. I campaigned for it, but I never really had any particular hope that we were going to prevail at the election. I think when the Chamber of Commerce made the unfortunate decision to come out and lead the opposition, any hope that anybody might have had should have been dissipated at that point. Interviewer: How, going on from there then to the Welch campaign . . . Do you think that there was any great significance to the Welch's misadvertant remark that was picked up and played over Channel 13? Kathy: His remark about his four point plan to solve the AIDS epidemic would begin by shooting the queers? You know it was national publicity. Within our campaign, we thought we had it won at that point, by the time it happened. I mean, we thought prior to that happening, we thought we had it won. That's what our tracking polls showed. And that was down in about the last two or three weeks of the election and a lot of people around my campaign on the day that happened said, that's it, it's over because we thought we had it won and that cinched it. Interviewer: See, I thought you had it won before then too. I was just interested if you thought . . . a lot of people tend to look at that election and say that was it. Kathy: Well, internally, we all celebrated 'cause we thought we had it won, but that made it a sure thing. Interviewer: And I say that led to the Louis Welch thing because Welch was head of the Chamber of Commerce. Kathy: He had been. He was head of the Chamber of Commerce at the time they made the decision to campaign against the Gay Rights Ordinance. He sure was. (Audience member breaking in to ask a question.) Interviewer: I'm sorry I can't hear you. Yeah, give me just a couple more. Kathy: We're going through this historical . . . Interviewer: I was told to go chronologically. Kathy: Yeah. Okay. Interviewer: But you weren't a lot of fun when you were a little girl. (Laughter) Kathy: I wasn't. If only you had known me then. Interviewer: Okay, that leads to Metro. Kathy: Mmmhmm. Interviewer: and the monorail and certainly that played a significant part in your defeat. If for no other reason that I think most people would agree that that was a problem and one of the main reasons why Bob Lanier ran. Kathy: One of the main reasons he ran is because I told him I didn't want him to serve as the chairman of Metro any longer. Interviewer: Because of the disagreement of Metro. You favored a monorail plan. Kathy: Actually, that piece of information is reported wrong in the paper all the time. I favored a rail plan. Interviewer: I'm sorry, I knew when I said it, I knew when I said it I was wrong... Kathy: Yeah, I know, but it's reported wrong so often. It says he opposed the monorail plan, but there wasn't any monorail plan when he was there. When he was the chairman there was a concept of having a rail plan and then the technology had to be chosen and subsequently was chosen by the board after Bob was gone. Interviewer: But he opposed rail . . . Kathy: Period. Interviewer: He has and in campaigning against you, he cast it to a great extent in the light of a referendum on rail. Kathy: Mmm. . . I don't think so. 'Cause I don't think he would have won if that would have been the way he cast it. I thought he cast as a referendum on whether law enforcement is more important than rail transit. Which is a very different question . . . Interviewer: It is. Kathy: . . . than whether or not you're for rail transit. Because the majority of people in Houston were for rail transit at that time. It's just that they were real concerned about crime. Interviewer: Which came out of a slowed news summer. Kathy: A what? Interviewer: A slowed news summer. Kathy: No, I think it came out of a series of very high profile, very violent crimes. Interviewer: Which were well broadcast. Okay, but do you still think that Houston should have had a rail system? Kathy: Oh absolutely. Now that Denver and Dallas and Los Angeles and everybody else have them, it's more clear than ever that we should have one, that that was a serious mistake. Interviewer: It is widely believed in Houston, and I think elsewhere, that Lanier was a, something of a sore winner and that he has not quickly forgiven you for the transit, when he was head of the transit, asking him to no longer be head of the transit thing. And has worked rather actively against you since he won the election. Do you sense that is true? Kathy: Well, he is not one of my best friends. (Laughter) Interviewer: That is the biggest understatement since Custer said these look like friendly Indians. Kathy: But you know what he has done or not done, I think he'll have to speak for. Interviewer: Has it made life harder for you? Are you bitter about it? Kathy: No. Interviewer: What do you see yourself doing with the rest of your life? Kathy: Having a good time. Interviewer: Are you having fun? Kathy: Yeah. I've had a lot of opportunities to do things outside of Houston now which caused me not to be quite as concerned about whatever they're doing in city government these days. I think that the opportunities that have opened up to me as a result of having served the city for 14 years have been considerable and I've really enjoyed that. Interviewer: Do you envision that you'd ever come back to Houston? Kathy: Oh, I might very well. Interviewer: But nothing particular in mind? Kathy: Haven't made any plans to do that yet. Interviewer: Can you envision that you would ever run for public office? Kathy: I might do that too. The only thing I'm sure is that it wouldn't be Mayor or Controller because there's an ordinance against that now. Interviewer: Well, you can't run for Secretary of Defense or War which I always thought you were best qualified for. Kathy: Oooooo. Thanks. Open door... Interviewer: You have been called and have called yourself at various times in your life - and I certainly have not known anyone to ever contradict any of them - tough, plenty tough, really tough, prepared, organized, and stoic. Kathy: I don't know if I called myself all those things. Interviewer: I think maybe you have at some point or another. I remember the tough enough to do anything line. Kathy: I'll go for that. Interviewer: And not a sentimentalist. A good many of the stories said, Whitmire's hardly known for being sentimental. Kathy: Okay. Interviewer: Which I think was another way of saying 'God she's tough.' Just had to get a little variety in it. Do you still assess yourself that way? Kathy: I assess myself as being tough. Yeah. I'm certainly as sentimental as the next person. I don't remember that line, but yeah, I am tough. Interviewer: And prepared? Kathy: I try to be prepared. Interviewer: Are you still shy? Kathy: Uh, no. (Laughter) I got over that somewhere along the way. Interviewer: You remember when? Kathy: Yeah, I actually do remember when. Interviewer: When? Kathy: When I was teaching at the University of Houston when I was in graduate school. I had a teaching fellowship and I was teaching sophomore accounting. This was when I was still afraid to stand up in front of a group of people and say anything. Realizing that I had a room full of students who had to learn accounting by the end of the semester, kind of caused me to overcome my shyness or my self-consciousness or whatever and focus on the students instead. That really got me past that issue. Interviewer: You've tended always to classify yourself as a fiscal conservative, but liberal on social issues. Do you still do so? Kathy: Most of us use the term progressive instead of liberal. Yeah, that's right. Interviewer: You now consider yourself a Democrat publicly. Is that correct? Kathy: Oh sure. Oh yeah. I mean I've been active in the Democratic Party since the early seventies. Interviewer: Have you ever thought it was strange that so many people campaigned against you on the basis that you were a liberal democrat? and I think a good deal of that was related to the fact that you were a woman and secondly the fact that probably the gay support you had in your first election which was well known. And that that was something that people thought about you all the way through your tenure as Mayor, though I submit that there were a good many things to demonstrate otherwise. And at the end you were defeated by a man that most people pictured because he was older and white and a millionaire business man as being quite conservative when in truth he's probably a good deal more liberal than you. Kathy: That's right. Has good Democratic credentials. People all over the country think he's a Republican. People mention that to me all the time. What about that Republican down there in Houston who beat you? And I say, no, actually he's got very good Democratic credentials. That's an interesting analysis and part of it is the fact that women are thought to be more liberal generally in politics, but the other piece of it is the confusion in the public psyche, people who don't think about politics as much as we do, on this whole liberal-conservative spectrum and how it applies differently to different issues. What does liberal or conservative mean? People assume if you're for balancing budgets, then you probably don't want to ban assault weapons. And you know, you probably like to discriminate against gay people because you like to balance budgets. How those two fit together, I don't know, but that's really what the public analysis generally is. And yet I submit that the majority of people in the United States today are conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues, that that is a clear majority. If we could ever get them all together in one party, that would be the ruling party. Interviewer: Certainly the polls would so indicate. Kathy: But neither of the parties has bothered to pursue that. Interviewer: But you in essence started out overcoming a stereotype and then in essence ended being defeated by a stereotype. Kathy: No, I don't think that's accurate, at all. No. I think the main reasons that I lost the election in '91 were because term limits was a cause that people had come to believe in and my continuing in office was adverse to the concept of term limits and because people were really, really concerned about the crime wave and wanted something done about that at all cost. And I made it clear that I was not willing to do it at all cost if at all cost was sacrificing the transit system. And you know voters validly voted on that issue and wanted that done, wanted the transit system sacrificed to that cause and wanted term limits. Then there was the further factor that that was the first time I'd been challenged by two strong candidates. All of my other elections when I was challenged I only had one. Interviewer: One last question. What should I have asked you that I didn't? Kathy: Oh well, you know, we could have gone on all night. I think you covered the waterfront, Jane. Interviewer: Thank you. (Applause) (Call for questions.) Kathy: I think the part you skipped was the role of the Women's Political Caucus. Interviewer: Yeah, that was a good one. I'm gonna {???} you said that. Kathy: Oh, your asking these too.. Interviewer: What about the role of the Women's Political Caucus and your involvement in it? And yet you were never involved in NOW. You were not . . . strangely I don't think you were really perceived as a feminist until you'd been into public office for a good while. Even when you ran I don't think. Kathy: That's interesting because really when I ran for City Controller, I wouldn't be here today had it not been for the Women's Political Caucus. They really supplied the volunteers to get that campaign going. Had we not had that organized group that put together that huge volunteer force we would never have had the campaign going and we would not have won. It was a pretty important factor and I may not have gotten involved with the Women's Political Caucus had they not had the national meeting here in '73 that my husband read about in the newspaper and said why don't you go to this. It was a pretty important factor in my whole political background. Interviewer: Are you still active? Kathy: I'm sorry. Interviewer: Are you still active in the Political Caucus? Kathy: Oh absolutely. Interviewer: Was your mother or other women close to you in your childhood and adolescence active in the community or world of work? Kathy: No. The answer to that is no, generally. My mother, as I said, was the one who thought I ought to gain job skills and make sure I had financial independence because she didn't. She actually did get a job for a while when I was about in the sixth grade and my brother convinced her to quit her job because he liked having her at home. She then did not go back to work until after I finished high school. She was not that role model of the career woman. Interviewer: I've got to ask you this one. Does Houston need another stadium for the Oilers? (Laughter) Kathy: Well my tendency is to think not. (Laughter and applause) But let me quickly say that's not because I don't want to keep the Oilers in town or don't want to get another NFL football team because I do happen to be a big football fan. We did work very hard back in '87 to keep the Oilers from going to Jacksonville. Even though it wasn't the city that did it, we . . . I strongly supported the county's move to spend 50 million dollars upgrading the Astrodome to keep them in town. Interviewer: Who do you follow now? Kathy: I'm sorry. Interviewer: Are you still an Oilers fan or have you moved on now. Are you a New England Patriots fan? Kathy: No, I was keeping up with the Oilers. I kind of quit watching them after they decided they'd move to Nashville. Interviewer: Still a little chauvinistic about Houston, are you? Kathy: Little bit, mmmhmm. Interviewer: Please tell about a woman who was a significant influence in your life. Kathy: A woman who was very significant in my political life in a very personal way was Glenteen Cassion (sp.??). We've referred to her a couple of times 'cause a lot of people here know her or knew her. She's passed away now. She was my campaign manager in my first two mayoral, first three mayoral campaigns. I had met Glenteen through Democratic politics. She was a long-time political worker, very active in the Democratic party and was an aide to a state senator and a member of the state Democratic executive committee when I asked her to manage my campaign. She was a person who really helped shape my political values in terms of the way campaigns should be run and office holders should behave. Glenteen was very important. I had a couple of other political role models, but they were not directly involved in my politics. They were Barbara Jordan and Sarah Weddington both of whom were very important role models for me in the early seventies as I first began to think of myself as someone who could run for office. Seeing their successes really encouraged me, seeing Barbara who was from right here in Houston go ahead and do the many great things that she did and then when I met Sarah and realized she was only about a year older than me and had managed to win the Roe vs. Wade case at the Supreme Court I wondered why I had done so little with my life at that point. So, I really was motivated by those women. Interviewer: What was your proudest achievement as Mayor? and your biggest failure? Kathy: Well I think my proudest achievement was being able to steer the city through that recession era period and kind of keep things together if you will so we could actually start growing again and keep things managed well enough at City Hall so that there would not be any catastrophes. I suppose that my biggest failure was that I lost that election in 1991. Interviewer: I kind of thought that would be it. Kathy: Kind of stands out. Interviewer: What key concerns or insights do you deal with in your Women and Government class? Kathy: . . . class. I teach a class; it's actually called Women and Politics. The issues that I deal with there first is to take an historical look at women fighting for suffrage and the fact that women have only had the vote in this country for 75 years and not much longer than that anywhere else in the world and to look at how women have progressed and advanced as political players during that time. Then, to look at the influence that women as office holders are having on the public agenda. I find that to be the most important issue in looking at women in politics is not only the accomplishments of individual women but the fact that women as a group are more likely to put issues pertaining to children and families, issues pertaining to health care and senior citizens high up on the public agenda. Also, that women as a group are more likely to put openness and ethical standards in government high up on the list. So, I believe that the statistics show at least from women serving in office up to now that larger numbers of women holding office actually will change the public agenda and change what happens in government. (Applause) There are other people who will argue the other side of that. Interviewer: Would we have fewer wars had women . . . Kathy There are people who argue both sides of that issue. Certainly there are plenty of examples of high profile women, women in public policy roles who have been hawks. So I don't think it can be said conclusively that we would have fewer wars, but I do think when you poll women in the public, women as a group have more pacifist views. Interviewer: Well, I'll tell you what if I were going to have to fight a war I'd rather fight a man. Women take no prisoners. Kathy: I couldn't comment on that. Interviewer: Yeah, I think you could. Have you and Ann Richards had any opportunity to commiserate in the last year or so? Kathy: No we have not, unfortunately. Interviewer: Have not eaten any burritos together? Kathy: No. (Laughter) Interviewer: Mayor Whitmire, I understand you were one of the founding women of the Houston Area Women's Center. Can you please discuss the early goals and issues that were most prominent at the time. Kathy: Well, the Houston Area Women's Center, I was one of the people whose name was involved in that. I certainly was a big supporter of it. I would give Nicki Van Hightower a lot of the credit for being the spark plug who got that going. She was serving as Mayor Hofheinz Women's Advocate at the time that the concept was developed amongst a lot of us who were involved in the Caucus and now, at that point. She continued that cause after she was summarily dismissed by Mayor McCann and then was able to rally a lot of people to the cause. Certainly, I was one of the women who supported it. There was another event that occurred shortly after that or right about that time that was very important to me as it relates to the Women's Center and its shelter for abused women and children. One thing that I found when I was Controller was a little pocket of money that the city had that nobody seemed to particularly know much about that was called the Battaglia Fund that had been left by a man who died without any heirs and left his money to the city to be used for charitable purposes. It had not been used for several years. It was accruing interest and actually included some mineral interests and some property in east Harris County where there was a potential to drill for oil. So when I found this, found out about it, Nicki was working on the Women's Center and a lot of people I knew were working on it and a member of my staff approached a woman on Mayor McConn's staff with the idea that the interest from that fund to be contributed to support the Shelter. This particular woman on the mayor's staff thought it was a good idea and she agreed to ask the mayor if it was okay. And he said, yeah sure, if you line up the Council members to vote for it. She tried to line up the Council members to vote for it and was not successful in doing that. She just couldn't get the votes. This was before the '79 election at which the first two women were elected to City Council, Eleanor Tinsley and Kristin Hartung. So, after that election we asked Eleanor if she would like to work on it. She did and she worked very hard and she succeeded. As far as I know that money is still going to the Women's Center Shelter today. (applause) . . . which is the example I always give my students about the difference it makes to have women in office because that was one very clear time that we couldn't get anything done for this particular need that women and children had until we had a woman in office to work on it. Interviewer: For the sake of my reputation, I recall now that the question to you was since it was the intervening mayor between you and Hofheinz, McCann, who did . . . who said that he would not have a Woman's Advocate - you were asked if you would have one and you suggested it would be superfluous. Kathy I do recall that. That was good. I forgot that, Jane. I suggested it would be superfluous to have a Woman's Advocate on the mayor's staff since the mayor was a woman. Interviewer: Just wanted to clear that up. Kathy: That's good. I'd forgotten that. Interviewer: I worked in Washington, DC while Sharon Pratt-Kelly was mayor. A lot of the criticism I heard directed at her echoed things that have been said of you. I also hear these things spoken about Hillary Clinton, things that you never hear said about male politicians. I of course blame this on our misogynist society. What do you think of the criticisms you received? Was any of it justified? What did you learn from it or did you make any changes due to it? What do you attribute it to? Kathy: Well, I think the criticism that I have received that was also received by Sharon Pratt-Kelly while she was mayor of Washington and also by Hillary Clinton is aimed at being perhaps strident - strident is a term that is usually applied to women rather than men - and being hard-headed, hard to get along with, not making friends, not getting people on my side and persuading them - those kinds of things. I'm sure that some of these kinds of criticisms are sometimes made against men. I do think they are made more often against women. One of my colleagues at Harvard now is Barbara Roberts who was the governor of Oregon. Listening to Barbara talk about how she was accused of all of those same things - you know, couldn't get along with the legislature - you know which is another way of saying she wouldn't give in to what the legislature wanted. She was a very strong woman. She made all these people in the timber industry so mad at her and the fact that she was also a woman really got under their skin. Listening to her talk about it, and I haven't heard Sharon Pratt-Kelly talk about it although I've read some of those comments, I think demonstrates that there is an element of criticism that comes against women who are particularly strong-willed and outspoken. Certainly that applies to Hillary Clinton as well. Interviewer: Is it the fact that because most of the women in politics who have succeeded in politics do tend to be strong-willed and independent? Kathy: Most people of either gender do tend to be strong-willed or they wouldn't be able to get through the problems that exist in politics. Interviewer: But you don't have the illusion of the collegiality that males often have, even great loners. Kathy: I'm not sure why that would be. I mean, I feel strongly that the answer is you know, she can't get along with this group or that group means she didn't give in to them. Maybe traditionally more politicians have gone along to get along - that that has been a traditional thing. The research also shows that women who run for political office tend to do it because of issues that they feel deeply about, not just because they believe they have leadership qualities and want to provide leadership in the community, but because they care about these issues and are not going to give in on them. That sometimes comes as a shock to people in government and politics - that you're just not going to give in on your issues that you care about. Interviewer: How do you perceive the Asian community as a community that needs to be courted in political elections of Houston? Kathy: How do I perceive the Asian community? Certainly the Asian community, while still small as a voting group in Houston, has become each year a more important part of the social and political fabric here, particularly a more significant part of the business community. I always tried to advocate for the multi-ethnic nature of Houston as a place to live and do business. So, sure I was one of those politicians who courted the Asian community. The fact that there is now an Asian-American elected to City Council I think shows that progress. Not that there were enough Asian-Americans voting to put her into office, but it demonstrates that there is a recognition that that's part of our multi-ethnic fabric and that it's good to have an Asian-American on City Council. Interviewer: Were you a Girl Scout? Kathy: I actually was a Brownie. I never quite made it to Girl Scouts. Interviewer: I knew the answer to that. Kathy: I bet you did. Interviewer: If yes, do you feel that that experience contributed to your success? Kathy: Oh, probably not because it was so long ago that I was a Brownie. Interviewer: Will you support Lee Brown for Mayor? Kathy: Well, he hasn't asked me yet. I'm certainly a big supporter of Lee's. I generally support him for the things he's wanted to do up to now. Interviewer: Do you keep your voter registration in Houston? Kathy: No, I don't, Jane. I did move my voter registration. Interviewer: Is that because you can't stand to see a municipal election go by without input or do you think you just ought to do it where you live? Kathy: I just kind of think it's nice to be involved in the local issues where you live and so wherever I've lived I've registered to vote. Interviewer: Did you register in Massachusetts? Do you register by party there? Kathy: Yes. There and in Colorado and in both cases I registered as a Democrat. Interviewer: Well, I can't ask you any primary questions. Did you vote for Bill Clinton? Kathy: Yeah. There wasn't much choice. Interviewer: You all are out of steam. Thank you very much. Kathy: Thank you. (Applause) 26