Julián Castro — former federal housing secretary, former San Antonio mayor and, by the looks of things, a man who is sizing up the possibility of a run for the White House in 2020 — will join the faculty at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs in September.
Castro initially will lead a seminar series examining the complexities of policy development through the lens of housing. Workshops on the future of Texas, as well as podcasts and traditional classes with an interdisciplinary favor, could soon be in the mix.
“We’re living in this moment where a lot of young people are questioning the value of public service, and they find it hard to see good public policy in action,” Castro told the American-Statesman on Monday. “The more voices that can help inspire them to go into public service and to take public policy seriously, I think the better off we’re going to be.”
Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ school, said she approached Castro about the job and sees him not only as a standout addition to the faculty but also as a kitchen cabinet adviser to help her rethink the future of the school’s curriculum and its approach to educating students in coming decades.
“It’s not like he said, ‘Oh, Angela, I want to come there because I really have aspirations and this is going to give me cover.’ He came because I asked him to come,” Evans told the American-Statesman. “My guess is I was competing with Harvard because Harvard is no slouch institution either to try to get important people who have been in important places.”
The 42-year-old Castro filed paperwork earlier this month to start a political action committee called “Opportunity First,” and he is working on a memoir to be published in the fall of 2018. Such steps could help position him to seek the Democratic nomination for president. He had been seen as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Asked whether he’s thinking about a White House bid, Castro replied: “Oh, yeah. I’m not going to take it off the table. Right now I’m focused on this work at the LBJ school and finishing the book. And I’m excited to support great candidates that are running in the 2018 cycle.”
Castro and his twin brother, Joaquín, a member of the U.S. House from San Antonio and a former member of the Texas House, are seen as rising stars in the Democratic Party. Some party strategists want Joaquín Castro to run for Texas governor next year against Greg Abbott, and he has also been mentioned as a possible challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Neither seems likely, though.
Julián Castro served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development from 2014 to 2017. Before that, he was mayor of San Antonio, having been first elected to that position in 2009. He won a City Council seat in 2001 at the age of 26, at that time the youngest council member in San Antonio’s history. Born and raised in the Alamo City, both Castros are graduates of Stanford University and Harvard Law School.
Julián Castro hasn’t been shy about sharing his views of President Donald Trump. On Friday evening, after Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of court, Castro tweeted: “Trump’s Arpaio pardon another example of just how morally bankrupt Trump is. What a national embarrassment they both are. #failedPOTUS”
He added: “Trump in one word tonight: #pendejo”; that is Spanish slang for a contemptible person, a jerk.
Castro acknowledged that he is feeling unleashed from the niceties of serving as a Cabinet officer.
“You constantly have to be concerned about the administration and what it would want you to say and not say,” he said, adding that such constraints constituted the 1 percent of the job he didn’t particularly like. “That had been so different from being in politics directly when I was mayor, for instance, where you kind of have your own voice. No matter the topic, I’m just enjoying being able to speak with my own voice.”
He joins two other former elected officials on the LBJ school faculty — Sherri Greenberg, a former state representative from Austin, and Bill Spelman, a former Austin City Council member. Castro will serve as dean’s distinguished fellow and fellow of the Dávila chair in international trade policy. He will have the rank of a clinical professor and will not have tenure.
Castro said it was his understanding that his compensation would be about $145,000 a year.
“I offered him what we offer an average clinical professor,” Evans said. “He never, ever quibbled.”
Castro said he has rented a small apartment in Austin but would also commute from San Antonio. “I’ll be around quite a bit,” he said.
He and the LBJ school have enjoyed a friendly relationship for some time. Castro was the school’s 2014 commencement speaker when he was mayor, and as housing secretary he delivered keynote remarks in 2015 when the school hosted a 50th anniversary of the establishment of his agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Castro said his successor, Ben Carson, and the “thousands of professionals that work for HUD” are “sailing in choppy waters now because their budget was proposed to be cut about $6 billion or $7 billion out of $49 billion. It would create a crisis even more than we have now in public housing because of the resources it would take away from housing authorities out there to meet the need.”
Evans, who spent 40 years working for the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, the last 13 as deputy director, said she would have been equally eager to hire Castro if his politics leaned to the right.
“He’s extremely humble for what he’s accomplished as a young man,” Evans said. “He’s very empathetic. He understands different perspectives. He’s insightful. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s the whole package.”