Lewis, Vandergriff to leave state transportation board early


Highlights

The departures by two of the five members comes as the commission deals with a toll ban mandated by Abbott.

Tryon Lewis, a former legislator and district judge, says he will seek senior judge status in Odessa hometown.

Victor Vandergriff, from Arlington, had no comment on reports of his imminent resignation.

Two members of the Texas Transportation Commission are leaving the board, which governs the Texas Department of Transportation.

The resignations of Tryon Lewis of Odessa, which he acknowledged Thursday, and Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, confirmed Friday by sources with direct knowledge of the situation, come as TxDOT struggles with a moratorium on toll road construction mandated by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Vandergriff’s decision to leave, which could be officially announced as early as Monday, also comes in the wake of a Texas Tribune story last month saying that he had charged the state for the expenses of two trips to Austin where he did both commission work and private business.

Vandergriff, who had no comment Friday, acknowledged the billings to the Tribune, and reimbursed the state for a handful of trips to the capital.

TxDOT spokesman Bob Kaufman had no comment Friday on the Vandergriff situation.

The governor appoints all five members of the transportation commission to six-year terms. Lewis was appointed by Abbott in 2015, with a term running through January 2021, and was designated chairman of the commission. Then, in September, Abbott decided to elevate San Antonio banker Bruce Bugg Jr. to chairman, relegating Lewis, a former legislator and state district judge, to a regular commission spot.

Lewis will continue to serve until Abbott appoints a replacement.

Vandergriff was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2013, with a term to end in a year. His precise plans regarding the commission and its monthly meetings were not clear Friday.

The replacement appointees will be subject to Senate confirmation in the 2019 session.

Early departures from the commission are not unprecedented. Robert Nichols stepped down in 2005 for what turned out to be a successful run for the Texas Senate, and former chairwoman Deirdre DeLisi resigned in 2011 to be a part of Perry’s first run for president.

But the resignations this week come in the wake of a decision last month by Bugg to defer action on an expansion of Interstate 635 in Northeast Dallas, a delay that reportedly came as a surprise to other commission members and a large cadre of MetroPlex civic leaders who had traveled to Austin for the item. They had hoped that removing the toll features of the huge project, at least for now, would get the project back on TxDOT’s front burner.

Lewis and Vandergriff have served on the commission in a time when TxDOT had a multi-billion-dollar annual infusion of cash for highway projects because of constitutional amendments passed in 2014 and 2015. But TxDOT’s construction of toll roads, and the use of toll dollars for part of those projects’ cost, had run into legislative and gubernatorial headwinds over the past year.

Lewis said Thursday he had been about to apply for senior judge status before Abbott asked him to serve on the commission. Now Lewis, 70, says he will make that application to sit on the bench again in his hometown of Odessa.

“I love being a judge,” Lewis said. “It was a very, very intense three years on the commission, especially when I was chair. I think it’s a good time to segue out.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin Muslim community, leaders break fast at citywide iftar
Austin Muslim community, leaders break fast at citywide iftar

Community leaders and members of Austin’s Muslim community gathered Saturday evening to “break the fast” at the third annual Austin City Wide Iftar. The event, hosted by the Austin Muslim Civic Ambassadors at the Asian American Resource Center, aims to “bridge the gap between local elected officials and Austin’s Muslim...
PolitiFact: Shooting deaths in schools outpacing combat zones
PolitiFact: Shooting deaths in schools outpacing combat zones

After a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School, a claim circulated widely on social media that compared the number of deaths in the military with the number of deaths in school shootings. One of the politicians who shared it on social media was Gwen Graham, a former Democratic member of the U.S. House who is now running for governor of Florida...
Community news: Sendero Health offers Hepatitis C outreach program

TRAVIS COUNTY TRAVIS COUNTY Hepatitis C outreach program set Sendero Health Plans, a community-based nonprofit Central Texas health plan, recently announced a new patient outreach, education and treatment program to help Sendero members detect, treat and eliminate the hepatitis C virus. Sendero Health has begun an initiative to identify members who...
50 Texas foster children slept in state offices, hotels in April
50 Texas foster children slept in state offices, hotels in April

Texas children sleeping in state offices and other temporary living situations continue to plague the state’s child welfare agency as the number of specialized foster care homes diminishes. The number of children who were forced to sleep in Child Protective Services offices, hotels and shelters for at least two consecutive nights as they awaited...
Where to honor those who gave their all on Memorial Day
Where to honor those who gave their all on Memorial Day

No matter where you are in Central Texas, there will be a place nearby to remember those who died while serving the country’s armed forces. The following are among the places to go on Memorial Day: TRAVIS COUNTY East Austin: Ceremony, 10 a.m. Monday in the southwest section of the Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota Street. East Austin: Ceremony...
More Stories