TX Land Commissioner Patterson Announces Re-Election Campaign
Austin, TX –
Jerry Patterson today kept a promise he made four years ago when first campaigning for Texas Land Commissioner: he is seeking re-election.
"In an agency with 170 years of history, one four year term is simply not enough to get the job done." Patterson said, "There's more work to be done and in 2006 I will be asking Texans for a chance to continue what we've started here. I made a promise to the voters and I'm keeping my word."
As the 27th Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson is responsible for an estimated $6 billion in land and energy assets. In his first term he has led the General Land Office to new levels of success, earning almost half a billion dollars for Texas taxpayers and launching unprecedented efforts to protect Texas beaches and preserve historic documents. In his dual role as Chairman of the Veterans Land Board he has ushered in the largest increase in veterans benefits since World War II; loaning veterans over $1 billion in 2004 alone, initiating three new state veterans homes and two new state veterans cemeteries.
For Patterson, known for his enthusiasm and no-nonsense style, it is only the beginning.
"I want to leave a lasting, positive mark on this agency," said Patterson. "With recently passed legislation, the General Land Office stands poised to earn even greater revenue for the Permanent School Fund, serve even more veterans and save our beaches for future generations. I want to lead the charge. These are exciting times and I love this job."
During his first term in office, Patterson has been busy. From portraying a Texian soldier in the Disney film "The Alamo" to the birth of his twins Samantha and Cole, the 58-year-old former Marine and Vietnam veteran shows no signs of slowing down. He also has a daughter who just passed the bar and a son who recently returned from duty in Iraq as a Marine attack helicopter pilot.
Patterson's first term has not been without difficulty. From highly-publicized issues relating to water, land vacancies, the electricity program and a court battle with the Sierra Club, Patterson has faced some challenges. He attributes them to the new directions he has taken the agency.
"We're pushing the envelope here," Patterson said. "Anytime you try new things and solve old problems it's never going to be easy. But that's all part of why I was sent here. I wasn't elected to fill a seat for four years then move on."
Patterson hopes his greatest impact on the agency will be to diversify the revenue sources for the $21 billion Permanent School Fund. The Fund was established in 1854 and contributes approximately $900 million a year to public education. Patterson has worked to get legislation passed which will allow the School Land Board to invest more in real property while depending less on declining royalties from oil and gas.
"For almost a century we've been dependent on money from oil and gas to keep the fund strong," said Patterson, "but that revenue source isn't going to last for ever. Like any good investor, we need to diversify."
A landmark achievement of Patterson's first term has been the completion of a $100 million transaction to build a 4 million square foot container facility near the Port of Houston. Over the next 30 years, the project will provide $239 million to the Permanent School Fund, create 900 new jobs with an annual payroll of $30 million and increase local tax revenue from $6,000 to $4.2 million annually. It is the largest investment ever by the School Land Board. The General Land Office earned $58 million in FY 2004 from land sales, lease revenues, interest and appreciation.
Patterson also led the way in the fight against the largest threat to our Texas coast - erosion. He created Coastal Texas 2020 to pull together state, federal and local resources to battle erosion and other problems along the Texas coast. Through the effort he also hopes to raise awareness with all Texans about the environmental and economic value of the Texas coast.
"The Texas coast is a treasure that cannot be replaced," Patterson said. "As Land Commissioner I will do all I can to fight the slow erosion of our Texas beaches where it makes economic sense to do so. Every day we are losing valuable tax base and infrastructure to the sea and every hurricane puts more private property at risk. All Texans should join this fight."
But other issues may rest closer to Patterson's heart. He has been a tireless advocate for Texas veterans and the preservation of historic documents.
With five generations of the Patterson family in military service, and almost 25 years in the Marines himself, Patterson places his fellow veterans at the top of the priority list. The new veterans homes in McAllen, El Paso and Amarillo are special achievements. As state senator, he authored the legislation creating the Veterans Home program in 1997. Since 1998 homes were built in Big Spring, Temple, Floresville and Bonham. Patterson has nearly doubled that number in half the time.
"The Veterans Homes are truly great places," said Patterson, whose great-grandfather James Monroe Cole served as a Confederate veteran and died in the Confederate veterans' home in Austin. "Veterans deserve the best care anywhere and should get that care in the company of fellow veterans. We like to say it's where honor lives."
Patterson is also a history buff. As keeper of the state land records dating back to the Spanish colonial period, Patterson never grows tired of talking about the need to preserve Texas history. He created the Save Texas History program, which solicits private donations to pay for aging maps and documents at the Land Office. He kicked off the initiative with a live television event at the replica of the Alamo set used for the Disney movie. Public service ads from that effort have been airing on movie screens and television for over a year now.
"What other job could a history guy like me want," said Patterson. "I can go downstairs to the archives and hold a document signed by Jim Bowie, Stephen F. Austin or Sam Houston. These pages have been touched by patriots and I have a responsibility to make sure my kids get to see those documents too."
Yet, with all this and more, Patterson has not lost his zeal for issues outside the scope of the agency. He remains the state's leading advocate for gun rights, having authored the 1995 Concealed Handgun Law as State Senator. He recently helped overturn gun bans on public transportation in Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
"I know the law and municipal transportation authorities cannot supercede state law," said Patterson. "I am glad the respective authorities yielded to common sense and avoided a lengthy court fight. Only the legislature had the right to regulate the wearing of arms."
"With one term as Land Commissioner, many have already been asking what office I will go after next," Patterson said. "To tell the truth, my heart is with the Land Office and I'm staying put. As Land Commissioner I'm in charge of 17 million acres of land, 367 miles of coastline, 35 million historic documents and take care of 1.6 million of my fellow veterans - it's the best job in the world."