Janiece Longoria

A power player in designer threads: New Houston Port Commission leader channels Margaret Thatcher

A power player in designer threads: New Houston Port Commission leader channels Margaret Thatcher

The Influentials, Janiece Longoria, January 2013
Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

We dare say that Janiece Longoria is the first chairman of the Houston Port Commission to be sworn in wearing a suit by Valentino. After all, she is the first woman and the first minority in the port's 100-year history to achieve that leadership post.

This was by unanimous vote earlier this month by Houston City Council and Harris County Commissioners, with blessings from Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

Longoria has honed her leadership skills through years of professional achievement as a partner with Ogden Gibson Broocks Longoria & Hall LLP and civic involvement that includes serving on the CenterPoint Energy board, the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors and the Texas Medical Center board. She the former vice chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, and a former board member of UTIMCO. 

After 11 years as port commissioner, Longoria has taken the reins of one of the city's most important economic engines. 

What is your chief characteristic?

Persistent happiness. I just wake up every day grateful for what I have and just looking for opportunities to feel good about what I'm doing.

Who are your real life heroes?

I would say they are the men and women serving in our military, the unsung heroes of the Texas Medical Center that minister to the sick in all the hospitals of the Texas Medical Center and, as an individual, Margaret Thatcher, who I consider to be the greatest statesman of modern time. 

What characteristic do you most admire?

Generosity of spirit combined with servant leadership, inspiring others to be the best that they can be and to work together for the common good.

What characteristic most annoys you?

People that criticize the ideas of others without providing an alternative solution.

If not yourself, who would you be?

I would be the female equivalent of my husband, Steve Lasher. He is the most loyal, kindest, most generous, engaging happy person I've ever known  . . .  Do you know anybody that doesn't love Steve Lasher

What inspires you to public service?

I have just always enjoyed public service. My father was a public servant. He was an elected official. He was a state representative then a state senator then a district judge for the better part of his adult life.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

That I'm a huge softie for animals. I feed stray animals and I also really love birds and I taught my yellow-naped Amazon to sing The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You in honor of my alma mater —  the University of Texas.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Port of Houston in the coming years?

The biggest challenge is also its biggest opportunity. In doing our survey of industry along the Houston Ship Channel, we have learned that private industry intends to invest $35 billion along the Houston Ship Channel in the next five years. So it's really important that we execute our strategy and develop our infrastructure to keep up with the investment of private industry and to keep up with the demand of our customers.

What is your favorite thing about Houston?

The entrepreneurial spirit that drives growth and innovation here. And aside from that — that's more sort of a big idea — I really enjoy the sheer volume and quality and diversity of restaurants in Houston . . . I think we have the best restaurants in the country. 

What in your opinion makes Houston great?

The quality of our human capital. And, if you think about it, we have the best of the best of everything.