Nerd Power: Houston mayor opens up on closet cleaning, sci-fi love and Bill Clinton lessons
"Nerd" is a word that Mayor Annise Parker considers a badge of honor. During an interview, she proudly ticks off her self-described "nerd credentials" — she likes to read (vampire and werewolf themes are her favorites, she told the Wall Street Journal), she collects comptometers (old-fashioned mechanical calculators) and she writes with a fountain pen, keeping a collection on her desk at City Hall.
And when Parker's really stressed out, she cleans house or rearranges the cans in her pantry.
Not your typical politician, that's for sure.
But in a long and illustrious governmental career, Parker has broken the mold. In this, her last term, as Houston's mayor, after stints as city controller and city council member, Parker can't think of anything else she'd rather do.
"I love being mayor of Houston. I love talking shop," she says. "I spend all my time working. People ask me about down time. I unplug. I am an introvert. When I go home, I have to recharge. But going off on vacation? I enjoy what I do. It doesn't feel like work."
Her last two years as mayor should be interesting as she pursues such hot-button issues as city pensions, homelessness and term limits with a council that might not be as receptive to her desire to get a lot of things accomplished before she leaves office.
"It's a good crop of council members. They're passionate about the city. They want to do things," Parker says. "(But) the first thing I said to them in council member orientation was that this is a strong mayor system. You are a board of directors, not a legislative body in the sense of Austin and Washington.
"Work with me and I'll find things for you to be successful on, but you can't come in with the expectation that you are going to run things. It's different than any other city I can think of."