Guv Story

Rick Perry’s most important legacy is that he accomplished something that no other governor was able to do: Completely change how government works.
Illustration by Thomas Fuchs

In December 2008 I interviewed Rick Perry over lunch at a small Mexican restaurant in East Austin. We dined on typical Tex-Mex fare, and Perry was in high spirits as he recounted his latest triumph: persuading Caterpillar to move one of its main manufacturing facilities to Seguin. Perry has always been animated when I’ve talked with him, and that afternoon was no different, as he shifted in his chair or tugged on the cuffs of his pants or changed the subject in mid-sentence. But I’ll never forget when he leaned forward, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me a conspiratorial wink. “Do you know how many governors would have liked to have made that announcement?” Perry asked with a grin. He paused for effect. “All of ’em!”

The governor’s celebration of his recruitment of Caterpillar, which meant the creation of 1,400 jobs, revealed a side of him I hadn’t seen before: he likes to show off, even for an audience of one. But our conversation also confirmed what I had long known: Perry had identified the state’s economy as his highest priority, and he intended for it to be an important part of his legacy. One of his

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