Rick Perry’s name first appeared in Texas Monthly in April 1995, in a feature story written by Paul Burka. The headline? “The Art of Running for President.” The piece was about a powerful Aggie who had started his political career as a Democrat, switched parties, and gained a national following as a conservative standard-bearer. But it wasn’t about that Aggie. Burka was writing about U.S. senator Phil Gramm, and he had asked Perry, who was then agriculture commissioner, about his insights into the culture of Texas A&M.
In the nearly twenty years since that story was published, we’ve covered every aspect of Perry’s career, from his razor-thin victory over Democrat (and current Texas A&M chancellor) John Sharp in the 1998 race for lieutenant governor to his infamous “oops” moment in 2011 during his own ill-fated campaign for the Republican nomination for president. Perry’s first Texas Monthly cover came in February 2002, as he prepared to run for his first full term as governor. The current issue marks his fifth cover story, and our writers explore the profound impact he has had on the state as his administration draws to an end: when Perry leaves office in January, he will have served fourteen years—the longest tenure of any governor in Texas history—and he is without question the most powerful person to hold that office.
In Behind the Lines, Burka considers Perry’s cultural and historical legacy and compares Perry with the other governors he has covered in his long career. Also in this issue, you’ll find my interview with the governor, in which we discuss everything from the most important bill he ever signed to his favorite governors (hint: one was a Unionist and one was a Democrat). The layout contains terrific photos taken by Plano native Peter Yang, who spent a day observing Perry in moments public and private, taking both portraits and candid shots. Finally, a team of writers—Nate Blakeslee, Pamela Colloff, Erica Grieder, Mimi Swartz, and myself—reviews eight key public policy areas that any governor from any party would be judged on. We took that a step further and assigned Perry a letter grade for his leadership in each area. I think it is a fair and thoughtful way to judge the highs and lows of Perry’s administration.
Of course, if we grade the governor, I would expect you to grade us on our conclusions about him, and I hope you’ll let us know what you think on texasmonthly.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Whether you are a fan of Perry’s or not, no one can deny the historic importance of his time in office—or that we are truly witnessing the end of an era.