Choosing our first batch of powerful Texans for the December print edition of Texas Monthly wasn’t easy—there are so many people doing fascinating things in the state that winnowing the list down to 25 entries was the hardest part of the project. (Note: Though the main part of the print package contains 25 entries, some of those entries include more than one person, so the total number of people came out to 31.) Here’s an annotated peek at the notable people who would have rounded out a list of 50 powerful Texans.
In his books (Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way), his articles, and his email newsletter (readership: 80,000), the author and “media strategist,” who lives on a ranch outside of Austin, writes about self-awareness, diligence, and how to conquer adversity. He also provides personal coaching to clients ranging from Google to Tim Ferriss.
As the District Attorney in Harris County, Ogg has implemented progressive policies, such as creating programs to divert low-level drug users into treatment and supporting allegations that the county’s bail system is biased against minorities.
After a successful turn as an actor (including a supporting role as a small-town deputy in Sons of Anarchy), the Bosque County native turned to screenwriting and directing, redefining the modern Western through films including Sicario, Wind River, and the Texas-set, Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.
Brown has shown the world how to be vulnerable, through her best-selling books, her research at the University of Houston on empathy and shame, and her 2010 TED talk, which has been watched over 36 million times.
Congressman-elect Allred’s ouster of eleven-term Republican incumbent Pete Sessions, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, signified a changing of the guard, as a new generation of Texans steps into the Capitol—in the upcoming legislative session, one in four congressmen will be freshmen.
Ross Perot Jr.
As the most powerful real estate developer in Texas, Perot is the visionary behind projects like AllianceTexas, a 27-square-mile master-planned community, the renovation of downtown Dallas, and a proposed, starchitect-designed 70-story office building that would dominate the Dallas skyline.
As the executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation at UT’s College of Fine Arts, Ryan—herself a successful entrepreneur and former tech executive—fosters connections between the university and Austin’s burgeoning New Economy.
Garcia is the general counsel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which investigates the reliability of crime-fighting techniques used in court. Under her leadership, the FSC has become one of the most important forensic science policy groups in the country, initiating dozens of investigations of outdated techniques (like bite mark and blood spatter analysis) and reviewing hundreds of old cases, along the way dragging the justice system into the modern world.
The Mexico City native is the executive chef and co-owner behind four of Houston’s top restaurants: Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Xochi, which just made Eater’s list of the 38 best restaurants in the country. Ortega brings traditional Mexican flavors into his dishes, reflecting the home-cooked meals he ate as a child and the diversity he found in Houston as an adult.
As the chairman and CEO of Midland-based drilling company Concho Resources, Leach presides over the largest player in the Permian Basin—which itself is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest oil field, surpassing even Saudi Arabia’s massive Ghawar Field.
Dan Wilks and Farris Wilks
From humble beginnings—the Cisco-based siblings were reportedly raised in a goat shed—the Wilkses got in on the fracking boom early and then sold their company for more than $3 billion. And though they’ve used much of that money for real estate purchases, they’ve also made a name for themselves as two of Texas’s most generous givers to the religious right. If a major Texas politician has staked out an anti-abortion position, there’s a good chance he or she has received financial support from the Wilkses.
The UT-Austin engineering professor and co-founder and CEO of Diligent Robotics is one of the nation’s preeminent experts on AI and social robots, charting a vision for how humans and computers (like Moxi, a hospital-based healthcare service robot) can relate to each other in more intuitive ways.
As a first-generation American—she arrived from Colombia in 2005—Hidalgo has dedicated her career to helping immigrant and incarcerated communities by working as a medical interpreter for the Texas Civil Rights Project. Earlier this month the 27-year-old political rookie shocked the establishment when she beat longtime officeholder Ed Emmett for the powerful position of Harris County Judge, which presides over the Commissioners Court and leads disaster relief efforts. After winning the judgeship as part of the blue wave that overran all of Harris County’s Republican officeholders, Hidalgo will have a tremendous amount of power in determining the policies of the third-biggest county in the country.
The Houston Chief of Police has become an outspoken leader, taking a public stance against anti-immigration and anti-LGBTQ legislation, as well as the lack of legislative response to gun violence. He’s also maintained a high profile on social media, particularly during his rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey.
In 2016, Parscale emerged from relative obscurity to direct digital media for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from his longtime base in San Antonio. As the 2020 election looms and the president continues his unconventional relationship with both social media and conventional media, Parscale will play a hugely influential role as Trump’s reelection campaign manager.
Mari Carmen Ramirez
As the curator of Latin American Art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—and previously by establishing the Latin American program at the Blanton Art Museum—Ramirez has been a key player in transforming the Texas cultural scene.
As the likely next speaker of the state house, Representative Bonnen (who was the speaker pro tempore under Joe Straus) will lead the next legislative session. The Angleton Republican has pledged to make public school financing the top legislative priority and to uphold the tradition of both Republicans and Democrats chairing committees.
According to the New York Times, this graduate of Houston’s High School of the Performing and Visual Arts is “probably the most prominent jazz musician of his generation.” Glasper’s ability to play within the jazz tradition and to venture well outside of it by embracing R&B and rap have earned him three Grammys, a reputation as a mentor to a new generation of players (many of them from Texas), and, in October 2018, a rare month-long residency at New York’s world-famous Blue Note jazz club.