Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner trumpeted his leadership of Houston through financial peril, natural disasters and a pandemic as he gave his final State of the City address on Sept. 27 to a crowd of hundreds at a downtown ballroom. Turner, who turned 69 the day of his final State of the City address, has led Houston for the past eight years but can’t run again because of term limits.
With the theme of “A Lasting Legacy,” the mayor reflected on his time in office, shared highlights of some of his accomplishments and said he’s laid the groundwork for the city’s future.
“I will hand to whoever the next mayor will be, instead of $160M in the hole, we’ll give you a surplus of nearly $420M,” Turner told the crowd.
He highlighted Houstonians’ resilience through seven federally declared disasters like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the 2021 winter freeze.
The speech, which contained no new initiatives, came at a moment of relative calm compared to the tumultuous seven-and-a-half years that preceded it. During that period, Turner noted, the city saw seven federally declared disasters. Hurricane Harvey still may loom the largest for many Houstonians.
Turner started off his address by rattling off infrastructure projects the city is launching during his waning days in office, beginning with the Inwood Forest Stormwater Detention Basin project near White Oak Bayou.
Other projects he highlighted included a new solid waste transfer station in northeast Houston, the realignment of Interstate 45 and $2 billion in planned improvements for the George R. Brown Convention Center.
He also had advice for whoever will be the next mayor to lead the nation’s fourth-largest city.
“I am going to write a note, and one of the things that I’m going to say is, ‘Enjoy,” Turner said. “A word of advice for those who seek to follow: Be careful of what you promise. Be careful on how you criticize.”
Turner also noted he changed the channel during a mayoral debate earlier this week. Some candidates attacked Turner over public safety, handling of city finances and alleged corruption in his administration.
More than 1,500 elected officials and business and community leaders attended the sold-out luncheon.
Early voting for the upcoming Houston mayoral race starts October 23.