Chris Hollins, the former Harris County Clerk who was lauded nationally for facilitating record-breaking Harris County turnout in the November 2020 election, has announced he’s running to become Houston’s next mayor.
The Defender got an exclusive interview with Hollins to find out why he is seeking the mayorship, the challenges he believes face Houston and his plan for meeting those challenges and taking Houston boldly into the future.
DEFENDER: After your stint as Harris County Clerk, many people wondered about your next political move. Of all the options, why mayor of Houston?
CHRIS HOLLINS: I’m running for mayor because I love the city of Houston, plain and simple. This is the city that raised me. It’s the city that I live and breathe. And most importantly, it’s the city that my wife Morgan and I chose to raise our young family in. But Houston is at a defining moment right now. The pandemic transformed our lives overnight and we, as the city, have to deal with that change. We can’t go back. The city that I love, the city of Houston that I know, always moves forward. So, our next mayor is going to have a tall task ahead. We are going have to keep Houston safe, whether that’s from crime or from the natural disasters that are becoming more and more frequent. We’re going to have to make sure that this continues to be a city of opportunity. One that has good jobs, quality education for our kids, and one where it’s easy to start a business and add to our economy. But we’re also going to have to ensure that both now and in the future, Houston is the best city in America to live, to work and to raise a family. And I know that’s a big job, but I know that we can achieve great things if we work together, if we have new ideas, if we have new energy and if we have proven leadership. So, I’m excited to be in this race.
DEFENDER: What are the traits you bring to the table that make you the person for the job?
CHRIS HOLLINS: Houston is facing a lot of challenges, and those challenges demand innovation, and those challenges demand effective leadership. So, our next mayor is going to have to have a vision, first off, for the city of Houston. And not only have that vision, but have the tools, the skills, the attributes, to achieve that vision. That includes managing a large budget. That includes leading and inspiring a large staff of civil servants that numbers in the thousands. That includes bringing in the community, bringing in new ideas and including members of the Houston community in the solutions to our toughest challenges. It also means having the backbone, being able to stand up strong if we face obstacles and if we face currents going in the other direction. But most importantly, it means being able to deliver results for the people of Houston.
And as County Clerk, I had the privilege of being able to do just that in the most important election of our lives. In the middle of a pandemic, we set the tone and we showed the country what local government is capable of achieving if we combine inspired leadership, if we combine new ideas with a real sense of purpose. We were able to successfully improve access and expand access. We were able to provide better services. And we were able to improve outcomes across the Houston area. Now today, as a member of the METRO board, I helped to guide a $1.3 billion budget, in addition to a $7 billion expansion plan. And I’m leading METRO’s transition of its entire fleet to renewable fuel sources by the year 2030, all while focusing on customer service and improving the experience of millions of riders each year.
I’ve been a problem-solver my entire career, whether that was pioneering strategies for government agencies or advising large companies on how to deliver better results for the people that they serve. And I brought those skills with me to the County Clerks’ office, and I look forward to bringing those same skills and abilities to the Mayor’s Office of Houston.
DEFENDER: You mentioned the next mayor must have vision. What’s your vision for the city of Houston?
CHRIS HOLLINS: I’m glad you asked. Our vision for the city of Houston is to make this the best city in America to live, to work and to raise a family. And safety is an important part of that vision. For our communities, for our neighbors, for our families, for our businesses to thrive, we have to be safe and we have to feel safe. Whether that means addressing issues of crime, of homelessness and housing, of the pandemic, or of anything else, we are going to need our mayor to make sure that safety is on the front and center of the agenda.
But we also need a mayor who’s going to be a champion for job growth. Who’s going to work with superintendents and local school districts to improve education for our kids. And who’s going to invest in things like transit, like green space, like conserving our communities, like clean air and water, and like fixing our roads, that are going to make this city the best city to live and to work. As a fourth-generation Houstonian and as a lifelong problem-solver, I am passionate about this city, and I look forward to bringing solutions to these challenges to the people Houston.
DEFENDER: What are the biggest issues, challenges you see facing Houston, moving forward?
CHRIS HOLLINS: Well, again, safety comes first. That’s front and center. Right now, Houston is leading the nation in murders. The city that I love, that I take pride in, is not the murder capital of the United States. And so that has to be solved. But safety goes beyond crime, as well. Again, we have natural disasters. We have flooding. We have issues of housing. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. All of these safety issues are critical. But once we’ve achieved that, when we feel safe, when we’re able to enter public spaces with our families and do so with confidence, this has to be a city of opportunity. We have to have good jobs. We have to have quality education for our kids that we’re building the workforce for the future so we’re giving every Houstonian the chance to achieve their life goals, if they’re willing to put in the work.
So, that’s important. Then, we also, beyond that, have to prepare for the future. We’re the energy capital of the world today. We need to be the energy capital of the world 15 and 20 years from now. We’re the import capital of North America right now. We need to invest in our Port to make sure that that stays the case going forward. And, as we look forward, we have to anticipate some of the challenges that are coming and start to work on them now. We can’t be fighting fire after fire. We have to be moving towards a better place so that again, we become and remain the best city in America to live, to work and to raise a family.
DEFENDER: Going back to the period between your time as Harris County Clerk and this particular announcement, how did you spend your time and did you enjoy that chance to breathe?
CHRIS HOLLINS: <Laughs> The first thing that I did was spend time with my family. My son was born during the pandemic and born during my tenure as County Clerk. And so being able to spend more time with him as he grows up and with his older sister, Vivian, that was priority number one. Just my wife and I being able to invest in our family. I returned to my law firm, which I stepped away from to become County Clerk. So, I continue to be in the practice of law today. I think it probably goes without saying that the year 2020 opened all of our eyes to the importance of voting rights as a fundamental constitutional right, and opened our eyes to the fact that voting rights were under attack, not just in Harris County but across this country.
So, I’ve been committing an outsized portion of my time to serving as an advocate for voting rights, both in Austin, at our state legislature, but also in DC at the White House, in our Senate, in our House of Representatives. We need laws that are going to protect democracy, that are going to protect the free and fair elections that ultimately guarantee our freedom as a people. And I’m deeply committed to that.
DEFENDER: For those interested in supporting your candidacy, how can they get on board?
CHRIS HOLLINS: If you visit www.ChrisHollins.com you can stay updated on what our campaign is doing. You can invest in our campaign, and every single dollar counts. This is going to be a multi-million-dollar race. So, we’re going to need thousands upon thousands of Houstonians, and of Americans, who care about the future of Houston, to be involved. And soon enough, we’re going to have volunteer opportunities for people to roll up their sleeves along with me and along with the team that we already have in place, and share our message with the people of Houston. We invite you to visit www.ChrisHollins.com. Make sure that you’re staying updated with our campaign, and hopefully make a small investment. Every single dollar counts. And then follow us on every major platform, CGHollins, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, even TikTok. Go to CGHollins and you can follow us and stay updated on what our campaign is doing.