Friday, December 20, 2013

Mrs. Michael Berry now Texas Secretary of State

Congratulations on the appointment, and let's expect things to work out for the best.

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday appointed Houston lawyer Nandita Berry to be secretary of state, succeeding John Steen Jr. of San Antonio, who announced his resignation this month.

Berry's appointment, effective Jan. 7, will make her the first Indian-American to hold the position of chief elections officer for Texas, Perry said.

"Nandita Berry personifies what is possible through hard work and dedication in the state of Texas," Perry said in a statement announcing the appointment. She was 21 when she arrived from India "with nothing but $200 to her name" and has become "one of the most accomplished attorneys in the state."

"I am truly humbled to follow in the footsteps of Stephen F. Austin, Texas' first secretary of state," Berry said in a statement. "Like him, I came to Texas in search of a better life and the limitless opportunities to be found across our great state."

Berry has been on the University of Houston board of regents as a Perry appointee but resigned that post to become secretary of state, according to the governor's office. She is senior counsel at Locke Lord LLP, a position the firm said she also will resign.

Mrs. Berry will be the state's 107th SoS.  In years past it was a springboard to statewide elective office, with people like John Hill, Martin Dies, Bob Bullock, and Mark White serving in the post.  George W. Bush's appointees included Alberto Gonzales.  Rick Perry has appointed eight different men and women to the position in his 13 years as governor; they have been less than stellar individuals, as he has used the office -- like all the rest of his appointments -- to reward loyal cronies.  Perry's most infamous SoS to date was his first: Geoff Connor, a man around whom the governor's own homosexuality controversy has swirled.

The problem with all the turnover is that it is a tough and controversial job, and those who serve in the position seem to tire quickly of it and quit.

As secretary of state, Nandita Berry will be the state's chief elections officer as well as the governor's liaison on border and Mexican affairs and the state's chief protocol officer for state and international matters. The secretary of state's office also is the repository for business records, among other responsibilities.

Yeah, that elections oversight thing.  Kind of a biggie.  Mrs. Berry will be working with county elections officials like Harris County tax assessor/collector Mike Sullivan next year on things like interpreting and applying the photo ID statutes, a contentious enough task in its execution in 2013.  That probably won't be her biggest immediate kerfuffle, however.

She is married to radio talk-show host and former Houston City Councilman Michael Berry, who drew attention in 2010 for saying on his show he hoped that if a mosque were built near the New York City site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that it would be blown up. He later apologized for his words but maintained that the mosque should not be built. He also has referred to Houston Mayor Annise Parker as Annise "Porker," and refers to liberals as "libtards."

In 2012, Berry -- a one-time candidate for mayor of Houston -- struck another vehicle as he was leaving a gay bar.  HPD investigated the incident as a hit-and-run, but the Harris County DA's office declined to press a charge.  Video cameras in the bar caught Berry on his way in to watch a drag show.  (I blogged about the incident here; that post is among the top ten most-clicked in Brains' ten-plus-year history.)

That's not the only dirt one can find on Mr. and Mrs. Berry, however.  Here's a link from 1992 and the archives of the Daily Cougar, the University of Houston's newspaper, about Michael and Nandy when they were students there.  (The formatting on the web page has all but collapsed; scroll to the end and then up to the headline "SA CANDIDATES TRADE BARBS, CLAIM 1991 ISSUES FORGOTTEN", written by Frank San Miguel.)  I'll just excerpt the relevant portion; you can click over if you want the full context.

Last summer, (SA Vice President Andrew) Monzon accused (SA President Michael) Berry of overpaying executive secretary and girlfriend Nandita Venkateswaran and causing problems with former Administrative Secretary Doris Ayyubi. Monzon told senators that he had written a letter to Dean of Students Willie Munson, SA advisor, that the organization was being "split into two factions of untrusting parties."

Michael Berry is the kind of fellow who creates controversy everywhere he goes.  Has all his life. He thrives on it, in fact.  Will his spouse allow his reputation for antagonism, dissension, strife, and poor judgment affect her administration of one of Texas' most important offices?

We'll just have to wait and see.  Nandita Berry seems to be an accomplished person in her own right; whether she allows or enables her husband to influence her work in the Office of Secretary of State remains to be seen.  If she wants to be in the headlines for something other than running a good, clean election next year... well, some of us will be waiting to write about that.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

You know, if Shrub is gay, and Tricky Ricky is gay, kind of makes you wonder what was happening in the governor's mansion in 1999, before Shrub hit the road full-time for presidential campaigning.