Meet our DMO of the Month for November
With Wendy Davis running for Governor and Battleground Texas working hard to turn out Democratic voters, the prospect of a blue Texas has been widely discussed. Some would argue that progressive values could never take root in the Lone Star State. This month we take a look at a true blue Democratic Municipal Official thriving in the heart of Texas. Lee Leffingwell is a lifelong Austinite who now serves as the city’s Mayor. Mayor Leffingwell is living proof that Democratic values are alive and well in Texas.
Born and raised in Austin, Lee Leffingwell graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in mechanical engineering. After college he served in Vietnam as an officer and pilot in the Navy. Upon leaving active duty he remained in the Navy Reserves, retiring at the rank of Commander with over twenty years of military service. For the next three decades he worked as a commercial airline pilot. Lee Leffingwell was first elected to the Austin City Council in 2005, and became Mayor four years later.
Mayor Leffingwell is a true Austinite, and embodies the unique cultural values of the town. He plays a major role in promoting local music and film festivals like Austin City Limits, Fantastic Fest, and SXSW (South by Southwest). These festivals are more than a defining aspect of Austin’s culture. SXSW alone brought in 218 million dollars this year, and hotels are already booked solid for next year’s events. Though incredibly lucrative, these attractions also hold the potential to interrupt the daily lives of Austinites. Mayor Leffingwell takes great care in ensuring that the influxes of tourists have a minimal impact on everyday services, such as making sure the Formula 1 racing event did not create major road congestion. These local institutions bring in revenue and are an essential part of the Austin experience, and Mayor Leffingwell helps keep their influence a positive one.
Despite his local celebrity, Mayor Leffingwell does not sacrifice good governance for popularity. For instance, Austin’s unemployment rate during Leffingwell’s term has held between 2-3% below the national average. Leffingwell focuses heavily on job creation and making cash positive changes to the city. His passion for transportation has taken Austin from a heavily road dominated city to one where sidewalks, bikes, and trails are more common. Mayor Leffingwell made an open invitation to any entrepreneur to call his office if they want to start their business in Austin. This small town approach to managing a major city creates an atmosphere where new ideas and businesses can flourish.
Indeed, Mayor Leffingwell has a strong progressive streak that speaks to his popularity as a Democrat. He supports marriage equality, and was one of six Texan officials to sign the Mayors for Freedom to Marry petition. Leffingwell is a stalwart environmentalist, investing in water and electrical facilities that will help transition the city to more renewable energy sources over time. Additionally, he has pledged to make Austin a coal-free city. Due to his commitment to intelligent land use, Mayor Leffingwell was named to a fellowship with the Urban Land Institute in order to better discuss and plan how space is used in our cities. He has also represented the National League of Cities in the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA). Management of scarce resources like water is a vital issue in central Texas, and Mayor Leffingwell’s focus on the environment is pragmatic as well as forward-thinking.
Mayor Leffingwell is doing his part to "Keep Austin Weird”, and a great example of why we need to turn Texas blue. He is a key figure in the local culture, and works to bring new festivals to the city. Just as important, he is a strong proponent of developing citywide entrepreneurship and managing scarce environmental resources. Mayor Leffingwell is also our DMO of the Month for November. He proves that Democratic values can be found in every corner of the US, and we hope to see more local Texans like him elected in the coming years.