District 4 State Senator
Texas Sen. Tommy Williams, R–The Woodlands, is a longtime Texas politician, and he earned another term in the state senate this year against Libertarian challenger Bob Townsend. After five years in the state House of Representatives, he was elected to the District 4 seat in 2002.
District 4 covers portions of southern Montgomery County, northeast Harris County, all of Jefferson County except the southern and eastern portions, and all of Liberty County, Chambers County and Orange County.
Recently, Williams was appointed the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and said he looks forward to tackling the state’s towering budget of more than $170 million.
He is also a member of the State Affairs Committee, International Relations and Trade Committee as well as the Senate’s Select Committee on Redistricting.
When he is not making trips to Austin, Williams acts as president of Woodforest Financial Services and lives in The Woodlands with his wife, Marsha, and their two children.
What influenced you to run for the Texas House in 1997, and eventually to the senate?
When I was in college, I had a family friend run for U.S. Congress and several of us were involved in his race. I went up to see him sworn in, and it was after a special election so it was in summer, and I could go to Washington D.C. As a college student, it was pretty cool and I was interested in it, but it was not until I was 39 years old that I had an opportunity that I had the means to be able to do it. I was not ready to move to Washington D.C. with my three young children, so when a seat opened up in the Texas House I thought about running for it. It only took one person to talk me into it.
When a seat opened up in the Texas Senate, it was a tough decision to leave the House because I felt like I was about to move into some better leadership roles, but in the end it was a good decision. I enjoy serving in both bodies. You have a much bigger constituent base that you are responsible for in the Texas Senate, which is a lot different.
Including your time as a House member, what do you consider are your greatest accomplishments?
Some things we have been involved in have had a statewide importance, and some things have been very important to my local constituents. As a young House member, the district attorney in Montgomery County brought a case to me which involved a victim who was dependent on other people to take care of them, and in their case it was a caregiver that was sexually abusing the victim. Because of the current statute of limitations, he was not able to do anything. We made the change in how the law worked for the statute of limitations for those kinds of crimes because it often takes them a long time to come to light, especially if the victim depends on someone else because of health reasons. This was a pretty big change in the law so that it did not expire with that type of situation. I think it made a big impact.
Locally, I was involved in an annexation moratorium with Houston and The Woodlands, and it is probably the most impact I have had for my local constituents during my term in the Senate. We were able to work out a final agreement with the City of Houston so The Woodlands would not be annexed [for a certain period of time]. It happened when I was in the House and finished when I entered into the Senate, so the process really took eight to 10 years. It took a long time to get accomplished, but the end result was good.
During my time in the Senate, one of the most significant things we have done is early on, we identified the problem of prescription drug abuse at pill mills. We passed several legislations dealing with that, and now it is more widely recognized as a problem, and I am really satisfied to see that people involved in illegal activities are being prosecuted under the laws we passed a few years ago.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, what are your plans for the budget in the upcoming session?
The budget is the signature issue of every session because the allocation of resources has a lot to do with how public policy is carried out. I am very honored that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst placed so much confidence in me. We are working really hard right now, and I am in Austin two to three days every week trying to get our arms around the budget and get together the introduced version of the bill. We are working at it very hard, and I think we will have a good budget that grows roughly at the rate of population plus inflation.
Is there a bill, or number of bills, you are particularly proud of that your constituents may not have heard of before?
There are two things that come to mind. First is the state’s involvement in border control. I have been lead person for the issue in the Senate for the last two sessions. Law enforcement and people all over the country see Texas as a model. We have done quite a bit in that area and worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has helped me prioritize that money. We have seen a significant amount of resources, including six gun boats patrolling the Rio Grande, helicopter patrols on a regular basis 24/7 that carry state troopers, game wardens, and [others] who have done a really good job of tracking drug and human trafficking that goes on along the Texas and Mexico border.
I am really proud of the work they have done. They regularly make interdictions in this area…and that’s what we want. We want those people to be worried because we do not want illegal activity taking place on our sovereign state ground.
In your time as a Texas politician, what have you learned are some of the state’s biggest challenges?
The challenges we have this session is to try to allocate adequate resources for infrastructure. Our state needs new highway construction projects completed very badly. Because of rapid growth we have in our population, [we] still have a lot more to do. Another issue is water resources. We have a state water plan, and because our state is growing very rapidly, the demand for water is growing. Of course we also just experienced one of worst droughts in the history of the state, so we need to make sure we are putting adequate resources in those two areas. But it is also something that takes a long time to bear fruit. These are projects that go on, with planning and construction, over decades and not weeks. It takes a long time to see results.