An old, familiar name has surfaced as a candidate for the top job at the Texas Lottery Commission: Talmadge Heflin.
Heflin, a Houston Republican who served 22 years in the Texas House before being defeated in 2004, said Wednesday that he was asked to apply by C. Tom Clowe, chairman of the Texas Lottery Commission.
He said he applied Monday.
"I honored his request and turned an application in. I'll see what they do with it," said Heflin, a management consultant.
Clowe was not available for comment, but confirmed through Heith that he did ask Heflin to apply.
The executive director job description calls for a four-year college degree or management experience. Heflin does not have a degree.
Clowe had set up the search committee in July, saying that he wanted to "cast a wide net" with the goal to "find someone who is qualified, experienced and will do an outstanding job."
Heflin said he became familiar with the lottery's operation as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
"I didn't vote to put (the lottery) in. But when the people voted to have it, I wanted it to be effective," said Heflin. "I haven't tried to undo what the people said they wanted done."
Heflin said he is mindful that several previous lottery directors have been fired or resigned over various controversies.
"It is a hot-seat job," he said, adding that he knows many of the staff members at the lottery. "I'm pretty familiar with their operation. It's not like it's something brand new to me."
The former lawmaker also has a part-time job with an influential think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The group, which advocates for limited government, has contracted with Heflin to lead a study of the state's budget.
Heflin and Byron Schlomach, chief economist for the foundation, are reviewing the budget in an effort to recommend cost savings in the next legislative session.
Heflin was chairman of the Appropriations Committee during the 2003 session when lawmakers were forced to cut $10 billion from the budget.
Schlomach said Wednesday that if Heflin were to get the lottery job, the foundation would need to take a look at conflict-of-interest issues.
"I hate to say flat out it would be a conflict, but it's something we'd definitely have to look at. My first instinct is it probably would be. There wouldn't be the objectivity there," he said.
He added it's not impossible that Heflin could continue, however, since there are always exceptions.
First, there's his lack of a college degree. Despite the follies of the previous head honcho, the also-degreeless Reagan Greer, this isn't that big a deal, especially if Heflin's management consulting experience meets the alternate criterion. It's important to remember, though, that one reason why college degrees are required for positions like this is to make it a little harder for unqualified cronies like Greer to get installed as a reward for political work. It would therefore be at the least a little unseemly to succeed Greer with another well-connected Republican insider whose resume also happens to not fully measure up to standard. The fact that Heflin was solicited to apply this late in the process doesn't enhance one's faith in the TLC's originally-stated desire to go a new direction.
Heflin may have been a critic of the Lottery's creation, but that's not the same as being a critic of its operations and culture. It's a little hard to picture a good ol' boy like him really making changes to put this dysfunctional agency on more solid ground. Obviously, I don't know what he's said in his interviews so far, but it would be nice to know what he thinks, even in just general big-picture terms, of the complaints made by current and ex-staffers about how things are run there. We have a pretty good idea what Dawn Nettles' top priorities at the TLC would be. What are Heflin's?
It goes without saying (I hope!) that Heflin would have to resign from the TPPF if he gets this job, but potential conflict of interest questions don't stop there. Has he ever taken campaign contributions from any Lottery-related vendor or contracter? Have any of his former staffers gone to work for any Lottery-related firms? It shouldn't be that hard to get the answers to this stuff, so let's clear it up now.
I keep coming back to Commissioner Clowe asking Heflin to apply. Have no other acceptable candidates come forward, or is it just that Clowe doesn't like the choices he now has? Did Clowe encourage anyone else to apply at the beginning of this process? I'm always suspicious of this kind of last-minute change.
Finally, there is one good reason to hope Heflin does not get this job:
Heflin said, if he doesn't get the job, he is considering a race to try and regain the southwest Houston seat in the House that he lost to Democrat Hubert Vo.