The Chron is finally able to reach Paul Bettencourt for a comment on his sudden resignation.
"I've had a wonderful 10 years of service with great people at the office who have done good things for the taxpayers of Harris County," Bettencourt, 50, said Saturday, a day after word of his planned departure was leaked to the media and broken on the late-night news.
"But there comes a time when you decide that further challenges await you and that you know you need to accept those challenges before maybe you get to the age where someone won't offer you the opportunity," he said.
It is almost unheard of for an incumbent to resign before being sworn in to his new term, Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said. The timing of Bettencourt's decision was suspect, he said, because a lesser-known Republican might have struggled to win in a year Democrats so heavily dominated countywide elections.
Bettencourt said he first entertained the idea of leaving the county during the summer, well after the GOP primary, when it looked like he and every other Republican in Harris County were headed for defeat. But he insisted no serious discussions about the offer he chose to accept occurred before the Nov. 4 election.
"This business venture is something that took shape after the election and not before," he said.
"You can always think pie in the sky, what do I do if the election doesn't turn out your way. It's another thing to have a thought like that and be approached to have a discussion about a new business venture."
Bettencourt declined to discuss the job he was taking, saying the state Board of Tax Professional Examiners bars him from endorsing a business while he remains in office. He said he hopes to boost his salary of $141,000 a year but may not be able to if the venture is unsuccessful.
Last month, the Harris County Democratic Party sued Bettencourt, complaining of his handling of about 7,000 provisional ballots cast in the Nov. 4 election and accusing him of illegally rejecting voter registration applications. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The controversy, he said Saturday, played no role in his decision to leave the county post.