Mayor Annise Parker has selected Donna Edmundson to be the new city attorney. Upon confirmation by City Council, Edmundson will become the first woman to hold the position. She has nearly 30 years of experience with the City Legal Department.
“With just a year left in my term and a wealth of internal talent, I did not see a need to consider an outside candidate,” said Mayor Parker. “Multiple employees were interviewed from within the department, and I concluded Donna is the best choice. She has deep and broad experience in matters of law and management. I particularly like that her recent experience has been in the area of neighborhood protection, which is one of my top priorities.”
Edmundson has been practicing law in the City Legal Department since 1986. Since 2008, she has served as Chief of the department’s Neighborhood Services Section. Her current responsibilities include managing 25 attorneys and support staff as well as providing legal advice regarding neighborhood issues to various city departments. She has pursued legal action against the owners of dangerous buildings and works closely with the Houston Police Department (HPD) on gang, drug and vice related matters. Her work targeting a north side gang known as the Hollywood Click resulted in a 40 percent reduction in criminal activity in a 48 square mile area on Houston’s north side. She was also intimately involved in the settlement that ended long-standing litigation between 16 area topless clubs and the City. The agreement set new regulations for operation of the clubs and provided funding for creation of a human trafficking unit within HPD.
Prior to being named to the management position of section chief, Edmundson served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney. She has a law degree from South Texas College of Law and a B.A. from Sam Houston State University.
Edmundson will replace David Feldman, who is resigning effective January 16, 2015, to go into practice with his son.
City Council is expected to consider Edmundson’s confirmation in two weeks.
The Chron story has some more details.
Colleagues describe the soft-spoken attorney – a fourth-generation Houstonian, Westbury High School graduate and the youngest, with her twin brother, of six siblings – as tireless, firm and passionate about her work.
Wanda Adams, an HISD trustee and former council member who worked with Edmundson on many neighborhood nuisances, said she has “a community heart.”
“She approaches her work with passion, and she’s very honest and transparent,” Adams said. “Donna would go out and look at the issue. She didn’t sit at the desk. I always used to talk about the landlords and dilapidated apartments. She would actually go out there and look and see and talk to the tenants.”
Parker lauded Edmundson’s work to secure a 10-year court order against a north Houston gang known as the Hollywood Click. The injunction, signed in 2011, severely limits gang members’ activities in a 48-square-mile area and, officials said, has cut crime there 40 percent. Edmundson also worked on a novel settlement with 16 area topless clubs that legalized lap dances in exchange for the clubs funding a new police vice unit and closing private rooms.
“The things that we do and we impact, you can directly see,” Edmundson said. “We can get a call about something that’s a dangerous building and get the owner to take it down. You have locations where there’s criminal activity. We can go in and sue them or get some sort of injunctive relief to bring that activity to a close.”
Neighborhood leaders praised Edmundson for her responsiveness. Glenbrook Valley residents had accumulated a backlog of alleged deed restriction violations the city had ignored when Edmundson took over theNeighborhood Services Division several years ago, civic leader Ann Collum said. Edmundson came to the neighborhood and reviewed the entire file.
“She’s very caring and very concerned,” Collum said. “There was a completely open communication line if we had a question or didn’t understand something. She will be an asset to the whole city.”
Councilman Mike Laster served in the city attorney’s office with Edmundson in the 1990s and has worked with her on issues in his district since joining the council in 2012.
“As a colleague in the city attorney’s office, she was a great mentor and a gentle teacher to young attorneys and other colleagues,” he said. “As a person who worked with a council member, she brought that same sort of intelligence and good humor to the table. She has the ability to be strong and firm and definite when that’s needed, and she also, more importantly, has an open mind.”
All very good to hear. Gotta say, I’d have thought we’d have had a female City Attorney by now, but apparently not. I wish Ms. Edmunson all the best. She’s coming in at a critical time, with the HERO repeal petition lawsuit about to get underway. Good luck with the new job, and please be immediately successful. Texas Leftist has more.