AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry said it was a day to celebrate, and that’s what friends, family and colleagues of Phil Wilson did Wednesday afternoon as the Brownwood native took the oath of office as Texas Secretary of State.
In his remarks, Wilson singled out his parents, grandparents and a handful of teachers and professors — including retired Brownwood High School English teacher Frances Stovall — for their influences in his life.
“Thank you for the role you played in shaping me into the man I am today,” Wilson said to his father, Sam Wilson, who was a professor at the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom at Howard Payne University while Phil was in Brownwood schools.
To the teachers he named, he said, “Your commitment to education was a strong foundation in my life.”
The oath of office was administered by Perry in the House Chamber of the Texas Capitol after the governor lavished praise on his appointee.
“We’re here to celebrate the appointment of a Texan who is an individual of character,” Perry said. “Phil Wilson does not see public service as a job, but as a calling. He understands that we all have only a certain amount of time on this orb, and he’s chosen to use his time to the benefit of others.”
Perry drew scattered laughter of acknowledgment from executive staff members when he described Wilson as a man who is “pretty easy going, but intense… But he is also quick to make an appropriate decision. He takes every opportunity to do something good.
“I’m very confident that Phil Wilson is going to succeed mightily for the people of Texas. The state is getting not just a public servant, but a leader who has been shaped by adversity, having beaten cancer twice, and who has emerged with an unshakable faith and an appreciation for what really matters.”
In Wilson’s remarks, he thanked Perry for his introduction, but more importantly for the appointment. Wilson outlined the duties of his office and how they have evolved through the generations as Texas grew.
“Today’s a wonderful day for me, but last Wednesday was special too,” Wilson said. “That was when I passed the time Secretary of State George Clark spent in office. He was only there 10 days… I don’t think they had software election problems in the 1870s.”
Clark served briefly in 1874 until the announced appointee arrived. Clark was named attorney general just days later.
“I am truly honored to serve in this office and follow in the footsteps of others,” the 106th person to hold the office said. Among those who have been secretary of state for Texas are four men who later became governor, most recently Mark White; three who later became lieutenant governor, most recently Bob Bullock; and eight who later became attorney general, including John Hill and White.
Wilson, 39, took office July 1 and serves as the state’s chief elections officer, the chief international protocol officer, the governor’s chief liaison on border and Mexico affairs, and maintains the business and public filings for the state. Wilson said he is committed to free and fair elections, promoting a vibrant Texas economy, and furthering the important relationships between Texas and the international community.
“I will hold this office with the humility required of anyone who serves more than 20 million people,” Wilson said, “and I will work tirelessly to adhere to the expectations of our people and relentlessly strive to provide them the excellent service which they deserve.”
In conclusion, Wilson said the appointment is a “great honor, but what defines me is not this office, but who I am. And that is how I stand in the eyes of God. I am a child of God, one flawed individual who needs to seek wisdom to serve the people of Texas.”
Wilson had previously served as the deputy chief of staff for Perry, overseeing Texas’ economic development and job creation initiatives as well as serving as the governor’s designee on the $200 million Emerging Technology Fund and the $185 million Texas Enterprise Fund. Under his leadership, the Enterprise Fund has leveraged more than $10 billion in capital investment to create more than 45,000 new jobs in Texas. He will continue to serve in this capacity as Secretary of State at Perry’s request.
Wilson was instrumental in landing some of the largest job creation and capital investment projects in Texas, including new investments by Countrywide Financial, Samsung, and Texas Instruments.
Wilson is one of six state officials who form the Executive Department of the State of Texas under the Texas Constitution. He was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and took office July 1, 2007.
Wilson spent more than 10 years as an aide to U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, serving as an East Texas director based in Tyler and later as state director in Dallas. He was also director of communications for Railroad Commissioner Charles Matthews.
In 2002, Wilson was named director of communications for Perry, where he was responsible for development and management of the governor’s message and media strategy.
After graduating from Brownwood High, Wilson received a bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and a Master’s of Business Administration from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Other program speakers were District 63 state Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound, master of ceremonies; Tim Hawks, pastor of the Hill Country Bible Church where Phil and Kristen Wilson attend; Randy Wallace, pastor of First Baptist Church of Killeen, who was Wilson’s youth minister growing up; and the Rev. Coby Shorter III, deputy director for Governmental Appointments in the governor’s office and pastor of Rosewood Avenue Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, musical soloist.