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Monday, April 19, 2021

George P. Bush sworn in as land commissioner

Jim Malewitz Texas Tribune. It’s official: Texas is once again Bush country.

Big names in state and national politics gathered in the Texas Senate chamber Friday to watch Republican George P. Bush_ son of Jeb, nephew of George W. and grandson of George H.W. — take the oath of office as the state’s 28th land commissioner, kicking off a new era for what Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett called “one of the most revered families in American history.”

At the helm of the General Land Office, the fresh-faced former investment consultant promised to “add to the legendary story of Texas — a story that’s just getting started.” Bush was sworn in as his father, the former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate, his mother, Columba, and his wife, Amanda, looked on.

“The General Land Office has played a critical role in changing our world,” he told an assembly that included Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, and other state and federal officials.

Bush’s role at the 179-year-old agency is sure to shine a brighter spotlight on its many duties, large and small.

It requires him to look out for Texas schoolchildren by extracting money from the very industries — oil and gas — that have fueled his family’s wealth and political fortunes. That’s because the agency manages mineral rights on millions of acres of state-owned property, and the royalties flow into the $37.7 billion Permanent School Fund. In that capacity, Bush inherits a lawsuit against Denton, the North Texas city that voted in November to ban hydraulic fracturing.

He also assumes a hodgepodge of other responsibilities: protecting Texas’ coastline, handling billions of federal dollars for disaster recovery, preserving the Alamo and administering loans and other benefits to veterans.

In his remarks, Bush said that he would “practice the politics of aspiration,” thinking each day about single mothers struggling to pay school tuition bills, roughnecks eyeing volatile oil prices and “wounded warriors” adjusting to civilian life. He also promised to improve the agency’s efficiency.

Jerry Patterson, the outgoing land commissioner, said he was happy to see Bush succeed him, calling the 38-year-old “eager and bright.”

Of the agency, he said: “I don’t think it needs any more attention, but if it gets more attention because the guy’s name is Bush, that’s great.”

Many gathered at the ceremony spoke broadly of the Bush family’s return to Texas politics but insisted the new land commissioner will make his own decisions.

“I think we’re going to have a chance to see what he can do,” Cornyn told reporters, “regardless of what his name is.”

Bush’s team originally closed the event to news media in anticipation that his grandfather, the former president, would be attendance, causing security issues. Bush, 90, who was released from the hospital Tuesday after being treated several days for shortness of breath, decided to stay in Houston, and the media was allowed into the Senate Chamber.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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