The Galveston County Economic Alliance was formed in 1997, the same year that the Galveston Economic Development Corporation was dissolved. The GEDC, a precursor to the current Galveston Economic Development Partnership with a large board of directors representing a cross section of the business community, was composed of an elite group of heavyweights in the community.
Irwin "Buddy" Herz, representing the Moody interests, was chair of the GEDC. Board members included George P. Mitchell; Dr. Thomas James, president of the University of Texas Medical Branch; Dr. William Merrell, president of Texas A&M University at Galveston; Harris "Shrub" Kempner, president of Kempner Capital Management; Orson Clay, president of American National Insurance Company; Don Gartman, Galveston District manager of Houston Lighting & Power, Gene Lucas, president of Gal-Tex Hotel Corporation; Dr. Bernard Milstein, president of the Eye Clinic of Texas, the mayor of Galveston and the chair of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce.
That group met at 7:30 a.m. every Monday at the Tremont House Hotel, with all of the members present at almost every meeting. Bill Lauderback was the original president and executive director. During the group’s final five years, Joan Hoffman was executive director. For one year I worked as governmental liaison and community development officer.
This is a recording of the final meeting. Listen (1:31)
Former Galveston County judge Jim Yarbrough, now mayor of Galveston, established the Galveston County Economic Alliance in 1997. This is an excerpt from Guidry News Service’s year-end program, 1997 in Review: Listen (8:24)
John Sharp, who was then Texas comptroller of public accounts and now is chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, was the keynote speaker at the initial meeting of the GCEA.
In his introduction of members of the board of directors of the new alliance, Yarbrough included Don Gartman, who had served on the GEDC board and would later serve as director of the GCEA; and Dr. Bix Rathburn, who has just been selected to replace Gartman.
It is a small world, after all, and some of the players continue to work to make it better; albeit in new assignments.