Arlington's Vandergriff leaves tollway agency as political rumors fly

Posted Monday, Jan. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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From the days when the late Tom Vandergriff led Arlington as mayor, the Vandergriff name has stood for regional leadership and impact far beyond the city limit.

Known as "Mr. Arlington," he devoted almost his entire life to public service, including more than four decades as mayor, U.S. congressman and Tarrant County judge achieving such goals as bringing the Texas Rangers baseball club, a General Motors assembly plant and Six Flags Over Texas to the city. He died two years ago at age 84.

There is talk that his son might follow in his political footsteps.

In six years on the board of the North Texas Tollway Authority, Victor Vandergriff worked diligently to turn the Dallas-centric agency back into a transportation network for the entire region.

When his term ended last September, he still wouldn't quit. He delayed his resignation until this month, still hoping to secure financing for a future Texas 360 southern extension.

As board chairman in 2010 and 2011, Vandergriff oversaw the conversion to electronic toll collection, then demanded changes when he said the agency had balanced its budget by planning to collect a generous sum in fines, fees and penalties.

In one meeting, the Star-Telegram reported, he declared, "I'm not a happy camper" and said agency staffers were too slow to fix early problems in the collection system.

Eventually, he stepped down as chairman after other board members balked at reorganizing the agency's long-standing system of Dallas-based legal, engineering and professional contractors and consultants.

But he stayed on the board, and NTTA eventually broadened its choice of contractors and opened more consulting work up for bids.

In announcing his resignation from the board Wednesday, he said: "Much of what I was striving and pushing for got done, and I didn't have to be the chairman for that to happen."

Vandergriff, 55, an attorney and former vice president of a car dealership investment group, continues as chair of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, a term that ends in 2015.

The DMV was created by the Legislature in 2009 and began operations that same year. The agency is in charge of state vehicle registration, regulates vehicle dealers, issues credentials for buses and trucks for both intrastate and interstate service works with law enforcement agencies to combat vehicle burglaries and theft.

Vandergriff was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to be the chairman of the agency's first nine-member board.

He long has been Arlington's political candidate-in-waiting. In 2011, he considered a campaign for Texas Senate before new Sen. Kelly Hancock wound up in the Arlington district. Lately he has been rumored as a candidate for Arlington mayor if incumbent Robert Cluck chooses not to run for a sixth term.

It would surprise no one if Arlington someday elects another Vandergriff.

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