Bill Meadows brought home the transportation bacon on state commission

Posted Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In his last meeting as a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, Bill Meadows was roasted for nearly 30 minutes by co-workers -- who shared jokes at his expense and played a video slideshow featuring music by one of his favorite singers, Tejano star Selena.

Given his 20-plus years of experience in the stiff-shirt world of Fort Worth politics, Meadows might seem an unlikely fan of Selena, a young Latin music sensation who was slain in 1995. But, Meadows later explained, he became fond of her and other Latin artists many years ago, while using music to try to improve his Spanish language skills.

"It really is good music," he said last week during an interview at a downtown Fort Worth office, where he works as chairman emeritus of Hub International Texas.

As of Wednesday, Meadows is officially no longer on the commission, which governs the Texas Department of Transportation. The state Senate on Wednesday confirmed Gov. Rick Perry's next appointee, Victor Vandergriff of Arlington.

Meadows' departure closes yet another chapter in a career of work on transportation projects. He was appointed in April 2008 to complete the six-year term of Ric Williamson of Weatherford, the former commission chairman who died Dec. 30, 2007.

For Meadows, transportation has been a two-decade effort. At the transportation commission, he was instrumental in making sure work began on roughly $16 billion worth of projects currently under way in North Texas, including the North Tarrant Express, DFW Connector and LBJ Express.

But his pride and joy is the Chisholm Trail Parkway -- a project he worked on not only at the state commission, but also during previous terms at the North Texas Tollway Authority and before that as a Fort Worth City Council member. Chisholm Trail Parkway is a 28-mile toll road connecting downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that is scheduled to open next year.

"I don't know how many times that project stopped breathing and we had to defibrillate that thing," Meadows said in his office.

Meadows said he also is proud that the Texas Department of Transportation, once the bane of many state lawmakers who felt the agency was financially mismanaged and too quick to embrace toll roads, is now held up as an example of how a government entity can be modernized.

"It's a fundamentally different agency than it was when I got there," he said.

Outside of Fort Worth, Meadows was sometimes criticized for bringing home too much bacon to the Metroplex. The transportation commission, after all, is supposed to maintain a statewide view of mobility and connectivity -- but during Meadows' five years the North Texas region received a higher share of state funds than other areas.

Fellow transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood of Lubbock hinted at that sentiment during his remarks about Meadows at the last regular commission meeting March 28 in Austin. "If you can equate Bill to the equine world," Underwood quipped, "in Bill's case he has bit marks because you've been trying to rein him in."

But Underwood also noted Meadows' fun-loving personality tended to bring people together during difficult times.

During the video slideshow, Selena's hit song Bidi Bidi Bom Bom provided a backdrop for various snapshots of Meadows at transportation events. In each image, he was smiling or laughing heartily.

The video was put together by several of Meadows' co-workers, including his commission aide, Sarah Bagwell.

"He has what we call an infectious laugh," Underwood said of Meadows. "Yet, when you look into his eyes, you can see he's a serious man."

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson

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