Pete Geren named to help oversee state cancer institute

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

AUSTIN -- Pete Geren served four terms as a U.S. representative, worked as a high-level Pentagon troubleshooter, and served as the civilian leader of the Army and Air Force.

Now, nearly two years after returning to Fort Worth to head the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Geren is embarking on another public assignment as a member of the oversight committee for the state's troubled cancer-fighting agency.

The appointment by House Speaker Joe Straus took effect Tuesday and lasts until Jan. 31, 2019.

Straus told Geren in a letter that one of his key goals will be to help restore public trust to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which has been rocked by months of scandal over the awarding of millions of dollars in questionable grants.

"You are joining the Oversight Committee at a critical time," Straus said.

"I was honored to be asked," Geren said. The appointment was in the works for about two weeks after Straus called to discuss his concerns about the agency, Geren said.

The speaker wants to make sure that "taxpayers have great transparency in the process" and that the agency "fulfills the lofty mission that it was set up to fulfill," Geren said.

Senate-passed legislation by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, seeks to restructure the agency and toughen oversight. Texas voters created it in 2007 to carry out a 10-year, $3 billion cancer research program.

Geren, 61, is the younger brother of state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the House Administration Committee and a member of Straus' leadership team. Charlie Geren said he was aware that his brother was under consideration but did not have a hand in his appointment.

In his letter to Pete Geren, Straus said: "Public trust in CPRIT needs to be restored so that the agency can focus on the important mission of fighting cancer. I have no doubt that you will provide valuable leadership as CPRIT moves forward."

In a news release announcing the appointment, Straus said, "Pete Geren has proven himself to be a strong leader in the public and private sectors, and CPRIT will benefit from his vast experience and expertise."

The speaker appoints three of the 11 members who serve on the CPRIT Oversight Committee. Geren succeeds Barbara Canales of San Antonio, whose term expired.

A graduate of the University of Texas law school, Geren was a Fort Worth attorney and businessman before becoming an aide to U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in the early 1980s. He served four terms as a Democratic member of Congress from 1989 until 1997, in the 12th District seat formerly held by House Speaker Jim Wright of Fort Worth.

In summer 2001, he became a troubleshooting special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and was in the Pentagon the morning of 9-11. He later became acting Air Force secretary and served as Army secretary from 2007 to 2009, including about eight months during the Obama administration.

Geren began working for the Richardson Foundation while still in the Washington, D.C., area. He returned to Fort Worth in July 2011 as president and CEO of the foundation, which makes millions of dollars in grants to educational, health, human services and cultural organizations.

Geren said his Defense Department roles involved oversight of government operation, adding: "I'm hopeful that experience will be effective in this position."

His participation on the CPRIT board will be his first public position since he left Washington. But Geren said he has no interest in rekindling his political career. He said he votes in the Democratic primary but has kept "completely out of politics."

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin Bureau chief.


Twitter: @daveymontgomery

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?