George P. Bush said Wednesday that he plans to follow advice that he got from his politically famous family when he was recently sworn in as the state’s 28th land commissioner.
“Approach issues with a servant’s heart,” he said in an interview Wednesday with the Star-Telegram. “Be willing to listen to differing points of view and work hard.
“You have been entrusted by the people of Texas, over 25 million citizens,” he said. “And the highest and best use of your time is to serve. I’m mindful of that every day.”
During his first week and a half in office, Bush — son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush — has been briefed and has been reading up on the land commissioner’s duties.
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His top priorities include protecting and preserving the Alamo, preparing for the next disaster and protecting the state’s coastline.
He concedes that those priorities might seem odd for a former Fort Worth resident.
The reason, he said, is simple. “These are priorities for the General Land Office because they affect all Texans,” he said.
That’s not to say that Bush, a Republican, has forgotten Fort Worth.
Not at all.
He and his wife, Amanda Williams Bush, still visit the city, staying at the Fort Worth Club. When time allows, Bush said, he still enjoys running along the Trinity River and seeing the new development in town.
“We miss our days in Fort Worth,” he said. “Regretfully, because of the constitutional requirement, we had to make the move.
“It will always be in our heart,” Bush said. “We are just as offended as every other [local football fan] that TCU didn’t make the final four.”
The land commissioner has a variety of duties, including managing billions of dollars in state assets, investments and mineral rights; chairing the Texas Veterans Land Board; and serving on state commissions and boards such as the School Land Board and the Coastal Coordination Advisory Committee.
Bush, 38, speaking during an interview from the General Land Office in the Stephen F. Austin building two blocks north of the Capitol, said he’s working to meet with as many lawmakers as possible. They are talking about priorities and preparing for any legislation that might need to be filed on issues ranging from the Alamo to land use.
“I’m excited to serve Texas,” he said. “It’s really humbling to be a part of democracy in action.”
He said he hopes to build on the legacy of previous land commissioners, particularly Jerry Patterson, who didn’t seek re-election. Patterson instead ran for lieutenant governor, losing to fellow Republican Dan Patrick.
“There’s a lot of work ahead, but I’m really excited,” Bush said.
Political observers have long said that Bush — whose mother, Columba, is a Mexican immigrant — is an attractive candidate to both Anglo and Hispanic Republican voters.
He drew national attention at age 12 when he spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention, which nominated his grandfather for president.
A Spanish-speaking attorney and asset manager, Bush, known as “P” to his friends, threw his hat into the ring for land commissioner in 2013, with his wife’s blessing.
He has said his experience in the Navy Reserve, where he is a lieutenant and has a few months left in his eight-year commitment, gives him a key perspective on military issues.
And he has said his experience as a former public high school teacher who served on the board of the Dallas-based Uplift Education charter system, which includes Fort Worth schools, will help him with the education aspect of the job.
Long involved with the Republican Party, he co-founded Hispanic Republicans of Texas and the Maverick PAC and served as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.
Past land commissioners have sought higher office, including Republican David Dewhurst, who moved up to lieutenant governor, and Democrat Garry Mauro, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against Republican George W. Bush in 1998.
“George P. Bush represents the future of the Texas GOP. He has a very impressive nonpolitical résumé, politics is in his blood, and he has an unparalleled political network for someone at such an early stage in their career,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
“The post of land commissioner is likely only the first rung on George P. Bush’s political ladder.”
The question now is whether Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016.
When asked about his father’s political future, George P. Bush said: “I love him with all my heart. I think he would make a great president.”
Right now, George P. Bush said he’s focused on learning the ropes in his new job.
“In the event he decides to move forward, we will see how I can be helpful,” he said.
Other than that, Bush said he plans to focus on being the best land commissioner, husband and father he can, particularly since he and his wife are expecting their second baby this spring, joining their young son, Prescott Walker Bush.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m inspired to serve.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610