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Kid-Friendly Overview of City of Houston Mayor, Controller, City Council, HISD Trustee and HCC Trustee Positions

Houston City HallDuring this election season, BigKidSmallCity is getting to know the candidates in the City of Houston election.  Our goal in our non-partisan, non-political research is to help Houston kids better understand the political process.

To see an overview of the candidates on the ballot and details on voting, go to our last post HERE In this post, we provide a kid friendly review of what each position does for the City of Houston.

Harvin Moore (Candidate for HISD Trustee District VII) tells us that:

“In America, every adult gets to vote to decide who represents you in government.  The people you elect, from the President to the Governor to the Mayor to the School Board Trustee, represent public control over our own government.”

And as an overview, Issa Dadoush, candidate for City Council At-Large Position 4, suggests that we:
Think of the principal at your school as the Mayor of the City; and the teachers as the City Council members.

The principal and the teachers work together to set school rules by which everyone will follow in educating all the students at your school.

Now, think of your school as the City of Houston.   The City of Houston has a strong Mayor form of Mayor-Council government. The Mayor sets the agenda and introduces ordinances to the City Council members for approval.

The City Council along with the Mayor are responsible for establishing policies by which City staff will follow in providing services to the Houston community. Services include water, sewer, infrastructure, police, fire and others.”

In the upcoming election, our ballots will have candidates for mayor, city council, controller and possibly for HCC and HISD trustee. 

Let’s review each position.

In the words of Mayor Annise Parker (Mayor of Houston and candidate on the 2013 ballot):

The Mayor is the highest elected official in city government.  In Houston she performs both the ceremonial duties of the head of government—greeting visiting diplomats and visiting heads of government—and she runs the City.

She oversees all the departments—from the Fire and Police Departments to the Solid Waste Department which picks up trash to the Public Works and Engineering Department which fills potholes in the streets.

She presides at City Council meetings and decides what goes on the agenda for City Council to vote on.”

In summary, the Mayor is the presiding officer of the city council and in charge of taking care of Houston.


According to Ronald Green (Houston Controller and candidate on the 2013 ballot):

“The Controller is the City of Houston’s Chief Financial Officer. The job includes accurate and timely reporting and forecasting on the City’s financial condition; paying City vendors (provided they are not delinquent on City taxes); auditing City departments; managing the City’s investment and debt portfolios; and serving as Houstonians’ financial voice at City Hall.”

Bill Frazer (Candidate for Controller), summarizes the position well:

“The Controller keeps track of the City’s money and pays its bills, and reports this activity to the taxpayers so they will know how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The controller works for the mayor and is second in charge of Houston.  He or she is also in charge of the money and making sure it is saved and spent appropriately.


City Council (District):
Robert Gallegos (Candidate for City Council District I) tells us that:

“Houston City Council has five at large City Council Members that are elected by all the voters in the City of Houston.

The City is also divided into eleven City Council Districts [and a representative from each one is] elected by the voters in a specific district.

City Council monitors the performance of city agencies, confirms the Mayor’s appointments, and passes ordinance which are the laws and policies for the City of Houston.  City Council also passes the City’s budget.”

Or, to go back to a similar school analogy, Anthony Robinson (Candidate for City Council District D), explains it as:

“Imagine that the city is like a school.  The mayor in Houston is like the big teacher.

In a city, the citizens are like the students.  A city council member is like a teacher’s assistant.

Some teacher’s assistants have students assigned (single member council districts) by where they live. Some teacher’s assistants work with all the students.

The teacher’s assistant makes sure all the students understand the lessons (city planning, ordinances, rules and policies) and if they need special attention to understand or complete at task (accessing city services or complaining about a lack of services) the teacher’s assistant gives the students assigned to her/him the extra attention the teacher cannot.

The school (city) has to make things like recess (parks and recreations facilities) and clean-up time (trash collection and street maintenance), and the nurse’s office (emergency services) and the hall monitors (police) equally and fairly available to all the students.

The teacher’s assistant listens, helps find solutions and help the teacher make plans for all the students, but pays special attention to the students assigned to her/him in the class.”

In summary, City Council members that represent a district are elected by a specific part of the city.  To see the maps, go HERE.  This city council member helps their district with things that they need.


City Council (At Large):
Mike Knox (Candidate for City Council District A) explains that:

“There are two kinds of City Council Members.  The “At Large” City Council Members are elected by everyone who lives in the city and is registered to vote.  This job is about representing the city as whole. At Large City Council members also work with District City Council Members and the Mayor.”

Moe Rivera (Candidate for At-Large Position 2) says:

“It is a council member that stands in the gap between it’s citizens and local city government. It looks out for the well being of its constituents (precinct’s people) and protects their jobs and properties and insures that services offered by the city such as police, fire and public works, libraries and Health and Human Services are available and affordable to all.”

And to put it one more way, Brad Bradford (Candidate for City Council District Position 4) says:

 “City Council is the legislative body for the City of Houston. Along with the Mayor, City Council members make policies and ordinances to help keep our City safe, repair streets, pick up garbage, ensure the quality of our water and develop the City’s budget each year. Council members talk to and meet with citizens to determine what other problems or concerns need to be addressed in their neighborhoods.”

 In summary, the 5 At-Large City Council members represent not just 1 district, but the entire city of Houston.


HISD Trustee
Hugo Mojica (Candidate for HISD Trustee District I) explains:

The HISD Board of Trustees’ (there are 9 total) main responsibilities include: setting policy, hiring/firing the Superintendent, approving the district budget, setting the tax rate for the system and approving contracts/work needed for the schools.  The Trustees only have one employee—the Superintendent.”

Harvin Moore (Candidate for HISD Trustee District VII) gives us this summary:

“HISD Trustees represent the public in operating the public school system, which in Houston includes about 300 schools and more than 210,000 students.

The most important thing we do is to set the vision, or goal, of what Houston needs in its school system.  Perhaps the second most important thing we do is to hire the Superintendent to actually run the school system.  We hired Dr. Terry Grier a few years ago and he and his staff make most of the decisions in the school system.

HISD Trustees are responsible to ensuring that the system is operating the way the public expects it to operate.  We meet between 1 and 2 times a week for 2 to 8 hours to discuss and form policy and track results.

HISD Trustees are not paid – they do this work as volunteers, for free…”

 In summary, the HISD Trustees decide what is best for the Houston school system and hire the superintendent who runs the school system.  HISD Trustees serve without pay.


HCC Trustee:
HCC Trustees serve on a board that governs the Houston Community College (HCC).  The board has 9 trustees that serve without pay.

Be sure to watch as we post all candidate interviews between now and Election Day.  All candidates were contacted.  If you are a candidate and would like to coordinate an interview, contact me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity . com.


For a kid-friendly review of Houston Elections, go HERE.

To learn how people are elected, go HERE.

For all the interviews, go HERE.

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