By Michelle Leigh Smith
Victory Fund and Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker was only the tenth woman mayor of a major American city. After leaving the mayoral post in Houston, she was named as a fellow at the Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University.
“Annise Parker generously serves Rice as a Doerr Institute Fellow,” says Thomas A. Kolditz, Executive Director, Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders. “As a university-wide leader development initiative, the Doerr Institute engaged Ms. Parker as the principal developer for all elected student leaders. In that role, she has coached and mentored more than 100 students who hold formal leadership roles at the university. She has, without question, improved the functioning of student government at Rice and, more importantly, been a positive impact on many young, aspiring leaders. The former Mayor has also advised the Doerr Institute on our strategy for developing almost 2000 students across all seven schools on campus: Architecture, Business, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.
“Leader development work in universities is a fabulous contribution for former politicians and business leaders,” said Kolditz. “She has been a terrific role model and a visible part of the Houston community on campus. She also holds a teaching position and regularly engages Rice students in the classroom on matters of public policy and governance. On any given day, she can be seen on campus casually interacting with students or engaging senior faculty. We are immensely grateful for her many contributions to Rice.”
“Annise is the only person who is not a professional leadership instructor. We put her in charge of developing the elected student leaders in the residential colleges because she has more experience at that than probably anyone else in the state – combining her political experience with her time at Rice. She understands what it takes. By virtue of being a fellow, she works hand in hand with our advisory is advisory board, which is quite distinguished – Our board includes Colin Powell, former Vice President Al Gore, Klaus Schwab, Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America and Teach for All and David Rhodes, Vice President of CBS News.
“Victory does candidate and leadership training,” said Parker. “If folks are interested in international issues, we have a large international component. We received a USAID grant to do organizing and leadership development in other countries. We were in India, the Balkans, and South Africa and are now focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. People who’d like to see more equality in those countries can support the Victory Institute.”
Parker is the first former elected official to lead the organizations, having served six years as a Houston City Council member, six years as City Controller, and six years as Mayor of the city. She is one of only two women to have been elected mayor, and is the only person in Houston history to have held the offices of council member, controller and mayor.
While Victory is based in Washington, D.C., Parker maintains her home in Houston’s historic Westmoreland Place. “The work I’m doing takes me not only to D.C., but across America,” said Parker. “It works out to be more time efficient to travel from Texas.”
“The first thing I said was, `I’m not moving.’” she said. “Our candidates are all over the country. We are the only organization in the country that focuses on candidates up and down the ballot. Most national organizations are focused on Congressional or Senate campaigns. We care about helping elect people who will be involved at the local level.”
After her tenure as Houston’s 61st mayor, she was asked to serve as a Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Prior to joining Victory Fund and Victory Institute, she was Senior Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer of BakerRipley, a community development non-profit. Her leadership example there helped guide BakeRipley, to return to its roots in Houston’s East End, where they will open a new headquarters this summer. But the teaching and mentoring components of her life began much earlier.
She serves on the boards of Houston Botanical Garden, BARC Foundation, and the Patient Care Intervention Center, focused on getting access to Healthcare for the homeless and do better intervention. She also serves on First Net, a federal (national) board created by Congress to implement a nationwide broadband network for first responders and one international board, CDP, the Carbon Disclosure Project. CDP is a repository of data on greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2010 Time magazine named Mayor Parker one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was named top US mayor and seventh – ranked world mayor in 2014 by City Mayors Foundation. She has received numerous awards during her career, including Scenic Houston’s Scenic Visionary Award, Guardian of the Bay Award from Galveston Bay Foundation, Rice University Distinguished Alumna for 2011, and Local Arts Leadership honoree by Americans for the Arts.
In addition to her duties as mayor, Mayor Parker was a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired the U.S. Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee, was a steering committee member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership, and served on the boards of the Texas Environmental Research Consortium and Houston Galveston Area Council.
Mayor Parker has been engaged with Victory Fund and Victory Institute since its founding. She was endorsed by Victory Fund in all her successful campaigns for elected office, served on the board of directors, is an alum of Victory Institute’s Candidate & Campaign Training, and is a former Victory Institute David Bohnett Leaders Fellow.
Mayor Parker graduated from Rice University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In the private sector, she spent 20 years working in the oil and gas industry, including 18 years with Mosbacher Energy Company.
By Michelle Leigh Smith