Long-time Houston city secretary Anna Russell dies at 88

Tuesday, February 4, 2020
City of Houston secretary Anna Russell dies at 88
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In the video above from Sept. 1989, ABC13 introduced Anna Russell by showcasing a ritual of city government that people don't often get to see.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For nearly 68 years, Anna Russell worked for the city of Houston.

She served as the city secretary since 1972. On Monday, the mayor's office confirmed Russell died at the age of 88.

"Houston will have other city secretaries, but there will never be another Anna Adams Russell," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "Today, my heart is broken following news of Anna's death."

As city secretary, Russell made the council agenda, kept its minutes and famously cut thousands of public speakers off reminding them dryly but firmly, "Your time has expired."

It was as much a part of the meeting as the Pledge of Allegiance.

"She tirelessly personified public service throughout her nearly 68 years as a city employee, which made her our longest-tenured worker," said Turner. "Now that her own time has expired, we will remember Anna as someone whose occasionally tough veneer barely hid the warm and sharply humorous person underneath."

Russell, a Lubbock native, began working for the city in 1950 when she was 18.

Turner said she was a junior clerk that got paid $150 per month. She was appointed city secretary by Mayor Louie Welch.

"After Kathy Whitmire became the city's first woman mayor in 1982, some called her 'the other woman at City Hall' in deference to Anna's strong, enduring presence," said Turner. "I was honored to be the ninth consecutive mayor to appoint her to the job of city secretary."

Russell's office kept few electronic records, but famously rarely needed much time to find anything in the stacks and files of official city documents.

She'd been absent from council much of last year.

Council watchers were told she was dealing with health issues.

"The City of Houston is truly grateful to Anna Russell for over two-thirds of a century of outstanding public service," said Turner. "Her commitment to a job well done exemplifies the best in service to others."

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