This is who Houston-area leaders named COVID-19 'recovery czars'

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Monday, April 20, 2020
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City and county leaders say these two have a track record of getting things done in the community.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Texas state representative and a former CEO of one of the largest corporations in America were named COVID-19 recovery czars for the Houston-area, with city and county officials believing the two new leaders will truly make a difference.

The two were chosen to lead the area through its coronavirus recovery efforts and were announced during briefings on Monday.

State Rep. Armando Walle was named Harris County's chief recovery leader by Judge Lina Hidalgo.

He represents Texas House District 140, which consists of portions of north Houston and unincorporated areas of north Harris County. He grew up in the Aldine area and graduated from MacArthur High School.

"This is not an honorary position. It is not a symbolic one, this is a position that will get things done," said Judge Hidalgo during a briefing on the county's coronavirus response efforts. "That's why I've named Rep. Walle, who has a track record of getting things done for this community."

Walle was elected state representative in 2008 and serves as a member on the Texas House committees of higher education, redistricting, local and consent calendars, and appropriations.

He's also no stranger to serving on these types of issues as he has a history of fighting for health, safety and economic well-being of families.

"While we are in the midst of a public health crisis, it is critical for our decision-making to be driven by 1) data and 2) judgment of our public health experts on how those decisions will impact the people of the greater Houston region," said Walle.

Walle, a practicing attorney, earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Houston. He will not be paid for his role as county czar and assured reporters there's no conflict with his law firm.

He said he will not take on any future contracts with the county in return.

Later in the day, Mayor Sylvester Turner named former Shell Oil president Marvin Odum as the leader to help the city of Houston emerge economically from COVID-19.

Odum was also the city's "recovery leader" after Hurricane Harvey, Turner said Monday.

He is expected to work with the business sector, nonprofit organizations and others to develop a plan to safely and responsibly move Houston forward.

"To be clear, this is about keeping people safe and getting people back to work and re-energizing our economy," said Odum. "We have been charged with completing the plans that will reflect that delicate balance between the need to return to work and the necessary vigilance required to keep people safe and healthy."

Odum was named Shell Oil president in 2008 and had served as Executive Vice President since 2005. He was responsible for Shell exploration and production businesses.

He said his plan aims at being as inclusive as possible with an emphasis on protecting Houston's vulnerable population.

"We will act as quickly as possible," said Odum. "Our speed will ultimately depend on a number of factors, like testing and contact tracing to confirm our return is meeting the criteria of keeping people safe. We don't want to duplicate work or waste any time."