AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday morning, Sen. Kirk Watson announced he will be retiring from the Texas Senate after a long history in Texas politics.
Watson’s life in politics took off in 1997, when he began his first term as mayor of Austin. The City faced almost constant battles between developers and environmentalists, making Watson's greatest challenge in those early years to find a way to bridge the gap and build a consensus that would satisfy both sides.
During his time as mayor, Watson focused on redeveloping downtown, expanding Austin’s convention center, building a new City Hall and working to secure a long-term water supply.
When he ran for re-election in 2000, Watson received 84% of the vote. But he left City Hall to run for Texas attorney general – an election he lost in 2002.
Watson is a lifelong Democrat and, in 2006, he won a seat in the Texas Senate, where he became a prominent advocate for open government, transportation, clean air and education.
One of his most controversial roles was as a voice for toll roads, which he promoted in his position on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). There was fierce opposition at the time but Watson and CAMPO prevailed, and toll roads won approval.
Watson was victorious in his 2018 re-election to the Texas Senate with 74% of the vote, but he'll be vacating that job soon.
“I’m not going away,” Watson said in a news conference Tuesday. “But this is an opportunity to say, ‘Thank you and God bless you.’”
Effective April 30, Watson will be leaving office to become the first dean of the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs.
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