The Texas Ag Commissioner Created a New, Lucrative Role for a Friend

A longtime consultant’s wife landed a high-paying job in Sid Miller’s office.

By Rhonda FanningMarch 30, 2015 10:19 am

It’s not unusual for elected officials to install their own team once they get into office. It’s part of putting a personal stamp on the job, and assures that the people on their team are loyal and can be trusted.

Still, you have to wonder why more eyebrows weren’t raised when new Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller appointed the wife of his longtime political consultant to a newly created position – one of the highest paid in his agency.

“It’s a very senior position, it’s a very high level position,”Austin American-Statesman reporter Eric Dexheimer says. “And there’s – at least – a question of the commissioner’s selection, if the only place that he could find the absolutely perfect person was in his close circle of advisors.”

Dexheimer reports Kellie Housewright-Smith was named to Miller’s team on Nov. 17. Her husband is Todd Smith, who worked on all of Miller’s state political campaigns. Housewright-Smith left the agency March 13, after the American-Statesman began requesting documents about her appointment.

“She left [the job] because the demands of it were too great on her schedule,”Dexheimer says. “She was hoping to do some work from home and she had some personal issues. She said that the commissioner, or the commission was unwilling to accommodate that.”

While it’s not unusual to hire longstanding partners and colleagues, the creation of a new executive position as assistant commissioner – and her salary of $180,000 a year (considerably more than Miller’s $137,500 annual paycheck) – was.

“Because this was an appointed position, it was not competitively bid. There were documents missing, such as a resume and work history,”Dexheimer says.

Dexheimer’s report also notes Housewright-Smith hasn’t been Miller’s only high-level hire with past ties to the commissioner: Records show the new assistant commissioner for government relations and external affairs, Walt Roberts, was also a paid consultant to Miller’s campaign.