In 2012, the mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro, won a spot at the Democratic National Convention. He gave a keynote address that would propel him into the national spotlight – in a similar way that Sen. Barack Obama’s speech had some eight years before. Castro’s rising profile was reaffirmed when President Obama tapped him to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2014.
This week, Secretary Castro gave his farewell address to employees of the department. As he prepares for a low-key homecoming on Jan. 20, when Ben Carson takes up the HUD mantle, the outgoing secretary speaks to Texas Standard about what his next steps will be.
On comments that he’s worried about the department “going backward” after he leaves office:
“Every time an administration changes hands, the new team brings in their own priorities and their own perspective. And of course that’s their prerogative and we’ll see what perspective Dr. Carson brings to HUD. I just think it’s tremendously important that we keep up a lot of the momentum that has built up with regard to housing opportunity and fair housing during the Obama Administration.
“On the fair housing front, we have done a lot to make sure there’s a level playing field out there. Because even though folks often think of fair housing and bias in the system, and think of that as a problem of yesterday, the fact is that it’s still a challenge even in 2017.”
On becoming HUD Secretary:
“What I wanted to do was come out here and get great experience on an issue that I cared about when I was mayor of San Antonio. There really were two things that captured my attention and that we tried to make a lot of ground on. One of them was educational achievement and the other was revitalizing older neighborhoods, purely in the urban core. And so coming up to HUD, to me, was an extension of being able to spark greater opportunity in people’s lives through the work that HUD does.”
On whether or not he’ll go back to Washington, D.C.:
“I’m quite confident I won’t be back in Washington anytime soon, but I enjoyed my experience here. I think we did a lot of good for hard-working folks, right now I’m just going home to San Antonio.”
On his plans for what’s next:
“I was working on a book before I got into the cabinet that I’m going to finish. And probably going to go speak and serve on boards. That’s the extent of my plans right now. So I’m going to leave politics alone for right now.”
On his parting advice for incoming HUD Secretary Ben Carson:
“My number one piece of advice would be to work hard every day in the interest of people who need a champion for them – to believe in them, to see the brighter side, the possibility for their lives. Too often, the folks that HUD serves – poor families, senior citizens, folks who were disabled – they’re scapegoated or people think less of them. And political rhetoric and the government does not center around them, but HUD was created because we do need to extend a helping hand to help lift them up so that they also can reach their dreams if they’re willing to work hard.”