HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s mayor on Thursday chose the former head of U.S. operations for one of the world’s largest oil companies to lead the city’s Harvey recovery effort, hoping he’ll help make the city “more resilient” for when the next big storm hits.
Ex-Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum said he’ll work closely with state and federal officials, including Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, who was tapped by the governor to lead the state’s recovery effort.
Odum, who oversaw Shell’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, said he’ll work as quickly as possible to identify Houston’s specific needs, whether that is rebuilding housing or infrastructure.
“The quicker we get clearer on what … the real priorities are for the city, then we work back to (state and federal governments, the private sector) to say, ‘Houston knows what it needs, it knows what comes first.’ That’s what maximizes your chances of getting those opportunities funded,” he said during a news conference.
Harvey dumped record rainfall on areas around Houston and flooded thousands of homes as it lingered for days.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said he’s not looking for a report from Odum but wants him “to push us to make the city more resilient, more hardened, more prepared” for the next storm.”
Turner and Odum did not get into specific details about what areas the city will focus on to ensure it’s better prepared for the next storm. Turner mentioned flood mitigation projects that could be shovel-ready and relocating housing from areas that have a history of flooding as some of the things that Odum will look at in his new role.
“This is a defining moment for the city of Houston,” Turner said. “It’s not enough for us just to rebuild in the same way, in the same place. If we do that, then we will miss the mark and quite frankly we will miss the opportunity this storm has afforded us.”
Odum will work directly with local officials and community groups, the federal government and the state’s Harvey recovery czar, Sharp, to identify resources and steps needed to rebuild Houston.
“This is an urgent situation for a lot of people. Those immediate needs will not be forgotten,” said Odum, who was born and raised in Houston.
Odum served as chairman and president of Houston-based Shell Oil Co. for nearly eight years before retiring in 2016. Shell Oil is the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.