Who will step up to fill the shoes of the long-serving state representative?
State Representative Garnet Coleman has served as the State Representative for District 147 since 1991. Now, after 30 years, announced on Thursday, November 18th that he has chosen to step away and retire at the age of 60, primarily because of health reasons and the current political climate in Texas and the nation.
“I will not be seeking re-election this coming year,” Rep. Coleman said in a released statement. “I am proud to have represented the people of District 147 for the last 30 plus years. I hope that I have served them well and look forward to continuing to serve our community in a non-elected capacity.”
Known by many as a highly effective strategist, Rep. Coleman has already left his mark on the state of Texas through his advocacy and push for legislation that has benefited Texans from all walks of life. He joint-authored legislation that expanded Medicaid access to more than 600,000 children, joint-authored legislation that created the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that has made low-cost health insurance available to over 400,000 children from working families, and he fought for passage of the Sandra Bland Act to improve law enforcement’s interactions with citizens under detention.
Beyond his legislative accomplishments, Rep. Coleman has been dedicated to advocating for sound public policy through his leadership of the Legislative Study Group and through his vision of creating the Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement.
Rep. Coleman has been one of the leading champions regarding mental health in the state of Texas and has been a consistent advocate for expanding access to healthcare for all Texans.
Democrats will be losing an experienced and seasoned lawmaker as he retires, in that Rep. Coleman serves as the Senior ranking member of the Public Health Committee and is the current Chairman on the County Affairs Committee since 2009—two important House Committees. He also served on the House Select Committee for Mental Health and the Texas Legislative Study Group, a group of Democrats that develops progressive public policy initiatives, since 2003. He previously chaired the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.
In case you didn’t know, Rep. Coleman was diagnosed with diabetes a little over ten years ago and had the bottom part of his leg amputated earlier this year because of a bacterial infection that forced doctors to take action to avoid further health issues. Of course, the inability to effectively move around independently and connect with constituents.
Many community leaders and colleagues expressed their thoughts on Rep. Coleman’s service and upcoming retirement.
State Senator Borris Miles said that the community will be losing one of its strongest and most effective voices when Rep. Coleman retires at the end of his term, because he has been a tireless advocate for those that need a voice in this state.
“Rep. Coleman and I have known each other since we were teenagers; for me, he has been a trusted friend and a valuable mentor in the Legislature,” said Sen. Miles. “His legislation has literally improved the lives of millions of Texans. Although I may no longer see him in the halls of the Capitol in Austin, I look forward to his continued work in Houston to improve our community. I will continue to seek his counsel as we try to solve the many problems facing our state.”
Harris County Commissioner and former Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis shared his thoughts on the more than 30 years of service Rep. Coleman has given to the State of Texas and the people of House District 147.
“As State Representative, he has been an astute statesman, collaborator and someone who gets things done,” said Commissioner Ellis. “Harris County has benefitted tremendously from his leadership and service. Rep. Coleman has served working families, children and the vulnerable with a strong focus on equity. It has been my pleasure to work with Rep. Coleman in the state Legislature and now as Commissioner in support of effective policies for our community. During his tenure, District 147 has grown economically, with more resources for business, education, and permanent housing. I wish him well in his next endeavors that will build on his tremendous legacy. The people of Texas House District 147 and the State of Texas are proud of your accomplishments and unwavering commitment to making our lives better.”
Dr. Reagan Flowers, who serves as Houston Community College (HCC) Trustee for District 4, stated that Rep. Coleman has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to service on behalf of the residents of Texas House District 147 for over 30 years.
“Over the course of his lengthy legislative career, Representative Coleman developed a reputation as a diligent leader dedicated to doing the necessary work to improve the lives of working families, and to ensure a better future for the children of the state of Texas and his beloved Houston community,” said Dr. Flowers. “Most importantly, Representative Coleman is a true friend of the people of Texas House District 147.”
Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar released the following statement regarding the retirement announcement of Rep. Coleman:
“The Texas AFL-CIO salutes Garnet Coleman on his retirement announcement after three decades in the Texas House. Garnet’s extraordinary accomplishments and worthy aspirations for our state serve as a model to all working families. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. On labor matters, the only thing the Texas AFL-CIO ever had to ask of Garnet Coleman was to be Garnet Coleman. What makes Garnet even more special to working families was his laser-focus on the toughest institutional problems in our society. Working poor families, Texans with physical and mental health issues, neglected children, and any victim of injustice always had a champion in Garnet Coleman. Garnet leaves a towering legacy on Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, mental health legislation, and, as a nationally respected contributor, the Affordable Care Act. He fought valiantly in the toughest environment to steer our nation and state’s bounty and array our highest ideals toward every single Texan. We will miss Garnet Coleman’s acumen and outsized heart in the Texas House. We wish him all the best as he moves to the next chapter.”
Rep. Coleman comes from a rich legacy here in the Greater Houston area. He was born on September 8, 1961, in Washington, D.C. to Gloria Jones Coleman and Dr. John B. Coleman. He was raised in Houston, where his influential father, Dr. Coleman, worked as the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Houston’s Riverside General Hospital and served as the first African American appointee to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 1977.
Rep. Coleman graduated from Jack Yates Senior High School in 1979, and entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. to attend school. He returned to Houston, where he earned his B.A. degree in political science from the University of Saint Thomas in 1990, and later completed Harvard University’s Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government.
Rep. Coleman began his political career in 1988 as a delegate to the Texas State Democratic Convention. In 1990, he served as precinct chair of his local Democratic Precinct Convention and was elected to serve as a Texas state representative in 1991, after winning a runoff election for the seat left vacant by the passing of Larry Q. Evans. In that same year, Coleman also founded S.M.A.R.T. Kids, a youth development and tutoring program.
In 1992, Rep. Coleman served as the Harris County field director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, and as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In addition to his service as a state representative, he was elected chair of the Legislative Study Group in 2003. As chairman, Rep. Coleman advocated to preserve Texas’ top ten percent rule, which assisted historically underrepresented students by automatically admitting the Texas’ top performing high school students to Texas state universities. During President Barack Obama’s administration, Rep. Coleman served as a member of the president’s State Legislators for Health Reform, and served as CEO of Apartments for America, Inc., a non-profit affordable housing corporation.
He also served on the board of numerous charitable organizations including the South Central Young Mens’ Christian Association, the Ensemble Theater, the Third Ward Redevelopment Council, and the Houston Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.
Rep. Coleman has received numerous awards for his service and has been dedicated to community development and preservation. He was honored with the 2005 Reintegration Award from Eli Lilly and Company for his support of public health programs.
Rep. Coleman’s departure will open the door up for what we believe will be several potential candidates for the heavily Democratic-leaning District 147 seat, which encompasses the south central part of Houston’s urban core, including Midtown, Montrose, along with the historic Third Ward community, and southwest through Beltway 8, ending near Hobby International Airport.
The Houston Forward Times will be paying attention to those who express and are rumored to throw their name in the hat for this open seat and to fill the shoes of this seasoned lawmaker.