Perry aide, ex-lawmaker to be named UT System lobbyist

By Sharon Jayson
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, December 6, 2002

The University of Texas System will name former Houston lawmaker Ashley Smith, a part-time senior adviser to Gov. Rick Perry, as its lobbyist, beginning with the legislative session in January, sources confirmed Thursday.

UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof is expected today to announce the latest addition to the team he's been building since becoming chancellor in August. Smith's appointment as vice chancellor for governmental relations and policy for the UT System is effective Jan. 6 -- just one week before legislators re-convene in Austin. His last day in the governor's office is Jan. 5, Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.

Smith, 56, is chief executive officer and president of TIRR Systems in Houston, which operates a rehabilitation hospital and research facilities in the Texas Medical Center and rehab centers in Southeast Texas.

Smith will earn $284,000 a year working for UT and will receive the standard annual car allowance of $8,400, sources said.

Smith did not return telephone calls seeking comment Thursday.

"He's a very shrewd choice," said Jack Martin, founder and chairman of Public Strategies, an Austin communications firm. "You've taken somebody who understands the process but is not solely viewed as a practitioner. He's somebody that's viewed as a policy person."

Smith's credentials are in line with many of the issues that will be significant for the UT System this session. Its nine academic campuses include UT-Austin, where Smith earned both his undergraduate degree in economics and his law degree. His experience in biotechnology, another major UT initiative, includes serving as chairman of the Southeast Texas BioTechnology Park and chairman of the Governor's Council on Science and Biotechnology Development.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620