An Orange Grove rancher who owns oil and gas related businesses in Robstown, and grew up in Nueces County, could become the first statewide elected official from South Texas in almost 20 years.
Jim Wright, who owns four environmental services businesses, is the Republican nominee for the Texas Railroad Commission. The Commission doesn’t really have anything to do with railroads these days, but it is one of the most powerful agencies in the state because it deals with the oil and gas industry, one of the biggest revenue generators for the Texas economy.
Wright lives on a ranch between Orange Grove and Sandia with his wife Sherry. They have five children. The youngest, Justin, graduated from high school this year and has just enrolled at Texas A&M University – Kingsville.
If Wright is elected in November, he will be one of a three-member commission that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry and has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state.
Unlike a lot of other people on the ballot, Wright says he is not running for the office as a stepping stone to higher office.
"I don’t want to be governor. I don’t want to be in the legislature," Wright said. "I just want to work for the people of Texas at our state’s biggest economic driver, help create jobs and rebuild our industry into its rightful place as the world leader in the energy business."
A political outsider who had never run for political office, Jim is a solid conservative who won the Republican nomination by defeating the incumbent Railroad Commissioner with more than 55 percent of the vote in what one news service described as the biggest upset in modern-day Texas political history.
A lifelong South Texan, Jim’s family have been ranchers in Texas for five generations. He’s a self-made success story, who turned his first job at a hazardous waste facility into a group of four oil field services companies that offer services ranging from consulting and transportation to industrial recycling.
An avid Christian, Jim is a Lutheran and when possible attends many of the state’s Cowboy Churches. He attended schools in Petronila, Banquete and at Calallen High School.
As a high school student, Jim was in the national finals of the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA). After he graduated, in addition to working, he rode bulls for over 20 years and was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA). He has also been involved in numerous civic activities including as a board member of C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocate) of the Coastal Bend and the Robstown Area Development Commission.
"I’m a pro-life, second amendment conservative who is a strong pro-business Texan," Wright said. "We have got to restore integrity and trust in the Texas Railroad Commission."
Wright thinks he can do that by bringing more people to the table. He says he will include a multitude of stakeholders, from industry to consumers and the public sector in developing policies on the Commission. Additionally, he wants to develop strong ethics rules for agency employees, get citizen and industry input for needed changes in the regulation of the energy sector and promote transparency on the Commission.
"When we started this race, a lot of people didn’t think we had a chance," Wright said. "They said here’s a small-town boy who has been lucky in business and who has no political experience. Personally, I think that’s good. I like to tell people that I was a bull rider for 20-years so I know BS when I see it. That’s one of the best things to know when you’re having to deal with liberal politicians and government bureaucrats."