An aide to Texas Governor Rick Perry has been selected by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), which oversees oil and gas drilling and pipelines in the state, as the agency’s new executive director.
Milton Rister will take the spot that was abruptly vacated earlier this year when the previous executive director and longtime RRC employee John Tintera resigned. (Tintera quickly took a job at the lobbying group Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, where he works as a Regulation Advisor.)
Rister’s background is primarily political. He worked as a Director for Administration for Perry since 2010, and before that was Executive Director of the Texas Legislative Council, a nonpartisan state agency that provides research to the legislature. He’s also worked for Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and the Republican Party of Texas.
But his background is not without some controversy.
Kate Galbraith writes in the Texas Tribune:
Controversy arose during his appointment to the Legislative Council in 2006. The Austin American-Statesman dug through records to report that he “never submitted an application for the job to the agency nor did he undergo or had a job interview.”
Rister told the paper that because he had worked closely with two chairmen of the council, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, Republican of Midland, he had essentially “been interviewing with them all my life.” Some Democrats wrote to Craddick and Dewhurst at the time to protest Rister’s appointment to the nonpartisan Legislative Council.
When Rister was appointed to the Legislative Council, Houston Chroncile columnist Rick Casey lambasted the choice, calling Rister an “ideological hit man” for his work doing opposition research for a PAC that had gone after then-incumbent state senator Jeff Wentworth:
“Wentworth was one of six Republican moderates targeted in 2002 by an outfit called Free PAC, for which Rister did work. The group sent mailings picturing two men kissing and accusing Wentworth, then-Sen. Bill Ratliff and others of supporting the gay agenda because they voted for a hate-crime bill.
The mailers were so outrageous that all six incumbents won, and Free PAC changed its name or went out of existence. Rister denies that he was involved with the “kissing guy ads,” but Wentworth is skeptical.”
The column then goes on to detail much more of Rister’s work as a political operative.
Rister starts work on October 1. The Executive Director is responsible for operations of the Commission. According to the job listing on the RRC website, the executive director will make between $114,000 to $150,000 a year.
In a statement, RRC Chairman Barry Smitherman says that with the upcoming Legislative session and a second Sunset Review of the agency underway, “Mr. Rister’s comprehensive experience and background in working with our state’s top elected officials and the Legislature will be invaluable.”
Rister was chosen by a unanimous vote of the three commissioners.
There is another personnel change in the works at the agency. In November, an open seat on the commission is up for grabs, but it is widely expected that oil and gas attorney Christi Craddick, the Republican nominee for the seat, (and daughter of Tom Craddick), will win it.