Greg Casar eyes Mayor Pro Tem role on Austin City Council

Austin
Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar. Image Courtesy City of Austin.

Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar. Image Courtesy City of Austin.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a post on the Austin City Council message board Wednesday afternoon, District 4 Council Member Greg Casar announced his interest in serving as Mayor Pro Tem on the council.

The Mayor Pro Tem role is what people might think of as a “vice-mayor” role, in which the Mayor Pro Tem fills in on mayoral duties — like running meetings — in the mayor’s absence. The 11 members of the council elect the Mayor Pro Tem and will do so in January.

Casar has served on Austin’s council since 2014 (he was the youngest person ever elected to council) and handily won re-election this November. Casar has led the council to make significant changes over the past few years, including pushing for the repeal of the previous ban on public camping and to limit the enforcement of marijuana possession in Austin.

In his post on the message board Wednesday, he focused on the city’s continued efforts to address homelessness and police reform.

“The status quo of decades past has failed us, but the present state of affairs is not acceptable either,” Casar wrote. “We must house people experiencing homelessness and reform policing in a way that makes everyone more safe.”

On the message board post, Casar said he already has support in his quest for the Mayor Pro Tem role from Council Member-elect Vanesa Fuentes, Council Member Ann Kitchen, Council Member Leslie Pool and Council Member Pio Renteria.

Mayor Steve Adler posted on the message board Wednesday saying he would support Casar in that role as well, writing to Casar: “I will be directing my attention, over the remaining two years of my term, on joining with you and all of our colleagues in resolving the homelessness and public safety issues now before us.”

Six votes are needed for someone to be elected to the role, which Casar says he has with the four other council members, himself and the mayor.

Council Member Paige Ellis said in a statement Austin will have elected eight women to council—more than any other big Texas city.

“There are several qualified women who could be a strong, unifying voice as Mayor Pro Tem. Our city has gone through a lot over the past two years, and we should begin 2021 with leadership that brings us together. As far as I’m aware, discussions are ongoing,” Ellis said.

What to expect from Austin City Council moving forward

This announcement from Casar comes after the council seats for 2021 were solidified Tuesday through the December runoff elections, with Council Member Alison Alter re-elected to her seat and Mackenzie Kelly unseating Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. Flannigan was a consistent ally to Casar on the council. The two worked closely together on police reform and racial justice issues on the council’s public safety committee.

Kelly’s election will change the solidly progressive makeup the council has had the past two years. The positions she campaigned on are significantly more conservative than those of her fellow council members.

Council Member Greg Casar speaks along with other city leaders and community organizations who oppose Proposition A in 2019. (KXAN Photo/ Julie Karam).

Casar consistently throws his weight behind the council’s more progressive actions and levels public criticism against state leaders, but he noted in his post “as Mayor Pro Tem I would take seriously the responsibility to actively welcome diverse perspectives, encourage healthy debate, and help build the consensus necessary to address our greatest challenges in a way that makes people’s lives better.”

Earlier this year, Casar said he was seriously considering running for the seat vacated by State Sen. Kirk Watson, but in May, Casar announced he had decided against running for state senate and would stay on the council.

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