Corpus Christi Mayor’s Bizarre Stint in Office Ends After 37 Days
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
A political outsider with no experience in government wins the hearts and minds of voters hungry for change. He coasts to victory in a political upset, only to find himself unprepared for the office he leads. Charges of nepotism and ineptitude dog his administration but, at every turn, he blames the media for all ills—sometimes lashing out in tirades on social media.
I’m talking about Dan McQueen, who just resigned as mayor of Corpus Christi, Texas after 37 days in office. The abrupt departure has left the city in a state of political turmoil and is capturing media attention far and wide.
The Texas Tribune describes the tense political climate in which McQueen was elected.
The city’s water woes fueled the urge for change. Three times between July 2015 and May 2016, city leaders issued boil water notices — the longest lasting nearly three weeks — amid problems with the city’s drinking water system. First it was E. coli, then low chlorine levels, followed by a bacteria that wasn’t considered harmful.
City leaders have attributed such problems in part to a neglected delivery system — cast iron pipes that hadn’t been upgraded for decades.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Brad Lomax over lunch at the Water Street Oyster Bar, one of three prominent restaurants that he and his wife Elizabeth own here. They figure the water system breakdowns added as much as $10,000 per restaurant in operational costs alone — buying ice and bottled water, for instance. Sales dropped, too. Angry about the water and other problems that didn’t seem to be getting fixed, the couple both voted for McQueen.
“The same city council had been put in place for so long, and we still had the same problems,” Elizabeth Lomax said.
So when the neophyte arrived on the scene, fed up voters decided to take a chance. That’s when a whole new set of problems began.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times editorial board described the mayor as “dictatorial” and uninterested in their efforts to keep the public informed. Then the irate Facebook posts began. The mayor upset the business community when he reportedly bailed on the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce’s City fundraiser, choosing to attend his daughter’s wedding instead.
As investigative reporters began digging deeper into the life of Mayor McQueen, they unearthed more than a few skeletons. There was a history of unpaid taxes. There were also questions about a college degree he said he’d attained and multimillion-dollar business ventures he claimed he’d overseen. Then came the final nail in the coffin, as reporters discovered that McQueen and his chief of staff were living in the same home. His son would later confirm that the two were in a romantic relationship.
“I resign immediately,” McQueen wrote on Facebook—his preferred venue for addressing the public. “The city can no longer deal with such differing views and divisiveness. I step down from my position as Mayor, in order to allow the council and city to regain focus on success. Sorry, they are now into my ex-wives and kids. Nothing good will come from that mess.”
The city is now reeling. It will hold a special election in May at a cost of $9,000. But at least some residents still see a silver lining.
“I think it’s actually going to make the community better,” said Elizabeth Lomax, who agrees the entire ordeal was a wakeup call to the establishment. “They’re going to hold the next mayor responsible — for the water and the streets.”
Now, that's the spirit.