Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd has died at 72
Bruce Todd, who served two terms as mayor of Austin, died Saturday at the age of 72.
Todd began his political career in Austin as Travis County Commissioner from 1987 to 1991. He then ran and won the Austin mayoral race in 1991, ending his term in 1997 after a second term.
Among Todd’s many accomplishments as an elected official, he worked with Austin City Council member Gus Garcia to push through the city’s iconic smoking ban. He also led efforts for the US Air Force to transfer Bergstrom Air Force Base to the city of Austin, then worked to pass a $ 600 million bond to turn the base into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. .
Todd died on Christmas Day of complications from Lewy Body Dementia; services are pending.
You can read the family’s obituary below.
Father, husband, brother, public servant, friend — Bruce Todd was it all.
Bruce was born on December 17, 1949 and died on December 25, 2021 of complications from Lewy body disease. In the 72 years between those two dates, he accomplished more than most people could in two lifetimes.
He was the second of six children raised in Breckenridge, Texas, by his remarkable mother, Mary Katherine Holland Todd. He sometimes spoke of having so little money that the church brought the family’s milk. The community made sure the boys had a paper route that they passed on from brother to brother so they could buy bikes and do their part. His three sisters adored him and acted as surrogates until the day Bruce died.
Mary Kate Todd instilled a hard work ethic in her children. She insisted on perfect grammar and made sure they had everything she could provide to be successful in life. Another woman also played a big role in Bruce’s youth: Gwen Dean, director of the Breckenridge Boys Choir. Mrs. Dean, by the force of her will, formed a choir of young men from this small town in Texas and booked the group nationwide, most memorable at the White House on April 16, 1962. Bruce told several times having the chance to sing for President John Kennedy changed his life and inspired him to embark on a life of public service. You can see a YouTube video of this performance here:
Breckenridge Boys Choir White House Performance
Pretty much the day he graduated as the proud Breckenridge Buckaroo in 1968, he left for Austin with $ 500 in his pocket, a gift from his beloved grandfather who was going to have to, somehow or other. another, expand to cover college studies at the University of Texas. Bruce got a full-time job at the Austin City Municipal Court where he first served as Night Court Supervisor and later was promoted to Clerk of the Court, a department head position where he managed a team of 50 people, while juggling classes. at UT. In 1972 he was hired as director of information services for the Texas Civil Council, where he worked until he graduated with a business administration degree from UT, having “tainted four years of study in five ”, as he often joked. It was during these formative years that he met and became longtime friends of Roy Butler and Ronnie Earle, who both mentored and helped him throughout his career.
Bruce obtained his public accountancy license and practiced accounting from 1974 to 1986 in three different firms: Gibson, Johnson; Mueller, Todd; and Garcia, Morrison & Co. It was during the last of these three positions that he met future Austin City Council member and Mayor Gus Garcia, and the two formed a bond that will last for decades.
Bruce’s son Jeremy Palmer Todd was born in 1982 and Jeremy was, to use a cliché, the light of Bruce’s life. No one has ever been a more proud or more supportive father. Jeremy’s support throughout the painful last year of Bruce’s life was a gift to his father that Bruce will never have the words to thank him for.
During the first decade and more of his career, the attraction to public service was never far from his mind, and he decided to run for the Travis Precinct 2 County Police Station in 1986. It was remembered years later that his identifying name was very weak for this. first race, and a lot of people slashed his chances. But Bruce Todd never belittled himself and he won the election; he served on the Travis County Commissioners Court from 1987 to 1991.
It was a period of major growth in Austin – the city was turning from a purely university / government city to one that had started to attract tech companies, and Bruce was active as a commissioner of recruiting for tech companies. high technology. He also used his experience in the CPA business to benefit the public, consolidating four separate road and bridge operations into one ministry and initiating a process to encourage cooperation from Travis County funded social service agencies. . It was during his service to the Court of Commissioners that he developed a long-standing friendship with Pam Reed, who then served as Constituency 3 Commissioner.
As Travis County Commissioner, Bruce began to lay the groundwork for one of the most significant efforts in Austin’s history: the creation of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Reserve, the largest urban reserve in the states. -United at the time. This multi-year work would continue until he successfully signed the BCCP when he was mayor.
In early 1991, Bruce’s friend Lee Cooke decided not to run for a second term as mayor of Austin, so Bruce threw his hat in the ring and ran a tough but ultimately victorious race. . He was sworn in as mayor in June 1991 and served two terms, retiring “without defeat and without charge”, as he liked to say, in June 1997.
His tenure as mayor was filled with both opportunity – Austin’s continued growth as a high-tech mecca – and challenges – the recovery from a severe economic downturn in the 1980s still affected nearly everyone. aspects of life in the capital. He chaired a divided city council, where he was often able to reach consensus on the most difficult issues of the time: the relocation of the airport, the preservation of hundreds of acres of wilderness, the growing struggles between developers and environmentalists, the transfer of the Brackenridge hospital, then run by the city. in Seton, and the hiring of a new city manager (Jesús Garza, who has become a dear friend).
Bruce has had significant success in recruiting major employers in Austin including Samsung Austin Semiconductor, AMD, Applied Materials and the Motorola expansion.
He and council member Gus Garcia successfully passed Austin’s groundbreaking smoke-free law, banning cigars and cigarettes in all restaurants and bars. For the next 25 years, people stopped Bruce on the streets to thank him for this order.
Bruce helped raise his stepdaughter Alex Rose, who was 7 when Bruce married Elizabeth Christian in 1994 just after starting his second term as mayor. When Bruce asked Elizabeth to marry him he said, “I consider Alex to be one of your greatest assets.” Talk about a sure-fire way to win a mom’s heart! Alex loved her fiercely.
Austinites entering and exiting the beautiful Austin Bergstrom International Airport must thank Bruce Todd. His creation was the crown jewel of his time as mayor. Bruce led efforts to persuade the US Air Force to transfer Bergstrom Air Base to the city of Austin as the base was being decommissioned from federal use. He raised funds for the campaign and led all aspects of the public campaign to pass a $ 600 million bond election to turn the old base (with its incredibly valuable mile-long trail) into a modern international airport for Austin. He oversaw construction and helped make sure it was on time and on budget. And he applauded with the rest of the city when the new airport opened two years after Bruce stepped down under Mayor Kirk Watson.
After leaving office, he founded Bruce Todd Public Affairs for clients seeking business with local and state governments across the country. Over the years, her professional work and experience has continued to help many community organizations.
Bruce had a very serious bicycle accident at the end of 2005, from which he recovered through sheer persistence. He spent the rest of his life defending strict bicycle helmet laws. As soon as he could, he immediately got back to work and also embarked on new community projects.
He helped create Rail Relo NOW, a statewide group that worked on freight railroad relocation issues so that commuter trains could be built more efficiently. He spent many years as a board member of the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council, where he worked with one of his best friends, Ross Milloy. He was also the founding president of the Austin Community College Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, on which he partnered with longtime friend and advisor Peck Young.
From 2013 to 2014, the public service called again, when then County Judge Sam Biscoe appointed Bruce for an unfinished term as Travis County Commissioner, Ward 2. His proudest moment of this passage was to issue a decisive vote to put State Highway 45. under construction.
As he neared retirement in his late sixties, he became an elderly statesman for a generation of aspiring public servants. He liked nothing better than helping someone who was considering running for office. He loved too, and was good at raising funds for the candidates he supported. He was the longtime campaign treasurer of Texas State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos and served alongside Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore.
Bruce is survived by his wife Elizabeth Christian, son Jeremy Todd and stepdaughter Alexandra Rose.
His loving siblings also survive him. They include Howard Todd and his wife Jann, Kathy Todd Gray and her husband Tim, Elizabeth Ruth (Betsy) Todd, Knox Todd and his wife Courtenay, and Holly Gandy Stephens and her husband Jas. His cousins, nieces and nephews on Todd’s side are beloved. Special thanks to Brandee Todd for her attention throughout her illness.
His in-laws on the Christian side of the family adored him and called Bruce “the whispering baby” for his ability to lift the spirits of the little ones. We like to imagine his stepfather George Christian and stepmother Jo Anne Christian chatting about politics – “resting” in peace wouldn’t be right for any of these three. Susan Christian Goulding and her husband Mike will join the Todd family in mourning their brother; George S. Christian and his wife Betsy; Robert Bruce Christian; John Christian and his wife Adina; and Brian Christian and his wife Erin Barrett; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Services are on hold.