Mayor Announces Leadership Transition as Hurricane Harvey Recovery Efforts Move to Next Phase

Stephen Costello will lead Houston’s long-term Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts into a new phase under Mayor Sylvester Turner’s direction as former Shell Oil President Marvin Odum ends his service as chief recovery officer.

Costello, an engineer and former Houston City Council member, will have Odum’s title after serving as the city “flood czar.”

“Throughout Marvin Odum’s 15 months of service to the people of Houston without compensation, he combined grace, diplomacy and tenacity to wring disaster funding from the federal government, reform FEMA policies to our benefit and address the immediate grassroots-level needs of our neighbors whose lives were devastated by the floods,” Mayor Turner said. “On behalf of all Houstonians, I offer him thanks and gratitude for his pivotal role in reviving our city and making it more resilient for the future.”

About $1.17 billion in federal disaster relief for Houston is finally expected to arrive in the next few weeks, moving Houston into the new phase of deploying the resources and enhancing the city’s readiness for the next disaster.

Odum delivered a recovery progress report (.pptx) to City Council on Wednesday with his recovery chief of staff, Niel Golightly, who was on loan to the city from Shell. Formed by Odum and Golightly, the recovery team of employees drawn from various city departments will operate under Costello’s supervision.

“It’s been an extraordinary privilege to serve the city, and it’s been inspiring to see the community rally around the mayor’s call to ‘build forward, not just build back.’ ” Odum said. “There are miles to go before the recovery is complete, but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to lay a strong foundation for the work to come.”

Among its groundbreaking accomplishments, Odum’s team designed new nationwide rules allowing cities such as Houston to use volunteered recovery services to offset their local cash matches for FEMA funding – a savings of up to $250 million for Houston. The team also coordinated the establishment of Neighborhood Restoration Centers that brought one-stop disaster relief programs to flooding victims.

Mayor Turner appointed Costello to the flood czar position in 2016.

“Well before Hurricane Harvey, Stephen Costello began work on strategies to reduce our flood risks and collaborate on projects with other government bodies,” the mayor said. “He is the right person at the right team to lead the team into the next phase of our recovery. We still have a lot of work to do to get Houstonians and our city back on their feet. I am confident that Steve will help us do just that.”