A (Half) Day in the Life of a Houston City Council Member and Her Staff

A (Half) Day in the Life of a Houston City Council Member and Her Staff
District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas (front and center) with members of organization Heads Up Houston at City Hall. Image Credit: Kace' Conaway

On November 7, 2023, Houstonians can visit the polls to elect city council members. But what does a council member do, anyway?

To learn, reporter Kace’ Conaway contacted Council Member Tiffany D. Thomas, who represents District F, including Alief and the Chinatown section of Sharpstown. Thomas welcomed her to City Hall on Wednesday, August 2, to cover a day in the life of a city council member (well, more like half a day).

But a council member isn’t a one-man or one-woman show. Each one heads a team, and Kace’ also got to meet Thomas’ staff.

Here’s Kace’s report.

My day began at the City Annex (an office building next to City Hall), where I met Isaac Egula, Council Member Thomas’ Chief of Staff.

For all council members, the position is a part-time job. Some are business owners or lawyers, and Thomas is a professor of Community Development at Prairie View A&M University. That’s why Thomas’ staff work full-time to support District F while she’s away and stay up to date with agenda items that are important to the district, says Egula. To do this, they try to “keep [themselves] in her mindset.”

That team also includes Stephani-Nicole Leota, Director of Constituent Services and Special Projects. When constituents and residents call with concerns, Leota handles many of those issues and deals with ways to resolve them. As Director of Special Projects, Leota works alongside Thomas to enact programs like her “Summer of Safety,” which involved free swim lessons at the Alief Neighborhood Pool.

Thomas’ team also includes Kenneth Ulmer, Director of Communications. His job includes communicating with the council member to craft her public remarks, such as press releases, speeches, presentations, the newsletter, and social media support. Overall, he says he helps the council member deliver the best message she wants to deliver to her constituents.

Finally, her team includes Kathy Reece, Executive Assistant, who manages the council member’s calendar. For the summer, Thomas’ team also included two interns, Izabella Garcia, and Tommy Wan.

I learned that there is no typical day for a council member's staff. They address a wide range of issues, hearing from constituents, homeowner associations, and businesses. To solve these problems, they must be aware of relevant city ordinances and steps that can be taken to try to solve issues.

For example, according to Egula and Leota, Thomas’s office recently received a call from a 92-year-old resident whose normal water bill is $40. Her bill went up to $2,000, and the resident paid it, leaving her in a tough situation as a senior on a fixed income. Now, Council Member Thomas is contacting the director of Houston Public Works directly, trying to get that money back for the senior.

Around 9:00 AM, I made my way to City Hall with Egula and the interns, Izabella and Tommy. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, filling in for Mayor Sylvester Turner, opened the council session with the bang of a gavel.

The agenda included the monthly financial report, a public hearing about designating sixteen locations as Landmarks or Protected Landmarks, the Mayor's report, the appointment or reappointment of five members of the Sharpstown-area Southwest Management District, and more.

During the session, council members followed along with their information packets and listened to speakers like City Controller Chris Brown and Finance Director Will Jones. Once the speakers concluded their pieces, council members were able to ask questions by entering a queue (line). Some council members had support staff standing behind them. Council members often expressed gratitude for the presenting departments. There was a bit of joking and laughing.

Council members had the opportunity to discuss several motions, after which they voted to carry or oppose them.

Heads Up Houston, led by Kevin Kebede, was recognized in session by Council Member Thomas for their work during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, when they assisted her in making fifteen water drops in nine days. Thomas also announced to her constituents in Piney Point that Houston’s Planning and Development Department would be visiting the Piney Point Civic Club meeting on Tuesday, August 8, to discuss conservation districts. (The Piney Point neighborhood was recently chosen as one of six pilot conservation districts, which are designed to preserve historic areas of Houston.)

She also announced her August 12 Back-to-School giveaway and her August 15 trip to the Oak Harbor subdivision to discuss sidewalks, safety concerns, and project updates, and to hear questions and concerns about the upcoming enhancements of Hackberry Park. She also recognized her interns, Isabella Garcia and Tommy Wan, who have been with her office for 2-3 years.

Finally, she encouraged Alief ISD students to apply for the Alief Votes Fellowship by the deadline on September 1. Accepted students will receive civic engagement training, resources, a stipend, and a budget to fund their own projects. Each Alief Votes Fellow will also receive administrative support from Council Member Thomas’ office.

After Mayor Pro Tem Martin closed the session with his gavel, Council Member Thomas greeted the group from Heads Up Houston, thanked them for their work, and gave them a tour of City Hall. She showed them the Legacy Room, the Mayor's office of special events, HTV, and the annex.

After the tour, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Council Member Thomas about her role.

District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas' office at City Hall. Image Credit: Kace' Conaway

After the interview, we took a picture in front of the City of Houston seal.

District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas (right) at City Hall with intern reporter Kace' Conaway

From what I gathered from Council Member Thomas’ staff, the rest of her day was spent addressing constituent concerns.

Read the highlights of the interview below:

What Do Houston City Council Members Actually Do? An Interview with Tiffany Thomas, District F
Houston city council elections are coming up on November 7, but they aren’t getting nearly as much press as the mayoral race. That’s no surprise, but council members are empowered to make important decisions too. It’s a good idea to learn what the job entails. After experiencing part of a


Kace’ Conaway is a legal studies major at Houston Christian University. She has always had a deep love for writing and is grateful for the opportunity to share that love with the Sharpener and its readers. She hopes her work will have a positive impact on campus and in the Sharpstown community.

Tyess Korsmo, the Sharpener's editor-in-chief, moved to Sharpstown in 2019 to earn his Master of Liberal Arts at HCU, where he now teaches English and history. He also teaches English in a maximum-security prison.