Casey Monahan has been a state employee — the Texas Music Office director — since January 15, 1990, following a five-year stint as a music writer with the Austin American-Statesman. That ends in a matter of weeks.
After serving for four governors — Bill Clements, Ann Richards, George W. Bush and Rick Perry — the 1977 Hillcrest High School graduate was fired this week by Stacey Napier, incoming governor Greg Abbott’s director of administration. Monahan says he asked if he needed to clean out his desk immediately. He was asked to stay until mid-February.
News of Monahan’s ouster has been greeted with a chorus of jeers. South by Southwest managing director Roland Swenson called it a “serious blow for Texas music” in a statement dispatched to the Austin American-Statesman yesterday. Said Swenson, “Casey has helped countless Texas musicians and music companies from around the world to bring business to Texas.” Earlier today, local musician Wanz Dover posted a piece about Monahan’s firing to Facebook along with the note that “this is why it’s important to not vote these kind of guys into office.” And social media today is filled with musicians fuming about Monahan’s dismissal.
“Hopefully, I’ve helped Texas own its music heritage — and make money from it. And I hope whoever my successor is is inspired to do the same thing.”
“I would like to tell each of those people thank you,” he says. “But fight for the office, not for the man.”
Monahan, who grew up in Dallas and made his way through the DISD, always thought his firing was inevitable. After all, he says, “this is the way state government works. When a new governor comes in, everybody’s gone. Everybody’s gone from appointments, everybody’s gone from budget, policy and planning. That’s just what happens.”
It just hadn’t happened to him in the past 25 years, during which he transformed a small office originally planted in the state’s Department of Commerce into a powerful player based out of the governor’s office, thanks in large part to Richards. Among Monahan’s notable accomplishments: getting the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (or, the Grammy folks) to bring a chapter to Texas in 1994, creating the Texas Talent Register and co-creating The Handbook of Texas Music. Oh — and 20 years ago he helped get the father of psychedelic music, Roky Erickson, back into the studio after a too-long absence.
No one did more to promote Texas music, from mariachi to punk to country. And no one loves Texas music more.
Abbott has not announced a replacement, and Abbott spokesperson Amelia Chasse has not returned calls. But there’s plenty of speculation that Abbott has a replacement in mind — likely a friend of longtime Abbott aide-turned-transition team leader-turned-future-chief of staff Daniel Hodge (“a frequent presence in the music scene,” per this New York Times-Texas Tribune profile from November).
Monahan wishes his successor well. Sincerely.
“Every day I come to work, I walk into the building, swipe my card, the door opens and I am happy,” he says in his first lengthy interview since being told of his ouster. “No one in an elective office has job security. I am inspired when I see that capitol. And I also say to myself, I am a music industry professional working in government,’ not the other way around. And I’ve always thought of being a music professional first and as a public servant second, because the industry — and rightfully so — is suspicious of anything government does pertaining to music. We in the music business don’t like the government.” He laughs.
“Hopefully, I’ve helped Texas own its music heritage — and make money from it,” he says. “And I hope whoever my successor is is inspired to do the same thing.”