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February/March 2010 – Web Exclusive

A Letter from the Comptroller

Photo of Susan Combs

Innovation can occur anywhere: a lab, the office cubicle, a dorm room or a garage.

I first learned about the wonder of innovation from my grandfather, David L. Keiser. He had a garage full of stuff, and he never stopped thinking about inventing and refining.

He held many patents. As a young woman, I helped him apply for a Canadian patent by translating rules that were written in French. (I was a French and religion major in college, but that’s another story.)

I’d like to think that my grandfather’s spirit infuses me, as a public official, to innovate.

Perhaps his most significant innovation was improving the connection between rail cars. It reduced the wear and tear on the machinery and gave passengers a more enjoyable experience.

He ended up as vice president of the Texas Mexican Railway Company.

I also married an innovator.

My husband, a co-founder of VTEL Corporation, helped develop videoconferencing technology, among other things.

That’s why I found this issue of Fiscal Notes so interesting. Our story on technology trends looks at where innovation may take us – and quickly – in the future.

But you also can find other examples of innovation in this issue: an airplane company adapting its crop dusters to other uses; cotton growers rediscovering organic methods; and Texans wrestling with how to move our burgeoning population around the state.

My grandfather would be pleased – but probably not surprised – to see that trains could play a growing role in our transportation system.

I’d like to think my grandfather’s spirit infuses me, as a public official, to innovate – to make government more effective, more efficient and more responsive.

That would be more popular than a better mousetrap!

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