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Jordy Tollett, Flamboyant President of the Greater Houston
 Convention and Visitors Bureau, Resigns
By Mike Snyder, Houston ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Dec. 30, 2006 -- Jordy Tollett, the flamboyant Houston-booster who vowed last month to fight to retain his job as president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, announced his resignation Friday.

But he will stay on as a consultant next year and receive his full $206,000 annual salary.

Tollett, who had headed the bureau since 1998, has been a subject of controversy. Last summer he took a leave of absence for unspecified treatment after television cameras caught him drinking in a bar during lunch.

In recent months Tollett, 54, had been lining up support in the face of pressure from Mayor Bill White, who insisted that the board search for a replacement when Tollett's contract expires in February.

Board Chairman Doug Horn said Tollett will do consulting work for the bureau for the next year. He will be paid from membership dues rather than from the $10 million in annual money the city provides through hotel occupancy taxes, Horn said.

Horn and Don Henderson, the board's chairman emeritus, will coordinate the bureau's daily operations until a replacement is chosen, a bureau statement said.

When the bureau's board voted Nov. 17 to conduct a search, it asked Tollett to re-apply for the job. Tollett said Friday that he decided not to do so because he wants to pursue other opportunities, which he declined to identify.

"I have some other interests that I want to get involved in and I couldn't do them" while running the bureau, Tollett said.

At the same time, he expressed confidence his experience will be useful to the bureau in his role as a consultant.

"I have made a lot of contacts and relationships over the years with 1,000 meeting planners," Tollett said "I have value. I can make a call and get someone to pay attention to the city of Houston."

The decision to resign was a dramatic change of heart for Tollett, who said in November that he wanted to finish his career in his current job and that no one else in the country was better qualified than he to run the bureau.

White, vacationing in Colorado, issued a statement thanking Tollett for his years of service to the city and wishing him well.

The mayor has suggested for months that it might be time for a change in leadership at the bureau.

"He has a long career of public service and a number of fans and detractors," White said in July. "The bureau could benefit from fresh energy and ideas."

Tollett has enjoyed support, however, from most City Council members and Harris County commissioners, as well as from prominent Houstonians including Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen and Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane.

Tollett is a native Houstonian who began his career as a teenager setting up chairs in Astrodome meeting rooms. He graduated to briefcase carrier for Roy Hofheinz, former Harris County judge, Houston mayor and father of the Astrodome.

Tollett went on to jobs in the administrations of four mayors -- Jim McConn, Kathy Whitmire, Bob Lanier and Lee Brown. In 1981, during Whitmire's administration, he was named director of the city's Convention and Entertainment Facilities department -- a separate agency from the convention and visitors bureau, which is not part of city government.

Tollett, who also still earns $111,000 a year from his city pension, was known for flashy suits, two-tone shoes and a colorful personal style that included a fondness for late-night revelry. He has been charged twice with drunken driving and his name once appeared, without his permission, on a billboard for a topless club where he had acknowledged taking prospective conventioneers.

Tollett said Friday that two of the three business opportunities he is pursuing would allow him to keep living in Houston.

"I had a great run for 35 years," he said.

mike.snyder@chron.com

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Copyright (c) 2006, Houston Chronicle

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