“Hiring an openly gay guy to do important work and interact with folks – it’s kind of a statement that the Department of Agriculture hadn’t had before. Our state government was generally very white, male, straight but the Ag Department was really that way. We started hiring people who didn’t go to Texas A&M. That was a shock to many, many people in the department and the farmers. They had gone to schools in the east and the west and hadn’t grown up as members of the Corps. It was opening up state government… It was a little unusual, I guess a lot unusual to raise money for government agencies at that time. It helped that the legislature would turn down requests so you could show there was a need and you tried to get government money and it didn’t work. It was an exciting time for people who thought outside the box. Government could be different.”
Jim Marsten was an environmental attorney working for Lloyd Doggett’s law firm during the time Hightower was running for office. He first learned of Hightower from his writings at the Texas Observer. When Hightower decided to run for the Railroad Commission, he was a very early volunteer. After losing that race, Jim Marston encouraged him to set his sights on the Texas Department of Agriculture. Jim Marston provided legal advice on campaign-related matters. After Hightower was elected, he also organized lobbied the legislature in support of various programs, such as pesticide regulation. As a private attorney, he felt he could be more aggressive that an elected official could be. He could do things like connect the dots between contributions to the legislators for their campaigns and individual votes.