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My Personal Cause, Effect and Public Shaming

As a twist to the opening lines in the Steve Martin movie “The Jerk,” “I was born a poor humble country boy” in Lawton, Oklahoma. My dad was in the Army and stationed at Fort Sill, with a focus on artillery. According to my folks, we did not have much money, and our weekly excitement consisted of loud ordinance blasts in the distance, and my parents finding scorpions in my baby crib.

Oftentimes, people who are in the military continue to be redeployed over and over again in some of the world’s most exciting locations. However, in my family’s case, my dad went to work for General Electric as a young mechanical engineer, following his graduation from the University of Virginia. 

I learned there is a similarity between the military and GE, in that the GE Management Training program, the “up and coming” managers move around quite a bit. As you climbed the corporate ladder, the GE senior leadership wanted you to be well-rounded and understand the many aspects of the GE empire.

As a result of moving around, I lived in 17-different cities before I graduated from college. I went to three high schools and three colleges. I lived in some of the honeymoon spots of the world such as Erie, PA, Cleveland, OH, Albany, NY and Schenectady, NY. Don’t get me wrong, they were great places; being young, I didn’t have any comparative reference for other cities across the US.

As the new kid on the block, I had to go out and hunt for friends, find things to do, find new trees to climb and forests to explore. This was fine when I was very young, but as I grew older, it became more challenging due to friendships and emotions. I would find myself not wanting to get too close to friends, even girlfriends, as I knew that I would soon move away and did not want to go through the heartache of loss. Even though I had many friends and acquaintances, sitting here today, there is not a single person that I can truly remember as a childhood friend. Not a single name comes to mind.

Transferring from a high school in Pennsylvania with 400, to a high school in Texas with over 1,500, only to be transferred again to a high school in Connecticut with 200, was quite an adjustment. Having to move right before my senior year—right, when I was about to become the “BMOC” Big Man on Campus—was very interesting, to say the least.

I remember having conversations with my folks and my sister, and letting them know how difficult it was to be constantly moving. At the time I truly hated it. Of course, I have no ill-will for my parents, as they were following their dreams within GE and life in general. My dad was a high executive within the GE ranks, with a very successful career. Yet this was something I would consider a “time of failure” in my life because I had no true friends. We moved from city-to-city about every year or eighteen months. As you can imagine, it was hard to establish those deep-rooted relationships in that amount of time. Today I get jealous as I hear stories of people that are going fishing, hunting or taking trips with their life-long friends. I don’t have those friends. And I probably never will.

But out of what seemed to be failure, I can see the good that has come into my life. By constantly moving around, I was given the tools of being able to adapt and be outgoing. I can even be somewhat of a chameleon of sorts; in most conversations, I can find a common thread of a location where I have lived. People feel conformable with others from their home town or state. If I am speaking with someone from New York, I can say that I went to school there. If someone is from Virginia, I can say that I used to live there. If someone is from South Carolina, I can say that my folks live there. I can go on and on with Georgia, Japan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Texas and others.

This ability to adapt also comes in handy as I meet people of different religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I have lived alongside and with Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Atheists and others, and can relate in a manner that some folks might not be able to comprehend, sympathize or understand. As a mayor, I feel this understanding was extremely helpful in giving me the drive to create and work with a “Mayor’s Diversity Leadership Council” in Sugar Land, which became the 9th most diverse community in America. 

As a result of the programs we created, we became the first city in the nation to receive the Community of Respect Award from the Anti-defamation League (ADL). I would consider this to be one of the highest accomplishments during my three mayoral terms, and I feel that my upbringing helped to force me to have an open mind about the differences, and more importantly, the similarities of various cultures, religions and races in the world.

As I would walk into a new city or school when I was young, I was faced with two choices. The first was to be the new kid in the school, and have no friends and stand in the corner by myself and be a loner. Alternatively, I could be the guy that walked into a room and knew of no strangers. The later forced me to be outgoing, and go from person to person and introduce myself in a manner that creates immediate conversations and friendships. Fortunately, I learned the skillset of the later. To this day, I have been able to use this skillset in the business, politics, community service and life in general.

Consequently, out of the failure of having no deep-rooted friends and always moving around, I was able to use the tools and situation for my personal benefit, as well as my business and community endeavors.

 As a parent, I can honestly say that I want nothing but success for my children. When they are hurting, I want to do everything in my power to make the hurt stop. When they are failing, I want to step in and do everything to correct the problem. Any good parent will turn Heaven and Earth to make their children the best they can be. 

But we need to remember that we also need to let our children learn on their own. Learn from life’s moments. Learn from life’s failures. When they fail, we don’t shame them, nor do we say, “I told you so.” Instead, we use these experiences to help them become better human beings, and hopefully never make the same mistake again.

As a young man, I was very driven by my parents. Sitting here today, I am most grateful for the love and values that my parents shared with me. We lived in small-town neighborhoods, where everyone knew everyone else on the block, at the country club, in school and around town. Consequently, if you did something wrong at 2:45 in the afternoon, by the time you got home at 3:00 from school, your parents were waiting at the door ready to reprimand you for your wrong-doings! I never understood how this life before social media was such an efficient form of communication!

Nevertheless, my parents were strict. I am not sure if it was because they wanted me to be the best that I could be, or if they were embarrassed with what the neighbors would think of my grades or sporting events. When I would get a C on a test, I would want to come home and high-five my family and celebrate for not failing. Yet my folks would tell me that it had to be an A, or I would be grounded, or worse. I digress, but at that time, the sound of my father’s belt ripping off of his pants, then telling me to bend over is a sound that still frightens me to this day! Yes, it may not be acceptable in today’s society, but when I was younger, it seemed to be a way of life, and unfortunately for my rear-end it was a weekly occurrence!

When I did not want to play a sport, I was encouraged—or told—what position I would play and that I would enjoy it. I quickly got the impression that I was a failure if I was not on the starting team. Whether it was swim team, football, baseball or hockey, I was always seeking a sport in which I would succeed. If I was in Boy Scouts, I could not just get a few Merit Badges, I needed to be an Eagle Scout. When I was in the Stage Band playing trumpet, I needed to be first chair. The first chair had the melody and played the entire time. The second chair was a failure position.

Far too often today, we live in a society where people are blaming their parents for raising them “the wrong way.” The say it is their parent’s fault and openly tell people that “I have failed because of my parents and the way they treated me, or the way that they didn’t love me.” We need to be accountable for our lives and stop blaming our parents. Yes, my parents were strict. But out of their parenting, I feel that I have truly learned some incredible life lessons.

When I was young, my parents told me that I needed to work a job and earn a living. This started at the young age of nine when I started to take our lawnmower and go door to door and cut our neighbors yards. If I wanted to buy a model plane or even a baseball, I needed to pay for it. When I wasn’t cutting yards, my employment quickly morphed into a life of caddying, once I was of an age and size to walk 18-holes, carrying a golf bag the size of Rodney Dangerfield’s bag in the movie Caddyshack. Since I couldn’t caddy in the wintertime, I needed to walk the streets and find work shoveling snow in Erie, Pennsylvania, a city that was extremely cold and had been dubbed as the “Mistake on the Lake.”

This desire to not fail and to only succeed, quickly taught me what I now know as capitalism, and turned me into a Michael J Fox-type of a young entrepreneur. When I worked at McDonald’s, I would strive to become the “All American Counter Boy.” When I worked summer jobs at the GE warehouse, I wanted to try to retrofit the stocking and inventory control systems to make it easier for the forklifts to grab and deliver products more efficiently. 

Once I started going to college, I had an insatiable desire to continue to be successful at everything I did. When my fraternity was looking to host a “social” and have a concert fundraiser to benefit a local charity, I made the suggestion that we do something a little larger scale. So, as a junior in college, I formed Wallace Productions, Inc., and put together a business plan to hold a professional concert at the University of North Texas. I raised about $250,000 in seed capital from investors, rented the 40,000-seat football stadium and engaged the Oak Ridge Boys and TG Sheppard to host a concert that would be a fundraiser for the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.  

I was able to take what I interpreted as a failure and inability to satisfy my parents, and let it educate me to possess the drive and determination to always do my best. Yes, I may not have always succeeded—and I can assure you that I did not always get the “participation ribbon”—but what seemed like a failure as a child taught me to be an entrepreneur and capitalist as a young adult. 

If you have been involved in the real estate development business for any length of time, you quickly learn of these things called “cycles.” You quickly learn that what goes up must come down. Especially when it comes to real estate values. The key is how to understand the characteristics of each, and as Kenny Rogers has famously sung: know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em!

During my senior year of college, I worked an internship for the Dallas-based real estate syndication firm of Equity Management Corporation. The leadership and ownership of the company were two very seasoned and brilliant veterans with countless years of real estate development and management experience. I was honored to have received the internship, and was working 40-hours per week during my senior year of college. Consequently, on my days off from school and on weekends, I would drive 60 minutes from Denton, Texas, to North Dallas, and I was so proud of my Radio Shack, TRS80 computer. Today, that computer would quickly be called a boat anchor!

My internship was such a tremendous education, as I was able to see how my “book” and “class education” translated into a real-life, on-the-job environment. I learned how the “mean, medium, mode, and standard deviation” could actually be used, and these were no longer just silly things that I learned in Statistics 101. I was having the time of my life!

Upon graduation, I was asked by my boss to prepare a company budget so he could manage the operations more efficiently. When it came time for me to ask about the payroll, I needed to ask him what he was planning on paying me, the recent North Texas Real Estate Finance graduate. I nearly fell out of my chair with joy when he shared the compensation number. I had arrived and was ecstatic.

With the drive and determination that my parents taught me, I began working around the clock to create financial models, negotiate purchase contracts, analyze markets and more. Within a year, I became an officer of the company as Vice President of Acquisitions—and acquire I did. After all, the real estate market was such that I could buy an apartment complex, an office building, raw land, a hotel, etc., for $10 million today, and in less than a year it was worth $15 million. There was no end in sight for my little, rose-color, naïve eyes!

From 1982 until 1984, I acquired over $250 million in real estate assets. In fact, I was deferring salary and making large investments into the very same real estate transactions I acquired. When I was asked as an officer to guarantee the debt of these projects with the seasoned owners, of course I obliged. After all, if it was good for the investors and the respected owners of the company, it would be great for me! I put these deals together and worked with my co-workers and other professionals to be prepared for the “best of times”; this little bubble would never burst! Then along came the 86-Tax Act, the Savings and Loan Crisis, the Resolution Trust and the eventual fall of a huge real estate empire. I was now having to work out about $250 million in real estate problems.

The next couple of years were some of the most depressing and difficult years of my extremely long, four-year career. I was on the front lines, even though I did not own any of the company, and I had to admit failure. I had to tell investors that the property values were a fraction of what we paid. I had to tell employees that their jobs were gone. I had to tell lenders that we could not make their debt service payments. I had to work three jobs in order to survive. I had to see the two owners, both gentlemen who were in their 50s, with families and very distinguished careers, file bankruptcy and lose everything. I saw failure at its finest. I saw lives destroyed.

Yet, during this time, I was able to see how the transactions could fall apart unwind. In effect, I could see the reverse engineering of a deal structure. I was able to better understand how to structure transactions to safeguard the investors, myself and deal components to ensure better success in the future. In short, I learned all about Debtor’s rights, Creditor’s rights, the Bankruptcy Code, work-out skills, debt restructuring and more. No, I was not a lawyer, but I sure could play one on TV after this stent.

In hindsight, what I saw was the same skillset needed to restructure and turn around a real estate project, was an identical skillset for turning around a company. Out of these various failures came a new career for me, which would allow me to provide turnaround management services. In fact, if a company was under-performing, why not invest capital to make an acquisition at a discount, and then use the skillset to turn the company around, create value, save jobs and ultimately make money for myself and other investors. I found my new career.

During the summer of 1985, I attended my very first polo match in Dallas, Texas. I remember watching these sleek, massive and beautiful horses sprint down the field, and carry men in their white pants, polo shirts, helmets and polo boots who would strike a ball and score points for their team. I didn’t know much about the game, but I remember thinking the players must really be in bad shape, since they were all sweating profusely, yet it looked like the polo ponies were doing all of the work. Following that game, I was hooked. For a guy that never had ridden a horse, didn’t own a pair of white jeans, and never picked up a polo mallet, I wanted to learn this game. Through various connections, I ultimately learned how to play, and had the opportunity to play polo with the likes of Stuart Copeland (drummer for The Police), the Duke and Duchess of Waterford, Tommy Lee Jones and others. I also learned how physical and demanding the sport was, and I took back all of the comments about the players being out of shape!

Another introduction that took place at the Willow Bend Polo and Hunt Club was meeting Mark Thatcher, the son of the then-British Prime Minister. We hit it off quickly and became friends. Out of a social relationship, we soon decided to form a company called the Grantham Company, named after Grantham, England, where Lady Thatcher was a member of parliament (before becoming the Prime Minister). We decided to combine the financial and business relationships that Mark had amassed over the years and my turnaround skills to invest in and acquire operating companies and commercial real estate.

The business relationships would soon find its way into British politics; the various trips would sometimes coincide with state visits, or other meetings with Prime Minister Thatcher and her husband, Sir Denise. A friendship soon developed, and I had the pleasure of attending various meetings at 10 Downing Street, Checkers (the British equivalent of Camp David), Buckingham Palace and various other locations. 

When the extremely emotional day emerged in which Prime Minister Thatcher announced that she would not seek re-election, we soon needed to mobilize the private office, speaking engagements, Thatcher Foundation, literary rights, etc. Still in my 20s, I was in the right place at the right time!

Coordinating with the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, negotiating with Harper Collins for the Downing Street Years memoires, negotiating board positions, grant donations for the Thatcher Foundation, serving as her chief of staff and attending speaking events, meetings with President Ronald Reagan, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, tours of highly classified briefings in Washington, DC, Palmdale Air Force Base, Camp Pendleton and many other duties is something that I will never forget. Nor will I forget being associated with a partner who was a lightning rod to the British media—a media that would make the National Enquirer blush.

Over time, I learned that Mark Thatcher was a very shy individual. He would give his shirt off of his back, but because of his shy demeanor, he had an exterior veneer that appeared stolid and made him somewhat uncomfortable around others. In fact, his way of dealing with this shyness was to create a persona of being aloof, demanding and downright condescending, especially toward those who were perceived as a lower, subordinate class. Consequently, he was not appreciated by the British Press. In fact, the British Press saw Mark as Lady Thatcher’s Achilles heel. If you can’t go after the Iron Lady, then you can surely go after her son. And they did. Relentlessly.

This was fine when the British Press went after Mark for getting lost in the Sahara Desert on the Dakar Rally, Paris to Dakar, a 126-kilometer motor race that started in 1894. And wasn’t a big deal when they accused him of being a young British Playboy and trying to profit from relationships of his mother. But things started to get a bit rough when the press started attacking his business ventures, accusing him of improper business dealings. After all, why should he have success in business, if his mother is the sitting Prime Minister. According to the British press, there must be something rotten in Denmark—or at least in London.

After Mark had been besieged with articles attempting to link himself, me, the Grantham Company and its portfolio of companies, The Margaret Thatcher Foundation, etc., with political intrigue, he decided to travel to South Africa. I thought this was a nice Summer trip to Cape Town, but I ultimately learned that he was abandoning his business interest in the United States, and decided to permanently move to South Africa. In 1996, ten years after its creation, the Grantham Company liquidated its portfolio of companies. I stepped down from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation as we merged it into the European foundation, and I was faced with what I felt was yet another failure.

Following the closure of the Grantham Company, I felt pretty distraught as this was a very public ordeal. Articles in the press, questions from family and friends, and even employees wondering what exactly happened. Words cannot describe the “divorce” of sorts being played out in the British newspapers. I have not spoken with Mark since 1996, and remain puzzled about all that took place. Yes, this was a failure of magnificent proportion, and I still have questions asked if I was engaged in the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, or if I tried to overthrow the Government of Equatorial Guinea. Fortunately, I can honestly say that I have not.

But from this difficult experience, I have developed a keen sense of and the international knowledge, geopolitical awareness, appreciation of Supply-side economics, involvement in over $26B in the privatization of British Gas, British Rail, British Coal, British Telecom, British (fill in the blank), and the use of public-private partnerships to drive an economy. In fact, I have sat on both sides of the dais to form public-sector funding tools to rebrand and reinvent myself with confidence. These are tools that I can use for the rest of my life. These are tools that I never would have developed, if I had not been through this difficult experience.

As Mark Twain once said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!” However, after having spent nearly six-minutes on the bottom of a pool in an unconscious state … after having been in cardiac arrest … after having been in a comatose state … after having a face that was so bloated and distorted that people could not recognize me … I am fortunate to be alive.

On July 15, 2000, I was in Phoenix, Arizona, with my family at the National Exchange Club annual convention. I had recently served as the President of the Texas Gulf Coast District, and truly loved the community service that accompanied this wonderful service organization. I was proud of the many awards that both the Sugar Land club and the district received; it had been a very good year for our 17-district clubs.

I remember getting up early that morning, yet was unable to have my traditional daily workout as I had a “One Nation Under God” breakfast to attend. I thought I would go for a quick swim, then read the paper by the pool. I slipped out of my hotel room while the rest of my family slept. I grabbed the newspaper that was hanging from my hotel door handle and walked down to the first floor, set the paper on the table, and decided to walk into the pool.

The water seemed cold, yet it was probably just the contrast when compared to the hot, Phoenix weather. Even though it was 6:00 AM, it was still mid-July. I stepped down into the pool and began floating on my back, pushing myself along the surface of the water. I was very relaxed being in the pool by myself. I even remember looking up into the dark grey sky, thinking the sun would soon be rising, and was watching a large black bird on the peak of the top of the elevator bank, which overlooked the atrium pool area. Unfortunately, that was the last thing I remembered as I passed out and sank to the bottom of the pool.

Through police accounts, I was spotted at the bottom of the pool and ultimately was pulled out by a couple of maintenance workers. There is a whole series of missteps, ranging from people who spotted me, yet were on the third floor of the hotel, to people who could not speak English, to people who could not swim, to people who could not recognize me, all of which would take too long to recount.

After the use of CPR, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and defibrillators, the paramedics were able to hear the faint heartbeat, and I was soon in an ambulance. Using my card access key that was in my pocket, the police were able to go door to door, until they found my family. Following the ambulance ride, and then a life flight to a hospital that was better equipped to handle my neurological damage, I ended up in a coma at the Level 1 St. Joseph Trauma Center. Following tracheal intubation, an MRI and a whole host of other tests, the doctors felt that if I were to survive, that I would have severe brain damage due to the six-minutes of anoxia and my swollen brain. They told my heart-broken family that all they could do was pray.

As word spread throughout the attendees of the National Exchange Club convention, the city of Sugar Land, my church, community service, and other non-profit organizations in which I was involved, a prayer-chain formed, which I am convinced is the reason that I survived. In a matter of minutes, literally, thousands upon thousands of people were interceding. The power of prayer can be an amazingly strong thing. After being in a coma, after laying in the hospital bed, and after having so many wonderful people fighting for my life, I regained consciousness, and after several days of recovery at the hospital, was able to physically walk out of that hospital and fly home to Sugar Land.

I could not function, could not drive, could not work for roughly six months. I was given multiple tests to try to determine what caused me to pass out. I was also given a battery of tests to try to determine why I lived, and why I did not have more severe disabilities. Regardless of what happened, and why I lived, I strongly felt that I owed my survival to the community of Sugar Land, and myriad of folks who continued to pray for me. For months following my return, I had people come up to me in grocery stores, the mall, at church and the gym, and tell me that they had me in their prayers. Complete strangers!

Out of the depths of despair and this failure … a failure of my heart … failure of my brain … failure of my life … I had the calling to raise the bar of my community service and commit to public office. 

Often, when we hear people talk about their community service, they simply say, “I wanted to give back to the community.” Giving back implies that you have taken something, or something has been given to you. Yes, my community gave me something. Through the power of prayer, through the love that my community had for me and my family, my community gave me back my life. A life that is so precious. A life that is a gift. A life that is sacred and should be valued.

I chose to thank my community with an increased level of community service. I had been very active in multiple service organizations: the YMCA, Child Advocates, the Exchange Club, Literacy Council, Rotary, my church and others, but never had the calling to an elected public office. In 2001, I chose to run for a position on the city council and was elected. The following year I chose to run for mayor and was elected again. I served three terms, then decided it was time to pass the leadership mantel to another community servant. But I’ll always remember that I never would have had the benefit of serving my community, had I not encountered the failure of a near-death experience.

I have been involved in real estate development since the early 1980s. Since that time, I have engaged in the development and/or acquisition of over $3 billion in real estate development activities. As a result of past investment banking and political endeavors, I have had significant experience in the realm of Public-Private-Partnership development projects.

Around 2004, I formed the real estate development partnership known as Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, LP. My role in the partnership was to focus on transaction structuring, capital procurement, and PPP activities. My partner was responsible for the due diligence, development and construction and on-going management activities. In addition to more than ten stand-alone development assets, our partnership also embarked on various mixed-use, Public-Private-Partnership projects and entered into Development Agreements with cites ranging from Waco, Texas, to Amarillo, Texas, to Joplin, Missouri.

I was not the guy with construction experience, yet was successful in forging the Public-Private relationships. Consequently, I was the face, the voice, the optical “picture in the paper” person that was supposed to make miracles happen to these cities in need of development.

Following the commencement of development and construction of over $1 billion in PPP development projects, in 2014 my partner decided he wished to pursue other endeavors, primarily in the oil and gas industry. Following a year of unsuccessful discussion, mediation and intense negotiation on the buy-out price and terms, I determined there was no other option except to trigger the “buy-sell,” which was a procedural mechanism built into the partnership agreement for an equitable buy-out of either of the 50-50 partners. In other words, if the price per share was good enough for me to “buy,” then I must also be prepared to “sell” at the exact same price. As a matter of illustration, the difference between the “bid” and the “ask,” i.e., what I offered and what he wanted, was a factor of 10.

Per the terms of the partnership agreement, I tendered the required cash and closing documents based on my buy-sell offer, yet my partner refused to honor the terms and procedures outlined in the agreement. I immediately commenced legal action and sued for a Summary Judgement legal interpretation of the terms of the partnership agreement, and thereafter started to fund all of the financial obligations, including payroll, health insurance, legal expenses, rent, etc. In an effort to exert maximum pressure, my partner refused to grant his consent for me to loan funds to the company to cover these expenditures. In short, I could give the company about $200,000 per month as a gift, but it could not be viewed as a loan without both of our consent. Consequently, I was put in a position of funding several months of operating costs of over $1 million, before any clarity would be reached by the courts as to the litigation outcome.

Unfortunately, after expending several hundreds of thousands in personal assets, trying to hold the pieces together, I quickly exhausted my financial resources. The spirit was willing, yet the flesh quickly became weak. On the advice of counsel, I resigned as an officer; it was clear that a satisfactory resolution to the buy-out could not be reached. Within 30-days of my resignation, both the cities of Joplin and Amarillo elected to terminate their development agreements, as we could no longer continue to perform the contracted Public-Private services.

As a result of these actions, the company failed. The failure of the company had long-term, ripple effects that hurt many citizens, communities, investors, creditors and employees. It was a long list and the remorse that I feel is beyond words. Yet, I cannot go back in time for a “do-over.”

Fortunately, the plans that were put in motion, and the public-private funding tools that were created for many communities, still exist today. Many of the assets such as hotels, multi-purpose event centers (minor league baseball stadium), parking garages, public library, medical school campus, retail, office, multi-family, student housing, green space and more all exist today. Some of these were built by our company, yet some were passed along—together with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital secured by us—for others to complete. In hindsight, PPP tools such as quasi-governmental special districts, were created and the plans were sound; but the execution and greed, in the end, destroyed what was a tremendous vision.

The lessons learned ….

·        Choose your partners well. Hire slow and fire fast! Regardless of what the documentation says, the performance of its terms is only as good as the integrity of the people signing the agreements. Otherwise, the documentation you rely on is nothing more than a blueprint for a lawsuit.

·        Ensure that you have a qualified and talented team to support you. Admit your imperfections and inabilities. One person cannot do it all, and you must surround yourself with people that are better than you; you do not know what you don’t know.

·        Ensure you have depth in your team members to ensure lines of succession. Never be in the position of being held hostage by a key employee.

·        No matter how much working capital you have, understand that it is never enough! It does not matter if the education is in a campus setting, or a real-life experience, the tuition can be costly either way. In short, don’t let your elephant mouth overload you hummingbird stomach. Only “eat” what you can consume … and only develop what your business can afford.

 When you live by the sword, you die by the sword! Put another way: When you are the public-facing image of a company on the rise, then you are also the public-facing image of the company as it is in a rapid, free-fall descent. 

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like the limelight. I loved going before a city council, commissioners court, or even a federal or state legislature, articulating why a community needed their help in using public sector funding tools to make a development a success. I used to love the “rush” of “hitting it out of the park” after presenting to elected officials and securing unanimous consent approvals for development agreements, public incentives, zoning, land-use, entitlement and more. I loved it—and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I am good at it.

I loved being interviewed by broadcast media, by newspapers, magazine or public access channels to describe the vision that we had, how many jobs we were creating, outlining the economic impact we would have and how we were creating tremendous assets for the community. I got such a thrill by being prepared when someone felt like they were throwing me a curveball, yet I had the answers and was ready to get a standing ovation when I was done. Yes, I let my ego get in the way from time to time. But let me tell you, interviews are not as nearly enjoyable when things start falling apart.

Yes, my ex-partner had a 50-50 partnership, but most people can never remember his name. Even though he was the president, he was not the former mayor of a city; he was not the former Chief of Staff of Margaret Thatcher; he was not the one going around the world giving speeches and educating people on how to use Public-Private-Partnerships for real estate developments; he was not the one that wrote a book on retail development through public-private-partnerships. That was me. So, I was the easy, and perhaps natural target. Let the public shaming begin!

We have all seen how the media loves to lead their newscast with all of the death, destruction and despair in the world. If it bleeds it leads. The local media is exactly the same way. Yet in my case, they want to share the story about how the nasty, greedy developer had come to murder, plunder, rape and pillage the city, and destroy everyone and everything in the process. 

The Op-Eds, blogs and social media are full of people who were not your supporters during elections, and were against you when you tried to get their support. They find it humorous to write, “I told you so.” and “I knew he was a fraud.” and, “He is worse than Bernie Madoff” stories and editorials for the world to see. Stories that get shared over and over and over again. Stories that will never go away.

Public Shaming finds its way into so many areas, including into the place where one would expect compassion and forgiveness the most: your place of worship. Imagine going on a spiritual retreat and part of the agenda is a time spent in personal reflection. The basis of the reflection is that you are handed about 25-envelopes with notes from your family, friends, loved ones, business associates and others. This is supposed to be a time of reflection and prayer. Sadly, when a quarter of the envelopes are full of hate and condescending vitriol from people you have not seen in years, saying what a crook and indecent person you are, it is not a good place. Worse, these “letters of support” were overshadowed by the myriad of e-mails, text messages and calls from fellow parishioners outlining what a sinner I was, and how God would never forgive me. 

Shame comes in all sorts and sizes.

My most surprising public shaming came when I was told that I could not serve as a volunteer in a community service position to support my son’s lacrosse team. I was told that my reputation was not up to the standards they wanted. Not one of my finest moments.

My most fearful public shaming was receiving multiple death threats, to the point that I had to make three separate reports to the Sugar Land Police Department and Fort Bend County Sheriff Department. These threats were from an individual stating that he was going to come after me and each of my family members and “mess me up.”

My most hurtful public shaming came when I was trying to make a business introduction to a fellow mayor through e-mail. I was disheartened when I received his e-mail, telling me that he did not want me to contact him anymore as a result of all of the legal, financial, and reputation issues I had. He even made a point to copy the City Attorney. Yes, I felt like I had the plague, and was criticized by virtually everybody and anybody in my community.

I saw firsthand how quickly people can turn on you. People that were once your greatest of friends, supporters and business associates. People that no longer want to be seen with you. But as I reflect on how I was able to get through this public shaming process, I am beginning to see that each and every day, more and more people are being exposed to a similar form of public shaming. 

Society is so quick to cast judgment and throw criticism and hate toward their fellow man. Once this hatred part of today’s social media crowd, it can easily be shared over and over again. Pretty soon, people who are unaware of the facts, situation, truth or even the characters involved, are piling on the public shame.

As a result of experiencing this public shaming firsthand, I wanted to raise the awareness of this epidemic of hate, and offer a set of tools to help the afflicted. I am not a physician, nor am I a trained sociologist or counselor; I am a survivor of public shaming. I can share the first-hand tools that I used to get through this process. Looking back, I feel I have been able to overcome the negative, learn from my personal mistakes and accept responsibility, make amends where necessary and try to create something of value as a result of this entire ordeal.

It is my hope and prayer that people who read this blog … people who join this movement … people who share their own stories of the public shaming “cause and effect,” will be able to cope, survive and use their experience for their own public good. Please join us in the Shame Happens Movement. Share your story. And use these useful tools and 12-steps to Public Shame Survival.

To learn more about David Wallace (Former Mayor or Sugar Land) you can visit his main website: www.davidgwallace.com as well see him on the following:

C-Span (David Wallace)

About.me (David Wallace)

Wikipedia (David Wallace)

Mr. Wallace was also featured in a news store in KTVN.

He has also has 2 other websites for his books.

1 Nation Under Blog – Written by David G Wallace

Safeguarding Homeland Security – Written by David G Wallace

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