Kirk has approached the Texas Legislature with many of the same goals and strategies he pursued throughout his career in public service – building new coalitions, working with all sides, and preparing for Texas’ future. His top legislative priority has been working to ensure Texas provides children the opportunity to thrive with great public schools and ready access to healthcare.
In 2019, Kirk was elected as the President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate for the 86th Legislature. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate is a constitutional office chosen pursuant to the Senate rules and is traditionally a senior Senate member. The President Pro Tem is in the line of succession to the Governor and serves as Governor in the absence of the Governor and Lt. Governor.
He served as chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus beginning in 2011 and continued in that position through the 2015 legislative session.
After seven legislative sessions, Kirk has been widely recognized for his idealism as well as his effectiveness. In 2019, Texas Monthly magazine recognized him as one of Texas’ 10 Best Legislators, an honor he also received in 2009. The magazine also named him as Legislative Rookie of the Year in 2007 and gave him an Honorable Mention in its coverage of best legislators in 2011 and 2013.
In 2011, Senator Watson laid out 10 Goals in 10 Years to transform the health and economy of Austin and Travis County and led the charge in 2012 for a voter-approved investment in a new medical school at the University of Texas. Substantial progress has been made on each of the goals, including the creation of the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas and a new modern teaching and safety-net hospital, Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. The American Medical Association recognized Senator Watson’s contribution to health care with the prestigious Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service in 2017.
Building on those successes, Watson is leading a community-based effort to develop a center for world-class brain health treatment, research and education in conjunction with the overhaul of Austin State Hospital. The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute recognized him as a mental health champion for “an unwavering commitment to making Texas the national leader in treating people with mental health needs”.
Senator Watson graduated first in his class from Baylor Law School, and he holds an undergraduate degree from Baylor University. He has been awarded the “Pro Texana – Medal of Service” from his alma mater. He has also received the “Outstanding Alumni Award” from the Baylor Line Foundation (formerly the Baylor Alumni Association) and the Presidential Citation from the President of the University of Texas at Austin.
He also remains very involved in issues across Central Texas, including transportation and water planning. And he helped launch and serves on the board of a community bank in Bastrop County.