When word spread in June that the Texas Lottery Commission approved jackpots it couldn't afford to make, chairman C. Tom Clowe Jr.'s term on the commission had officially expired months earlier.
The retired Waco businessman who launched his career in trucking and has spent 51 years of marriage living in 34 different towns faced one last duty before fully returning to retirement: overseeing the troubled agency's bid to win back public trust.
Beginning the eighth year of his now open-ended term, Clowe, 72, continues to serve at the direction of Gov. Rick Perry. He zooms up and down Interstate 35 twice a week so he can help address a credibility problem that lottery staff created under his watch.
Former executive director Reagan Greer resigned in July after approving a June Lotto Texas jackpot of $8 million, even though estimated sales couldn't justify it.
It wasn't the only time this had happened.
Last summer Clowe called the inflated jackpots "a deception of the people and players of Texas." During the period that brought Greer's resignation, an internal study showed that public confidence in the agency had dipped.
The three-person commission – Clowe, plus J. Rolando Olvera Jr. and James A Cox Jr. – have worked the past several months to effect changes, often urged by the Texas House Licensing Committee.
The commissioners ensured that all advertised jackpots would be paid, added a new layer of scrutiny to the announced jackpots and created a public committee to screen candidates for the agency's next executive director.
The agency's troubles demanded a thorough response and its commissioners have responded, said state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor.
"I believe that the board took pretty aggressive action when they found out about that situation," Averitt said. "If it's not run with integrity, if there are problems, the public's confidence will be undermined."
But a key decision still looms over the $3.5 billion agency: Who will take Greer's place as executive director?
That question has led Clowe and Cox to separately interview candidates and search for the right match in a field that originally included about 125 applicants. It's since been whittled down to a handful.
Clowe said in an interview with the Tribune-Herald earlier this month that "honesty and integrity" are critical qualifications if the agency is to regain the public trust and balance the two governing principles of the agency.
"On the one hand, it's an enormous business," Clowe said, "and at the same time, it's a government entity responsible to the taxpayers."
"Hiring the right person is a vital step," he said.
Clowe said he's committed to serving on the commission as long as necessary and wants to be involved in the final decision. He wants to complete the job before Gov. Perry appoints his own replacement, which could come at any moment.
Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said no decision has been made to her knowledge.
"The governor has been pleased with the leadership that Mr. Clowe has exhibited at the Lottery Commission and appreciates his service to the state," she said. "The governor believes it is important that the public have confidence in the lottery – not just in the prizes but in the way that it conducts its business."
A swift replacement is probably unlikely because the commission already has another vacancy. Perry nominated Olvera to become a state district judge in September and has yet to announce his replacement.
A former trucking and energy company executive, Clowe doesn't take a dime for his expenses.
He was the first executive director of the Texas Railroad Commissioner in the late 1980s and said taking unpaid posts in government is an obligation.
"I've always thought it was incumbent on successful business people to do some kind of public service," he said.
Averitt said the Texas Lottery's contribution to the state budget is sometimes overstated, but it has been a supplement to public education, pumping in about $1 billion, and must be run well.
"It was one of those things that has diminishing returns over times, the revenue seems to fall off," the lawmaker said. "But under Tom's leadership the Lottery has done very well."