For Dustin Fawcett, Odessa was a destination.
His mother, Robin Fawcett, director of human resources for secondary personnel at Ector County ISD, grew up here and his grandparents, Myron and M’Liss Schneider, worked for the district. His grandfather coached and taught at Nimitz Middle School and Permian High School.
Fawcett said his grandfather was the JV football coach at Permian and had a record of 69-1-2 during his tenure. His grandfather, Fawcett said, is the reason he played football from the time he was 5 until he was 22.
He played receiver in high school in Grapevine and all four years of college at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where he studied political science.
“I played in college all four years,” Fawcett said.
Now vice president of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance, Fawcett said he’d always wanted to visit West Texas. MOTRAN is an alliance between Odessa and Midland that has been instrumental in raising funds for and improving the infrastructure of the Permian Basin area, its website said.
When Dustin Fawcett was a freshman in college, Robin Fawcett had earned her master’s degree and was an assistant principal. His older brother was at college and about to graduate and his younger brother was still in primary school.
After raising her family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dustin Fawcett said his mother wanted to come back to Odessa. The Nimitz Middle School principal’s job was open, so she went for it and got it.
Fawcett said he used to come to Odessa to work as a swamper in the oilfield. When he drove in to town, he saw the Permian water tower and thought it was awesome.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay out here, but over the summers and the winters I would work in the oilfield to get money to come back and go to school with,” Dustin Fawcett said.
He worked 75 to 80 hours a week.
“It was pretty incredible because what else was I going to do here. I didn’t know anybody. I just moved out here. I was only here for a short period of time, so why not just work and be with the family? At the time, I kind of knew that I knew what I was doing. I knew that I was preparing myself for the future, but I didn’t quite know that I would go from swamping in these trucks and riding down all these roads essentially ensuring that the same folks that are doing these jobs are safe and have a better access to a stronger infrastructure system,” Fawcett said.
He added that he had been interested in transportation for a long time.
“I saw how that Metroplex (DFW) kind of blossomed to what it is, so now I kind of see the Midland-Odessa area has the same thing. You’ve heard the term Petroplex? I really see that as one. That’s kind of my vision and what I hope to bring is kind of the old school ways of my grandfather and grandmother, the way they used to talk about Odessa the hardworking people and stuff, and let’s turn it into something even better,” Fawcett said.
Growing up, Fawcett said he never thought about oil, so he keeps that in mind when he talks to friends in DFW.
“We did not know anything about West Texas, or about oil,” Fawcett said.
He said he wanted to be in the business, so after getting some advice, he became a swamper.
Before coming to MOTRAN, Fawcett worked for Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, as a legislative assistant from 2017 until mid-2018. He has been at MOTRAN since April.
“Odessa’s kind of laid back. I see it as a blank slate, essentially. That’s what’s so exciting politically is it’s a blank slate. We’ve also got hardworking people out here that can make it anything. That’s why I’m so excited for right now is we’re kind of converging on that of the old- school hardworking mentality with this new excitement over the future. We are literally sitting in the most resourcefully rich region in the entire world; the most impactful region in the entire world. We have nothing to do except take advantage of it and make it great,” Fawcett said.
He met MOTRAN President James Beauchamp when Beauchamp came to Austin during a legislative session and talk transportation issues.
Up until the middle of last year, Beauchamp said MOTRAN had one full time employee and a part time employee. He said it has been successful over the last 20 years, bringing in $1.5 billion in infrastructure funds to the area.
“But with the changes and growth, it’s been hard for us to keep up and we really needed to bring in an additional person,” Beauchamp said. “I dealt with Dustin during the session.”
Beauchamp brought Fawcett on in April 2018. He said Fawcett is very young and energetic and has a positive outlook on the facing the Permian Basin.
It’s also helped having someone else who is able to collect and make the case with data, which has enabled to MOTRAN to get funding for the region.
“The other part is to communicate it. Like I’ve said, we’ve been really, really thin trying to do that. This will allow us to do a better job,” Beauchamp said.
When he was working for Landgraf, Fawcett realized that transportation was the No. 1 issue for the entire region.
“With Brooks, you hear about all different aspects,” Fawcett said. But the one unifying issue was always transportation, such as when people would try to go down the Kermit Highway to get to a football game and be surrounded by 18-wheelers.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the movement of people. It originated from a freshman class I took AP human geography,” Fawcett said.
People took a boat to get to the new world and used the railroad to get across the country from east to west.
“… It’s always been the transfer of human beings and resources that has allowed us to flourish. We’re coming now to the digital age. … The web and the internet are allowing that free flow of thought and kind of that transportation of thoughts and opinions,” Fawcett said.
The main resources in West Texas are oil, frac sand and saltwater.
“… Crude, salt water and sand. Those three things combined are what are going to make up this region going forward because all those things have to be transported. That’s where all the excitement comes from is there hasn’t been a market for this sand in years past. Now we’ve got a market for it. Now we’re even seeing some of it exported. We haven’t really had any solutions for the saltwater. We’ve been disposing of it. We’re soon approaching a capacity for saltwater. We’re seeing a capacity for crude oil to get down to Houston,” he added.
“So we’re seeing all these constraints and we have this limited infrastructure. Our only ways are either pipeline or trucks. Rail really is at capacity. That hasn’t changed in years, so we’re seeing a very unique time right now. It’s very exciting I think. What we do in the next three years is going to determine how this region is for the next 75,” Fawcett said.
“That’s a bold statement, but a very impactful statement, I think, and not just for this region for the next 75 years but for the nation. I think geopolitically for the state of Texas. If we have a resource that’s greater than every single other country, other than Saudi Arabia and the rest of the United States then we should treat this area with such attention and focus that we’ll be able to really boom the Texas economy, really boom this area. I think we’re going to need to see it as the next DFW the same way that they expanded,” he added.
Transportation and infrastructure, he said, allow people to do what they do best and the best way to take on issues is a little bit at a time such as road signage, adding more pavement or building overpasses. He sees that as a way to take on local issues, as well.
“You can’t put your money into fixing I-20 and ignore everything else,” Fawcett said.
Landgraf, the Odessa representative Fawcett worked for, said Fawcett loved transportation.
“Dustin showed a tremendous passion for transportation policy while working on my staff, and I appreciate the fresh perceptive that he brings to the discussion about our highways,” Landgraf said.