Katherine Culbert: Engineering a better future for Texas

Updated: Jun 18, 2024

Headshot of Katherine CulbertKatherine Culbert, an alum of the LBJ Women’s Campaign School at UT Austin, is a Democrat running for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Currently, she is a Process Safety Engineer in Houston and an advocate in the fight against climate change, opening doors for oil and gas companies to help in the struggle. She fiercely believes that “we all need to work together and figure out solutions for the world that we’re creating for ourselves.” Her campaign emphasizes the need to “hold corporations accountable, enforce safety standards, and protect our environment.”

The daughter of two teachers, Culbert grew up in an environment of service. Both of her parents encouraged volunteerism and community engagement, and one was even a volunteer firefighter. Her first interaction with activism occurred when she was in high school—when her teachers were denied a fair union contract, Culbert and her peers organized, wearing tie-dyed T-shirts and black bands around their arms in solidarity. She also served as a delegate for the League of Women Voters and traveled to the state capitol in Albany, meeting representatives and participating in other activities within the political realm. “At the time I guess I didn’t even realize that this was political activism,” she says. “Looking back, it definitely was.”

Culbert once dreamed of being a ballerina and looked up to Merrill Ashley, a trailblazer in the dancing world. As Culbert got older and more settled into her career, she felt empowered by the work of Vanessa Sutherland, former chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. Culbert looks up to Sutherland as a “strong woman in such an important leadership role.” She also greatly admires Dr. Earthea Nance, Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Culbert says she appreciates both Nance’s resilience as a woman in the industry and her dedication to the environment, and gleefully recalls meeting her at the OSHA Oil & Gas Safety Conference in Houston.  “I took a selfie with her and thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’ while she was probably thinking, ‘Are you crazy?!’”

Culbert describes earning her professional engineering license as her greatest accomplishment. “It was a lot of preparation and studying and a lot of giving up weekends to hit the books. It also meant making sure that my application was right and that I met all the requirements and got all the right references. It was quite a big deal.” Her experience as an engineer and her dedication towards combating climate change make her confident that the Railroad Commission is where she belongs; “I feel I can make the most impact and this is where I feel my skill set fits best.”

Balancing priorities can be stressful for politicians, but Culbert describes the process as “​​both exhausting and exhilarating.” She finds motivation in her personal support system and in remembering the impact she can have on Texas. To her, environmental issues are not “something that anyone is going to solve single-handedly. We got here through a long series of decisions, and we need to start evaluating how we can address such issues and work together.” She also wants to remind young people that they can “really make a big difference” and need to “step up.” She wants to foster an environment where everyone feels like someone has their back. “Go for it, reach out, and find those people who are going to support you.”

Katherine Culbert, left, with Dr. Earthea Nance, right.
Katherine Culbert, left, with Dr. Earthea Nance, right.


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