CHARLES BUTT: CEO of H-E-B. Photo from H-E-B.

Who is Charles Butt, you ask?


He is CEO of H-E-B, a privately held grocery chain based in San Antonio. They are great stores, I can testify, but that’s not what set me off this morning.

What set me off was a passage in an op-ed column in the New York Times by Mimi Swartz about Texas politicians’ poor response to the coronavirus.


Not that leadership hasn’t been on display in other quarters. Some of the slack has been taken up by the private sector, with restaurant and small-business owners banding together to help their colleagues and trying their best to fill in for a government that is M.I.A.


The big businesses have gotten into the act, too, in particular HEB, a San Antonio-based grocery store chain that has become a lifesaver during the kinds of climate emergencies that have become the new normal here (see: Hurricane Harvey, 2017). As my colleagues Dan Solomon and Paula Forbes reported recently in Texas Monthly, HEB has had a pandemic and influenza plan since 2005, when it first took note of the H5N1 threat. The chain put that plan in effect in 2009 when the H1N1 swine flu hit.


The company started looking at what was happening in Wuhan, China, in January and began instituting plans to keep its supply chains functioning, its shelves stocked and its employees safe. “We’re here to take care of our partners, take care of our customers, take care of our community,” said Justen Noakes, HEB’s director of emergency preparedness.

Imagine if the Trump administration had been as prepared as a San Antonio grocery store for pandemics; as attuned to world affairs, and had moved in January at news from Wuhan.

Here’s what H-E-B is doing about the virus.


There are other good things about Charles Butt. 

A friend of public school teachers for one.

PS: He studied at Wharton. What do you bet he had higher grades than Donald Trump?