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Around the Capitol / On the Move / Campaign Season
Because things are changing rapidly in these uncharted waters of the pandemic, I have included the latest developments I have on the actions taken at a statewide level that impact those of us who work in and around the Capitol. Please feel free to send updates or corrections.
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez has announced he is a candidate in the special election to replace outgoing Sen. Kirk Watson. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt has resigned to run for the seat as well. Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the special election will be July 14.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently announced Sen. Judith Zaffirini will serve on the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Higher Education Committee for the rest of the interim to replace Sen. Kirk Watson. Sen. Pat Fallon was appointed to the Senate Redistricting Committee.
Mattie Heith, formerly Sen. Kel Seliger’s Legislative Director will be the new Committee Director for the Senate Business & Commerce Committee. The former committee director, Stacey Chamberlin, is now Sen. Kelly Hancock’s Chief of Staff. Seliger has hired Gabe Valenzuela as his new Legislative Director. Valenzuela was most recently with Sen. Charles Schwertner.
Paul Townsend, General Counsel to Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, has joined Hinojosa’s campaign part-time as a Policy Consultant.
Former Legislative Director for Sen. Carol Alvarado, Ricco Garcia, has joined OHanlon, Demerath & Castillo, PC as the firm’s newest attorney.
Jann (Renzo) Soto has been named the new executive director of the Women’s Health Caucus. (h/t The Blast)
Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has announced a number of staff changes and new hires:
- Gardner Pate has been hired as deputy chief of staff. Pate previously served as Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s director of policy and general counsel.
- John Wittman has been promoted to communications director. He has been with Abbott since 2014.
- Brady Franks has been named deputy budget and policy director. Franks previously served as Abbott’s budget and policy advisor with a focus on higher education and public finance.
- Charlie Leal has re-joined Abbott’s team as budget and policy advisor for transportation issues.
- Sallie Armstrong Bentley has been hired as budget advisor. Bentley previously served as assistant director of finance in Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s office.
- Stephanie Greger has been hired as an attorney for criminal justice issues in the general counsel’s office. Greger most recently served as criminal division chief in the Williamson County Attorney’s office.
- Abbott’s office also announced the departure of John Hryhorchuck, deputy policy director, who will be joining Texas 2036 as the director of policy.
Rep. Ray Lopez was appointed to the Legislative Council Board by Speaker Dennis Bonnen.
Fmr. Rep. Rodney Anderson has been promoted to Executive Vice President/National Agency Manager at Alliant National Title Insurance Company.
Michelle Sneed and John Sneed have returned from Washington DC where they worked for former Gov. and Energy Secretary Rick Perry during his tenure as Energy Secretary.
Matt Hirsch, former deputy chief of staff and communications director to Gov. Greg Abbott, has joined Vianovo as a partner in the firm’s Austin office.
The Schlueter Group has announced an expansion of the firm to include Texas Solutions Group and the combined firm will be the Schlueter Group of Texas, LLC. The principals in the new firm will include Stan Schlueter, Brad Schlueter, Cathy DeWitt, Richard Evans, Jeff Heckler and Scott Miller.
The Texas Civil Rights Project has named Liyah Kaprice Brown its new legal director of the statewide civil rights organization’s Criminal Justice Program.
Carolyn Merchan Saegert has started a new government relations position at Stalwart Strategies, Inc. Previously, she was the Fiscal and Tax Counsel in the Office of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Drew Scheberle, who recently left the Austin Chamber of Commerce has started his own firm, Scheberle and Associates.
Tim Schauer has a new title at Cornerstone Public Affairs — Principal. He previously was a Sr. Vice President.
State Agency/Commission News
Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Phil Wilson has been named acting executive commissioner for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Wilson currently serves as head of the Lower Colorado River Authority and previously served as executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation and as Secretary of State under former Gov. Rick Perry.
Jerry McGinty has been appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen as the director of the Legislative Budget Board. McGinty had been at TDCJ for 28 years where he held several positions before becoming CFO.
J.R. Johnson has been named General Counsel at the Texas Ethics Commission. Johnson was a partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman.
Sylvia Hernandez Kauffman has been reappointed as the Inspector General for Health and Human Services. Her term is set to expire Feb. 1 2021.
James Bernsen has moved from the LCRA where he was a Senior Communications Specialist to become the Deputy Communications Director at the Texas Workforce Commission.
Amy Peterson, former Committee Director for the House Public Education Committee, has started a new position as Senior Director, Strategic Finance Policy at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Congratulations Ellen Troxclair on the launch of recent book, “Step Up.”
Last week, Bogan Pollack welcomed son, Cameron Taylor, to the world. Congrats!
Congrats to Denise Davis for being recognized by the Austin Black Business Journal as a Top 10 Central Texas Super Lawyer.
Shout out to Malika Te and Mike Erwin on the recent birth of their daughter, Margaret “Maggie” Kaliyan.
18 — Mark Vane, Sen. Kirk Watson, Sara Tays
19 — Rep. Rick Miller
20 — Peggy Fikac, Amy DeWeese, Fmr. Rep. Jim Jackson
23 — Rep. Gene Wu, Ben Melson
24 – Duke Bodisch
25 – Rep. Lyle Larson, Fmr. Rep. Mike Toomey
26 – Jim Harrison, Stephanie Schmutz Simpson, Bee Moorhead
27 – Rep. Ina Minjarez
29 – Rep. Dennis Paul
31 – Katrina Daniel
1 – Rep. Jared Patterson, Amy Peterson, Pete Winckler
3 – Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Rick Bluntzer
4 — Rep. John Raney, Kirsten Voinis, Dale Laine, Clint Smith, Alfred Stanley, Julie Parsley, Fmr. Rep. Craig Eiland
5 – Taylor Aycock, Shanna Igo, John Pitts, Jr.
6 – Cathy DeWitt, James Shearer
7 – Rep. Alma Allen, Cheryl Lively, Fmr. Sen. Rodney Ellis
In Our Thoughts
Our condolences to Daniel Gonzalez on the recent passing of his mother, Leonila Maldonado Gonzalez.
Our thoughts are with Sen. Judith Zaffirini and family on the passing of her brother-in-law, Dr. R.G. Zaffirini Jr.
Longtime Texas Municipal League lobbyist Dick Brown recently passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.
Condolences to Debi Williamson Sheeran after the recent passing of her mother, JoAnn Williamson.
Get to Know Your Colleagues
Committee Clerk & General Counsel, House General Investigating Committee;
Rep. Morgan Meyer
Where are you from?
I’m from Port Isabel, Texas right across the bridge from South Padre.
How long have you been around the Capitol?
I first interned at the Capitol in 2011 (82nd) for Representative Jose Aliseda. I graduated, went to law school, and made my way back this session as General Counsel/Committee Clerk for the House General Investigating Committee chaired by Rep. Morgan Meyer.
I can probably organize just about anything. (Is the the next Marie Kondo? Maybe so!)
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or text us at 512-431-5385 to let us know of other moves, birthdays, lobby sign ups, birth announcements, events, and happenings that you and your Capitol colleagues would like to read about.
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