Texas Government Insider
Volume 12, Issue 41 - Friday, Oct. 24, 2014
Large numbers of Texans taking advantage of early voting

Pundits unsure how to read all-time record of 14 million registered voters
A sea of political signs greet voters at an early voting location in Austin. Earl voting has been brisk so far in many areas of the state..
Texans set an all-time state record for registered voters for the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Voters are flocking to early voting locations in large numbers. And, candidates and pundits in both political camps are claiming both as signs of their campaigns' impending victory.

The new record set this year is 14,025, 441, besting the old record of 13,46,226 set in time for the November 2012 presidential election.


 "We are working to make sure each voter has the information they need for a smooth, secure and successful election this November," said Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry, who serves as the state's chief election officer.


Days before early voting started on Monday, implementation of the new Texas Voter ID law was halted by a federal district court judge's ruling that the law was unconstitutional. The state appealed. Then, on the weekend, just 48 hours before early voting was to begin, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the federal court decision, saying the law would be in effect for the Nov. 4 election. As a result, in the on-again, off-again Voter ID saga, all registered voters seeking to vote in the Nov. 4 balloting must show one of seven forms of photo ID.


With early voting running through Oct. 31, on the first day early voting ballots were case, voting totals were up significantly in some areas of the state. The state's largest counties all recorded increases in figures over the first day of early voting in 2010. Harris County recorded 20 percent more votes on the first day of balloting than on the first day of the 2010 election. More than 61,000 votes had been cast n the county at the end of the day.


In Nueces County, even in spite of bad weather on the first day of early voting, more than 2,400 ballots were cast in person and another 3,246 mailed ballots were counted. Travis County, where some voters faced an electronic ballot of more than 30 computer screens, more than 17,000 votes were cast. The Dallas County figures were 1,000 voters higher than four years ago.


Bexar County saw an increase of nearly 7,000 over the number of voters on the first day of early voting in 2010. Tarrant County showed a 10 percent increase in early voting figures from four years ago. Nearly 30,000 people cast votes on the first day, almost three times the figures for 2010. Not all counties showed increases, however. In Fort Bend County, the number of voters on the first day of early voting - 4,835 - was down from the 5,320 cast the first day in 2010 early voting.


Early voting ends a week from today. Registered voters are again reminded they must show one of seven forms of photo ID to be eligible to vote. Citizens who do not have an approved ID can apply for a free Election Identification Certificate (EIC) at a DPS driver license office. In addition to DPS driver licenses offices, EICs are also available at EIC mobile stations


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Jerry McGinty Jerry McGinty, chief financial officer, Texas Department of Criminal Justice


Career highlights and education: I have worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for over 22 years, serving in a variety of positions, most recently as the agency's Chief Financial Officer since May 2008. I graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1994.

What I like best about my job is: With the size and operational scope of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, every day brings a new and exciting set of challenges. Collaboratively working through these daily challenges with our employees, while planning for the long term and taking the time to mentor future leaders of the agency, makes the job worth it - helping everyone to recognize and appreciate their part in our agency's mission.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: To be successful, learn how to be a leader that grows and develop leaders. Also, learn the art of "zooming-in" and "zooming-out" on an issue - the ability to gain a thorough comprehension of the details with the ability to understand the big picture and articulate it to others.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Never stop learning; never stop developing yourself to be a better employee, a better person. 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: working in the yard or weeding the vegetable garden. 

People would be surprised to know that: My wife and I have been blessed with three wonderful sons, each with their own individual interests.  Our oldest, starting college in the fall, loves music and plays the guitar at church; our middle son loves working with cattle and has been an officer in the Huntsville FFA for the past three years; and our youngest loves sports, his favorite being tennis. Between the three of them, they keep my wife and me very busy...we love it.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Our dedicated TDCJ employees throughout the state are constantly (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) engaged in the agency mission's core focus: safety - safety of the public, safety of the staff and safety of the offenders. Our state should be proud of the work that they perform on a daily basis. Next time you see a TDCJ employee, I encourage you to take the time to tell them, "Thank you for your service to Texas."

Todd Kimbriel to serve as interim executive director at DIR


Will succeed Karen Robinson when she retires from agency in December

Interim Director
The board of the Texas Department of Information Resources this week named Todd Kimbriel (left) as the new interim executive director, effective in January. He is pictured with DIR Board Chair Charles Bacarisse and Executive Director Karen Robinson, who is retiring.

Todd Kimbriel, named to the position of deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) in August, this week was chosen as the interim executive director, effective Jan. 1, 2015. Kimbriel, who is also serving as the State of Texas Deputy Chief Information Officer, will succeed Executive Director Karen Robinson, who last week announced she will retire on Dec. 31. Kmbriel's appointment was made Thursday at a DIR board meeting, when the board voted to name him to the interim post.

Kimbriel, who was employed in the private sector for 25 years before entering the public sector, has held several positions at DIR, including chief operations officer, the job he held prior to being named deputy executive director. He also spent six years as DIR's director of e-Government and IT Services. Kimbriel has spent his entire career in the information technology industry - in the telecommunications, aviation, retail merchandizing and import/export.industries - and has experience in planning, design, operations and management.

Kimbriel studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Arizona and holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the Syracuse University Martin J. Whitman School of Management. 
Meador appointed as director of IT transformation at TDLR
Dee Meador The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) has chosen George "Dee" Meador (pictured), a state employee with more than four decades of public service, as the agency's Director of Information Technology Transformation. Meador comes to TDLR after having spent the last eight years as Director of Information Technology with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

The Director of Information Technology Transformation is a newly-created position. In his new role, Meador will oversee the new Software Development Services division, the Network Services division and the IT Security, Project Management and Analytics team.

Meador spent the first 30 years of his career with the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, holding positions in computer operations, telecommunications, programming, project management and information technology leadership. Prior to assuming the IT director position at TWC, Meador was the director of Applications Development and Maintenance at the agency.

Meador holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Governor appoints new member of Texas Lottery Commission

Jeff Meador Jeff Meador (pictured) was recently appointed by the governor to a term on the Texas Lottery Commission, his term to expire on Feb. 1, 2015. Commissioners are responsible for ensuring that lottery and bingo games are operated in a legal and fair manner.

A certified public accountant and partner in an Austin-based accounting firm, Meador has 30 years' experience in public accounting. He's a member of the American Institute of CPAs, a past fund distribution chairman for United Way of Greater Austin and a former board member of the Austin Museum of Art and Laguna Gloria.

Meador is a former tax manager for Coopers & Lybrand, where he was primarily involved in technology and corporate tax matters. He also previously served on the tax staff at Ernst & Young, working on oil and gas and international tax matters. Meador holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Gemini Global Group

Hensley new director of communications for Texas Tech system
Doug Hensley Doug Hensley (pictured) recently won appointment as managing director of the Texas Tech University System Office of Communications and Marketing. His duties include working with communications and marketing professionals at each institution in the System to make sure of consistent messages for all stakeholders in the System.

Previously a communications manager for a supermarket chain, Hensley was in the newspaper industry for 25 years, many of those as an editor in Lubbock. He also co-authored two books.

Hensley has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University.
Edcouch nets $4M in federal funds to update wastewater plant
Edcouch city officials recently received approval of $4 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for upgrades to the city's almost 30-year-old wastewater plant. The aging treatment plant has recorded many violations in the last 10 years.

City officials will receive $2.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $1.8 million loan to upgrade the wastewater plant that was placed in state receivership from 2005 until 2009 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Nabers will attend infrastructure leadership forum in D.C.
Mary Scott Nabers Mary Scott Nabers (pictured), president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. and co-founder of the Gemini Global Group, will join more than 400 executives next week to discuss the 2014 Strategic Top 100 North American infrastructure projects. The 6th North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum will be Oct. 28-30 in Washington, D.C.

The forum will focus on infrastructure development in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but will also address regional projects. The top 100 infrastructure projects that will be discussed have a combined value of $369 billion. The conference is unique because participants can schedule one-on-one meetings with public officials who are preparing to launch large public projects, most of which are likely to be public-private partnerships. These projects will be launched in the next 12-18 months.

Attendees will have access to hundreds of high-level executives from engineering, construction and technology firms, investors, leaders, public-sector decision-makers and project sponsors and key decision-makers from the public sector.

Socorro approves $10M in capital upgrades during next five years
Socorro City Council members recently approve a $10 million capital improvement plan to upgrade roads and sidewalks during the next five years.

Council members are allotted $100,000 each to choose which streets in their district to upgrade and about $50,000 for sidewalk improvements if city officials are successful at obtaining grants, city officials said.
The first major capital improvement project is construction of a new bridge to connect neighborhoods, a council member said.
Task force on infectious disease issues holds inaugural meeting
Task Force
Task force leader Dr. Brett Giroir (cener) is flanked by HHS Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek (left) and Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
"Preparedness" was a key theme at the initial meeting this week of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. Members of the group, headed by Dr. Brett Giroir, heard testimony from a variety of individuals involved in disease identification and response. The task force was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry after two Texas nurses were infected with Ebola and others exposed to the disease by their association with a man who died in a Dallas hospital from Ebola.

The task force identified seven themes as a result of the meeting. Among them are being prepared to deal with threats of infectious diseases, ensuring that public health efforts have input across numerous agencies, professions and geographic areas, seeing that standard protocols are established, improving communications, reviewing roles and responsibilities of leading public health physicians and other preparedness issues.

"We are committed to gathering the information needed to develop a plan that ensures Texas is fully prepared for future infectious disease threats of all kinds," said Giroir.
Grow your business

Missouri City, Houston Community College explore relocation
Joe Esch Officials of Missouri City and Houston Community College (HCC) recently began discussion on the possible relocation of the HCC-Missouri City campus to two tracts of land located on the new $2.96 million extension of Lexington Blvd.

HCC officials are working with Joe Esch (pictured), director of the Missouri City Economic Development Corporation, on relocating the campus to land totaling 45 acres on each side of the Lexington Blvd. extension. HCC officials are in the process of beginning work on bond projects at campuses in Missouri City and Stafford, including a new building for the Missouri City campus that is required by bond stipulations to begin with construction soon.

For the proposal to be successful, Missouri City must work with the county and the municipal utility district to agree to the project in a very short time, Esch said. The undeveloped land on the extension of Lexington Blvd. also must be placed for sale and the city would need to approve changes in zoning ordinances, he said. HCC officials expect to review the proposal during the next six months before making a decision. They also are in the process of conducting an environmental assessment of the two tracts of land on the Lexington Blvd. extension.
Sam Houston looking at Montgomery Co. for new medical school
Sam Houston State University (SHSU) officials recently began looking at the possibility of opening a new medical school in Montgomery County, north of The Woodlands.

Winning approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and regents of the Texas State University System, however, could be a long and difficult task as the University of Houston also is looking at starting a medical school to meet the demand for health care workers, according to The Houston Chronicle.

SHSU officials said the earliest a medical school could be completed would be in fall 2018 and it would be designed to serve about 150 students. Preliminary plans call for offering a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree rather than the more traditional Doctor of Medicine degree. College officials also have not determined an estimate on the cost of establishing a new medical school.
May 2013 Texas Bond Results

Klein ISD holds public meetings on proposed 2015 bond election
Klein Independent School District board members recently held a public hearing to gain input from community members on possible projects to include in a proposed bond election in 2015.

A steering committee made up of local residents, district staff and other stakeholders is expected to present trustees with a recommendation after studying $700 million in bond projects presented by consulting firms. Among the options under study are a fifth high school and 10th intermediate school expected to be included in nearly $199 million in new construction. So far, the options for the proposed bond election also include $187 million in capital projects, including $62 million for upgrading technology and $81 million in facility upgrades.

Committee members have scheduled two more meetings to finalize the recommendation to trustees in December. Board members will then decide in January whether to call a bond election in May 2015.
Thorne chosen national Boating Law Enforcement Officer of Year
Officer of Year
Game Warden John Thorne (left) accepts the Officer of the Year award from NASBLA President Herb Angell. (Photo courtesy of NASBLA, Kimberly Jenkins)
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden John Thorne is the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Thorne was honored at NASBLA's 55th annual conference in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Thorne was one of 43 marine enforcement officers nationwide who were nominated for the national award. Thorne, one of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) few trained drug recognition officers, was hailed for his successes in enforcing boating while intoxicated and boating under the influence laws.

He has been directly involved in the filing of about 80 such cases in his 12 years with TPWD. TPWD's Boating Law Administrator Cody Jones noted that Thorne's professionalism in handling these cases has resulted in an extremely high conviction rate.

Thorne coordinates summer water safety saturation patrols on 33,000-acre Cedar Creek Lake, which is surrounded by 14 heavily populated municipalities. He also patrols the lake every weekend during the warmer months. Jones said that these efforts have been particularly effective in preventing accidents and removing intoxicated operators from the lake.

Blinn College to hire search firm to help find new president
Blinn College trustees recently agreed to seek an executive search firm to help board members find a new president of the college district.

The new president, fifteenth in the history of the Brenham-based college, will replace Dr. Harold Nolte, who has served in that post since 2011. Nolte announced in September that he plans to retire effective on Jan. 31, 2015.
Need Federal Contracting?

Denton delays convention center project despite new proposals
Jon Fortune Denton City Council members recently agreed to delay the development of a new $28.99 million hotel and convention center near the stadium for the University of North Texas (UNT). The vote to delay occurred even after developers agreed to move forward without tax breaks for the hotel from the county or school district that were previously requested in the proposed public-private partnership.

The developer also agreed to support the city's request for a more costly roof and foundation for the convention center that will be built on land near Apogee Stadium owned by UNT, noted Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune (pictured). Current plans call for the city to own the convention center.

Fortune also requested council members to amend the contract with the architect to continue design work on the hotel/convention center to ensure accurate cost estimates are available to council members. Even though design work on the project was delayed earlier this month, council declined to approve the request to continue with design work and requested the developers present their proposals in writing first. A new master development agreement is not expected to be completed until Nov. 11. At that time, council members are expected to vote on whether to issue $28.98 million in bonds to pay for construction of the convention center.
Frenship ISD unveils plans for elementary school, soccer facility
Derek Cobb, operations coordinator for Frenship Independent School District, recently unveiled preliminary design plans for a new elementary school, a new soccer facility and upgrades to the high school.

The new 113,000-square-foot elementary school with a full competition gymnasium is to be located on Upland Avenue, in the southern area of the school district. Current plans are to advertise for bids in November and for board members to have a guaranteed maximum price by December, FISD officials said. The new soccer facility planned for the high school will feature a seating capacity of 500 fans and a new practice field for the band that will use artificial turf, he said. District officials also plan to resurface the high school football field.

Construction on the commons, library and cafeteria at the high school is scheduled to begin in May as well as renovating and adding more space to the culinary arts department. The district also plans to replace the roof of the agricultural show barn damaged this summer, using insurance money for the project, officials said..
El Paso eyes proposals for water/adventure park, athletic complex
Cary Westin El Paso city officials recently began considering two proposals submitted for a possible public-private parntership to build a project in in the northeast part of the city featuring a water park, adventure park and athletic complex estimated to cost about $20 million. The new park would be located on 39 acres of city-owned land, noted Cary Westin (pictured), the economic development director.

City staff plan to review and evaluate the proposals from Harvest Family entertainment, a Dallas-based company that operates seven waterparks in Texas, and Fieldhouse USA, which operates an indoor sports facility in Frisco. Once the review is completed, staff will make a recommendation to council members, who will make a final decision on the proposed water park/athletic complex project, Westin said.
Research Analysts

Nolanville to purchase building to serve as new city hall
Nolanville City Council members recently agreed to buy a former school building for $150,000 from the Killeen Independent School District to serve as the new city hall. The elementary school, which had been vacant for a little more than a year, and two acres of property were appraised at $180,000.

The city was the only bidder to submit a bid for the property, which was first offered only to charter schools to comply with state law and then advertised to the public.

City officials declined to issue an estimate on the cost to renovate the building, but council members are planning to discuss renovation plans in future city council meetings.
Firefighters from around nation, world attending wildfire academy
Wildfire Academy

Mark Stinson, an instructor/student of the wildfire academy, checks for spot fires on a prescribed burn that is the culmination of a week's training for beginning firefighters.

Bastrop is a true "hot spot" for travelers from across the country and from international locations for the next 14 days. Firefighters from throughout the United States are at Camp Swift in Bastrop beginning today, Friday, to attend the 17th Annual Capital Area Interagency Wildfire and Incident Management Academy.
Billed as one of the nation's largest wildfire academies, the event runs through Nov. 6 and is designed for all levels of municipal, rural volunteer and wildland firefighters. The academy has hosted thousands of attendees from all over the world.

Attendees have the option to choose from among 36 different classes ranging from basic to advanced firefighting and leadership to emergency vehicle and dozer operations.

"'We're proud of the success of this Texas interagency wildfire academy," Jan Amen, academy public information officer said. "Students from previous years are coming back as instructors with vast experience." Amen said safety and teaching firefighters how to respond safely to fires and to minimize risk are the focus of the academy.

"This is one of the premiere interagency fire academies in the nation," Chris Angerer, academy incident commander said. Angerer said students walk away with information, training and the skills needed to help them progress in the wildland firefighting field.

The academy is a joint effort coordinated by Texas Army National Guard, Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Weather Service, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, Texas Wildfire Association, Bastrop Fire Department and Bastrop County.
Bryan studying the possibility of buying former TxDOT facility
Jason Bienski Bryan city officials recently agreed to begin negotiations to buy the former district office of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for $1.4 million.

The TxDOT facility, located on 11 acres of property near SH21, became vacant when TxDOT moved into a new facility near SH6 in May 2012, according to Mayor Jason Bienski (pictured).

Among the possibilities for using the facility are moving the road maintenance department and sewer department into the facility or to purchase the property and sell it to another buyer, Bienski said.
Port Neches-Groves ISD to build new multi-purpose facility
Port Neches Groves Independent School District trustees recently agreed to accept $370,000 in contributions to help pay for a multi-purpose facility that can also be used for sports and band practice during bad weather.

Two unidentified citizens and the Athletic Booster Club donated the funds to pay for site work, architect and engineering costs for a metal building that will measure about 50 yards in length, the board president said. The building is to be located on the high school campus.

District officials are anticipating future donations from the community will be used to pay for building the multi-purpose facility.
Contracting Opportunities

Coldspring-Oakhurst may develop career, technology courses
Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District officials recently met with officials of TenarisConroe, a manufacturing company that supplies steel pipe and other materials, to discuss a plan to upgrade career and technology options for students.

The company operates production and threading facilities for steel pipe in 17 countries in addition to four research and development centers in Argentina, Italy, Japan and Mexico. The career courses will be designed to focus on manufacturing sciences to prepare students to find employment in the area after completing high school, according to a spokesperson for the TenarisConroe.
San Antonio Water System approves water supply pact
Beto Guerra After making a few alterations to an agreement to purchase 16 billion gallons of water a year, board members for the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) agreed to send the revised agreement to the Vista Ridge Consortium for their approval.

San Antonio City Council members are expected to vote later this month on the agreement for the consortium to build a pipeline from west of College Station to San Antonio to deliver that water from aquifers in Burleson County to the city, noted Beto Guerra (pictured), chairman of SAWS.

Current plans call for the pipeline to begin delivering the water in 2019 and to cost SAWS ratepayers about $14 a month. 


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Brushy Creek MUD approves $5.5 million plan to expand community center
Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District officials recently agreed to move forward with a $5.5 million plan to expand by more than 70 percent the community center on Great Oaks Drive.

Current plans are to add 26,000 square feet of new space to the existing 36,000-square-foot community center to add a new gym with sports courts, fitness rooms, a community room, an expanded cardio area and new weight room. The expanded center also will add a new children's area, more locker room space and renovate the kitchen area.

The expansion was needed to accommodate the large number of students who signed up for youth basketball and to offer cooking classes, noted Mike Peters, general manager of the utility district. The municipal district currently rents gymnasium space from Round Rock Independent School District to use court space for basketball and volleyball games, he noted.
Del Mar College kicks off construction of new campus pilot plant
Lenora Keas Del Mar College officials recently began construction on a new Process and Instrumentation Technology Pilot Plant designed to serve as a model of a distillation unit used at refineries and petrochemical plants to train students for that work.

The project is a public-private partnership between the college, the city of Corpus Christi, the Corpus Christi Business and Job Development Corporation and companies such as Citgo, Cheniere, DuPont, Flint Hills Resources, OxyChem and Valero, said Lenora Keas (pictured), vice president of workforce development and strategic initiatives at Del Mar. Funding for the project includes a $1.3 million grant from the Corpus Christi Business and Job Development Corp. The business partners also contributed funding and professional support for the new pilot plant.

The pilot plant, which includes a 32-foot-tall tower, is expected to be completed next spring to train skilled technicians in process instrumentation, industrial automation, process control, safety and related fields using the pilot processing plant, Keas said.
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Midland moves forward with demolition of courthouse, buildings
Jerry Morales Midland City Council members recently approved a $293,000 agreement with an architectural firm to oversee the environmental assessment, asbestos abatement and demolition of three downtown buildings owned by the city. City officials will need to issue a separate contract to pay for demolishing the three buildings if council decides to move forward, said Mayor Jerry Morales (pictured).

The buildings to be demolished are the old county courthouse, the Mid-American Building and the Midland Executive Center. The architectural firm will begin work immediately to hire a company to conduct the environmental study. Asbestos abatement should be completed by the end of the year and demolition could begin as early as March if council members approve a new contract. City officials do not yet have estimates for how much the environmental studies, asbestos abatement or demolition will cost, the mayor said.

While a local group may still propose a project to renovate the old courthouse, Morales said no group has contacted him yet. City officials are studying three options for an upgraded City Center presented earlier by architects to council members. The options include an expanded Midland Center with a park, placing a city hall in the center and permitting a private hotel to use the entire western portion of the City Center next to a park and the expanded Midland Center.
Murphy approves $3 million for new sewer line
Murphy City Council members recently approved issuing $3 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a new sewer line to be installed next to existing sewer lines.

City Manager James Fisher said the new sewer line is needed to meet the demands of a growing population and will be installed parallel to the existing line. City officials also plan on using the remaining balance of certificates of obligation issued in 2009 to pay for acquiring right-of-way, design and engineering for the new sewer trunk line.

TSABAA planning Mid-Winter Conference in December in Kerrville

The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association will host its 35th Mid-Winter Conference on Dec. 3-5 at Inn of the Hills in Kerrville. With the 84th Texas Legislature to meet in January 2015, attendees will hear from a legislative panel regarding the upcoming session. An employee benefits update will also be among the discussion topics. Some of the other topics on the agenda include "How Internal Audits Can Worth with/for Your Agency," "Why Invest in IT" and more. Ample time has also been set aside for networking opportunities. Continuing education credits may be earned by attending the conference. Registration is open and a draft agenda is available.


Southwest Region Executive Directors Assn. conference slated
The Southwest Region Executive Directors Association will hold its annual conference Nov. 12-14 at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk. The theme of the conference is "Change: Do we...React? Respond? Retire?" The nation is still early in a cycle of perpetual change and challenges dealing with issues ranging from funding, to relationships with state and federal agencies, to the rapidly changing political dynamic on all levels of government. And leaders all face internal organizational challenges such as succession, personnel management and demonstrating continued value and relevance for their communities and their competitiveness. These issues are faced at some level by association members in all five of the Southwest Region states, whether small or large, rural or urban. The upcoming conference not only offers training, but also peer learning and engagement and how to address, redress, face and overcome challenges. Economic developers, planners, EDA and other grant recipients, public works managers, elected officials and leaders throughout the Southwest are encouraged to participate in this interchange. To register, click here. For more information about the conference, contact Heather Smoak Urena at hsurena@aol.com or (318) 487-5454.

EWTG plans 28th Annual Professional Development Conference
The Executive Women in Texas Government 28th Annual Professional Development Conference, "Building Careers and Developing Leaders" will be held Monday, Nov. 24, at the Embassy Suite -SanMarcos Hotel, Spa, and Conference Center. The conference is the premier educational forum for government professionals interested in developing practical, comprehensive and real-world solutions for managing changing rules and standards, new business practices and technological advances and bring greater efficiency to government operations. Experts from state government, higher education and industry experts will discuss topics relevant to leadership trends, governance practices and emerging management models in the public sector. The evening before the conference, a networking reception will be held to commemorate ETWG's 30th anniversary. Keynote speakers will include Amy Henry, the "last woman standing" on NBC's first season of "The Apprentice" and author of What it Takes: Speak Up, Stand Up and Move Up, and Ambassador Karen Hughes, Worldwide Vice-Chair of Burson-Marsteller communications strategists. Early bird registration is open through Oct. 31. Regular registration rates available Nov. 1-14. For more information on the conference and registration is available here.

Texas EMS Conference set in Fort Worth Nov. 23-26
Texas EMS Conference, one of the largest EMS conferences in the nation, kicks off Nov. 23 in Fort Worth. Texas EMS Conference draws emergency medical services personnel for three days of emergency medical education, including continuing education for EMS, nurses, firefighters and physicians. The conference also features a 170,000-square-foot exhibit hall filled with state-of-the-art medical equipment, EMS supplies and services, job opportunities, ambulances and helicopters. Preconference classes, ranging in length from four hours to three days, feature cadaver anatomy labs, wilderness rescue and response to bombing incidents. For more information, go to www.texasemsconference.com.
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High demand nationally 
for cybersecurity expertise


Mary Scott NabersBy Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.


Remember when schools primarily taught the Three Rs - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic? The theory was that education should be focused on literacy skills that include mastering reading and writing and grasping mathematical concepts. 

Not anymore! Now schools are focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The educational goal is for students to be well-skilled in one or more of these disciplines. Most educators, counselors and career advisors believe it is these disciplines that will keep America competitive and allow graduates to find good, high-paying job opportunities.

Because technology is so much a part of everyday life, there will always be an abundance of jobs in this field, but the competition is stiff. Many schools are introducing students to STEM programs as early as possible. The Northeast Independent School District in San Antonio is recruiting 6th, 7th and 8th graders to a new magnet program that focuses on professional readiness. It emphasizes computer programming, coding and IT integration in core subjects. A school in Vermont has students in the fourth grade learning what one teacher calls "a little computer programming along with a little program solving" to introduce them to basic programming skills.

But, for all of the interest in enriching technology skills, a recent survey indicates one important part of the technology equation is languishing. In spite of an overwhelming need, cybersecurity training is not being taught in many schools.

The 2014 Raytheon-NCSA Millennial Cyber Survey reports that demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing at a rate 3.5 percent higher than all other IT jobs and 12 times faster than the total labor market. Last year, there were approximately 210,000 job postings for cybersecurity positions, and it took job recruiters longer to fill the positions than all other job posting categories combined.
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Collaboration Nation

TWDB approves financial assistance totaling $39.2M 
Two water-related projects have together earned financial assistance totaling more than $39.2 million from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Both projects address water supply issues that are impacted by a growing local population and provide additional water sources during drought conditions.

TWDB approved $5.5 million in financial assistance to the city of Laredo. The money will be used to construct an elevated 3 million gallon storage tank. It will become part of a new water system that includes a recently built new water treatment plant.

The city of Wichita Falls will benefit from more than $33.79 million in financial assistance for a permanent indirect potable reuse system. The system will treat effluent and blend it with water in Lake Arrowhead at a treatment rate of 16 million gallons per day.
Gonzales ISD to seek bids 
for first phase of bond projects
Trustees for Gonzales Independent School District recently agreed to seek bids in December for the first phase of several projects approved in a bond election this year. The first phase includes renovations to North Avenue Elementary and Gonzales High School in addition to remodeling a former grocery store into a pre-kindergarten campus. Once the bids are approved, the renovations should take about 10 months to complete, district officials said. Once the first phase is complete, trustees plan to move into the second phase and then the third phase of the district's construction plan.
Perez resigs as superintendent 
of San Antonio school district
Sylvester Perez San Antonio ISD Superintendent Sylvester Perez (pictured) recently announced plans to resign in April 2015. Trustees in July had extended his contract through June 2016.

Perez had agreed to come out of retirement in March 2012 to serve as interim superintendent on a temporary basis. Following a long unsuccessful search, however, he urged trustees in March 2013 to move more quickly to find a permanent superintendent.

After a finalist for superintendent from Tucson withdrew his application following news coverage of financial and legal problems, trustees terminated business with the search firm and selected Perez as the lone finalist for superintendent in May 2013. Perez cited the need to care for his aging parents for his need to resign in 2013 and again this year.
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Highland Park ISD eyes church-owned property for new school
Highland Park Independent School District officials recently began discussions with the Northway Christian Church to purchase 4.6 acres of land next to the church to house a new elementary school. The property is located on Northwest Highway and includes a parsonage, handball court, baseball field and an activities building. District officials are considering asking voters to approve bonds in 2015 to pay for the new elementary school if negotiations on the property are successful.
Crockett selects Sean
Hutchison as city manager
Sean Hutchison Crockett City Council members recently selected Sean Hutchison (pictured) as the new city manager.

A village administrator and director of public works in Combined Locks, Wisconsin, Hutchison is expected to begin his new duties in Crockett in December of this year or January 2015. He is required to provide 30 days' notice of the resignation to his current employer.

Hutchison has worked for the village of Combined Locks for seven years.
Workforce Solutions Alamo 
taps Hathaway as director
Workforce Solutions Alamo recently named Gail L. Hathaway as the executive director following a national search. A retired captain in the U.S. Navy, Hathaway replaced Patrick Newman, who resigned earlier this year. During her 28 years in the Navy, Hathaway's duties included serving as a medical intelligence officer and in aerospace physiology and industrial hygiene programs for the Medical Service Corps.

Longview ISD rejects bids 
for renovations to softball field
Trustees for Longview Independent School District recently cited the high cost for rejecting all bids to renovate a softball field. The renovations are needed as a result of a Title IX complaint filed in 2013. Trustees had approved $1 million for the softball field renovation and the bids came in at $1.5 million and $1.3 million.

District officials requested an extension from the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education to complete the renovations in the spring when the softball season is over. District staff plan to seek new bids this spring with a goal of maintaining the $1 million budget for the project.
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Harlingen studies replacing 
city auditor with contractor
Harlingen City Manager Carlos Yerena recently urged city commissioners to replace the internal city auditor with a certified public accountant who would provide audit services to the city on a contract basis. Yerena recommended Denise Y. Almon, a certified public accountant, for the post.

The new city auditor would replace Sandra Gonzalez, who recently resigned as the internal auditor for Harlingen. Following an executive session, commissioners did not act on the recommendation by the city manager. Commissioners also took no action on a request by Yerena to authorize him to finalize a contract with Almon.
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City of Athens seeking bids 
to design water line upgrades
Athens City Council members recently authorized staff to request proposals from engineering firms to design water line improvements on three streets. The improvements are planned for East Clinton, Park and South Prarieville streets in the southern area of the city, noted Pam Burton, city administrator.
McDonald wins selection 
as city manager in Cleveland
Kelly McDonald Kelly McDonald (pictured) recently won selection as the new city manager in Cleveland.

Currently serving as the interim city manager, McDonald also served on the board of the Cleveland Economic Development Council and has worked for the city for 20 years.
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Brownsville approve $1 million 
in grants to upgrade airport
Brownsville City Commissioners recently approved the receipt of more than $1 million in grants to pay for upgrades at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration awarded a $1 million grant to pay for updating the layout plan for the airport and for preliminary design and environmental assessments for a proposed new passenger terminal facility. The Texas Department of Transportation also awarded a $50,000 grant to fund routine maintenance at the airport.
Terry Grier, Houston ISD
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier has been awarded the 2014 Urban Educator of the Year award by the Council of the Great City Schools. Grier was recognized for his ability to accelerate academic gains that produce a higher graduation rate, especially among African-American and Hispanic students, and for substantially decreasing the student dropout rate. The award honors a school leader who demonstrates success in the areas of leadership and governance, has been in instrumental in improving student achievement districtwide, improved the public's confidence in his or her school district, and who embodies professionalism and has been involved in the council.

John Barton, TxDOT
Barton Texas Department of Transportation Deputy Executive Director John Barton was recently honored by his alma mater, Texas A&M University, as the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Graduate award from the Texas A&M University Zachary Department of Civil Engineering. Barton, who has been with TxDOT for 28 years, began working for the agency as a maintenance worker during high school and college. The award honors civil engineering graduates who have made significant contributions to the profession.

Ronnie Quintanilla-Perez, City of Hutto
Quintanilla-Perez Hutto Mayor Pro Tem Veronica "Ronnie" Quintanilla-Perez was elected to serve as president of the Texas Municipal League Region 10 for the 2014-15 term. She was elected during the regional meeting hosted by the city of Hutto recently. Region 10 includes 16 counties from as far west as Mason county and east to Brazos county and from Lampasas down to Caldwell county in the south. As president, Quintanilla-Perez will be responsible for guiding the actions and leading the meetings for the coming year for the organization.
Bastrop discusses partnership 
with YMCA on new facility
Mike Talbot Bastrop City Council members recently began discussions with the Bastrop YMCA on the possibility of building a new 36,000-square-foot facility that also could double as an emergency shelter for as long as 30 days.

County officials notified city officials that the city has been selected to receive a $1.5 million loan from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) that could be used to expand the YMCA while providing temporary housing in natural disasters and other emergencies, noted City Manager Mike Talbot (pictured).

Because the $1.5 million grant would pay for a facility only in the 12,000- to 15,000-square-foot range, the city and the YMCA would need to contribute about $2 million to make the facility financially feasible, Talbot said. One option for raising the city's share of the $2 million would be to include the project in a bond proposal, the mayor said. If a bond election were held and the bond proposal failed, the city could still use the FEMA grant to build a facility as long as it meets requirements to serve as an emergency shelter, Talbot noted.
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Holden to retire as city 
manager in Cleburne
City Manager Rick Holden of Cleburne recently announced he is retiring, effective Jan. 2, 2015.

Holden joined the city in August 1977 and resigned in March 1979. He returned to Cleburne in October 1979 to work in various positions in public works and the health department until he resigned in April 1985. He also worked as an assistant city manager in Haltom City and for several public utility companies before returning to Cleburne in 2008 to serve as an assistant city manager.

City officials in Cleburne took no action on the announcement by Holden on his plans to retire.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to install coastal monitoring stations
Robin Ellis The Blucher Institute of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi recently announced plans to install a new coastal monitoring station, named Sentinels, in Bayside to help provide better forecasts for future hurricanes.

Once the installation is completed in January 2016, plans call for installing a 140-foot tall steel pole featuring a platform at the entrance of the Freeport Ship Channel to provide for weather data collection, noted Robin Ellis (pictured), project manager for the Blucher Institute in an interview with Houston Public Media. The monitoring station, which will be installed using a crane that will sink most of the station under water, is designed to measure wind speeds and water levels and provide the data online for the public to examine, Ellis said.

The new monitoring station joins two existing monitoring stations already installed in Sabine Pass and Galveston, Ellis said. Plans also call for installing more Sentinels that can withstand a Category 4 hurricane and 10-foot waves at the Matagorda Ship Channel, Port Aransas and South Padre Island, Ellis noted. A $2 million federal grant is funding the six Sentinels that will be able to measure wind speeds and water levels before, during and after a storm, she added.
Port Arthur narrows city manager search to seven applicants
Port Arthur City Council members recently selected seven finalists for city manager after reviewing 50 applications for the job. The new city manager will replace former City Manager Floyd Johnson, who left that post about eight months ago.

City officials declined to identify the seven finalists for city manager, but the director of human resources said the candidates named as finalists are racially, ethnically and gender diverse.

Current plans are to begin interviews with the finalists in early November and to select a new city manager by the beginning of next year, John Comeaux has served as interim city manager since March.
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Ramirez resigns as city 
clerk for city of in San Angelo
Alicia Ramirez recently resigned as city clerk in San Angelo to accept a new job as city secretary in Buda.

San Angelo city officials also appointed Deputy City Clerk Maria Franco as the interim city clerk until they hire a new city clerk.

Ramirez joined the city of San Angelo in 1981 in human resources and then became a transportation planner before being named as city clerk in September 2005. She is credited with digitizing city records to make them more accessible to the public.
Ohnemiller selected as city attorney for city of Midland
John Ohnemiller, currently an assistant city attorney In Midland, recently won selection as the new city attorney, effective on March 1, 2015. He will replace City Attorney Keith Stretcher, who is leaving that post on Feb. 28, 2015. Ohnemiller, who has worked for the city for 14 years, was selected over one applicant outside of the city who applied for the job.
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Recent Reports
Funding going to 22 Texas counties to assist veterans
Veterans More than $1 million in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Highly Rural Transportation Grant funds is headed to Texas. The Texas Veterans Commission has been selected as a recipient for funding that will benefit some 2,500 veterans in 22 Texas counties.

Veterans who live in highly rural areas can receive transportation benefits for veteran-related health care concerns.

The grant money going to the nearly two-dozen Texas counties will be used to purchase a vehicle at a cost of up to $50,000. The counties will then be responsible for staffing and transportation plans geared toward assisting veterans.

The counties that will receive the grants are: Briscoe, Cochran, Coke, Collingsworth, Crockett, Dallam, Dickens, Fisher, Hansford, Hartley and Jim Hogg. Also Kent, Knox, Lipscomb, McMullen, Motley, Oldham, Presidio, Roberts, Shackelford, Sutton and Wheeler.
Howe eyeing partnership 
to build new water park
Citing the lack of a water park between southern Oklahoma and Collin County, Howe city officials recently agreed to work with officials of Hawaiian Falls to develop a water park for the Texoma area.

The mayor said the city would need to acquire about 20 acres of land that would be visible from SH75. City council also would need to seek approval of $14 million in bonds to help pay for the water park to be located on city land. The mayor estimated the proposed water park could create as many as 200 jobs in the city.

Council members authorized the city administrator to continue negotiations with water park officials to develop a proposal to present to city council members.
Texas Government Insider Archives  

Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Peter Munson of Pottsboro, Commission on Uniform State Laws;
  • Rodney Satterwhite of Midland, Commission on Uniform State Laws;
  • Karen Roberts Washington of Dallas, Commission on Uniform State Laws;
  • Roberto Dominguez of Elsa, Governing Board of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management;
  • Elizabeth "Christy" Jack of Fort Worth, Governing Board of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management;
  • Maggie Jaramillo of Richmond, judge of the 400th Judicial District Court in Fort Bend County. 
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