Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 34 - Friday, Aug. 31, 2012

Leadership roles filled at TEA, Juvenile Justice Department


Williams tapped as new Education Commissioner, Griffiths to head youth corrections

Michael WilliamsLizzette ReynoldsA former chair of the Texas Railroad Commission has been named the state's new Education Commissioner and a former director of the Dallas County juvenile justice program has been chosen to head up the state's juvenile justice agency.


Michael Williams (top left), will replace Robert Scott as Education Commissioner and head of the Texas Education Agency. Scott resigned his post in July. Williams will be assisted by newly named Chief Deputy Commissioner Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds (top right). And Michael Griffiths (bottom right) has been appointed executive director of the troubled Texas Juvenile Justice Department, replacing Cherie Townsend, who retired in June.


Michael GriffithsWilliams was appointed to the Railroad Commission in 1998 and subsequently won three re-election votes. The son of public school teachers, Williams was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. He also held a Bush appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Williams also served under President Ronald Reagan as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice. He is a former general counsel for a high-tech corporation and was "of counsel" to a high-profile Texas law firm.


The new TEA head holds bachelor's, master's and law degrees from the University of Southern California.


Williams' Chief Deputy Commissioner Reynolds brings nearly two decades of public education experience to her new charge. Reynolds has served as Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Programs at TEA since 2007, where she was involved with curriculum, assessment, accountability, educator quality, school accreditation and school improvement. She previously served as Region VI Representative for then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at the U.S. Department of Education. In that position, Reynolds also was a special assistant for the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs.




Dewhurst picks Williams as chair of Senate Finance Committee


Duncan reappointed to chair State Affairs, Nelson will be back as chair of HHS

Tommy WilliamsRobert DuncanThe powerful Senate Finance Committee has a new chair. In a surprise move to many, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this week announced that Sen. Tommy Williams (left) of The Woodlands will take over for longtime Finance Chair Sen. Steve Ogden, who is not seeking re-election. Many thought Sen. Robert Duncan (right) to be the heir apparent to Ogden, since Duncan has been a key player on the Finance Committee since 1999.


Williams has been a member of the Senate since 2003, serving as a member of the Texas House from 1997 to 2002. During the last legislative session, Williams chaired the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, but also served as a member of the Finance Committee.


In making his appointment of Williams, Dewhurst noted, "I'm confident in his ability to prioritize state spending and continue balancing a transparent state budget without raising taxes." Williams chaired his first Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this week.


Jane NelsonDuncan was reappointed chair of the Senate Committee on State Affairs Committee, a post he has held since 2004. "While he is knowledgeable about the budget and school finance, Sen. Duncan chairs the important Senate Committee on State Affairs and has helped pass critical issues such as Voter ID and tort reform," Lt. Governor Dewhurst said.  "He is a problem-solver whom I have relied on time and time again on a variety of complex issues, and I will continue to depend on his leadership and judgment this session."


In addition to those two appointments, Dewhurst also announced that Sen. Jane Nelson (bottom) has been reappointed chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Nelson has been a member of the Senate since 1993. The lieutenant governor said he will announce the remainder of the Senate committee chairs and membership in the near future.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Jim PittsState Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie 


Career highlights and education:  Being elected to the Waxahachie School Board, and then serving as president for two years, meant a lot to me.  As far as education, Go Ponies!  I graduated from SMU - undergrad, MBA, and law school. 
What I like best about my job is: Working with people.

The best advice I've received for my current job is:  Don't Run!
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: This job isn't about me or you - it's about our constituents and our state.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: somewhere with my toes in the sand.
People would be surprised to know that I: have two King Charles Spaniels.

One thing I wish more people knew about the House Appropriations Committee: How important it is to our state, and how dedicated and hard working the committee members are...
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Pitts will be one of the keynote speakers at the 8th Biennial Legislative Communications Conference on Oct. 16. For more information, click here.)

One-day event set for Oct. 16...


Popular speaker Watson to keynote Legislative Conference

Kirk WatsonAs the former mayor of the City of Austin, State Sen. Kirk Watson knows the relationship between local governments and the citizens they represent with state government representatives during each session of the Texas Legislature. As the afternoon keynote speaker for the upcoming 8th Biennial Legislative Communications Conference, Watson will address "Upcoming Session from the Hometown Vantage Point."


Both popular and entertaining as a speaker, Watson is among the favorites of the biennial conference. This year's conference is slated for Oct. 16 and is co-sponsored by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. and The University of Texas at Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. It is held before each biennial session of the Texas Legislature and is designed to bring government executives, appointees, senior staff and elected officials together to discuss the upcoming legislative session.


Watson was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2006. He was named "Rookie of the Year" by Texas Monthly magazine after his first legislative session and has been named to the magazine's "10 Best" once and was named honorable mention during another session. He serves on the Senate committees overseeing Business and Commerce, Economic Development, and Higher Education, and he is Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.


The Oct. 16 conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and begins with a Continental breakfast. There will be a networking luncheon and valuable materials that will help attendees navigate the legislative session. For more information and to register, click here.


TxDOT seeking to privatize routine maintenance, saving millions

Phil WilsonA successful pilot program in Houston has led the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to seek requests for information for the possible privatization of routine maintenance. The Houston program bid a maintenance contract out to a private sector contractor and the result was a significant savings to the state. TxDOT officials said the contract saved the state approximately $10 million, or nearly 30 percent of what the work would cost if handled in-house.


"TxDOT is working many angles to create value and better efficiencies for our tax dollars," said Phil Wilson (pictured), executive director of TxDOT. "Every opportunity to deliver high-quality work and save money means more work can be performed to maintain a safe transportation system for the traveling public." TxDOT expects to issue its RFI in the coming weeks. The area of the proposed privatized routine maintenance will be on parts of Interstates 35 and 45 between Dallas and Houston and Dallas and San Antonio, along with highways inside metropolitan areas around Dallas and Harris counties. Officials say they expect savings of more than $90 million on this highway maintenance each year and save the agency $120 million over five years. That savings, say TxDOT officials, would be invested in other maintenance work.


A maintenance contract would likely include roadside mowing, litter removal, sign replacement, pothole patching and minor resurfacing. The Houston project was bid out for $26 million, approximately $10 million less than it would have cost for TxDOT staff and contractors to do the work.


State officials seek nominations for environmental awards

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Governor's Office recently began seeking nominations for communities, companies and organizations to be considered for the 2013 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards. Deadline for applying for the award is October 5.


A committee appointed by the governor will review applicants from nine award categories that include agriculture, civic or community, education, individual, innovative operations and/or management, pollution prevention, technical and technology use, water conservation and youth. Winners in these nine categories represent the best in protecting the state's natural resources, the chairman of TCEQ said. To submit an application for the environmental excellence award, applications are available online at www.teea.org/apply


Public transportation projects statewide awarded federal funding
Eric GleasonTransportation services throughout the state will benefit from approximately $37 million in federal transit money headed to Texas. The funds are the result of federal program funding that is allocated for public transportation infrastructure upgrades and service operations support. Also included are 4.4 million in Transportation Development Credits (TDCs). TDCs  are awarded to various transportation agencies to assist with the match of federal funds for capital projects.

"It's important for Texas to support a healthy public transportation system, to assure that citizens from all walks of life have easy and efficient access to jobs, medical centers, education, shopping malls and other locations," said Eric Gleason (pictured), Texas Department of Transportation Public Transportation Division director.

The Texas Transportation Commission broke out the allocations as follows:

  • $14.2 million in federal funds and 2.46 million of TDC to rural public transportation providers for vehicle purchases and facility projects;
  • $9 million and 943,500 of TDC for various transit programs that provide service for individuals for job training and work, improving access to existing public transportation services for the disabled and enhancing intercity service connections between cities and rural areas;
  • $7.3 million of rural federal funds for transit agencies with both operating and capital expenses and increasing service demands;
  • $4 million and 366,249 of TDC for increasing transit services to elderly and individuals with disabilities;
  • Approximately $1.7 million and 342,887 of TDC match for  Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for public transportation planning that will improve transit service in urban areas;
  • $335,000 to Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County for a demonstration project to advance public transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities using innovative techniques; and
  • $230,992 and 249,158 in TDC for a Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) for capital projects.

Comptroller's office rolls out tax collection tool for taxpayers

TaxesTexans can now get a more complete picture of local taxes levied in every county in the state thanks to a newly developed Web tool of the State Comptroller's Office. Texans can now go online to see which taxing entities are collecting property and sales taxes in every county, and the value of those local taxes.


The new tool, available at www.TexasTransparency.org, includes interactive maps that provide a close-up view of the local entities that assess property tax and sales tax in each of Texas' 254 counties. Comptroller Susan Combs also released a report entitled "Your Money and the Taxing Facts" that provides context for the Web tool, including trends in local taxation. The report also offers recommendations to increase transparency for local taxation and offers tips to help residents exercise their rights as taxpayers.


Many of the special taxing districts across the state collect taxes to fund services such as public safety, groundwater, libraries, emergency services, utility infrastructure and hospitals. The number of these districts is growing and often taxpayers do not know how much they are charged and by which district. The most common local taxing entities in Texas are cities, counties, school districts, special purpose districts and transit authorities.


Governor announces Bruun as new appointments director

Bech K. Bruun, former government and customer relations manager for the Brazos River Authority, has been chosen by Gov. Rick Perry as the governor's Director of Appointments, effective Sept. 10. Bruun replaces Teresa Spears, who is retiring.


Before joining the Brazos River Authority, Bruun was chief of staff to State Rep. Todd Hunter, and general counsel to the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. He also worked for Perry as an appointments manager.


Bruun, a member of the State Bar of Texas, holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.


TPWD's Mount honored by Midwest law enforcement officers

Officere of Year

Michelle Mount accepts her plaque from Dan Friedkin (left), chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. (TPWD photo by Chase Fountain)

State game warden Michelle Mount, a nine-year veteran game warden stationed in Tarrant County, has been named Officer of the Year by the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers. She was presented the award by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith at this week's TPW Commission meeting.


Mount was recognized for her commitment and service to TPWD's public outreach mission that includes presentations and events such as hunter education classes, school programs, inner city youth presentations and women in the outdoors events.


Mount currently serves as the regional liaison for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and has collaborated with several airlines to develop a system for confiscation and disposition of illegal aquatic products. She has also worked with the court system and prosecutors in her area on understanding the importance of conservation law violations.


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Eighmy headed from Texas Tech to University of Tennessee

Taylor EighmyTaylor Eighmy (pictured), senior vice president for research at Texas Tech since June 2009, is leaving Lubbock to become the new vice chancellor for research at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, effective Oct. 2.


Since he began working at Tech, Eighmy's job has been to strengthen opportunities for university faculty and to bring in funds from the federal government, the private sector and foundations. Those monies were used for faculty, graduate and undergraduate research.


Former Tech President Guy Bailey said Eighmy exceeded the university's expectations. Under Eighmy's leadership, Texas Tech met the criteria for becoming eligible for the National Research University fund, which means $8 million to $10 million in funding. Officials estimated that would take five years, but Eighmy helped Tech reach its goal in two years.


UT regents approve new $45 million center for UTHSC-San Antonio

Kenneth KalkwarfRegents for The University of Texas System recently approved construction of a new $45 million Academic Learning and Teaching Center at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.


Regents also approved the design plan for a new $95 million, 198,000-square-foot clinical building for the Health Science Centerís Dental School. The building will be constructed in the South Texas Medical Center on land adjacent to the patient care facility of UT Medicine San Antonio, the School of Medicineís clinical practice.


Plans call for the 125,000-square-foot academic and teaching center to be a state-of-art teaching facility for the study of the anatomy to train medical, dental, nursing and other health professional students, said Kenneth L. Kalkwarf (pictured), interim president of the Health Science Center in San Antonio. The new academic facility will allow more medical students to train at the Health Science Center, he said.


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Texas Tech creates committee to search for new president

Jerry TurneerThe Chancellor of Texas Tech University recently appointed a 10-member search committee led by the chairman of the board of regents, Jerry E. Turner (pictured), to help search for a new president of the university.


Committee members will identify the most qualified candidates, perform initial screenings, keep all constituency groups updated on the search process and forward recommendations to the chancellor, who will make the final selection after regents approve the appointment.


In addition to Turner, three members of the board of regents, Larry Anders, Debbie Montford and John Walker, also serve on the search committee. Other appointees were: Bob Baker, a Horn Professor in the department of biological sciences; Michael Galyean, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Linda Hoover, dean of human science; Vickie Sutton, a Horn Professor of the School of Law; Robert Taylor, chief executive of a supermarket chain; and Ed Whitacre, a former corporate executive. The chancellor also appointed six non-voting members of the search committee, including Alex Alston, president of the Texas Tech Student Government Association; Kyle Clark, vice president for administration and finance; Michael Molina, vice chancellor for facilities planning and construction for the Texas Tech University System; and Kirby Hocutt, director of intercollegiate athletics.


UT-El Paso approves $25 million project to upgrade campus

The University of Texas at El Paso officials recently approved a $25 million project to renovate the campus to make it friendlier to pedestrians, add bike paths and provide more green spaces, including a plaza for community events.


University officials began working more than 10 years ago with the city, the El Paso Water Utilities and the Texas Department of Transportation to develop plans to make the campus more environmentally friendly and attractive to students, faculty and staff, regents said.



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UT-Permian Basin approves new 10-year facility master plan

David WattsAlong with renaming the campus in Midland The University of Texas Permian Basin-Midland (UTPB-Midland), regents of The University of Texas System recently approved a 10-year facility master plan that calls for building new facilities for the Midland campus and the UTPB campus in Odessa.


The new facilities plan calls for about $264 million in capital improvements at both the Midland and Odessa campuses, with $88 million allotted for new housing units, $73 million for academic and engineering facilities, $60 million for infrastructure and $43 million for an events center.


The new 10-year plan calls for building three large academic buildings, an athletic building and residential housing units at the UTPB-Odessa campus, said David Watts (pictured), UTPB president. The plan also calls for a 6,000-seat events center to host community and sporting events for the Odessa campus. The new facilities plan for the UTPB-Midland campus includes a 95,000-square-foot engineering building, on-campus housing and additions to existing buildings at that campus, Watts said. Regents must approve any plans to build new facilities before construction can begin at either campus, he added.


New Braunfels ozone levels rise above federal clean air standards

Dean DanosFederal officials recently notified elected officials in the New Braunfels Metropolitan Statistical Area that ozone levels in that area have climbed high enough to violate federal clean air standards.


Local officials responded to that warning by volunteering to join a new program to reduce ground-level ozone, said Peter Bella, director of the natural resources department of the Alamo Area Council of Government (AACOG). The group will work with local governments, business and industry leaders and citizens to find methods to reduce ozone, said Dean Danos (pictured), AACOG executive director.


AACOG officials also plan to work with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff to make certain that monitors recording the data are accurate, Danos said.


Port of Houston seeks credit to complete $1.3 billion capital plan

Port of Houston officials recently agreed to seek a line of credit from private banking companies to help pay for a $1.3 billion capital improvement program. Bond funding approved in 2010 is expected to be depleted by the end of next year.


Board members authorized staff to negotiate with about 24 banks, including small and locally owned banks to investigate the interest rate that could be offered on a revolving line of credit. Staff members plan to provide the results of the effort to commissioners in December and have already received replies from 23 banks interested in offering credit to the port authority, said Thomas Heidt, vice president for finance and administration.


Longview to seek TxDOT OK for new city transportation facility

Depot RestorationAfter receiving a $1.744 million bid to renovate an old train depot into a public transportation center (see accompanying artist's rendering), Longview city officials recently agreed to seek approval from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) before asking council members to accept the bid from the low bidder, a Fort Worth-based construction company.


The bid was below the $2.2 million city officials had budgeted for transforming the historical depot into a multi-modal transportation center, said Brent Brevard, an architect for the city. He expects council to vote on the contract in September and the renovation to be completed in about a year and a half.The city received a $2.169 million grant from TxDOT to create the transportation hub and city officials allotted $450,000 for the match required by the federal grant, Brevard said.


Capital Metro allots $63.9 million to capital projects for 2013 budget

Capital Metro officials recently recommended including $63.9 million in the proposed $193.7 million budget for the 2013 fiscal year. This represents a 12 percent increase over capital improvement funding in 2012.

Projects included in the 2013 budget are $24 million for the MetroRapid project, which includes adding bus lanes on heavily used city streets, $10 million to buy new buses to replace an aging fleet and $2 million to upgrade accessibility at bus stops.


Capital Metro officials expect to hold several meetings to allow residents to comment and ask questions about the budget before approving a final budget, transit officials said.


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Splendora ISD approves $13.5 million bond proposal

Genese BellTrustees for Splendora Independent School District recently agreed to seek voter approval on Nov. 6 for a $13.5 million bond package to pay for building a two-story addition to the high school to house expanded career and technology education programs.


District officials also plan to build a new lab, more classrooms, extend the cafeteria and the parking lot if voters approve the bonds, said Superintendent Genese Bell (pictured). Other improvements planned are to convert an existing boy's athletic facility at the high school into a space for girls' athletics to include a dressing room and space for cheer and dance programs. The bonds would also help expand the junior high school to add classrooms, a science lab and space to allow the district to use that campus for grades six, seven and eight, Bell said.


Galveston squeaks by deadline, approves public housing plan

Acting just four days before a federal deadline, Galveston City Council members approved a controversial plan to build at least 141 units of public housing at the sites of two housing projects flooded during Hurricane Ike and then were demolished.


City officials also agreed to cooperate with the Texas General Land Office to develop 388 additional public housing units in line with fair housing and civil right laws. The city has completed only 40 of the 569 public housing units the city is required to rebuild under an agreement with state and federal officials.


Many residents and city officials had opposed rebuilding public housing at the former sites for Magnolia Homes and Cedar Terrace. Instead, city officials sought to build smaller public housing units such as duplexes scattered throughout the city rather than rebuilding public housing units clustered together. However, city officials risked losing more than $586 million in federal disaster funding in addition to other federal grants for law enforcement and infrastructure projects if council proceeded with previous plans to scatter public housing units in several neighborhoods.


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Fate officials looking at creating new police department

After approving an agreement to pay the Rockwall County Sheriff's Office $393,091 to provide law enforcement services for the next year, Fate city officials revealed they are studying whether to establish a police department to take over those duties. The current contract with the sheriff's office expires at the end of September 2013.


Following instructions from council members to keep costs for law enforcement at the same level as last year, City Manager Philip Rodriguez said the agreement with the sheriff's office reduces the number of patrol officers who will patrol the city from five to four officers. Along with the finance director, Rodriguez said he is working with council members and the mayor to research the cost and other issues related to the feasibility of creating a police department in the city. It would take over patrol duties now performed by the sheriff's department.


New blog launched this week reaches out to Texas veterans

New BlogA new blog, another channel by which the Texas General Land Office and Texas Veterans Land Board are reaching out to Texas veterans, their families and friends, was launched this week.


VLBlog, according to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, will focus on issues important to veterans who are looking for a new home, land or improvements to an existing home. It will also provide news for elderly and other veterans.


The blog is in addition to the agency's use of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to provide news and updates to veterans and those interested in veteran issues.


The blog will be updated every Tuesday. To view or sign up for the blog, click here.


More problems arise for proposed Willacy Co. domed shelter

After learning Willacy County officials would need to raise an additional $90,000 to pay for a proposed $2.4 million, federally funded domed storm shelter, several county officials recently questioned whether to proceed with the project. The county judge, however, proposed another review of the project to determine a way to build the domed storm shelter.


One commissioner urged using several high school gymnasiums for storm shelters rather than building a shelter that would house people only during the initial impact of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Building any county shelter on land owned by the school district or using city electricity would eliminate the option of renting the facility out to any organizations that allowed alcoholic beverages or smoking, the commissioner said.


The county judge argued that the facility could be built on county-owned land near the county jail and save the cost of extending utilities and building another parking lot. County officials have scheduled a workshop meeting this week to explore possible solutions for funding the proposed domed shelter facility.


Burnet County moves forward on AgriLife Extension Offices

Joe Don DockeryBurnet County commissioners recently agreed to move forward with a proposed 3,500-square-foot building to serve as AgriLife Extension offices by approving $300,000 to pay for developing engineering and design plans for the new facility.


The goal is to determine an accurate cost for building the proposed AgriLife Extension offices, said Joe Don Dockery (pictured), a county commissioner.


The new AgriLife Extension offices will be located near the county courthouse on SH29 if county officials decide to proceed with building the facility, Dockery said.


CATEE 2012 Conference set Oct. 9-11 in Galveston

CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) 2012, set for Oct. 9-11 in Galveston at the Hotel Galvez, will feature speakers bringing information on timely topics, workshops on financing energy efficiency, energy management for schools and choosing the correct green rating system. The event is an educational conference and business expo connecting public and private decision-makers and thought leaders. Guest speakers in the plenary session will address issues from sustainability leadership to energy efficiency issues and the 83rd Texas Legislature. There will also be a number of breakout sessions on topics such as success in school energy management, new technologies that work and sustainable commercial buildings, to name a few. Attendees will include state leaders, government officials and staff, business owners, development professionals, facility managers, utility and energy services resources, industry experts, researchers, policy makers, and clean energy and air quality advocates.Registration is now open. For more information, click here.


TARC Conference exhibitor, sponsorship opportunities available

The Texas Conference on Regionalism is set for Sept. 19-21 at the Westin Oaks Galleria in Houston. The Texas Association of Regional Councils 2012 Conference: Building Texas Together is the annual conference of Texas' regional planning councils. The councils operate programs across subject areas ranging from public safety and emergency preparedness to human and social services and are instrumental in the planning and expenditure of funds derived from local, state and federal resources. Exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are available for the conference. Those exhibiting will have an opportunity to interact with staff, leaders and decision-makers from Texas' councils of government, cities, counties and special districts. The conference agenda includes dedicated time for those attending to visit with exhibitors. Conference sponsors are recognized throughout the conference with premium booth space and signage as well as name recognition in the conference program and on the TARC Web site. Various sponsorship levels are available for businesses of all sizes. To view the draft agenda for the conference and for more information about the remaining exhibitor and sponsor opportunities click here or email tarc@txregionalcouncil.org.


Texas Municipal League 100th Annual Conference, Exhibition set

A century in the making, the Texas Municipal League will hold its 100th Annual Conference and Exhibition on Nov. 13-16 in Grapevine. Hear from the experts, such as the Opening General Session keynote speaker Jim Carroll, a futurist who will discuss trends affecting public service and how to turn challenge into opportunity. Dive into concurrent sessions on leadership, smartphone apps, health care, youth, retail development, parliamentary procedure, legislation, water management and community meetings...just to name a few. And not to be missed is a walk through the exhibit hall, where delegates will find more than 300 vendors equipped with services and products to help public servants serve better. With an agenda so full, we also carved some time to celebrate 100 years of municipal excellence - join us on Nov. 14 for the TML Centennial Gala. A conference like this only comes around once every 100 years. So what are you waiting for? Register now at www.tmlconference.org.


HGAC plans events to celebrate 'Commute Solution Month'

August is "Commute Solution Month." As a part of Commute Solutions Month, the Houston-Galveston Area Council will host a series of public outreach events at local Park & Ride and transit center facilities within the Houston-Galveston region. This year's celebration is to show appreciation to commuters, employees and the general public for their participation in riding the bus, vanpooling, carpooling, NuRiding, teleworking, biking and walking. Transit riders will receive t-shirts and other promotional items as they board their vehicles. Commute Solutions, a program of the Houston-Galveston Area Council, is designed to reduce traffic congestion on our roads and improve our air quality. This program provides commuters with a variety of alternatives to driving their cars that will save them time and money and relieve stress often associated with a long commute. For more information about the Commute Solutions Program, call 1-877-512-7333 or visit www.commutesolutionshouston.org.


Institute of Internal Auditors cites Austin conference in September

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) will host its 2012 Southern Regional Conference Sept. 16-19 in Austin. The event, to be held at the Hilton Austin, will feature a world-class professional development conference with an "Audit Roundup: Lasso the Possibilities" theme. Audit executives, directors, managers and staff will benefit from regional speakers in tracks on governance, IT auditing, fraud, waste and abuse and emerging issues. CPE credits are available. Among the speakers for the general session are industry experts such as Ann Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas, and Mike Jacksa, senior audit manager for Farmers Insurance. IIA's Chairman Phil Tarling and the North American Board Chairman, Mike Peppers, will both be keynote speakers as well. There also will be a variety of concurrent sessions in tracks led by subject matter experts on issues from IT auditing to governmental issues to fraud, waste and abuse. For more information, click here. To view the conference brochure with the complete agenda, click here.


Executive Women in Texas Government set November conference

The Executive Women in Texas Government will sponsor its 2012 Annual Professional Development Conference on Monday, Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel-Spa and Conference Center located at 1001 East McCarty Lane, San Marcos, TX 78666. This full-day event features prominent keynote speakers as well as more than 35 workshops to provide participants with opportunities for hands-on learning and development of leadership skills for multiple career levels. The conference is open to all interested professionals and is designed for those working in government and for organizations that collaborate with government agencies. Members and non-members are encouraged to view the EWTG Web site for conference details.


National Association of Social Workers plans annual conference

More than 1,000 social worker are expected for the upcoming 2012 National Association of Social Workers/Texas 36th Annual State Conference. The event is set for Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Westin Galleria in Houston. Among the speakers for the event are Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSWand his perspective on "The Social Work Story" and Vicki Hansen, LMSW-AP, ACSW, will discuss "What Social Workers Want" in the context of NASW's Social Work Reinvestment Initiative. Those attending will be able to expand their skills through targeted training, tracks representing a variety of practice areas including ethics. Supervision credits and licensing review courses for the LBSW and LMSW exams will also be available and exhibits will be open. For more information and to register, click here.


AACOG announces upcoming workshop

The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) on Sept 7 will host a Basics of Economic Development for Elected Officials Workshop. This workshop will also be at 8700 Tesoro Drive from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. Presentations will be provided by Charlie Zech with Denton, Navarro, Rocha, and Bernal, P.C. For more information, click here.


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More than $5.5 billion in local bond initiatives on tap for November


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


Last week was the deadline for public officials to approve local bond initiatives. In November, voters will decide the fate of millions of dollars in facility renovations, road repairs, community projects and new construction of everything from jails to public schools.


With the upcoming bond issues totaling billions of dollars, it's no coincidence that the vote will coincide with the upcoming presidential election. National elections historically draw larger numbers of voters and government officials believe that more voters increase the chances of having the bond packages pass.


Last May, Texas voters faced more than $1.8 billion in bond elections held by cities, school districts, community colleges and a hospital district. The November vote has fewer bond issues, but the total amount ($5.5 billion) is nearly three times the amount at stake in the May elections.


The biggest part of that $5.5 billion is found in Houston referendums alone - $2.7 billion in fact. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is asking voters to approve a $1.9 billion bond election. It represents the largest school bond vote in Texas history. A successful vote would allow HISD to renovate or rebuild most of the district's high schools, remodel numerous other school facilities and upgrade campus technology.


The city of Houston is seeking approval of $410 million for work related to public safety, parks, general government, libraries and housing. And Houston Community College rounds out the remainder of the total package by asking voters to approve $425 million for classroom technology upgrades, the construction of a new medical center facility, expansion of campuses and increasing workforce development programs.





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Williamson County approves

$9 million for repairs, upgrades

Williamson County commissioners recently included $9 million to pay for one-time capital improvements to upgrade and repair several county facilities when approving the 2012-2013 county budget.


Commissioners allotted $1.5 million to repair a county parking garage closed because of safety concerns, $1.4 million to repair the courthouse by strengthening exterior walls, $1.2 million to expand and update the county tax office in Georgetown and $1 million to upgrade computer software. Other one-time capital projects included in the budget are $1 million to replace the fire-suppression system at a county annex in Georgetown, $625,000 to replace cell door locks at the county jail in Georgetown and $450,000 to remodel county offices in Hutto.


Initiatives affect veteran toll

relief, toll hikes, payments by mail

The Texas Department of Transportation has announced two new initiatives this week. One will institute a cash payment option for the Central Texas Turnpike Systems. The system includes four toll highways serving the Austin metro and Austin-San Antonio corridor. TxDOT will institute a permanent pay-by-mail system that means motorists will not have to stop and make cash payments for tolls for non-TxTag vehicles.


Video will record vehicle license plate numbers on toll roads and those without TxTags will be billed through the mail. New toll rates also were established and will go into effect Jan. 1 of next year to make fees more compatible with other regional toll fees. Tolls on Texas 130, Texas 45 North and Loop 1 in Central Texas will go up 25-30 percent.


The Texas Transportation Commission also announced approval for free passage on several toll roads in the state for select military veterans. The free tolls will benefit veterans who are disabled or recipients of the Purple Heart and/or Congressional Medal of Honor. In Central Texas, that includes Loop 1, SH 45 North, SH 45 Southeast and SH 130 (Segments 1-4) in the Austin area as well as Camino Colombia, which is SH 255 near Laredo and Loop 49 in Tyler. The program is to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2013.


Tom Suehs
Among the well-wishers at the retirement event for HHS Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs (right) was his granddaughter, Evangline.


Retirement event held for HHS Executive Commissioner Suehs

Friends, family and co-workers gathered Thursday to mark the retirement of Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs. The event featured live music including a couple of members of the Texas House. Suehs was presented a scrapbook that included thank you notes and recorded memories of his time at HHS. Emcee for the event was another former HHS Executive Director, Albert Hawkins.


Suehs had served as Executive Commissioner since 2009, overseeing the operations of the state's five health and human services agencies, which include more than 50,000 employees and combined annual budgets of more than $30 billion. Before becoming Executive Commissioner and replacing Hawkins when Hawkins retired, Suehs was deputy executive commissioner for financial services.

Travis County to hire new chief

of information technology

Travis County commissioners recently agreed to move forward to hire a new chief information technology officer rather than spend nearly $40,000 per month to hire a consultant to perform an evaluation of the department and temporarily manage the IT department until a permanent chief information technology officer is hired. The new IT chief will replace Joe Harlow, who has retired.


Directing the search for a new IT chief is Leslie Browder, a planning and budget administrator who is currently overseeing the department. The search is expected to take about six months, Browder said. Some commissioners noted that county commissioners most likely will decide to hire a consultant to perform an assessment of the county's information technology department once a new department head is hired.


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Winters resigns as city

manager in Aransas Pass

Aransas Pass City Council members recently accepted the resignation of Reggie Winters as city manager, effective immediately. Winters has served as city manager for two years. Council members are expected to appoint an interim city manager this week.


Belton ISD taps Pollard as new director of human resources

Barrett PollardTrustees for the Belton Independent School District recently selected Barrett Pollard (pictured) as the new human resources director. Pollard, currently a principal at an elementary school, will replace Dr. Charla Trejo, who was promoted to assistant superintendent at Belton ISD.


James Quin resigns post as

city manager in Richland Hills

City Manager James Quin recently resigned as city manager in Richland Hills after 16 years in that job.


Council members appointed Barbara Mann, the city's finance and accounting manager, to serve as acting city manager until Council appoints an interim city manager. Council members have interviewed at least one candidate for interim city manager and expect to appoint an interim manager soon, city officials said.



Overton selects Cantu

as new city manager

Overton City Council members recently looked to the past and appointed Joe Cantu, a former city manager, as the new city manager. Cantu was city manager in Overton for about two years in the 1990s and also was city manager in Shenandoah, Penitas and Elsa. Cantu, who also spent 43 years in law enforcement, attended The University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg and currently is an officer with the La Joya Police Department.


Jim Lewis to retire as

McClennan County judge

Jim LewisCounty Judge Jim Lewis (pictured) of McClennan County recently announced he plans to retire from the post he has held 22 years, effective on Sept. 30. His term does not expire until 2014 and commissioners will select a new county judge by majority vote to serve until the next general election.


A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State advised county officials that the deadline has passed for placing a candidate for county judge to replace Lewis on the Nov. 6 ballot this year. Candidates for county judge most likely will appear on the ballot in November 2014, the spokesperson said. County Clerk Andy Harwell said he is interested in being appointed as county judge to serve until the election in 2014.


Clarendon selects Eggemeyer to head tourism, development

Clarendon City Council members recently selected Chandra Eggemeyer as the new director of tourism and economic development for the city. The board of the Clarendon Economic Development Corporation approved the appointment of Eggemeyer earlier this month.


Eggemeyer, who previously was employed as an aide to a member of Congress, has a bachelor's degree from Abilene Christian University and a master's degree from Angelo State University. She also worked for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of Agriculture and for a private greenhouse company in Monahans.


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San Angelo selects five finalists

for city manager position

The City of San Angelo has narrowed its search for a new city manager to five finalists. They include: Christopher Coffman, city manager of Sealy; Jared Miller, assistant city manager of North Richland Hills; Susan Thorpe, deputy city manager of Peoria, Arizona; Daniel Valenzuela, city manager of Eagle Pass; and Melissa Byrne Vossmer, city manager of Angleton.


City Council members will interview the five on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. The public will have the opportunity to meet with the candidates on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at the McNease Convention Center. Council members also scheduled a meeting the next day and then plan to meet in executive session to select the new city manager and then adjourn in regular session to introduce the new city manager. The new city manager will replace Harold Dominguez, who resigned in March to become city manager in Longmont, Colorado.


Cunningham resigns as planning director for city of Denton

Mark CunninghamMark Cunningham (pictured), the planning director in Denton, recently resigned from that post to accept a new job as assistant county administrator in Sarasota County, Florida.


A former U.S. Marine, Cunningham joined the city in 2008. He previously worked in planning and development for Polk County in Florida and in Maryland and North Carolina. He has a bachelor's degree from Sojourner-Douglass College, a master's degree from the University of Baltimore and earned certification as a public manager at Florida State University. His resignation is effective on Sept. 14.


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Montgomery begins planning

for $3.8 million bond proposal

Montgomery City Council members recently approved the 2012-2013 fiscal year city budget that includes plans to ask voters to approve $3.8 million in bonds. The bond proceeds would pay for a new water well to eventually become the primary source of water for the city.


Council members plan to begin holding bond issue workshops in September and October to help educate voters on the need for the proposed $3.8 million bond issue.


Texas AgriLife Extension's Couch named to 4-H Hall of Fame

Martha CouchMore than five decades of involvement with 4-H in Texas has netted Dr. Martha E. Couch (pictured) selection for induction to the National 4-H Hall of Fame. Couch, Texas AgriLife Extension Service associate director-emeritus, 4-H and youth development, will be inducted on Oct. 12 at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Couch has been involved in 4-H for 53 years, both as a member and during her 36-year career with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She was nominated for the award by Dr. Toby Lepley, AgriLife Extension 4-H and youth development specialist, and Sue Ferguson, assistant to the state 4-H program director. "We nominated Dr. Couch on  behalf of the more than 640,000 youth involved in Texas 4-H, the more than 1,200 employees of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the countless youth that Martha Couch has helped through her efforts," Lepley said.


Couch, who grew up on a farm near Big Spring, earned her bachelor's degree in home economics, master's degree in family studies and doctoral degree in home economics, all from Texas Tech University. She is winner of the Texas 4-H Gold Star Award, the highest honor Texas 4-H bestows. She began her Extension career in 1972 as a county agent in Gaines County. She was promoted to 4-H and youth development specialist for the Texas Panhandle districts in 1975 and later was named district administrator in Amarillo. She was named associate director for 4-H and youth development in 1977, and held that post until her retirement in 2008.


Greenville seeking bids again for proposed $600,000 street project

Greenville city officials recently agreed to seek a second round of bids for a proposed $600,000 project to upgrade at least 24 streets in that city. The first round of bids submitted would have cost almost twice as much as the $600,000 council members had budgeted to pay for overlaying, sealing cracks and resurfacing 24 local streets, the city manager said.


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San Antonio to lease Museo Alameda to Texas A&M-San Antonio

Elaine MendozaSan Antonio City Council members recently agreed to lease the Museo Alameda to Texas A&M University-San Antonio to serve as an Educational and Cultural Arts Center in partnership with the city.


The cultural arts and education center will examine the Latino experience with a focus on South Texas by using local and regional art, history and culture, said Elaine Mendoza (pictured), regent for the Texas A&M System. Faculty at TAMU-San Antonio and other universities in the A&M system will work with the city's Office of Cultural Affairs on developing strategic educational programming plans that showcase the city's vibrant culture and educational opportunities for students, Mendoza said.


The leadership of Texas A&M-San Antonio plans on hosting a variety of art and history exhibits and will stage a number of seminars and symposia for students and the public at the new Educational and Cultural Arts Center at Museo Alameda, she said.


Recent Reports
Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 -8/24/12

Longview ISD taps Clements

as new assistant superintendent

Jody ClementsLongview Independent School District board members recently selected Jody Clements (pictured), the superintendent at Kilgore ISD, to be the assistant superintendent for administrative and pupil services.


Clements is expected to begin his new duties on Sept. 17 and will replace Jennifer Scott, who retired in 2011. His duties include overseeing safety, public records and grants for the district. Clements has a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and a master's degree from Louisiana Technical College-Rustin.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Linda Contreras of Allen, Texas Physician Assistant Board;

  • LaShonda Brown of Missouri City, chair, Texas Early Learning Council

Mont Belvieu agrees to hold $2 million bond election in May 2013

Mont Belvieu City Council members recently agreed to begin the process of scheduling a $2 million bond election in May 2013 to pay for a new freestanding public library. While council has not decided on a site for the new library, several council members expressed support for a site along Eagle Drive.


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Lufkin ISD selects Bynum

as new chief financial officer

Trustees for Lufkin Independent School District recently appointed Charlotte Bynum as the new chief financial officer of the district. Bynum replaces Larry Parsons, who retired as assistant superintendent for finance. Bynum, who was recommended by Parsons, has performed the duties of chief financial officer for the district for the previous month.


Scott retires as longtme juvenile

probation director for Collin County

Joe Scott, the director of the juvenile probation department for Collin County, recently retired after serving 26 years in that job. He previously worked as an adult probation officer and as a police officer in McKinney.


County officials selected Pamela Huffman, who most recently was deputy director of the juvenile probation department, as the new director to replace Scott. Her appointment will be effective on Sept. 1. Huffman previously served as a detention officer, a probation officer and a court officer.


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