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Behrens announces retirement from TxDOT

Committee has no immediate plans to name successor

Michael Behrens

Michael Behrens, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, this week announced that he is retiring at the end of August after nearly 37 years with the agency.

In a letter to Texas Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson, Behrens said, "During my career I have seen many changes . . . When I started, plans were still being drawn by hand, calculations made with mechanical calculators and measurements done using tapes and surveying chains. Most all replaced by technology advancements." Behrens praised his coworkers, but did not cite a reason for leaving TxDOT or mention his future plans.

There is no rush to name a new executive director, according to Williamson. "Our immediate focus is to thoroughly review all the new transportation legislation to make sure we understand the legislature's direction and intent. We will then move forward with a process to find the best person possible to lead TxDOT and implement the will of the legislature."

Appointed by the five-member Texas Transportation Commission, Behrens became TxDOT executive director in September 2001. Prior to that, he spent three years as the department's assistant executive director for engineering operations. Behrens earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University in 1970 and then began his career with the Texas Highway Department as an engineering assistant in the Yoakum District. Other positions he held in the Yoakum District include La Grange area engineer, district planning engineer, assistant district engineer, and district engineer over 11 counties.

During his tenure, Behrens oversaw the implementation of a variety of new financing tools to help Texas more rapidly meet its growing transportation needs. These include comprehensive development agreements, pass-through financing, expanded bonding authority and public-private partnerships. "Mike Behrens' dedicated service has better prepared Texas to meet the challenge of a rapidly growing population and an overcrowded, aging transportation system," said Williamson. "He is a true public servant who has devoted his entire career to improving mobility and safety for all Texans."

Public Safety Commission could get two new members

Two new members would be appointed to the Texas Public Safety Commission that oversees the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) if Gov. Rick Perry signs SB 11 into law. The bill was sent to the governor on Wednesday, but Perry has until June 17 to either sign or veto this and other legislation from the recently-completed 80th Texas Legislature.

Sen. John Carona's bill provides for expanding the Commission board through appointment by the governor of two new members who would join current members in staggered six-year terms. According to the language in the bill, the appointees must "reflect the diverse geographic regions and population groups" of the state.

The two new members would join current members: Chair Ernest Angelo, Jr., of Midland, whose term expires Dec. 31; Allan B. Polunsky of San Antonio, whose term expires Dec. 31, 2009; and Louis E. Sturns of Arlington, whose term expires Dec. 31, 2011. Among the qualifications sought for appointees are knowledge of laws, experience in the enforcement of law, education, training and executive ability.

The Commission was organized in 1935 and charged with appointing the DPS director and two assistant directors, formulating plans and policies for enforcing criminal and traffic law, developing procedures to help prevent crime and promoting public safety.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Dr. Phil Hatlen

This week's salute is to Dr. Phil Hatlen, superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Career highlights and education: BA in education from San Francisco State University; MA in education of the visually impaired from San Francisco State University; EdD in Curriculum from the University of California, Berkeley. After 17 fulfilling years as superintendent at TSBVI, I am retiring this August.

What I like best about my job is: Daily contact with staff and students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The challenge of developing new and more effective methods for teaching blind children and the satisfaction in observing students learn and grow.

The best advice I've received for my current job: Demonstrate your satisfaction and high esteem for your staff often . . . Parents expect us to provide their children with a good education. Because we are a residential school, they deeply hope that their children will be safe and healthy. Provide a safe and healthy environment for staff and students . . . We operate like a small town. We have health services, food service, transportation, security and all the other services that are necessary for a small town. Make certain that all of your employees know that they are equally valued.

Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Listen, observe and make no changes for a year. Every employee deserves to be valued; every child is precious. Be readily available to both students and staff. Give the "chain of command" the opportunity to work before inserting yourself.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Watching my son's lacrosse team play, reading a novel that had nothing to do with education, or taking a nap.

People would be surprised to know that I: have been an educator of blind children for over 50 years, yet am still learning about how blind children learn. I have never experienced a day when I haven't wanted to go to work. I learn new stuff every day. According to Myers-Briggs, I'm an introvert.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: We are a public school serving the blind and visually impaired children of Texas. While we believe that these children should be educated at home, in their community, in their local school, we provide an alternative setting for children who need intensive services. Our educational services are equal to those available in local schools.

Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a “Lone Star,” please email us at editor@spartnerships.com.

Lawmakers bid farewell to 80th Texas Legislature

State budget, dozens of bills now awaiting governor's action

Mandatory random steroid testing for high school athletes, a two-year moratorium on most toll-road contracts, additional funds for state parks, an overhaul of the Texas Youth Commission, and a statewide water conservation plan were approved in bills that passed the House and Senate during the 80th Texas Legislature. After 140 action-packed days and nearly 1,500 bills passed, Texas legislators Monday night wrapped up debate, left the capitol and headed for home.

Texas state capitol

Next step: the governor will review the dozens of pending bills and either veto or sign them into law before the June 17 deadline.

In the final stretch of the session, lawmakers passed the state's two-year budget, now awaiting action by the governor. The $153 billion plan cuts school property taxes and provides funding for K-12 education, public universities, health and human services and criminal justice.

Several steps were taken to protect the state's international border against human and drug trafficking. Lawmakers called for a governor-appointed border-security council to oversee more than $100 million devoted to homeland security issues.

A measure to strengthen the state's regulation of foster care requires annual inspections of all foster homes and a new database of homes that have been closed.


ERCOT names new CEO

Bob Kahn

Following a six-month search, Bob Kahn (pictured) this week was named chief executive officer of The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas. He will begin his new job on July 9, replacing CEO Sam Jones who is retiring later this year.

Kahn, deputy general manager for Austin Energy and a former ERCOT board member, agreed to a five-year contract, according to Board Chair Mark Armentrout. Kahn served as general counsel and vice president for Legal Services for Austin Energy for eight years and has represented clients in the electric industry for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Austin Energy, Kahn worked as a staff attorney in the General Counsel's Office of the Texas Public Utility Commission. A former U.S. Air Force judge advocate, Kahn earned a juris doctorate from the University of Dayton School of Law and a bachelor's degree from Ohio University.

"Bob Kahn brings a tremendous amount of seasoned experience and knowledge of the electric industry to ERCOT's management team," said Jones, who has been with ERCOT since 1996 and served as CEO since May 2006. "I am looking forward to turning over the reins to Bob and will work with him to assure a smooth transition."

Sunset Commission releases report

The Sunset report, Report to the 80th Legislature, as submitted to the Sunset Advisory Commission, is now available. Guided by a 12-member body of legislators and public members appointed by the lieutenant governor and House Speaker, the Sunset report provides regular assessment of state agency programs to determine if an agency should continue to operate. The approximately 150 agencies subject to The Sunset Act typically undergo review once every 12 years, which amounts to approximately 20 to 30 agencies under review each legislative session.

To view a summary of the Sunset recommendations for each agency under the 2005-07 review cycle, click here. The report also includes a status update on the agencies' implementation of 2005 Sunset legislation. To request a copy of the Sunset Advisory Commission's Report to the 80th Legislature , call 512-463-1300 or e-mail sunset@sunset.state.tx.us. The report is also available at www.sunset.state.tx.us.

Carona elected Senate president pro tempore

Sen. John Carona

Dallas Republican John Carona Monday was elected by his peers to serve as president pro tempore of the Texas Senate. Although the title is largely ceremonial, Carona will be second in line of succession to the governor, behind only the lieutenant governor.

Carona, first elected to the Senate in 1990, previously served three terms as a member of the Texas House. He is a businessman, successfully operating a realty-management firm. During the recently completed 80th Texas Legislature, Carona served his first committee chairmanship - with the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

Spence new superintendent at Denton State School

Randy Spence, Lufkin State School superintendent for the last 20 years, is leaving to become superintendent at the Denton State School, effective at the end of this month. Royce Garrett, the Lufkin State School's director of consumer and family relations, will serve as interim superintendent when Spence leaves.

Spence has spent nearly three decades with Mental Health/Mental Retardation and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. His first job with the agency was at the Abilene State School in 1977. He moved to the Lufkin facility in 1987 as the assistant superintendent of programs. He was named superintendent in 2001. Spence holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master's from Abilene Christian University.

First state historian post becomes official

Jesus (Frank) de la Teja

Jesus "Frank" de la Teja this week was sworn in as Texas' first official state historian. De la Teja is a professor and chair of the history department at Texas State University-San Marcos and also serves as president of the Texas State Historical Association.

In his new role, De la Teja will consult with state officials on areas promoting Texas history, encourage the teaching of Texas history in public schools, and work to enhance Texans' knowledge of their state heritage. In preparation for the upcoming adoption of new school textbooks, he hopes to expand discussion of the state's history beyond the 19th century.

De la Teja received a bachelor's degree in political science from Seton Hall University and a doctoral degree in history from The University of Texas at Austin. While in graduate school, he worked as a research assistant for famed "Texas" author James Michener. De la Teja's term as state historian will expire after two years.

Bill would allow higher charges for public documents

Increasing operational costs have led to legislation that changes how governmental entities may charge for responding to public information requests. HB 2564 By Rep. Kelly Hancock, which was passed by both the House and Senate, authorizes governmental entities such as cities, school districts and state agencies to establish a reasonable time limit on the amount of time required to spend producing public information requests. The bill also provides a process for the entity to charge a fee if the time limit required for information production is exceeded.

While government entities are required to provide copies of public documents, many in recent years have been faced by growing repetitive requests from some individuals. These entities by law have been able to charge for this service but could only charge for the labor involved to produce it based on volume. The new law, if signed by the governor, would allow agencies to charge labor and overhead fees to any person whose requests during the course of a year cause their staff to expend more than 36 hours of labor. Those seeking the information can avoid these fees by asking to review the documents in question in the office of the governmental agency.

Tollway authority waiver precedes proposal

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA), thanks to a waiver from the Texas Transportation Commission, is now eligible to submit a proposal to compete with Cintra for the building of State Highway 21.

Although admitting it does so "at risk," NTTA Interim Executive Director Jerry Hiebert said the authority will move forward and not wait for approval by the Regional Transportation Council. Resolutions were approved by the NTTA board to approve contracts with two companies that will provide oversight and coordination of the design service and oversight and review of engineering design services.

Kimbrough new TAMU System vice chancellor

Jay T. Kimbrough

The Texas A&M University System regents recently announced a number of organizational changes, including naming Jay T. Kimbrough (pictured at top), current deputy general counsel, as the System's new deputy chancellor. Kimbrough becomes second-in-command to TAMU System Chancellor Dr. Mike McKinney. Among his new duties will be establishing initiatives amd oversight throughout the TAMU System for policy implementation and compliance, general counsel, human resources, real estate, aircraft, training and special projects.

Kimbrough, who served as general counsel since 2006, has been serving as conservator for the beleagured Texas Youth Commission since March. He also previously served as deputy first assistant attorney general for the state and director of the agency's Office of Special Investigations. He is also former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry and director of the governor's Office of Homeland Security and former executive director of both the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the Texas Commission on Private Security. Kimbrough holds a BBA degree from Southern Methodist University and a law degree from South Texas College of Law.

Cullen (Mike) Godfrey

General Counsel Cullen "Mike" Godfrey (pictured at bottom), who previously reported to the Board of Regents, will now report directly to McKinney and his title has been changed to vice chancellor and general counsel. Godfrey holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.

Also as part of the reorganization, Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor for engineering, will have oversight of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, the Texas Engineering Extension Service and the Texas Transportation Institute. Additionally, Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor for agriculture and life sciences, will have oversight of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas Forest Service and the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

State's course to teach officers defensive driving

State officials this week announced plans for a new Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) to train law enforcement officers on safer driving techniques when responding to emergencies. Funding for the course depends on whether voters support the issue during a statewide bond election in November.

"This project will benefit the entire state - Texas officers and troopers, and Texas citizens," said Rep. Thomas Latham of Mesquite who has led the effort along with House Speaker Tom Craddick and Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa.

Following a series of fatal accidents involving Texas police officers, the Texas Department of Public Safety came up with the idea of creating a place to teach police officers defensive driving. At the request of the 79th Legislature, DPS conducted a study and found such training was needed. The training site is planned for Florence in northern Williamson County. It will include a highway response course, a skills pad to teach basic driver training maneuvers, a skid pad for vehicle control training, an urban/tactical area to recreate real urban challenge, and electronic driver training simulators.

Lamar institute offers hands-on science experience

James Westgate

Lamar University's 12th annual Teaching Environmental Science Institute (TESI) will address a variety of environmental topics such as waste disposal, water and air quality, and conservation of natural habitats. Developed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as its guide, the program encourages educators to "teach locally, think globally."

This summer's event will be held June 18-29. Scholarships are still available for K-12 in-service teachers. Through the unique partnership of 25 industrial, government agency and non-profit environmental organizations, educators will learn how to enlighten and engage their students as they explore local environmental concerns.

"The diversity of the Southeast Texas landscape creates a regional laboratory," said program director James Westgate, professor of Earth and Space Sciences at Lamar University. All the experiences prepare the participants to be more effective teachers in the science classroom, he said.

Both Texas FutureGen sites still in race

All four cities vieing to become the site for FutureGen, a $1.5 billion clean-coal power plant, are still in the running - and two are in Texas. A U.S. Department of Energy draft environmental assessment released last week said all four sites - Jewett and Odessa in Texas and two sites in eastern Illinois - are still under consideration. Public hearings will be held in all four cities this month - on June 19 in Odessa and on June 21 in Jewett - before the site is chosen in September.

The proposed plant would have almost no air emissions and would store carbon dioxide "greenhouse" gas below ground. The recent report rated the four cities on issues from air quality to water supply. It determined that the highest risk for carbon dioxide release would be at the Jewitt site and a power plant failure releasing toxic chemicals would be least likely in Odessa. The highest risk for wildlife, wetlands and cultureal resources during construction would be at the two Texas sites.

The project would provide a huge boost to the economy of the city chosen, with more than 1,000 construction jobs to be created. The plant also would create 150 other permanent new jobs. Incentives, including financial assistance, have been offered by both Illinois and Texas to locate the plant in those states.

Governor to appoint four more TSU regents

Four positions remain open on Texas Southern University's nine-person board of regents. State lawmakers decided not to replace TSU's regents with a smaller, reform-minded board or a state-designated conservator.

Gov. Rick Perry recently commissioned five new board members; however, it could take six months or longer for him to fill the remaining seats. Some representatives voiced their hope that the new board appointments reflect the belief that TSU is a statewide institution rather than a community-based school.

Though its membership is not complete, the board will function by quorum until appropriate individuals are appointed.

Carrillo appointed to technology advisory committee

Victor G. Carrillo

Commissioner Victor G. Carrillo of the Texas Railroad Commission has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman to the Department of Energy's Unconventional Resources Technology Advisory Committee (URTAC). Established in response to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the 23-member group will advise the Secretary of Energy on development and implementation of programs related to onshore unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resources. The committee will also address technology challenges for small producers, safe operations and environmental mitigation.

"Enhancing domestic unconventional gas resources is critically important to enhance national energy security," said Carrillo. "Domestic unconventional resources like the Texas Barnett Shale, along with ultra-deepwater resources like the Lower Tertiary trend in the Gulf Coast, represent America's best hope of supplying our growing energy demands while decreasing our reliance on foreign energy sources. The more oil and natural gas we explore for and produce in our own backyard, the less we have to import."

Commissioner Carrillo has served as chairman of the Texas Energy Planning Council. Currently, he is the chairman of the Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee and vice chairman of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a national organization representing the governors of oil and gas producing states. Carrillo joined the Texas Railroad Commission in 2003.

Keep Texas Beautiful winners named

The cities of Dickinson, Katy, Lake Jackson, Munday, Pearland, Plano, Sanger, Throckmorton and Waco have been named winners of the 2007 Governor's Community Achievement Awards presented by Keep Texas Beautiful. The environmental awards are based on the winning cities' community leadership and coordination, education, public awareness, litter prevention and cleanup, illegal dumping enforcement, beautification and property improvement and solid waste management.

The winning cities will share in an award of $1 million from the Texas Department of Transportation. The funds will be used for landscaping projects in each of the communities. The award program has recognized communities for 38 consecutive years, and TxDOT has awarded prize funds since 1985. The awards will be presented July 12 in San Antonio at the 40th Annual Keep Texas Beautiful Conference.

"These communities have made outstanding efforts to clean and beautify their environment," said Debbie Johnston, Keep Texas Beautiful president. "They are helping to make our state the most beautiful in the nation."

Ag agencies at TAMU System get new directors

Dr. William Dugas Dr. Mark Hussey Dr. K. Lee Peddicord

Dr. K. Lee Peddicord (left) has been named by the Texas A&M Univeristy System regents as the sole finalist for director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), and Dr. Mark Hussey (center) has been named interim director and sole finalist for director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES). Peddicord, the current vice chancellor for research and federal relations for the System, holds a bachelor's degree from the Universitiy of Notre Dame, and a master's and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

Peddicord will manage the more than 850 employees of the TEES, a partnership of institutions, industries and communities whose goal is to futher engineering research and development in Texas. The agency currently boasts $125 million in funding to support its 3,400 research projects.

Hussey, curently the associate director of programs for TAES, has oversight for developing objectives, progress and strategic plans for the agency. He is a professor and former head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University. Hussey holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois and a master's and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Dr. William Dugas (right) was named new deputy director of TAES after previously serving as associate director of operations. He is a faculty member and former director of the agency's Blackland Research and Extension Center. He holds a bachelor's degree from California State University, a master's from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from Utah State University.

Members appointed to Texas Medical Board

Six Texans were appointed this week by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Medical Board for terms to expire April 13, 2013. The board establishes and maintains standards to regulate the practice of medicine and ensure quality healthcare for Texas residents. All appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

  • Michael Arambula of San Antonio is a physician with ZA and Associates and is being reappointed to the board. He previously served as an appointee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments.
  • Patricia S. Blackwell of Midland works for the West Texas Geological Society and is being reappointed to the board. She previously served on the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
  • Melinda C. McMichael of Austin is a physician at the University of Texas at Austin University Health Services where she previously served as medical director. She is board certified in internal medicine, and is a member of the Travis County Medical Society and American College of Physicians.
  • Margaret Carter McNeese is the associate dean for admissions and student affairs, and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She is a member of the Texas Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Harris County Medical Society and Houston Pediatric Society.
  • Charles Edward Oswalt III of Waco is a trauma surgeon at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center and formerly served as a captain in the U.S. Army. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Advisory Council on Breast Cancer Treatment Alternatives within the Texas Department of Health.
  • Timothy Webb of Houston is an attorney with Webb & Associates and formerly served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force. Webb previously served as chairman of the Texas State Board of Physicians Assistants Examiners.

New juvenile justice task force meets

Eduardo J. Sanchez

The "Transforming Juvenile Justice in Texas: A Framework for Action" task force comprised of juvenile justice experts from around the country recently met in Austin to propose improvements in treatment and case management at the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). In April, TYC Acting Executive Director Ed Owens called for the 22-member task force to assist the agency in developing a new TYC correctional rehabilitation system and report recommendations to the Texas Legislature.

Eduardo J. Sanchez, M.D., (pictured) director of the Institute for Health Policy at The University of Texas School of Public Health, said that he saw the opportunity to participate on the panel as a chance to "contribute to the improved health and well-being of troubled young Texans by assembling the evidence about what works, analyzing the evidence, and helping to make informed policy recommendations based on the evidence."

Before joining the UT School of Public Health in October 2006, Sanchez served as commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services for nearly five years. He practiced family medicine until 2001, and also served as health authority and chief medical officer for the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department from 1994 to 1998.

The task force has been charged with making recommendations regarding the reform of the entire juvenile justice system in Texas. The group is chaired by David W. Springer, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Social Work and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin.

Southside trustees name superintendent finalist

Juan Jasso, superintendent of the Van Vleck ISD, has been named finalist for the superintendent's job at Southside ISD in San Antonio. It is the second such offer the district has made in the last two months, after Eddie Ramirez of the La Pryor ISD said no to the district's offer in April.

Jasso was a top contender for the job but removed his name from contention when his school district faced a multi-million dollar bond vote. Prior to becoming superintendent in Van Vleck, Jasso served in the same position at the Sabinal ISD in Uvalde County.

Jasso earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Texas at San Antonio and his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. If he accepts the offer, Jasso will replace former SISD Superintendent Mard Herrick, who left last June.

Medical school expansion likely in El Paso

Rep. Norma Chavez

The Texas House and Senate this week approved $48 million to expand El Paso's Texas Tech Medical School from a two-year to a four-year institution by 2009. The funding, which is included in the state's biennial budget, is now headed to Gov. Rick Perry for his approval.

For several years, the university has been fighting for funding to hire educators, researchers and staff needed to expand the school. Texas Tech in 2005 requested more than $60 million to hire faculty needed to achieve school accreditation. Lawmakers did not approve the funds. Legislators in 2001 supported the four-year medical school by providing $40 million to build the first research facility.

The school is a step in beginning to address the need for trained doctors and healthcare practitioners in El Paso and surrounding border communities, said Rep. Norma Chavez (pictured) of El Paso. The West Texas border has fewer than 26 doctors per 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 69 doctors, according to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health.

High schoolers, A&M engineers set up turbines

Volunteer engineers from Texas A&M University joined forces with nearly four dozen engineering students at United ISD and Laredo ISD magnet schools to set up the state's first student-made wind turbine in Texas.

Students and their mentors took two months to construct the one-kilowatt turbine. It was designed to light the marquee sign at the entrance to the Cigarroa High School in Laredo. The wind energy created will be converted into electric energy and stored in batteries.

"The hope here is that students and teachers will build wind turbines that will generate power for border communities without electricity, and teach colonias residents to build their own turbine generators with parts that are very accessible," said Lelsey Kriewald of TAMU. The students are currently working on an instructional video that teaches the simple tasks necessary to build a wind turbine. The project was made possible by a two-year grant from the Texas State Energy Conservation Office. The grant will fund four turbines over two years.

Regional airport faces $50 million list of upgrades

County Judge Bill Stoudt

Gregg County's East Texas Regional Airport needs more than $50 million in improvements, according to a recent report from an independent consultant. The work would be part of the airport's master plan.

The county is anticipating approximately $9 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration to cover runway, taxiway and equipment upgrades in the next fiscal year. The FAA will pay as much as 95 percent for the federally mandated improvements, while the county will provide the remaining funds, according to County Judge Bill Stoudt (pictured).

Other recommended enhancements include new runway lighting, guidance signs, vehicle acquisition and taxiway rehabilitation, in addition to runway reconstruction that would cost approximately $27.5 million. Consultants also said officials should expand and renovate the terminal building within the decade.

Vendors play key role in hurricane preparedness

Mary Scott Nabers

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

Recent disasters such as hurricanes Rita and Katrina demonstrate how government agencies spend billions of dollars on immediate cleanup and rebuilding efforts when tragedy strikes. A catastrophic hurricane is the single greatest natural threat to Texas and as hurricane season opens today, forecasters are predicting a busier than normal season.

Hurricane Rita was the second most expensive storm in state history, causing $2.27 billion in damages in 2005, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. The effects of devastating storms like Rita are not easily mitigated. Restoration can take decades. Hurricane-related contracts for vendors, contractors and subcontractors often are issued for several years.

Weather-related emergency planning is invaluable, and many government entities have been preparing for hurricane season for months. Government contractors and vendors should take steps now to be prepared to provide products and services necessary to help save lives and rebuild communities in the wake of a disaster. Many agencies require advance registration and a qualification process for vendors. Now is the time to pre-position your business - because after a storm strikes, contracting occurs at a rapid pace.


Local government seminar fast approaching

A few openings are still available for participants to attend SPI's half-day seminar on "How to Do Business with Local Governments." The seminar is Thursday, June 21, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 5901 North IH-35, in Austin.

Cost of the seminar is $125 per person. To print a registration form, click here. Reserve your seat by e-mailing rstluka@spartnerships.com at the same time you mail in the registration form and payment.

Vendors who sell to counties, cities, school districts or any other quasi-local government, can't afford to miss this program. Presenters include Mary Scott Nabers, former state elected official; Roy Hogan, former CFO; Mike Sheridan, former agency director; Tommy Huntress, former CIO; Mariann Morelock, director of research for SPI; Gay Erwin, vice president public affairs for SPI; Robert Stluka, former mayor, and Billy Hamilton, former Texas Deputy State Comptroller.

To view the seminar agenda, click here.

White Settlement assistant superintendent named

Robb Welch

Robb Welch has been named assistant superintendent for financial services at the White Settlement school district in Carroll. Welch previously served the district as executive director of construction and bonds. The White Settlement district serves more than 5,000 students in the city of White Settlement and part of Fort Worth.

Although the position Welch will assume is new, he will take over the duties of former CFO Sharon Eaves, who resigned to accept a similar position in the Houston ISD. Welch will manage the district's planning and business operations, elections, child nutrition services and construction.

Welch holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of North Texas.

TEA plans for new test security system

The Texas Education Agency is preparing to implement enhanced security efforts for the state's student testing program. The purpose of the comprehensive system is to review test integrity and identify schools where inappropriate testing practices may be occurring. A number of factors, including a statistical analysis that detects unusual answer patterns and erasure analyses of answer documents, will be taken into account. The system will be built over the next year and piloted during the 2008-09 school year.

Beginning this coming school year, TEA's Office of Inspector General will conduct annual audits of selected schools or districts to ensure that testing procedures are being followed.

Northwest ISD plans for $260 million bond package

Citing rapid growth in the Fort Worth area, Northwest ISD school officials are planning for a $260 million bond election in May 2008. With student enrollment in the district expected to double within five years, the funds would pay for six new elementary schools, one middle school, nine future school sites and a natatorium.

Trustees this week accepted recommendations from the district's long-range planning committee whose 38 members during the last year have studied growth projections and district facilities. Voters two years ago approved a $224.5 million bond package that included five new schools, land purchases for 14 future schools, classroom additions and technology upgrades. Northwest ISD spans 232 square miles and encompasses portions of 14 cities, including Fort Worth and Roanoke.

Midland ISD announces reorganization

Ed Zachary

A reorganization plan in the Midland ISD will bestow new titles and duties on a number of administrators. Chief among them is the naming of Ed Zachary as assistant superintendent of administration and operations. Zachary currently serves the district as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Currently, elementary principals in the MISD report to the executive director for elementary operations, while secondary principals report to the assistant superintendent for secondary education. Under the reorganization plan, Zachary will have individuals responsible for auxiliary services, human resources, technology and communications report directly to him. He will also manage the day-to-day operations, overseeing district-wide campus administration.

Three new fire stations on horizon for New Braunfels

Michael Morrison

New Braunfels city officials are planning to build three new fire stations during the next five years. Construction of the first station began this week. The $1.9 million project is expected to be complete by the summer of 2008.

Driven by growth in Comal County, expansion of the city's fire services has been in the works for several years, said City Manager Michael Morrison. In addition to the new facilities, the city has applied for federal aid to rebuild another station that has been closed since the 1980s.

Houston relocates, expands library

The City of Houston has allocated $2.57 million to relocate and expand the Morris Frank branch library under its capital improvement program. From the new location, the branch will operate an expanded HPL Express. The HPL Express concept provides a multi-purpose facility with books, computers, multimedia resources, Internet access, information literacy training materials and interactive distance learning classes. The new space will also include a small book collection and a conference/training room. Named after Houston sports columnist Morris Frank, the library is expected to open in January 2008.

Lindsay ISD seeking new superintendent

Dr. Jason Ceyanes

With the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Jason Ceyanes, Lindsay ISD will begin its search for a new top official for the school district.

Ceyanes, who has served LISD for two years, is giving up that post to take the superintendent's job at Argyle ISD. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.

Clute selects second interim manager

Clute has hired John Pape as interim city manager to assist its city council with the upcoming budget process. The city plans to continue its search for a permanent city manager and two candidates will be interviewed for the position next week.

Dennis Smith, former interim city manager, announced his retirement last month. Smith took over in February when Barbara Hester retired after being city manager since 1992.

Brenham weighs new fire facility

City officials have proposed building a new Brenham Fire Department substation and are now considering going after a U.S. Homeland Security grant to help pay for staffing.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant could provide federal funds to cover 90 percent of the additional fire department personnel costs during the first year. A lesser percentage is available during the four years following the opening of the new facility.

Construction costs of a fire substation are estimated at $1.5 million. Brenham has recently earmarked more than $5 million for a new police station and two new fire trucks. City officials have also said that a new water storage tank is needed in the area, and the project could cost more than $4 million for the tank and distribution lines.

Sugar Land works to establish UH site

David Wallace

City leaders are interested in establishing a University of Houston-Sugar Land, evolving past the city's current satellite campus. "Positive" talks with university officials have been ongoing for the past month, according to Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace (pictured).

A new $65 million performance hall will be built at the campus site in an effort to attract more students and growth to the campus, city and Fort Bend County, said Wallace. A new county library at the site is also in the works. The City of Sugar Land recently signed a $3.5 million lease for 52 acres nearby that may be used for a research park. As part of the university's "Building Futures Together" campaign, a $35 million academic building is also under construction at the site.

Hospital to open in Humble

The Houston suburb of Humble will soon be home to a new 54-bed long-term acute care hospital. Acuity Healthcare LP of Austin broke ground this week on the company's first facility in Texas and its sixth nationwide. The 42,000-square-foot Icon Hospital will open in March 2008.

Acuity Chief Executive Officer Ed Cooper said the company is developing two long-term acute care hospitals in San Antonio and one in Amarillo. He said there are also plans for an Austin facility. Long-term acute care hospitals provide Medicare-covered services for patients who require acute care for more than 25 days and who are often transferred from intensive care units of other hospitals.

Round Rock invests in sports venues

The City of Round Rock this summer plans to spend $14.8 million on major park projects, including upgrades to sports complexes and trails.

Much of the proposed work includes renovations to older ball fields and building additional fields since officials promote the city as the Sports Capital of Texas. New baseball fields are scheduled to open in fall 2009, and the softball complex could be completed by fall 2008. Work is also planned for new offices, municipal tennis courts and an aquatic center.

The city is allocating $1.2 million to upgrade and connect three parks with a two-mile hike-and-bike trail. A hockey court for in-line skating, a community garden, new playscapes and a dog park are also in the works.

Coppell adopts green practices

The Dallas suburb of Coppell has recently become the seventh city in Texas to join the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, adopting energy efficient practices in city facilities and encouraging citizens to conserve and recycle.

Low wattage lights and energy efficient climate controls have been installed in city buildings. The planning and zoning department has established requirements for living screen designs and tree mitigation. The city has been working to conserve water with water restrictions and by educating the community through workshops and the mail-outs on water aerators. Coppell currently owns 13 hybrid vehicles and officials are earmarking funds in the upcoming budget to buy more, according to Sharon Logan, community information officer for Coppell. Officials also hope to have the city's future senior center certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council. To receive certification, construction must follow standards recognized for measuring building sustainability and be environmentally responsible.

SPI announces job opportunities

Federal experts

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) has immediate needs and is conducting a search to find subject matter experts with a high level understanding of the Federal Government procurement process. To apply, please e-mail a resume and cover letter explaining your background and qualifications to jobs@spartnerships.com and type "Federal" in the subject line.

Research analysts

SPI is seeking additional part-time research analysts with experience in Texas government. Ideally, candidates should have an understanding of procurement processes and concepts and is familiar with budgets and legislative process. Tasks will vary depending on clients' needs. Applicants may send a cover letter and resume to jobs@spartnerships.com. Please include “Researcher Analyst” in the subject line.

K-12, healthcare and local government consultants

SPI has additional needs for individuals with well-established credentials who are interested in assisting its consulting teams throughout Texas. SPI has immediate openings for subject matter experts who can assist part-time in the K-12 education arena and in the healthcare arena in Texas. SPI also is seeking part-time consultants who have strong connections to local government in the state, particularly the San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston areas. To apply for these part-time consulting positions at SPI, please send a brief cover letter and a copy of your resume to J. Lyn Carl at jcarl@spartnerships.com and put "Application for (either) K-12 Consultant, Healthcare Consultant or Local Government Consultant" in the subject line, or for more information, send an e-mail to the same address.

Recent Reports

Event Links

Texas Government Insider Archives

Volume 1 - 5 Archives · 11/7/03 - 5/25/07


Steps to ensure delivery of SPI weekly newsletter

Most e-mail applications today have spam filtering. The e-mail address we use to send you the Texas Government Insider newsletter is editor@spartnerships.com.

To ensure timely delivery and proper formatting of the newsletter, be sure to add editor@spartnerships.com to your safe senders list. Otherwise, the newsletter may be flagged as spam and automatically routed to your junk e-mail folder at any time.

The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly e-newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.

Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Rebecca Robbins

The Insider is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1994 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.

To learn more about SPI services click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900.

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Discover ins and outs of selling to local government

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. will host a half-day seminar for vendors seeking to increase revenues with either state government, cities, counties, law enforcement organizations, COGS, health clinics, river authorities, universities, community colleges and K-12 public schools. There are a few more openings for participants to attend the June 21 workshop. To view the seminar agenda, click here.

Among the presenters will be Mary Scott Nabers, former state elected official; Roy Hogan, former CFO; Mike Sheridan, former agency director; Tommy Huntress, former CIO; Mariann Morelock, director of research for SPI; Gay Erwin, vice president public affairs for SPI; Robert Stluka, former mayor, and Billy Hamilton, former Texas Deputy State Comptroller. Cost of the seminar is $125 per person. To print a registration form, click here, or for more information, e-mail rstluka@spartnerships.com.

'Keep Texas Moving' focus of TxDOT forum

Local, regional and state leaders will join national experts to discuss ways to "Keep Texas Moving" during the second annual Texas Transportation Forum July 18-20 in Austin. The Texas Department of Transportation will host the three-day event, along with the Associated General Contractors of Texas, the Texas Good Roads Transportation Association and the Texas Transportation Institute.

For more details, visit the Texas Transportation Forum Web site.

Attorney General's Office hosts fatherhood conference

The Texas Attorney General's Office is hosting a national conference on "The First Nine Months of Fatherhood: Paternal Contributions to Maternal and Infant Outcomes" August 20-21 in Houston. The conference is designed to present a sampling of the emerging research findings on the impact of paternal involvement and promising field practices. Legislative and policy staff, Health & Human Services/Administration for Children & Families administrators, health, social science, and public policy researchers, public agency administrators and others are welcome.

For more information, visit http://www.oag.state.tx.us/conferences/fatherhood/.