our board and advisory council
Board of Directors
Read biographies by clicking team member’s name or photo.
Board of Directors
Gerry has been active in our community with a wide variety of organizations, often
serving in leadership roles. She has also advised non-profit organizations on human
resource issues. She is an attorney and previously served as Vice Chancellor of Human
Resources at Austin Community College.
Gerry is passionate about issues of women in the workplace and preparing youth for
college. Through her non-profit work, she created three scholarship programs for high
school students bound for college. She has been recognized for her community service
by Girl Scouts of Central Texas, The YWCA, AISD, Fisk University and First Tee of Austin.
She is a published author, speaker, life and career coach, and community volunteer. Her
writings often appear in the Austin-American Statesman and The Villager newspapers.
Education has been Gerry’s focus with a special interest in students with disabilities and
providing them equity and inclusion in our support programs and systems.
Jessie has been an advocate for compassion in her 30+ years in Austin. She has worked in the public sector helping local disadvantaged businesses build strategies for growth and the high tech sector including Cisco where she led M&A strategies and Amazon Web Services where she currently leads housing as health initiatives helping communities leverage technology to further their efforts to prevent and combat housing instability.
Jessie’s passion for Seedling reaches beyond Board service. She has been a Seedling mentor since 2014 and has supported the Seedling College Scholarship program.
Jessie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and in 2022 saw her Seedling mentee of 8 years graduate high-school and head to college.
Cathy Beans has progressive experience managing and developing global teams in highly matrixed environments. Helping people and organizations leverage the relevant tools in their toolkit is part of her brand. She is a 25 year veteran of Dell Technologies, during her tenure she’s held leadership roles in Finance, Digital, Operations and Marketing. Cathy is currently the Director of Change Management and Organizational Readiness for Dell’s Global Brand, Creative and Experiential team. Her team peeks into the future; driving partnerships, projects and strategic alignments to activate key transformative initiatives and focus on enabling talent to adapt to the dynamic skills and process evolution.
Cathy is currently a member of and holds leadership roles in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (Phi Xi Omega Chapter, San Marcos, TX) and The Links, Incorporated (Lone Star(TX) Chapter). She is the Administrator for Grant AME Worship Center in Austin. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Rose Pearl Foundation and Cook’s Nook in Austin, Texas.
Cathy received a BA in Business from Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, CA. She and her husband Edward run a small business and have resided in Texas for the last 30 years, currently living in Liberty Hill. They are proud parents to three awesome sons.
Mark has been a long-time supporter and volunteer at many Austin organizations, including Generation Serve, Habitat for Humanity, Austin Parks Foundation, and others. For 6 years, Mark was a docent at the Blanton Museum of Art, giving gallery tours to a wide variety of groups (from school-age children through retiree groups), until the arrival of 2 daughters led to a hiatus. Now that they are settled into school, Mark brings his energy to helping Seedling expand its programs for Austin’s youth.
As supporters of Seedling since 2018, Mark and his wife Alessandra have watched Seedling bring real, visible change to this underserved group in Austin and foster the far-reaching value of Seedling’s youth programs.
Many years ago, Mark received degrees from Texas A&M University and The University of Texas, which led to interesting jobs in Alaska, Malaysia, and Denmark.
In Austin since 1998, Mark has worked in Austin’s startup community, where he’s helped to build technology teams at several venture-backed startups. Most recently, Mark has been a long-time part of AlienVault (a cybersecurity company), which was acquired by AT&T in 2018. At AT&T, Mark was an Associate Vice President in their Cybersecurity business.
Siri Chakka is currently the Sr. Director of Marketplace Strategy & Operations at Medely, a digital platform bringing modern workforce management to healthcare. Siri has over a decade of experience in developing strategies that accelerate long term growth for her clients across Fortune 500 C-Suites, middle-market private equity portfolio companies, and startups. She’s led cross-functional teams in multiple sectors and has experience working globally in geographies like Turkey, Russia, Australia, India, and Western Europe and has run two startups as well in B2B SaaS and Marketplaces.
Along with being on Seedling’s board, she’s a Notley Fellow alumni, and has served as a non-voting board member of Girls Empowerment Network. She also works as a Sr. Advisor to BlueSkyPartners. In her free time, she loves exploring the live music scene and is always on the hunt for the best taco here in Austin.
Originally from Chicago, Siri holds a B.S in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign and an MBA from the University of Texas – Austin.
McCombs Board Fellow
Taylor Craig is an MBA Candidate and Lodge Innovation Scholar at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin concentrating in Finance. She is a member of The Junior League of Austin, an Associate at The Fund Austin, and a mentor at Linder Elementary School.
Prior to business school she worked at Dell Technologies where she graduated from Dell’s Finance Development Program and went on to work in Global Treasury in various roles such as treasury operations and foreign exchange. Upon graduating she would like to work in Venture Capital or at an Austin Start-Up.
Outside of school, work, and volunteering Taylor enjoys traveling, outdoor activities with her dog, Lily, and training for the 2023 Austin Full Marathon.
Monica de Leon
Monica de Leon is a Senior Manager in of the office of Strategy and Operations for Cisco’s United States Public Sector business. In her role, Monica provides program management leadership for the strategy function, focusing on State Government, Local Government and Education as well as its US Federal business. Monica has an extensive background in Public Sector and Project Management, serving both as a consultant and as a leader in state government.
Prior to joining Cisco, Monica also served as a senior consultant at a global management consulting firm, where she specialized in helping public sector clients streamline operations and modernize their processes.
Monica is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a Project Management Professional (PMP). Monica has been a Seedling Mentor since 2016 and is a Girl Scout Troop leader for her two young daughters’ troop.
Michael Dominguez has proudly lived in Austin for over 30 years. His career in enterprise technology has seen him work for small start-ups as well as large technology manufacturers. He currently works as a Principal Field Solutions Architect at CDW, a technology solutions provider to business, government, education, and healthcare customers.
As a life-long learner, Michael is passionate about innovation and transformation. He holds a wide variety of interests and hobbies, including cooking, growth stock investing, performance driving, reef keeping, aviation, and reading. His guiding principle is, “Teach someone to fish; you feed them for a lifetime.”
Michael brings his love of learning, teaching, and mentoring to Seedling, where he has volunteered as a mentor for over 5 years. He has witnessed firsthand how the program has transformed the life of his mentee since the third grade, nurturing confidence and curiosity. As a member of the Seedling Board of Directors, Michael aims to expand the role of Seedling in the community, providing outreach to at-risk youth, and helping them craft their own path to a successful future.
Duane Ewing is a technology executive currently focused on supporting global strategic
alliances for NetApp, a Fortune 500 hybrid cloud data services and data management
company. In this role he works to identify technology partners to build mutually
beneficial business relationships that create unique value. Prior to joining NetApp
Duane held a variety of senior roles focused on creating and marketing solutions which
solve businesses’ most pressing technology challenges.
Duane holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Oberlin College, a Master of
Science degree in Management from Carnegie Mellon University and multiple
profession certifications including Certified Computing Professional.
Duane believes that children are society’s most precious resource and that it’s our
obligation to remove obstacles and provide support that allows children to reach their
maximum potential. Through Seedling Duane see’s a vehicle to enable and invest in
children that may be faced with challenging situations through no fault of their own.
Duane and his wife Sylvia live in Leander, Texas and have two daughters.
Danica has 10 years of digital marketing experience having worked at advertising agencies and for local brands since graduating from the University of Texas. She is currently a digital marketer for Whole Foods Market and a Seedling mentor.
Molly MacNeil joined the Board of Directors in her 5th year of mentoring with Seedling. Her mentee had recently been awarded the 8th Grade Seedling Mentors College Scholarship, attesting to the significant personal and educational development of her mentee over the last 4 years. Molly is passionate about spreading the Seedling mission and providing more mentors and mentees with life-changing experiences.
Molly is the Chief of Staff for Safeguard Global, a multinational providing global payroll and employment outsourcing. Prior to joining Safeguard Global, Molly held roles at CPA Global as the Chief of Staff, Sr. Manager of Strategy and Corporate Development Manager. She has a background in management consulting, delivering engagements for large enterprise organizations. Molly received a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising from Texas State University. Molly will bring her strengths in leadership, strategy planning, driving operational excellence with her Austin network to Seedling.
Molly enjoys skiing, hiking, biking and any other adventurous outdoor activity with her husband, and their cute dachshund, Huey.
Jennifer Findley Murphy
Jennifer Murphy works as a Community Outreach Manager at the Center for Child Protection (a Children’s Advocacy Center) serving the children and families of Travis County. She strives to educate our community about the Center’s mission to reduce trauma for children during the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. Jeni believes that eradicating child abuse is possible through education and awareness. She has previously worked as a Victim Counselor, Forensic Interviewer, SAFE Alliance Advocate, and as a Match Support Specialist with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
As a dedicated professional with extensive experience in both the non-profit and governmental sectors, she brings unique expertise and a true devotion to serving children. Being a passionate advocate for the well-being of children, Jeni believes mentoring is necessary for children to thrive. Having worked in the criminal justice system for many years, Seedling’s mission and vision is deeply personal to her and a cause she truly believes in supporting through her Board service. Jeni and her husband, Dale, are the proud parents of a powerful, kind, and loving daughter, Lyra.
Reggie Mahadeo, Jr.
Reggie Mahadeo, Jr. has worked in leadership with Farmers Insurance Group since 2004 and currently operates as a Farmers Insurance Agent. Prior to returning to managing his own agency, Mr. Mahadeo served as District Manager from 2014 to 2019 and was responsible for local agent recruitment and support.
Mr. Mahadeo has been a supporter of Seedling Foundation’s mentoring program for the past four years including being a contributor to Seedling’s Fab Five. Reggie organized the Farmers Insurance Golf tournament to raise funds for Seedling in 2018 and 2019.
Mr. Mahadeo is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University where he graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics. In 2000, Reggie received his Master’s Degree in Telecommunications Management from Oklahoma State University.
Reggie was born in Jamaica and is the proud father of Jasmin Mahadeo and Reginald Mahadeo III. In his spare time, Reggie enjoys playing golf and attending Texas A&M sporting events.
McCombs Board Fellow
Emily Oliver is an MBA candidate at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. She has a passion for community service and is exploring the intersection of for-profit and non-profit businesses.
Prior to business school, Emily worked at Deloitte as a technology consultant in the Federal practice. During her time as a consultant, she led technology pilots across the nation and developed future technology strategies.
In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, running, and trying out new local restaurants.
Darlene Owens leads the Global Supplier Diversity team for Dell Technologies, identifying opportunities for diverse businesses to support Dell’s global supply chain. Prior to her current role, she managed strategic partnerships for Dell’s Global Diversity and Inclusion team and worked closely with the university relations, talent acquisition and employee resource groups. Prior to joining Dell, Darlene spent nine years in non-profit as the Director for the Foundation for Women’s Resources where she managed the highly acclaimed Leadership Texas, Leadership America, and Power Pipeline leadership programs for the top women leaders throughout Texas and the United States. Darlene graduated from the University of Texas with a BS degree in Communications.
Darlene is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, treasurer of the Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council and serves on several supplier diversity industry organizations. She is a former board member of Trinity Episcopal School, past chair of the Parent Diversity committee for St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and a past facilitator of the S.E.E.D. program (Seeking Equitable Education and Diversity). Darlene resides in Austin with her husband Anthony (former Seedling mentor) and they have two sons.
Michael (Mike) Personett first learned of and became involved with Seedling as a volunteer mentor through the City of Austin’s employee mentor/tutor program, which is a Seedling partner. Mike’s mentoring experience was with two young men, successively, over the course of three school years. From this experience, Mike learned first-hand of the day-to-day challenges commonly faced by children who have an incarcerated parent and who often live in disadvantaged circumstances. Mike also learned that serving as a Seedling mentor is both personally rewarding and at times difficult work.
Mike recently retired from his full-time professional career, which spanned more than 40 years and included senior and executive management positions with the City of Austin, three state agencies, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and with several large national/international engineering, environmental, and infrastructure companies. Over the course of his long career Mike has made significant and lasting contributions to the advancement of water policy and water resources management across abroad spectrum of the “water business” in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. This includes local and regional water supply planning, urban and agricultural water conservation and reuse, watershed and floodplain management, flood risk reduction, water quality protection, and environmental resource management. Throughout his career, both in the public and private sectors, Mike has been a champion of public and stakeholder engagement in development and implementation of water resources policy, programs, and projects. At present, Mike is employed in a part-time capacity with Halff Associates, a Texas-based engineering, architecture, planning, and information technology service provider to both public and private sector clients.
Mike has a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs and a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Tulsa.
Dan Pickett has proudly served as a Seedling Mentor for over 8 years. He had the privilege of mentoring the same student from 4th grade all the way through high school graduation, and credits that experience with his passion and energy to help advance the mission of the Seedling Foundation throughout Central Texas and beyond. Born and raised in NY, Dan, had a unique connection to the Seedling mission well before he ever knew this incredible organization existed. His father, a former Marine, led a long career as a Sergeant in the New York State Penitentiary System. Through this lens, Dan learned about the challenges created by parental incarceration. Today, he leverages that experience, along with serving as a Seedling Mentor and his passion for personal growth to help children work towards the development of their full potential.
Dan resides in Austin, TX, with his wife, and is a professional in the Technology industry. He has led go-to-market teams across the U.S. and TOLA region for large manufacturers such as VMware and Varonis. In addition, to his experience in IT, Dan is also an active real estate and venture capital investor. He loves the robust opportunities to pursue his professional passions in a city as dynamic, diverse, and fast-paced as Austin.
Outside of work, and volunteering Dan enjoys traveling, exercising, playing tennis, struggling on the golf course, and cheering for Austin FC!
Matt Shook is the founder and CEO of Austin-based JuiceLand. JuiceLand partners with local nonprofits to raise funds and awareness through a monthly smoothie special called the “Feel Good, Do Good” program. Past participants include the Inside Books Project, Casa Marianella, and Refugee Services of Texas, among several others. Matt discovered Seedling in 2019 and was immediately drawn to commit more than just a monthly special to our cause, choosing to become a mentor in 2020. He hopes to use his skills in marketing and networking to further the reach of Seedling and help enhance the brand.
Matt and his wife (high school sweetheart) Kelly are raising their 3 daughters surrounded by laughter and love. A perfect day for Matt includes sleeping in a little, a well-crafted smoothie from the nearest JuiceLand, yoga, a round of golf, and a dip in Barton Springs pool.
Margie Southard is Vice President Operations – P&C Underwriting for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies. Her current role includes responsibility for the Personal Lines Contact Center and Business Lines Resource Center. She has more than 34 years of experience with State Farm®.
Margie joined State Farm in 1984 as a Health Claims Processor at Corporate Headquarters in Bloomington, IL. She has served in a variety of leadership positions in Health Claims, Human Resources, and P&C Claims; and executive leadership positions, including Assistant Vice President – Diversity/Human Resources, Vice President Operations – Human Resources, and Vice President Operations over Fire Claims and Fire Underwriting. She assumed her current position of Vice President Operations – P&C Underwriting in 2014.
Margie received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. She earned the Health Insurance Associate (HIA) designation in 1986; the Associate, Life and Health Claims (ALHC) designation in 1989; and the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 2008. Prior to joining State Farm, Margie was a speech and language pathologist in Birmingham, AL, for four years.
In 2012, Margie was selected as an International Women’s Forum Fellow, named the 2014 Austin Area Urban League’s Corporate Leader of The Year, and awarded the 2016 Corporate Leadership Award by the Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Incorporated. Margie is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (Phi Xi Omega Chapter, San Marcos) and The Links, Incorporated (Town Lake Chapter). She currently sits on the Board of State Farm County Mutual Insurance Company of Texas and the Austin Area Urban League.
Margie and her husband, Eddie, reside in Georgetown, Texas and have one daughter.
Bev Vandegrift is dedicated to making a positive difference in the community through her work as an entrepreneur and business owner, founding member of non-profit organizations, hands-on volunteer, and mother of three daughters.
Bev established her executive search and technology recruiting firm Grindstone Group in 1993 and has helped shape Austin’s technology landscape. Bev’s professional contributions illuminated the need to engage women in the technology field, which led her to help launch Austin Women in Technology while partnering with Carol Thompson, an Austin networking icon, and Alexa Lange (Wesner), currently the United States Ambassador to Austria.
Bev became a volunteer for Seedling in 2009 and was also an active member of school boards and parent-teacher-student associations for over 20 years. Making a positive impact on the lives of all children has long been a commitment of hers.
Bev has also supported the Seedling College Scholarships.
A proud graduate of the University of Michigan, Bev is an ardent fan of Wolverine sports and still an active alumna in University athletic, academic and community support programs.
John C. Blazier founded Seedling in 1998 to provide support for special projects in Austin ISD. In 2006, the Seedling Mentor Program was launched in Austin ISD with 5 schools and 50 students in response to requests by school principals concerned with the unique needs of the growing population of children in the schools with a parent in prison and the lack of support services available to help.
Mr. Blazier is an active member of the American Bar Association and the Travis County Bar Association. He is a passionate leader in the Austin community for systemic change in public education. He has served as Chair of Austin Partners in Education (2002-2003), and helped implement a number of initiatives, such as seeking logistical technology support from governmental entities and private businesses for high schools and middle schools in AISD. More recently John, along with Fleur Christensen, has worked to help build school to career pathways and facilities, such as the Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Travis High School, Auto Collision and Repair at Crockett High School, and the Kocurek Health Science Institute at Lanier High School.
Mr. Blazier has been recognized for his commitment to children with the award of Five Who Care, Partner of the Year with the Travis Education Foundation in 2001, and an elementary school named after him.
Mr. Blazier founded Blazier, Rutland & Lerner, P.C. in 1976, and has remained the president of the Firm, now Blazier, Christensen, Browder & Virr, P.C.
Mr. Blazier earned his B.A. degrees at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1966, then attended the University of Texas School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Forum and was published in the Texas Law Review. He received his J.D. and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969. He is also licensed to practice before the U.S. district Courts of the Western, Eastern, and Southern Districts of Texas, as well as the U.S. Tax Court.
Following law school, Mr. Blazier entered the U.S. military, serving in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star on two occasions, as well as a Military Service Medal. Upon return from active duty, he served in the Texas National Guard, attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel, and was employed by the IRS Estate and Gift Tax Division, Austin, District. Here he gained significant insight into complex tax matters and business valuation. Using his GI Bill, he then attended New York University School of Law, where he completed his L.L.M. in taxation.
Honorable Darlene Byrne
The Honorable Darlene Byrne has served as presiding judge of the 126th Judicial District Court in Travis County since January 2001. Prior to her election in 2000, she practiced for thirteen years in the areas of employment, commercial and governmental entity litigation. She is the Senior Judicial Advisor for the Texas Children’s Commission. She is a past President of the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges and a past Judge of the Year of National CASA, Texas CASA and CASA of Travis County. She is a past recipient of the Seedling Foundation Fab Five Award. She is currently on the Judicial Council for National CASA, is an Advisory Council member for TexProtects, Partnerships for Children and the Seedling Foundation, is the Chair of the Texas Statewide Collaborative for Trauma Informed Care and on the Editorial Review Board for NCJFCJ’s Juvenile and Family Court Journal. Judge Byrne is a member of the Travis County Juvenile Justice Board, a founding team member of the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court and the Travis County Model Court of Children, Youth and Families. She has served on many boards and committees related to law and child welfare as well as community organizations.
A life-long resident of Central Texas, John-Michael Vincent Cortez, is a graduate of The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business and received a Masters of Science in Community and Regional Planning from UT’s School of Architecture.
Following stints in corporate consulting and owning a small business, John-Michael decided to make his vocation his profession and has since dedicated his career to community engagement and development, and currently serves as Special Assistant to Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
Mr. Cortez’s passion for service is evidenced by his leadership roles in dozens of community organizations and efforts. John-Michael was elected by central Texas voters to the Board of Trustees of the Austin Community College District in May 2009, and served as Secretary of the Board from 2010 to 2012.
A native Austinite and third-generation attendee of The University of Texas at Austin, John-Michael is a rabid Longhorn fan, yet found himself falling in love with and happily marrying a wonderful Aggie, Priscilla Guajardo. Priscilla and John-Michael spend most of their spare time doting on their beautiful daughter, Isabella.
Diana Maldonado is an extraordinary contributor to our community and leads with grace and compassion through each of her volunteer and professional roles. Over the years, her success comes from listening to people’s needs and finding solutions in the process of building thriving communities.
As the first Latina elected to represent Williamson County in the House of Representatives, she advocated for education, business, and safe communities. In this role, she authored/co-authored 88 bills and was named “Freshman of the Year” by her colleagues. Through her collaboration with key stakeholders, she secured nearly $16 million for education, $10 million for road expansion, and additional funds for renewable energy initiatives and walking trails in parks. She served as Secretary for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Defense & Veterans Affairs, and coveted State Affairs committees.
From her six years on the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees and as president, Maldonado oversaw a successful $349 million bond election while improving academic outcomes and goals. During her time as a Financial Advisor for one of the world’s largest investment firms, she enjoyed guiding individuals through financial planning strategies with an emphasis on women & wealth initiatives.
Maldonado recently led as the President & CEO at the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce where she successfully led membership engagement, strategic policy initiatives and revenue diversification efforts. She managed the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic presented to small businesses and expanded advocacy and legislative efforts during a historic moment for Latinos in their advancement and representation as the largest demographic in the United States, as of mid-2021.
In her free time, Diana enjoys travel and the outdoors and runs destination marathons in places like Paris, New York, and the Sahara desert in Morocco! Her interest in reading has led her to a deeper level of understanding and compassion regarding local and global perspectives, but especially loves fun time with granddaughter, Camila Inez.
Dan Rourke has over 30 years of leadership experience in the software industry. His operational and startup successes leading teams in customer support, software development, and services development and delivery have earned him a reputation for being a results-oriented executive. Dan is currently serving as Vice President of Customer Success for Vyopta, a B2B SaaS company that delivers unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) performance management to customers around the world., the leading Social Media software provider. Prior to joining Vyopta, Mr. Rourke spent over 28 years in technical and management leadership positions at Spreadfast, HomeAway, Cadence, and IBM.
As a long-standing contributor back to his community, Dan has served as a Board Member and Board President of Seedling Foundation, and is a graduate of Leadership Austin in 2016.
Mr. Rourke holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame in Mathematics. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife. He has two daughters, Devin Falck, an Assistant District Attorney for Travis County and Danielle Ogg, a Pediatric ICU Nurse in Nashville. In his spare time, he is an avid runner on Town Lake trails and just completed his 16th Half Marathon.
Kalí has donated her time to public service, mentoring, and philanthropy since retiring from her career as a mortgage banker and escrow officer.
She served as Founding Board President of Seedling Foundation from 2005-2012 and as a Board Member and Officer from 2012-2017. Kali’ is also a dedicated Seedling Mentor and has served on its Advisory Council since 2018.
Kali´ is an active member of Impact Austin and the Austin Community Foundation Women’s Fund. She has served as a YWA Connect Mentor for the Young Women’s Alliance, as a supporter of the Center for Child Protection, Austin Child Guidance Center, and Girl’s Empowerment Network.
Kalí was a finalist for the 2017 and 2018 Austin Under-40 Mentor of the Year award and was named one of Austin’s Fab Five – Champions for Children in 2016. She is a also a graduate of Leadership Essentials Class of 2007.
Charles Smith was born and raised in Childress, Texas. He excelled in sports and in the classroom. He graduated in the top 10% of his class from Childress High School in 1984. He went to East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce) to play football and major in Criminal Justice. After two years of playing football, he transferred to Texas Tech in 1986.
Charles served as a volunteer for the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division’s (CSD) office in Lubbock his last semester at Tech in 1988. He volunteered because he planned to go to law. However, after volunteering for the fall semester, he was hired as a child support officer in January 1989. Charles worked in the Lubbock office from January 1989 to November 1990. In 1990, Charles was promoted to become the manager of the Midland CSD office. After improving the efficiency of the Midland office, Charles was promoted to run a larger office in Abilene. He managed the Abilene office from September 1993 to July 2000. During his time in Abilene, Smith and his office garnered praise from management in regional and state headquarters. In 2000, Smith received the Outstanding Individual Achievement award from the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council. In 2000, the Abilene office received the Outstanding Field Office award for the state.
In July 2000, Smith was promoted to Assistant Regional Administrator for the Dallas-Ft. Worth region of the CSD. He was promoted to Regional Administrator for the DFW region in January 2002. The DFW region consisted of 14 offices housing 400 employees. He held this position until October 2003. Under Smith’s leadership, the DFW region improved performance and exceeded goals that were previously seen as unobtainable.
In October 2003, he was promoted to assistant Deputy Director of Field Operations. In May 2004, Charles was promoted to Deputy Director for the CSD. In December 2004, Charles was given the additional duty of serving as the Director for Field Operations where he was responsible for the overall delivery of child support services for 2,200 staff housed in 65 offices across the state. From 2004 to September 2013, Smith served as Deputy Director of Child Support and Director of Field Operations. Under Smith’s direction, the CSD received its first Outstanding Child Support Enforcement Program award from the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) in 2007. Texas won this award again in 2011 and 2014. Texas also won the Outstanding Program award from the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council (all state child support programs west of the Mississippi River) in 2010 and 2014. In October 2013, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appointed Charles to serve as one of his executive deputies for the agency.
Charles served on the Board of Directors for the WICSEC from 2010-2015. Serving as WICSEC President from 2013-2014. He served on the NCSEA Board of Directors from 2009-2015. He served as President Elect for NCSEA from 2014 until his resignation from the Attorney General’s Office in June 2015.
Charles received the Dr. Charles Akins award from the Austin Independent School District in 2015 due largely to his support for and volunteerism with Seedling.
Charles Smith was selected by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Chief Deputy Executive Commissioner in July 2015. Charles was appointed by Gov. Abbott to serve as Executive Commissioner effective June 1, 2016. As Executive Commissioner, Smith oversees Texas’ Health and Human Services system consisting of a $40 Billion annual budget with nearly 50,000 employees that serves more than 7.5 million Texans every year in more than 600 programs ranging from Medicaid to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. During his tenure at HHSC, Smith has worked to improve the agency’s efficiency and accountability to Texas citizens. In December 2017, he successfully negotiated a federal waiver with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that will bring $35 Billion in healthcare funding to Texas over the next five years.
Charles received the Fab Five award from the Seedling Foundation in 2016. Charles had previously served as a child mentor for 6 years. He was featured in the May/June 2017 edition of the Texas Techsan.
During Charles’ 29 years of state government experience, he developed a reputation for improving operations, reducing waste and improving staff morale.
Charles is a proud graduate of Texas Tech University.
Deb Treece is a native Austinite and graduate of Texas A&M University as well as a local agriculture business owner with her husband, Leslie Callahan. A former social worker, Deb is committed to the greater Austin community by serving as a civic volunteer for most of her adult life while raising her three children. Issues of equality, especially the advancement of women and children are most dear to her heart. Deb has served on various nonprofit committees and on the Board of Directors for Seedling, including BOD President. She’s a former Seedling mentor and is honored to serve on Seedling’s Advisory Council. Deb currently leads Development for the League of Women Voters Texas.
Dr. Gloria Williams
Dr. Gloria L. Williams has been a successful and accomplished educator for more than 45 years. She received her basic education in the District of Columbia Public Schools and her higher education degrees include a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Education Specialist, and Doctorate of Education from universities in Washington, D.C., Florida and California. Over the years, her experience includes serving as a teacher, education specialist, program analyst, reading specialist, principal, consultant, and area superintendent. Currently, as the Executive Director of School, Family and Community Education with the Austin Independent School District, her departmental efforts employ a contemporary family/school/community partnership approach to educating AISD students and involve a variety of the key players who can directly impact their growth, development and learning success.
Dr. Williams has been extensively involved with and an important contributor through her church, Wesley United Methodist, and a variety of national, state and local community efforts. These include being: Past President and Member of the Board for the Association For Compensatory Educators of Texas; National Committee Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc; Founding Member and Treasurer of the Town Lake Chapter of The Links, Incorporated; Member and Secretary of the A+ Federal Credit Union Supervisory Committee , past member of the A+ Federal Credit Union Foundation Board and recently appointed A+ Federal Credit Union Board Member; a Member of the Austin Alliance of Black School Educators; past Board Member, National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators; past Board Member of the Communities In Schools of Central Texas and current member of the Advisory Committee; past Co-chair of the YWCA Women of Achievement Award Banquet; Co-chair of the Southwest Regional Conference and recent Summit; Protocol Co-chair Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. ; Board Member, UT Neighborhood Longhorn Program; newly appointed charter member of the Seedling Foundation Advisory Council; member of the Boys and Girls Scholarship Committee; Advisor, Travis County Special Fund; and Treasurer for the Western Area Cluster Conference Committee, The Links, Inc.