Speaker Bios

 

Speaker Bios

 

Keynote and Preconference Speakers (in order of appearance)

 

Will Hampton, Senior Vice President, Strategic Government Resources (SGR)
Will understands local government communication challenges. He successfully combined his multi-media storytelling skills with effective citizen engagement practices for nearly 24 years with the City of Round Rock, Texas. Residents there regularly gave his efforts high marks in surveys, and his team won more than 100 awards from national and state associations. He served on the board of directors of the Texas Municipal League, City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA) and Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers (TAMIO). He was recognized by his peers as the 2018 Communicator of the Year by 3CMA, and the 2021 Cheryl A. Soward Communicator of Distinction by TAMIO.

Russ Rhea, Anchor and Training Director, Predictive Media Network
Russ spent 15 years as an anchor, reporter and producer in media markets across the country and won several Emmy and Associated Press awards. He has been the lead spokesperson trainer with the Predictive Media Network for more than a decade and conducts training workshops for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and non-profits.

In a typical year, he leads more than 250 spokespeople through their skills training on an array of topics from health care to food safety. Russ is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Martha Castex-Tatum, Vice Mayor Pro Tem , City of Houston
On May 5, 2018, Martha Castex-Tatum won the special election to fulfill the unexpired term of the late Houston City Council Member Larry Green representing District K, which stretches across southwest Houston into Fort Bend County. Martha’s commitment to the district she grew up in began as the Director of Constituent Services for former Council Member Green’s office in 2015. While serving in this capacity, Martha oversaw the development of the new Southwest Houston Police station, the CASE for Kids afterschool grant process, the monthly Fort Bend and Hiram Clarke Bridging the Divide meetings, and numerous sidewalks, waterline, and street repair projects throughout the district.

Council Member Castex-Tatum began her career in public service as the first African-American female to serve on the San Marcos city council. During her term she was elected by her colleagues to serve as Deputy Mayor Pro Tem.

January 2020 began her first full four-year term as Council Member of the district in which she was raised. As a longtime and active resident of District K, Martha is committed to serving constituents through her passion for the community and her diligence as a public servant. She is an advocate for senior citizens and small business owners. She is also dedicated to increasing beautification projects and economic development throughout Houston, among other projects and initiatives.

Council Member Castex-Tatum was unanimously elected by Mayor Sylvester Turner and her City Council colleagues to serve as the City of Houston’s Vice Mayor Pro-Tem. She currently serves as the chairperson of the Economic Development committee and is a member of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs, Ethics Elections and Council Governance, Housing and Community Affairs, Regulations and Neighborhood Affairs, and Transportation Technology and Infrastructure city council committees.

Castex-Tatum is the current president of the Texas Municipal League (TML), which provides a variety of services to over 1,150 member cities. Council Member Castex-Tatum’s passion is public service, and she strives every day to restore people’s faith in government.

Angela Vargo, Vice President of Marketing, Breeze Airways
Angela is Vice President of Marketing for Breeze Airways, the newest and nicest low fare airline in the U.S., where she is responsible for brand development, marketing strategy, customer experience, and community engagement.  She has more than two decades of experience building brands, commercializing innovative products, and executing high-impact marketing and communications strategies for both Fortune 500-sized and smaller, fast-growing companies .

Angela began her career at Southwest Airlines in 2002 where she oversaw the development of the industry’s first personal device-driven inflight entertainment platform and introduced “TV Flies Free” on 600 aircraft, giving customers unparalleled access to live streaming sports, news and other television content.

After being promoted to positions of increasing responsibility, she left Southwest Airlines to pursue her passion for creating disruptive brands within the aviation sector, serving as Director of Brand Communications for Surf Air and, most recently, as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Dallas-based JSX.

Angela joined Breeze Airways in March 2021 and soon after helped introduce the Breeze brand to the world on May 21, 2021.

Chelsey Ballarte, Social Media Team Leader, Johnson Space Center Houston
Chelsey leads social media at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This includes overseeing production of digital assets like photo and video, and working with other digital teams who run podcasts, web stories, and more. She is always looking for the best ways to tell NASA’s story, trying new digital tools like Instagram Reels, Twitter Spaces, and interactive Q&As with the public – all with the goal of making difficult science concepts easy to understand to anyone. Chelsey comes from a background in journalism and mass communication and has worked at two other NASA centers before coming to Houston.

Deepthi Cauligi, Communications Strategist, Johnson Space Center Houston
Deepthi is a communications strategist on NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) team. As the social media lead for the program, she works on creating content for various social media platforms and accounts to showcase HRP’s work across the agency and to the public. She also writes features and updates blogs for NASA. Previously, she served as a communications strategist on the Gateway Program helping build its presence across the agency by writing employee profiles, features, and developing a robust communications plan.

Deepthi comes to NASA with over 10 years of experience as a public relations expert representing blue-chip companies like Microsoft and Google Cloud as well as innovative startups like The Giant Pixel and PLUMGrid. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and watching TV shows from different countries.

Mohi Kumar, Communications Team Leader, Johnson Space Center Houston
Mohi Kumar is the contracted lead for the communications team at NASA’s Human Research Program, an effort dedicated to studying how spaceflight affects human bodies and behaviors. As a trained scientist with 15+ years of experience in journalism, Mohi is a veteran communicator, science editor, writer, essayist, and social media strategist. Outside NASA, her work has appeared in Science News, Science, Slate, Smithsonianmag.com, and Eos (the news arm of the American Geophysical Union), among other publications. She’s run newsrooms, helped develop a publication’s first website, launched and managed Twitter handles, planned magazine issues, spearheaded dynamic Facebook campaigns, and more.

Mohi holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Caltech. She started her career as a high school math teacher in the Seattle area before transitioning to science journalism. She spends her free time writing essays, stargazing, traveling to sites of natural wonder, and doing science projects with her kids.

Brian Elms, CEO and Founder, Change Agents Training
Brian is the author of Peak Performance and an Urban Leadership Fellow at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.  He served as the Director of Peak Academy and Analytics for the City and County of Denver for more than five years. Brian specializes in government innovation and process improvement providing management expertise to government agencies, elected officials, and nonprofits.

Brian started his career in public service after graduating from Regis University and joining AmeriCorps as a team leader. He worked for the Governor Rendell Administration in Pennsylvania as the Policy Director for the Department of Aging.  He worked for AARP as a Legislative Specialist and served as the Assistant Director of Government Affairs at Denver International Airport.

Brian is the CEO and Founder of Change Agents Training to focus on creating employee-driven innovation programs around the country. He is currently working with more than a dozen governments to launch programs and establish meaningful innovation programs that improve the lives of employees and their clients.

Julie Tappendorf, Equity Partner, Ancel Glink PC
Julie is an Equity Partner at Ancel Glink, PC in Chicago. She currently serves as City Attorney to Lake Forest and Park Ridge and Village Attorney to Glenview, Gilberts, and Lindenhurst. Julie focuses her practice on local government matters, counseling clients on FOIA, open meetings, meeting procedures, social media, and other legal issues. She has prepared and updated policies on FOIA, records retention, electronic communications, and social media. She also provides trainings on social media and personnel matters, as well as compliance with FOIA, OMA, ethics, and other government topics.

Julie has published a number of books and articles on land use and government topics, including Social Media and Local Governments, Development by Agreement, Handling the Land Use Case, among others. Julie is the author of the local government blog, Municipal Minute, where she writes about current cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local government officials and employees. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Julie served in the U.S. Army, Military Intelligence Branch, as a Korean cryptologic linguist.

 

Concurrent Session Speakers (in alphabetical order)

 

Abby Aldrich, Content Manager, City of Bedford
Abby started her career as a multimedia journalist in Amarillo. During her tenure in news, she was the dayside reporter, lead digital producer, and morning show reporter for the area’s top local news station.

Abby transitioned to government communications in 2018, joining the Town of Flower Mound’s nationally recognized communications department. She has been with the City of Bedford since 2021. Abby earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas Tech University and will graduate TCU’s Certified Public Communicator program this summer.

Nick Arcos, Sr. Communications Specialist, Office for People with Disabilities, City of Houston
Nick is a graduate of Northwestern University and serves as the senior communications specialist for the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. In this capacity Nick creates accessible social media content for the city’s 215,000+ residents with disabilities. Throughout this tenure he has led trainings in accessible communications for the city’s various communications teams.

When not working, Nick spends his time with his friends and family traveling, hiking, attending concerts, and finding all the best new dining spots in the city.

TJ Aulds, President and Owner, Aulds Media NOW
Aulds Media NOW is the parent company of digital news platforms in the Galveston Bay Area including i45NOW.  In his three decades in journalism he’s worked in newspaper, radio, local TV and national TV.

TJ has worked for CNN, KHOU-TV, News24 Houston, Associated Press TV. His work also has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, BBC, and several shows on Discovery, History Channel and Discovery ID.

TJ’s work has been recognized by the Associated Press Media Editors Association, Edward R. Murrow awards, Jim Lehrer Award, Columbia University duPont Award, among others.

Emily Beck, CPC, Communications and Marketing Manager, City of Corinth
Emily is not only the communications and marketing manager for the City of Corinth, but she also serves as the city’s special event coordinator. She has a B.S. from the University of North Texas, where she was the chair of the homecoming parade and ran the University Program Council, hosting over 300 on-campus events for students each year.  Emily is currently pursuing her Master’s at Texas Tech University. She is a Certified Public Communicator and a Certified Festival and Event Associate.

Mary Benton, Director of Communications, City of Houston
Mary is a veteran communications leader with expertise in public affairs, policy and community relations.

She is the director of communications for the City of Houston Mayor’s Office.  In this role, she is responsible for ensuring that citywide communications for all municipal departments are strategically positioned, consistent, accurate, and in conformance with the goals and objectives of the Mayor’s Office.

Mary worked 20 plus as a reporter and anchor in several Texas television markets.  After leaving TV news, she leveraged her relationships and experience to work for Harris County and the city of Houston.

She has been honored by the PRSA Houston chapter as a Public Relations Professional of the Year and an American Advertising Federation Houston Diversity + Inclusion honoree.   Mary is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and is active member of the Houston community.

Jennifer Brown, Manager of Public Information, City of Dallas
 Jennifer works in the Department of Communications, Outreach, and Marketing. After spending a decade working in government agencies and nonprofit organizations in New York City, Jennifer is pleased to be back in Texas and using her experience to guide her in her new role.

As public information manager, Jennifer is able to employ her passion for connecting residents to programs and services that lift up our communities. By contributing to and leading the efforts of communications and marketing plans for Dallas’ Racial Equity Plan, Housing, and Homelessness Solutions, Comprehensive Environmental Climate Action Plan, and so many other initiatives, Jennifer has found her work to be both edifying and meaningful.

Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Hunter College and a Master of Public Administration from Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, both City University of New York colleges. In her free time, she enjoys visiting farmers’ markets, riding her bike, and spending time with friends, family, and her puppy.

Sara Bustilloz, CPC, Director of Communications & Marketing, City of Round Rock
Sara made the switch from newspaper reporting to government communications in 2012, when she became the City of Midland’s public information officer for all departments, including police and fire. She then served as the Pflugerville Police Department’s public information officer before joining Round Rock’s City Communications Department in 2018. Sara became director of the department in 2021.

She earned her Bachelor of Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin in 2009 and graduated from the first cohort of TCU’s Certified Public Communicators program in 2014. Sara currently serves as the Vice President of Communications on the Board of Directors for the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.

Mari Cockrell, Communications Director, City of Abilene
Mari is the communications director for the City of Abilene, making the transition to public service in 2018 after seventeen years in broadcast news. During her time in news, Mari reported and anchored evening newscasts in Western Colorado, Abilene, El Paso, Austin, and Abilene again where she was the local morning show anchor for nine years. Mari is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, and has also spent some time working in real estate and finance.

Carlin Daharsh, U.S. Politics and Government Outreach Team, Facebook
Carlin joined Facebook’s U.S. Politics and Government Outreach Team and manages city and county outreach in the southwest. Carlin has dedicated her professional career to working in the state and local government space, most recently at the National League of Cities. Carlin is originally from Nebraska and is currently located in Washington, DC.

Dr. Zenaida Davis-Woods, Ed.D, LPC, CCTSI, Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator, City of Pearland Police Department
Zenaida is the mental health and wellness coordinator for the Pearland Police Department. She has worked in the criminal justice system for approximately 21 years. Zenaida was first employed with the Harris County Court Services before becoming employed as a police officer with the Pearland Police Department in 2002. During her tenure working in criminal justice, Zenaida has seen first-hand the effects of trauma and stress on first responders. This prompted her to further her education in clinical counseling. She is passionate about first responder’s mental health and wellness.

Her responsibilities include coordinating mental health and wellness services, creating wellness programming, and teaching on a variety of mental health and wellness topics.

Zenaida received her BA in Political Science from Syracuse University.  She later went on to receive a master’s and then a Doctorate in Counseling from Texas Southern University. As a licensed professional counselor and trauma specialist, she also runs a private practice providing counseling and wellness services in her part time.

Kristin Edwards, Director of Communications & Tourism, City of Nassau Bay
In Kristin’s current role, she manages internal and external communications for the City with an emphasis in social media, website management, and reporting. She also works as part of the Bay Area Houston CVB and has a close working partnership with Space Center Houston.

Kristin has 15 years of experience in municipal government and professional journalism. After two years as a beat reporter with the Huntsville Item, she joined the City of Huntsville, Texas, and served for approximately six years as the deputy city secretary/assistant public information officer. She then continued her public service with the City of Deer Park, Texas, for over six years as the public relations/marketing administrator.

Kristin completed her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications in 2008 and earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Sam Houston State University in 2014.

Gabriela Finney, Administrative Associate, Production, City of Houston
Gabby has served as an Houston Television (HTV) intern for two years and a temporary employee for one year. She is now a full-time employee tasked with assisting the Production department with her talents of videography and editing.

Molly Fox, CPC, Director of Communications, City of Bedford
Molly is the director of communications for the City of Bedford and the TAMIO Vice President for Awards. During her 10+ years in municipal communications, she and her team have won more than 100 state and national awards for their work. Prior to joining Bedford, Molly served as the director of communications for the Town of Flower Mound, spent 5 years in school district communications, and learned a long-term career in print journalism was not for her. In 2021, she was named No. 12 on the “Top 100 Influencers in Local Government” by Engaging Local Government Leaders. She has a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, a Master of Journalism degree from UNT, and is a 2016 graduate of TCU’s Certified Public Communicator program.

CoCo Good, Communications & Marketing Director, City of McKinney
CoCo has more than 20 years of experience in all facets of strategic communications and marketing. In 2004, CoCo became McKinney’s first communications and marketing director for the City of McKinney. She created an up-to-date brand image for the city, built and leads a multi-functional team to ensure effective communication across multiple genres. Good spearheaded the effort to launch the brand: Unique by Nature, emphasizing McKinney’s unique heritage and qualities, garnering national media attention. Among a host of national accolades, McKinney was ranked #1 on the Best Places to Live in America list published by Money Magazine.

Previously, Good was global communications and marketing manager at EDS (now HP). She provided external and internal communications strategies and counsel for senior executives and executed marketing programs across more than 40 countries. Before that she managed state and national accounts at a PR/advertising agency and served as a freelance speechwriter for corporate executives.

Good earned a bachelor’s degree in PR / journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She is nationally published, is a frequent speaker and has won more than 75 state, regional and national awards. She is currently pursuing her MPA at the University of Arlington with expected graduation in May of 2022.

Julie Goodgame, Director of Marketing & Communications, City of Tyler
Julie has served as director of marketing & communications for the City of Tyler, Texas, since 2016. She is in her 17th year of communications and marketing for public and private sector agencies. In addition, she directs the City of Tyler’s Liberty Hall Historic Theater which offers live music, theater, comedy and revivals of classic films for East Texas. She is currently a producer and host on the City of Tyler’s Roses & Weeds podcast, and Tyler’s Film Friendly Liaison.

Collin Gregory, Video Production Specialist, City of Burleson
Collin has worked in the Communications Department at the City of Burleson since 2016.  He handles functions related to videography, live streaming, photography, social media, and public affairs. Collin has a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from Texas A&M – Commerce and served in the United States Marine Corps. Collin and his wife Tiffanie have been married for 20 years and have a 19-year-old son who just graduated Marine Corps Boot camp and a six-year-old daughter who just graduated kindergarten…this age difference ruins any chance of them being empty nesters for the next 12 years.

Kathleen Harrington Clark, Executive Director of Marketing, Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business
An award-winning marketing executive with more than 25 years of experience building and managing brands, Kathleen’s career spans a broad range of brands and industries, from professional sports (Houston Astros) and top tier hospitals (Texas Children’s Hospital) to Fortune 500 companies in technology (Compaq), energy (Reliant/NRG, Shell), and higher education (Baylor College of Medicine, and currently, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business).

Since joining Rice University, she has rolled out a new nickname, Rice Business, to build awareness for the top-ranked business school, and Rice Business Wisdom, the school’s ideas magazine, which recently won an “Innovations that Inspire” award from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). She also teaches Brand Strategy, an elective in the MBA program. The course consists of theory, frameworks, and case analysis of major global brands in a variety of business stages. The purpose of the class is to engage students in understanding the link between business and brand strategy, showcasing brand decisions at play in every aspect of business from raising capital to product line extensions to entering new markets.

Originally from Boston, Kathleen holds a B.A. in English from Holy Cross College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Shannah Hayley, CPC, Director of Communications & Community Outreach, City of Plano
Shannah’s pursuit of living life to the fullest has taken her all over the world with various communications-focused jobs, from teaching in Kenya to consulting in the United Kingdom. Shannah now serves as the director of communications and community outreach for the City of Plano, the 69th largest city in the United States. Her team is nationally-recognized for its video work, ranging from commercials for events like Texas Recycles Day to mini-documentary features like Plano by Air to educational series like Ask Plano. Other notable award-winning projects includes trend-jacking campaigns like It’s a Little Plano in Here, resetting public narrative through Traffic Woes Press Relations, and its in-house Live Green in Plano logo refresh.

Meredith Haynes, Senior Communications & Media Specialist, City of McKinney
Meredith serves as the subject matter expert for digital marketing strategies. She leads a cross-departmental team to implement the city’s strategic social media plan and collaborates with departments to promote programs and initiatives that engage both employees and community members.

Meredith received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from the University of Tulsa and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, America’s most prestigious academic honor society.

Rosealee (Rose) Hoffman, Communications & Marketing Director, City of Willow Park
Rose spent 20 years in print journalism before joining the Willow Park team and built the city’s communications and marketing department beginning in 2018.

Rose oversees the city website, social media, external and internal communications, serves as the PIO for the city fire department, and manages event planning and community outreach. She is also active in the community as a volunteer and served on the Aledo Education Foundation Board of Directors, the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Forum, and currently serves as the Marketing and Media Relations Chair for the Rayfield Wright Celebrity Golf Tournament. She will be a member of the TCU Certified Professional Communicator Cohort X beginning in 2022. She also serves on the TAMIO Education Committee.

In her spare time, Rose enjoys teaching dance at a local dance studio and spending time with her two favorite people: her granddaughter Nora and her dog Molly Ivins.

Chani Honeycutt, aPHR, CPC, Human Resources and Special Events Manager, City of Nassau Bay
Chani is a certified and dynamic human resources professional with over eight years of increasing responsibility in a professional role. She has over three years of experience as a human resources director in municipal government and loves serving others and establishing relationships in the community. In addition to Chani’s passion as an HR professional, she is a Certified Public Communicator and an experienced public information officer. Chani is a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard and the mother to one little boy.

Ted Irving, Director of Houston Television, City of Houston
Ted has direct responsibility for Houston Television (HTV) and has over 30 years of experience in television broadcasting with skills in operations, engineering and field productions.

Keith Jackson, Senior Communications Technician-Producer, Internal Clients, City of Houston
Keith has performed all aspects of television production, including multi-camera production; both studio and remote live programs. His role at Houston Television (HTV) is to shoot, produce, write edit and direct content.

Linda Klepper, Director of Public Affairs, City of Schertz
Linda has been with the City of Schertz for 10 years.  She has overseen the development of several new internal and external communication efforts to improve engagement with residents and employees across the city. Under her leadership, the communications team has won several state and national awards for their work. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 2010 from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Linda currently serves as the TAMIO Region 4 Director and is a member of the TAMIO Awards Committee.

Joshua Lee, Director of Communications, City of Pearland
Joshua is originally from the City of Pearland, where he now works. His background is in advertising and marketing in the private industry; and when he saw the chance to dedicate those skills to the community that raised him, he jumped at the chance. Since joining the City of Pearland, Joshua has made significant upgrades to communications efforts, and has had the opportunity to participate in several memorable emergency activations. With the City of Pearland he has found his passion and looks forward to coming into work each day to see what new adventure awaits.

Brian Ligon, CPC, Communications & Marketing Director, City of Mont Belvieu
Brian is the communications and marketing director for the City of Mont Belvieu. After graduating from Baylor University, Brian spent 17 years working in broadcast television specializing in production and marketing. In 2012, he started his career in civic government with the City of Round Rock where he found a passion for public communications. In 2018, he and his family moved to Mont Belvieu so Brian could be the City’s first full-time communicator. He also spearheaded the marketing behind the launch of Texas’ first broadband internet utility, MB Link. Brian has worked hard to bust the stigma that government communications is dry and boring; those efforts have resulted in multiple state and national awards. His proudest achievement is being husband to Jessica and dad to Zak.

Marshal McIntosh, MBA CPC, Deputy City Manager, City of Brownwood
Marshal has served with the City of Brownwood for 8 years and currently serves as the deputy city manager.

Marshal holds a bachelor’s degree in Public and Media Communication, and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Howard Payne University. He is also a graduate of Texas Christian University’s Certified Public Communicator program from the Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

In Brownwood, he leads city wide projects and initiatives, leads all communication efforts, and is heavily involved with Economic Development with focus on retail, downtown, finance programs, and tourism promotion.  Marshall is a local government professional passionate about comprehensive community success and rewarded by difference making.

Michelle Mellon-Werch, Director of Communications, TMRS
Michelle joined TMRS as associate general counsel in 2007 and worked on legal analysis of plan benefit design, IRS qualification issues, contracts, administrative law, data privacy, and governance issues. She served as president of the Texas Association of Public Pension Attorneys and currently serves on the Benefits and Data Privacy Sections of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys. In 2019, she was elected to the Computer and Technology Section Council leadership team of the Texas State Bar.

In October 2020, Michelle was named TMRS’ director of communications, overseeing a professional team that produces the TMRS website, print and electronic publications, videos, presentations, and seminars. Under her leadership, TMRS implemented a mobile app, rebranded, and has revised all of its publications and flyers.
A native Texan, Michelle received a Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University, a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Nick Olivier,, Public Information Specialist, City of Round Rock Police Department
Nick joined the Round Rock Police as its civilian public information specialist in 2017. Since then, he has handled the media response for an interstate kidnapping, a line of duty death of one of the Department’s Officers, and – most recently – a tornado. Before that, he served a variety of communications roles for nonprofit and sports organizations. He has worked for three Olympic Games, two Youth Olympics, and one Pan-American Games.  He has a Master’s degree in public relations from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas.

Amber Patterson,, Marketing & Public Communications Specialist, Town of Addison
Amber is a graduate of the University of Alabama and manages and creates social media content for Addison’s twelve social media accounts spread across Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor, and Twitter. In collaboration with Mary Rosenbleeth, the Director of Public Communications, the mighty team of two works diligently to get important information out to Addison’s more than 16,000 residents through social media, weekly and monthly newsletters, and other marketing avenues.

When not working, Amber spends her time with his friends and family, traveling, exploring the greater DFW area, and attending Addison’s legendary special events, from which she is more than likely live posting.

LeaAnn Petersen, CPC,, Director of Communications, City of Seabrook
In January 2012, LeaAnn was hired to fill the role of marketing manager for the City of Seabrook’s and by the end of the year she was promoted to serve as Seabrook’s first director of communications.

LeaAnn received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from UT Permian Basin in 2002 and then went on to receive a Master of Science in Interactive Communication from Quinnipiac University in 2004.

LeaAnn’s role in Seabrook is constantly changing and since 2012 she has taken on additional responsibilities including event planning, tourism and economic development marketing, volunteer management and the oversight of all civic art projects. She now holds the title of Director of Community and Visitor Relations..

LeaAnn is the mom to three amazing kids, 11-year-old John, 7-year-old Isla and 2-year-old Brianne. She couldn’t juggle her career and home life without the love and support of her husband Ivan. When LeaAnn is not at work she is more than likely at the ballfield watching her son John play baseball.

Teresa Potter, City Librarian, City of League City
Teresa has worked at League City’s Helen Hall Library since June of 2009. She started in Circulation, spent some time in Technical Services, moved on to Public Services, and joined library administration in 2015. She was named the city’s fifth city librarian in February of 2021. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her cats and her friends.

Rell Rugely, Public Information Specialist, City of Round Rock
Rell is a professional content creator within the visual medium. He recently brought his talents to the City of Round Rock as a public information specialist. With a background in photography and storytelling, his goals include creating eye-catching visuals that evoke organic engagement. He graduated from the University of North Texas majoring in Converged Broadcast Media with a minor in Communication.

Glissette Santana, Content Strategist, City of Sugar Land
Glissette is the content strategist at the City of Sugar Land, TX, where she focuses on communicating with residents in new and innovative ways. She also edits the Sugar Scoop blog, a platform to tell the story of Sugar Land. She joined the Sugar Land team in 2019 and you can find her on Twitter @GlissetteSR.

Hilary Shine, CPC, Senior Vice President, Strategic Government Resources (SGR)
Hilary recently retired from a 20-year career in city government. As an executive leader, she honed her skills in effective communications, strategic advancement, program development, performance management and team building. Now a member of the SGR Leadership Development Team, she’s excited to share her experience and expertise with local governments.

Hilary is a passionate community servant and has volunteered in leadership positions for local non-profits including United Way, Relay for Life and hospital, theater and education foundation boards. She is co-founder of Friends of Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, which has ensured that every grave has been honored with a wreath each holiday season since 2006.

Hilary earned a B.S. in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin and holds various certifications in leadership, management, communications and emergency response.

Ken Smith, CGDSP, Web Communications Specialist, City of Bryan
Ken is a Certified Government Digital Services Professional and has served as the web communications specialist for the City of Bryan, Texas, for nearly a decade. Ken is responsible for the design, development, management, security, and accessibility of more than a dozen websites and applications for the City of Bryan and its community partners.

During Ken’s tenure, the City of Bryan’s websites and digital products have been recognized for more than 20 state and national awards from TAMIO, 3CMA, NAGW, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Formerly a national politics producer and news designer at the Washington Post, Ken’s portfolio spanned both the print and online sides of the Post’s award-winning journalism. In his 20 years as a journalist, Ken won numerous awards for his work and was a key player in designing the coverage of some of the biggest news stories of the 21st century.

When not working on websites, Ken spends as much time as he can fly fishing, collecting antiques, grilling large quantities of meat in his backyard, and spending time with his wife Jennifer, their dog, and their three cats.

Greg Sowell, MBA, CPC, Director of Communications, City of Richardson
Greg has more than three decades of experience in communications and serves as the director of communications for the City of Richardson. Before working for Richardson, he was the communications manager for the City of Mesquite in the Dallas area and served as a communications specialist with Martin County, Florida.

Prior to his time working in government, Greg spent nearly a decade working in television with roles both in front of and behind the camera. His experience includes positions at small, medium, and large market stations at CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox news affiliates in Texas, Iowa and Florida.

Greg’s primary role with the City of Richardson is leading internal and external communications efforts and marketing initiatives.

Jenna Vinson, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, City of New Braunfels
Jenna provides strategic vision and guidance to the City, ensuring that all communications, both internal and external, work toward the same goals, deliver consistent messages, portray the same brand image, and reflect the City’s unique culture and core values.

Jenna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications – Public Relations from Texas State University, a Masters of Business Administration from Texas A&M University – Central Texas, and will complete the Certified Public Communicator program through TAMIO and Texas Christian University in July 2022. Prior to joining the team at the City, she worked as the director of media relations for a professional indoor football team, the project manager and then director of strategic communications for the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, and director of communications and then vice president of Advocacy and Outreach for the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce.

Jenna and her husband Jared have been married since 2015 and have two sons, Easton and Rowan.

Kristen Waggener, Communications & Marketing Director, City of Bryan
Kristen is the communications and marketing director for the City of Bryan, where she is responsible for leading the strategy and implementation of the City’s communications and marketing efforts for all departments, graphic design, the city’s PEG television station, media relations, the city’s website, and social media. Before coming to Texas, Kristen spent seven years as a communications specialist for the City of Lenexa, Kansas, where she specialized in website management and social media. She has also served on numerous boards, including GSMCON, the Social Media Club of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Regional Association of Public Information Officers.

Jay Warren, CPC, Director of Communication & Legislative Affairs, City of Arlington
Jay is an award-winning journalist and communicator.  He spent 20 years in broadcast news including 15 years at the NBC affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia, as the primary anchor and senior political reporter. While there, Jay’s work covering politics, moderating statewide debates and reporting live from the 9-11 attacks and the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech earned him Walter Cronkite Award for Individual Achievement, a national Peabody Award, and AP Reporter of the Year.

Jay, a proud graduate of TCU and Texas Tech, returned home in 2013. He is the director of communication and legislative affairs for the City of Arlington. In this role, Jay oversees the City’s communication operation, intergovernmental affairs, City Secretary, Document Services, support staffs for the City Manager and City Council, and the Action Center.

Dorothy White, CPC, Public & Media Relations Director, City of Garland
Dorothy has handled media and public relations duties for the City of Garland since 2002.  She and the Public & Media Relations Department have been recognized the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers (TAMIO), the Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors (TATOA), the National Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors (NATOA), and the City-County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA) for excellence in communications.

Dorothy has a Certified Public Communicator designation from Texas Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas and holds a Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Texas Tech University.  She has completed FEMA’s Advanced PIO Course at Emergency Management Institute.

On a personal level, Dorothy has a daughter, Ashley, who is a singer/songwriter in Nashville.  The two enjoy singing together and in various choirs and ensembles.  Dorothy is also an avid camper and also enjoys hiking with a camera in hand.

Belinda Willis, CPC, Strategic Communications Consultant/Content Specialist, DFW Strategic Communications
Belinda is a strategic communications and marketing professional specializing in content creation for government, business and industry.

Most recently Belinda served for more than 20 years as the director of communications and marketing for the City of Mansfield, starting the city’s first Communications & Marketing Department and serving as its public information officer. She retired in 2021.

As communications and marketing director, Belinda was responsible for generating content for the City’s various channels including social media, website, print, and marketing. She also directed the organization’s media relations and crisis communications. During her 20 years with the City of Mansfield, Belinda initiated the City website, social media and newsroom function.

Belinda has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of North Texas, with concentrations in political science and radio/TV/film. She spent 20-plus years as an award-winning journalist and editor in Dallas-Fort Worth covering local government and politics, education, and business.

Abigail (Abba) Yaney, Marketing Specialist, City of Plano
Abba has served as a marketing specialist for the City of Plano since 2020. At the City of Plano, she has found her love for creating short-form videos and other creative content to connect with residents through social media in new and innovative ways.

As a Boston native, she left the snow for college and hasn’t looked back. Abba graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Strategic Communications and Psychology.

Prior to joining the City of Plano, she worked with the State Fair of Texas, completed a Fellowship with the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs department at SMU and served as the President of PRSSA at SMU.

Richard Yeakley, Public Information Officer, City of Longview
Richard is the public information officer for the City of Longview, Texas, serving as spokesperson for the City, managing social media, and crafting messaging. When not helping tell Longview’s story Richard spends time with his wife and triplets, serves his church, and participates in community theatre.

Jessica Young, Public Affairs Strategist, City of Sugar Land
Jessica is the public affairs strategist for the City of Sugar Land and a journalism lecturer at the University of Houston. She was previously an editor at the Houston Chronicle, where her digital strategy was among the work named as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She received her Bachelor of Journalism degree from University of Texas and a Masters of Liberal Arts in Journalism Extension Studies from Harvard University. She loves making pies with designs inspired by 90s hip-hop (eg. Notorious P.I.E.) and going to story time with her 1-year-old daughter, Harper Lee.