Hatton W. Sumners 2017 Careers in Politics Conference
This one-day, nonpartisan event offers the next generation of civic leaders the insiders' perspective about what it's like to have a career in public service and encourages participants to consider leadership roles in their community. Participants have the rare opportunity to connect with and learn from elected officials, political staff, government leaders, communication strategists, and nonprofit executives from across the Lone Star State.
· Offer strategies for navigating the current political landscape;
· Share thoughts on emerging trends in policy-making;
· Explore methods of effective leadership for local impact;
· Help you to develop and refine your personal brand;
· Give you next steps for getting your foot-in-the-door.
Parag Mehta is the former Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Surgeon General. Before his position in the Surgeon General's office, Parag served as the Special Assistant to the Director in the US Department of labor, where he directed communications for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a worker protection agency that safeguards employment rights of the nearly 25% of American workers who are employed by -- or seek jobs with -- companies that profit from federal contracts. He also served as a Public Liaison for the Obama-Biden transition team, the Director of External Communications for the Democratic National Committee, and the Director of Training for the Democratic National Committee.
Evan Smith is the CEO and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news organization with a focus on Texas politics. Since its launch in 2009, the Tribune has won international acclaim and numerous honors, including nine national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association and three general excellence awards from the Online News Association. Previously Evan spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly, including eight years as Editor and a year as President and Editor-in-Chief. For eight years, he hosted the Lone Star Emmy Award-winning weekly interview program Texas Monthly Talks, which aired on PBS stations statewide.
Susan Noldis the Director of The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at The University of Texas at Austin. Before being named Director in September 2015, Susan worked as General Counsel to Texas Senator Kirk Watson and as a Staff Attorney for the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Prior to working in the Texas Capitol, Susan practiced law as a Litigation Associate at Bracewell & Giuliani, volunteered as a Congressional Affairs Liaison for a presidential campaign, worked in development for a political committee in Washington, D.C. and was a White House intern. She has worked effectively with people of all political persuasions and she profoundly believes in the need to get all Texans involved in civic lives of their communities. Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Methodist University in 1999 and her law degree from The University of Texas School of Law in 2004.
Commissioner Gerald Daugherty
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty grew up in the Houston area and was drafted out of high school by the Boston Red Sox baseball organization. He soon realized that an education was more obtainable than making it to the big leagues, returned to Austin, and graduated from the University of Texas in 1975. For the past 40 years Gerald has been a successful Austin businessman, owning and operating successful ventures.
In 2002, he was elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court bringing his passion for transportation advocacy and his belief that government can accommodate growth without continually having to raise the money from higher taxes. He served as Travis County Commissioner of Precinct 3 until 2008. He returned to the Commissioners Court in January of 2013 and continues to work to help keep county taxes at bay and to shape the future of transportation projects for the Travis County area.
The Honorable Sherri Greenberg
Sherri R. Greenberg is a clinical professor and Fellow of the Max Sherman Chair in State and Local Government at the LBJ School. She is also a senior adviser to Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Greenberg served for 10 years as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, completing her final term in January 2001. She chaired the House Pensions and Investments Committee and the Select Committee on Teacher Health Insurance. She served for two terms on the House Appropriations Committee, and she served on the Appropriations Committee’s Education and Major Information Systems subcommittees. Greenberg served as the manager of capital finance for the City of Austin from 1985 to 1989. Prior to that she was a public finance officer at Standard & Poor’s in New York, where she analyzed and assigned bond ratings to public projects across the country.
Mark Harkrider has over 30 years of experience in Texas government and politics. He has worked as the executive assistant to a Texas Attorney General and served in a variety of capacities for Texas campaigns including races for the U.S. Senate, Governor,Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Supreme Court Justice, State District Judge and a host of county and municipal races. He has also worked as a governmental affairs representative for major corporations. Today he has a private governmental relations practice.
Randan Steinhauser is the founding partner of Steinhauser Strategies, a public relations and political consulting company based in Austin, Texas. Prior to relocating to Austin in 2012, Randan worked in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill and served as the National Outreach Director for newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the American Federation for Children, working in more than 20 states to advance meaningful school choice legislation. Randan currently serves as an Advisor to Texans for Education Opportunity, National School Choice Week, and EdChoice. She is the Texas Chairperson for Maggie's List, a political action committee dedicated to electing more conservative women to Congress. Randan is the youngest elected female Republican in Texas serving Senate District 24 on the State Republican Executive Committee.
Denise Davis is a law partner at Davis Kaufman, PLLC, a boutique law firm lobby practice in Austin, Texas. Before founding Davis Kaufman PLLC with Lisa Kaufman in 2012, Ms. Davis served as Chief of Staff to Speaker Joe R. Straus, and for several sessions as House Parliamentarian and Special Counsel to the Texas House of Representatives. Her public service also includes work as General Counsel to Lt. Governor William “Bill” Ratliff, Director and Counsel to the Texas Judicial Council under then-Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, General Counsel to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee under Senator Rodney Ellis, Legislative Counsel for the Texas Legislative Council, and Assistant Public Information/Press Officer for Lt. Governor William P. Hobby. Ms. Davis is a frequent speaker on topics ranging from ethics to parliamentary procedure, and has advised the Supreme Court for the Republic of Ireland on public access to court information. She also serves on the Texas Supreme Court Task Force on Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency.
Perla Cavazos is from San Benito, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley and has lived in Austin for nearly 20 years. She received her BA from Stanford University and an MPAff from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Perla currently works as Director of Government Affairs for Central Health, the local public entity that provides access to high-quality health care for low income and uninsured people in Travis County.
Perla has over 15 years of public policy and government affairs experience. She previously worked for Texas Legal Services Center, Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and in the Texas Senate as a Senior Policy Analyst and Legislative Director. In 2009, she was a candidate for the Place 1 City Council position. Although she was not elected, she continues to be an active force within the city. Perla serves on the boards of Planned Parenthood-Greater Texas, Girls Empowerment Network (GEN), Frameworks CDC and LUPE Arte. She is also a member of the Austin Steering Committee for Annie's List. Perla is a founding member of FuturoFund, a local philanthropic circle that supports Latino-serving nonprofit organizations in Austin. Perla is past president of the Austin Women’s Political Caucus and has served on the city’s Planning Commission, Commission for Women, Resource Management Commission, and former Mayor Lee Leffingwell's Community Cabinet. Perla is a Leadership Austin Alum ('08) and recipient of the Austin Under 40 award in government and public affairs ('08).
Victor Obaseki is an attorney who researches, speaks, and lectures about education law and policy and other social justice issues, in addition to helping IUPRA connect with community members and policymakers. His current research varies, including the intersection of local, state, and federal education issues; Mellon Foundation-funded research on mental health privacy laws and policies; and governmental agencies dedicated to racial equity. Prior to joining IUPRA, Obaseki was a drafting attorney at Texas Legislative Council, where he advised and wrote legislation for Texas state legislators on a nonpartisan basis. He also formerly worked as a newspaper reporter before attending The University of Texas School of Law.
Jo Cassandra Cuevas
As director in the Legislative and Regulatory Affairs division at AT&T, Jo Cassandra Cuevas is responsible for assisting with AT&T’s legislative initiatives at the Texas Capitol in addition to being responsible for the division’s philanthropic efforts in the state.
Prior to her position at AT&T, Jo served as legislative director and policy analyst for various elected officials in the Texas House of Reps and Texas Senate, finishing her tenure at the Texas Capitol as Executive Director for the House Democratic Caucus within the Texas House of Representatives. For almost ten years, Jo managed and developed legislative and policy initiatives with specific expertise in veteran affairs and healthcare issues. During her time in the Legislature, Jo is most proud of her role as the House staffer to work towards the creation of specialty courts for veterans in Texas.
An Austin resident for over ten years, Jo is an instructor at MOD Fitness and a member of Tarrytown United Methodist Church. With a deeply instilled passion for giving back to the community, Jo is an active member of the AVANCE-Austin Board of Directors where she is Co-Chair for the Development Committee and serves on the AVANCE National Board of Directors. In addition, Jo is Secretary for the Austin chapter of Young Texans Against Cancer and has been a volunteer with Mobile Loaves and Fishes for over 5 years.
A native of Pearsall, Texas, Jo double-majored in Political Science and Communications at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
Jessica Beemer is the proud recipient of not one, but two degrees from UTSA – her first, a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and her second, a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. During grad school, Jessica was hired by the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Grants and Programs Department to work with animal welfare. Upon graduation of graduate school, Jessica accepted a position as the South Texas Field Director for Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. After almost eight years in San Antonio, she returned home and accepted a position with City of Houston Council Member Dave Martin and now acts as the City of Houston North Sector Manager. After just two years working with Council Member Martin she received a promotion to Chief of Staff and enjoys serving the whole of District E in this new role.
Paul Theobald served for 5 years in the United States Navy, operating and maintaining the nuclear reactor onboard a ballistic submarine in the Pacific, completing 3 ballistic deployments. After leaving the Navy in 2009, Paul attended Austin Community College and then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a double major in Government and Philosophy. Upon graduation, Paul worked with the Austin Vet Center and from there went on to serve at the Military Veteran Peer Network. In early 2015, Paul was hired by Representative Susan King, Chair of the Texas House Committee on Defense and Veteran Affairs as a Policy Analyst and Assistant Clerk and served as the Director for the Committee. He now works as a Legislative Director with a focus on Appropriations and International Trade.
Michelle Castillo currently serves as Legislative Director at the Texas House of Representatives. Michelle Castillo currently serves as the legislative director for Texas House Representative Ramon Romero. During the 84th Legislative Session, she worked in the Texas Senate as a legislative aide to former Senator Rodney Ellis on criminal justice reform. Prior to her state legislative staff experience, Michelle served as the regional political director for the Wendy Davis for Texas Governor campaign in South Texas where she was responsible for political outreach and coordination with elected officials and community leaders and creating a comprehensive regional GOTV plan. Michelle also previously served as the southern policy director at Young Invincibles, a nonprofit advocacy group for Millennials where she was responsible for developing the regional office’s state legislative and policy advocacy strategy to improve higher education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for young Texans.
During her time at the University of Texas at Austin, Michelle completed research in workplace safety and compensation laws in Texas through her work with the Worker’s Defense Project. In 2009, as an Archer Fellow, Michelle interned at the Obama White House's Office of Public Engagement where her work focused on increasing accessibility to the Executive Branch through constituency outreach and relationship building with community leaders across the country. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Michelle returned home to Texas’s Rio Grande Valley to work as a college advisor with the Advise TX College Advising Corps where her commitment to increasing civic and voter participation led to her co-founding a Voto Latino chapter.
Michelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Mexican-American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
Taylor Calvinis a sixth generation Texan with a passion for public policy. A native Houstonian, Taylor discovered her affinity for the policymaking process while working in the Mayor’s Office in Houston. She is a 2013 graduate from the University of Texas at Austin and has previously held positions at the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, and state and federal trade associations in both Austin and D.C. She is currently the Legislative Director for McWilliams Governmental Affairs Consultants, an Austin, Texas-based governmental affairs consulting firm that offers dynamic legislative and regulatory strategies for clients.
Can't make it out to Austin on Saturday, April 1?
Participate remotely by hosting a watch party! Choose a location and invite your friends or student group!
Attire: Attire is business casual, but please keep in mind that speakers and other participants are possible professional connections for you.
Registration: $20, includes parking pass, breakfast tacos, lunch, conference materials, and snacks at the networking after-party.
Parking: Included in your registration fee. Directions will be shared with participants via email.
Group Discounts: Want to bring your student organization or class of three or more participants? Email Taylor Foody for more information and a discount code!
Scholarships: We want to make sure that sure this experience is available to any young person interested in attending. Please make sure to apply for one of our event scholarships if you are in need of assistance. This will require the applicant to first complete our scholarship application and then submit their resume to Taylor Foody. All applicants will be notified on a rolling basis.
The New Politics Forum is generously sponsored by:
Many thanks to the Annette Strauss Institute's other sponsors: