TML Midyear Conference Speakers
|Doug Griffiths, President and CEO, 13 Ways Inc.
Doug Griffiths is a wildly popular community strategist and author of two best selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”. He has supported, guided and inspired hundreds of communities to create effective change. Whether through speaking and presentations, or through advising and consulting, he is dedicated to helping communities across North America find their
He grew up on a ranch outside a small town where he learned the value of hard work, critical thinking skills, and the value of community. That background led him into politics, but he insists he has since been through rehab and is fully recovered. His experience in politics gave him a deep understanding about how to move people and to get things done. He deliberately retired from politics in January 2015, after serving for 13 years, to return to his passion for community
Griffiths has an Executive MBA, and Honors B.A Philosophy Degree, as well as his Bachelor of Education, all from the University of Alberta where he has taught community and municipal leadership courses for elected officials and administration.
|Adriana Cruz, Executive Director, Economic Development and Tourism, Office of the Governor
Adriana Cruz is Executive Director, Texas Economic Development and Tourism, Office of Governor Greg Abbott. In October 2019, Adriana Cruz was appointed to lead the Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism Office. The Office markets Texas as one of the world’s premier business and travel destinations. As Executive Director, Cruz provides leadership to Business and Community Development, Texas Tourism, Texas Workforce Investment Council, Texas Music Office, and the Texas Film Commission. Cruz has more than 20 years of leadership experience in economic development, marketing, and international business. Prior to her appointment to lead the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, Cruz was President of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, the regional economic development organization established to encourage and nurture economic growth in San Marcos, and Hays and Caldwell counties. Previously, Cruz was the Vice President of Global Corporate Recruitment for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
|L’Oreal Stepney, P.E., Board Member, Texas Water Development Board
Governor Greg Abbott appointed L’Oreal Stepney, P.E., as a Board member of the Texas Water Development Board with a term set to expire February 1, 2029.
Stepney was previously the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), serving as the Chief Operating Officer. During her 30-year career with TCEQ, Stepney worked to develop the Title V Air Operating Permitting Program from inception, was selected as the first Deputy Director to create the Office of Water focused on water availability, supply, planning, and permitting programs in Texas, as well as lead efforts to obtain permitting delegation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for certain oil and gas discharges. Stepney also managed the agency’s response to record breaking drought conditions to alleviate water shortages with communities and previously served as one of the Texas negotiators with Mexico and the International Boundary and Water Commission to ensure water delivery compliance under the Rio Grande 1944 Treaty. With these responsibilities, she had many opportunities to work closely with the Texas Water Development Board on several water programs which has been an asset in her role as Board Member.
Stepney is a board member for the Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program, and a graduate of both the University of Texas Governor’s Center Executive Management Program and the University of Texas Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution Fellows Program.
Stepney has received several distinguished recognitions including 2022 Rainmaker of the Year by the Texas Water Foundation, 2022 President’s Award by Texas Water Conservation Association, and 2019 Outstanding Public Official Award by the Water Environment Association of Texas.
Stepney received a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering and a Master of Science in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Registered Professional Engineer.
W. Nim Kidd, MPA, CEM, Chief, Texas Division of Emergency Management
|Gregory D. Winfree Esq., Agency Director, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
The Honorable Gregory D. Winfree was appointed Agency Director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) on December 15, 2016. TTI is a state agency and the largest and most comprehensive higher education-affiliated transportation research institute in the United States. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law. In 2019, he was appointed to the Texas Connected and Automated Vehicle Task Force established by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.The Institute was formed by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 1950 to conduct research for the Texas Highway Department—now the Texas Department of Transportation. Today, TTI research projects total $66.9 million annually for about 200 sponsors at all levels of government and the private sector. The technologies and strategies developed at the Institute have saved the state and nation thousands of lives and billions of dollars.Winfree joined the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology in March 2010 as Chief Counsel and was later sworn in as the Assistant Secretary in January 2014. During his tenure, Winfree also served as Deputy Administrator and Administrator of a predecessor agency, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).
As Assistant Secretary, he was the senior executive responsible for a $450 million budget and oversaw more than 1,000 scientific, data analysis and administrative staff members who support USDOT’s multi-modal transportation initiatives. The program offices under his purview included: the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center; the Research, Development and Technology Coordination Office; the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; the Positioning, Navigation, Timing and Spectrum Management Office; the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office; and the Transportation Safety Institute.
Prior to his USDOT appointments, Mr. Winfree served as Corporate Counsel for several Fortune 500 corporations for 17 years that operated in a number of technical industries, including:
Prior to his corporate legal work, Mr. Winfree was a Trial Attorney in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. He started his legal career as an Associate at a prominent Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Venable, LLP.
Mr. Winfree is also an innovator with design and utility patents to his credit and thus has a special affinity for TTI’s diverse transportation research portfolio and commitment to innovation. Much of his career aligns with organizations with a strong focus in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines, and Mr. Winfree has spoken extensively on the importance of STEM education to the future transportation workforce.
|Kathleen Jackson, P.E., Commissioner, Public Utility Commission of Texas
Governor Greg Abbott appointed Kathleen Jackson to serve as a commissioner on the Public Utility Commission of Texas on August 5, 2022, for a term set to expire on September 1, 2027. She served as Interim Chair from June 7, 2023 – January 23, 2024.
Since joining the PUCT, Jackson has spearheaded efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the state’s electric grid. She previously served as a Board Member of the Texas Water Development Board, first appointed by Governor Rick Perry in 2014 and reappointed by Governor Abbott in 2017.
Throughout her career, Jackson has represented agricultural, environmental, industrial and wholesale supply interests, including developing and implementing water management strategies for Southeast Texas. A registered professional engineer, Jackson served as a public affairs manager for one of the world’s largest petroleum and petrochemical producers.
Jackson was also involved in production agriculture with her late husband, who ran a cattle operation and farmed rice. She was a member of the Lower Neches Valley Authority Board of Directors, the Texas Water Conservation Association, and participated on the Sabine and Neches Rivers Bay and Estuary Environmental Flows Assessment Program Stakeholders Committee. In August 2021, Governor Abbott appointed her to the Environmental Flows Advisory Group.
She is also a board member and past president of the Lamar Institute of Technology Foundation, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Beaumont, a member of the Texas Farm Bureau, past president of the American Cancer Society of North Jefferson County, and a past board member of Junior Achievement of the Golden Triangle.
Jackson received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University.
|Jane Nelson, Texas Secretary of State
Jane Nelson was appointed the 115th Texas Secretary of State by Governor Greg Abbott on January 5, 2023.
Secretary Nelson is a businesswoman and former teacher who served two terms on the State Board of Education and 30 years as a State Senator representing North Texas.
The first woman in Texas legislative history to chair a standing budget-writing committee, Secretary Nelson was Chair of the Senate Finance Committee for four sessions. She was a member of the Senate State Affairs Committee, which oversees election policy, for eight sessions. She served as chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, the Nominations Committee, the Select Committee on Cybersecurity and the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. She was also a member of the Legislative Budget Board, the Legislative Audit Committee and the Privacy Protection Advisory Council.
In addition to writing four balanced state budgets, Secretary Nelson has a long list of accomplishments, including establishing the Cancer Research & Prevention Institute of Texas (CPRIT), reforming medical liability, achieving tax relief, overhauling the foster care system, expanding access to mental health care, and passing over 30 bills to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
Her work has been recognized with dozens of awards, including from the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, Texas Association of Business, Texas Council on Family Violence, CASA, Texas Hospital Association, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Texas PTA, Texas Retired Teachers Association, the Women’s Health Coalition and many others. She has a 100% voting record in support of Texas small businesses.
Secretary Nelson and her husband, J. Michael Nelson, owned and operated an aircraft component manufacturing company in Denton County. They have five children.
|John Daly Ph.D., Liddell Centennial Professor of Communication, University of Texas (Austin)
John Daly Ph.D. is the Liddell Centennial Professor of Communication, the TCB Professor of Management, and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin. He teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on Interpersonal Communication and Advocacy. Among his instructional responsibilities is teaching a UT System-wide course as part of the Archer Program. He has won every major undergraduate teaching award at UT Austin and has also been recognized by the UT System for his teaching. He has served as the President of the National Communication Association, the largest association of scholars and teachers of communication in the world. Dr. Daly has published numerous scholarly articles and produced more than a dozen books including Advocacy: Influencing Others and Championing Ideas (Yale, 2012). For his scholarly work he has been recognized as a Fellow of both the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association.
|Bennett Sandlin, Executive Director, Texas Municipal League
Since October 1 of 2010, Bennett Sandlin is Executive Director of the Texas Municipal League. Prior to that, he was General Counsel of the League, where he helped cities primarily in the fields of tax, economic development, budget, and finance issues, including the municipal hotel occupancy tax and the economic development sales tax. Bennett authored the Revenue Manual for Texas Cities, and was an instructor in Public Funds Investment Training. Bennett is a 1993 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and has previously worked at the Municipal Affairs Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Monty Wynn, Director, Grassroots and Legislative Services, Texas Municipal League
Monty Wynn is the Director of Grassroots and Legislative Services for the Texas Municipal League where he coordinates and implements the legislative policy program for the 1,178 member cities. He has been with TML for 16 years. Prior to his work at TML, Wynn worked for two state comptrollers, was the committee director for the House Public Education Committee, and served as the chief of staff to two senators.
Wynn is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in economics and political science. He and his wife, Rosemary, have two sons, Aiden, 16, and Owen, 15.
JJ Rocha, Grassroots and Legislative Services Manager, Texas Municipal League
JJ Rocha is the Grassroots and Legislative Services Manager at the Texas Municipal League where she coordinates the legislative policy program for the 1,178 member cities. Before joining TML in 2010, she interned at the Texas House of Representatives. Rocha is a graduate from St. Edward’s University with a degree in political science. In 2014, she received her master’s from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.
Michael Martin, Legislative Counsel, Texas Municipal League
Michael Martin is Legislative Counsel for TML, where he provides guidance on legal and legislative issues for the 1,178 member cities. Before joining TML, Michael served as the chief of staff for a New Orleans City Council member, in-house counsel for the City of New Orleans, and assistant city attorney for several Texas cities. Michael graduated from Marymount University with a degree in political science. In 2012, Michael received his law degree from Tulane University School of Law.