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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Governor's office announces administrative changes


By Allen Jones
TEXPERS Communications Manager

For those looking to lobby the Texas governor regarding the merits of defined benefits, there are a few new faces in his administration that public pension trustees and administrators may get to know as his staff transitions to the interim and prepares for the 2019 legislative session to take place.

Luis Saenz
Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott's office announced changes to his senior administration. Top among those changes is his new chief of staff, Luis Saenz, who previously served as the governor's appointments director. The principal and founder of Saenz Public Affairs, he has been involved in politics for more than 25 years, according to a biography provided by the governor's office.

Saenz is replacing Daniel Hodge, who is transitioning to the private sector, according to a news release issued by the governor's office Sept. 18.

"I have been privileged to have Daniel Hodge by my side dating back to my tenure as attorney general, bringing excellence to the organizations in which he has served," Abbott says. "I am truly grateful for his commitment and service to the State of Texas."

In the news release, Abbott also thanks his staff for their work to "enact conservative policies and preserve the freedom that Texans hold dear."

Saenz is among nine people announced to the governor's staff. Abbott says that while they have "big shoes to fill," he is confident his new team is up to the task.

"There are big ideas I plan to tackle in the upcoming session, and this team will be integral in spearheading those efforts," Abbott says. "We have already started working to ensure a smooth transition, and we will continue our work to keep Texas the beacon of opportunity."

Here is the complete list of the staff changes, from the news release, which took effect Oct. 1:

Luis Saenz will serve as Governor Abbott’s Chief of Staff. Saenz is currently the Principal and Founder of Saenz Public Affairs and has been actively involved in conservative politics at all levels of government for over 25 years. Saenz began his professional career at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He previously served as Appointments Director for Governor Abbott and has also served in senior staff positions for Texas Governor Rick Perry, was Chief of Staff to former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and has worked as an aide to former U.S. Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and former Congressman Henry Bonilla. Saenz is a native of Carrizo Springs, TX, and he is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

 Steven Albright will serve as Governor Abbott's Senior Advisor for State Operations. Albright previously served as the Governor's Budget Director. Prior to joining the Office of the Governor, he served eight years as Chief of Staff in the Texas Senate for Senator Robert Nichols, as well as Policy Director for the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation. Albright also served as a legislative director and Chief of Staff in the Texas House of Representatives. He has more than 16 years of experience in the legislative and executive branches of Texas government, including 22 regular and special legislative sessions focusing on natural resources, transportation and finance-related policy. Albright graduated from The University of Texas at Austin and received a Master’s in Public Administration from Texas State University.

 Reed Clay will serve as Governor Abbott’s Counselor and Chief Operating Officer. Clay currently serves as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff. He has worked alongside Governor Abbott for 8 years, having previously worked at the Texas Attorney General’s office prior to transitioning to Governor Abbott’s gubernatorial administration in 2015. Clay has also served as a litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and masters and law degrees from Duke University.


 John Colyandro will serve as Governor Abbott’s Senior Advisor and Policy Director. Colyandro currently serves as the Executive Director of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, and the Executive Director of the Texas Conservative Coalition, a legislative caucus.  He previously served as Director of Policy and Research for Greg Abbott's campaign for Governor (2014), and as Director of Policy for Greg Abbott's campaign for Attorney General (2002).  He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.


 Walter Fisher will serve as Governor Abbott’s Legislative Director. Fisher previously served as Texas State Senate Parliamentarian from 1996-2014. Prior to this, he served as Assistant Parliamentarian for the Texas House of Representatives. Most recently he was Senior Advisor to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in 2015. Fisher is a graduate of the University of Texas.


 Sarah Hicks will serve as Governor Abbott’s Budget Director. Hicks is currently the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of State Relations at the Texas A&M University System. She previously served as the Committee Director of the Texas Senate Committee on Finance and was a legislative aide to former State Senator Steve Ogden. Hicks holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas A&M University.


 Matt Hirsch will serve as Governor Abbott’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director. Hirsch currently serves as Governor Abbott’s Communications Director, a role he has held since the Governor announced his gubernatorial campaign in 2013. He has previously worked in various communications roles on Presidential, U.S. Senate and Governor campaigns. Hirsch is a graduate of the George Washington University.


 Peggy Venable will serve as Governor Abbott’s Appointments Director. Venable is currently serving as a Senior Visiting Fellow for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.  She has worked at the highest levels of government, having previously served in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush. Upon coming back to Texas, Venable worked on public policy and grassroots campaigns, serving 20 years as the Texas director for Americans for Prosperity and its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy. Venable is a graduate of Texas State University and has a master’s degree from Baylor University.


 Tommy Williams will serve as Governor Abbott’s Senior Advisor for Fiscal Affairs. Williams currently serves as the Vice-Chancellor for Federal and State Relations for the Texas A&M System. Prior to working in the TAMU System, Williams was a Texas State Representative from 1997-2003, and a Texas State Senator from 2003-2013. While in the Senate, he served as Chairman of three different committees: the Administration Committee, the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, and the Finance Committee. During his legislative career, Williams was a respected leader on budget, education, transportation and tax issues. He graduated with a BBA in Accounting from Texas A&M.






Allen Jones
About the Author:Allen Jones is the communications manager for the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems. Email him at allen@texpers.org or call 713-622-8018.

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