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Council Members

Governor-Appointed Council Members

Mary Durheim, Chair
(Spring)

Mary Durheim is an educational consultant. She has served as the national president of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD) and as chair of the CHADD national Public Policy committee for several years. Durheim is co-founder and co-author of CHADD’s Parent to Parent: Family Training on ADHD program. Durheim is a former parent liaison for the Hidalgo County Community Resource Coordination Group. She received a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University. Durheim was appointed to the Council as a parent in February 1996 to fill the remainder of an unexpired term. She was appointed for a full term in February 2000 and was reappointed in September 2005. She was designated as Council Chair February 23, 2012.

Kristen L. Cox, Vice-Chair
(El Paso)

Kristen L. Cox is founder and president of Checkpoint Services Inc, a technology company in El Paso. She is a board member of the El Paso Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Foundation, Texas Association of Historically Underutilized Businesses, Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas and the Austin Regional Office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Cox received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and master’s degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. She is president of the El Paso A&M Club; as well as a graduate of Partners in Policymaking, Leadership El Paso and Leadership Texas. She was appointed to the Council as a parent in March 2009 for a term to expire February 1, 2015.

Rebecca Hunter Adkins
(Lakeway)

Rebecca Hunter Adkins is a volunteer and non-profit spokesperson. She is a volunteer for Ride on Center for Kids, SIRE Therapeutic Equestrian Center, and Texas Hearing and Service Dogs. She is a volunteer facilitator and mentor for the Texas Youth Leadership Forum, and an ambassador for the Ms. Wheelchair Texas Foundation. Hunter attended Austin Community College. She was appointed to the Council as a self-advocate in March 2009 for a term that expires February 1, 2015.

Kimberly Blackmon
(Fort Worth)

Kimberly A. Blackmon is a data entry specialist and office assistant at Harman Construction Inc. She is a self advocate for The Arc of Greater Tarrant County, the Down Syndrome Partnership of Tarrant County, and the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas. She is also a drama member of We Have a Voice, a volunteer hostess for Friday Nite Live and a past focus representative for Self Determination. Blackmon attended Tarrant County College and graduated from the Eastern New Mexico University Office Skills program. She was appointed to the Council as a self-advocate in March 2009 for a term that expires February 1, 2015.

Kristine Clark
(San Antonio)

Kristine Clark is a sales associate with Smith and Nephew, Inc. She received a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin. Clark was appointed to the Council as a parent in February 2000 and reappointed in September 2005 and August 2011. Her current term expires February 1, 2017.

Gladys Cortez
(McAllen)

Gladys Cortez is an administrator at Mission Rehabilitation Services. She is a member of Leadership Mission, Valley-ICAN and The University of Texas Pan American (UTPA) Deaf Rehabilitation Club. Cortez is also a past member of the UTPA American Sign Language Club and a volunteer with the Rio Grande Valley Special Olympics. She has a master’s degree in general rehabilitation counseling from The University of Texas Pan American and is a certified rehabilitation counselor. She was appointed to the Council as a family member in August 2011 for a term that expires February 1, 2017.

Mateo Delgado
(El Paso)

Mateo Delgado of El Paso is an assistant district attorney for the 34th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He is a member of the State bars of Texas and New Mexico, and the Western District of Texas and District of New Mexico chapters of the Federal Bar Association. Delgado received a bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of New Mexico. He was reappointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

Stephen Gersuk
(Plano)

Stephen Gersuk of Plano is a business developer for Quantum3D Inc. He is past president of the Denton State Supported Living Center (DSSL) Family Association and a chair of the DSSL Volunteer Services Council. Gersuk received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech University. He was reappointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

Ruth L. Mason
(Houston)

Ruth Lore Mason is a special education and disability advocate. She is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Down Syndrome Association of Houston Board of Directors, Arc of Texas Government Affairs Committee, University of Texas Center for Disability Studies Community Advisory Council and Harris County MHMRA Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Planning Advisory Council. She is a volunteer for Texas Parent to Parent and the Disability Rights Texas Houston office, and special education advocate for A4 Autism. She was appointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

Scott McAvoy
(Cedar Park)

Scott McAvoy is Vice-President of Operations for Marbridge Foundation, which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities. He is a member of LeadingAge Texas and the American Network of Community Options and Resources — and is a founding member of the Texas Culture Change Coalition. He was appointed to the Council in February 2012 as a representative of local, nongovernmental organizations, for a term that expires February 1, 2015.

Michael Peace
(Poteet)

Michael Peace of Poteet is a habilitation worker. He is a volunteer for the Sand Branch Baptist Church Food Bank. Peace is attending Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio. He was appointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

Dana Smith Perry
(Brownwood)

Dana Smith Perry is an advocate for people with disabilities. She is a member of The Arc of Brownwood and previously served as a board chairperson for the Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas. Perry also has served as a volunteer coach for Special Olympics. She graduated from Partners in Policymaking in 1996. Perry was originally appointed to the Council as a parent in August 2002 to fill the remainder of an unexpired term. She was appointed for a full term in November 2003 and again in March 2009 for a term that expires February 1, 2015.

Brandon Pharris
(Beaumont)

Brandon Pharris of Beaumont is the Southeast Texas Self Advocates representative for the Texas Advocates Board, and a board member of The Arc of Greater Beaumont. Pharris received a food service certificate from the Lamar Institute of Technology. He is appointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

David Taylor
(El Paso)

David Taylor is a retired master trainer for the U.S. Army Recruiting Company. He is founder and executive director of the Autism Community Network of El Paso, a child advocate for Court Appointed Special Advocates of El Paso, and a member of the Socorro Independent School District Health Advisory Council and Bond Accountability Committee. He is a member of the Omar Bradley Masonic Lodge 1028, American Legion Post 615, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9231. He is also a past board member of the Children’s Disability Information Coalition and a past member of the El Paso Independent School District Special Education Advisory Council. He served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. He was appointed to the Council in February 2012 for a term that expires February 1, 2017.

Lora Trainer Taylor
(Houston)

Lora Taylor of Houston is a piano teacher. She is a member of the Music Teachers National Association, Texas and Houston Music Teachers associations and National Guild of Piano Teachers. Taylor received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas. She was reappointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2019.

John W. Thomas
(Weatherford)

John Thomas of Weatherford is owner of No Podium Needed and president and CEO of the Joseph Thomas Foundation. He is the West Texas representative on the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and a member of the American Advertising Federation. Thomas received a bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University. He was appointed to the council for a term to expire February 1, 2017.

Richard A. Tisch
(Spring)

Richard A. Tisch is in Large Group Sales with Humana. He is a graduate of the Partners in Policymaking program. Tisch is an assistant Boy Scout leader and coaches for Special Olympics. He received a bachelor’s degree in business from The University of Texas at Austin. Tisch was appointed to the Council as a parent in April 2001 to fill the remainder of an unexpired term. He was appointed for a full term in November 2002 and was reappointed in March 2009 for a term to expire February 1, 2015.

Agency Representatives

Disability Rights Texas

Mary Faithfull

Mary Faithfull has worked for Disability Rights Texas/Advocacy, Inc. since 1985 and has been executive director about 10 years. Earlier positions included regional manager in the Houston office for 10 years and coordinator for the Transition Services Task Force (a TCDD funded project). Before that, she was the education coordinator on the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine assigned to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) from 1979 until 1984. Faithfull received bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. She is also on the board of the National Disability Rights Network.

Patty Anderson (Alternate)

Patty Anderson is the Deputy Director at Disability Rights Texas.

Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Amy Sharp

Dr. Amy Sharp is the Executive Director of the Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Previously, she served as the Associate Director of the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University from 2008-2015. Dr. Sharp has also been the Director of the Family Support Network since 2002. She taught 2nd and 3rd grades as well as serving as a Diagnostician in Texas schools. She is involved in numerous organizations and professional groups. Dr. Sharp has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston; a master’s degree from Angelo State University; and a doctorate in special education leadership and interagency collaboration from Texas A&M University.

Dr. Zaccheus J. Ahonle
(Alternate)

Dr. Zaccheus J. Ahonle is the Disability Studies Training project manager at the Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also a lecturer at the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Ahonle earned a master’s degree in Information Science from the University of Agric., Nigeria and another master’s and Ph.D. in Special Education from The University of Texas at Austin. He is a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor with experience counseling people with disabilities. Dr. Ahonle is a reviewer with Campbell Collaboration and National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials. His primary areas of research include community re-integration (i.e., competitive employment and post-school outcomes) for individuals with disabilities, including transition-aged youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dr. Ahonle’s employment outcome research examined the effects of race/ethnicity, comorbid disabilities, and vocational rehabilitation services on employment outcomes of individuals who experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University

Dr. Dan Zhang

Dr. Dan Zhang is Director of the Center on Disability and Development and has been Professor of Special Education at Texas A&M University since 2005. Prior to joining Texas A&M, he had experiences working with DD Councils and UCEDDs (University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities) for nine years in two other states. Over the years, Dr. Zhang has provided training, service, and research work in the areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities and topics related to transition from school to adulthood. Through various grant supported projects, he has provided self-determination and leadership training to individuals with special support needs in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.

Dr. Meagan Sumbera
(Alternate)

Dr. Meagan Sumbera is the Associate Director of the Center on Disability and Development (CDD). She has been CDD’s Project Coordinator for Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) and Bridge to Career (B2C) in Human Services. Dr. Sumbera earned her doctorate in Special Education Administration at the University of Texas at Austin. While at the University of Texas at Austin, she mentored pre-service special education teachers as a university facilitator. Dr. Sumbera was also a graduate research assistant on an IES Early Mathematics Intervention Project. She has presented at several national and international conferences. Dr. Sumbera is a published author in peer-reviewed journal’s such as “The Urban Review,” “Leadership and Policy in Schools,” and the “International Journals of Leadership Education.”

Texas Education Agency — IDEA

Ron Roberts

Ron Roberts is a special education complaints investigator with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), a position he has held since 2006. Prior to his position at TEA, Ron served as the project manager for the Parent Alliance for Learning and Support (PALS) at the Brighten School in San Antonio. He also served as the area director for the community outreach program at the Austin State School’s Supported Living Centers in Llano and New Braunfels. Ron holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Tarleton State University and is a 1996 graduate of Texas Partners in Policymaking.

Barbara Kaatz
(Alternate)

Barbara Kaatz is a program specialist for IDEA Support.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) — Title XIX Medicaid

Jami Snyder

Jami Snyder is the Associate Commissioner for the Medicaid and CHIP Services Department at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and serves as the state’s Medicaid director. She most recently served as Chief Deputy Director for Medicaid and CHIP for HHSC. Prior to that, Snyder served as the Chief Operating Officer for The University of Arizona Health Plans (UAHP), a division of Banner Health. She has over 18 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, including extensive regulatory experience stemming from her tenure with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and the Arizona Department of Health Services, where she was charged with overseeing the state’s Medicaid-contracted health plans, including compliance with established federal and state managed care regulations and performance in a variety of areas such as network sufficiency, payment modernization, customer service and the provision of self-directed care. Snyder graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and has a Master of Arts in Political Science from Arizona State University.

Juliet Charron
(Alternate)

Juliet Charron serves as Senior Advisor to the State Medicaid Director at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Prior to her role at HHSC, Charron worked for a local, non-profit community health plan in Arizona as the Government Programs Manager. Her work in managed care included Medicaid, Medicare, and Marketplace contract and regulatory compliance; fraud, waste, and abuse investigations; subcontractor oversight; and facilitation of population health initiatives. Charron also served as a policy analyst with the Arizona Department of Health Services, working on the integration of behavioral and physical health services within the state Medicaid program. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelors of Science in Public Policy, Planning, and Management, and also holds a Masters in Public Health in Policy and Management from the University of Arizona.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) — Older Americans Act

Lisa Akers-Owen

Lisa Akers-Owen is the Deputy Associate Commissioner for Community Supports with the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). She has over 26 years of experience working with individuals in need of medical and social services. Akers-Owen’s prior positions include Director with HHSC Health Care Finance Division, Manager and interim Assistant Commissioner in the HHSC Office of the Ombudsman, and Director of Community Services and Program Operations with the Department of Aging and Disability Services. In her current role, she oversees the operations associated with programs serving older adults and people with disabilities. Akers-Owen is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.

Sue Fielder
(Alternate)

Sue Fielder has spent much of her career working in the aging network in numerous positions and capacities. Beginning with the Concho Valley Area Agency on Aging in 1987, positions included both programmatic and fiscal work, and program development in the areas of contract administration, care coordination, benefits counseling, information and assistance, and the nursing home ombudsman program. In 2001 Fielder accepted the position of Director of the Permian Basin Area Agency on Aging in Midland. She held this position until joining the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) in 2008, which transformed to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in 2016. Fielder was selected as the Director for the Office of Area Agencies on Aging (OAAA) within the Access and Eligibility Services division of HHSC in August 2012, having previously served as the Manager for the Contract Accountability and Oversight Unit in the OAAA since she joined the state. Fielder attended Angelo State University in San Angelo and Canton College in Ohio.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) — Vocational Rehabilitation Program (formally DARS)

Jennifer Kaut

Jennifer Kaut is the State Autism and Developmental Disorders Specialist for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Rehabilitation Services. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has practiced in the field of Developmental Disorders for 22 years. She was appointed to the Council for a term to expire February 1, 2021.

Sara Kendall
(Alternate)

Sara Kendall has been the Program Specialist for benefits planning and DADS-DARS service integration for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Rehabilitation Services (DARS/DRS) since January 2012. Prior to assuming this role she was the Administrator for the Texas Medicaid Infrastructure Grant. She has more than 20 years of experience assisting people with disabilities to achieve their vocational goals, including being an employment specialist; writing and implementing home and community based waivers; and working as an administrator for private provider agencies. Her brother, who had intellectual and developmental disabilities, provided the inspiration for her to leave the private industry and enter the field of human services.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) — Title V Maternal/Child Heath Texas (formally DSHS)

Rachel Jew

Rachel Jew is the Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs Director for the Department of State Health Services, where her work focuses on improving systems of care for children and youth with special health care needs in Texas. Previously, she was the Public Health Manager for the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the AAP. Jew was also a data analyst and program specialist for the Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program at the Department of State Health Services. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Ivy Goldstein
(Alternate)

Ivy Goldstein has been a Program Specialist with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in the Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) Services Program since December 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Boston University and is a graduate of Partners in Policymaking. Goldstein represents DSHS on the Consumer Direction Workgroup, the Texas System of Care Consortium, Texas Respite Coalition, Children’s Policy Council, and the Community Resource Coordination Groups State Work Group. Prior to her position with DSHS, Goldstein worked at Disability Rights Texas (formerly Advocacy, Inc.) supporting a self-advocate and she continues to be actively involved in community efforts to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.