TEXAS, December 1 – December 1, 2022 | Austin, Texas | press release
Governor Greg Abbott today announced senior leadership in his administration following hiring and personnel changes. Gardner Pate, who was named chief of staff last month, will lead the governor’s team, which joins the 88th State with deputy chief of staff Jordan Hale and new deputy chief of staff Toby Baker, who will join the governor’s office later this month. legislative session goes.
“The upcoming legislative session will require an impressive workforce within the governor’s office, and I am pleased to announce this experienced team of talented individuals who will help our office achieve great things for the people of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “Texans deserve leadership that will continue to lead our state into a more prosperous future. I look forward to working with Gardner, Jordan and Toby as this extraordinary team addresses critical issues and enacts policies that protect the freedom and opportunity for every Texan throughout our state.”
The leadership announced today is effective immediately, with Toby Baker and Shayne Woodard taking up their duties on December 15, 2022.
Toby Baker will serve as deputy chief of staff effective December 15. Baker is currently Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and previously served as Commissioner for the agency for six years. He is also currently an officer for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. Prior to joining TCEQ, Baker was a political advisor in the Office of the Governor and served as an advisor, clerk and associate in the Texas Legislature. Baker received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a master’s of public service and administration from the Texas A&M George Bush School of Government and Public Service. He is also a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Governor’s Executive Development Program at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Sarah Hicks was promoted to Senior Advisor and Budget Director. Hicks joined Gov. Abbott’s team as budget director in October 2017 and later assumed additional responsibilities as budget and policy director. Hicks was previously Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of External Relations at the Texas A&M University System. Prior to that, she served as Committee Director on the Texas Senate Committee on Finance for former State Senators Tommy Williams and Steve Ogden. Hicks holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University and a Master of Public Service Administration from Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Shayne Woodard will serve as Director of Legislative Affairs effective December 15. Woodard is the founder of Waterloo Lobby & Advocacy, Inc. Prior to founding his lobbying firm, Woodard was Chief of Staff to Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson. He has also worked as a legislative analyst for the Texas Association of Builders and as a staffer in and around the State Capitol for Comptroller Bob Bullock, the Texas Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. Woodard is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a BS in Agricultural Economics and past President of the Tech Student Body. Woodard succeeds Courtney Hjaltman, who will depart for a governor’s appointment to be announced in the coming days.
Tabatha Vasquez was promoted to Policy Director. Vasquez previously served as the governor’s assistant budget and policy director. She has held various positions within the Legislature, including Chief of Staff in the House of Representatives and Legislative Director and Sunset Committee Director for Senator Brian Birdwell. Prior to her government service, she advised and directed dozens of campaigns for candidates at all levels of government, both in Texas and across the country. Vasquez attended Mars Hill University, where she majored in sociology and criminal justice, minored in business administration, and played Division II women’s soccer.
Rena Eze was promoted to communications director. Eze has worked for Governor Abbott since 2020 and most recently served as press secretary and senior communications advisor in the governor’s office. Prior to joining Governor Abbott’s office, Eze served as communications director for Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and as assistant communications director for his gubernatorial campaign. She also previously served as communications director for Arizona for the Republican National Committee, along with various other communications roles in politics and campaigns across the country. Eze graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Bonnie Diehl was promoted to Director of Scheduling and Advance. Diehl previously served as Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance to Governor Abbott, Deputy Director of Advance and Advance Representative since 2019. Before joining the governor’s office, Diehl was a field representative for Senator Jane Nelson and worked at Schneider Transportation. Diehl is a graduate of the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in supply chain and logistics technology.
The following senior staff will continue to serve in their respective senior roles in the Office of the Governor:
Gardner Pie was appointed chief of staff to Governor Abbott last month.
Jordan Hale will continue to serve as deputy chief of staff.
Steve Munisteri will remain senior advisor to Governor Abbott.
Adriana Cruz remains executive director for economic development and tourism.
Aimee Snoddy remains Executive Director of the Public Security Bureau.
Peggy Venable will continue to serve as Governor Abbott’s nominating director.
James P Sullivan will continue to serve as the governor’s general counsel.
Wes Hambrick will continue to serve as Director of State-Federal Relations.
Chelsea Holden will continue to serve as First Lady Cecilia Abbott’s chief of staff.
Suzanne Johnson will continue to serve as Administrative Director.