Jennifer Woodard, Gary Trietsch (HCTRA) and Doug Pitcock at the Houston Area October Monthly Luncheon
I AM INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL AND EXCITED to serve as the executive vice president for the AGC of Texas – an organization I truly admire and love. Many of you know me, some of you do not yet, but I look forward to working for each of you as we work together in the future.
I am a native Austinite, born and raised in the “little offbeat” college town that has now grown into a major metropolitan area that embraces full-blown “weirdness,” and is struggling with big urban problems like crippling congestion.
I am a newlywed again at 40-something. My husband Shayne and I were married on February 25 of this year and together we have five children. Our oldest daughter Whitney Woodard is 21 and a successful entrepreneur in the jewelry business, while she finishes college. Our daughter, Abbey Woodard, is an 18 year-old freshman at the University of Georgia. Our son Chap Newton--the only guy--is 18 years old, a senior in high school and a recent Eagle Scout. Our daughter Anney Woodard is 16 and a junior in high school. And the caboose, as we lovingly refer to her, is Ava Rose Newton who is 14 and a freshman in high school.
As far as hobbies go—I just told you what fills my time outside of work. Family is my hobby.
This year I am celebrating 31 years working for AGC of Texas. I walked in the doors of 300 Barton Springs Road when I was 16 years old. I was summer help and assisted everyone in the office with anything and everything. I would literally walk from desk to desk helping the staff. I really moved up the ladder early when the new “Lanier” word processor was delivered and no one else wanted to abandon their IBM Selectric typewriter. So I took on the task of learning the Lanier and showing the others how to use it.
Eventually, I moved from Lanier to Lawrence Olsen, helping out with legislative issues. At first I mainly drove “LO” to the Capitol in his gigantic car filled with newspapers to drop him and his brick phone off, but we talked about politics and issues and I slowly began to learn the legislative process and how important it was to AGC. I cut my teeth on campaign work with Karen Johnson Rove, helping her with early constitutional amendment campaigns as well.
In the fall of 1987 I moved to College Station and began my time at TAMU. I came home in the summers, winter break and spring break, and continued to work as needed at the AGC office. In 1991, I graduated with a BA in political science.
I returned home to Austin and was offered a job in the Texas House of Representatives working in the important Calendars Committee during what would eventually be multiple special sessions that summer and fall. I decided at that point that I wanted to continue to work in the legislative arena.
When the specials ended and interim came, I was out of work. Tom Johnson called and offered me a full-time position to return to work at AGC. I would have my own desk and I was charged with being the OJT Secretary (if you remember the orange and yellow cards). I processed water permits at TCEQ, I notarized bids at letting, and I helped Tom with special projects.
In 1993, the legislature passed a monster bill that created the TNRCC. It was literally hundreds of pages of language and statute. Mr. Johnson dropped the massive bill on my desk and said, “read this and give me one paragraph.”
That was actually something he used to do a lot. Apparently, my one paragraph was impressive because I was thereafter known as the Chapter’s “environmental expert.” I worked on air permits, Project Specific Location (PSL) issues at TxDOT, and State Implementation Plan (SIP) issues like the morning construction ban and accelerated fleet turnover.
Eventually I took over responsibility for the MU Division, served as field manager for the Austin Area, worked with dozens of committees, helped with the creation of the scholarship program, and eventually the Gala.
Most of what I know about the industry, the membership, and how both operate has come from my work on the Highway Funding Task Force and Legislative Drafting & Review Committee, and the work I have done over the past thirteen sessions at the Capitol.
When I started with the Highway Funding Task Force and Legislative Drafting and Review Committee, my Chairman for both was Doug Pitcock. Following as Chairman have been Bob Lanham and Johnny Weisman. Joining these advocates around the Board table in Austin are the most dedicated group of AGC members I have ever seen. The ability to witness the partnership and values of this group throughout the years has been an honorable and humbling experience.
Most recently, I worked on the successful Prop 1 and Prop 7 campaigns and gained invaluable experience in grassroots and coalition building.
This past August, when the Goals & Objectives Committee visited with me about the transition to this position, I was thrilled. I truly look forward to each day and the challenges that we face as an industry with confidence because I have been mentored--and continue to be advised by--the best business and industry leaders in the state.
Here I am today. I have had a lot of questions from folks like “What is your vision for AGC?” Simply stated: don’t mess it up.
My goal is to preserve and protect the philosophy of our organization: Members Helping Members in a member (not staff) driven organization, with skill, integrity, and responsibility as our core values. My goal is to work in the best interest of the overall industry. I plan to continue to promote transparency – where most meetings and functions are open to all members and where issues of importance are fully vetted and considered by the membership. We have processes and protocol in place within our organizational structure that have always led us to a desirable outcome. We seek consensus where it is possible, and agree to disagree respectfully when it is not.
That being said, we must be prepared for change. Change is not always easy but is oftentimes necessary, if not inevitable. My pledge to you all is that I will do my very best to help our member-driven organization to adapt to the changes ahead and to thrive in the process. We must be focused on the future and the reality of change in our association, in our market, in our workforce, in our businesses, and in our state. My vision is that we remain the premier construction industry association in the nation while holding true to our core philosophy and values, always prepared to adapt to the changes that are ahead.
We have a strong organization with our Chapter officers, President Seth Schulgen, President-Elect Chad Clark, and Immediate Past President Jeff Smith, as well as our Board of Directors, Divisions, Committees, Task Forces, and Staff.
We are indeed fortunate that over the last three to five years we have seen significant growth in member participation and involvement. Our conferences break attendance records consistently; our scholarship program has grown to 60 students enrolled and awards $10,000 a year to those students. Our Gala, which is the primary fundraiser for our scholarship program, topped out this year at a record $871,000.
There is no shortage of opportunities for you and your company to participate in the important work of this Chapter.
Many of you are actively involved in our Public Affairs & Advocacy activity at the local and statewide level. Our PAC has increased in size and activity since 2014 and we raise and spend a little over $500,000 annually. This amount is supplemented by the individual contributions and work that many of you do with your elected leaders.
We are embarking on a new election cycle now. The filing period officially opens November 11 and the deadline for candidates to file is December 11. The primary election is March 6, 2018.
Next year, we will be in an interim period for the Texas Legislature where the House and Senate will study issues and we will of course be involved in preparation for the 2019 session. Next Session will most likely be “All About the Money.” With an estimated $10 billion shortfall and the Hurricane Harvey Recovery, the legislature will be looking to cut and stretch where possible. We will need to be conscious of this throughout the interim as we work with our state leaders to remind them of the promise they made to their constituents to establish highway funding to reasonable levels.
In closing, I want to share the following dates on your calendars in 2018. I hope to see you there:
~ AGC of America Annual Convention 2/26-2/28 in New Orleans
~ Management Conference 6/10-6/14 in Charleston, South Carolina
~ Administrative Conference 7/26-7/29 in San Antonio, Texas
~ Executive Safety Conference & Scholarship Gala 9/06 in Austin, Texas