Jennifer Woodard takes minutes and monitors the agenda at the October Board of Directors Meeting, held September 30 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin. Board members were happy to reunite for the first time since February.
When last I wrote for the magazine, we found ourselves at the start of a nation-wide pandemic. Six months later, we are still there. However, the chapter and our industry have not only survived, but in many ways, we have thrived. Despite the circumstances in the state and our local communities today, AGC of Texas and its member firms have continued our work successfully. We all miss the fellowship and interaction of in-person meetings but for now we Zoom, and “GoTo,” and gather via Microsoft Teams. It’s a brave new world and we have all stepped up with courage to conduct our business and address important issues critical to our future.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing losses of 2020 was that we were unable to enjoy the annual Management Conference and Administrative Conference. These highlight events were not only educational and informative, they were fun.
In August, President Robert Adamson and President-Elect Kal Kincaid hosted two virtual conference sessions for the membership. On August 20 we had a legislative briefing from Congressman Kevin Brady and AGC of America’s Jimmy Christianson. Texas State Senators Kelly Hancock and Chuy Hinojosa joined Steven Albright and offered their perspective and insight into current affairs and the key issues facing the legislature. The event was wrapped up by State Representatives Charlie Geren and Chris Paddie who talked at length about how the next session could look.
The following Monday, TxDOT leaders participated in a virtual conference format to discuss lettings, the Unified Transportation Program for Texas, as well as district operations. Many thanks to Bill Hale, Quincy Allen, and District Engineers Eliza Paul, Don Smith and Tomas Trevino for their participation. Chapter staff worked extremely hard on these virtual sessions and we hope to continue offering more in the future.
AGC area meetings have been held or planned to be held in all 25 TxDOT districts across all 19 AGC areas. As fall approaches we look forward to moving into a hybrid virtual/in-person format and allowing more opportunity for resuming our normal chapter activities. We will remain diligent about ensuring proper health and safety standards and keeping our gatherings in accordance with all state and local guidance.
Last article I wrote about our work to participate in every House and Senate district as well as selected statewide races. We scheduled a slew of virtual PAC visits with candidates and officeholders in every area of the state. In each one, our members have engaged in meaningful discussions about the industry’s role as a critical service provider during the pandemic and our ability to keep working in a safe and healthy manner to deliver infrastructure projects for the state. The virtual discussions also provided an opportunity to remind the members of the Texas legislature that the funding for transportation approved overwhelmingly by the voters in 2014 and 2015 has been well-spent and should be preserved going forward. We appreciate all of the hard work of the Area Chairs and Public Affairs Vice Chairs who have built their PACs by investing their time, talent, and treasure.
The work we are doing with the PAC lays the foundation for the next legislative session. The 87th Texas Legislature will convene in early January 2021 and the effects of COVID-19 will no doubt change the session as we have always known it. At this point, it is difficult to predict how the health crisis will impact the way the legislative session will be conducted. There is speculation that the Texas Capitol will be closed to the public and only members and their key staff may be allowed in the building. Some say there is a possibility that only a budget and items deemed as emergency by Governor Abbott may be considered.
Whatever the challenges, AGC of Texas will be prepared to advocate for the membership. We have already begun to focus on our social and digital media efforts. The chapter’s Legislative Drafting & Review Committee, chaired by Tracy Schieffer, and the Highway Funding Task Force, chaired by Johnny Weisman, has met several times over the summer and plan to meet monthly throughout the balance of 2020. We know there will be debate on the state’s fiscal plan and budget at a minimum and AGC will engage appropriately.
2020 has not been our brightest year, but it has not been wasted. As we move into the final quarter, we remain committed to doing our work with integrity, diligence, and hope. Together we have accomplished a great deal and there is more to do. The holidays will likely be more significant to us all and I look forward to focus on all our blessings with gratitude, thanksgiving, and celebration.
With an entire ballroom at its disposal, Hyatt staff arranged what must be the largest board room table ever created for the twelve-member board. Large amplifiers were arranged in the middle of the room and individual microphones were supplied to all attendees, which worked very well.