We started off our year with a bang in the form of the 38th Annual Mid-Winter Conference in Kerrville. The theme this year was Strengthen The Core, a much needed respite from a very challenging fiscal and calendar year. First Vice-President Yolanda Hall opened the conference with a warm welcome and transitioned into an information filled presentation by Amanda Crawford from the Office of Attorney General (OAG). Amanda provided insight into how the OAG works and the services they provide to all state agencies.
Our emcee Don Green kept the program going and brought up Jo Dale Guzman and Krista Oswald from the State Auditor’s Office. Always an attendee favorite, these presenters guided us on the do’s and don’ts with “Effective Email Communication.” Their interactive presentation kept the audience engaged and mindful of how our email communications can be misunderstood and potentially harmful to the message that is intended.
Maggie Freeman from the Governor’s Office presented information on working in a “Multi-Generational Workforce” and how to maneuver through potential issues related to the differences in the diverse generations, something we all experience daily.
Next up was Suzi Hilliard with the Department of Information Resources who guided us through “Cybersecurity-Isn’t That an IT Thing?” This presentation provided highly useful information on the threats that agencies and individuals face on a daily basis to keep state and personal information secure. Current technology requires that we address new challenges on a daily basis and Suzi provided data and resources for us to do so.
A new program was developed at this conference to allow several topics consecutively. Three break-out sessions covered distinctly different topics for attendees. Carol Buchanan with the Health and Human Services Commission spoke about “Transforming Business: One Project at a Time.” Carol talked about the steps of projects and how to stay focused to complete projects with constant interruptions and the addition of new projects.
Another option for attendees was “Leading Organizational Program and Change Management: Applying Industry Best Practices at Government Agencies” presented by Jamie Zerwas with Visa and Lisa C. Willmore with the Railroad Commission.
The third option was an overview of the efforts and effects on the state of Hurricane Harvey. Bruce Simons and Jet Hays with the General Land Office and Will Patton with the Texas Division of Emergency Management provided a detailed overview of the massive response to the hurricane and potential enhancements to those efforts when another disaster occurs.
“Intersections of Budget, Accounting and Internal Audit” was a panel discussion providing insight on how these three functions in each agency cross over on a regular basis and provide a foundation for a successful financial services area in any agency. Panelists included Amy Barrett with the Teacher Retirement System, Anthony Infantini from the Texas Department of Insurance and Sami Chadli from the Texas Department of Banking. The panel was moderated by Brandy Corrales with the Texas Medical Board.
The first day of the conference closed out with “Another Delivering Customer-Centric Transparency: High Touch & High Tech,” with Dione Albert and Jessica Butler, both from the Texas Department of Transportation. This presentation discussed projects with the direction of making them easier and more efficient through the use of technology and information sharing.
After a fun night of a pool tournament and dancing, attendees had a final day of informational speakers before heading back to Austin.
Attendees were treated to a presentation on “10 Proven Keys to Success” by Dr. Ben Welch from Texas A&M University. Dr. Welch provided thoughtful insight to his many years of teaching and the successes experienced through many ups and downs.
Dr. Welch was followed by a Legislative Panel that included Sarah Hicks with the Governor’s Office, Mike Morrisey from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and John McGeady with the Legislative Budget Board. The panel discussed the upcoming 86th Legislative Session and the main budget drivers, the strategic planning process and the legislative appropriations process. Audience members also had a chance to ask the panel questions.
Tanya Rollins from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services closed out the conference with a dynamic and often humorous presentation “Cultural Responsiveness – Not Just Political Correctness.” A topic more often talked around than about, Tanya offered insight and information on the times we live in and how to realize internally and externally how our actions and words affect our responsiveness.