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Governor Abbott Announces Senior Staff Leadership

December 1, 2022 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott today announced senior staff leadership in his administration following hiring and staff changes. Gardner Pate, who was named Chief of Staff last month, will lead the Governor’s team going into the 88th Legislative Session with Deputy Chief of Staff Jordan Hale and new Deputy Chief of Staff Toby Baker who will be joining the Governor's Office later this month. 

"The upcoming legislative session will require a formidable staff within the Office of the Governor, 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 guiding our state towards a more prosperous future. I look forward to working alongside Gardner, Jordan, and Toby as this exceptional team tackles critical issues and enacts policies that will safeguard freedom and opportunity for every Texan across our great state."

Staff leadership announced today is effective immediately, with Toby Baker and Shayne Woodard beginning their roles on December 15, 2022. 

Toby Baker will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff starting on December 15. Baker is currently the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and previously served as Commissioner for the agency for six years. He also currently serves as an appointee to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. Prior to joining TCEQ, Baker was a policy advisor in the Governor’s Office and worked as an advisor, clerk, and staffer in the Texas Legislature. Baker received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a Master 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 has been promoted to Senior Advisor and Budget Director. Hicks joined Governor Abbott’s team in October 2017 as the Budget Director and later assumed additional duties as Director of Budget and Policy. Hicks previously served as Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of State Relations at the Texas A&M University System. Prior to that, she worked as the Committee Director of 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 the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Shayne Woodard will serve as Director of Legislative Affairs beginning on December 15. Woodard is the founder of Waterloo Lobby & Advocacy, Inc. Prior to founding his lobbying firm, Woodard was the Chief of Staff for 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 graduate of Texas Tech University with a B.S. in Agricultural Economics and a former Tech Student Body President. Woodard is succeeding Courtney Hjaltman, who will be departing for an appointment by the Governor, which will be announced in the coming days.

Tabatha Vasquez has been promoted to Policy Director. Vasquez previously served as the Governor’s Deputy Budget and Policy Director. She has held various roles within the Legislature, including as a Chief of Staff in the House and as a Legislative Director and Sunset Committee Director for Senator Brian Birdwell. Prior to her state service, she consulted and managed 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, and played Division II Women’s Soccer.

Renae Eze has been promoted to Communications Director. Eze has worked for Governor Abbott since 2020 and was most recently Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor within the Office of the Governor. Prior to joining Governor Abbott's office, Eze served as Communications Director for Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and as Deputy Communications Director for his gubernatorial campaign. She also previously served as Arizona Communications Director for the Republican National Committee, along with various other communications roles in politics and campaigns across the country. Eze is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor's degree in Political Science. 

Bonnie Diehl has been promoted to Director of Scheduling and Advance. Diehl has previously served as Governor Abbott’s Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance, Deputy Director of Advance, and Advance Representative since 2019. Prior to joining the Governor's Office, Diehl was 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 serving in their respective leadership roles within the Office of the Governor:

Gardner Pate was named Governor Abbott’s Chief of Staff last month.

Jordan Hale will continue serving as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Steve Munisteri will remain Senior Advisor to Governor Abbott.

Adriana Cruz will remain Executive Director of Economic Development and Tourism.

Aimee Snoddy will remain Executive Director of the Public Safety Office.

Peggy Venable will continue to serve as Governor Abbott’s Appointments Director.

James P. Sullivan will continue to serve as General Counsel to the Governor. 

Wes Hambrick will continue serving as Director of State-Federal Relations.

Chelsea Holden will continue serving as Chief of Staff to First Lady Cecilia Abbott. 

Suzanne Johnson will continue serving as Director of Administration.