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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

Contact: Allen Spelce or R.J. DeSilva
512-463-4070

For Immediate Release
January 2, 2007

Comptroller Susan Combs Announces More Senior Staff Appointments


AUSTIN — Comptroller Susan Combs today announced the appointments of several senior staff members to the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Delane Caesar, Victor M. Gonzalez, Raette Smith Hearne, Gilberto F. Mendoza, Lisa Minton, Allen Spelce, Trey Powers and Robert Wood, all former employees of Combs at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), have received appointments to the Comptroller’s Office. Martin Cherry, R.J. DeSilva Gooneratne, Patricia A. Vojack and Marty De Leon have also received appointments. Combs said her staff includes acknowledged leaders in their respective fields.

“I have carefully chosen a very competent and dynamic team of seasoned professionals to work with me at the Comptroller’s Office,” Combs said. “The appointment of these highly-qualified individuals will further build on our strategic planning, management and financial goals to serve the citizens of Texas. I feel confident we have assembled a dynamic group that will make significant contributions to our future accomplishments.”

Delane Caesar, TDA’s former Senior Policy Advisor for Marketing and Promotion, has joined the Comptroller’s staff as the Director of Public Outreach and Strategies. Martin Cherry, former Chief Deputy Counsel at the Comptroller’s Office, has been promoted to General Counsel. Victor M. Gonzalez, former TDA Deputy Commissioner of Administrative Services and Chief Information Officer, steps in as the new Director of Innovation and Chief Technology Officer. Raette Smith Hearne, TDA’s previous Assistant Commissioner for Administrative Services, becomes the new Director of Administration at the Comptroller’s Office. Gilberto F. Mendoza, former Director for Internal Audits at TDA, joins the Comptroller’s Office as the Director of the Internal Audit Division. Lisa Minton, Combs’ past Chief of Staff at TDA, returns to the Comptroller’s Office as Director of Research and Analysis.

Allen Spelce, the former Assistant Commissioner for Communications at TDA, joins the Comptroller’s staff as the Director of Communications. R.J. DeSilva Gooneratne, previously a reporter and anchor for KXAN-TV in Austin, becomes the new spokesperson for the agency. Patricia A. Vojack, former Chief of Staff to State Senator Kyle Janek, comes onboard as the new Director of Legislative Affairs at the Comptroller’s Office. Trey Powers, former TDA Assistant Commissioner for Legislative Affairs, joins the Comptroller’s Governmental Affairs Division and serves as Legislative Liason. Marty De Leon, who previously worked for the Texas Association of School Boards, also joins the Comptroller’s staff as a Legislative Liaison. Robert Wood, TDA’s former Assistant Commissioner for Rural Economic Development, accepted the position of Director of Local Government Assistance and Economic Development at the Comptroller’s Office.

“Each person I have appointed brings valuable experience, professionalism, expertise and proven track records of performance that will bring ideas and energy to our initiatives,” Combs said. “I’m pleased they have accepted their new responsibilities, and I know they will draw heavily on their experiences to ensure success in these new roles.”

Delane Caesar has a proven record of launching effective and measurable public outreach initiatives. Her expertise includes more than 25 years of hands-on experience in marketing, advertising, media, design, public relations and strategic planning with past positions as an art director for several prominent New York advertising firms and the owner of her own Texas-based design and marketing studio. In 1999, Caesar joined the TDA as the Assistant Commissioner for Marketing and Promotion, where she helped oversee the award-winning launch of multiple statewide and national outreach campaigns.

Martin Cherry is a long-time employee at the Comptroller’s Office, where he most recently served as Chief Deputy Counsel. He joined the agency in 1973 as a hearing attorney and has also served in a variety of other positions, including staff attorney for the Tax Administration Division, Special Counsel for tax and legislative issues and manager of the General Law section of the Legal Division. Cherry has also coordinated research and drafting of legislation on both fiscal and taxation issues. Cherry graduated from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) before earning his law degree from Baylor University School of Law.

Victor M. Gonzalez joins the Comptroller’s Office with more than 23 years of experience working in state government. Prior to his six-year tenure at TDA, he worked at various state agencies, including the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Ethics Commission, Texas Legislative Council, Office of the Secretary of State and The University of Texas at Austin. Gonzalez served as a governor’s appointee to the Texas Online Authority from its inception in 2002 through 2005. He earned his undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Raette Smith Hearne has more than 17 years of state government experience, having worked at the Office of the Attorney General for nine years and TDA for the past eight years. Her prior professional experience included working for the United Way of Midland, the city of Odessa and State National Bank. Hearne earned an MBA from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin and graduated from the Intermediate School of Banking. She is a 2004 graduate of Leadership Texas.

Gilberto F. Mendoza is a Certified Public Accountant with 39 years of public service. During the last eight years, he has served TDA under Combs’ administration. Previously, he worked at the State Auditor’s Office for 11 years. Mendoza’s public service also includes 20 years as an Army aviator, retiring in 1984 as a Chief Warrant Officer W4.

Lisa Minton has more than 21 years of state service and worked at TDA since 2004. Prior to her post on Combs’ administration, she had several positions at the Comptroller’s Office, including roles as Director of Research and Policy Development, Assistant Director of Agency Administration and Special Assistant to the Comptroller. Minton, who began her state career with the State Auditor’s Office, previously worked as Special Assistant to the Director at the Legislative Budget Board and has had positions on the State Policy Council of the State Employee Charitable Campaign and the Texas Incentive and Productivity Commission.

Allen Spelce will manage all communications activities for the Office of the State Comptroller. He worked with Commissioner Combs at TDA for more than seven years, where he led the Communications Division and served as spokesman for the Department. Spelce previously worked as the Public Outreach Manager for the Comptroller’s Office. Prior to his service for the state, Spelce served as operations manager of an Austin radio station for four years. He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin.

R.J. DeSilva Gooneratne joins the Comptroller’s Office as a spokesman for the agency. DeSilva worked as an award-winning reporter and anchor for KXAN-TV in Austin for the past 10 years. He extensively covered news around the Austin region, including legislative sessions. DeSilva has also traveled to Mexico, Bosnia and Sri Lanka to report on events in those countries. Prior to joining KXAN, he worked at WBOC-TV in Dover, Delaware, where he covered the Delaware Legislature. DeSilva worked in public relations for the Nasdaq Stock Market before starting his television news career. He graduated from the University of Maryland with degrees in finance and journalism.

Patricia A Vojack joins the Comptroller’s Office following her two-and-a-half year stint as Chief of Staff to Sen. Kyle Janek, for whom she also worked as General Counsel for four years. Vojack advised the senator on many issues including health care financing, eminent domain and asbestos litigation. She also worked as the Committee Director and General Counsel to Sen. Mike Moncrief and assisted the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Prior to joining the Legislature, Vojack worked as a litigator at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, focusing on insurance and health care litigation. Vojack earned her bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and has a Master of Science degree in nursing from The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. She also earned a degree from the New England School of Law.

Trey Powers brings a wealth of state legislative experience to the Governmental Affairs Division of the Comptroller’s Office, following his eight years working at TDA with Commissioner Combs. Prior to joining TDA, Trey spent four years at the Texas Senate working at the capitol office of State Senator Tom Haywood and with the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture. He is a 1994 graduate of Texas A&M University.

Marty De Leon worked in the Texas Association of School Boards’ Governmental Relations Division since November 2000. He was responsible for issues related to charter schools, ethics, liability, personnel, special education, teacher compensation, teacher health insurance, vouchers and public education grants. Previously, De Leon served as a research analyst in the House Research Organization, where he specialized in public education and higher education issues. He clerked for a San Antonio law firm that served as general counsel to school districts and also taught fifth grade in San Antonio’s Edgewood ISD. De Leon earned his undergraduate degree in U.S. foreign policy at the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Robert Wood joined TDA’s Finance and Agribusiness Division in 1999. In 2001, Commissioner Combs named him to serve as the Assistant Commissioner for Rural Economic Development. Prior to joining TDA, Robert spent 12 years in the commercial banking industry and two years working for a diversified agricultural operation. He is a 1985 graduate of Texas A&M University.

These positions became effective Jan. 1, 2007.

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