Advisory Council

Ashley Amini

Ashley Amini is the Principal Broker, GRI at Levy Properties where she works in residential real estate, as well as farm & ranch real estate. Through her profession, she has seen first-hand how conservation and land stewardship benefit both the environment and private land owners.

... Read More Ashley is currently serving as the co- president of the Texan by Nature Next Generation Advisory Council. She is also president of the BK Asher Charitable Foundation and is a member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board.

Ashley has been a member of the Junior League of Austin since 2009 where she has been involved in various community programs and in-league leadership. Ashley has spent time volunteering with Westcave Preserve and Mobile Loaves & Fishes and has been involved with fundraising for the Brighton School in San Antonio, Texas. Ashley also serves on the Advisory Board of Broadway Bank in Austin, Texas and manages the Managed Land Deer Permit program for her family’s ranch outside of Kerrville, Texas. Ashley graduated from Washington & Lee University with a degree in Geology and she earned an MBA at Texas Christian University.

Matthew Bentley

Matthew Bentley is a governmental relations consultant working for companies, local governments and non-profit organizations involved with environmental management, energy and utility regulations, private property interests and economic development. He started working in state government in 2008 and began contract consulting in 2013.

... Read More Matthew focuses his guidance on public positioning, issue management and government relations. His work has resulted in the development and implementation of public policy; formulation of strategy with key government officials; and improved communication between legislative and business leaders at the highest level.

Most recently, Matthew served as Legislative Director and Campaign Manager to State Representative Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). Representative Cook is the Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, serves on the Calendars Committee and is the former Chairman of the Environmental Regulation and Civil Practices Committees. Matthew oversaw the Chairman’s successful re-election campaign, which was among the highest profile and most seriously contested races in 2016.

With great success, Matthew has considerable experience in working on political campaigns throughout Texas and the United States. Among others, he worked on Commissioner Todd Staples’ statewide Agriculture Commissioner campaign, House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook’s campaign and Governor Rick Perry’s 2010 gubernatorial and 2012 presidential races. Matthew is currently very involved with the Texas GOP’s Mighty Texas Strike Force, serving as the Virginia Co-Captain for the 2016 General Election.

Matthew graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. He was chosen as the sole researcher for the University of Texas Legislative Research Scholarship, where he authored research on behalf of the university regarding political influence on biofuel production in the state.

Sallie Bentley

Sallie Bentley is the Legislative and Policy Coordinator for Speaker Joe Straus of the Texas House of Representatives. Mrs. Bentley has worked on campaigns, helped plan the 2015 Texas Inauguration, scheduled for a Texas Senator, and coached field hockey, soccer, and track at a private school in Austin.

... Read More Mrs. Bentley attended Washington and Lee University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. Upon graduation from Washington and Lee University, Ms. Armstrong moved to Austin to coach at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. While, coaching, she volunteered for a Texas U.S. Senate Campaign with the Finance Team. As the campaign continued on, the position became a full-time position and Ms. Armstrong began her career working politics that has led to her current position in the Speaker’s office.


Stoney Burke

Stoney serves as a Principal in Bracewell’s Policy Resolution Group in Washington, DC. Drawing on his decade-long career on Capitol Hill, Stoney advises Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations and trade associations on developing legislative, regulatory and strategic communications strategies related to energy, infrastructure, technology, trade and national security policy.

... Read More Previously, Stoney served for three years as Chief of Staff for Rep. Will Hurd, where he led the staff hiring process and set up of the offices for a first time Member of Congress.  The newly established Congressional office was recognized for diversity hiring practices by the Hispanic Lobbyist Association for having more than 50% of the positions filled by Latinos in the organization.  Over this period of time, twelve pieces of legislation were signed into law, a record for any Member of Congress in such a short period of time.

In addition, Stoney also spent seven years in the private sector as Director of External Affairs at Southern Company, one of the largest and most sophisticated power companies in the United States.  At Southern, Stoney developed legislative strategies and coordinated external messaging with corporate communications, third party groups, trade associations and thinks tanks to maximize the strategic reach of policy positions.  Recognized for his leadership abilities, Stoney was selected by the Executive Team at Southern Company to participate in an internal development program that focused on team building and in depth mentoring to better understand the core business units.  He also worked for two years as a Legislative Assistant for former Rep. Chet Edwards where he was responsible for energy, agriculture, natural resources and trade issues for the then-Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman.

On a personal level, Stoney is married to Josefina Urzaiz, a Merida, Yucatan native and entrepreneur focused on improving the quality of life of the indigenous, Mayan population in the Yucatan.  Throughout the year, Stoney spends significant time in the Yucatan as an Advisory Board Member for Cielo Foundation, a 501c3 organization set up by Josefina to assist impoverished communities.

Elizabeth Cole

In addition to her executive recruiting role at Google, Elizabeth is also on the Texan by Nature Advisory Council.  Prior to Google, Elizabeth was an Engagement Manager for Heidrick & Struggles, a retained executive search firm, where she focused on C-suite placements in the industrial, oil & gas and agriculture industries.

... Read More Prior to H&S she worked for Target and BNSF in human resources. She graduated from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University and is a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce Talent Advisory Council.

Michael Dorff

Michael Dorff is a Manager in Burson-Marsteller’s public affairs practice. As a public sector specialist, he believes in collaboration and finding mutually beneficial solutions. As a former small business owner, he understands the bottom line. Michael has broad knowledge of major economic drivers like technology, education, energy, agriculture, banking, defense, and government.

... Read More He is a writer and media strategist who successfully leads tactical executions in high-pressure environments. As an independent communications consultant, Dorff assisted a Nigerian non-profit group through the economic downturn, he answered the 3 a.m. phone call from a homeland security firm when they suffered a triple-fatality crisis, and he served as in-house communication counsel to a billion-dollar development corporation in the Caribbean.

Previously, Dorff served as an appointee during the first and second terms of President George W. Bush, with experience in six federal agencies. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, he became the youngest White House Liaison in the federal government. He filled advisory roles in the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. As Deputy to the EPA Press Secretary, Dorff handled tactical crisis communications during the response and recovery of Hurricane Katrina.

Representative Mary E. González

In November 2012, Mary E. González was elected State Representative for House District 75–an area that includes east El Paso County, the fastest growing parts of the city of El Paso and the towns of Socorro, Clint, Fabens, and Tornillo. Mary was raised in Clint, Texas and graduated from Clint High School. Mary serves on the Appropriations Committee and is Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee in the Texas House.

... Read More Throughout her time as a State Representative, she has authored numerous bills to improve public schools, increase economic development, and support agriculture in House District 75 and throughout the state. As a result of her accomplishments, she was named “Freshman of the Year” by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a “Champion of Equality” by Equality Texas two sessions in a row, and the 2015 “Advocate of the Year” by the same organization.

In 2015, she was the youngest inductee into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame. She is currently serving her first term as Vice Chair for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and was elected Secretary of the House Border Caucus.

Mary received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Master’s Degree from St. Edward’s University. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction- Cultural Studies in Education at UT-Austin. Previously, she has worked at the National Hispanic Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and as the Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs at Southwestern University.

Mary currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Allgo, Texas’ state-wide Queer People of Color organization. Mary has been recognized by Latino Leaders Magazine for her leadership in education, was recognized as one of ten “Next Generation Latinas” by Latina Magazine, and as one of the 10 newly-elected politicians to watch in the nation by NBC Latino.

Norman Roy Garza, Jr.

Norman Roy Garza, Jr. joined Texas A&M Engineering (TAME) as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Relations in November 2014. He is responsible for growing a State legislative program and Federal congressional program for TAME agencies that coordinate with the overall Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) legislative agenda.

... Read More Born in Harlingen, Norman is an eighth-generation Texan with roots across the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Reared in Pleasanton, his family maintains a Beef Master Cattle operation near Verdi in Atascosa County. Norman earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Saint Edward’s University in Austin. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in Business Administration, also from Saint Edward’s. Since 2003, Norman has worked in various capacities for state legislators and his past professional experiences also include political campaign management.

Immediately prior to joining TAME, Norman served as Associate Legislative Director for Texas Farm Bureau, the largest agricultural organization in the state. He was responsible for influencing public policy affecting agriculture production and landowner interests. Particular issue areas included: eminent domain, endangered species, energy resources, environmental regulation, immigration/labor, private property rights, oil and gas rights/common carrier pipelines, open space conservation, rural economic development, transportation, utility regulation, water ownership/quality, and wildlife/habitat conservation. As Assistant Vice Chancellor, Norman represents the interest of TAME Vice Chancellor/TAMU College of Engineering Dean, Dr. M. Kathy Banks, on behalf of three state agencies under her direction: Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). Particular issue areas include: workforce development, transportation, environment, energy, technology, homeland security, and emergency response.

Ben Masters

Ben Masters is a filmmaker, author, and photographer based in Austin, TX. Masters studied wildlife biology at the finest educational facility in the universe, Texas A&M University, married way up, and has one gun shy dog and five exceptional mustangs. In 2013, Masters rode those mustangs from Mexico to Canada to produce Unbranded, a documentary that won the audience award at Hot Docs, Mountainfilm, and Banff.

... Read More He is also the director of The River and The Wall feature documentary, premiering at SXSW in March of 2019, which follows five friends on a 1,200 mile horse, canoe, and bicycle expedition along the Rio Grande and Texas-Mexico border to document the borderlands and seek understanding before further construction of a wall.

A dedicated wildlife enthusiast, Masters sat as the Wildlife Management Chair for the controversial Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, where he represented the interests of wildlife and wildlife habitat on 31.2 million acres of public land.

Masters has guided hunts across Texas, managed a 10,000 acre ranch outside of Laredo for four years, and started the Wild Texas Film Tour, an annual 15 city film tour that celebrates Texas wildlife, adventure, and conservation stories.

He is the author of two books published by Texas A&M University, contributes regularly to Western Horseman, and has written and photographed for National Geographic.  You can follow him @bencmasters and if you have a good movie idea, hit him up!

Ilissa Nolan

Ilissa Nolan is the Government Affairs Consultant for Booth, Ahrens and Werkenthin, P.C. in Austin, Texas where she focuses on water and environmental issues. Most recently she served as the Government Relations Director for the Texas Department of Agriculture. Ilissa grew up on a registered Hereford Ranch in the small East Texas town of Gilmer. She received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Leadership and Development with a minor in Horticulture from Texas A&M University.

... Read More  As well, she received a Master of Science in Agricultural Communications from Texas Tech University. Ms. Nolan has worked as a Congressional Intern for the House Agriculture Committee under Chairman Frank Lucas and was honored to serve as the Reading Clerk for the Texas House of Representatives of the 83rd Legislative Session. She worked as the Executive Assistant for Natural Resources Solutions, LC a consulting firm specialized in regulatory and non-regulatory natural resource and environmental issues.

Most recently, she served as the Legislative Director for Representative Charles “Doc” Anderson, Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee. Ms. Nolan is a member of the Junior League of Austin and Next Generation Advisory Council of Texan by Nature.

Marissa Patton

Marissa Patton lives in Austin and currently works as associate legislative director for the Texas Farm Bureau. She monitors issues and legislation pertaining to eminent domain, land use regulation, wildlife, rural affairs, agriculture and livestock commodities, and appropriations.

... Read More Marissa was raised in Stamford, Texas, where her family maintains a small farming and ranching operation. She is a graduate of Stamford High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University.

Prior to joining Texas Farm Bureau, Marissa worked in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Senator John Cornyn. She also worked in Austin for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). Outside of work Marissa volunteers for the Junior League of Austin and is an active member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Stewards of the Wild young professional organization.

Justin Yarborough

Justin Yarborough is a Director at Kayne Anderson Capital and currently serves as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Mr. Yarborough is affiliated with several statewide and local organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, First Lady Laura Bush’s Texan by Nature, and various military nonprofit organizations.

... Read More Additionally, Mr. Yarborough was recognized by the Texas House of Representatives for “heroism and valor” for his actions after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, initially featured by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. Since the earthquake, Yarborough’s charity supports an orphanage and school in Port-au-Prince, while his team’s documentary was an official selection for the DOC NYC Documentary Film Festival and docMiami International Film Festival.

A sixth-generation Texan, Justin is from Alpine, TX where his family has been in the ranching business for decades near Big Bend National Park. Justin received his law degree from St. Mary’s School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, where he walked-on to the football team.

Darrel Ward

Austin, TX

Darrel is Senior Vice President of Dell’s Commercial Client Business Unit in the Client Product Group. In this role, he is responsible for portfolio strategy, product management and overall business performance for all of Dell’s Commercial PCs, software and solutions.In that role, he leads a team that is passionate about building the best products if the world and running the operational processes that ensure that Dell can continue to innovate, develop, and manage the a product portfolio that delights customers.

... Read More Darrel has worked in the tech industry for almost 30 years. Before joining Dell, Darrel was Vice President of Enterprise Storage Business Unit and Enterprise Product Marketing at Lenovo. Prior to Lenovo, Darrel was a Corporate Vice President and Global Account Manager at AMD. Previously, Darrel held multiple executive leadership roles in product marketing, product planning and strategy in the technology industry.

Darrel is a proud native Texan whose passions are the outdoors, recreational ranching, animal rescue, conservation and sustainability. He has held positions in animal rescue charities and currently serves on Dell’s Executive Sustainability Council.

Huston-Tillotson Revolving Council Member

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working with Huston-Tillotson University, with the partnership of Texas A&M University’s Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Extension Unit, to create an urban wildlife research program for its primarily African-American and Hispanic student body. This program will increase awareness of environmental issues relevant to communities of color and increase funding of activities addressing these issues. The program will also focus on increasing the diversity of the pool of emerging wildlife professionals and provide students with relevant, marketable skills and relationships that will strengthen their career potential. We are thrilled to add a student from this program on a yearly basis to our advisory council. Current Student: Chani Burnett.

... Read More Chani was born in Killeen, Texas. Having grown up in a military family, she has had opportunities to travel and visit different places around the United States. She has volunteered at her local shelter for about 5 years helping manage the kennels, training a few of the pets present, and making sure all the animals residing receive exercise and food. She graduated from Killeen High School before heading off to continue learning at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas. Upon her transfer, she received her Associates in the Arts and is now currently attending Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. She is working very hard to receive her Bachelors in the Sciences with a focus in Biology.