Shanté Jordan-Akafia, IPMA-SCP, Director of Human Resources/Risk Management, City of Plano
Shanté has almost 20 years of municipal human resources experience with the City of Palm Bay, Florida and several municipalities in the DFW Metroplex, including DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Allen and Rowlett. Currently Shanté serves as the Director of Human Resources and Civil Service for the City of Plano. Shanté is a Dallas native and has had a long standing passion for local government administration dating back to high school where she attended the Magnet Center for Government, Law and Law Enforcement in downtown Dallas. This passion for local government administration led Shanté to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Grambling State University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Texas. Shanté served as a Trustee on TMHRA’s board of directors from 2008 to 2012 and from 2016 to present. During this time she had the pleasure of chairing the conference programming, newsletter and sponsorship committees. In her free time, Shanté enjoys traveling, meditative coloring, listening to audio books and spending time with her husband and their sons.
Andre Houser, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, IPMA-SCP, Human Resources and Civil Service Director, City of Conroe
Andre Houser, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, IPMA-SCP, currently serves as the Human Resources and Civil Service Director for the City of Conroe, TX. He has served in that capacity since January, 2012. Andre has over 30 years of municipal HR experience, having served in 5 cities and 3 states. He has worked for both Mayor-Council and Council-Manager cities, and is very familiar with the pros and cons of each. His experience covers all aspects of HR Management, including collective bargaining, labor relations, recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, health and safety, and Civil Service.
Andre has been active in the HR field, having previously served as a SHRM Chapter President in Arkansas, as SHRM State Director in Oklahoma , and as a multi-year member of the former Area IV SHRM Board. He currently is a member of the Montgomery County chapter of SHRM. Andre is also a member of the International Personnel Management Association, where he serves on the 2016 Awards Committee.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Administration, both from the University of Arkansas. Andre received a Certificate in Management from ICMA, has been certified as a Professional Trainer by Arkansas State University, and is a Texas Certified Public Manager, which he earned at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Montgomery County in Texas. He is certified as SHRM-SCP, SPHR, and IPMA-SCP.
Paula Kutchka, Director of Human Resources, City of Sugar Land
Paula Kutchka, Director of Human Resources, for the City of Sugar Land, is a native Texan. She was born in Victoria and grew up in Wharton County. Paula earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Houston-Victoria.
Paula began working for the City of Sugar Land in 2002 when she was hired as the Compensation and Benefits Manager. She was promoted to Assistant Director in 2006 and Director in 2011. Paula has over 20 years of human resources experience in a variety of industries, including county government, staffing, manufacturing, and chemical production.
Paula’s professional affiliations include HR Houston (served on 2010-2011 Board of Directors), Texas Municipal Human Resources Association (TMHRA), National (NPELRA) & Texas Public Employee Labor Relations Association (TxPELRA), and International Personnel Management Association (IPMA). Paula also participates in the greater Houston area Human Resources Management group, which meets bi-monthly to discuss hot topics that affect the region.
With the numerous challenges facing the Human Resources profession today, including compliance with ever-changing state and federal regulations, Paula believes strongly in continuing education, strategic planning and meaningful conversations regarding the changing work environment. She has led a number of initiatives to modernize Human Resources at the City of Sugar Land, has made her department “paper light”, and continues to look for ways to improve operational efficiencies and customer service.
Paula, her husband Gary, and two children have lived in Fort Bend County since 1997.
Lauren Safranek, City of Frisco
Lauren has been the Director of Human Resources for the City of Frisco for almost 20 years. She has managed employee growth of over 350% in 17 years. She plays a key role in the development, implementation, and training of City wide/employee determined CORE values and align organization activities with CORE Values. She is a key member of Frisco’s team (including HR, Finance, and IT) that evaluates and implements technology solutions that support the achievement of HR and City’s strategic direction, vision, and goals. Lauren is responsible for the design and oversight of organizational compensation and benefit philosophies, strategies, and plans that align with the City’s strategic direction. She ensures staff utilizes technology to improve efficiency and services including on-line requisition/application/talent management systems; employee self-service including paperless benefits enrollment and open enrollment; paperless records management; and intranet resources. She oversaw the development and implementation of a City-wide Leadership Development training programs to develop talent and address long-term organizational strategies.
Prior to joining Frisco, Lauren served as the Director of Human Resources for the City of Southlake and the Human Resources Manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Lauren is a former TML Board Member, Texas Municipal Human Resources Association (TMHRA) Past President, International Public Management Association for Human Resources member, Professional Human Resources certification, PELRA Certified Labor Relations Professional, SHRM Senior Certified Professional, and certified instructor for Developmental Dimensions International (DDI).
Lauren has a B.B.A. in Personnel Administration and Industrial Relations from University of North Texas. She has been married over 25 years and has 2 children, Max (18) and Erika (15).
Cheree’ Bontrager, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Assistant Director of Human Resources, City of Richardson
Cheree’ is currently the Assistant Director of Human Resources for the City of Richardson. She has over thirteen years of experience in Human Resources with municipal government and a total of eighteen years of experience in Human Resources. Cheree’ obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Human Relations at Amberton University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Conflict Management & Dispute Resolution at SMU. In 2008, Cheree’ obtained her SPHR certification through the Human Resources Certification Institute and obtained her SHRM-SCP through the Society for Human Resources Management in 2015. Cheree’ has served on the TMHRA Conference planning committee for two years and has been a member of TMHRA since 2003.
enior Professional in Human Resources) Certification by the Society for Human Resources Management, the CGBA (Certified Government Benefit Administrator) by the State and Local Government Benefit Administration and the IPMA-CP (International Public Management Association-Certified Professional) designation.
Lisa Norris, City of Grand Prairie
Lisa has 25+ years of experience in municipal Human Resources where she currently serves as the Human Resources and Civil Service Director in the City of Grand Prairie. Lisa enjoys strategically leading her team, partnering with City Departments to accomplish their needs and providing mentorship to other Human Resource public sector professionals across the state needing help or guidance on issues. Outside of Human Resources, Lisa enjoys spending time with family doing anything outdoors – hunting, fishing, or just hanging out with family and friends.
Craig Barnes, Human Resources Strategic Solutions Manager, City of Plano
Craig was born and raised in Garland, Texas where he met and married his wife, best friend, and roller coaster partner of over 26 years. They have been blessed with three beautiful, intelligent, and talented daughters ranging in age from 11 to 22.
Craig is a proud member of Team Plano where he serves as the HR Strategic Solutions Manager. His responsibilities include leading organizational initiatives that are focused on improving the operational effectiveness and efficiencies of Human Resources programs that impact the organization and customers as well as managing the Employee Engagement Division in areas of human resources programs such as recruitment, policy formulation and interpretation, employee relations, and retention/recognition efforts. Examples of these initiatives are implementation of the City’s Talent Management Model tenets (Acquire Align Develop Retain), threading the organizational values which form the acronym SERVE (Stewardship Engaged Respectful Visionary Excellence) through active recruiting, employee engagement, performance, and recognition, and oversight of the Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Before becoming a member of Team Plano, Craig had over 17 years of service in the City of Garland Human Resources Department. His responsibilities included management of the citywide Employee Engagement program and Intranet (COGnet), Compensation, Human Resources project management and the various HR systems such as the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) as well as the Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Additionally he was a previous Director of Civil Service and has served in many other HR capacities including Risk Management Claims Analyst and Training Coordinator. Prior to joining the City of Garland, Craig worked in the bank and insurance industries for 10 years.
Craig received his bachelor degree from Abilene Christian University, holds an International Public Management Association – Senior Certified Professional (IPMA-SCP) designation and holds a graduate certificate from the University of Texas at Dallas Masters of Public Administration (MPA) certificate program. He is an active member of Dallas HR, IPMA-HR, Texas Municipal Human Resources Association (TMHRA), and Texas Public Employer Labor Relations Association (TxPELRA) where he currently serves on the boards of TMHRA and TxPELRA.
Lashon Gros, HR Director, City of Taylor
LaShon Gros is the Director of Human Resources and Civil Service for the City of Taylor. She began this role in January 2021. Her focus is on recruiting and retaining talented employees, increasing employee engagement, and making a positive impact in the organizational culture. LaShon began her career in municipal human resources with the City of Killeen where she served 5 years. Her duties included employee relations matters, managing the recruitment cycle, overseeing the hiring and promotion processes for Civil Service, and assisting with training. LaShon discovered her love for human resources while serving in the United States Army. LaShon retired from the army after 20 years of service in 2016. LaShon has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, a Master of Human Resources Management, and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership. She is also a Society of Human Resources Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). LaShon loves spending time with her family, watching movies, and traveling.
Holly Killingsworth Guidry
Holly Guidry, Human Resources Director, City of Nederland
Holly is a Southeast Texas native and attended Lamar University where she earned a bachelor of business administration in human resources management. Holly joined the City of Nederland as the court administrator in 2010 and has been the human resources director/civil service director since 2013. She also serves as the assistant to the city manager for special projects.
Holly is responsible for managing all personnel related operations, benefits administration, and risk management. During her time with the City, she has developed a water/wastewater treatment operator trainee program to allow current employees the opportunity to work towards state licensing. She also assisted in the City’s first salary and benefit survey in more than 20 years and established an employee wellness incentive program with plans to continue to expand the program in the future.
Working in a small city often presents unique challenges, and she strives to address issues directly for the betterment of Nederland.
Christi Klyn, Director of Human Resources, Wichita Falls
Christi Klyn attended Midwestern State University where she received a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology, and a M.A. in Training and Development. Christi worked in private sector Human Resources for 8 years prior to beginning her municipal service with the City of Wichita Falls in 2013. She began her career with the City of Wichita Falls as the Human Resource Manager/ Civil Service Director, and promoted to Director of Human Resources/Civil Service in 2015. Christi is responsible for oversight of Personnel Services, Risk Management, and Employee Benefits. During her time with the City, Christi has formed a Wellness Committee and supported the committees implementation of a City Wellness Program, is in the process of working with departments to implement and support the City’s first formal safety program, and collaborated with the Police Department to implement an alternative promotion system for the Wichita Falls Police Department. Christi is a member of SHRM, TMHRA, and Wichita Falls Human Resource Management Association. Christi would be honored to serve as Trustee on the TMHRA board, and is eager to support the organization through her commitment to human resource best practices.
Larissa Rodriguez, Human Resource Manager, Uvalde
I joined the City of Uvalde as an Administrative Assistant in 2010. Within 6-months of employment, I was appointed Deputy City Secretary in addition to my administrative duties. In June 2012 through February 2013, I served as City Secretary while still holding on to my administrative duties as well as assisting the Human Resource Manager when needed. Due to structural changes within the Administration Department along with the hiring of additional staff, I was promoted to Human Resource Manager in February 2013, where I have remained ever since.
As the sole Human Resource person, I am responsible for recruiting, processing new hires, benefits administration, training, claims and risk management as well as policy and employee relations. During my tenure, I have implemented several improvements to the City’s Human Resource functions. These improvements include a peer interview process, implementing a Healthy Initiatives Benefit and Wellness Fair, introducing a Safety Footwear Incentive and finding effective ways to educate staff about safety practices. My goal is foster an environment that values diversity, employee inclusion and appreciation as well as safety practices, while maintaining a dedicated focus on ways of improving the overall well-being of the organization.
If appointed as a Trustee on the TMHRA, I hope to bring a can-do attitude, the knowledge and experience that I have gained throughout my employment as well as the insight on how to reach out to local governments and/or Human Resource professionals whose departments are small in size.
During my employment, I earned an Associates of Arts Degree from Southwest Texas Junior College in 2014 and a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree with an Emphasis in Organizational Leadership from Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College in 2016. I have 4 years of Human Resource experience. My past positions include Admissions Clerk and Billing Representative.
Veronica Sanchez, City of San Angelo
Veronica possesses over 22 years of HR experience working in both the private and public sector. Areas of expertise include civil service administration, compensation, benefits administration, performance management, employee relations, and organizational analysis and development. She has served in several capacities as a board member for the Concho Valley SHRM Chapter to include two terms as President where she led the Chapter in obtaining a Gold Chapter and Platinum Chapter designation. She was honored with being named the 2012 HR Professional of the Year by the Concho Valley SHRM Chapter for displaying leadership skills that accomplished the Chapter’s vision to heighten the recognized value of the HR profession as essential strategic business partners in the community. Additionally, Veronica was recognized by the community as one of San Angelo’s 20 under 40, an annual program which highlights 20 individuals under the age of 40 who have enhanced life in the city in which they reside through their overall leadership, career choices, motivation and community involvement. Veronica has maintained her Professional in Human Resources Certification since 2008, is a graduate of the 2011 Texas Certified Public Manager program from Texas State University and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in HR Management from Western Governors University, Texas. Veronica has previously served as a Trustee on the TMHRA Board, as well as Membership Chair, Programs Chair, Secretary and Vice President.
Cat Schlueter, City of Azle
Cat has been in the field of Human Resources since 2001 and became PHR certified in 2008 shortly before starting her current role as HR Manager for the City of Azle in July of 2008. In December of 2015 she obtained her SHRM-CP certification. In addition to serving as Emerging HR Professionals Director on the Board for Fort Worth HR since 2017, she has been a regular member on various committees for the HR Southwest Conference since 2007 and their Director Elect for the 2021 Special Events Committee.
Cat’s heart is in public service, and she is committed to learning about all aspects of municipal government to better identify means of effective and strategic integration of Human Resources best practices in the different departments. To that end, in January of 2019, she began pursuit of her Master’s Degree in Public Administration through Tarleton State University. Cat strives to assist those who are new to municipal HR and has worked with and on the TMHRA programs committee as a volunteer for four years, facilitating Nuts and Bolts Conferences and recruiting speakers and sponsors.
Her desire to serve as Trustee on the Board of TMHRA is a natural result of her passion for acclimating municipal HR professionals through the process and challenges the public sector faces. Working collaboratively with other Texas HR professionals to represent a voice of welcome and encouragement, navigation through change, and helping make a difference is what she strives to do. Although Cat is passionate about Municipal HR, she works diligently to assure that family remains her priority. She and her husband have been married for 26 years and share two wonderfully diverse children who are currently Aggies.
Kathy Shields, HR Director, City of Desoto
Kathleen Shields is the Director of Human Resources for the City of DeSoto and has over twenty-five years of experience in both public and private sectors. She has served at the Director level in the cities of DeSoto, Farmers Branch and McKinney and also in Dallas County. In the private sector, she has worked in restaurant and entertainment, retail, real estate, health care and consulting. Her career is marked with expertise in all areas of HR. She is a Red Raider graduate of Texas Tech University and in her current capacity, oversees all Human Resources and Civil Service functions. In the past year, she started a forum for HR professionals to assist with COVID response, which continues to be a biweekly video call, and recently began a monthly forum for those new to the profession. She grew up in Houston and in her spare time, enjoys family time, sports, travelling and running half and full marathons.