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Who’s working at City Hall these days?

Friday, January 6, 2023 by Jo Clifton

With today’s swearing in, Austin have a new mayor and three new City Council members, and those city leaders will have staff members helping them to steer the often turbulent waters of city policy. And active citizens will have new staff to get to know.

Council Member José Velásquez, who is taking over the District 3 office, has hired three experienced staff members to assist him. Lizette Melendez, who worked for retiring Council Member Pio Renteria, will serve as chief of staff. Another District 3 veteran, Yuri Barragan, will also be on Velásquez’s staff. Dora Anguiano, who worked for District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen for eight years, will continue her City Hall service in Velásquez’s office.

District 5 Council Member Ryan Alter has hired a veteran of the mayor’s office, Michael McGill, as a policy adviser. McGill has worked for former Council Member Sheryl Cole and with the city auditor’s office in addition to working for Mayor Steve Adler.

Ryan has also hired Ben Leffler, who came in third in the race for the District 9 seat, as chief of staff. Leffler is not new to City Hall either, having worked for Council Member Chris Riley before the city adopted single-member districts. Most recently, he has worked as design director at CivicActions.

In the District 9 office, Zo Qadri has confirmed he hired Sara Barge to be his chief of staff. Barge has been working for Council Member Vanessa Fuentes. Natalie Deller, who has worked in Leslie Pool’s office, will be Qadri’s policy adviser. Political blogger Jack Craver also identified Melissa Beeler, who has recently returned from Houston where she fought expansion of Interstate 45, as a policy adviser to Qadri.

There will also be changes in some other offices. Jason Lopez, who has worked as a policy adviser to Kitchen for some time, will become chief of staff for Fuentes. Other members of her staff include Sofia Morales, Alicia Ramirez and Adal Rivas.

District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison has John Lawler as her chief of staff. Also serving in the District 1 office is Nikki McCullough, who takes care of constituent services, and Dana Hansen, who handles community outreach and social media. Harper-Madison has also posted a job opening.

District 4 Council Member Chito Vela’s staff has not changed. Sobeyda Gómez-Chou serves as chief of staff, Timothy Bray is a policy adviser along with Jenna Hanes, who also handles communication. Former municipal court judge Ramey Ko advises the office on legal and policy issues, while Adriana Castro handles constituent issues.

In District 6, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly reports her staff has not changed. Thomas McGregor is her chief of staff, Eric Parikakis is constituent representative, Leland Bickers is Kelly’s policy adviser and Patricia Gutierrez is the outreach director.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool’s staff includes chief of staff Louisa Brinsmade, senior policy adviser Atha Phillips, and Nici Huff, policy adviser. Huff has been working for retiring Council Member Kathie Tovo.

Council Member Paige Ellis confirmed that her District 8 office employees include Julie Montgomery in the chief of staff role, Willie Balderrama taking care of constituent services, communications manager and policy aide Lauren Terrazas and Ed Scruggs, policy aide.

In District 10, Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter’s staff includes Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, chief of staff; Ashley Richardson, policy director; Mina Shekarchi, communications coordinator; Melisa Markman, outreach aide; and Carrie Smith, constituent liaison.

In Mayor Kirk Watson’s office, Barbara Shack will continue in her role as executive assistant. The Austin Monitor wishes all of these folks the best of luck in directing a contentious city.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been updated. 

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