Board of Directors
Susan Combs has spent her adult life blazing trails previously little traveled by women. With a matter-of-fact nature shaped by time on her family’s Texas ranch, Susan tackled her time at the all-female Vassar College in a decidedly straightforward fashion. Upon graduation, she worked in several high-pressure environments in New York, specifically in international advertising, on Wall Street, and for a large federal agency, creating a record of success. In each case, she outworked her co-workers. In time, she followed her heart back to Texas and law school then embarked on a career as a prosecutor focused on securing justice for child victims of abuse.
At a friend’s urging, she ran for and won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives where she continued her advocacy for Texas children and mastering the budgeting process. She was also running a cow calf operation on her family’s century old ranch in the Big Bend. Heeding the call to higher office, she was elected the first woman Agriculture Commissioner in Texas history and won praise for her efforts to improve nutrition for Texas schoolchildren. She was then elected State Comptroller, applying her laser focus to keep Texas finances in line, meticulously collecting taxes and paying bills. She advocated tirelessly for greater transparency to ensure the most honest government possible for her fellow Texans.
Since leaving elected office, Susan has been working on Herdacity, an online empowerment community for women, designed to help them stay connected as they blaze their own trails in business, at home and in the fields of their choosing.
Beth HallmarkDirector of Career Development, UT
Beth Hallmark has over 20 years of experience in sharing information and inspiration that supports and champions the public good. She currently serves as the director of Career Development for the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to this position, she served as the director of Public Relations and Communications for a publicly traded healthcare company and deputy chief of Information Outreach, Data Services and Transparency at the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
With additional experience in state, national and international marketing campaigns for Texas agriculture, as well as award-winning experience in print and broadcast journalism, Beth is a two-time past speaker at SXSW Interactive, facilitating discussions on motivating high-performing teams to succeed.
Beth holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Information Studies, both from The University of Texas at Austin. She is a passionate advocate for children’s literacy and also serves on the Board of Directors for BookSpring, a central Texas non-profit that provides reading experiences, tools, and books to children and their families.
The proud mother of two amazing women, Beth believes in the power of all women to change the world for the better through their words, deeds, and presence. She is blessed with a wonderful husband of more than 25 years as well as an incredible network of family, friends, and colleagues. Beth loves reading, hiking, and traveling, and created a walking group, Sole 2 Soul Mindful Walks, to encourage others to make time for nature, sacred space, mindfulness, and contemplation.
Mary FlanaganPresident, HERdacity
Debbie CartwrightCounsel, Texas Taxpayers Association
Debbie Cartwright has not shied away from complex or intricate issues during a more than 20 year career marked by achievement and recognized public service in the areas of property tax law, litigation and policy matters related to appraisal districts and school district property values in the State of Texas. Debbie has received a number of awards from the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts (TAAD), including their highest honor, the Earl Luna Award, in 2016. In addition, Debbie received the Wayne Peveto Award from the Texas Real Estate Center in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Texas property tax system in 2013.
Prior to completing a law degree at the University of Houston, Debbie earned her master's of public affairs from the LBJ School at The University of Texas at Austin, a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University in secondary education in the areas of music and history, and a special education certification from The University of Texas at Austin. Debbie has navigated her way through contentious legal issues with skill, tact, and a whopping success rate.
A native of Elgin, Texas, Debbie is a member of the Elgin High School Alumni Association and the Elgin Historical Association. She is a member of First Baptist Church of Austin and serves as a trustee for her alma mater Howard Payne University. Debbie enjoys attending classical music concerts and traveling the world, and she is the proud aunt of three nieces and three nephews.
Sue MellerManaging Director, Headliners Club
Few women in Texas could say that they have hosted more movers and shakers than Sue Meller has over the last 35 years. As Managing Director of the Headliners Club, Austin's premier downtown private meeting and dining venue, Sue oversees the staff and business operations necessary to maintain the comfortable and professional environment that has allowed the Club to thrive as the place for “those that make the Headlines and those that write the Headlines.”
Sue is a certified human resources professional and protocol officer with a Bachelors degree in Physiology from UT Austin and an MBA from St. Edward’s University, of which she is a distinguished Alumnus.
Beyond her noteworthy role at the Headliners Club, Sue is and has been involved with several non-profit organizations. She served as a board member of the United Way of Austin, The Austin Project, American Institute for Learning and The Center for Public Policy and Political Science. She currently serves on the Advisory Boards of The Festival Institute at Round Top and the University of Texas’ School of Human Ecology. She is also one the founders and current board member of the Austin Council on Foreign Affairs, which hosts a global array of speakers who focus on world events.
Sue’s passion for working with people stems from her non-profit theory of "Hard Heads - fiscally responsible - and Soft Hearts - reach out, help, and participate."
Yvonne RealivasquezDir. of Administration, Sul Ross State Univ.
Breaking the mold in education through leadership, Yvonne Realivasquez is the Director of Administration for Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Yvonne’s relationship with the University spans over 20 years: a first generation college student, completing a bachelor's degree in Political Science and master of arts degree in Public Administration, to serving as a multi-disciplinary lecturer, and now to her current role working directly with the President to serve as a liaison for the university to the Texas State University System.
Yvonne also worked in the university’s Gear Up grant program, where she introduced underrepresented students from area schools to college preparation. She was nominated for Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2005 and received the Outstanding Staff Award from the Student Government Association in 2012.
In 2015, Yvonne was awarded the Texas State University System Foundation’s Grow Your Own Scholarship to work toward a doctoral degree in leadership at Hardin- Simmons University, Abilene. The Doctorate of Leadership (Ed.D.) program merges an academy of scholars with community practitioners to develop enlightened, ethical leaders.
Yvonne is married to Rafael, her best friend and fellow Sul Ross alumnus. The Realivasquez family is keeping the Sul Ross tradition alive - Yvonne's nephew graduated in May 2016 from Sul Ross and her niece was recently accepted into Sul Ross for the fall semester.
Active in community affairs, Yvonne is a member of the Community Leaders Group of Alpine and has served as a 4-H Program volunteer, a member of the New Mexico Cowbelles Association, a judge for History Day at UTEP, and a volunteer for the Kiwanis International Club. In her spare time, Yvonne enjoys pleasure reading, traveling, and dreaming up DIY home decor projects.
Mary K. ThompsonChief Operating Officer, Dwyer Group
Mary K. Thompson
A former small business owner, nationally recognized executive, and leader in franchisee management, Mary Kennedy Thompson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Dwyer Group, a company of 11 service-based franchise organizations focused on repairing, maintaining, and enhancing homes and business properties. Prior to her promotion to COO, Mary was president of the Dwyer Group’s largest company, Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
A belief in facing as many fears as possible to live a bigger life has motivated Mary since her youth. From accomplishing her 1982 graduation from the Army Airborne Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia to becoming one of the only 1.5% of female licensed plumbers in the United States, Mary has never backed down from a new challenge.
Mary is the past chairman of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Committee and continues to be a sitting member. While committee chair she launched Operation Enduring Opportunity in partnership with the White House Hiring Our Heroes program which led to more than 150,000 veterans being hired into franchise jobs and 5000 going into small business ownership. Veteran employment is more than just a passion to Mary, as she served eight years as a U.S. Marine Corps logistics officer, achieving the rank of captain.
Mary’s commitment to leadership and service was recognized in 2013 with the International Franchise Association’s Bonny Levine Award, the organization’s highest award for women who mentor other women. A graduate of the University of Texas, Mary is married to a fellow Longhorn, has two grown children, and is a dedicated runner with an annual goal to run at least one marathon.
Andrea RichesonDigital Strategist, Richeson Consulting Group
Andrea is an executive with 20 years experience building organizations, mentoring teams, and leading digital transformation and user experience projects across for-profit, government, association, and non-profit sectors.
She has a MILS from the University of Michigan iSchool, a post-grad certificate in Usability, Information Architecture, and Design from the University of Texas iSchool, a BA in International Studies and German from Austin College, and is a certified PMP.
Andrea believes in the power of community engagement and loves to foster connections between people. She chairs the Austin YMCA Town Lake Board, and is on the Advisory Board for Austin Women in Digital.
Andrea is a single Mom and spends her free time with her amazing daughter and son, volunteering for the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride, cycling, motorcycling, working out at the Y, hiking, and walking around Lady Bird Lake with friends.