Austin City Council District 4
Gregorio “Greg” Casar is an Austin City Council Member and movement organizer, serving in his third term. The proud son of Mexican immigrants, he is the youngest person ever elected to the Austin City Council. Prior to serving on Council, he organized alongside immigrant workers at Workers Defense Project.
As a Council Member, Casar championed the paid-sick-days laws that passed in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, implementing what the Austin-American Statesman called the “most progressive labor policy for the entire state and possibly the American South.”
Casar worked with Planned Parenthood to stop the State Legislature from closing the city-supported clinic in East Austin. Other successful efforts led by Casar include clearing the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits in Austin and expanding shelter for survivors of family violence. Casar also fought to keep immigrant families from being separated by leading much of the statewide campaign against Texas Senate Bill 4—the infamous “Show Me Your Papers” law.
Casar authored the “Freedom City” policies which reduced discretionary misdemeanor arrests by 75% in Austin, ended all arrests and fines for personal marijuana possession, and battled against racial disparities in the criminal justice system. His efforts have redirected City budget resources to more effectively address the needs of everyday Austinites, including increasing services that address substance use, housing for those experiencing homelessness, additional resources for mental health first responders, and other investments that prevent harm and violence.
Casar focuses on housing justice and anti-gentrification efforts. He led the effort to successfully pass the largest affordable housing bond in Texas history, paving the way for historic increases in housing for working families in Austin. Casar personally organized with tenants across District 4 to block evictions and has helped mobile home communities purchase their own property to prevent out-of-state investors from displacing families.
In 2020, Casar successfully redirected City budget resources to more effectively address the needs of everyday Austinites, shifting away from overpolicing as a strategy and towards deep investments in community solutions. That budget successfully increased services that address substance abuse, housing for the homeless, additional resources for mental health first responders, and other approaches that focus on preventing harm and violence from happening in the first place.
Through his work, Casar has brought an unprecedented level of investment into District 4’s parks, transportation, and infrastructure, which has for decades been neglected by all levels of government.
Legal Policy Advisor,
Gulf Program, National Wildlife Federation
Faye Matthews is the Legal Policy Advisor and Senior Partnership Manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Restoration and Mississippi River Delta Restoration programs. As Legal Policy Advisor, Faye provides day-to-day advice, including on issues affecting coastal protection and restoration initiatives. As Senior Partnership Manager, Faye works with various stakeholders in the commercial fishing industry to address challenges in the face of our rapidly changing environment.
Faye came to the National Wildlife Federation from Capitol Hill where she worked on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as Legislative Counsel for Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington State and former Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. She also worked Of Counsel at Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside Law Firm in Gretna, LA specializing in environmental law.
Faye is a New Orleans native and holds a Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of New Orleans.
Coalition Director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME)
Chrishelle Palay is the director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) Coalition. HOME was created in response to Hurricane Harvey in an effort to ensure all Houstonians recovered from the disaster in an equitable manner. HOME is comprised of several organizations whose expertise ranges from policy advocacy, direct services, legal enforcement and grassroots organizing. Prior to leading this collective, Chrishelle focused on fair housing policy advocacy as the Southeast Co-Director at Texas Housers for over 7 years. Through this work she provided housing and neighborhood development policy analysis and review to local community organizing groups who were addressing major disinvestment and neglect in their communities. Her expertise grew out of disaster recovery efforts after 2008’s Hurricane Ike disaster recovery process. This experience well positioned community leaders, organizers and advocates to demand equitable investment and treatment for low income communities in the Hurricane Harvey recovery process.
Before transitioning into social justice work Chrishelle practiced architecture, specifically multifamily high rise development. Chrishelle is a Next City Vanguard alumni, and was a Ford Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project. She also participates in several national cohorts including Community of Practice on Local Housing Strategies, Ford Just Cities Narrative Shift Project and National Fair Housing Peer Network Group.
Chrishelle has a Bachelors of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and proudly serves on the boards of directors of National Low Income Housing Coalition, Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and Rhodes School For The Performing Arts.
Associate Professor of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Manny Teodoro works at the intersection of politics, public policy, and public management. His research focuses mainly on U.S. environmental policy and implementation, including empirical analyses of environmental justice.
In addition, Teodoro pursues a line of applied research on utility management, policy, and finance. He has developed novel methods for analyzing utility rate equity and affordability, and he works on these issues directly with governments and water sector leaders across the United States.
Teodoro also studies public management and bureaucratic politics, emphasizing labor markets as political phenomena and predictors of organizational performance. His award-winning book, Bureaucratic Ambition (2011, Johns Hopkins), argues that ambition shapes administrators’ decisions to innovate and to engage in politics, with important consequences for innovation and democratic governance.
Assistant Professor, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Kelly Heber Dunning directs the Conservation Governance Lab at Auburn University. Dunning holds a PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Policy from MIT, an MSc from Oxford in Environmental Policy, and a BA From the University of Florida. Dunning has worked in Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin, the United Kingdom, the Gulf of Mexico, and is currently studying environmental policy and the collaborative management of natural resources.
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
David Buggs is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. David focuses on developing and managing the execution of the Parks and Wildlife diversity and inclusion strategy. He has decades of experience with both outdoor recreation in Texas and spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives including as a former Chief Diversity Officer for FedEx.