BOARD OF DIRECTORS – STPRA

BOARD OF DIRECTORS


Walter Negley

Chairman Emeritus

Walter Negley, STPRA founding board chairman, is president of two heavy industrial product manufacturing concerns based in Houston, Texas. Other business affiliations include past board member of Highland Resources, a family owned real estate company founded by Herman and George R. Brown, and the A. S. Gage Ranch, founded by family members in Brewster and Presidio Counties in West Texas in 1883.

Walter has served as a director of the Brown Foundation, which was founded in July 1951 and has awarded more than $1.1 billion in grants. He has also served as a board trustee for the Kinkaid School, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Neuhaus Center, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Walter graduated from Trinity University in 1977 with a B.A. in Economics and attended the MBA program at the University of Texas at Austin. Walter grew up in San Antonio and now resides in Houston with his wife, Suzette, and three daughters.

Berdon Lawrence

Chairman Emeritus

Berdon Lawrence is President of L3 Partners, LLC, which manages the assets and investments of his family. He is Chairman Emeritus of Kirby Corporation, a tank barge company moving petrochemicals and petroleum products on the inland waterways. Kirby operates 900 tank barges and 200 towboats, and provides employment for over 3,100 people. Kirby Corporation is headquartered in Houston.

Lawrence is the past Chairman of the Waterways Council, past Chairman of the Inland Waterways Users Board, past Chair and member of the American Waterways Operators, Clean Channel Association, National Waterways Council and Texas Waterways Operators. He is a member of the Houston Maritime Association and the Texas World Presidents’ Organization.

Lawrence is on the Board of the Kinkaid School and a member of the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors. He is a member of the Tulane University Business School Council, the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas and a member of St. Martins Episcopal Church.

He received a BBA degree in 1964 from Tulane University and an M.B.A. the following year, also from Tulane.

Lawrence owns the Laborcitas Creek Ranch which is located In Brooks County on Highway 285, west of Falfurrias.

W.W. "Whit" Jones III

Chairman

A South Texas native, Whit currently helps operate his families ranch in Jim Hogg County. Whit serves as a director of the First National Bank of Hebbronville, is on the Appraisal Review Board for Jim Hogg County, is a director of Texas Wildlife Association and serves on their executive committee. He is a member of the Wildlife Committee of Texas and a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. STPRA member since 2011.

Eric Opiela

President

Eric Opiela is a 5th generation Texan, rancher and attorney. He currently chairs STPRA’s Eminent Domain Subcommittee and has worked to implement our legislative agenda for the past two legislative sessions. His law practice focuses is on representing landowners in property and administrative law matters before government agencies. He ranches in Karnes, Bee, Live Oak, and Wilson counties. Eric is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas School of Law, and has represented South Texas on the State Republican Executive Committee, where he currently serves as Associate General Counsel.

Ellen Randall

Vice President

Ellen Randall has served on the boards and advisory councils for various organizations, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Bird Advisory Board, Nature Conservancy Advisory Council, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Beaumont, the Medical and Surgical Hospital in Beaumont, Aspen Institute/ Aspen Meadows Board, Aspen Institute Fellows Board, Aspen Theater in the Park Board, and other organizations such as the D.A.R. and Junior League. She currently is very involved with the UT Press and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Institute, and serves on the UT Development board. Randall graduated from Saint Stephen’s School in Austin and from The University of Texas in Austin. She was born in Wichita Falls and grew up on a near-by ranch at Prairie Flower, Texas. She spends considerable time working with government programs aimed at improving land in South Texas and restoring the native grasses and plants. She and her husband, Edward Randall III, reside in Houston and Hondo.

Mark Alvarenga

Treasurer

Mark Alvarenga, an Arlington, TX native, has been with IBC-Zapata for 11 years after graduating from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a B.S. degree in Business. In 2005, he was hired as an Operations Coordinator for IBC and has since been promoted to Corporate Sales Manager and is also the 1st Vice President of Sales. Alvarenga is an active member of the community. He has served on the Board of the Boys & Girls Club in Zapata for nine years and has also served as Vice President of the Board for the past 2 years; Vice President of the Executive Committee Board for Zapata for United Way Laredo; and a volunteer for the Lady Giants Softball Club. He is married to Rachel Medina Alvarenga and together they have three daughters, ages 8, 6, and 4.

Giovana Benitez

Secretary

Giovana Benitez grew up around a family owned stocker and pre conditioning yard in Edinburg, Texas. She has been actively involved in the management of the operation since 2011. Giovana has participated and volunteered in several community regional and state organizations and is a senior at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, majoring in Finance and Economics. Giovana is eager to help promote South Texas agriculture, cattle industry and landowner property rights.

Frank Armstrong

Frank Armstrong was born in Laredo, Texas and raised in Hebbronville. A fifth generation Texan he obtained both a Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering and a Bachelor of Laws degrees from The University of Texas. He is Manager of Armstrong Ranch, Ltd. which owns and operates cattle ranching operations in Jim Hogg County. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of The First National Bank of Hebbronville. He resides in Corpus Christi where his law practice is limited to representing land and mineral owners. His community involvement in Corpus Christi includes serving as Chairman of the CHRISTUS Spohn Development Foundation and past member of the Board of Trustees of St. James Episcopal School. He is a member of the King’s Men and was named King Alonso 56th in the annual Buccaneers Day celebration.

Othal E Brand, Jr.

Businessman and elected official, Othal E Brand, Jr. has lived in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas for over 64 years. He graduated from Texas Christian University in 1976. Mr. Brand worked for the family business, Griffin & Brand and Trophy International for over 30 years. The companies were the largest grower and shipper of fruits and vegetables in the state of Texas and the largest grower of onions in the world. We had farming operations on property directly on the Rio Grande River, as well as in nine states in the United States, and in the countries of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In 1996, Mr. Brand started Rioplex Wireless, an internet service provider in the Rio Grande Valley. He remains its president today. From the year 1998 to the present. Mr. Brand has run O.E. Investments, a communications company located in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Brand has served in public office for 16 years, as an elected official for Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3. He has served as president and general manager for 13 years and still serves in the same capacities today. The District’s headquarters is in McAllen, Texas, and its main facilities, including pump station, are located on the embankment of the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas. Mr. Brand also serves as a board member of Valley Baptist Mission/Education Center in Harlingen, Texas. He has served on the board of trustees for 16 years of which 13 of those years as chairman. He has been a charter family member of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas for 62 years.

Sylvia Chavez

Sylvia Chavez is a third-generation owner of Tacubaya Ranch located in Southern Brooks County. Sylvia was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She lived in Austin, Texas for over 25 years until she returned to the Valley. Sylvia became the owner of Tacubaya Ranch in 2005 and moved to the ranch in 2007. Sylvia oversees the ranch operations consisting of cattle, sheep and hunting. Three years ago she transformed the barn building into a events venue for weddings, quinceañeras, reunions and corporate events.

Alice G. K. K. East

Alice G. K. K. East is a longtime rancher from Brooks, Kenedy, and Hidalgo Counties. She oversees the business portion of her family’s ranch, which she shares with her two siblings. Alice has served on the boards of Alice National Bank, the Valley Land Fund and the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. She currently serves as advisory director of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen. She is active in the Linn-San Manuel Improvement Corporation, which raises money for the local school, fire department, church, and gives scholarships and funds tuitions for students to attend trade schools. Alice has served on the board of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association from 2013-2019 and as an advisory board member in 2020. She will be serving as a director again in 2021.

Mauro R. Garcia, Jr.

Mr. Garcia's family has been ranching in south Texas since the 1750’s. He was a graduate of Falfurrias High School ‘62 and graduated from the University of Texas ’67 BS in Pharmacy. He was a member of Board of Regents for University System of South Texas from 1986 to 1991 which included Texas A & I University, Corpus Christi State University and Laredo State University. He was a member of Board of Directors Brooks County Independent School District for 12 years. He is a member of Board of Directors for Brush Country Groundwater Conservation District. Mauro is married to Patricia Leo and has one daughter, Andrea Lauren Garcia.

Adalberto Garza, DVM

Adalberto Garza was born to founding families of Starr County; He is a doctor of veterinary medicine and graduated from TX A&M University. He practiced veterinary medicine for 37 years as a general practitioner, and focused predominantly on equine; He is now retired and lives in Edinburg. He manages and operates his family commercial cattle operation and is also involved with energy and other investments.

Ann Gibbs

Ann Gibbs is co-owner and operator of San Pablito Ranch in Jim Hogg County. Born in Waco, Ann earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she taught high school Biology for five years. She moved to Houston in 1972, where she remains active in multiple civic and cultural organizations. She also pursues her interests in golf, travel, and competitive bridge when she is not working on game management and residing at San Pablito Ranch. She and her husband, Jim, are the proud parents of two children and six grandchildren.

James "Jim" Gibbs

James Gibbs, currently the owner and operator of San Pablito Ranch in Jim Hogg County, brings a wealth of business and ranching experience to the STPRA board of directors. Prior to his 18 years as chairman and CEO of Frontier Oil Company, he served in senior officer positions in another business concern and with a major Texas bank corporation. Originally from Kilgore, James holds a PhD in Economics and Finance from SMU, where he was also a faculty member in its graduate and undergraduate programs. Additionally, James holds a BS degree in Engineering, also from SMU. James currently serves on numerous corporate and professional boards, mostly in the Houston area, and pursues his primary interests of ranching, hunting and horses.

William T. "Billy" Guerra

Billy Guerra, a native of Roma, TX, currently helps operate the family ranch in Starr County. Prior to returning to the ranch, he was in the automotive industry for over 25 years. Billy's love for the property he grew up on made him instantly attracted to the South Texans' Property Rights Association and its mission.As an incoming board member, he looks forward to advocating for STPRA and expanding its membership and influence. Billy resides in McAllen with his wife of 29 years, Iris. They have one son, Will, who lives and works in Austin.

Forrest Runnels

Forrest Runnels was raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Forrest graduated from SMU with a B.A. in Economics. Forrest is a Vice President at EIA Properties, Ltd. in Edinburg and serves as a director on the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority board. Forrest is a former director at Border Capital Bank, the Development Corporation Board for the City of McAllen, the Edinburg Development Foundation and Teach For America of the Rio Grande Valley. Forrest and his wife, Lorin, are the proud parents of two boys.

Gail Hoffman

Gail Hoffman, along with her husband, Bruce, has been a member of STPRA since its inception. She and Bruce have distinguished themselves with many years of service to our organization that have included hosting gatherings, helping our staff in conducting events, and representing STPRA at numerous functions across the state.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Gail has had an impressive career as a professional and in leadership roles in civic and professional organizations in South Texas. Most recently professionally, Gail was the executive director of Images for Conservation Fund Pro Tour of Nature Photography and is currently a consultant in event planning and coordination for various area organizations.

Among her accomplishments are serving as executive director of the Associated General Contractors of the Coastal Bend for 12 years and leading the boards of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, the Alice/Jim Wells County Economic Development Corporation, the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation, Leadership Corpus Christi, the Corpus Christi Downtown Rotary Club, and the Alice Rotary Club. She has also been named the Corpus Christi Businesswoman of the Year and Outstanding Alumni of the Year of Leadership Corpus Christi.

Robin Borglum Kennedy

Robin Borglum Kennedy is proud to be part of a pioneer South Texas ranching family. She and her immediate family, through La Rucia Ranch Company, have ranched in Brooks and Hidalgo County for nearly 30 years. The opportunity to understand more fully the complex issues and challenges ahead for property owners has been an important reason to support STPRA. Only by a combined effort on common interests can these problems be resolved.

Beth Knolle-Naiser

Beth Knolle Naiser is part of a family which has ranched in Texas since its members arrived with Stephen F. Austin’s first colony. Beth grew up in Houston, where her father was manager of the Houston Livestock Show for 22 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1971 and has lived in the Coastal Bend area since that time. She now raises beef cattle on the Knolle Farm & Ranch, which was once one of the nation’s largest dairy operations. In 1997, she opened a bed and breakfast on the ranch, specializing in hospitality and "country luxury". Beth is married to Stephen Naiser, who has been in the custom grass planting business for 27 years. Besides her service on the STPRA board, Beth is a member of the board of directors of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and is very involved with that organization’s promotional activities.

James McAllen Jr. is currently serving on the board of South Texas Property Rights Association, Linn San Manuel Community Improvement Committee, Red Sands Groundwater Conservation District, Guadalupe el Torrero Foundation, and Texas A&M-Kingsville Foundation James attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth Texas, graduating with a degree in Business Finance and Fine Art. James is married to Katherine McAllen and father to three children, James, Salomé, and Georgiana McAllen. James is manager of McAllen Ranch, located in Hidalgo and Starr County.

Dr. Neal Wilkins

Neal Wilkins is President and CEO of the East Foundation, where he is responsible for leading the Foundation’s mission of supporting wildlife conservation and other public benefits of ranching and private land stewardship. With Headquarters in San Antonio, the East Foundation owns and operates about 218,000 acres of South Texas ranchland as a working laboratory for its research, education and outreach programs. Before joining the East Foundation in 2012, Neal was a Professor of Wildlife Science and served as the Director of the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the Texas Water Resources Institute where he coordinated the programs of more than 45 scientists and professional staff. Neal has more than 28 years of experience leading research and conservation efforts across private lands in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Washington, and Oregon. His primary focus has been habitat management and conservation of land, water, and wildlife resources on private lands. His work integrates science, policy and economics for developing wildlife conservation programs. Until 2006, Neal was statewide program leader for wildlife and fisheries with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Prior to joining the Texas A&M faculty in 1998, he directed wildlife and fisheries programs for Port Blakely Tree Farms, a 150,000-acre forest landholding in the Pacific Northwest. Neal is a Director and former Vice-President of Texas Wildlife Association. He serves on the board of Texan-by-Nature, the Management Council for the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management, and is a Professional Member of the Boone & Crockett Club. He and his wife Sandra have two grown children, Ashley and Matt.

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