The Texas Democracy Foundation
Parent board of The Texas Observer
In 1994, Ronnie Dugger, founding editor and the publisher of The Texas Observerfor 40 years, transferred ownership to the Texas Democracy Foundation, which was established as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization to publish and promote theObserver.
Current board members
Susan Longley is president and owner of The Longley Group, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas. A fundraiser, volunteer, and political activist in Texas, Susan has been a tireless worker for democratic causes and campaigns. Susan is known for her knowledge of the legislative process and skillful political instincts, a mind for details and her love for doing what’s right for Texas.
Susan distinguishes herself in many areas of non-profit community service. She is President of the Board of Directors for the Texas Democracy Foundation that publishes the Texas Observer and for the past three years co-chaired the MOLLY National Journalism Awards. Susan serves on the National Founding Board for Atticus Circle and is on the advisory boards for the Bullock Archives Endowment at Baylor University and Texans for Stem Cell Research. She previously served on boards for the Texas Book Festival and Zachary Scott Theatre Center.
LISA BLUE BARON
Lisa Blue Baron, a lawyer with the Dallas firm Baron & Blue, earned a PhD in Counseling Psychology from North Texas State University and a Juris Doctorate from the South Texas College of Law. After completing law school, Ms. Blue joined the Dallas County District Attorney’s office where she prosecuted more than 125 cases to verdict and advanced to the DA’s Organized Crime Division. In 1985, she moved to the law firm Baron & Budd, the largest environmental law firm in the U.S., where she specialized in environmental and toxic tort law.
Ms. Blue’s accomplishments have been widely recognized, including being named one of the Top 50 Women Litigators in the U.S. by the National Law Journal and Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Ms. Blue was honored to accept the 2009 Rayburn Johnson Award posthumously on behalf of her husband, Fred Baron. In 2009, Ms. Blue received Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “Know Your Power” Award. Ms. Blue was named one of the “Best Women Lawyers in Dallas 2010” by D Magazine.
In addition to her legal practice, Ms. Blue maintains a forensic psychology consultancy and is a nationally renowned expert in jury selection. She has been a commentator for high profile trials on Court TV and has co-written a book on jury selection and one on making relationships work.
Carlton Carl, former CEO and Publisher of The Texas Observer, is a native of Houston, longtime resident of Austin, and owner of downtown Martindale, Texas. He is a graduate of Columbia College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He reported for the Houston Chronicle, the New York Times, and other publications. His experience in Texas Democratic politics and state and federal governments includes stints as a Texas gubernatorial press secretary, chief of staff to a Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, director of tax information for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, press secretary to a Texas Member of Congress, campaign manager and/or media consultant in numerous local, state, and federal campaigns. He also worked in non-profit advocacy as vice president of media affairs/policy and strategy for the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America).
Jennifer has been a dedicated educator for more than a decade, teaching composition at Austin Community College and the University of Texas at Arlington, where she earned her Master’s Degree in English. She’s worked with middle school students as an English teacher in Fort Worth and as an after-school program administrator with Citizen Schools in Austin. In all of these capacities, she has focused her work on teaching critical evaluation skills and civic engagement, even working to create a political campaign and short documentary film with a group of middle schoolers entitled We Are All Immigrants. Now a Policy Consultant with the Texas Association of School Boards, she works with school board members and administrators on a variety of education law and policy issues, helping them map the changing terrain of public education.
Outside of the classroom and the office, Jen has maintained her own civic engagement through participation in groups like Peaceful Vocations, a Fort Worth organization dedicated to providing honest, accurate, practical, and educational post-graduation options to Fort Worth ISD high school students. Jen is also a proud member of the Texas Democracy Foundation Next Generation Leaders.
Ronnie Dugger, born in Chicago, educated in San Antonio, UT Austin, and Oxford, became the founding editor of The Texas Observer in 1954 and served in that position until 1961. In the mid-1960s he succeeded Mrs. R.D. Randolph as the Observer‘s owner and publisher; in 1994 he gave the Observer to the Texas Democracy Foundation that had been organized to receive it. He edited Three Men in Texas, Bedichek, Webb, and Dobie (UT Press) from three Observer special issues and wrote a book about a Texas pilot who helped bomb Hiroshima (Dark Star, World, 1967), biographies of Lyndon Johnson (The Politician, Norton, 1982) and Ronald Reagan (McGraw-Hill, 1983), and a book about UT and universities (Norton 1973). He has written hundreds of articles for such publications as Harper’s, Atlantic, the Nation, the New Yorker, the Progressive, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Guardian in London. He has taught at the University of Virginia, Hampshire College, and the University of Illinois and has held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School, Harvard. In 1966 he proposed and co-founded the Alliance for Democracy, a national grass-roots anti-big-corporate organization. He is living in the Boston area while working on his poetry and more books and essays.
MELISSA ANN JONES
Melissa is originally from Houston and has lived in Austin for the last 32 years. She graduated from St. John’s School in Houston and the University of Texas at Austin. Jones pursued a career in broadcasting in Austin and California before returning to Houston. In Houston and later at the state capitol she reported for KTRH Radio. She has two grown children, a married son in Denver and a daughter in Austin.
Melissa has been on several non-profit boards in both Houston and Austin: In Houston she was a member of The Society for the Performing Arts and a Trustee of Houston Endowment for twelve years. In Austin she is a member and past president of The Settlement Club of Austin, a former board member of SafePlace, Southwestern University Board of Visitors, the University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences Foundation Advisory Board, Greenlights for Non-Profit Success Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Blanton Museum Council. She is currently a member of GENaustin board of directors and a member of the KIPP Austin Academy finance committee. She is also a board member of Austin Trust Company and JT Jones Ranch.
Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund, located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is the head of EDF’s National Energy Program and also serves as Regional Director of EDF’s Texas office.
Marston lead the successful fight to stop TXU from building a dozen coal plants in Texas and ultimately negotiating a first-of-its-kind deal with private equity buyers involving more than a dozen commitments on global warming. He also leads the Pecan Street Project, a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation’s electric system. Marston helped design and advocate for some of the most innovative state legislation in the country including the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard that led to almost 10,000 MW’s of new wind energy in Texas. In 2010, Marston was awarded the Greg Cooke Award for Environmental Leadership. He also serves as President of the Texas League of Conservation Voters and Chairman of the Central Texas Clean Air Force.
MARY NELL MATHIS
Mary Nell has Texas roots in Amarillo, Lubbock, and Austin, which may be a perfect sequence. Growing up in Amarillo was so easy….could walk or bicycle to good schools, with good people. Won a scholarship to Mary Baldwin College, in Virginia, and with great support from faculty, made it through in three years, so she could come home and marry Phil Mathis, who was studying at Texas Tech. There he was required by his Philosophy professor to subscribe to the Texas Observer, and we’ve been subscribers ever since! MN, from her graduate-school desk, responded to little ads to join Common Cause and donate to Sissy Farenthold. That led to chairing CC/Texas and serving on the National Governing Board. In 1986, inspired by Sissy and others, MN ran for Congress in the fifteen counties of District 19, including Odessa, Lubbock, and Hereford. Even with enthusiastic help from many, she didn’t even win the primary. Disappointed, Phil and MN sold their accounting practice and followed their sons to Austin. Mary Nell now serves as CPA to many good clients.
Professor Ronald B. Rapoport is John Marshall Professor at The College of William and Mary. He received his B.A. from Oberlin College and his PhD from the University of Michigan. Since 1980 he has been doing research on U.S. party activists funded by a series of grants from the National Science Foundation. His book (with Walt Stone of UC-Davis), Three’s a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot and Republican Resurgence, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2005. It is based on surveys with national samples of individuals attracted to Ross Perot’s presidential campaigns between 1992 and 2000, as well as interviews with Republican and Reform party leaders. He is on the editorial board of Political Research Quarterly, and previously served on the Political Science Review Panel of the National Science Foundation. He has published more than forty articles and book chapters in the areas of political behavior, political parties and women and politics. Rapoport is the co-editor (with Alan Abramowitz and John McGlennon) of The Life of the Parties. His courses focus on American politics and public opinion and voting, as well as survey research and polling.
Geoff Rips was editor of the Texas Observer from 1982 to 1987. In 1992, he led the creation of the Texas Democracy Foundation, owner of the Texas Observer, and its successful application for non-profit status. He is dedicated to the preservation and growth of the Observer as one of the few media outlets devoted to telling truth to power in these perilous times for our democracy.
Rips received his BA from Wesleyan University and an MA from Indiana University. He served as the Freedom-to-Write Committee coordinator for PEN American Center, where he created a program sending well-known writers to do readings in places which had banned their books. He is the author of UnAmerican Activities:The Campaign Against the Underground Press (City Lights Books, 1982), based on information gathered through the Freedom of Information Act. Rips worked for the Texas Center for Policy Studies to help secure water and wastewater services for colonias on the Texas/Mexico border. He has been an Open Society Institute Fellow of the Soros Foundation, served as policy coordinator for Jim Hightower’s Texas Department of Agriculture, and worked as speechwriter for a handful of decent politicians. As development director for the Austin School District, he led the creation of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. He has published poetry, fiction and journalism in The Nation, In These Times, The Progressive, Mother Jones, the San Antonio Express-News, New Directions, Texas Monthly, and other publications. His novel, The Truth, won the 2006 Award for the Novel from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
Peter Ravella is the owner of PARC, a coastal-management consulting firm, that offers a broad range of services to public and private sector clients, primarily in Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. PARC advises local governments and private-sector clients on the complex environmental, general legal, financial, and regulatory issues that arise during development and implementation of projects and programs in the coastal zone, most particularly beach restoration projects. Prior to PARC he served as the Director of the Coastal Division of the General Land Office of Texas. He founded and edited the Oregon Insider Environmental Digest, which is still in circulation today. He is an environmental lawyer by trade, and has a passion for all things coastal. He lives with his wife, Genevieve Van Cleve, and son Paul in Austin, Texas. He enjoys talking politics, gardening, and the occasional round of golf.