Governor Abbott Names Chair, Vice Chair, Appoints 14 To Governor’s Commission For Women

February 23, 2022 | Austin, Texas | Appointment

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Gita Bolt, Gina Bellinger, Maru De La Paz, and Denise Castillo-Rhodes and reappointed Cynthia “Cindy” Conroy, Sasha Crane, Karen Harris, Amy Henderson, Ashlee Kleinert, Nathali Parker, Jinous Rouhani, Catherine Susser, Patsy Wesson, and Laura Koenig Young to the Governor's Commission for Women for terms set to expire on December 31, 2023. Additionally, the Governor named Nathali Parker as chair and Amy Henderson as vice chair. Governor Abbott is charging this commission with developing a strategy and implementation plan to help make Texas the number one state for women-owned businesses and to address the issue of human trafficking. Housed within the Office of the Governor, the Governor’s Commission for Women specializes in outreach, education, research, and referral services.

Gina Bellinger of San Antonio serves as the founder and President of Food Safety Net Services, a nationwide food safety and consumer products testing company with 20 locations in North America. Bellinger is co-author of several noted publications concerning the control of pathogen in food processing operations and has been involved in the food industry for 28 years.  She is also the owner of Just Pots, a San Antonio-based wholesale and retail pottery business. She is a sustaining member of the National Charity League and has supported local San Antonio charities in various roles. Bellinger received a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University and continues to support her alma mater by serving as a Scientific Advisor for the Food Science Department. She is married to her husband, John, and has two children.

Gita Bolt of Houston is the Chief Legal Counsel for the University of St. Thomas. A Houston native, Bolt recently served as the Vice President and General Counsel for the Houston Housing Authority. She attended Howard University and graduated cum laude with a degree in political science and a minor in business administration. At Howard, Bolt competed on the track team and was an Academic All-American. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Tulane University School of Law, along with a Sports Law Certification. While attending Tulane Law, Bolt was honored as the Best Orator of the Southern Region in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition. In 2011, Bolt was selected as one of the Most Powerful and Influential Women of Louisiana by the National Diversity Council. In 2018, she was named as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Women of Houston. Previously, Bolt was General Counsel for Loyola University New Orleans and Texas Southern University (TSU). She also held the positions of Associate General Counsel, Assistant General Counsel, and Director of NCAA Compliance in the Department of Athletics while at TSU. Prior to Texas Southern, Bolt was Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.

Maru De La Paz of Harlingen is a business development manager with Valley Baptist Health System, where she also serves as the Emergency Medical Services Liaison for the hospital system in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). An appointed Commissioner to the Cameron County Housing Authority, De La Paz also serves as Vice-President of the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District Educational Foundation. A proud member of the Junior League of Harlingen since 2003, she has served as Vice-President of Fund Development, Kid Fit Chair, Provisional Chair, and South Texas Sizzler co-chair. De La Paz is a school board member for TRIUMPH Public Schools serving the San Benito area. She is also a member of the RGV Partnership Board of Directors, the Harlingen Rotary Club, and the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2021–22. De La Paz was named Inspirational Woman of the Year in 2020 at the Dia De La Mujer conference (International Woman’s Day) in Brownsville and was presented with the Chairperson Choice Award at the Annual Greater Harlingen Chamber of Commerce Gala in 2021 in recognition of her outstanding work within the community.

Denise Castillo-Rhodes of Houston is Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Texas Medical Center, where she oversees accounting, finance, risk management, and tax compliance. Castillo-Rhodes also serves as Secretary of the Board and Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee for Thermal Energy Corporation and as Director for TMC Library and Texas Medical Center Hospital Laundry Co-Op, all of which are member institutions of Texas Medical Center. She previously served as Vice-President and Controller before being named CFO in 2004. Prior to joining Texas Medical Center, Castillo-Rhodes served as Controller for Nabisco’s Manufacturing Facility in Houston. She now also serves on the board of Allegiance Bancshares, Inc., is a trustee for the City of Houston’s Municipal Employee Pension System, and serves on various non-profit boards including the American Heart Association, St. Thomas High School, and the University of St. Thomas, where she is an officer of the Board. Castillo-Rhodes holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at El Paso and a Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas. She is a certified public accountant and member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Cynthia “Cindy” Conroy of El Paso is the Director of Community Outreach, the Community Reinvestment Act Officer, and the Aide to the Chairman of WestStar, the Borderplex region’s leading commercial bank. She is the Chair-elect of the Board of Directors of the United Way of El Paso County and a member of the Board of Directors of the El Paso Community College Foundation, El Paso Matters, and the Pioneer Association of El Paso. Conroy is a member of the Borderplex Alliance, Community Advisory Partnership of El Paso Electric, and the Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas. She is the past Board Chair of Girls Scouts of the Desert Southwest and past President of El Paso Executive Forum, and she has also served on the board of Leadership Women, formerly the Foundation for Women’s Resources. Conroy graduated from The University of Texas at El Paso with a Master’s degree in Political Science.

Sasha Crane of McAllen is the owner of three full service carwashes, Chairwoman of Jon D. William Cotillion, and owner of Un Rincon Cerca Del Cielo Properties. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League of McAllen, former board member of Hidalgo County Cotillion for McAllen High School, and a founding board member of the McAllen Marathon – Scott Crane Memorial Run. Additionally, she is a former member of Quinta Mazatlan Advisory Board, McAllen ISD Parent Advisory Council, and former booster president for McAllen High School Cheer. Crane received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and attended the University of North Dakota for the Indians Into Medicine Program.

Karen Harris of San Marcos has received state appointments from two Texas Governors as the result of her community service, public service, and volunteerism. Harris is a former member of the Health and Human Services Council and the Texas Education Agency Advisory Committee for Academic Achievement Distinction. She has served Texas as a candidate for public office and holds a degree in radiologic science from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Harris is an ordained minister with training in Christian counseling from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and the Therapon Institute. She is also the founder of Medicine for the Heart Ministries, Inc. and leadership team member for Women Wanting Wisdom Ministries. Harris is the Chief Administrator of East San Antonio images, a radiology medical services small business.

Amy Henderson of Amarillo is a business loan officer with Amarillo National Bank. Henderson is also a board member for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Business Council. She has served as a board member for Window on a Wider World and Texas Panhandle Regional Development Center, and is a past Advisory Board member of WT Enterprise Center and America’s Small Business Development Center at West Texas A&M University. Henderson served honorably in the United States Air Force as an information management specialist during 1989–1993 and supported Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She was a recipient of a Top Twenty Under 40 award from the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and was selected as the 2010 Business Woman of the Year by the Amarillo Chamber Women’s Council. Henderson earned an Associate in Accounting from Amarillo College, a Bachelor of Arts in Finance from West Texas A&M University and a Master's in Business Administration in General Business from West Texas A&M University. Amy is married to a firefighter and, a mom of two great kids.

Ashlee Kleinert of Dallas is founder and operator of Ruthie’s Rolling Café and Ruthie’s Fueled by Café Momentum food trucks. As a public benefit corporation, Ruthie’s provides a source of employment and programming for young adults with justice system involvement. Kleinert is a member of the Dallas Assembly and International Women’s Forum. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for United Way Foundation of Metropolitan Dallas, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman College, SMU Maguire Center for Ethics, Methodist Health System Foundation of Dallas, New Friends New Life, The Rebecca Bender Initiative, and Genesis Women’s Shelter. She is former Board Chair of New Friends New Life and the Dallas Women’s Foundation (currently known as Texas Women’s Foundation). Additionally, she and her husband, Chris, created the Kleinert Foundation to research gaps in services to vulnerable populations and to convene partners in the work of providing recovery and resources. 

Nathali Parker of New Braunfels is co-owner and CEO of KLP Construction Supply, a heavy civil regular dealer and distributor of construction materials with five stocking locations around Texas. Parker and her sister, Karen Parker Rogers, started KLP in 2012 with a focus on the heavy highway and infrastructure industry. Today, she serves as the Associate Co-Vice Chair for the Austin Chapter of the Association of General Contractors (AGC) – Heavy Civil and Utilities Division, a Future Young Leaders Committee member for the Austin and DFW AGC Chapters, and an AGC Workforce Development Task Force member. Parker also serves on the Education and New Technologies Committee of the Texas Asphalt Pavement Association (TXAPA) and is the Chair to Launch the Women of Asphalt Branch of Texas. She previously served on the board of the TXAPA and as Chairman for the Associate Division. As a proud letterman Bobcat, Parker graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science and as an All-Conference Javelin thrower and member of the Track and Field Team competing in the heptathlon and open javelin. She is also a proud citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

Jinous Rouhani of Austin is the CEO of Austin Area Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Fertility. Previously, she served as CEO of Medexecs and as Chief Administrative Officer for Texas Cardiovascular Consultants. Jinous also served as the Secretary, Vice President, and President of the Central Texas Chapter of the Medical Group Management Association, where she has been a national member for over 25 years. She also serves as a host and mentor to the St. David’s Neal Kocurek Foundation healthcare scholars. Additionally, Rouhani serves as a mentor for the Young Women’s Alliance. Rouhani previously served as an advisor to the Austin Children’s Shelter and the organization Aware, Awake, Alive. She has also served with the Children of Haiti support team, and as facilitator and interpreter for Refugees in Austin. Rouhani received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics and a Master of Business Administration from St. Edward’s University.

Catherine Susser of Dallas is a community volunteer serving both the Corpus Christi and Dallas communities. A new resident of Dallas, she is now serving on The UT Southwestern President’s Advisory Board.  She recently was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD), serving as president of the board as well as vice president and secretary.  She served on the Commission for Assessments and Accountability and is a Go Red for Women member in Corpus Christi. Her previous employment includes Chief Accountant for CCISD and a Senior Accountant at Price Waterhouse.  Susser received a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Public Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin.

Patsy Wesson of Fort Worth is President and owner of Carriage Square Jewelers, LLC, where she has designed custom jewelry for over 35 years. In 2020, Wesson co-founded a new digital custom jewelry manufacturing company called Ellansa. She is a member of the Jewelers Board of Trade and holds multiple certifications from the Gemological Institute of America. In addition to creating custom jewelry, Wesson is the founder and director of numerous private businesses. Additionally, she is a former elementary school educator in the state of Texas. Wesson received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and she is a graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America.

Laura Koenig Young of Tyler is President at Brighton Collectibles, Inc.  She is a board member for the Cancer Foundation for Life and a former board member of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra, the East Texas Communities Foundation, and Southern Methodist University (SMU) Alumni Association. Additionally, Young is a Visionary Member of the Women’s Fund of Smith County and a Sustainer Member of the Junior League of Tyler. Young has been active in many philanthropic and community initiatives throughout Texas. She was recognized at the 2011 Women in Tyler Day with the Women Mean Business honor. Young received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from SMU and is a graduate of the Owner President Management Program at Harvard Business School.