Advisory Council

Matthew Bentley

Austin, TX

Matthew Bentley is a lobbyist, political consultant and an expert in public positioning, issue management, and government relations. His success is the product of extensive relationships with elected officials and staff throughout the legislative and executive branches as well as regulatory agencies. A native of East Texas, he was recently named a Top Ten “Rising Star” lobbyist by Capitol Inside, a bi-partisan publication covering Texas politics and government. ... Read More

Matthew is widely acclaimed for his work in political campaigns throughout Texas and the United States. In 2018, he had a 100 percent win rate consulting for Cody Harris’ campaign for the Texas House of Representatives, U.S. Congressman Lance Gooden’s open-seat race for Congress, and judicial races throughout East Texas. He also served as Campaign Manager for State Representative Byron Cook’s successful 2016 campaign for re-election – one of the highest-profile and most seriously contested races of that cycle.

Matthew currently consults for companies, local governments, and non-profit organizations in Texas, specializing in environmental management, energy and utility regulations, private property interests, natural resources, infrastructure projects, economic development, and alcohol issues. He also has experience in insurance, procurement, gaming, and local government matters. Matthew’s work has resulted in public policy development and implementation, strategy formulation with key government officials, and improved communication between legislative and business leaders at the highest level.

Sharad Bijanki

Houston, TX

Sharad Bijanki is an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Houston, Texas where he practices commercial litigation, and intellectual property law.  Sharad collaborates with clients to provide high-impact IP protection and enforcement that supports meaningful business margins. As a chemical engineer, he offers unique insight into client IP issues having a technical component.  He is a conservation advocate who is raising two young Texans, and is excited to share with his family the grand and diverse biomes of Texas.

Stoney Burke

Washington, D.C.

Stoney Burke has built a bipartisan reputation focused on finding solutions for complex political and policy challenges.  Drawing on a decade-long career on Capitol Hill, Stoney has advised Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations and trade associations on developing legislative, regulatory and strategic communications campaigns related to energy, infrastructure, technology, trade, immigration, cybersecurity and national security policy.

... Read More Stoney currently serves as Head of U.S. Federal Affairs for Amazon Web Services, the leading cloud service provider that provides a highly reliable, scalable, low-cost infrastructure platform that powers hundreds of thousands of businesses in 190 countries around the world. In this role, he is responsible for leading the U.S Federal team and building out a comprehensive advocacy plan and political operation in support of AWS public policy priorities at the federal level. Stoney joined Amazon in 2018.

Previously, Stoney served for three years as Chief of Staff for Rep. Will Hurd. Over this period of time, twelve pieces of legislation were signed into law, a record for any Member of Congress in such a short period of time. Stoney also played a critical role in advising Rep. Will Hurd on the issues important to the US-Mexico relationship, such as immigration, border security, and USMCA.

In addition, Stoney also spent seven years in the private sector as Director of External Affairs at Southern Company, one of the largest and most sophisticated power companies in the United States.  At Southern, he developed legislative strategies and coordinated external messaging with corporate communications, third party groups, trade associations and think tanks to maximize the strategic reach of policy positions.  Recognized for his leadership abilities, Stoney was selected by the Executive Team at Southern Company to participate in an internal development program that focused on team building and in depth mentoring to better understand the core business units.

He graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in International Studies and Minor in Political Science and also has a Graduate Certificate in Advanced International Affairs with an Intelligence Emphasis from The Bush School of Government and Public Service.  Stoney also serves on the Board of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation.

On a personal level, Stoney grew up in a small farming community in West Texas.  He is married to Josefina Urzaiz, a Merida, Yucatan native and entrepreneur focused on improving the quality of life for young women in the Yucatan by increasing the affordability and accessibility to higher education.  Stoney and Josefina currently reside in Washington, D.C. with their three young children, Benjamin, Matilda, and Theodore.

Elizabeth Cole

Minneapolis, MN

In addition to her executive recruiting role at Google, Elizabeth is also on the Texan by Nature Advisory Council.  Prior to Google, Elizabeth was an Engagement Manager for Heidrick & Struggles, a retained executive search firm, where she focused on C-suite placements in the industrial, oil & gas and agriculture industries.

... Read More Prior to H&S she worked for Target and BNSF in human resources. She graduated from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University and is a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce Talent Advisory Council.

Michael Dorff

Dallas, TX

Michael Dorff manages executive & employee communications at Raytheon Intelligence & Space in McKinney, with 17 years of experience leading teams and developing evidence-based communications plans that move people.

... Read More He is a storyteller and strategic thinker with a passion for common ground and the greater good. Dorff is an enthusiastic learner with broad knowledge of economic drivers such as defense, technology, energy, education, agriculture and banking. He makes unexpected connections and brings people together to find fresh approaches to old problems. Dorff is an amateur naturalist who has four young children, and he is proud to say they are 8th-generation Texans. He is happiest when he’s found just the right words or his hands are in the soil.

Representative Mary E. González

Austin, TX

In November 2012, Mary E. González was elected State Representative for House District 75–an area that includes east El Paso County, the fastest growing parts of the city of El Paso and the towns of Socorro, Clint, Fabens, and Tornillo. Mary was raised in Clint, Texas and graduated from Clint High School. Mary serves on the Appropriations Committee and is Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee in the Texas House.

... Read More Throughout her time as a State Representative, she has authored numerous bills to improve public schools, increase economic development, and support agriculture in House District 75 and throughout the state. As a result of her accomplishments, she was named “Freshman of the Year” by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a “Champion of Equality” by Equality Texas two sessions in a row, and the 2015 “Advocate of the Year” by the same organization.

In 2015, she was the youngest inductee into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame. She is currently serving her first term as Vice Chair for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and was elected Secretary of the House Border Caucus.

Mary received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Master’s Degree from St. Edward’s University. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction- Cultural Studies in Education at UT-Austin. Previously, she has worked at the National Hispanic Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and as the Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs at Southwestern University.

Mary currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Allgo, Texas’ state-wide Queer People of Color organization. Mary has been recognized by Latino Leaders Magazine for her leadership in education, was recognized as one of ten “Next Generation Latinas” by Latina Magazine, and as one of the 10 newly-elected politicians to watch in the nation by NBC Latino.

Norman Roy Garza, Jr.

Austin, TX

Norman Roy Garza, Jr. joined Texas A&M University as Vice President of Government Relations in June 2021. In this role, he coordinates with The Texas A&M University System federal and state relations offices – in D.C. and Austin, respectively – to leads implementation of congressional and legislative initiatives for the flagship campus and its branch locations.

... Read More Previously, since November 2014, Norman was Assistant Vice Chancellor of Government Relations for Texas A&M Engineering. Prior, he was Associate Legislative Director for six-years at Texas Farm Bureau.

Born in Harlingen and reared in Pleasanton, Norman is a native Texan with roots across the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.

Norman earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Edward’s University in Austin. He also completed a study abroad program for international relations and South American eco-political affairs at Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ben Masters

Austin, TX

Ben Masters is a filmmaker, author, and photographer based in Austin, TX. Masters studied wildlife biology at the finest educational facility in the universe, Texas A&M University, married way up, and has one gun shy dog and five exceptional mustangs. In 2013, Masters rode those mustangs from Mexico to Canada to produce Unbranded, a documentary that won the audience award at Hot Docs, Mountainfilm, and Banff.

... Read More He is also the director of The River and The Wall feature documentary, premiering at SXSW in March of 2019, which follows five friends on a 1,200 mile horse, canoe, and bicycle expedition along the Rio Grande and Texas-Mexico border to document the borderlands and seek understanding before further construction of a wall.

A dedicated wildlife enthusiast, Masters sat as the Wildlife Management Chair for the controversial Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, where he represented the interests of wildlife and wildlife habitat on 31.2 million acres of public land.

Masters has guided hunts across Texas, managed a 10,000 acre ranch outside of Laredo for four years, and started the Wild Texas Film Tour, an annual 15 city film tour that celebrates Texas wildlife, adventure, and conservation stories.

He is the author of two books published by Texas A&M University, contributes regularly to Western Horseman, and has written and photographed for National Geographic.  You can follow him @bencmasters and if you have a good movie idea, hit him up!

Ilissa Nolan

Austin, TX

Ilissa Nolan is the Government Affairs Consultant for Booth, Ahrens and Werkenthin, P.C. in Austin, Texas where she focuses on water and environmental issues. Most recently she served as the Government Relations Director for the Texas Department of Agriculture. Ilissa grew up on a registered Hereford Ranch in the small East Texas town of Gilmer. She received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Leadership and Development with a minor in Horticulture from Texas A&M University.

... Read More  As well, she received a Master of Science in Agricultural Communications from Texas Tech University. Ms. Nolan has worked as a Congressional Intern for the House Agriculture Committee under Chairman Frank Lucas and was honored to serve as the Reading Clerk for the Texas House of Representatives of the 83rd Legislative Session. She worked as the Executive Assistant for Natural Resources Solutions, LC a consulting firm specialized in regulatory and non-regulatory natural resource and environmental issues.

Most recently, she served as the Legislative Director for Representative Charles “Doc” Anderson, Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee. Ms. Nolan is a member of the Junior League of Austin and Next Generation Advisory Council of Texan by Nature.

Marissa Patton

Austin, TX

Marissa Patton lives in Austin and currently works as associate legislative director for the Texas Farm Bureau. She monitors issues and legislation pertaining to eminent domain, land use regulation, wildlife, rural affairs, agriculture and livestock commodities, and appropriations.

... Read More Marissa was raised in Stamford, Texas, where her family maintains a small farming and ranching operation. She is a graduate of Stamford High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University.

Prior to joining Texas Farm Bureau, Marissa worked in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Senator John Cornyn. She also worked in Austin for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). Outside of work Marissa volunteers for the Junior League of Austin and is an active member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Stewards of the Wild young professional organization.

Angelica Rosales

El Paso, TX

Angelica Rosales has close to 20 years of experience in nonprofit management and recently transitioned to private industry.  She currently works as a business development representative for Sundt Construction in their building division out of their El Paso office.  In the 12 years Sundt has been in El Paso, they have performed $1.4 billion of work in the region and have awarded thousands of dollars to local nonprofits through the Sundt Foundation. ... Read More

Angelica is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communication. She is also a graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso where she earned a Master of Science in Construction Management.

Angelica is a current director in Texas Lyceum and sits on the boards of the following local organizations: The Borderplex Alliance, Executive Forum and El Paso Zoological Society.  She was recently recognized for her work in the community receiving a Women of Impact Award for 2020.

Angelica is a proud mother of two children, Pablo Antonio Talavera (11), and Ana Sophia Talavera (10).