I’m writing to let you know about a big change at the Texas Freedom Network. At the end of this year, I will be stepping down as TFN’s president after 16 years working with and being inspired by a truly talented staff, a wonderful board of directors, and incredible supporters like you. After a thoughtful internal search process, I am thrilled to share that the board has elected to hire Val Benavidez as our incoming president.
Val will be the fourth president of our organization, which Cecile Richards founded 25 years ago. Cecile was followed as president by Samantha Smoot and then me at the end of 2004. Since joining our staff 14 years ago, Val has become a key architect of TFN’s strategy and growth, currently serving as our Chief Program Officer. Her leadership perspective as a Latina Texan, her deep commitment to our mission and to developing progressive young leaders, and her passion, wit and optimism are among the many reasons I’m excited for her to lead TFN.
My years at TFN have been among the most rewarding of my life. I have met so many wonderful supporters who share our vision for a more progressive and compassionate Texas, a state in which equality and social justice for all are truly valued and the divisive and discriminatory political agenda of the radical right is rejected.
Of course, TFN has seen a lot of change during these years. Since I became president at the end of 2004, we have grown from 20,000 to more than 150,000 supporters today. Our staff has expanded into a dynamic, statewide operation with organizers in our largest cities and the Rio Grande Valley. Texas Rising, our program to help build the grassroots power of young progressive activists, especially Texans of color, now has a presence on more than 20 college and university campuses. And Just Texas, our project to lift up faith voices for reproductive justice and LGBTQ equality, has brought together progressive clergy and people of faith from across the state. We’ve had important wins at the State Board of Education and at the Legislature as well.
Texas has also seen a lot of change. Our state’s population is larger, younger and more diverse than ever before. TFN has focused on making sure our staff and our goals reflect these changes — our team is bigger, stronger, and more reflective of our diverse movement than at any time in our history. In truth, the organization is positioned to continue our growth and extraordinary impact. So it feels like the perfect moment to begin a new era of leadership that reflects the diversity and priorities of our movement.
I want to thank TFN’s board for allowing me the opportunity to lead this incredible organization. In particular, I would like to thank our founder, Cecile, for giving me my first taste of TFN’s commitment to organizing and to Samantha, my predecessor, for teaching me about the tenacity needed in the daily fight for social justice and equity in our state.
I’ve had the honor to work with the most talented, dynamic, wise and resilient team of colleagues of my entire career. I’m sincerely grateful to the entire TFN family — the tens of thousands of activists, volunteers, partners, supporters, and donors who make everything we do possible. I’m honored to have been able to work alongside each of you on issues that are dear to my heart and important to the lives of us all.
This work has truly shown me the incredible power that grassroots voices can have, and I’ll definitely be adding my voice to that chorus. I’ve been an activist all my life and intend to remain engaged in the progressive movement in Texas, just a little more behind the scenes. I look forward to crossing paths with many of you in the years to come.