Today we announced a big change at the Texas Freedom Network. Kathy Miller will step down at the end of December after 16 years as TFN president. TFN’s board has hired Val Benavidez, our chief program officer, as our new president. Check out our press release.
KATHY MILLER TO STEP DOWN AFTER 16 YEARS AS TEXAS FREEDOM NETWORK PRESIDENT
TFN Chief Program Officer Val Benavidez Named as New President
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2020
AUSTIN – After 16 years at the helm of the 25-year-old Texas Freedom Network, Kathy Miller will step down as president of the progressive grassroots advocacy organization at the end of 2020. Val Benavidez, TFN’s chief program officer, will be the organization’s new president.
“I’m humbled to have been able to lead an organization that works on issues that are dear to my heart and important to the lives of millions of Texans,” Miller said. “With the support of a fantastic board and a staff of talented and hardworking colleagues, I’m proud of the work we have done to ensure that progressive Texans – people of faith, young people and longtime grassroots activists – have a place at the table in important debates over public policy from the Legislature to the State Board of Education and in city halls across the state. I am confident that the organization will continue to grow and flourish under Val’s talented leadership. It is time for a new and more diverse generation of leaders to have the opportunity to flourish and take on the challenges ahead. I have always been an activist, and I intend to remain fully engaged working in support of progressive organizations.”
Benavidez, who has worked for more than 20 years in progressive grassroots organizing in Texas, will replace Miller as president of both TFN and the TFN Education Fund on January 1.
“It’s truly an honor to follow in the footsteps of Kathy and the other great women who have led this organization since its founding in 1995,” Benavidez said. “I’m excited to lead TFN at a time when a rising generation of young, diverse leaders is set to bring big changes to the old way of doing politics in this state.
Neal Katz, chair of the Texas Freedom Network Board of Directors, said board members have been pleased with TFN’s strong growth and are excited about the future of the organization as a leader in the progressive movement in the state.
“Our board is truly grateful for the long years of service and hard work Kathy has put into helping make TFN the important leader in the progressive movement in Texas that it is today,” Katz said. “We are thrilled that Val will be taking over as president to build on the fantastic growth the organization has seen under Kathy’s leadership.”
Miller has been the organization’s third and longest-serving president. Cecile Richards founded TFN in 1995. Samantha Smoot succeeded Richards and served as president from 1998 to the end of 2004, when Miller took over.
TFN and the TFN Education Fund have seen phenomenal growth during Kathy’s tenure as president, including:
- An increase in the number of supporters from 20,000 in 2004 to more than 150,000 across Texas today
- A sevenfold increase in the budget, funding a greatly expanded staff that now includes field teams in the state’s major metropolitan areas and the Rio Grande Valley
- The establishment of Texas Rising, with a presence on more than 20 college and university campuses around the state, for organizing and expanding voter turnout among Texans — especially Texans of color — ages 18-29
- The expansion of work with progressive faith communities, under the banner Just Texas, in support of social justice, including reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality
- Groundbreaking research on the quality of sex education as well as legally problematic Bible courses in Texas public schools
- Expansion into public opinion research, including polling on what Texans think about sex education and access to contraception and other reproductive health care
- A greater involvement in targeted electoral politics and issue campaigns, such as helping elect progressive supporters of criminal justice reform as district attorneys in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin; adopt citywide paid-sick leave policies; and pass nondiscrimination ordinances that include protections for LGBTQ Texans
TFN under Miller’s leadership has been at the center of consequential public policy battles, including efforts to stop private school voucher schemes at the Legislature, to fight textbook censorship at the State Board of Education, to defend church-state separation, to support access to abortion and other reproductive health care services, and to promote equality for LGBTQ Texans.
The Texas Freedom Network is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders and young Texans building an informed and effective movement for equality and social justice. The TFN Education Fund conducts public policy research on issues involving public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.