Leadership and Staff

2019 AARO Officers

Our officers are a diverse team of thought leaders that serve as the governing body of AARO. Learn more about our officers, committee chairs and vice chairs.


Karen Friese

President & Founder

K Friese + Associates


Adriana Cruz


Greater San Marcos Partnership

Past President

Steven W. Knebel

Leading Partner

Maxwell, Locke & Ritter


Amber Carden

Private Client Advisor, Senior Vice President

US Trust - Bank of America Private Wealth Management

2019 Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs



Keith Jackson

Senior Vice President



  • Chair

    Michael Whellan


    Armburst & Brown, LLP

  • Vice Chair

    Susan Dawson

    President and Executive Director

    E3 Alliance


  • Chair

    Nikki Graham

    President – Austin

    Bank of America

Social Equity

  • Chair

    Scott Flack


    Live Oak

  • Vice Chair

    Adriana Cruz


    Greater San Marcos Partnership


  • Chair

    Clarke Heidrick


    McGinnis Lochridge

  • Vice Chair

    Dr. Denise Trauth


    Texas State University


2019 Executive Committee

AARO Members

  • Karen Friese


  • Adriana Cruz


  • Steven W. Knebel

    Past President

  • Amber Carden


  • Scott Alarcon

  • Dr. Collette Pierce Burnette

  • Ashton Cumberbatch

  • Susan Dawson

  • Michelle Earley

  • Scott Flack

  • Nikki Graham

  • Clarke Heidrick

  • Keith Jackson

  • Ali Khataw

  • Frank Leffingwell

  • Kristin Marcum

  • Michael Whellan

  • Pete Winstead

  • Ellen Wood

AARO Staff

AARO Staff

Barbara Johnson

Executive Director

Barbara Johnson joined AARO as Executive Director in January 1993. Barbara keeps the organization focused on the long-term economic and social well-being of Central Texas, coordinates the efforts of AARO’s issue committees, and oversees administration and finance.

Ms. Johnson is the Industry Representative to the Region K Water Planning Group, Chair of the Region K Policy Committee, and member of the City of Austin/LCRA Water Partnership Stakeholders Committee. She also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Austin Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and teaches NAMI Family-to-Family. In 2001, she served as a member of the Travis County Bonds Citizens Advisory Committee. Ms. Johnson is a former Board Chair and active in several ministries of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.

Previously, Barbara held executive positions in the field of health care management. She served as Project Manager – Multi-Institutional Systems Development for the Massachusetts Hospital Association (1980 – 1984), Manager of the Neurology Division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a 720 bed teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-Longwood-VA Neurology Training Program (1984 – 1986); and Business Manager of the Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice Residency Training Program (1986 – 1988). Between 1988 and 1993, she worked part-time as a business consultant while caring for her daughter.

Barbara graduated with a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa from Indiana University and earned an M.B.A. with honors from Boston University. She enjoys cooking and taking walks in the woodlands of Central Texas.

Kelley Wallace


Kelley joined AARO in August 2017 as the Bookkeeper. Prior to joining AARO, she spent a year working for UT’s engineering department and over seven years working for a local church as Financial/Facility Administrative Assistant. Kelley has a B.B.A. in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin.

She lives in Austin with her husband of 30 years and a dog named Sisa. She has two grown sons. In her free time, she travels, reads and volunteers.

Christie Bradow

Executive Assistant and Meeting Coordinator

Christie joined AARO as Executive Assistant and Meeting Coordinator in October 2018. She is excited to work with the AARO staff to help support the AARO membership and their mission.

Prior to AARO, Christie had an extensive background in retail management with 15+ years as the General Manager of a department store. Most recently she was a Sales Manager with a large automotive retailer.

Christie has a Master of Arts in Organizational Development from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston.

Originally from Baton Rouge, LA, Christie has lived in Aruba, California, New Mexico and has been proud to call Central Texas home since 2004.