Leadership and Staff

2020 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.


Ray Wilkerson




Ray Wilkerson Companies


Trish Young Brown


Civic Leader

Past President

Karen Friese




K Friese + Associates


Ellen Wood


President and CEO




2020 Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs



Keith Jackson

Senior Vice President



  • Chair

    Michael Whellan


    Armburst & Brown, LLP

  • Co-Chair

    Susan Dawson

    President and Executive Director

    E3 Alliance


  • Chair

    Nikki Graham

    President - Austin

    Bank of America

  • Vice Chair

    Dr. Don Christian

    President and CEO

    Concordia University

Social Equity

  • Chair

    Scott Flack


    Live Oak

  • Vice Chair

    Ashton Cumberbatch, Jr.

    Senior Counsel

    McGinnis Lochridge


  • Chair

    Clarke Heidrick


    McGinnis Lochridge

  • Vice Chair

    Dr. Denise Trauth


    Texas State University


2020 Executive Committee

AARO Members

  • Ray Wilkerson


  • Trish Young Brown


  • Karen Friese

    Past President

  • Ellen Wood


  • Stacy Armijo

  • Amber Carden

  • C. Brian Cassidy

  • Asthon Cumberbatch, Jr.

  • Susan Dawson

  • Michelle Earley

  • Scott Flack

  • Nikki Graham

  • Jeff Hahn

  • Clarke Heidrick

  • Keith Jackson

  • Ali Khataw

  • Nikelle Meade

  • Marc Rodriguez

  • Michael Whellan

  • Pete Winstead

AARO Staff

AARO Staff

Sandy Hentges Guzman

Executive Director

Sandy joined the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) in March of 2020. Before her role at AARO, Sandy was the Legislative Director for Texas State Senator Kirk Watson. Initially focused solely on transportation policy, Sandy served as point on the development and implementation of the senator’s 10 Goals in 10 Years from the inception of the initiative in 2011. This work led to a redesign of the community healthcare safety net system, the creation of the UT Dell Medical School, enhanced mental health facilities and services and Seton’s commitment to build a new teaching hospital, the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, Austin.

New to Austin in 2000, Sandy joined the campaign for light rail as Deputy Campaign Director. Though the effort was unsuccessful, it provided her the opportunity to get to know Austin, its elected officials and business and community leaders. Sandy subsequently joined the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce staff where she worked for eight years on local, state and federal policy, with a heavy emphasis on transportation, as Senior Vice President for Public Policy.

Sandy relocated to Austin from Washington, DC where she worked for a Member of Congress following her graduation from The George Washington University with bachelor’s degrees in International Affairs and Latin American Studies. 

A California native, Sandy and her husband Robert are the proud parents of two young Texans.

Cynthia Sanchez

Program Manager

Cynthia joined the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) in August 2020. Her work includes managing membership efforts such as the development and implementation of systems-change strategies and programs. Prior to AARO, she was the Director of Community Organizing within the Faith in Action Network, where she worked with clergy, community leaders and organizational partners in Orange County, California, to increase civic participation and voter engagement, pass social equity policies and expand resources for low income regions. She has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, advancing their Dignity for All Project on Homelessness, as well as with Disability Rights California, leveraging statistical and geographical analysis to identify critical rural regions in the state lacking legal representation for people with disabilities.

Cynthia holds a B.A in English with a certification in Business from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a M.S in Public Policy from the University of California, Irvine. As the daughter of an immigrant, single mother, Cynthia was raised with an unwavering spirit of resilience, hard work and hope. In her free time, she enjoys cooking traditional Mexican food, reading science fiction and playing with her dog, Lucy. Originally from Los Angeles, Cynthia is excited to build a life in Austin, and even more thrilled to support AARO as it continues making a long-lasting impact in the lives of all Central Texans.

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.

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.