Leadership and Staff
2018 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.


Steven W. Knebel

Leading Partner

Maxwell Locke & Ritter LLP


Karen Friese

President & Founder

K Friese + Associates

Past President

Elizabeth Christian

Founder & CEO

Elizabeth Christian Public Relations


Tom Locke


Texas Methodist Foundation

2018 Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs

Energy and Water


Amber Carden

Private Client Advisor, Senior Vice President

US Trust – Bank of America Private Wealth Management

Vice Chair

Keith Jackson

Senior Vice President


Health Care

  • Chair

    Michael Whellan


    Armburst & Brown, LLP

P-16 Education

  • Interim Chair

    Fred Heldenfels IV

    President & CEO

    Heldenfels Enterprises, Inc.

Social Equity

  • Chair

    Scott Flack


    Live Oak

  • Vice Chair

    Ali Khataw


    Encotech Engineering Consultants


  • Chair

    Clarke Heidrick


    Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, PC

  • Vice Chair

    Dr. Denise Trauth


    Texas State University

2018 Executive Committee

AARO Members

  • Steven W. Knebel


  • Karen Friese


  • Elizabeth Christian

    Past President

  • Tom Locke


  • Scott Alarcon

  • Joe Beal

  • Patricia Young Brown

  • Tony Budet

  • Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette

  • Amber Carden

  • Adriana Cruz

  • Scott Flack

  • Clarke Heidrick

  • Laura Huffman

  • Frank Leffingwell

  • Earl Maxwell

  • Janet Mitchell

  • Gary Valdez

  • Michael Whellan

  • Pete Winstead

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.

Leslie Weston

Program Director

Leslie Weston joined AARO as Program Director in October 2009. She enjoys working with members and staff to advance AARO's policy goals and extend AARO's reach though the committees and the McBee Fellowship program.

Prior to joining AARO, Leslie worked with a coalition of congregations and social service agencies as Fund Administrator for the Religious Coalition to Assist the Homeless. At the Religious Coalition, she administered a grant program that provided $500,000 annually to increase shelter beds and housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Austin.

Leslie has a Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Community and Administrative Leadership from University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from St. Edward’s University.

Originally from north Louisiana, Leslie made her way to Austin in 2001 and is happy to call Central Texas home. Leslie and family – husband Bryan, preschooler Miles and toddler Finn – share a household zoo with a delightfully lazy lab mix, a pair of formerly-feral cats, and too many fish to count.

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.