Sandy Hentges GuzmanChief Executive Officer
Sandy joined the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) in March of 2020. In this role, she enjoys working with many of Central Texas’ thought-leaders focused on addressing the intractable challenges facing the region. Her work allows her to focus on the long-term rather than the skirmish of the day across many policy areas in which she has engaged during her career in Central Texas.
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.
Sandy was intimately involved in the successful 2020 light rail election and ecstatic with the outcome. She remains engaged in ensuring the project comes to fruition. New to Austin in 2000, Sandy joined the campaign for light rail as Deputy Campaign Director. Although that 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 SanchezProgram Director
Cynthia joined the AARO team in the summer of 2020. Her work includes developing and implementing initiatives emerging from AARO’s policy areas.
Prior to AARO, Cynthia 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 expand civic participation and voter engagement, pass social equity policies, and increase resources for low-income communities of color. 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 personal time, she enjoys raising her baby daughter, Scarlett, and cycling with her husband, Victor. Originally from El Monte, California, Cynthia is thrilled to support AARO as it continues to make a long-lasting impact in the lives of Central Texans.
Maranda LehnerzEvents Specialist
Maranda joined AARO in February of 2022. With a background in event planning and management, with a certification from NEAWP, she brought AARO’s event planning and execution to the next level. Maranda has always had a passion for community and feels strongly about the future of Central Texas.
Originally from Colorado, Maranda moved to New Mexico at the age of 6, spending much of her childhood exploring the Midwest and Southwest. She has called Central Texas home since 2000 while enjoying travel both domestic and foreign. Maranda is an active member of her daughters PTA, her Church Youth Ministry and is a Girl Scout Troop Leader.
Breier MairenaAdministrative and Membership Support Specialist
Breier first joined AARO in Spring 2023 as a Summer Intern and transitioned to Full-time in October 2023. She is a dedicated and enthusiastic member of the AARO team, serving as our Administrative Specialist, here to support AARO members. She is currently pursuing a degree in International Relations at Texas State University. In her spare time, Breier enjoys creating lasting memories with her family and exploring the vibrant culinary scene in Austin, always on the lookout for new exciting restaurants to try. Additionally, she’s a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-Jitsu at Brazilian Top Team. With a diverse background encompassing preschool teacher at the Yoga Peace School, work in a law office, and volunteer work with CASA of Travis County, Breier brings a wealth of experience to her role. Her unwavering dedication to advocacy, coupled with her unique interests, makes her a vital addition to AARO.
Awarded Best Place for Working Parents
AARO has earned the 2024 Best Place for Working Parents® Business Designation in recognition of their commitment to supporting working parents through their family-friendly policies and practices.
Meet Our Members
Learn more about the dedicated members that make up AARO.