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Management Development Associate Program
MDA Fellows - Past

Ray Africa

Ray Africa earearned his Master of Arts degree from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to entering the MDA Program, he was an Assistant Manager in the Park and Recreation Department at the Dallas Zoo and Aquarium at Fair Park from 1999 to 2005. Ray’s decision to join the MDA Program was a product of his ambition to acquire a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the purpose of government, bureaucracy, budgets, governance, and public affairs in the ninth largest city in America.

During his tenure in the Program, Ray rotated to three departments with projects that specifically focused on process improvements within those departments. Ray’s first departmental rotation was in the Department of Street Services where he consolidated and centralized equipment and fleet operations for better organizational management structure to assist in ISO 9000 certification. His second rotation was in the Office of Cultural Affairs where he made improvements to standard operating procedures for the department’s five cultural centers. His third rotation was with Sanitation Services where he managed their equipment and fleet. He also served as a facilitator on a Budgeting for Outcomes Team from FY 2005-2007.

Currently, Ray is the Equipment and Fleet Manager of Sanitation Services. His responsibilities are managing Sanitation’s equipment and fleet budget, repairs, replacements, oversight, preventive maintenance, supervision, procurement, redundancy, and determining costs associated with downtime affecting collections services. He is also accountable for planning, directing, executing, and review of all equipment and fleet activities and operations for the department  

Staci Thrasher

Staci Thrasher earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Texas A&M University in May of 2007 and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Texas A&M University in May 2005. Prior to entering the MDA Program at the City of Dallas, she held an internship with the White House Office of Public Liaison during the summer of 2006. Staci’s decision to join the MDA Program was due to a desire to gain broad exposure and experience in local government where she could better observe the impact of policy on communities than in federal government.

Since joining the Program in June 2007, Staci has worked on two MDA projects with fellow participants: the implementation of a city-wide uniform quartermaster and the improvement of the computer acquisition process for all City departments. In addition to her MDA projects, she has also served on a Budgeting for Outcomes Team for the FY 2008-09 Budget. Staci’s first departmental rotation was in the City Manager’s Office where she worked with responding to citizen requests, staffing City Council meetings, the quarterly Employee Recognition Program and some economic development special projects. Her second rotation was in the Office of Strategic Customer Services where she analyzed departmental performance measures and helped update the previous performance measurement system. In April 2008, Staci was hired as the Northeast Service Area Coordinator in the Office of Strategic Customer Services where she serves as community liaison and project manager to provide solutions to community concerns in the Northeast area of Dallas.

James Childers

James Childers earned his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of North Texas in May of 2003 and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Midwestern State University in August of 2001. Prior to joining the City of Dallas, James worked for the Town of Flower Mound, Texas as a Budget Intern and as a HR Generalist. James was attracted to the MDA program out of his desire to experience working in a large organization such as the City of Dallas and the learning experiences the Departmental rotations of the MDA program could provide.

As part of the inaugural MDA class of August 2005, James worked on two MDA projects with fellow participants: the potential separation of the 311 and 911 call center and the 2006 Bond Program. In addition to working on these MDA projects, James also served on Budgeting for Outcomes Teams for the FY 2006-07 and FY 2007-08 Budgets. James left the MDA program for a permanent position of Quality Assurance Manager in the Office of Strategic Customer Services in October of 2006 where he was responsible for monitoring the City’s 311 system for potential problems and engaging Dallas residents for feedback concerning the quality of service provided to them. James is currently an Interim Assistant Director of Code Compliance over Nuisance Abatement. Nuisance Abatement is comprised of the Mow/Clean Business Unit, Rapid Intensified Inspection Program (R.I.I.P.), and the Code Inspectors assigned to the City Attorney’s Office.

Heather Lepeska

Heather Lepeska earned her Master of Public Policy degree from George Washington University in January of 2005 and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to entering the MDA Program at the City of Dallas, Heather worked in Washington D.C. as the Legislative Director to Congressman Jerry Costello, where she handled a variety of issues including policies and legislation related to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as appropriations and budget. Heather joined the MDA program to gain knowledge of local policy making, as well as to continue her work in the public sector.

Since joining the program in August 2005, Heather has worked in the Office of Economic Development as the project manager for the International Inland Port of Dallas (IIPOD). IIPOD is a public-private partnership related to intermodal goods movement and industrial development, located in Southern Dallas County. IIPOD is a catalyst for investment, job growth and development of sustainable communities with a goal of increasing the city-wide tax base. Heather has also served on the Neighborhoods Budgeting for Outcomes Team in the FY2006-07 and FY 2007-08 budget cycles.

Martin Riojas

Martin Riojas earned his Masters of Public Administration degree from the University of North Texas in May of 2005. Prior to joining the City of Dallas, Martin worked at Raytheon as an Information Security Representative and served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps. Martin applied for the MDA program out of a desire to work in local government.

As part of the inaugural MDA class of August 2005, Martin worked on two MDA projects with fellow participants: the potential separation of the 311 and 911 call center functions and the 2006 Bond Program. In addition to working on these MDA projects, Martin also served on Budgeting for Outcomes Teams for the FY 2005-06 and FY 2006-07 budgets. In June of 2006 Martin left the MDA program for a permanent position of Quality Assurance Manager in the Office of Strategic Customer Services. In October of 2006 he was hired for the position of Assistant to the City Manager where he managed the Agenda Office, the Management Development Associate Program, and assisted the City Manager in responding to high priority, and complex citizen requests.

In September of 2008 Martin was hired as an Assistant Director in the Department of Court and Detention Services where he overseas the operations of Court Support and Court Collections.

Juanita Tovar

Juanita Tovar earned her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of North Texas in May of 2007 and her Bachelor of Arts from Southern Methodist University. Before entering the MDA Program with the City of Dallas, she interned with the City Manager’s Office for the City of Bedford. Juanita decided to join the MDA Program in order to broaden her experience in local government.

Since joining the Program in October 2006, Juanita has worked on two MDA projects along side other MDAs: the implementation of a city-wide uniform quartermaster and the improvement of the computer acquisition process for all City departments. In addition to her MDA projects, she has also served on the Trinity River and E³ Government Budgeting for Outcomes Teams. Juanita’s first departmental rotation was in the City Manager’s Office where she assisted with the City Manager’s quarterly Employee Recognition Program, facilitated the A Carrot A Day Employee Recognition Training and assisted with responding to citizen requests. In June 2007 Juanita joined the Intergovernmental Services department and currently serves as the Assistant to the City Manager. As Assistant to the City Manager Juanita oversees the Management Development Associate Program, the City Council Agenda Office, and assists the City Manager in responding to high priority and complex issues. 

Jerry Gonzales

Gerald “Jerry” Gonzales, Jr. earned his Master of Public Administration degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas in May of 2008 and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas in San Antonio in August of 2004.  Prior to entering the Management Development Associate (MDA) Program at the City of Dallas, Jerry worked in Development Fundraising as an Annual Fund Assistant Director with St. Mary’s University managing campaigns to raise unrestricted funds. Jerry’s decision to join the MDA Program was due in part to his passion and desire to work in public service and gain exposure and experience in city management.

Since joining the MDA Program in September of 2008, Jerry has been working in his first rotation with the City Manager’s Office serving as an assistant to the Assistant City Manager, Ramon Miguez. Jerry has been working on various projects assisting the Assistant City Manager in responding to high priority, and complex citizen requests which include managing day to day communication, information, with department directors and Mayor and City Council Office. Other duties include attending City Council and Transportation & Environment Committee Meetings and working with the Agenda Office in preparation of the City Council Agenda.  Jerry currently serves on the Educational Enhancements Budgeting for Outcomes Team in the FY2008-09 budget cycle. In addition, he also serves the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force Team as one of the Staff Support Team members in helping to support the redevelopment of southern Dallas communities.

Erica Ferron

Erica Ferron earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Old Dominion University in 2008 and holds an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Colorado.  Prior to entering the MDA Program at the City of Dallas, Erica served for six years as a surface warfare officer in the United States Navy.  Erica decided to join the MDA Program in order to learn about municipal government while diversifying her management experience.

Erica joined the MDA program in June of 2008 and is currently in her first rotation in the City Manager’s Office.  During her rotation, Erica has participated in a variety of tasks including overseeing the submission and approval of City Council agenda items for the Housing, Economic Development, Development Services, and Fair Housing departments; managing the administration of the City Council Economic Development Committee and Housing Committee; and supervising departmental responses to citizen and City Council requests for information.  In addition to her MDA responsibilities, Erica is serving on the Public Safety Key Focus Area Team for the FY 2009-2010 budget and is a member of the Southern Sector Task Force Economic Development Working Group.

Michael Martinez

Michael Martinez earned his Masters in Public Administration degree from the University of North Texas in 2007 and has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas El Paso. Prior to entering the MDA program, he worked with LOWES inc. as a Service Manager, a Congressional Intern in Washington D.C. and an Administrative Intern with The Salvation Army during Hurricane Katrina. Michael entered the MDA program because it allowed him to continue his passion for public service while giving him the opportunity to understand the mechanics of city government on a large scale.

Michael began the program in December of 2007 with the City Manager’s Office. During his first rotation he worked on special projects that included building a new courts facility, the UNT Law School building project, Minor League Baseball in Dallas and Mayor and City Council citizen requests. His second rotation has been with the Department of Code Compliance where he is working on creating performance measures for the department, helping with the process of creating new geographic response districts, helping to implement ISO 9001 throughout the department, and working with department inventory on technology and communications. While working on these projects he has been able to work closely with the Department of Equipment and Building Services, Strategic Customer Services, Computer Information Systems, Geographic Information Systems, and the Purchasing Department. He has been assigned to several small special projects for the department working with Animal Services and Community Code. Michael is also currently serving on the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force Finance and Funding committee as a scribe.

Tommy Ludwig

Tommy Ludwig earned his Master of Science degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas in 2008, and his Bachelor of Science degree in History from the University of Texas, Tyler in 2005.  Prior to joining the MDA Program Tommy worked as a project manager for Argon Medical Inc. while obtaining his undergraduate degree.  He also served as a Graduate Fellow with the Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas while attending graduate school.  Tommy entered the MDA Program in order to gain managerial municipal government experience in one of the largest and most progressive cities in the United States.

Since joining the MDA Program in July 2008 Tommy has served in one rotation with the City of Dallas.  In this first rotation he has been tasked with implementing and managing a new work request system for the Department of Aviation.  In addition to these responsibilities, he also provides support to various aviation projects upon request of department managers and directors.  Tommy is also a member of the Small Business Team in the Mayor's Southern Dallas Task Force, a group devoted to developing and growing small business in the Southern sector of Dallas.   

Brittany Burrell

Brittany Burrell earned her Masters of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2008 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Spanish from Southwestern University.  Prior to joining the City of Dallas, she pursued her interest in community outreach through internships with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Brittany joined the MDA program because it will give her a better understanding of how the City works through a variety of departmental rotations.

Brittany worked with the City of Dallas six months prior to joining the MDA program in January 2008.  During that time, she worked in the Department of Code Compliance as a business analyst where her projects included developing performance measures in the form of a departmental report card, facilitating meetings with management to assist with the implementation of ISO 9001 Quality Management System, and developing the Minimum Urban Standard Housing Catalog to further the Southern Dallas revitalization initiative. Brittany also worked in the Trinity River Corridor Project Office where she assisted with media relations and the planning and execution of events marking project milestones.  
Ryan Rogers

Ryan Rogers received his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas in 2008 and his bachelor’s degree in city planning from Missouri State University in 2006.  Prior to beginning the MDA program, Ryan worked for the municipalities of Ozark, Missouri and Topeka, Kansas as a Management Intern.  In May of 2008 he joined Dallas’ MDA program due to his desire to experience multiple working rotations in one of the largest council/manager forms of government in the United States.

Ryan’s first assignment as a Management Development Associate was to assist in the restructuring of Dallas’ Code Compliance Department.  While with Code, his projects focused on coordination of clean-up efforts, development of marketing strategies, and creation of performance measures for the department.  In an effort to expand his budget knowledge, Ryan began a rotation in the Department of Budget and Management Services in November 2008.  In Budget and Management Services he holds the daily responsibilities of a Senior Budget Analyst.  Additionally, Ryan is serving on a Budgeting for Outcomes Team in FY 2009-2010.

Stephanie Coleman

Stephanie Coleman earned her Master of Business Administration degree from the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University in May 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Houston in 1998.  Stephanie began her career in public service as a Presidential Management Fellow managing a department-wide core competency study and succession plan for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, DC.  From there, she went on to become a Regional Training Officer of the U.S. Department of Interior.  After a brief stint as a training consultant for Emory University in Atlanta, GA, she decided to move back to her hometown of Dallas, TX to use her skills in local government.

Since joining the Program in April 2008, Stephanie has managed projects in Convention and Event Services and the Dallas Farmers Market.  Specifically, she is an active member of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel Project team managing the project’s website and information flow; and she is an officer of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel Development Corporation.  In addition, Stephanie is energetically working with Dallas Farmers Market staff to recruit vendors for its newly renovated indoor market facility; and she is currently serving on the FY 2009-10 Budgeting for Outcomes Team and the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force initiative.

Matina Garrett

Matina Garrett received her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of North Texas in 2008 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Texas-Arlington. Prior to entering the MDA Program, Matina held an internship with the North Central Texas Council of Governments as a program coordinator in the Environment and Development Department.  Matina’s decision to join the MDA Program was due to a desire to gain significant managerial experience in a progressive municipality and participate in multi-department projects within a nationally recognized City.

Since joining the program in 2008, Matina’s first rotation has been in the City Manager’s Office serving as an assistant to the Executive General Manager of Special Projects. She has worked on a number of projects, which includes the development of the University of North Texas Law School in downtown Dallas and assisting in the potential development of Elgin Robertson Park. Matina also assisted in drafting a Council-approved ordinance, the development for the Request for Proposals, and in negotiating the subsequent vendor service contract.   In addition to her MDA responsibilities, Matina serves on the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Taskforce and the City Manager’s Budget Brainstorming Team.

John Johnson

John Johnson earned his Master of Management degree in 2007 and his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2006 from Texas A & M University-Commerce. Prior to entering the MDA Program at the City of Dallas, John worked in the financial industry, focusing on Business Development for American National Bank.  John was drawn to the MDA Program in part for the extensive on the job training provided, in addition to the vast range of opportunities it affords participants.

Since joining the Management Development Associate Program in July of 2008, John has worked on a number of projects with fellow participants.  John serves on the Customer Service Initiative tactical team which is responsible for developing citywide customer service standards as well as planning and executing the City’s annual employee recognition awards ceremony, the “W.O.W.i.e.” awards.   In addition to CSI-Dallas, John also serves on the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force, and assists with the Trinity River Corridor Project Committee.   He also served on the Budgeting for Outcomes Team for the FY 2009-2010 budget. While in his first rotation with the City Manager’s Office, John is currently the assistant to Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan.

Shanika Brooks

Shanika Brooks received her Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Local Government Management from the University of North Texas in 2007 and a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Christian University. Prior to joining the City of Dallas, Shanika worked for the City of Dickinson, as the Assistant to the Public Works Director. She also participated in the NCTCOG Urban Fellowship Program and worked for the cities of Grand Prairie and Oak Point. Shanika was attracted to the MDA Program out of her desire to work in a large organization and her commitment to serve the public sector. 

Shanika joined the MDA Program in April of 2008, with her first rotation in the City Manager’s Office. She assisted in the development of the amended smoking ordinance and oversaw the submission and approval of City Council agenda items. Shanika also managed the administration of the Quality of Life Committee; and supervised departmental responses to citizens and City Council requests for information. Currently, she works as a Senior Budget Analyst for the Office of Budget and Management Services. In addition to her MDA responsibilities, Shanika is serving on the Culture, Arts and Recreation Key Focus Area Team for the FY 2009-2010 budget and is a member of the Southern Sector Task Force.

Current MDAs


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