Governor Abbott Appoints Nine To Texas Juvenile Justice Board

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AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Joe Barton, Ph.D., Stephanie House, and Scott Matthew to the Texas Juvenile Justice Board for terms set to expire on February 1, 2025. Additionally, the Governor appointed William “Will” Durham , Luis Leija, and Manny Ramirez for terms set to expire on February 1, 2027 and appointed Edeska Barnes, Jerry Bullard, and Cyndi Wheless for terms set to expire on February 1, 2029. The Board is charged with developing and implementing rules to govern the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, its executive director and staff, and to establish the mission and set goals for the Department that emphasize keeping youth in home communities while balancing rehabilitative needs with public safety.

Joe Barton, Ph.D. of Canyon is a licensed professional counselor and the chief juvenile probation officer for Randall County. He is a member of the Panhandle Area Juvenile Probation Officer Association and the West Texas Chief’s Association. Barton is a former member of the Texas Counseling Association, National Board for Certified Counselors, and Texas Family Code Chapter 55 Revisions Advisory Council Subcommittee. Additionally, he is a volunteer member for the Canyon Independent School District (ISD) Advisory Committee and treasurer for the Canyon High School Choir Booster Board. Barton received a Master of Arts in Psychology from West Texas A&M University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology from Walden University.

Stephanie House of Liberty Hill is a school principal at Georgetown ISD. She is a member of the National Association of Secondary Principals and the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. Additionally, she is a volunteer with Texas Humane Heroes. House received a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan, a Master of Education in Education Administration from Concordia University Texas, and an educational specialist degree from Grand Canyon University.

Scott Matthew of Georgetown is the executive director and chief juvenile probation officer of Williamson County Juvenile Services and a municipal judge for the cities of Jarrell, Granger, and Bartlett. He is member emeritus of the Georgetown Project and a former member of the Georgetown Health Foundation Board of Directors. Additionally, he is a member of the Texas Probation Association, Texas State Bar Juvenile Committee, Texas Municipal Courts Association, and the Correctional Management Institute of Texas Advisory Council at Sam Houston State University. Previously, he volunteered on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Georgetown and the Children’s Support Coalition. Matthew received a Bachelor of Arts from Southwestern University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

William “Will” Durham of Huntsville is the criminal district attorney for the Walker County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Rotary Club of Huntsville, Texas District and County Attorneys Association, and the Special Prosecution Unit Board of Directors. Additionally, he was inducted into the American Board of Trial Advocates and is a certified mediator. Previously, he served in various leadership roles for the Walker County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Methodist Retirement Communities – Creekside Board of Directors, District 3B State Bar Grievance Committee, Huntsville Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, and The University of Texas at Austin (UT) Ex-Students’ Alumni Association. Durham received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from UT Austin and a Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Luis Leija of Port Lavaca is the chief juvenile probation officer with Calhoun County. He is the president of the South Texas Chief’s Association, member of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, and board member of the Juvenile Justice Association of Texas. He is the former chairman of the Harbor Children’s Alliance Center and former president of the South Texas Area Regional Training Association. Additionally, he is a volunteer for the Harbor Children’s Alliance Center and a coordinator for Adopt a Highway. Leija received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from UT San Antonio.

Manny Ramirez of Fort Worth is a Tarrant County commissioner and a 15-year veteran police officer. He has served in many roles with law enforcement, including as a police officer, detective, sergeant, and on assignments to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Gang Unit. He is the former president of the Fort Worth Police Officer Association and a member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Fort Worth Club, and the Salvation Army Advisory Council. Additionally, he is a board member of Assist the Officer and president of Fort Worth Cops for Kids. Ramirez received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Tarleton State University and a Master of Business Administration from Texas Christian University.

 

Edeska Barnes of Jasper is the chief juvenile probation officer with the First Judicial District Juvenile Probation Department. He is a member of the Texas Probation Association, which he previously served as member of its board of directors. Additionally, he has served as a facilitator/trainer for the New Chief Development Program with the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University. Barnes received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Lamar University.

 

Jerry Bullard of Colleyville is a shareholder and attorney with Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and its Appellate, Litigation, and Legislative/Campaign Law Sections. He is also a member of the Tarrant County Bar Association, serving as chair of its Appellate Section Pro Bono Committee. He is a fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Tarrant Bar Foundation, and volunteers for the 6 Stones Mission Network. Bullard received a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications from Baylor University and a Juris Doctor from UT School of Law.

 

Cyndi Wheless of McKinney is Presiding Judge of the 417th District Court in Collin County and is board certified in juvenile law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Collin County Bar Association, and American Bar Association. Additionally, she is a commissioner for the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health, member of the Collin County Coalition for Behavioral Healthcare, judicial liaison board member of the Collin County Women Lawyers Association, former member of the Serenity High School Advisory Board, and sustaining member of the Junior League of Collin County. Wheless received a Bachelor of Science in Government and Politics from UT at Dallas and a Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.