Our Board of Directors

President

Gary Hidalgo

Gary and his wife Pam live in Sour Lake. Gary holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, and certifications in special education services and as an IDD professional. Before becoming president of the board of directors for The Arc of Texas, Gary was the executive director of The Arc of Greater Beaumont. Prior to this role, Gary was the Chief Operating Officer of Spindletop MHMR Services, now known as the Spindletop Center, from September 2000 to August 2011 when he retired.


President Elect

Maggie Suter

Maggie is a Disability Services Educator and Trainer at an Austin non-profit committed to ending abuse for everyone. She works with adults with disabilities and trains professionals in other fields, such as nurses and other health care service providers, first responders, and law enforcement.

Maggie has a Master of Education degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. She has worked in education both as a teacher, educational diagnostician, and special education advocate for 21 years.

She is the mother of four boys, two of whom have significant intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

“I first learned of The Arc of Texas when I attended the Inclusion Works! conference as an educator many years ago. Little did I know then that I would come to rely on The Arc of Texas as a parent in need of guidance and resources. When information came to me from them, I knew that it was trusted and accurate.”

Maggie is a staunch advocate for children and adults with disabilities and has spent much time working with legislators and other organizations to support legislation that will benefit people with disabilities.

Her proudest accomplishment was the passage of a cameras in the classroom bill during the 85th Texas Legislature, a bill that was very personal to her after the abuse of her own son with Down syndrome at school.

Maggie has been honored by The Texas Senate for her dedication to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Texas.


Treasurer

Debbie Wilkes

Debbie’s involvement with the organization began with The Arc of Dallas (now The Arc of the DFW Area) and spans over 45 years. Debbie worked with adults with IDD who were moving from the Denton State School (now the Denton State Supported Living Center) back into the community. She taught three classes: Consumerism and shopping, cooking, and sex education.

“When I was asked to serve on the Board of Directors for The Arc of Texas, I considered it to be a great honor, and I bring my enthusiasm to all of the committees on which I serve.”

Debbie has worked in transition since 1989, and in 1991 designed a community-based transition program grounded in person-centered planning. She wrote an employment/social skills curriculum implemented at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and worked with the University of North Texas to develop a training curriculum for supported employment.

Debbie is an associate with the Institute on Person Centered Practices, a collaborative partnership between the Texas Center on Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin and the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University.

Debbie provides support to parents, school districts, universities, and supported employment agencies in the area of transition, work-based learning, assessment, and person-directed planning.


Secretary

Julie Ross

Julie first learned about The Arc of Texas when she volunteered for a local chapter in high school. She grew up with family members, neighbors, and classmates with IDD, and was keen on supporting the work of nonprofits which shared her values and promote disability rights and inclusion.

In 2012, as the proud mother of a young child with Down syndrome, Julie reacquainted herself with The Arc of Texas and became a member.

“Staff from The Arc of Texas taught me how to advocate for my child at the state and federal level; educating me on the paths and obstacles to ensuring the rights and progress of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Seeing the need to improve the outcomes and opportunities for her child and others, Julie became a board member in 2017. Since then, she has been the chair the Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, helping to ensure that people with IDD and support for disability rights are among the top legislative priorities in Texas.

As a parent and ally of people with IDD, Julie feels it’s imperative to shape the views of society, public institutions, elected officials, government, law enforcement, educators, and health care communities and demand positive and lasting changes for people with IDD.


Local Chapter Representative

Melisa McNeil

Melisa is the Executive Director of The Arc of the Gulf Coast.

“My journey began in 1997 when I began working with The Gulf Coast Center, and from there it led me to where I am now. I have been a long-time friend of The Arc, and together over the years we have advocated for many families.”

Past Texas Advocates President

James Meadours

James has been a tireless advocate and powerful voice for the rights of individuals with IDD to live full lives in the community. Throughout his career in self-advocacy, James has earned a sterling reputation as an honest, energetic and bold speaker, often sharing his life experiences to highlight challenges people with IDD face in our nation. James has held various leadership positions within the disability rights field. He was President of People First of Oklahoma, and later served as a VISTA volunteer to strengthen the movement in Oklahoma. He was chair of the national organization Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) from 1999-2002. He has also served as the President of Texas Advocates, a statewide self-advocacy group in Texas.


Dan Burton

Dan lives in Grapevine, Texas, with his wife of 29 years, Lynn. They have two children, Olivia, a 2nd year law student at Texas Tech University School of Law, and William, who is a student at the Notre Dame School of Dallas.

Dan grew up in Dallas, graduating from Southern Methodist University and the Pepperdine University School of Law.

Previously, Dan served for 20 years in the U. S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate and KC-130 Aviator. He is currently commercial airline pilot and also maintains a small law practice representing Veterans before U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

“In the flying world, when presented with a problem, we call this ‘expanding your team.’ I hope I can use my time on the board to effectively ‘expand our team’ from parents/caregivers to include the general public and elected officials in improving the lives of Texans with IDD.”

As the father of a child with Down syndrome and the brother/co-guardian of an older sister with IDD, Dan became involved with The Arc of Texas in 2018 through an advocate who put him in touch with The Arc of Texas’s incredible professional staff and volunteers, who provided immeasurable assistance to his family during a crisis.

Having some experience in navigating the IDD world for both youngsters and adults, Dan has become passionate about improving the lives of those with IDD, especially those with few resources, through grassroots education and information to provide a larger collaboration.


Veronica Ayala

Veronica is a self-advocate with Cerebral Palsy. She is passionate about voting rights and inclusion for all people. She has been in the workforce for 20 years, and knows what is possible for people with disabilities when given the opportunity to shine.

“My time on the board has given me purpose and direction as I strive to pay it forward. When I am asked about The Arc of Texas I feel a sense of pride. I am honored to work among a dedicated group of people as committed to community inclusion as I am.”

As someone who has spent time in a Texas state-supported living center (SSLC), she has seen what can come from exclusionary policies.

Veronica was urged to join the Board of Directors for The Arc of Texas by other advocates and board members. She hopes that her life experiences and viewpoint can be utilized in the service of other people with IDD.


Dr. James Marroquin

Dr. Marroquin’s primary goal as a board member is to support the organization’s work. He is specifically interested in improving access to and quality of care for people with IDD. In his work serving on the board, he has been impressed with other board members committee to to advocate for people with IDD.

“I’m motivated to serve on the Texas Arc Board of Directors because of my experience as a father of a son with autism and my work as a physician caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned being part of this inspiring, crucial organization.”






Ali Gentry

Ali graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2020 and is now attending Harvard Law School. She is passionate about disability justice and plans to fight for community integration in the courtroom.

“I’m excited to continue working with The Arc to fight for equality and independence for all Texans!”

Ali has been an advocate for folks with IDD since she realized that her brother, Mark, has not had access to the same opportunities that she has due to his intellectual disability. She first got involved with The Arc of Texas as a public policy intern in 2018 and is now serving as a board member.


Dr. Michael Garcia

Dr. Garcia is a board certified pediatrician in Palestine, Texas. Dr. Garcia received his doctorate from the University of Texas Galveston in 1999 and completed his residency from the University of Texas at Houston in 2002.

In 2018, Dr. Garcia graduated from Texas Partners in Policymaking, and works to ensure the full participation and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all areas of life.

In particular, Dr. Garcia is passionate about transforming how schools integrate and forming new policies to bring children with IDD into mainstream classrooms.


Nancy Lepley

Nancy has been involved in disability rights advocacy for many years, from being a parent to an individual with a developmental disability, her service on the board of directors for The Arc of Greater Houston, and her experience as a coach for the Special Olympics throughout the year.

Nancy shares her financial expertise and serves on our Master Pooled Trust committee and Finance & Operations committee.