Senator Eckhardt was honored to be elected to serve the people of SD 14 after serving two terms as Travis County Judge, where she represented 1.3 million county residents. With deep roots in Austin and Travis County, Senator Eckhardt has dedicated her life to public service for two decades.
After receiving an LBJ School Master of Public Affairs and law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Senator Eckhardt worked for eight years as an Assistant Travis County Attorney. In 2006, she was elected to represent Precinct 2 on the Commissioners Court and re-elected in 2010.
With her leadership, Senator Eckhardt addresses the major issues that face Travis County residents. She works to ensure that our community is green, healthy, just and mobile.
Through her service on the Transportation Policy Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and leadership in Project Connect, Senator Eckhardt advocates for an efficient network of sidewalks, bike lanes and transit, as well as roads — as well as equitable and sustainable ways to pay for them. Senator Eckhardt serves as Chair-elect on the Texas Conference of Urban Counties (CUC) Board of Directors, and she is also a member of the CUC Policy Committee. Travis County is one of 37 CUC member counties that represent approximately 80% of the population of Texas.
Senator Eckhardt is a member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of regional stakeholders including the District Attorney, County Attorney, Chief of Police, Sheriff and members of the judiciary. She has led efforts to reform the DNA lab, reform mental and behavioral health services in our community and create Travis County’s first Public Defender’s Office. Senator Eckhardt believes that Justice for All requires continued and unflinching analysis of our criminal and civil justice numbers. Numbers tell an important story that will not change unless we listen.
With her commitment to criminal and social justice, Senator Eckhardt continuously works to leverage our community’s mutual resources to collectively improve social, health, educational and economic opportunities.
Senator Eckhardt works to protect the region’s air quality as a member of the Clean Air Coalition and she works to build collaborative solutions to our sustainable water future by working with an alliance of our neighbors.
By statute, Senator Eckhardt serves on the Travis County Bail Bond Board, the Travis County Juvenile Board and as CEO of Workforce Solutions Capital Area. In partnership with co-CEO Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Senator Eckhardt launched the Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan, with a focus on a middle-skills initiative objective of 10,000 residents currently living at or below 200 percent of poverty securing middle-skill jobs by 2021.
As a private citizen, Senator Eckhardt serves on the Texas Freedom Network’s Board of Directors and the LBJ School Dean’s Advisory Council.
On the vital issues of the economy and equity, Senator Eckhardt seeks a level playing field for Travis County taxpayers and working families to help relieve the property tax burden on our most vulnerable neighbors. Senator Eckhardt’s agenda includes collaboration with other taxing entities in Travis County, with the goal of increased transparency and fairness in taxation.
Senator Eckhardt learned public service and a commitment to Central Texas from her late mother Nadine — aide to Lyndon Johnson and Molly Ivins, and a mother of four — and her father, the late Congressman Bob Eckhardt.
1. What do you see as the issues most important to state employees and retirees? How do you plan to address them?
The three big issues, as I see them, are benefits, salary, and also the physical infrastructure that state employees are working in and with.
I believe that salaries and benefits have to be looked at together, because it’s getting so difficult to recruit and retain quality state employees, given the erosion of the salary and the benefits. Additionally, the physical buildings that they are working in; I've seen how the erosion of the physical buildings and the substandard information technology makes it so difficult to do your work as a public servant.
2. Do you support an across-the-board pay raise for state employees? Why or why not?
Yes. We should really push together for a market salary survey on a cyclical basis so that we know where our state employees are sitting in the market in relation to similar jobs in the private sector. Anyone who's worked in the private sector - democrat, republican, or otherwise - knows how valuable market surveys are for the improvement of the workplace and retention of employees. There is no better investment than an investment in our personnel.
3. Do you support an annuity increase for ERS retirees? Why or why not?
Yes. In regard to benefits, we definitely have erosion in buying power with retiree benefits, and we absolutely have to make them actuarily sound. I’m glad that we made some progress toward that this past session, but I was disheartened that the bill to make it actuarily sound was not also looking at contribution levels overall, including salaries.
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