Workforce Solutions CEO, COO resign; Joyce Wilson offered job

Workforce Solutions CEO, COO resign; Joyce Wilson offered job

EL PASO, Texas - In a seemingly unexpected and swift move, Upper Rio Grande Workforce Solutions' board voted Wednesday to offer the interim Chief Executive Officer position to Joyce Wilson, after unanimously voting to accept the resignation of their now former CEO.

The board voted to accept the resignations of now former CEO Lorenzo Reyes Jr. and Chief Operating Officer Teofilo Ugalde. Reyes and Ugalde were not at the meeting. When asked if the two were asked to resign or if they did it voluntarily, Upper Rio Grande's Chair, Bertha Gallardo said she could not comment on personnel matters.

Gallardo said the board learned approximately a week ago about the impending resignations and formed a transition committee that consisted of herself, Board Vice-Chair Steve Blanco and Juan Cabrera, the EPISD Superintendent who is also part of the Upper Rio Grande board, to identify potential candidates for the CEO position.

The committee identified candidates with the help of the Workforce Commission in Austin, said Gallardo. The short list consisted of four candidates, including Martha Martinez, Arturo Gill, Chakib Chehadi and Joyce Wilson.

The other three candidates are all from out of town, including Martinez, who was the second choice, Gallardo told the board. She said the committee spoke with El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser who is a Chief Elected Official, one of seven regional elected officials who oversee the Upper Rio Grande Board and appoint members. "The mayor made it clear the decision is up to the board but he did express his support for Ms. Wilson, commenting she'd make an excellent candidate," Gallardo told the board.

Gallardo said she also spoke with County Judge Veronica Escobar, another Chief Elected Official who oversees the board and Congressman Beto O'Rourke. "Both expressed their support for Ms. Wilson to be appointed as interim CEO," Gallardo told the baord.

All of the board members present at the meeting on Tuesday voted to offer Wilson the job, except for Nathan Buck, who said Martinez was a better candidate. The board's motion also included offering Martinez the job if Wilson could not do it. Martinez's resume indicates she has 27 years experience with federal training and employment programs. She's based out of Austin.

Wilson showed up to the meeting when it was over and in an interview said she was excited to look at ways to improve job training in the region. She said she was cognizant that her taking the job was contingent on City Council's approval. Her replacement, Tommy Gonzalez is slated to begin at the City June 23rd. "It all depends on how he's doing with the budget," said Wilson when asked if she thought her consulting would be required after Gonzalez takes over.

Workforce officials said Wilson's salary would be about $142,000 a year, significantly less than her salary at the City, which is about $240,000 a year. Wilson would oversee employment, education and economic development programs and up to $50 million of federal and state grants. She'd answer to Workforce's 23-member board which is overseen by seven regional elected leaders, including Leeser, Escobar and the five County Judges for the West Texas counties the organization serves.

Wilson said she doesn't know what kind of pay she's receive if the Council let her off her contract early.  "I have no idea and I'm not going to get into that. I think the issue is I have a contract and I have no intention of breaching that. and hopefully they'll find it mutually beneficial for me to take on this responsibility."

Reyes and Ugalde will be available to consult the Workforce board until December 31st, and will keep their health insurance and get paid any accrued vacation time, according to the Board's motion. Reyes will be paid for four months moving forward and Ugalde for three months.

The board also voted to appoint RIcardo Samaniego as Interim Human Resources Director. He'll serve 20 hours a week for three months at a rate of $95 an hour and $75 an hour if he exceeds 20 hours a week. His pay will not exceed $25,000, according the board's motion.

When asked if such a major and swift change in administrative leadership reflected inefficiency or a problem at Upper Rio Grande, Gallardo said "It's normal to assume something like that. But I have got to tell you that when there is a change of this magnitude, it's always a great opportunity for an organization to the next level."

She said Wilson had the "business connections and the connections with elected leaders" to make a positive change in the organization, including better reaching out to the five other counties Upper Rio Grande serves.

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