Texas Youth Commission Taps Veteran ACLU of Texas Leader as Ombudsman

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
May 10, 2007 12:00 am

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William C. Harrell Takes Up Role in Agency He Helped to Restructure

AUSTIN, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas announced today that Executive Director William C. Harrell will be appointed Ombudsman of the newly restructured Texas Youth Commission. Harrell has served as Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas, the eighth largest ACLU affiliate in the nation, for the past 7 years.

“With Will at the helm, the ACLU of Texas has realized unprecedented growth in effectiveness, membership and organizational capacity,” said Paul H. Asofsky, President of the ACLU of Texas. “Will’s departure is a tremendous loss to the ACLU, but his new role in the public sector is clearly the next step in his life’s work as a passionate and charismatic advocate for vulnerable and disempowered individuals and communities.”

As Ombudsman, Harrell will oversee a newly created office intended to provide independent oversight to ensure youth in state custody receive appropriate treatment and care. “The opportunity to serve the people of Texas in the reform and restructuring of our juvenile justice system is an honor which I gladly accept,” said Harrell. “The job of restoring transparency and integrity to Texas’ juvenile justice system will be a challenge but I am confident in my ability to work closely with the officials and employees of the Texas Youth Commission to ensure our critical mission of serving and protecting the youth of Texas is accomplished.”

Harrell leaves the organization at a natural departure point, having overseen its growth into a powerful machine for the advocacy of civil rights and civil liberties throughout the state. Since 2000, the ACLU of Texas has experienced an increase in membership – from 7,000 to 17,000, in staff – from two to 22, and in overall effectiveness.

“I am proud of what I accomplished during the last seven years at the ACLU of Texas, with the support of an outstanding staff and a dedicated board, but it is time for new leadership to take the ACLU of Texas to the next level. I am absolutely confident in the ability of our staff and board to continue the success that we have had and build upon it to create an even stronger organization,” said Harrell.

The ACLU of Texas is launching a search for a new Executive Director. Board President Paul H. Asofsky also announced that Associate Director Martí Garza will serve as Interim Executive Director until a successor is hired. “We are fortunate to have Martí on board as an able and talented person to lead our organization through this time of transition. We wish Will the best of luck,” said Asofsky. “He has done an incredible amount for the organization. Our board of directors and capable senior staff will make sure the ACLU of Texas goes forward in a seamless way.”

Martí Garza, Interim Executive Director, added, “The ACLU of Texas has never been stronger. Thanks to Will Harrell and our excellent senior staff, our organization is ready to move forward. In particular, Legal Director Lisa Graybill has revitalized a moribund litigation program, and Development Director James Canup has connected the ACLU with new communities of support in Texas. I am extremely lucky to be working with the outstanding staff and volunteer leaders of this organization as we charge forward with our mission.”

Garza added that the ACLU of Texas was recently selected to receive a tremendous infusion of resources from the ACLU national office. “The Strategic Affiliate Initiative is providing dollars and advice to help the ACLU of Texas grow into the strongest ACLU affiliate possible,” said Garza. “This infusion has enabled us to staff up and take on the numerous challenges facing our state at this time, such as ensuring local law enforcement officers respect and protect the rights of all Texans, fighting the detention of immigrant children at the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility, and advocating for religious freedom for all Texans.”

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