At a time when Travis County is experiencing rapid change, 2023 Board Chair Russell Valdez is looking for strategic sustainability. Russell continuously considers what CASA of Travis County means to the community – CASA’s value and impact over the last 30+ years and its potential for more in the years to come.
Russell sees a future that builds on the organization’s ability to respond to every case and the stability that CASA volunteers represent for children who have gone through the child welfare system.
“I want people to know we’re not complacent. We are not sitting still. We are all in this rapidly growing city together, and CASA’s leadership is evaluating how we can build a long-term program that is an innovator and also better serves our community’s most vulnerable children,” he said. He sees a future that builds on the organization’s ability to respond to every case and the stability that CASA volunteers represent for children who have gone through the child welfare system.
Russell is a systematic thinker. When others celebrate achievements, he plans the next step. He understands the needs of children in the child welfare system, the emergencies these situations put families in, and the constant flux of the systems designed to support them. Russell views CASA as an emergency responder for the most vulnerable, for children who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
Russell’s awareness of community service started early. Growing up in Austin, Russell saw his father serve on the Austin ISD Board of Trustees, where he relentlessly worked to protect the future of Austin public schools. CASA offers Russell the chance to serve our community in a similar capacity, advocating for children. His understanding of the community’s needs is also influenced by his wife’s work as a child psychologist for children who have experienced trauma. Having observed the success of CASA-appointed cases in her own work, and understanding Russell’s interests in child welfare and education, she saw the potential for a perfect match. “CASA fit our family’s priorities, which is supporting children in the Austin community,” Russell said.
Russell is in his third year on the Board of Directors at CASA and his first year as the Board Chair. During his tenure on the Board, Russell has been part of celebrating CASA’s ability to accept automatic appointment to every new child abuse or neglect case filed in Travis County, a milestone we’ve worked toward for decades. He appreciates CASA for applying a large operating model and enhancing it to meet local needs. “Building that ecosystem is not an easy thing to do. It takes constant awareness of how the stakeholders are changing in order to stay true to the core mission of helping our community’s children,” he said.
“I ask myself: How do we keep pioneering? How do we reinforce the fabric of care available to children, both by creating better connectivity to the community’s existing resources and by developing new CASA-hosted programming?”
Russell recognizes that CASA must be able to weather storms to be a sustainable service for children. When it comes to the organization’s future, he takes the long view. “I ask myself: How do we keep pioneering? How do we reinforce the fabric of care available to children, both by creating better connectivity to the community’s existing resources and by developing new CASA-hosted programming?” he said. He is committed to ensuring CASA continues to be viewed as a high-impact nonprofit in Austin that meets the needs of the community creatively and resourcefully.
Russell’s perspective of CASA as an organization is not all that different from the purpose of the CASA volunteer role—to be a resourceful, consistent presence doing everything in its power to protect the future of Austin’s children.
Russell is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Moontower, an investment firm. He has held various roles in financial services, private equity, and corporate and transactional law. Prior to Moontower, he was the Chief Investment Officer at Wafra Inc., and he practiced law as an Associate at Covington & Burling LLP. Russell graduated with a B.A. in History from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
2023 Board Chair Profile