The Texas State Independent Council is a non-profit entity operating as a 501(c)(3) and was founded in 1989. Texas State Independent Living Council is mainly funded through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and is tasked with partnering, developing, and monitoring a comprehensive State Plan that develops goals and funding for Independent Living services in Texas. Other roles of the Texas State Independent Living Council are systems advocacy, education of the public regarding disability-related topics, and establishing a provision of technical assistance concerning the Independent Living philosophy and approach. We are proud to say that we have a dedicated team of people who believe in the Independent Living philosophy.

The State Independent Living Council is comprised of no more than ten voting members, and no less than three Ex-Officio members, who are appointed by the Governor, and who come from all regions of the state. Unlike most organizations, the majority of the members of the Council must, by law, be individuals with disabilities. One member of the SILC Council must be an Executive Director of a Center for Independent Living in Texas. The SILC Council leads, promotes and advances an Independent Living philosophy, and advocates for the rights of individuals with disabilities.

We encourage you to apply to become a council member. Follow the link to the Governor's website containing the appointment application you need to apply to be on the Independent Living Council, State

Meet Our Council

Shannon P. Alexander

Shannon P. Alexander Secretary

Shannon Alexander of Bryan is a project coordinator for the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Center on Disability and Development. She is a member of the TAMU Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services program, and secretary of the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living Board of Directors. She is also a past member of the College Station Mayor's Committee on Empowering Persons with Disabilities, TAMU Troops to College, Texas Association on Higher Education and Disability, and TAMU Family Support Network, and a former title holder and board member of the Miss Wheelchair Texas Program. Alexander received a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas. She is appointed for a term to take effect Oct. 24, 2011, and expire Oct. 24, 2017.

Jim D. Batchelor

Jim D. Batchelor Chairman

Jim Batchelor of Cooper is retired infantry in the U.S. Army. He is a member of Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Fraternity, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and Disabled American Veterans. He is a scholar of the Sam Rayburn Foundation Scholarship Program and a past member of the Texas A&M University at Commerce Sociology and Criminal Justice Honor Society. Batchelor received a bachelor's degree and is currently pursuing a master's degree in psychology from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Term to expire Oct. 24, 2017.

Jim Brocato

Jim Brocato Council Member

Jim Brocato, Executive Director of RISE Center, Beaumont, TX is a native Beaumonter. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Management-Human Services from St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX. He has over 25 years of experience in the Southeast Texas area managing and marketing healthcare/physician groups and nonprofit organizations; and has collaborated with numerous local/statewide nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies advocating for persons with disabilities. He is a member of TACIL, NCIL, APRIL, and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. In October, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living awarded Brocato its prestigious Earl Walden Award for outstanding achievement in rural advocacy. His term expires on October 24, 2015.

Ralph Jones

Ralph Jones, PhD Vice Chairman

Ralph E. Jones Sr. holds BGS, M.A., M.Ed., and Ph.D. degrees. From 1958 to 1979 he served in the United States Air Force, serving as an Avionics Technician and Instructor and then a Counselor/Administrator; at various bases throughout the world. Upon retirement from the Air Force he was employed with the State of Texas, Department of Health and Human Services, until his retirement there in 2003. He was also employed by various hospitals and treatment centers throughout Texas. He also served as an Adjunct Instructor and Professor in 4 different colleges and universities.
Dr. Jones has authored many articles in professional journals and periodicals, has written many papers for presentation for the Texas Legislation and at professional meetings. His professional counseling experiences are varied, including mental health facilities and clinics, substance abuse facilities, and private practice. His work with adolescents and families led to his published book “MORE Straight Talk: Answers to Questions Young People ask about Alcohol,” now in its third edition. In addition to his lengthy career as a military man, counselor, educator, psychologist, health care administrator, and author; Dr. Jones on his adventuresome life’s journey also was an active vocational archaeologist. He has visited many archaeology sites throughout the world, and explored many areas pertaining to early man in South-West Texas. From his experience in this endeavor, he has authored two fiction novels, based on archaeological evidence; entitled “The Adventures of Kele, Boy of the Rock Shelter,” and “The Adventures of Kele, Boy of the Rock Shelter, The Far Horizon.” His latest book, “Gears Up and Into The Blue: Stories of Heroics and Adventures in Flight, On and Under the Ground, A Tribute to those who Served Their Country,” in addition to being an autobiography chronicling his own career in the United States Air Force, Dr. Jones also pays tribute with bios and adventure stories of 18 other patriots who served in the Air Force, enlisted and officer; in a variety of career fields.
Dr. Jones has served as a volunteer with the Veterans Administration as a Mental Health Consultant, the National Park Service as an Archaeologist; and as a volunteer on various City, County, Regional, and State Boards and Councils. Additionally, he is a member of many Military Veteran and Counseling associations and organizations.
Dr. Jones also has a weekly column in the newspaper Valley Morning Star, and for the past three years has written articles concerning Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Dr. Jones is a Disabled American Veteran, and he and his wife of 53 years Maria reside near Harlingen, Texas. They have 3 adult children and 4 grand-children, who also reside in Texas.

Paul S. Luther Council Member

Paul S. Luther of Georgetown, is a Principal Accessibility Solutions Engineer for AT&T’s Corporate Accessibility Technology Office. In this role, he is an accessibility expert and consultant responsible to >ensure that AT&T project managers deliver products and services that are accessible and compliant with the FCC 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Prior to joining AT&T, Paul worked for the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center as a Worldwide Market and Product Manager, responsible for all aspects of marketing and developing worldwide solutions for persons with disabilities. He has over 2 decades experience in product marketing and Paul served as a member of the CSUN Advisory Board, a reviewer of accessibility grant applications for with disabilities. Term to expire October 24, 2017.

Mack Marsh

Mack Marsh Treasurer

Mack Marsh, was named the Project Director of Access Empowerment on April 1, 2012 and is responsible for the daily operations of the parking Mobility program to end accessible parking abuse. Before coming to Access Empowerment, Mack was the Executive Director of the Texas Association of Centers for Independent Living (TACIL). Prior to coming to Texas to lead TACIL, Mack was a life-long resident of Louisiana where he owned a successful wholesale company for 13 years. In 2001, Mack experienced a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia. After his injury, Mack worked as an Independent Living Specialist at New Horizons Independent Living Center (NHILC) in Shreveport, LA. In 2002, Mack was named Director of IL at NHILC. He was instrumental in helping secure equipment and funding to address the critical needs of people with disabilities following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, helping to raise and distribute over $6.5 million in durable medical equipment. In 2007, Mack turned his attentions to injury prevention becoming the Marketing Director for ThinkFirst, the National Injury Prevention Program. In two years with ThinkFirst, Mack educated over 400,000 youth and young adults on how to prevent traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. In 2009 and 2010, Mack was the director of the Louisiana Medicaid Infrastructure Grant, tripling the grant’s income and helping leverage in excess of $8 million for non-profit organizations providing supports and services toward employment for people with disabilities and helping over 6,000 people go to work. Mack has a proven record of organizing and motivating volunteers and staff to achieve objectives of the organizations he has lead. Most importantly, Mack is “Dad” to two children and is actively involved in their school and sports careers with his older son recently beginning his college career and playing soccer for his university. Mack’s younger son is a high school student and aspiring baseball star. On any given weekend, Mack and the boys can be found at any local fishing spot, camping in the great outdoors or on an adventure pushing the boundaries of their abilities. Since Mack’s injury, he and the boys have planned a different adventure every year, the only requirement is that it has to include something they haven’t done before.

Lynne R. Richardson

Lynne R. Richardson Council Member

Lynne Richardson has experience developing curriculum, teaching and mentoring in Texas Public Schools for 24 years. As a Special Education Teacher, she has expertise in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Early Childhood Programming for Children with Severe Disabilities. She is also a member of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Currently, Lynne works for the Texas Association of School Boards as a consultant for Special Education Services. Lynne Received her B.S. degree from Texas A & M University and is a member of the national service sorority, Omega Phi Alpha. As an advocate for all people with disabilities, she also serves as a member of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation in which she travels to Washington D. C. to advocate on the Hill. She is also an advocate for Neurological Movement Disorders through her work with the DMRF, as well as a member of Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education. Term to expire Oct. 24, 2017.

Jonas Schwartz

Jonas Schwartz Ex-Officio Member

Jonas Schwartz is a native of Tipp City, Ohio and a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He also holds a Master’s degree from the University of North Texas-Denton in Rehabilitation Counseling. Jonas began his career in human services at a Center for Independent living as the Employment Specialist. In this position he assisted people with disabilities in finding and maintaining employment. From there he continued working in the non-profit sector in the public policy and legislative advocacy arena for eight years. Most recently as the manager of the Policy Services Unit for Advocacy, Incorporated, the Protection & Advocacy Organization for people with disabilities in Texas. Jonas’s work in state government includes serving as a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor and as the Manager of Long Term Services and Supports Policy for the Health and Human Services Commission Medicaid/CHIP Division. In his current position he is the Program Specialist for Independent Living Services and other Initiatives for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Jonas Schwartz's additional active roles include Board of Directors of Easter Seals - Central Texas, Inc. member. Jonas's past volunteer interests include serving on the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of Texas, Inc. and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Texas, Inc.

Wesley Yeager

Wesley Yeager Ex-Officio Member

Wes Yeager is the Director of the Strategic Operations and Grants section of the Access and Intake division of the Department of Aging and Disability Services. Wes oversees the Aging and Disability Resource Centers, the Texas Lifespan Respite Care program, federal grants, Consumer Directed Services operations, additional programs and initiatives, as well as coordinates agency-wide planning and reporting efforts. His term expires on Oct. 24, 2017.

Meet Our Team

Sandra Breitengross Bitter Executive Director

Sandra Breitengross Bitter is the Executive Director of the Texas State Independent Living Council. Before joining the Texas SILC in October 2012, she was a Legislative Director and Senior Policy Advisor for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill for over eight years, she specialized in transportation and infrastructure policy. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from California Baptist University.

Craig Davis Special Projects Coordinator

Craig Davis is responsible for the coordination of office operations, procedures, and resources to facilitate organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Along with running the office's day-to-day operations, Craig supports project specialists and assists in the organization's management of volunteer staff. Craig's right attitude, energy, and motivation to serve along with his background in customer service and account management allows him put his passion in a role that provides great customer interaction. Craig's ability to empathize with a customer and craft a message that steers things toward a better outcome comes from understanding people...to that end, Craig consistently strives to provide true support. In his spare time, he writes and performs sketch and improvisational comedy.

Jennifer Whitcomb Financial Officer

Jennifer Whitcomb serves as the Financial Officer for the Texas State Independent Living Council. Previously, she was the Agency Director of Administration for Deaf Independent Living Association, Inc. (DILA) serving as the lead fiscal and grant administrator. With over seventeen years of experience working with finances in the nonprofit sector, Jennifer believes that if every barrier was broken down, there would be no disabilities. She also served as the Executive Director of Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired, Inc. (GACHI). Jennifer’s leadership, financial management and budgetary expertise earned her a commendation from Governor Roy E. and the Outstanding Georgia Organization award by the Georgia Association for the Deaf. While at DILA, she received another commendation from Governor Martin O’Malley. Jennifer was one out of twelve state administrator appointed by federal Rehabilitation Services Administration to edit and assist in development of the State Plan for Independent Living Policy Directive; appointed by Region VII as Alternate Delegate for the Statewide Independent Living Council Congress; served on the Olmstead Planning Committee; the Georgia, Maryland and Nevada State Rehabilitation Advisory Councils; the statewide Mental Health Planning Council; and chaired the Policy Committee of the State Task Force for Mental Health Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Jennifer also has membership with Nevada Society of Certified Public Accountants and American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. She has a master’s in Vocational Rehabilitation, is a certified Montessori teacher and has completed college courses in accounting and financial management. In her free time, she enjoys the performing arts, taking long walks and spending time with her daughter.

Brian White General Counsel/Project Director

Brian is a native Austinite and serves as the General Counsel/Project Director for Texas State Independent Living Council where he enjoys empowering others through his work. Brian received his law degree from South Texas College of Law after graduating with a Bachelor's Sociology and Bachelor's in Public Relations from the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a graduate from the LBJ School of Public Affairs after attending the Executive Masters of Public Leadership program. Previous to his service at Texas SILC, he served as an attorney for over a decade for the State of Texas where he worked on insurance, health care, and dispute resolution matters. Brian holds certifications in strategic planning, human resources, and mediation and was named a 2010 Biennial Public Policy Fellow at the Center for Dispute Resolution, University of Texas.

Ashley Fry State Plan and Public Policy Specialist

Ashley Fry is a Dallas native and supports the planning and development of the State Plan as a State Plan and Public Policy Specialist. Before working at Texas SILC, she worked as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Meals on Wheels Program of San Antonio for nearly three years. She also she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, supporting local non-profits by expanding volunteer programs. Ashley holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from St. Edwards University and a Master’s in Economics of Public Policy from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.