Directors & Districts
Luana Buckner, Chairman
Medina/Atascosa Counties - District 13
Luana Buckner has likened her history with the EAA to “a tall Texas tale.” Elected to the inaugural board of directors in 1996, the Medina County resident was originally a party in a lawsuit that challenged the creation of the EAA. When the Texas Supreme Court ruled the EAA Act was constitutional, “my motto became ‘If you can’t beat’em, join’em,’” she said.
Buckner grew up in a ranching family in Zavala County. Her parents bred registered Black Brangus cattle. As a teenager, she was asked to help brand livestock and administer medication.
After graduating from nearby Uvalde High School, Buckner attended Southwest Texas Junior College. As a reporter, then editor for the Castroville News Bulletin, Buckner wrote extensively about water-related issues, including the Applewhite Reservoir, a controversial project on the Medina River first rejected by voters in 1991.
In 1992, Buckner became the first general manager of the Medina County Groundwater Conservation District and the first woman general manager of a conservation district in Texas. She retired from the position in 2012.
After the initial two-year EAA board term, Buckner was re-elected for five consecutive four-year terms beginning in 1998. Her current term expires in 2018. As chair, Buckner presides over the board’s Executive Committee.
“I think some people thought I would just be representing the irrigators and the rural communities, and I think they’ve seen that I can see the big picture,” she said.
A real estate investor and a consultant in groundwater issues and natural resource management, Buckner currently lives outside of Castroville.
Ben Youngblood, Vice Chairman
Bexar County - District 4
An independent business attorney practicing corporate, real estate and oil and gas law, Ben Youngblood cut his teeth working on water issues serving on San Antonio Water System committees.
During his time with the city-owned utility, “I started looking at the bigger picture,” he said. “And that’s the EAA.”
Youngblood was appointed to the board in 2008. He was elected to the position in November of the same year and re-elected twice. His current term expires in 2018.
“I’ve always thought that water is the defining issue for the future of the region and I want to be a part of ensuring that the water remains clean and useful for the citizens of San Antonio,” he said.
A San Antonio resident since the late 1960s, Youngblood spent his early life on the move. His father was in the Air Force, so Youngblood “grew up all over.” By the time he graduated from Churchill High School in San Antonio, he had attended 18 schools. In his teens, Youngblood fell in love with sailing, and learned the sport on Woodlawn Lake. Later, he taught sailing at the Lake Canyon Yacht Club. Youngblood also has taught youth programs in fresh water ecology and astronomy.
Youngblood carries the special distinction of being both an Aggie and a Longhorn. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics from Texas A&M University and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Mr. Youngblood serves on the boards of directors of: Mission Pharmacal Company (a multi-national pharmaceutical manufacturer); Edwin M. Jones Oil Company (a diversified independent oil & gas producer); and Airport Galleria Land Company (a commercial real estate development company). Mr. Youngblood has current and past service on a variety of civic, non-profit, and charitable boards, including the San Antonio Ethics Review Board (Vice-Chair), San Antonio Planning Commission Technical Advisory Committee, San Antonio Water System Citizen's Advisory Panel (Vice-Chair), San Antonio Water System Rate Structure Committee, San Antonio Water Policy Group, San Antonio City Council Redistricting Commission, Northside Neighborhoods for Organized Development (NNOD) (Past President), Northside ISD Bond Committee, and the Down Syndrome Association. He has taught youth programs in Astronomy, Freshwater Ecology, and Sailing.
Ron Ellis, Treasurer
Bexar County - District 5
A retired Air Force Colonel and former district director for a global aerospace and defense technology company, Ron Ellis has a long history of service and an extensive background in administration, long range planning and finance management.
He was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the EAA board in 2007. Ellis was elected to the post in 2008 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014. His current term expires in 2018. As board treasurer and chairman of the Finance/Administrative Committee Ellis enjoys crunching numbers.
“I find it very interesting and I’ll stay on as long as this old body keeps me going,” he said.
The son of a motorcycle policeman and a homemaker, Ellis grew up in Baltimore. After graduating from the University of Maryland, he joined the Air Force. Ellis served 29 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked for the Northrup Grumman Corporation for eleven years.
He received numerous commendations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross, to name a few. He also is a member of the Air Force Association, Ducks Unlimited, and is a National Officer in the Order of Daedalian.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, Ellis has a master’s degree from George Washington University.
Enrique Valdivia, Secretary
Bexar County - District 7
A practicing attorney, Enrique Valdivia has a long track record of environmental activism surrounding water issues.
First elected to the EAA board in 2006, he was a founding member of San Antonio non-profits Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. He was also involved in a grassroots effort to block a proposed PGA Village development and has led other challenges to development over the aquifer.
A Midwest native, Valdivia grew up playing soccer in Madison, Wisconsin. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Carleton College in 1980. He went on to earn a juris doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin. Shortly after graduating, Valdivia moved to Texas to work in immigration law for a non-profit based in Harlingen. He began working for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in 1985.
“My practice over the years took on more and more environmental cases,” Valdivia said. “It was something that I started seeing more of a need for, so I pursued that and built it up to where it’s mainly what I do now at Legal Aid.”
He has lived in San Antonio since the mid-1990s. He serves on the boards of the Sierra Club Alamo Group and Texas Fund for Economic & Environmental Education. Re-elected to the EAA board in 2010 and 2014, his current term expires in 2018.
Bexar County - District 1
Carol Patterson has a long track record of advocacy and leadership on regional water issues, including service on the board of directors of the EAA’s predecessor organization, the Edwards Underground Water District.
She was elected to the inaugural EAA board of directors in 1996. After the initial two-year term, Patterson was re-elected to five consecutive four-year terms. Her current term expires in 2018.
Patterson earned her bachelor’s degree from Reed College in Portland Oregon. She also studied at Lycee Michelet, Montauban, France, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and Rochester Institute of Technology. She and her husband, a Texan, moved to San Antonio in 1970 where she expanded her education with many courses in geology, Spanish and design. She worked as a professional calligrapher when their children were young, and exhibited her work in the United States and abroad.
Patterson’s community service on water issues is focused on controlling costs, preserving water quality and respecting the environment. She supports collaborative recharge strategies to enhance water supply and springflow in the Edwards Aquifer in a way that protects watersheds. She was a leader in securing Wild and Scenic River status for Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. Patterson served on Mayor’s citizens committees on water, and opposed the Applewhite Reservoir project. She served on the five-year Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP) effort and continues service on the Stakeholders Committee for the Habitat Conservation Plan. She is also president of Regional Clean Air and Water Association, and an associate member of the South Texas Geological Society.
Patterson has organized and lead numerous symposiums and forums on groundwater management and policy, authored publications and testified before the Texas legislature on water-related matters. In 2004, she successfully organized the drilling of a water well for a school for the blind in Karanji, India.
Bexar County - District 2
Byron Miller is a businessman and community leader and who firmly believes in the Rotarian motto “Service Above Self.”
A fifth generation San Antonian, Miller grew up on the East Side. His mother, educator Hazel T. Miller, and father, businessman Johnnie Miller, founded the Miller Child Development Center Inc. in 1969. Currently CEO, Miller remembers helping to build shelves and cubicles for the center his parents first operated out of their home.
As a child, his mother “encouraged me to read and be inquisitive and to step outside my comfort zone,” Miller said. “You can’t always be sure that you’re going to be successful, but unless you try you have no chance.”
After graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1975, Miller continued his education at Morehouse College, one of the country’s most prestigious historically black colleges, graduating in 1979.
In 2006, Miller was appointed to fill a vacancy on the EAA board. He was elected for his first full term in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016. Serving on the board “has been very eye-opening, very rewarding to me,” he said.
A former justice of the peace, Miller’s long record of civic involvement ranges from being a Boy Scoutmaster to serving on the boards of the Witte Museum and the Carver Community Cultural Center. He is the commissioner of Juneteenth San Antonio and a lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“I believe in public service,” he said. “It’s one of the tenets of my life.”
Bexar County - District 3
Biography and photo coming soon.
Bexar County - District 6
Photo coming soon.
Deborah Carington grew up on a small farm outside of Memphis, where her family relied on well water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer, “so I grew up with the awareness of where our water came from and knowing that it was high quality drinking water,” she said.
In college at the University of Southern Mississippi, Carington intended to major in environmental science, but a geology class changed the course of her studies and her life. After earning a Bachelor of Science, she continued her education at the University of Memphis. While there, Carington worked at the school’s Center for Earthquake Research and Information, monitoring the frequent microearthquakes along the New Madrid Fault.
With a Master of Science in geology, she landed a job with an oil company in Houston in 1982. She planned to stay in Texas a couple of years, but that changed when she met her husband Robert, an engineer. In 1998, they moved to San Antonio and Carington took time away from her professional life to raise two children.
Over the course of her career, one of Carington’s largest projects was developing a new Austin Chalk limestone reservoir in East Texas, “so I understand the subsurface geology, well-drilling process, permitting and sustainable withdrawal,” she said. When she learned there was an opening on the EAA board, she saw an opportunity to use her experience to help the community. Carington was appointed to fill the remainder of an unexpired term in August 2017. She plans to run for the seat when it goes on the ballot.
Comal County - District 8
Photo coming soon.
Director of development and public relations for Hope Hospice, and former councilwoman and mayor pro-tem of New Braunfels, Kathleen Tobin Krueger was appointed to the EAA board to fill a vacancy. Her term expires in 2018.
During her time on the council, Krueger was deeply involved in the protection of the Guadalupe and Comal rivers. She also served on the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance where she “became more informed and more aware of the importance of being a good steward of that precious resource for the next generation.”
Born in San Antonio, Krueger spent her formative years in Bandera, learning to shoot, ride, fish and drive a tractor on the family ranch. After graduating from Bandera High School, she attended Texas A&M University where she earned a degree in English literature and journalism in 1980.
Krueger worked as a legislative aide and in public relations before marrying her husband, former U.S. Senator Bob Krueger. During his political career, she traveled independently to more than 200 of Texas’s 254 counties.
When her husband served as an ambassador in Africa, Krueger worked with Habitat for Humanity building homes in remote villages. She also led an International Red Cross expedition into the Kalahari Desert to provide clothing for the Bushmen of Botswana. Together, the Kruegers authored an award-winning book, “From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years During Genocide,” published in 2007.
Krueger has worked for Hope Hospice, a non-profit hospice and bereavement agency in New Braunfels, since 2013.
“More than anything, I want to lead a life of purpose – to be of help wherever I am and in whatever ways I can,” she said.
Ronald J. Walton
Comal/Guadalupe Counties - District 9
A realtor and retired computer geologist, Ronald J. Walton has 34 years’ experience working for various federal agencies on water-related issues.
Walton grew up on a small farm in Indiana where his parents raised cattle and hogs and grew corn and soybeans. Much like the Edwards Aquifer region, the topography of the surrounding area featured limestone deposits, sinkholes, caves and underground rivers. His interest in hydrogeology was sparked by the exploration geologists who frequently visited the farm.
After graduating from Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Science in 1961, Walton intended to go to the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School. Before Walton could to be sworn in, he was offered a job as a geological oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanographic Data Center in Washington, D.C. At the time, private industry jobs were scarce, so he “jumped at the opportunity.”
Next, he went to work for the Army Corps of Engineers. Walton’s first job with the federal agency was running the Great Lakes Regional Data Center in Detroit. He then transferred to the U.S. Coastal Engineering Center in D.C. where he oversaw beach erosion studies around the country. During this time, he earned a master’s degree from American University. Most recently, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver.
Walton and his wife Judith have been married for 55 years. She is a former secretary to senators John Tower (Texas) and Edward Gurney (Florida) and development director of a superfund investigation company in Denver. The couple has three children, including a son in San Antonio and a daughter in Austin. In 2008, they moved to the Hill Country to be near their grandchildren.
Ronald J. Walton was elected to the EAA board in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. His current term expires in 2018. A member of Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels, he considers serving as a deacon his greatest achievement.
Hays County - District 10
A West Texas native, Patrick Stroka grew up in Odessa, but realized he’d found a new home when he visited friends at Texas State University in San Marcos and saw the Guadalupe River flowing through the lush, green campus.
“I remember I told my mom, ‘I don’t think I’m going back to Odessa,’” he said.
An avid paddler, Stroka has participated in the Texas Water Safari, completing the annual 260-mile canoe race that begins at the headwaters of the San Marcos River more than a half-dozen times. His love of paddling inspired his interest in water-related issues.
“Once you’re around the water that much, you start really paying attention to what’s going on around you and where the needs are,” Stroka said.
As a member of the San Marcos River Rangers, a volunteer group, he has been involved with water quality monitoring since 1997. He is also a member of the San Marcos River Foundation, Sierra Club and Ocean Conservancy.
Stroka was first elected to the EAA board in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016. During his tenure, he has been a strong proponent of the Well Protection Program, advocating for funding to cap abandoned wells to prevent contamination of the Edwards Aquifer.
Stroka has a Bachelor of Science from Texas State University and has been employed with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Disability Determination Service since 1997. He and his wife share a home located near the confluence of the San Marcos and Blanco rivers.
Amy Lea S.J. Akers
Hays/Caldwell Counties - District 11
Amy Lea S.J. Akers grew up in Spring Branch climbing trees, riding her bike and eating fresh produce her mother grew in the family garden. Early on, she learned the importance of conserving resources from her parents whom she describes as “biker hippies.”
Fresh out of high school, Akers got a job in construction. She loved building things, but knew she had to continue her education “because you never know what the economy is going to do.”
After graduating from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government, Akers went on to earn a law degree from St. Mary’s University. "The more information I can learn and gather and teach other people, I feel like I’ve done something,” Akers said. She is a senior counsel with the law firm of McCullough Sudan where she concentrates on business transactions and mergers and acquisitions. She has her own law practice with a focus on adoptions and mediation and she is also the city attorney for Santa Clara, a town of about 730 people, in Guadalupe County.
Akers, who currently lives in Hays County, ran for and was elected to the EAA board in 2014. Her term expires in 2018.
“I really liked the fact that it was a non-partisan, publicly-elected board,” she said. “I thought with my law degree I’d have something to offer.”
Akers also serves on the board of directors of the Perdenales Electric Cooperative.
Medina County - District 12
As a fourth-generation farmer, Scott Yanta has a vested interest in the preservation of the Edwards Aquifer.
The owner of Yanta Hay Farms, an irrigated coastal hay farm in Devine, Yanta grew up hunting and fishing with friends. After high school, he attended Tarleton State University, graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in agricultural systems management.
The family farm was started on 300 acres in the early 1900s by Yanta’s great-grandfather Joe, a Polish immigrant who entered the United States through the port of Galveston and settled in the community of Panna Maria. The farm, which has grown with each generation, is now more than 2,500 acres.
A former member of the Medina County Groundwater District board, Yanta was elected to the EAA board in 2014 and re-elected in 2016. His current term expires in 2020.
“I want to protect the interest for these farmers out here,” Yanta said. “In population we’re just a small number, but we use half of the water consumed out of the Edwards.”
Yanta’s son Cole, a student at Texas A&M University, and daughter Kaylee, who has been accepted to A&M, both plan to return to the farm when they complete their educations.
“We’ve got to have this water to make a living,” Yanta said. “We’ve got to make it last for the next generation to come.”
Uvalde County - District 14
A lifelong resident of Uvalde, Don Laffere has been involved in agriculture directly and indirectly for most of his life.
Currently a licensed real estate broker, he previously worked for the San Antonio Water System and in the oil and gas industry.
Laffere was appointed to fill a vacancy on the EAA board in 2013. He was elected to a two-year term in November 2014 and re-elected in 2016. His current term expires in 2020.
“I am one of the few board members who have seen most sides of the issues having worked for SAWS and being involved and from Uvalde County,” he said.
He attended Texas State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. Laffere’s college experience gave him “a perspective on the springs issue and their value to the aquifer.” He also holds an Eagle Scout designation from the Boy Scouts of America.
A lifelong resident of Uvalde, he credits small town life with giving him “a good foundation in God and family and what that did to make me who I am today.”
Uvalde County - District 15
Rader Gilleland is a member of the Edwards Aquifer Authority Board of Directors, representing District 15, which covers the eastern half of Uvalde County. Mr. Gilleland was first appointed to the board of directors in September 2013 to fill a vacancy, and his term of office expires December 1, 2018.
A businessman and former mayor of Victoria, Gary Middleton has a long history of involvement with water issues.
Currently chairman of the South-Central Texas Water Advisory Committee, he was appointed to the EAA board in 2015. His term expires in 2020.
Originally from Killeen, Middleton has lived in Victoria for about 40 years. He was in the outdoor advertising business for many years and served as a city councilman and as mayor.
As a public servant in a downstream community, Middleton was aware of the importance of the issue of springflow.
“It’s important to us that spring flow be maintained to the extent possible so that we can continue to use the Guadalupe River as one of our base sources of water,” he said.
As a member of the EAA, he is a strong supporter of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan.
“I never saw myself as an environmentalist and still don’t,” he said. “But the necessity to maintain all those critters at the springs certainly is a driving force for us having water in Victoria. You can’t have one without the other.”
Middleton also serves on the board of the South-Central Texas Water Planning Group, Region L.
Now retired, Clark Ward ran an irrigated farm for 30 years and raised angora goats for 20 years.
Born in Cuero, he has lived in Uvalde since 1957. Ward’s family owns a farm in Uvalde County with two irrigation wells that draw water from the Edwards Aquifer. The family also has six domestic wells for private use and consumption and to supply livestock. In addition, the family owns a ranch north of Sabinal that is under an Edwards Aquifer Protection Program conservation easement.
Ward was appointed to the EAA board in 2016. His term expires in 2020.
“I had the time and wanted to keep up with the developments of the EAA,” he said.
Ward currently serves on the Uvalde County Farm Bureau board. Previously, he served on the Nueces-Frio-Sabinal Soil & Water Conservation District, the Uvalde Farmers Coop and the Uvalde County Appraisal Review Board.