September 2023 Newsletter

Hello Texas PRIMA!

This year is flying by and we are just two months away from our Annual Conference and Expo at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Over the last few months, Texas PRIMA has provided several education offerings, including well-attended webinars on Workers’ Compensation Legislative Updates, Risk Mitigation and Insurance in Public Procurement and Elements of an Effective Return to Work Program. If you missed any of these webinars, they have been archived in the Resources section of Texas PRIMA’s website. In addition to hosting monthly educational sessions, the board and committee volunteers have been diligently preparing to be your safari guides as we Journey Into the Wild, November 5-8!

After joining old friends and making new ones at the Welcome Reception on Sunday night, rest up so you are able to endure our jam-packed three-day safari. We have two excellent keynote speakers lined up to inspire, educate and enlighten us as we travel on our journey. Monday morning, join Brian Parsley as he helps us change the way we speak, listen, react, and connect. On Wednesday morning, be prepared to find the rhythm of your life as we hear from “The Off-Duty-Chief,” Tim Eggebraaten. In between keynotes, you will have over forty educational sessions to select from - all offering valuable nuggets of information for you to take back to your respective entity. As you carefully plan your expedition, check out the Schedule-At-A-Glance ahead of time and browse the various tracks and sessions planned.

Monday evening, don your best safari gear and take part in Texas PRIMA’s Signature Networking Event-Casino Night and Dinner. Enjoy a full dinner buffet, casino style gaming and dance the night away to the popular band, Suede!

As a reminder, this year’s conference is in-person only and Early-Bird Registration ends on October 13th! Visit to register today-you don’t want to miss this Journey Into The Wild!

We look forward to seeing you in November, but until then, don’t forget to join us for an upcoming Coffee Talk on September 6th as fellow Texas PRIMA members share their award winning programs, a webinar on Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events scheduled for September 20th, a webinar on Interaction of Workers' Comp with FMLA and ADA on October 10th and the Know-Before-You-Go Coffee Talk on October 27th. The Coffee Talk in October will be your opportunity to get all of your last minute conference questions answered before our journey begins.

See you soon!
Lesley Ward, ARM
2023 Texas PRIMA President

Are you ready!?

Observed annually in September, National Preparedness Month is an observance to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. Do you know what you would do in the event of a natural disaster? Disasters don’t wait – make your plan today! For additional resources and toolkits, visit

Work Shouldn’t Be a Pain 

October is National Ergonomics Month. Ergonomics is the science that studies how to best make a work environment fit an employee. The ultimate goal is to prevent injury and increase comfort and productivity. Click here to get an understanding of office ergonomics and arrange your workspace accordingly to help you feel good throughout the workday.

Conference Scholarship Opportunities

Interested in attending Texas PRIMA's annual conference but your entity's budget will not allow for it!? Here's your opportunity to apply for a scholarship to the Texas PRIMA 2023 Conference in Galveston!

The conference scholarship allows public risk management professionals across the state of Texas to have the opportunity to attend the annual conference when their entity lacks the financial support to allow them to attend otherwise. Public entity members who have not participated in the last two Texas PRIMA conferences are eligible to submit an application.

*New this Year - Student Scholarships​* Texas PRIMA is excited to announce the addition of student scholarships for full-time students currently enrolled in an accredited college or university located in the state of Texas!

Full and partial scholarship funds are awarded for registration, Texas PRIMA membership for 2024 and lodging at the conference hotel.  The scholarship application deadline is September 15th. A limited number of scholarships are available to attend the Texas PRIMA 2023 Conference, so don't delay - apply for an annual conference scholarship today at!

Mandy Riske
Scholarship Committee Chair

Board Nominations- Ready to take a Journey Into the Wild?

We are seeking to fill two Director-at-large positions. Nominate yourself or a colleague to champion the mission of the Texas Public Risk Management Association. Becoming a board member offers unique opportunities, such as a sense of accomplishment, exposure and insight to a great organization, and the ability to sharpen your leadership skills and grow your professional network.

To be eligible a member must:

  • be a current member of Texas PRIMA
  • be responsible for risk management functions, insurance, benefits and/or safety management within your governmental entity for at least three (3) years
  • attend four (4) board meetings throughout the year and our annual conference (travel and hotel costs for attending the board meetings is paid by Texas PRIMA) 
  • have demonstrated leadership, participation in the Chapter and a proven commitment to the organization and the profession

It is important to note the Board of Directors is a working board and there are duties and responsibilities to fulfill with your commitment to serve on the board. A mentor said to me years ago: “You mustn’t accept a board role unless you’re confident because their reputation becomes yours and yours becomes theirs.”

Apply now! The application deadline is September 6th. The ballot will be emailed to voting members on September 30th and Texas PRIMA members will be able to vote through October 28th. Newly elected board members are announced at Texas PRIMA’s Annual Conference in November 2023. The Board term begins on January 1, 2024.

If you have any questions concerning the nominations and elections process, please contact Texas PRIMA at [email protected].

Melissa Ledesma
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair

Education Update

September 6th - Award-winning Program Implementation Coffee Talk

September 20th - Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (C.R.A.S.E.) Webinar

October 10th - Interaction of Workers' Comp with FMLA and ADA Webinar

October 27th - Know Before You Go Coffee Talk

November 5-8th - Texas PRIMA Annual Conference in Galveston

Don't forget that recordings of our webinars are in your Community under the Resources header. 

Texas PRIMA Awards

We are wild about recognizing Texas PRIMA members and their accomplishments at our upcoming safari! Award nominations are now open; there are three different awards that will be bestowed at our annual conference in November.

Risk Professional of the Year – This award recognizes an individual who has shown great promise as a leader and innovator in the Insurance and Risk Management field.

Rising Star – This award recognizes an individual who has worked in the Insurance and Risk Management field between 2-7 years and exhibits great potential.

Risk Management Program Achievement Awards – These awards celebrate public entity organizations’ risk management efforts through development of their new programs, projects, or products.

Award recipients will be honored for their accomplishments at our Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, November 7th. Recipients of the Risk Professional of the Year and the Rising Star will each receive a complimentary conference registration and one-night hotel accommodations during the conference. Don’t let the lions sleep - let’s explore the magic kingdom to recognize our outstanding risk professionals! To discover more about eligibility requirements and to nominate yourself, a colleague, or a risk management program, visit Texas PRIMA Awards application deadline is September 15th, so don’t delay and make your nomination today!

Members on the Move

Congratulations to Louie Heerwagen (Aetna) on his retirement!

Member Spotlight: Curt Fernandez, Director of Risk Management for Arlington ISD

Curt is new to Texas, but has many years of experience in both the private and public sectors. Curt holds a Masters in Leadership and a Masters in Business Administration from Augsburg University in Minnesota. He completed the CDC Environmental Public Health Leadership Institute and is also a Humphrey Policy Fellow from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He has more than 16 years of management experience in the private sector and 21 years in the public sector.

When asked about his career and his involvement with Texas PRIMA, here’s what he had to say: “I started learning about Risk Management while working for Marriott Corporation long ago. I worked for Marriott and the City of Minneapolis before I decided I had enough snow and moved to Texas in 2022. Along the way, I learned I needed to depend on others to complete projects efficiently and effectively. I was very fortunate to work with and lead several cross-functional teams with multicultural and linguistically diverse members and leaders with different perspectives. I also learned that as a leader, I need to better understand social, political, cultural, and economics on a global level - what is happening in the world, nation, and in local community - to serve others effectively and manage the unforeseen risks.

I joined AISD in June 2022. My role as the Director of Risk Management is to work with all department leaders to systematically identify, evaluate, and implement risk controls and measures to minimize, mitigate, and manage the risks we will face in our daily work activities. The goals of the Risk Management department are to create and promote a safe and supportive work environment and reduce financial exposure throughout the Arlington ISD by promoting an injury/accident-free School District and a harassment-free work experience for all stakeholders, ensuring the students, parents, and customers have a positive service experience with school district employees, initiating and developing risk management policies and procedures, and monitoring, analyzing, and assessing loss experience and exposure. These goals are addressed through the primary functions of this department: risk transfer, policy analysis, workers' compensation administration, loss prevention, and general liability claims management.

I was a member of Minnesota PRIMA since 2012, and joined Texas PRIMA when I relocated to Texas in 2022. I wanted an excellent platform to learn from other leaders, gather and exchange ideas, and consult with one another to promote Risk Management challenges in my organization.

Texas PRIMA is an excellent organization. Jason Hardy, Norma Martinez, Lesley Ward, John King, and Robert Warren made me feel like I am not an outsider. They gave the support I needed to get to know Texas PRIMA and the services PRIMA offers. I joined Texas PRIMA because I wanted to meet new friends who I could count on and to strengthen my knowledge base through continuing education. I strongly encourage all to join Texas PRIMA if you are not a member now. You will gain more knowledge and wisdom from Texas PRIMA members than you give. Also, you will gain access to excellent conferences with several educational tracks with many sessions offering continuing education credits on topics like general risk management, safety/claims, workers' compensation, employee practices and benefits, and leadership & professional development. The conferences are an excellent opportunity to network and get to know peers from across Texas. You will gain a wealth of ideas and resources that you can use free of charge.”

Curt has a track record of revitalizing business operations, bringing leaders together, and building relationships between entities. Curt believes in servant leadership and in a cross-functional, collaborative approach to address complex challenges by increasing collective knowledge and wisdom. Curt is passionate about youth leadership and contributes his time and talent to serve as a volunteer for organizations like Mind Visa, Red Cross and Rotary International.

When asked what his best advice to other risk management professionals would be, Curt shared this simple piece of advice: “Connect with everyone and learn.”

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