Tom Jones, Senior Grants Management Specialist, has been with Texas CASA since August 2006. Prior to joining Texas CASA, he worked in various accounting and auditor positions in Texas, eventually directing accounting for the Criminal Justice Division of the Texas Governor’s Office. Before entering the workforce, Tom served in the United State Army and was stationed in Vietnam as a Combat Infantry Sergeant. He joined the Air Force Reserves in 1981 as a Staff Sergeant and retired in 2006 as a Captain. Sadly, Tom will be retiring from Texas CASA on Jan. 31, 2020. He is an integral part of Texas CASA and a wonderful friend — we will all miss him dearly and wish him the best.
Tell us about your background before you came to CASA.
Well before I came to Texas CASA I was retired for three years from the Texas Governor’s Office. I started with the State of Texas Department of Human Resources back in 1981, as an auditor. I audited long-term care facility programs; I did that for six years. Then I got a job at the Governor’s Office as an auditor in the Criminal Justice Division and I moved from San Antonio, where I had been living for 14 years, to Austin. I was an auditor for three-and-a-half years and then I was promoted to Chief Accountant. I held that position for four years and then became Director of Accounting. I had that position for nine years until February of 2003. I stayed retired for three years until Glenn Brooks brought me over to Texas CASA.
Tell us more about what brought you to Texas CASA.
Glenn Brooks, who is the Director of Grants Management here, was also at the Governor’s office and he was the Director of Programs. He retired in 2004, and he immediately started working for Texas CASA. He started calling me asking me if I wanted to come work at Texas CASA because he wanted to get a grants program started. I put him off for three years, but I finally gave in in 2006. I called him and said, “Hey, I want to come back to work!”
So I interviewed with Glenn, his supervisor and the Director of Administration. Then the very next day the CEO of Texas CASA at the time, Joseph Gagen, called me and asked me if I wanted to come in for a second interview and I said, “Okay.” So then I came in to interview with him, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was that I was applying for the wrong position. They had an Administrative Director position open and a Grants Management Specialist. I told him that I had already had a career, and that I would want to take the Grants Management Specialist position so some younger people coming into the industry would have a chance to do something – you know, make a career out of their lives. So he said “Okay, I accept that.”
Then he had me come in to start on Aug. 30, which was a Thursday. He didn’t want me to take the weekend and let me think about it because I would have probably said “Yeah, I don’t know if I want to work!” So two years turned into 13 years. I’ve been here 13 years now, and I just feel that now it’s time for me to move on.
Tell us about your role here at Texas CASA.
I started as a Grants Management Specialist and then I got a promotion to Senior Grants Management Specialist. What I do is I work on the formula funding. Every year, we get funds from the Federal Government Office of Victims of Crime for VOCA grants, and we have a formula where we determine how much we’re going to award to each local program. Currently, we have 72 programs across the state, and we get a block of funds and we divvy amounts to them.
Now, once we award the funds to them, they have to complete a budget and send it to us. I’m the VOCA specialist, so I review all the budgets. I’m looking for the allowable costs and unallowable costs. So I review the applications when they come in and figure out what’s approved. Then it goes to my director who looks over those, and then we award the grant out. Once that their grant is approved, then they can start requesting funds.
What is your favorite thing about working at Texas CASA?
I like working with the staff here. Helping the people in other departments get their work done is always good.
Also, going out into the field working with the grantees trying to get them on board with how to operate their grants, and how to just understand the rules and regulations. We decided to do a Guide to Grants, it took us six months to put this thing together. It explains everything. If you want to know anything about the grants, it’s in our Guide to Grants book. We’re very proud of this.
How have you seen CASA grow and change over the years?
Well our staff has grown, and we’re involved in more areas. We’ve started local board trainings that weren’t done before for board members. So we provide services out there to the local programs’ boards to let them know their responsibilities.
We also have coaches now that go out into the programs for Collaborative Family Engagement and our Volunteer Coaching and Advocacy initiative. We’re more involved with the legislature where we have representatives that go to the legislature and talk to legislators. We didn’t do all this before. We let them know our concerns and what we’re all about so that they can get funding for us so we can provide more services out there in the field.
What does CASA mean to you?
CASA to me means an organization that works with volunteers that are appointed by a court. These people go out there and they work with their child and it gives them some measure of support. The CASA volunteer works with the child and makes them feel more comfortable, makes them feel like there’s somebody on their side. That to me is very important for the children that are in the foster care system.