Texas Tech University

Texas Tech to Host Texas Tribune Event Focused on Future of Rural Texas

George Watson

November 1, 2022


State representatives, local lawmakers and industry leaders will gather to discuss the biggest wins and toughest challenges facing Texas’ rural communities.

The Texas Tribune, the statewide, nonpartisan public service digital news organization, will host industry experts, community leaders and local lawmakers from across Texas for a special event, The Future of Rural Texas. This is a free, open-to-the-public gathering dedicated to unpacking the future of rural Texas.

The event will take place in person Nov. 17-18 at Texas Tech University. Texans statewide can join in virtually at texastribune.org. Various communities across the state are hosting watch parties to bring the conversations from the event closer to home. 

Those wishing to attend in person or virtually are asked to RSVP. Members of the media wishing to cover the event should email The Texas Tribune at press@texastribune.org. Organizations interested in hosting watch parties are asked to sign up, and the Tribune will share a watch party toolkit.

The Future of Rural Texas program is as follows: 

Thursday, Nov. 17

4 p.m.: Deep in the Heart: A Special Edition of the TribCast

  • A live recording of The Texas Tribune's weekly podcast on the latest news and headlines, and this time it's all about rural. Featured speakers include:
    • Nic Garcia, regional editor at The Texas Tribune
    • Jayme Lozano, High Plains reporter at The Texas Tribune
    • Pooja Salhotra, East Texas reporter at The Texas Tribune
    • Sarah Self-Walbrick, news director at Texas Tech Public Media
    • Adam Young, editor of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal 

6:15 p.m.: Rural Texas and the 88th Legislature

  • Next session's priorities: What's likely, what's possible, what's on the wish list and how the budget surplus can benefit smaller communities across the state. The session will be moderated by The Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. Featured speakers include:
    • State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock
    • State Rep. Eddie Morales Jr., D-Eagle Pass
    • State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa
    • State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria
    • State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg

Friday, Nov. 18

9 a.m.: Educational Opportunity for All 

  • From pre-K to college, how rural schools are meeting the challenges of preparing students for life in the 21st century. The session will be moderated by The Texas Tribune regional editor Nic Garcia and session speakers will include:
    • State Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian
    • H.T. Sanchez, superintendent of Plainview ISD
    • Russell Lowery-Hart, president of Amarillo College
    • JuliAnn Mazachek, president of Midwestern State University

10 a.m.: Ensuring Rural Health

  • A prescription for equitable health care access and outcomes in the state's most far-flung counties. The session will be moderated by The Texas Tribune's High Plains reporter Jayme Lozano. Featured speakers include:
    • Lorenzo Serrano, CEO of the Winkler County Hospital District
    • John Hodges, family nurse practitioner, Ralls Family Medicine
    • Lori Rice-Spearman, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
    • Jennifer Franklin, chief clinical officer of the Yoakum Community Hospital

11 a.m.: Getting Connected

  • Broadband access is finally expanding across rural Texas. What this will mean for education, health care, economic development and more. The session is moderated by The Texas Tribune East Texas reporter Pooja Salhotra and will feature:
    • Jennifer Harris, federal program officer for Texas, Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
    • Charlie Cano, CEO of Etex Telephone Cooperative
    • Dustin Fawcett, Ector County judge-elect

12:40 p.m.: City Hall Confidential

  • Rural mayors talk about local control, spending and taxes, the old way of life vs. the modern world, and political realities. The panel will be moderated by Sewell Chan, editor in chief at The Texas Tribune and feature:
    • Ginger Nelson, mayor of Amarillo
    • Tray Payne, mayor of Lubbock
    • Mark Hicks, mayor of Lufkin
    • Anthony Williams, mayor of Abilene

1:45 p.m.: Preserving Natural Resources

  • Will plentiful water, clean air and thoughtful land use be the future of rural Texas? The panel will be moderated by Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Editor Adam Young. Featured speakers will include:
    • State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock
    • Carlos Rubenstein, former chair of the Texas Water Development Board
    • Marilu Hastings, executive vice president of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

2:30 p.m.: A Sound Economy

  • How rural communities are supporting industries, attracting businesses, creating jobs and training the next generation's workforce. The panel will be moderated by Sarah Self-Walbrick, news director for Texas Tech Public Media. Featured speakers will include:
    • Wendie Cook, board member of the Canadian Economic Development Corp.
    • Judy Canales, executive director of the Eagle Pass Maverick County Economic Development Alliance
    • Nathan Tafoya, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corp.

For the latest on this event and all upcoming Texas Tribune conversation events, sign up to receive weekly event notifications.

The Future of Rural Texas event is made possible with the support of generous sponsors. Thanks to our presenting sponsor, Texas Rural Funders.

Major sponsors include Baylor Scott & White Health Plan; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas; BNSF Railway; Capital Farm Credit; Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.; Raise Your Hand Texas; Texas 2036; Texas A&M Health; Texas Agricultural Council; Texas Association of Counties; Texas Association of Dairymen; Texas Electric Cooperatives; Texas Farm Bureau; Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center; Texas State Technical College; and Water Grows.

Supporting sponsors include Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas; Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.; Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council; Texas Agricultural Land Trust; Texas Association of Community Colleges; Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools; Texas Association of Rural Schools; Texas Cattle Feeders Association; Texas Corn Producers; Texas Cotton Ginners' Association; Texas Citrus Mutual; Texas Forestry Association; Texas Grain and Feed Association; Texas Grain Sorghum Producers; Texas International Produce Association; Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals; Texas Poultry Federation; Texas Rural Health Association; Texas Tech University System; Texas Veterinary Medical Association; The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association; and Texas Wheat Producers Board and Association.

Media partners include HPPR, KAMC and EverythingLubbock.com, KAMU and Texas Tech Public Media.