Now that the dust has settled after a particularly tumultuous period under an eccentric former chairman, the Travis County Republican Party has hired two new leaders that it hopes will lead the party in a new direction.
The hiring of Executive Director Gary Teal and a deputy executive director, Tracey Carroll, announced Friday, marks the first time in recent memory that such county GOP leaders have been paid employees and symbolizes the revitalization of the party, said Travis County party Chairman James Dickey.
“That’s what makes this even more exciting: to see us go from what was undoubtedly seen as a pretty low, negative point to being far ahead of any point we’ve been in the past,” Dickey said.
That low point came when Robert Morrow, notorious for being vulgar and spouting conspiracy theories, won the party chairman position in a March 2016 GOP primary upset. The issue resolved itself, however, when Morrow’s write-in presidential candidacy disqualified him from continuing to hold the post. Dickey, who had lost to Morrow, reclaimed the seat in a special election last fall.
The five-member steering committee originally intended to hire just one executive director, but because of the strength of the candidates and their complementary skill sets, Dickey said the committee decided to hire both. Teal will be full-time, and Carroll will be part-time.
Teal, a graduate of Texas Christian University and an Abilene native, has spent the last several years in Washington, D.C., as vice chairman of the D.C. Republican Party. He has also held roles as an information technology manager and as a campaign consultant.
Long involved in politics, Teal worked on the campaigns of former President Gerald Ford and Gov. Bill Clements.
“Austin is the place to be if you have that kind of enthusiasm for politics and you’re a Texan,” Teal said. “And I’m a Texan and I’d always hoped I’d find a way to spend some time here.”
Teal said he looked forward to tackling “the challenge of making certain that even if Republicans are a minority for the next few years (in Travis County), they have a voice in government.”
The party is now rebuilding and putting its rocky year behind it by returning its focus to energizing and building up the local Republican base, Teal said.
“It was something that happened that really had nothing to do with the ongoing view of the party,” Teal said of Morrow’s election. “It was an electoral fluke, and I am looking forward to repairing the damage that was done.”
For Carroll, whose expertise lies in marketing and management, the new role is her first extensive foray into politics. Carroll has held executive positions in the technology, retail and travel industries for the past 18 years. She’d volunteered with the Travis County party before as well as with the Dallas County Republican Party.
“I worked with a lot of small businesses, and I saw the importance of overregulation, and that’s what really drew me to party politics,” Carroll said. “I felt I could bring some of my skills and perspective and help stabilize and expand the party’s influence and conservative principles here.”
Both Teal and Carroll were optimistic about the party’s prospects for the next year in the county, especially during a heyday for the GOP on a national level. They hope to drum up local support at the party’s annual Ronald Reagan Gala fundraising effort on Friday at the Austin Club.
“There’s no doubt that the people committed to the Republican Party in Travis County are serious about Republican principles and fighting for the policies that we know are best for all,” Dickey said. “No one joins the Republican Party in Travis County to improve their social profile.”
Correction: This article has been updated to show that only Gary Teal will be full-time, not both new hires. Tracey Caroll will be part-time.