AUSTIN – The 86th Legislature got under way Tuesday at the state Capitol, with a large crowd on hand for the House and Senate opening ceremonies.

Among those sworn in was state Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie). Wray begins his third term serving House District 10, which encompasses Ellis County and a portion of Henderson County.

“I feel honored to serve and represent the good folks in Ellis and Henderson counties,” Wray told the Sun at his Capitol office prior to the House’s opening ceremonies, which began at noon.

“It is truly an honor,” he said.

Wray shared that he had traveled to Austin several days before the session began as part of his preparations for the session. 

“It’s been good to get reacquainted with my colleagues and see everyone,” he said. “I had a chance to visit with the incoming speaker and also had a chance to speak with the governor.” 

During Tuesday’s House opening ceremonies, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was elected as speaker, after past Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) decided to retire. According to the House website, Bonnen was first elected at the age of 24 and has served more than 20 years in the Legislature.

Over the past few months, Wray said he’s sensed more congeniality – as opposed to divisiveness – going into the session and has continued to feel that way the past few days after being back with his fellow lawmakers in Austin. 

“I believe there’s a focus on some core issues and a desire to work on getting something done for the state rather than on more politicized issues,” he said. “Clearly, property tax reform and school finance reform are a big focus with the Legislature.”

Wray’s Capitol staff announced

For this 86th Session, Wray’s office introduces a new legislative and administrative staff. 

“I’m excited that we’ve been able to field such a great team in time for the new session,” Wray said. “I can’t effectively represent the district without a dedicated, capable staff and that’s exactly what I’ve hired. 

“They will prioritize the needs of my constituents and work to keep them involved and informed,” Wray said, also telling the Sun that he encourages his constituents to contact his Capitol and district offices with their questions, concerns and comments.

“We love to hear from our constituents,” he said.

Serving as Wray’s chief of staff beginning this session is Benjamin Williams, who brings legislative experience from the past two sessions where he served for a Houston-area representative. Williams has covered topics such as property taxation, public safety, education funding and economic development. He has a management background and is a former small-business owner.

Brittany Gaddy has assumed the role of deputy chief of staff. In addition to a leadership role, Gaddy will manage a large portion of the legislative workload. She has state and federal policy experience and is a former educator.

Recent Texas A&M University graduate Julia Awad is serving as an intern through the Texas A&M Public Policy Intern Program. This selective program sends A&M students to work in offices in the state Legislature. Awad will handle administrative duties as well as legislation.

Also joining the team are University of Texas interns Abbey Melick of Waxahachie and Alyssa Crosby of Mansfield. Both are current students who are taking on the additional responsibility of the Legislature in addition to their coursework.

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