Gov. Greg Abbott recently named Chris Bugbee, a 1994 Poteet High School graduate, as president and CEO of the OneStar National Service Commission and the OneStar Foundation. OneStar promotes volunteerism in Texas and oversees the administration of the AmeriCorps programs for the state. Bugbee was previously appointed by President George W. Bush as deputy director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and as associate director of The White House Faith Based Office. He currently serves as a board member of the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Society for Human Resource Management, and both the American and Texas Society of Association Executives. Bugbee received a bachelor's in ag leadership from Texas A&M University and a master's from the George H. W. Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.
How does it feel to be named president/CEO of the OneStar National Service Commission and OneStar Foundation?
Being named President/CEO of OneStar National Service Commission and OneStar Foundation is a huge honor. Texas is such a great place to live and raise your family, and we have so much to be proud of; yet there are some areas where we can improve. For example, with only 28.4 percent of Texans volunteering every year, we rank 37th in the nation for volunteerism. I look forward to helping to inspire more Texans to give back and keep Texas on the path toward a bright future.
How and when did you get started with OneStar?
I came to OneStar in May 2006 after serving in President George W. Bush’s administration. I had several different roles while in Washington, DC, but the highlight was the opportunity to serve at the White House in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. We served as a liaison between the federal government and the incredible nonprofit organizations working every day to solve issues facing our communities. President Bush called them the “armies of compassion,” which couldn’t be more true.
What does your new role as president/CEO encompass?
As president/CEO of OneStar it is my responsibility to oversee the effective implementation of our mission, in partnership with our board of 25 governor-appointed directors. This includes working with an amazing team of dedicated professionals on our staff with a passion for service. Together, we administer an $18 million portfolio of AmeriCorps programs serving across the state, we administer the $100 million Rebuild Texas Fund for Hurricane Harvey recovery along the coast, and we focus on strengthening the nonprofit sector and volunteerism across the state. This role also includes the opportunity to meet and work with incredible partners across the state, in all sectors, who love Texas and want to see our state reach its full potential.
Why did you decide to leave Washington D.C. to return to Texas?
When I left for Washington, DC back in 2001, I always knew I was headed back to Texas after a few years. It is funny, several of my friends from other states felt like they were planting permanent roots in DC, but the people from Texas all saw DC as temporary and had plans to get home as fast as we could.
You have an extensive background working with organizations that help others, what drew you to this line of work?
From a young age, I was deeply moved by the issues facing our communities. I felt like I had to do something. Somewhere along the way I realized that I didn’t have to watch and wait for someone else to do something. For example, I remember being deeply moved by the number of high school students that were dying from drunk driving, so I organized a mock disaster drill where we worked with MISD and the Mesquite Police and Fire Departments to stage a mock disaster in the parking lot of the school with lights, sirens, and paramedics trying to revive people. It was powerful, and it was a collective effort of a lot of people coming together to save lives. That type of project gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction that I didn’t find anywhere else. I found that same sense of satisfaction in public service and working at OneStar.
Did OneStar have a role in helping Texas coastal cities/towns get back on their feet following Harvey? If so, how?
Yes, Harvey was a massive storm that devastated many of our Texas communities. We always work with our nonprofit partners that actively respond to disasters, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, but we knew right away that Harvey was going to require more. We ended up working with Governor Abbott and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to launch the Rebuild Texas Fund with a goal of raising $100 million for Harvey recovery. I’m pleased to say we raised the $100 million and the funds are actively deployed throughout the impacted region.
What were some challenges that you faced going from working at the national level to the state level?
It was an adjustment, mainly because the pace in Washington, DC, is so high-pressure and fast-moving. In many ways it was refreshing to be home, because everyone in Texas is so collaborative.
Talk about your role in the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative and the Gang Prevention Initiative.
It was an incredible opportunity to support several of President Bush’s key initiatives that he kicked off through his state of the union addresses. He wanted to do something about growing rates of recidivism, where prisoners couldn’t adjust to civilian life and were being sent back to prison. He wanted to do something to fix the problem, so it was my job to coordinate the federal agencies to develop the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative to break down silos and work across agencies within the justice system, health and human services, and labor. The same was true with the Gang Prevention Initiative. We brought all the agencies together, including First Lady Laura Bush, to harness the collective power of the government agencies to help save kids from being drawn into the life of gang violence.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment thus far?
This is a tough question, because I have loved every phase of my career. While serving in the White House was definitely a career highlight, I think where I am right now at OneStar gives me a sense of great pride about the opportunity before me to make a difference. Having the Governor of Texas put his confidence in me to take on this role is such an honor.
What has been your greatest personal accomplishment?
My greatest personal accomplishment is my beautiful and amazing family. My wife of 12 years, Heidii, and our two boys. There is no journey tougher than that of parenting, but it has given me a sense of joy didn’t know I was capable of feeling.
Being a Poteet and MISD alumnus, how has your time in Mesquite and the district helped lead you down the path you’re on today?
My time at Poteet, and Sunnyvale ISD before that, gave me exposure to amazing educators that truly devoted themselves to our success. I was in one of the first classes to go through Poteet, so it was all new and exciting. It was the era when Lanny Frasier was principal and back when Jeannie Stone was an English teacher (she is now the Superintendent of Richardson ISD). It felt like a family, and they provided us with opportunities inside and outside of the classroom that challenged me and exposed me to new ways of thinking. MISD also had a great partnership with the city of Mesquite where I had the opportunity to serve as city manager for a day. It had a profound impact on me, and I have no doubt it planted seeds of public service. I am grateful for all that Mesquite invested in me.