By TJJD Communications
This summer TJJD welcomed Rachel Gandy as the agency’s new Chief of Staff.
Gandy replaces Sean Grove, who has been promoted to Deputy Executive Director and will be focusing on improving operations and working closely with the secure facilities.
She comes to TJJD with a uniquely informed perspective, having served as the project manager for the Sunset Advisory Commission’s review of the agency. In that role, she worked with TJJD leadership and other stakeholders to identify agency strengths and weaknesses and recommend changes.
The Sunset review was an independent legislative evaluation of TJJD to determine whether Texans still need the agency and if so, how it can improve its efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. For example, Sunset identified ways TJJD could expand support for county juvenile probation departments and update certification processes to increase local job opportunities.
Gandy will oversee the implementation of the Sunset recommendations for TJJD, which will undergo another review in four years.
In addition to working with the executive team on the day-to-day operations at TJJD, she will have oversight of the newly budgeted and planned TJJD facilities, working with the Texas Facilities Commission. She will manage initiatives to build capacity at the county level, collaborate with the TJJD Board and work on legislative and stakeholder engagement.
Gandy’s educational years prepared her well for this new leadership position in Texas juvenile justice. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, she received graduate degrees from both the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the UT Steve Hicks School of Social Work, where her interest in improving the juvenile justice system took hold.
She was the lead author for a year-long policy research project to identify, evaluate, and publish a report on correctional oversight bodies in adult and juvenile justice systems across the United States.
After earning her master’s degrees, she joined Disability Rights Texas, achieving more remarkable career milestones. She won a fellowship funded by the Hogg Foundation to advocate for reforms to federal, state, and local policies regarding disability and mental health services. She developed, supervised, and executed a targeted legislative campaign to improve the identification of and service delivery to students with disabilities. That campaign led to important legislative changes, and she received the 2017 Justin Dart Memorial Award for Outstanding Service from the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.
Gandy also served as vice chair of the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities and co-facilitator of the City of Austin Youth Justice Task Force.
Later, while working at the Sunset Commission, she and her team were awarded the 2023 Certificate of Impact from the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society for documented policy changes.
Gandy says she couldn’t be more excited about joining the TJJD team.
“I am thrilled to join a team of folks who dedicate themselves so completely to safety and rehabilitation across a unified juvenile justice system,” she said. “This work is tough, but the opportunities for impact were too good to pass up.”
“Usually when a Sunset bill passes, I am excited to immediately dive into a new policy area. But when TJJD’s bill passed in May, walking away from the juvenile justice system seemed unfathomable. Everyone I encountered throughout the review – from agency staff to probation chiefs to advocates – had a passion for improving youth outcomes, and it turns out, that passion was contagious.”