Demerson ’84, Alvarez ’88: Two Javelinas Lead Texas Workforce Commission

by Elaine Barnes

Coordinator, Alumni and Donor Communications


Distinguished Alumni

"Even though we represent different constituents of Texas, we have one commonality when it comes to our mission: putting Texans first is our priority."

From our health to our social instincts as humans, we’ve all endured a drastic shift in our everyday lives because of COVID-19. This change was almost instantly recognized and most visible in our workplace environments and careers. Despite uncertainty still looming for so many almost 6 months later, Texans can feel confident knowing that two Javelina Alumni – Aaron Demerson ’84 and Julian Alvarez ’88 – are leading the Texas Workforce Commission, supporting our state through the pandemic.

The Commissioner Representing Employers, Commissioner Demerson serves over 565,000 Texas employers and 2.6 million small businesses and was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott in August 2019. “My office serves as the first line of resources for all Texas employers,” he explained. “We provide a Texas Employer Hotline (1-800-832-9394) answered by four employment law attorneys and host around 15 Texas Conferences for Employers across the state each year … I’m devoted to promoting the relationship between workforce, economic development and education – which in my opinion is the secret sauce to our business success in Texas and creates a pipeline of talent for our Texas employers.”

On the flip side of the coin, serving as the Commissioner Representing Labor, Commissioner Alvarez supports the interests of more than 14 million working Texans. “I also make sure we provide services to disenfranchised populations,” he highlighted. “We make sure individuals transitioning out of foster care have the funding and tools they need to be successful. We provide those transitioning out of military service opportunities, as well as individuals who have been incarcerated and deserve a second chance.”

Although one of the most essential responsibilities of the TWC during the COVID-19 pandemic involves the distribution of unemployment benefits, both commissioners brought attention to the lesser-known ways the TWC is positively impacting the lives of Texans.

“We serve over 130,000 kids a day and we provide quality child care that allows parents to go to school or work – and we’re seeing that more and more now because of COVID-19,” said Commissioner Alvarez. “We’ve been focusing on adult-learners and what’s needed for them to successfully complete their coursework right now, and we know a lot of it is done through distance learning … we’re hoping to be able to supply them with the infrastructure needed like tablets and computers and broadband access.”

There’s also the creation of the Coding Camp for Girls which provides opportunities for girls in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades interested in STEM-related occupations. “I think it was $4 million provided by the TWC to high schools and colleges in order to train these students and allow them to experience what it’s like to go into a robotics education. It was very successful, and something I’m very proud of,” expressed Commissioner Alvarez.

Despite the countless obstacles arising during this unique time, Commissioner Demerson agrees that the TWC’s response has to continue to center on being innovative to meet the needs of every Texan. “The mission we have remains the same, but in order to achieve it, we have had to be very flexible and have reacted quickly – and we’re proud of that. There are also 28 local workforce boards located statewide so that wherever an individual or employer is located in Texas, they have access to us,” he observed.

From the beginning of March until August, more than 4.6 million Texans filed for unemployment and more than $25.9 billion (including Federal programs) has been paid out to Texans. “To put this into perspective, the TWC has taken about 6 years’ worth of claims in almost 6 months, and we’ve taken on an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach to help with these historical numbers,” explained Commissioner Demerson.

Both commissioners’ passion and dedication to serving others stems from their shared unique background as Javelinas. “[The Texas Workforce Commission] is made up of three commissioners, and two are Javelinas,” exclaimed Commissioner Alvarez. “That says a lot about the school – the college town, the setting, the one-to-one instruction…”

Admittedly, Commissioner Alvarez didn’t seek a college education at first. He feels indebted to his father for guiding him in that direction. “I graduated [high school] on a Friday, and Saturday morning my dad had me in Kingsville. He had transferred my job from HEB in Harlingen and knew I wasn’t interested in going to school. But he hoped that by being in a college town, it would rub off on me … and it did.”

The value of being a Javelina has been illuminated through several milestones in Commissioner Alvarez’s career, most notably during his first job interview as an alumnus of the university. “The three gentlemen interviewing me all pointed out that they were also Javelinas. So, I asked them if it was true what they said about Javelinas – that we stick together and hire our own. And with that, they offered me the job.”

From working in higher education, for the Department of Public Safety, to serving as the regional director for the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Commissioner Alvarez credits the one-of-a-kind Javelina network for propelling his entire career.

Likewise, Commissioner Demerson expressed utilizing valuable leadership skills he learned as a Javelina. From reaching officer status at the former Texas Bank in San Antonio, to his myriad positions of significance for the State of Texas – including managing the Texas Tomorrow Fund, heading the Economic Development and Tourism team at the Governor’s Office, to serving as a Senior Advisor to Governor Rick Perry – “the leadership, networking and community service skills [he] gained at the collegiate level are still being utilized and passed on, even to this day.”

As Texans continue to endure the ripple effects of the pandemic, which changes daily, they can rest assured that they’re being taken care of by the dedicated team at the Texas Workforce Commission. “I feel very privileged to work alongside my fellow commissioners,” expressed Commissioner Demerson. “By the way, the other Commissioner (Chairman Bryan Daniel) is a Red Raider, whose dad is a proud Javelina graduate as well. Even though we represent different constituents of Texas, we have one commonality when it comes to our mission: putting Texans first is our priority. We look at challenges as opportunities. That’s the Texas way.”