Fifteen Years at TACFS: Looking Back with Sarah Combs Boruff
HOW IT STARTED
First and foremost, Sarah Combs Boruff doesn’t want to be interviewed. But if one insists, she will oblige.
On the week of her 15-year anniversary working at TACFS, Sarah reluctantly agreed to share her highs, lows, and memories from more than a decade with the Alliance.
Sarah previously worked for Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) as the Director of Communications just two blocks away from the current TACFS office when her third child was born. She spent a year as a stay-at-home mom before applying for a Project Coordinator and Policy Analyst position at TACFS.
She says, “I had gotten a little taste of policy when I worked at and I loved it!”
At the time (June 1, 2007) TACFS was a small staff of two led by Executive Director Nancy Holman. Sarah took it as a chance to learn about policy and child welfare. She would have the opportunity to go to the Capitol and attend hearings, as well as interact with other child welfare stakeholders.
Over the years, Sarah grew to co-manage the Conference, took over publishing the weekly newsletter, perform various member engagement tasks, and a laundry list of other duties as assigned.
After seven years, her title changed to Association Manager. And when Katie was appointed CEO three years later, Sarah became Director of Operations.
“When Katie came on, everything changed,” Sarah said. “Suddenly there was a lot of growth in membership and a big shift to focus more on the direct work our members do.”
Sarah has seen child welfare up close (through the members) for 15 years. Upon reflection of big changes, she remarked that of the same issues pervading this cause in 2007 are still around. Spending more time with members allows Alliance leadership to respond to these “same issues” in an innovative way.
“Having the opportunity to get to know our members better has given me insight into what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis and the really hard work that they do.”
Sarah remembers fondly a visit to Hill Country Youth Ranch’s Big Springs Ranch for Children in Leakey, Texas.
“It’s on the Frio River. Stunning. It’s amazing,” she exclaimed. “We went down there on a day that it and it was just the coolest day. Katie and I still talk about it.”
The Conference: Sarah’s Baby
In 2014, Sarah took over the full planning for the Texas Child Care Administrator Conference. She’s seen the conference grow from around 500 attendees when she first started to last year’s nearly 1300.
“It was like trial by fire!”
Sarah did not know how to plan a full conference when it became her key project. But she and Peggy Pugh, the former CFO (among other deck), figured it out. Through the event’s exceptional growth over the past five years, Sarah has modernized and optimized much of what she calls “intricacies” involved.
“We’ve definitely had hiccups but it’s nice to hear people say that they enjoy the conference and how well it is run
As a social butterfly, Sarah is in her element during the conference. The attendees are glad to be greeted by her. She believes that her personable way makes the difference.
“I remember everything about people. I know their names. I’ve been making their name badges for so long and I know who they are.”
*One such hiccup included a keynote speaker arriving late to the general session where he was to speak. Sarah told an anecdote about how Scott Lundy, former TACFS Board President, stalled for time on stage as she ran around the hotel calling she could think of to track down the missing keynote.
WHAT IT HAS MEANT
In retrospect, Sarah has delighted in her years with the Alliance. Many of the staff (quadrupled in the last several years in response to a growing workload and membership) know her as the glue, the welcome wagon, and everything else.
“I like being able to make sure our members always feel supported and heard, and that everyone on our team has what they need to shine.”
Sarah knows her impact and doesn’t take it lightly.
“I feel important and valued for sure but I’m still learning! Our staff and membership were much smaller for so long, so I feel like I still have a lot to learn.”