Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Executive Director & Board Members

  • Palmito Ranch Battlefield, BrownsvillePalmito Ranch Battlefield, Brownsville
  • Laredo, Photo by Valerie D. Bates Laredo, Photo by Valerie D. Bates
  • Fort Brown, Photo by Curtis CravenFort Brown, Photo by Curtis Craven
  • Port Aransas, Photo by Valerie D. BatesPort Aransas, Photo by Valerie D. Bates

photo of Valerie Bates

Valerie Bates, Board Chair

Valerie Bates, born in California, but a resident of south Texas since the mid 1960s, has been involved in the Tropical Trail Region since 2005. As Marketing Director of Port Isabel (Cameron County) and photographer and writer with an interest in the rich history and culture of deep south Texas, Valerie enjoys traveling and capturing the stories and essence of our communities.


Bart Wales

Bart Wales, Vice Chair

A native, 5th generation Texan, Bart was born in Midland and raised in Refugio. He attended college at Texas A&M University College Station, receiving degrees in Environmental Design and a Masters in Architecture. Bart returned to Refugio where he operated his own business, worked with many nonprofit groups, served on the City Council, and as Mayor of Refugio for 3 terms.

Currently, Bart is the Director of the Refugio County Museum and President of the Refugio County Historical Society. He is also President of The South Texas Back Thru Time Historical Association, a group that promotes historic sites and businesses in the rural area from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to Victoria back to San Antonio.

Bart can also be found in Corpus Christi on the weekends, where he works as a designer for The Home Depot. Bart has always had an interest in history, art, and architecture. He currently lives in a historic home that is open for occasional tours, with a collection of art and antiques to rival none.

photo of Wanda Greenhill

Wanda Greenhill, Treasurer

Wanda Greenhill was born in Alice, Texas and moved to Harlingen at the age of four. Being a native Texan, she is proud of her state and wants to promote Tourism in every way possible. Wanda and her husband Paul live outside Lyford in Willacy County.  They have 4 children and 12 grandchildren. Wanda is Treasurer and Past President of the RGV Museum Association which is the fundraising arm of Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum.  Wanda has been following Texas Tropical Trail Region from the beginning and loves learning more about Texas every time they meet.


photo of Rick Stryker

Rick Stryker

Rick Stryker retired in 2012 after serving as director of the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History for 27 years.  He previously worked for the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Public Museum and the Historical Society of Delaware. 

While serving on the Tropical Trail board he represented the Region as its designated Manager for the Texas Heritage Trails LLC for seven years.  He served in this capacity through development and publication of the first 15 issues of Authentic Texas Magazine. 

He is a historian with a bachelor’s degree in history from Austin College in Sherman and a master’s degree in American history from the University of Delaware in Newark.  He lives in Austin.


Marlett Bahn

Marlett has worked for the King Ranch Visitor’s Program for over a decade as a historical tour guide, doing both daily and private tours, and also serves as a sales associate both on the ranch, as well as at the Henrietta Memorial Center/King Ranch Museum. 

She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters Degree from Texas A&I University (now TAMUK- Kingsville), coming to college from her hometown of Austin, to major in Vocational Home Economics.  Her graduate studies were in sociology and education.  She began a 30-year career as a school teacher, beginning in high school and has taught grades 3-12.  Marlett became the Child Nutrition Director for two school districts. 

She and husband David have 4 daughters and are blessed with 11 wonderful grandchildren. 

Marlett is active in the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bishop, the Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML), serving as secretary for this organization, and is currently a school board member for the St. Paul Lutheran Church, School and Child Enrichment Center (CEC).  Other activities include the United Daughters of the Confederacy, German-Texan  Heritage Society of Austin, Texas, and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Other associations and involvements include the Kingsville/Kleberg County Birding & Wildlife Association, Board of Directors for the Nueces County Junior Livestock Show and their Scholarship Committee.


Nancy Deviney - Secretary

Nancy Deviney recently retired after being active in South Texas tourism for over 30 years.  She served as Executive Director of the 20-county Texas Tropical Trail Region heritage tourism program since May 2014.

She was a founding member of the 2005 Texas Tropical Trail Region board of directors holding the offices of Chair and Secretary until 2014 when she was offered and accepted the full-time position of Executive Director.

Nancy was President of the 19-county Texas Coastal Bend Regional Tourism Council (TCBRTC) for eight years and was a member of the Board of Directors of the South Texas Region of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association.

Previously, she was Executive Director of the Freer Chamber of Commerce and wrote a monthly travel article for the South Texas Traveler magazine.  She is a native Texan, born in Corpus Christi and raised in Kingsville.

Nancy and her husband, Frank, live on the shores of Lake Corpus Christi in Live Oak County. Their twin sons and their wives live in San Antonio and Gulfport MS. Three of their grandchildren attend the US Naval Academy in Annapolis MD, Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Florida State University in Tallahassee FL.  Their youngest grandson is a middle school student in Gulfport MS.

Nancy and her husband, Frank, live on the shores of Lake Corpus Christi in Live Oak County. They have twin sons and four grandchildren living in San Antonio and Honolulu, Hawaii. 


Penny Pillack

She received her degrees from Texas A&I University in Kingsville. She was a teacher and administrator at Agua Dulce ISD.

Currently as a retire-rehire, she is the testing coordinator at Port Aransas ISD. Her husband is a farmer and rancher.  Hobbies include reading, traveling, volunteer work, and spending time with family and friends.

She is proud to say that she's visited all 50 states! Penny serves on the Nueces County Historical Commission and is involved in several other historical and heritage organizations.


Lori Bellows

Lori Naylor Bellows

Lori has always had a love for History and Historical Preservation. She currently serves as Chair of the Refugio County Historical Commission, President of the Refugio County Historical Society and as a board member of the Texas Tropical Trail Region.

Lori and her husband, Dewey, live in Refugio.


Allen Lea

Allen is a Baylor University graduate where he studied art and art history. He then moved to London for grad school at Christie’s Auction House Education.

He is a 6th generation Texan, and his celebrated relatives are artist and writer Tom Lea from El Paso, and Margaret Lea, third and final wife of Sam Houston. He has been in the Historic Home field since 2009 and is currently the new site manager for the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site. 

He has been a Rotarian since 2011 and is a Paul Harris Fellow. 


photo of Mike Carlisle

Mike Carlisle - Executive Director

Michael (Mike) Carlisle lives in Corpus Christi, a member of the Nueces County Historical Commission and provides media support to the South Texas Historical Association.  He holds a M.S. in M.I.S.Y. from the University of Dallas and B.S. degrees from Texas A&M Kingsville and Corpus Christi. After 35 years in technical support, Mike retired from Verizon in 2015.  He has served on the board of the 20-county Texas Tropical Trail Region heritage tourism program since May 2012, and hired as Executive Director in 2021.

He founded MCC Media in 2010 specializing in audio-video-lighting (AVL), photography, videography, media archiving, and restorals. Mike is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Authentic Texas magazine (   Mike enjoys volunteering, working regularly with AVL at churches for many years. He also enjoys restoring trucks and motorcycles. Mike and wife Inelda Carlisle have six children, fourteen grandchildren and one great grandson. 

photo of Mike Carlisle

Chris Maher

Christopher Maher is the Director of the King Ranch Visitor Program and the King Ranch Archives. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a degree in History and English.

He worked in the newspaper industry for 16 years as a reporter, managing editor and publisher in communities throughout South Texas such as Alice, San Diego, Robstown and Kingsville.

In his role with King Ranch he oversees the tourism program, museum and archives. He and his wife, Shelly, live in Kingsville

photo of Mike Carlisle

Sandy Jumper

Sandy Jumper is the Vice –President of Marketing and Promotion for the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce. Sandy worked for the Chamber as Director of Tourism and Events for six years prior to accepting the V.P. position five years ago.

Sandy is a certified Tourism Executive and Texas Destination Marketer. She served as President and VP of the Texas Coastal Bend Regional Tourism Council, and currently serves on the Tourism Development Council, Local Attractions Committee, and Steering Committee for Aransas Pathways as well as the Board of Good Samaritans.

Sandy was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi, where she earned her Marketing degree and later worked with the Mississippi Department of Education training state officers for Delta Epsilon Chi, a national Marketing program. Sandy enjoys traveling, especially to other coastal destinations, and back to Mississippi to visit her family and two grandchildren.

photo of Mike Carlisle

Tara Putegnat

Ms. Tara Putegnat currently serves as Executive Director of the Brownsville Historical Association. After attending undergraduate school at Sweet Briar College (VA) and Universidad de Sevilla (Spain) she attended the University of Texas Brownsville for graduate school.

Upon return to Brownsville, her hometown, she taught history at St. Joseph Academy and later at Guadalupe Regional Middle School. She expanded her involvement in the community by serving on boards and committees for various organizations such as: Symphony in the Park planning committee, Leadership Brownsville Class XLVII Board Member, Pan American Round Table I Board member, Sacred Heart Church Anniversary Committee and the GRMS Development Council.

She also served as Secretary, Treasurer and President of the Brownsville Historical Association’s Board of Directors before being employed by the Association. Ms. Putegnat currently serves as Secretary on the Mitte Cultural District Board of Directors, is a commissioner for the City of Brownsville’s Historic Preservation Commission and a member of Preservation Texas’ Preservation Directors Roundtable.