As a 30-year employee with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Brian Barth says he has walked the path of a State of Texas employee. He also knows it won’t be long before he is walking the path of a retiree. Like most, he says he is counting on his retirement annuity to help provide the income he needs to live — and have some fun — when his career with the state is done.
A desire to make sure those benefits are available for himself and his fellow state employees led Barth to seek the ERS Board of Trustees seat that will be vacated by Doug Danzeiser. ERS members and retirees voted in the trustee election earlier this year and Barth was certified as the winner in July. (See https://www.ers.texas.gov/About-ERS/ERS-Board-of-Trustees/Trustees-Election-and-Appointments
). He will begin a six-year term September 1.
Barth says the decisions he will face as a trustee are not unlike those he has made directing multi-billion dollar transportation projects for some of the state’s largest cities. Both impact the lives of thousands of Texans.
He does not underestimate the challenge of finding the balance between providing high-quality yet reasonably priced health benefits. He knows some decisions are about more than cost, such as when an employee with a young child must switch to a new health plan provider network that doesn’t include their pediatrician. Barth says he will work to make sure potential advantages outweigh drawbacks.
“I’m sure it’s not easy, but that goal will guide my decision-making on the board,” he says. “It’s not a complicated goal. It’s going to be complicated to achieve it.” When it comes to retirement annuities, he says he often is asked his views on providing a “13th
check” or cost-of-living adjustment.
“My answer is, ‘I want to make sure you continue to get 12 checks,’” Barth says. That applies to the nearly 110,000 retirees currently receiving benefits, as well as state employees just starting their careers and potential hires seeking competitive and secure benefit programs.
Other challenges for the Board include ever-increasing health care costs and the uncertainty of the world’s financial markets, Barth says. Successfully navigating those challenges will be critical to support longer retirements.
“I’m by no means a financial markets expert, but I’m in a position to analyze what the experts are telling us to make good, conservative decisions,” he says.
A lifelong Texan who grew up in El Paso, Barth currently commutes from his home in Flower Mound each week to his job as director of project planning and development with TxDOT in Austin. Outside of work, a preferred mode of transportation is hiking with his wife Brenda, a fifth-grade teacher. The two also enjoy learning about wines, and like to combine the two hobbies on wine country excursions in Texas and California. He and Brenda have a daughter who is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin.
Barth plans to retire in Texas, and knows he will be directly impacted by the decisions he makes.
“I don’t take this responsibility lightly,” he says. “I consider it a privilege to serve.”