Meet the Team

Headquartered just outside Buda, south of Austin, its principal partners have worked on public involvement and planning projects across Texas and several other states. The operations partners are Jeff Barton and Kara Bishop Buffington. Partner Cyndy Slovak-Barton manages administration. Colleagues include talented staff and strategic partners.

Jeff Barton, AICP

Co-Founding Partner
A San Marcos native, Jeff has managed planning, feasibility, and public affairs projects across Texas and in two states, working for clients as varied as small communities and Fortune 500 companies. He has directed the land planning and community relations department for a Texas engineering firm, and won awards for both his planning communications work. A former local elected official, Jeff has a keen understanding of the issues on both sides of the table. He is also fluent in conversational Spanish.

Kara Bishop Buffington

Co-Founding Partner
Kara Buffington has spent the past dozen years refining – and pioneering – ways to galvanize public opinion around policy, planning, political, and infrastructure debates. A Central Texas native, Ms. Buffington attended Pine Manor College, just outside Boston where she was recognized as a Margaret Elkins Leadership Scholar. Later she worked for a United States senator and on two presidential campaigns, doing event planning, communications, and fundraising in eight states. Since then, she has worked in communications, campaign strategy, government planning, project management, and budgeting. Kara manages public engagement for the firm.

Tom Forrest, MPA

Senior Project Manager
Across 40 years of public service, Tom Forrest has specialized in civic management, public infrastructure planning, and land use issues, working in both city and county management in Texas, Colorado, and Florida. Tom served deputy executive director and interim executive director of the Texas State Facilities Commission where he managed facilities for more than 100 state agencies in 290 cities.

Ron Whitehead, MPA

Senior Project Manager
The leader of our North Texas team, Ron has had the privilege of working on some the most complex city project and premier urban mixed-use developments in the state over the course of his 44-year career in municipal management. As the 32-year City Manager in Addison, Texas, Ron helped leverage the city’s small-town charm to transition Addison into one of the most vibrant retail, restaurant, and commercial centers in the state. Ron's expertise in all levels of municipal government make him a great addition to the Gap team.

Rick Coneway, PE

Senior Project Manager
Mr. Coneway’s professional engineering career includes a wide range of civil and environmental engineering projects primarily for public works and land development clients in Central Texas. His engineering education, training and practice has encompassed hundreds of projects involving planning, permitting, design and construction of infrastructure including streets, drainage and utilities. His project involvement has ranged from project engineer to project manager.

Caleb Roberts

Senior Associate
Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a background in community organizing in communities of color around issues of transportation, economic development, and affordable housing, Caleb has been working as a planner and analyst focusing on research and organizing around affordable housing issues in Fort Worth, Lubbock, and Amarillo for the past two years. Caleb is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning and received his B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. Caleb’s thorough research, and conscientious approaches to community planning and public engagement make him a great addition to the Gap team.

Sarah Boza

With a background in community planning, New Urbanist and master-plan developments, design, and construction technology, Sarah has assisted on a wide array of projects in the Central Texas region. In her work for Gap Strategies, Sarah focuses on project coordination, planning and site development design, economic projections, community engagement, spatial analysis, and research. As a Native Spanish speaker, she frequently translates public engagement materials and is always happy to speak to clients in Spanish. Sarah blends her wide-ranging technical skillset and know-how with thoughtful analysis and an eye for detail.

Kate Barton

Serving as the only Gap team member based in Brooklyn, New York, Kate focuses on research, public engagement, social media management, and communication efforts. She has been recognized as a Fulbright Scholar and received her M.A. in Journalism from NYU, and a B.A. in International Studies from St. Edward’s University in Austin. As an industry outsider, Kate brings a unique point of view to the planning and infrastructure policy table. Her extensive experience in writing, editing, public relations, and communications make her an invaluable asset to the Gap team. She is also proficient in conversational Spanish, Czech, and Indonesian.

Andres Gonzales

Project Analyst
Originally a California native, Andres studied environmental policy at the University of New Mexico before moving to Austin. He’s worked on numerous public outreach campaigns under Gap Strategies – performing research, providing social media management, conducting town halls, and assisting with communication efforts. For the past year, Andres has worked on two long-term master plans, various bond facilitation initiatives, and a winning, historic political campaign. He is also proficient in conversational Spanish.

Todd Phelan

Film + Video Production
Todd Phelan has spent his entire life telling stories. From telling tall tales as the class clown to writing compelling narratives for small businesses, stories are what motivate Todd -- stories and pictures. Put them together, and you get a film. And putting them together is just what Todd has been doing since he was a communications student at Lamar University in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas. Todd has been a professional film maker off-and-on since the late 1990s. He has worked as a video and film editor, sound technician, writer, producer, and director.

Cyndy Slovak-Barton

Business Manager + Co-Founding Partner
A business owner and entrepreneur for more than two decades, Cyndy has found ways to interweave her skills in journalism and communication with a passion for crisp business management and contract compliance. In addition to her work at Gap Strategies – where she assists with media strategy and manages business operations – Cyndy is publisher of the award-winning Hays Free Press and Dripping Springs News-Dispatch newspapers.