Tom Vick Jr.
Tom Vick Jr. ()

A former State Bar of Texas president, the executive director of a prosecutors’ association, a former executive director of a nonprofit that promotes ethics in the legal profession and a past managing partner of a firm’s Houston office are among candidates to be interviewed for the bar’s top staff post.

State Bar President Tom Vick announced in an email sent Thursday to bar members the names of seven candidates selected to be interviewed Aug. 29 by the committee searching for a new executive director of the bar. The committee will conduct the interviews behind closed doors.

In an emailed statement, Vick noted, “I am committed to keeping our members informed throughout the search process and wanted to report on the committee’s progress in selecting candidates to interview. The committee’s prior decisions on the format of the interviews stands.”

According to Vick’s email to the bar membership, more than 130 people from across the country submitted expressions of their interest in the position that Michelle Hunter, the bar’s executive director since 2008, will vacate Aug. 31.

Included on the list is Trey Apffel, who served as the State Bar’s president for the 2014-2015 bar year. Apffel, founder of and a principal in the Apffel Law Firm in League City, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Another candidate, Rob Kepple, longtime executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said he has had “a pretty good run” at the TDCAA, where he has worked since 1990. Kepple said he views the job of executive director for the State Bar as a challenge.

“I think it would be a really exciting job to serve all the lawyers of the state,” he said.

William J. Chriss, of counsel with Gravely & Pearson in Corpus Christi, also is on the list of candidates who will be interviewed.

“I’ve been working on behalf of the profession most of my adult life,” said Chriss, who, among other positions, served as executive director of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. “When the (State Bar) executive director position came open, I thought I might be of use to the bar,” Chriss added.

Candidate Ileana Blanco, a partner in and former managing partner of DLA Piper’s Houston office, said, “It’s a great honor to even be considered” for the position and cited a number of goals she has if selected. Blanco said she wants to continue addressing the importance of technology and especially address the needs of small firms and solo practitioners; increase diversity in the bar, making sure that the interests of minorities and women are represented; and emphasize the importance of assisting lawyers in handling stress that can lead to addiction problems.

Another candidate, D. Hull Youngblood Jr., of counsel with Ford Murray in San Antonio, said, “To be in the group of seven is really an honor,” but deferred to the bar for any further comment.

Texas Lawyer was unable to contact candidates Alicia Key, owner of the Key Law Office in the Austin area and a former director of the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division, and Deeia Beck, former executive director and public counsel for the state’s Office of Public Insurance Counsel.

The search committee is expected to send its recommendation for Hunter’s replacement to the State Bar’s executive committee Sept. 7. The bar board is expected to act on the recommendation during its Sept. 22 meeting in Lubbock.