Huffman, who starts in the position April 20, previously served as regional director for Texas of the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit. An Austin native, Huffman was the assistant city manager for the city of Austin for six years from 2002-08 prior to taking the post at the Nature Conservancy.
According to a media release from the Austin Chamber, during her time in Austin under then-city manager Toby Futrell, Huffman “negotiated a 100-year water deal with the Lower Colorado River Authority, led contract negotiations with public safety unions and worked to modernize the city’s economic development agenda.”
Prior to the shutdowns of businesses imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Austin’s economy was in a period of sustained and rapid growth. According to a report from the Chamber, the city added 36,700 new jobs in the 12-month period ending in February 2020, making it the fastest-growing major metro in the country.
However, stay-at-home orders that went into place March 25 have halted the economy in its tracks. Local unemployment numbers will be available later this month, but statewide, more than 300,000 Texans applied for unemployment benefits the week ending April 4, and the Texas Workforce Commission has processed more unemployment claims in the last three weeks than it did in all of 2019.
“Now more than ever, our community needs to come together—and as soon as the threat of the coronavirus passes, our people will need to get back to work, and our businesses will need to reopen their doors. No one is better positioned to help achieve these goals than the chamber,” Huffman said in the release.
Rollins initially announced his retirement in the fall, beginning the chamber’s search for a successor.
"It’s been my pleasure to work with Laura on countless issues on which her expertise and leadership helped make Austin a better place. I’m grateful that this organization—and the rest of the city—will benefit from her talents,” Rollins said in the release.