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Councilwoman named to state veterans board

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FAIR OAKS RANCH — Councilwoman Laura Koerner wears many hats — former Navy officer, mother, wife, volunteer and senior systems engineer/information-technology program manager.

Now, add Texas Veterans Commission board member.

The announcement of the appointment by Gov. Greg Abbott came June 12, coinciding with Women Veterans Day.

Her role will be to advocate for vets and their earned benefits, plus oversee government programs.

“They do get everyday people to get their input on these commissions, and I do consider myself an everyday person. I just put myself out there and want to volunteer and help out. Put in an application and you just might be the person,” Koerner said.

She joins fellow appointee Kimberlee Joos, a retired Air Force colonel.

City staff said Koerner’s new post isn’t surprising. Voters elected the Place 4 councilwoman in May 2017.

“I believe that she will show the same concern for our Texas veterans that she has shown for the citizens of Fair Oaks Ranch,” said Greg Maxton, the Place 6 councilman who served in the Army. “As a Texas veteran myself, I can think of no other individual I would want more to advocate for and ensure that superior service is provided to all Texas veterans.”

Koerner served from 1997 to 2003 as a surface warfare officer aboard the USS Mahan, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, and the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, now decommissioned. She ended her career as a lieutenant.

She’s looking forward to helping Lone Star State vets.

“I do feel like the Texas veterans program is really robust and strong, compared to other states that I’ve lived in,” Koerner said. “Obviously there are always things we could look out to do more.”

Training for her latest position started June 25 at the commission’s Austin headquarters. Her first board meeting is Aug. 9.

Koerner belongs to San Antonio Republican Women, where Sylvia Gartner is president.

“It’s a big honor, and we’re very, very proud of her,” Gartner said. “We need women leadership, so this is a big, big victory.”

Koerner, for about six years, has been a member of the nearly 40-year-old GOP group.

Debbie Wall, another SARW member, said Koerner brings a valuable military perspective to the commission.

“She’s focused, she’s goal-oriented, she’s a hard worker, and I think that she will just represent our segment very well,” Wall said.

Wall believes SARW and the Texas Federation of Republican Women, of which she’s the special committee chairwoman, helped Koerner with resources and networking.

Koerner said attending the U.S. Naval Academy and joining the service helped with her achievements.

In high school, her military interest began at her home just outside Chicago where she received a letter from the academy for a summer program.

“I actually didn’t apply to any other school, which now that I look back, it was kind of crazy, because I would never recommend that to anybody,” Koerner said.

Disciplined by nature, Koerner said the naval school fit nicely.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in systems engineering from the academy, and went on to earn a Master of Science in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 2007, she married her husband, Mike, who also served in the Navy. They briefly moved back to Illinois before buying a house in Fair Oaks Ranch in 2010. Alexandra and Eva, twin daughters, followed in 2011.

Her twins go almost everywhere she does. They have met senators, congressmen and even the Republican governor.

“It’s wonderful for me for them to realize that their elected officials are approachable, and that they can talk to them and just get involved and go to things. … I’m glad that my girls get to see that you can be involved,” Koerner said.

The multitasking councilwoman serves on the town’s Communications and Stakeholder’s Committee and the Municipal Development District Board. She also participated in the Fair Oaks Ranch Homeowners Association Adopt-a-Highway and Vestal Park Focus Group.

Mayor Garry Manitzas said the community’s strong contingent of retired and current military are assets.

“Many of them have chosen to play volunteer roles in our city and we are all grateful for their service, not only during their active-duty time, but for their service to our community after their active-duty time. Laura is a good example of one of those former military personnel,” Manitzas said.

When Koerner isn’t occupied with family or city projects, she’s working at PVM Inc.

The local Blue and Gold Officer for the academy counsels, recruits and interviews candidates for the admissions department. Two high school graduates recently earned their appointments to the Naval Academy for the class of 2022 under her guidance.

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