Graciela "Gracie" Saenz

Saenz & Burkhardt, PLLC

Founding Partner

Born in Houston’s Fifth Ward neighborhood, Graciela Saenz is a shareholder in Saenz & Burkhardt, PLLC, where her legal practice focuses on government relations, business, commercial and international business transactions.  

She is a former city Council Member at Large (the first Hispanic in the city’s history elected to that position) and Mayor Pro Tem of Houston.  She chaired the NAFTA Task Force for Houston, which lobbied the legislature for the eventual passage of the North American Free Trade Alliance.  She also chaired Houston International Initiatives, a program that developed direct trade and business between Houston and cities in Latin America.  

Additionally, Ms. Saenz was a member of the Houston-Taiwan Trade Delegation to Taipei in the fall of 1994 and the city’s designee member of the World Energy Cities Partnership, which focused on partnership opportunities between oil producing nations.  Among other projects, Ms. Saenz negotiated for minority clients and organizations for inclusion in the venues of Minute Maid Field, the Toyota Center and other sports institutions, and she assisted in the negotiations for Houston to host the 9th Annual Latin Grammy Awards.  

Her assistance enabled Southwest Airlines to obtain the city’s permission to build five international gates at its Hobby Airport for dedicated air service into Latin America.  Ms. Saenz has served on many volunteer organizations and presently serves on the Board of Directors of Project GRAD, the Memorial Hermann Hospital, the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy, the S.E.L.F. Foundation, and the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.  She is currently married to her childhood sweetheart, Al Castillo, and is the grandmother of 14. 

Session: From Houston's Fifth Ward to Global Participation