WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) announced the departure of seven members of his team following his retirement announcement earlier this year. Recent departures include Chief Counsel Perry Brody, District Directors Marisela Cortez and Jose Pereida, Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director Mariana Adame, Digital Director and Legislative Assistant Gabrielle Howard, Legislative Assistant Chelsea Cornett and former Legislative Director Leigh Maiden. 

Prior to serving as a Chief Counsel, Perry was Congressman Vela’s Chief of Staff from 2013 through 2019. Before joining Team Vela, she worked for former Rep. Silvestre Reyes of El Paso for 16 years, including 12 years as his Chief of Staff.  After working for the Clinton Administration at the Department of Commerce, Perry started her career on Capitol Hill with former Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama.  She graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and earned her J.D. at Vanderbilt University School of Law. As Chief Counsel for Rep. Vela, she focused on issues related to and improvements for ports, water and coastal infrastructure for the district. Perry’s work in the office helped bring much needed money to fund the new Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, environmental infrastructure projects and enhancements to the district’s port of entries. 

Marisela is a Brownsville native and has been an integral part of Team Vela since 2013. As the District Director, Marisela worked diligently within the communities of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties.  She represented Congressman Vela’s office by engaging with community leaders, organizations, and constituents to identify and address key concerns. Throughout her time with the office, Marisela truly made a difference for South Texas and helped implement countless projects that have improved our community, including various projects related to economic enhancement and veteran related resources. 

Jose came on board in 2013 as a District Director, representing the Northern area of District 34, which includes Bee, Dewitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg and San Patricio Counties.  Jose worked closely with local officials, nonprofit organizations and other community leaders to address key concerns in the district. Throughout his time with the office, Jose worked closely within these communities to create opportunities for South Texas.  

Mariana is a South Texas native and joined Team Vela in 2015 as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus intern and later became a Legislative Correspondent and Legislative Assistant.  After completing her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, she returned to Congressman Vela’s staff where she worked on Homeland Security, Judiciary, and Trade issues and went on to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director.

Gabrielle, a Texas native, began her journey on Capitol Hill after graduating from DePaul University, where she earned a Master of Public Policy. She joined Team Vela as a fellow in 2019 and went on to become a Legislative Correspondent and Legislative Assistant, where she oversaw Congressman Vela’s health care, education, and environment portfolios.  Gabrielle continued her great work in the office and developed all digital social media content as the Digital Director on the Communications team.  

 Chelsea joined Team Vela in early 2021 as a Legislate Assistant. She worked on key issues in the office, including Broadband, Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means. Chelsea connected with local and federal officials on priorities for the district, and one of her biggest projects was legislation expanding broadband access to underserved communities in Texas’ 34th District.       

Leigh joined Team Vela in early 2020 as a Legislative Director focusing on issues related to the Congressman’s work on the House Armed Services Committee and Veterans issues. She helped spearhead the introduction of several pieces of legislation in the office that would assist veterans, student borrowers and COVID-19 victims.

“Earlier this year, I announced my plans to retire from my time in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Congressman Vela. “My family has a long and deep connection to South Texas and it has been an honor to serve as your Member of Congress.  As I finish my final session serving as your representative, I want to recognize some of the staff in my office who ensured that we continued to help the TX-34 community over the years.  

“I would like to take the opportunity to announce the departure of several integral members of Team Vela. Their endless hard work and dedication to the people of South Texas have had a meaningful and positive impact and I am truly honored to have been able to work alongside each one of them. I wish them the best in their new endeavors and know that they will go on to do great things in their new roles.  Thank you for your service to the 34th District of Texas!”



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