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Institute Staff

Bobby Burns – Interim Executive Director
(432) 552-2850

Bobby Burns is the President & CEO of the Midland Chamber of Commerce, a membership-based business organization working to build the best business climate on the planet in Midland, Texas. As President & CEO, Bobby also oversees VisitMidland, the VisitMidland Information & Travel Center, and the Bush Convention Center.

In his role at the Chamber, Burns has been instrumental in many accomplishments including the Chamber’s achievement of Accreditation, the formation of MidlandFirst, and the implementation of inter-city visits as an inspiration and catalyst for enhancement of Midland’s Quality of Place. Burns is a perfect fit for this challenging and dynamic role.

In addition to his 30+ years of business experience as owner of Robt. Burns Financial Group, Bobby served as the Executive Director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Bobby also served three terms as Mayor of Midland.

During his mayoral tenure, Bobby was instrumental in several key projects including the expansion and retail development of Loop 250, the addition of a new Midland International Airport Terminal, and the vision for and construction of Scharbauer Sports Complex, home to two professional sports teams. This combination of entrepreneurship and leadership help Burns bring a unique perspective to the organization.

Bobby has also actively held positions on numerous boards and committees, exemplifying his philosophy that true leadership begins with service to one’s community. Bobby holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
A lifelong learner, Bobby recently completed his professional designation of the Institute for Organizational Management through the United States Chamber’s Institute for Organizational Management at Villanova University.

Bobby and his wife Denise have been married for 41 years. Their son Austin Burns and his wife Whitney and son Tate live in Fort Worth, along with two grandtwins Beckett (boy) and Lincoln (girl).


Clay Finley – Director

(432) 552-2859

Clay Finley

Clay is an attorney, licensed in Illinois and California. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (cum laude), the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy (magna cum laude), and the Honors Program of the Helms School of Government at Liberty University (summa cum laude), with an above-average mix of extra-curricular activities, including a Big South-conference-champion team, a clinic, a student court, a couple journals, and some full-contact, after-dark Ultimate Frisbee.

Before joining the Institute in 2014, Clay worked as chief operating officer and corporate counsel for China Aid, a Texas nonprofit working to promote religious freedom and the rule of law in China. Clay also previously worked as a staff attorney for the Alabama Supreme Court and held a dozen other less-impressive (although generally healthier) jobs. Clay is passionate about creating order and beauty, and intensely curious about the ways structures and procedures (especially government action) shape and influence human behavior within societies, from the dynamics of small organizations to the vagaries of the international system.

In addition to his responsibilities as Director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Clay has taught leadership courses for UTPB as an adjunct instructor and serves as a Trustee of the Friends of the Presidential Archives.


Michael Huston – Coordinator of Administration and Special Events
(432) 552-2854