By Josh Edwards, Staff Writer
Published in The Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, October 21, 2023
David Cozadd was selected this spring as chairman of Burke’s board of directors, bringing full circle a career in mental health care that almost never began.
Burke — the region’s mental health system — is guided by a nine-member board led by Cozadd, who eventually found his calling after planning to become a teacher.
“It was actually happenstance,” Cozadd said. “After I got my undergraduate degree from SFA in art and sociology, I was looking for teaching jobs.”
A glut of teaching candidates filled the market in the mid-1970s, and the search was unsuccessful.
“I had interviewed and put in applications everywhere — rural areas, small towns, big cities. I even moved to Dallas to be closer to districts to interview,” he said.
He took a job at a grocery store in Dallas but was returning to Nacogdoches to visit his now-wife Amy Nixdorf.
“Before heading back to Dallas one day, a friend suggested stopping at Rusk State Hospital,” he said.
Cozadd decided to take the advice and was hired on the spot.
“I took a cut in pay from the grocery store to work in maximum security at Rusk State Hospital because I saw it as a career path,” he said.
In a way, this career path was a lot like teaching. Cozadd went back to school and earned his master’s degree in counseling from Stephen F. Austin State University. He worked in the substance abuse unit at Rusk State Hospital before becoming director of Woodland Heights Medical Center’s Begin Again Program and later leading substance abuse counseling programs at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital and in Colorado.
He came to work for Burke in 1993 and eventually became director of operations for the mental health provider.
“Burke is a good organization. I worked there 19 years. That’s the longest place I ever was employed,” he said.
He retired about 10 years ago to focus on running Galleria Z — Custom Picture Framing and Beyond.
“I wanted to do this before I was too old. I wanted to get back involved in the world of art,” he said. “I started out in that area. Not that I have any regrets. I still have a certain passion to be able to work in mental health.”
Shortly after his retirement, Cozadd was appointed to Burke’s board as the representative for Nacogdoches County.
“The Burke board provides some fairly general guidelines for the overall operation of the organization. It’s not the board’s role to micromanage the organization but to provide the lane lines in which an organization can operate,” he said. “The board can often play a role in helping support the overall goals or very specific goals of the organization.”
The organization has been fortunate to have board members with a wide variety of skills, Cozadd said.
“It is my hope to do anything I can to help maintain Burke as a provider of quality services, which means to continue to work at meeting the needs of our counties and our citizens,” he said. “I believe that we can always do more and that we can always be better.”
He said the Burke system is complex and provides a wide variety of services across the region.
“Burke enjoys a statewide reputation as one of the very best community centers within the state of Texas.,” Cozadd said, adding that Texas has 22 total community centers. “However, it’s a never-ending challenge to address all of the needs that arise within our 12 county service area. Compounding the challenge are funding shortages within the state of Texas and, currently, the availability of appropriate personnel.”
In Nacogdoches, the most visible Burke operation is a state-of-the-art adult and adolescent mental health clinic that opened on University Drive in 2019.
The organization sold its previous clinic on Northeast Stallings Drive to Nacogdoches ISD, which now uses it for administrative offices.
Burke also operates a workshop for intellectually and developmentally disabled people on South University Drive and a group home for them on the south loop in Nacogdoches. Early Childhood Intervention Services, which helps children overcome difficulties in early development, is also operated by Burke.
“There are additional Nacogdoches citizens employed with Burke programs in our other counties. Furthermore, SFASU graduates occupy more Burke professional positions than graduates of any other institution,” Cozadd said.
A nine-member Board of Trustees governs Burke. David Cozzad and the eight other members are appointed by the county commissioners in Burke’s service area to represent the needs of their communities. For more information on Burke’s Board of Trustees, visit myburke.org/about/board-of-trustees.