Lake Houston Business Matters Spring 2017

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New Kids on the Block

Meet the new leaders of the LHA

Get to know your Humble ISD Board candidates Humble Improvement Projects: What’s your city doing to improve it?


How they can help you and your business

Home Grown

Pamela Deats keeps Custom Built Awards on people’s shelves

Facebook Live

The ins, the outs and how to make it work for your business

Who's on the cover? (from L to R) Andrew McKinney, Deerbrook Mall; Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis; Mandy Stelzer, Lake Houston Family YMCA; Mark Mitchell, Lake Houston EDP; Dr. Elizabeth Fagen, Humble ISD; and Josh Urban, Memorial Hermann. Not pictured from this section: Delbert Dawes, Humble PD and Jamie Selby, Kingwood Country Club. Photo by Hope Photography

Lake Houston Business Matters is a quarterly publication of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. It is distributed to Chamber members and area businesses. Digital copies are available online at


Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce 110 West Main Street, Humble, Texas 77338 (281) 446-2128 |


Chair of the Board Rev. Jerry Martin Light of the World Christian Fellowship President & CEO Jenna Armstrong, IOM Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce


Contributing Writers Tom Broad – Jerry LaMartina – Morgan McGrath - Graphic Designer Jen Weber – Photographers Lynn Cheney – Robyn Choiniere —


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The Chamber is not responsible for advertisements included in this magazine. The information in this publication was compiled with care to ensure a high level of accuracy. Nonetheless, Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and MetroMedia cannot guarantee the correctness of the information provided or the complete absence of accidental errors. For changes or additions, contact the Chamber at (281) 446-2128. No article may be reproduced without permission of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. Spring 2017 | 3




of a major corporation or organization is not an easy feat. That new leader has to embed themselves into a community that may be completely unfamiliar with them and their work. They have to connect with the other leaders in the area too, because doing so allows them to communicate common problems and concerns with each other. This creates a network of people problem-solving together in the most efficient way possible and discover new ways of doing business.


Chief of the Humble Police Department After 30 years of serving and protecting the city of Humble, Delbert Dawes was promoted as chief of the Humble Police Department in November 2015 because of his dedication towards his community. Although Dawes was interested in law enforcement at a young age in the deep east Texas town of Colmesnell, police work is not where he started out. “My main occupation before becoming a police officer was a welder, machinist, then advancing to a tool-and-die maker,” Dawes said. “I would have probably stayed with this occupation, but the decline in oil production required of the United States that happened in 1980 caused me to close the doors of my machine shop.” When Dawes moved to Humble, he met mayor Dr. Haden McKay, who introduced him to the Humble Police Department. Dawes was then able to forge relationships with some officers, who he said “rekindled my desire to become a law enforcement officer and the rest is history.” Though Dawes had big shoes to fill after Chief Gary Warman retired from HPD after 35 years of service, Dawes believes his goals 4 | Lake Houston Business Matters

With so many new leaders in the Lake Houston Area in a very short amount of time, the area must put its best foot forward in welcoming them to our neighborhoods, organizations and communities. This might pose challenges to organizations that once may have been hand in hand, but new leadership in the area also means that new ideas and different ways of doing things can be brought to light. By introducing some of our new leaders to the community, the Chamber hopes to aid in connecting the Lake Houston Area and its businesses to these leaders so we can all help make this area grow and thrive.

for the force are achievable with the right people and the right mindset. “My first goal, with the help of my administration, is to create a working atmosphere where officers are anxious to come to work and anxious to make a difference in the quality of life for the citizens of our country,” Dawes said. “When officers are appreciated and recognized for their efforts, they realize that this is their police department and that they set the standards far above what has been acceptable. My goal as the chief is to bring this department to the rating of number one in the state.” Since Dawes has already woven himself into this community, his efforts in meeting with other business owners and homeowners in the Humble area has been seamless, which he said is something that is very important to him as chief. Dawes keeps himself busy with nine grandchildren, four daughters and his “wonderful and beautiful” wife Carrie Sue Dawes, along with his police family of 67 sworn personnel and an entire city to protect. When he’s not on patrol, Dawes enjoys hunting, fishing and tending to the family garden, as well as raising cattle, chickens and honey bees with his wife. Dawes has a simple message for the Lake Houston Area: “We certainly appreciate and want your business,” Dawes said. “Our department wants you to feel secure and comfortable when you’re here. Although we cannot stop crime altogether, we do strive to make a difference.”


Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Proudly born and raised in Houston, Rodney Ellis has worked diligently to improve the lives in his own community and in the state of Texas throughout his career. Ellis now serves as Harris County Precinct One Commissioner, after being elected last November. He previously served as a Texas Senator for more than 25 years and sat on the Houston City Council earlier in his career. “I came to realize early on in my political career that I could have the most impact as an elected official, one who is part of the decision-making process,” Ellis said. Public service has always been a passion of Ellis’ and it is also something he greatly values as an elected official. “I‘m the son of a yardman and a maid, and I was raised to believe a hard day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay,” Ellis said. “But the world isn’t always just and fair, and sometimes you have to fight for equality and justice. That’s my life’s mission – to help create a just and equal society for all people.” Stepping into this new role, Commissioner Ellis is charged with providing quality and accessible services and programs that

bridges and parks in Precinct One. He has many things that he would like to accomplish to make the Lake Houston Area community thrive. “I am working to ensure that we have an economy that helps all people, particularly middle-class and working families,” Ellis said. “I also am fighting to reform Harris County broken criminal justice system, including a bail system that punishes people simply because they are poor. I also will work to develop a comprehensive flood-control plan that will help protect Harris County residents and their property,” he said. “Additionally, we need to work to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.” In addition to Ellis’ job as commissioner, he is also a member of the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council; chair of the Board of Directors for the Innocence Project; and a member of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees. Ellis has four children and is married to wife Licia Green-Ellis. He also enjoys bike riding and art collecting. “Did I ever think I would serve in the position held by my close friend and mentor, the late Commissioner El Franco Lee? No, I certainly did not,” Ellis said. “Commissioner Lee was someone I often turned to when considering big decisions in my life. Today, I am honored and privileged to build on his legacy as Precinct One Commissioner.”

enhance the lives of the people as well as improving the roads,


Superintendent of the Humble Independent School District An unexpected opportunity from an interim dean to teach a college biology lab while still in college changed Dr. Elizabeth Fagen’s mind to pursue a career in education. “After a single day teaching the course, I realized that education is in my heart,” Fagen said. “It’s who I am. I knew it was what I wanted to do, so I immediately switched to be an education major.” The life of an educator is natural to Fagen, as she grew up with an educator — her mother — in her own home. She said that the community she grew up in centered itself around schools and school-sponsored activities, which is something to which she has stayed true to this day. Fagen spent the first years of her career in Iowa as a high school biology, advanced biology and chemistry teacher. She then progressed into leadership positions and ultimately ended up as associate superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “Each position strengthened my understanding of meeting unique student needs,” Fagen said. “I’ve worked in the very poorest county in Iowa. I’ve worked in Douglas County, which is one of the most affluent counties in the country. I’ve had a diverse experience that includes urban, suburban and rural. Today I realize that hav-

ing worked in many different situations really helped me learn and grow as a teacher, and also as a leader.” The Board of Trustees named Fagen superintendent of the Humble Independent School District last July, following the legacy that Dr. Guy Sconzo had left after more than 15 years of service. Before moving to the Lake Houston Area, Fagen also served as superintendent for the Douglas County School District in Colorado, and prior to that, superintendent for the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. “Humble ISD’s reputation for educating the whole child attracted me,” Fagen said. “This was the district I wanted for my own two daughters. The Humble ISD community is a wonderful place to raise a family. I also feel professionally aligned to the values of the Humble ISD community.” Fagen has many goals in place for her time with Humble ISD. “All parents depend on our schools to keep children safe, so safety is really important to me,” Fagen said. “One of my goals is to provide principals with expanded access to resources and training that will enhance the safety procedures we already have in place. And as a result of strong feedback from our students, staff, and families, we are also focused on upgrading and expanding technology access on our campuses. Finally, instructionally speaking, we will be continuing our long history of academic excellence while also empowering our talented teachers to do what they know is right for our students by aligning our support to the Portrait of a Graduate that was developed by our community.” Spring 2017 | 5


General Manager of Deerbrook Mall

Andrew McKinney hails from Chicago, but he grew up as an Air Force kid, so he got familiar early on with moving around a lot. He also learned to adapt to new places and new people, and took those strengths with him along his career path. McKinney worked for Chicago-based GGP Inc. for 10 years. The company owns and manages more than 120 shopping centers around the country, including Deerbrook Mall in Humble, Texas. McKinney moved to the Lake Houston Area last August from a job with GGP in Boca Raton, Florida, to take the position as Deerbrook Mall’s general manager. His wife’s family lives in Houston, so when the opportunity arose to transfer the Lake Houston Area, there was no question. McKinney earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and it’s served as


President of the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership Mark Mitchell used to be a firefighter, but he couldn’t put out the fire that started his passion for economic development that brought him to a career he loves. “I actually backed into economic development as a loaned executive from a gas utility company and fell in love with the industry,” Mitchell said. Mitchell became president of the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership in April. The Lake Houston EDP assists and supports existing area businesses expand as well as helps companies and individuals with on-site location and site selection of commercial and industrial land and buildings in the Lake Houston Area. It also provides demographic and market demand information necessary for building business plans, investments, funding and feasibility studies for projects in and around the community. Mark holds a B.A. from Indiana University and a M.B.A. from Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana, and is a LEED Accredited Professional. Prior to his work at the Lake Houston EDP, he served in various municipal, utility, state economic development and consulting roles in Michigan, Indiana and Texas, including serving as a lead executive for 6 | Lake Houston Business Matters

a good foundation for his career. “With my degree in business, I always saw myself doing something in business,” McKinney said. “My first job out of college was with a small real estate consulting firm, and then I found my way into property management.” McKinney said he didn’t know exactly where his career would lead him, but he’s come to think of the real estate investment trust industry he’s in as one that’s “as interesting and dynamic as any industry in business.” “I think my main goal of my job is to continue to make Deerbrook Mall a shopping center that the Lake Houston community values and enjoys visiting for years to come,” McKinney said. McKinney and his wife, Simona, have three children: Isabel, 8; Lydia, 6; and Evelyn, 4. Most of his free time centers around their daughters, but he also likes to scuba dive and play golf— “poorly,” he says. His take on the Lake Houston area? “This is a truly a fantastic place to live, work and play,” McKinney said. “My family and I are very happy with our move here, and we look forward to meeting more people every day.”

a regional economic development corporation, senior manager with a Big Four accounting firm and senior vice president of business development for a renewable-energy company. He was also a firefighter for the Indianapolis Fire Department. Michell has received numerous state and local awards for community and economic development. He has been asked to author numerous articles and speak on various topics involving traditional incentives, tax-increment financing and workforce development and industry trends over the course of his career. However, economic development is not Mitchell’s only initiative. “My volunteer passion is focused on traditional and digital literacy efforts for all ages,” Mitchell said. “Growing up in the inner city of Indianapolis and then being bussed to another school district in the suburbs really taught me how important basic literacy is to the quality of life you lead and how being able to make good decisions is so critical to future success.” Mitchell is originally from Indianapolis, but moved to the Lake Houston Area nine years ago with his wife, Tracy, and his two sons, Luke and Seth. Mitchell enjoys reading, playing tennis and riding his motorcycle in his free time. Though Mitchell is new to the position, he is excited to be a part of the growth of the area. “I’m truly honored to be representing the Lake Houston EDP,” Mitchell said. “The board and executive leadership have built a solid foundation and the communities within the partnership are all poised for great things. I’m excited to be a part of it.”


General Manager of The Clubs of Kingwood There was no doubt in Jamie Selby’s mind the day that he picked up his first set of golf clubs. This is what he was meant to do. And he knew from the moment he started, that he wanted to do as much as he could to advance his career in the golfing industry. Selby is the new general manager of The Clubs of Kingwood and Deerwood Country Club, both owned by Dallas-based ClubCorp, which is one of the largest private country clubs in the ClubCorp portfolio and in the world. He started the job in midJanuary after an eight-year hiatus from the company. Selby originally wanted to be a head golf professional, but when he went off to college, he was able to focus in on what he really wanted to do. “I played it, loved it and was great at it when I was younger,” he said. “I started my collegiate education at a private school, Campbell University in North Carolina, which offered a degree centered on the career of professional golf management.” Selby studied for a semester at the school but decided to focus on the science of the field. He transferred to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), where he received a bachelor of environmental science degree with and emphasis in turf grass management, and a bachelor of science degree in horticulture with a landscape and architectural contracting emphasis.


Community Executive Director of Lake Houston Family YMCA Health and fitness are two things that are very important to Mandy Stelzer and those two things are the foundation of her career and her current position at the Lake Houston Family YMCA. Stelzer joined the YMCA as the community executive director last June after having worked with the YMCA of Greater Houston for 18 years. She is originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, but grew up in the Clear Lake area and now lives in Spring. She received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology-exercise science from the University of Houston and she’s been putting her degree to good use. “Prior to working for the YMCA, I was a personal trainer and worked in corporate wellness,” Stelzer said. “I came to the YMCA as healthy living director and helping people achieve their goals and get healthy was what drew me here.” Stelzer knew she’d stay in the health and wellness field when she started her career, but she couldn’t anticipate exactly where she’d end up.

During his time between working for Club Corp, Selby worked as a regional vice president in Jacksonville, Florida for Hampton Golf. Earlier in his career, Selby was also superintendent on the golf-maintenance side of the industry and a head golf pro and assistant general manager. He also owned a golf course with a partner for a couple of years. Selby’s goals for the club are simple. “My primary goals in my current job are to create the best member experience possible for the 3,100 loyal members that we have at The Clubs of Kingwood and Deerwood, facilitate club growth and strengthen the foundation of Kingwood and Deerwood for the future,” Selby said. In his new role, Selby plans to refresh the entire club’s atmosphere. “We are reinventing the total experience of the The Clubs of Kingwood and Deerwood, both for our members and also our entire Kingwood, Texas, community, which is our neighbor,” Selby said. “We intend to become partnered and aligned with area chambers and organizations to once again reestablish the clubs as not just the center of the community but also the community center, where everything happens.” Selby is originally from Danville, Virginia. He and his wife, Brandi, have a 2-year-old son, Pierce. His hobbies include playing golf, fishing and boating. Oh, and his golf handicap? “When I was great and wanted to be a pro, it was scratch to a +1, now, it’s about a 6 handicap,” Selby said. “Why am I a 6? Work, family and my 2-year-old son.”

“I didn’t know I’d be in the position I’m now, building relationships in the community and doing a lot of fundraising,” Stelzer said. “I get to see the impact we have in the community and touching people’s lives.” Stelzer will soon be a graduate of the sixth class of the Chamber’s Leadership Lake Houston program, which has introduced her to all aspects of the area, including other organizations she wants to take a more active part in. “My ultimate goal is to get involved in other organizations in the area, sitting on committees and boards,” Stelzer said. “That will enable me to help the community in other ways that the YMCA doesn’t do.” Outside of work, Stelzer has a few hobbies, including playing and watching sports and spending time with her family and friends. Her place as a leader in the area only makes her drive to improve the community more powerful. “I get to see all the families, kids and adults who are helped by the YMCA, and the financial assistance we can provide to them because we’re a nonprofit is important to me,” Stelzer said. “I’m excited to be here and excited to get to know people and partner with other organizations in the community to make (the Lake Houston Area) a stronger place to work and live.” Spring 2017 | 7


Senior Vice President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Northeast and The Woodlands Exposed to the health care industry at a young age, Josh Urban knew striving for a healthier community was something that he was meant to do. “While I always wanted to work in health care, I didn’t know where my career path would lead,” Urban said. “When I began my career 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have guessed I would become the CEO of two incredible hospitals.” In February, Urban became Senior Vice President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Northeast and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. He has been with the Memorial Hermann hospital system for 17 years after completing his undergraduate degree in business administration at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and completing his MHA/MBA at the University of Houston Clear Lake. Urban has worked his way up the ladder in the health care industry through many different jobs, from project manager to chief ambulatory services officer, which gave him a well-rounded perspective of the relationships between hospitals and their patients. “After learning about the challenges (hospitals) faced caring for patients and discussing recommendations for improving patient care, I realized I also wanted to contribute to the industry by working to reduce barriers that make it difficult for patients to receive the best care,” Urban said. “I am passionate about serving others and helping those in need, so I knew a career in health care

would be very rewarding.” Being the CEO of two major Houston area hospitals is definitely challenging, but Urban wants the Lake Houston Area to know that he plans to be fully invested in the community, regardless if he commutes here or not. “I am dedicated to being equally involved in the communities my hospitals serve,” Urban said. “I also look forward to working alongside my colleagues at Memorial Hermann Northeast to continue to grow and enhance our offerings, and further establish ourselves as the trusted, go-to health care provider in the Lake Houston Area. I look forward to connecting with the people who make up this vibrant community.” Though Urban has only been in the positon for a few months, he’s already diving deep into the community by aligning himself with area businesses and being part of organizations like the Lake Houston Area Planning Council, the Montgomery County American Heart Association and the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership. Urban is originally from Parker, Colorado, but moved to the north Houston area 22 years ago to be near family and to attend graduate school. He married his wife, Tanya, 20 years ago and has a 4-year-old son named Lochlen. Urban enjoys fishing, hunting and traveling. He has also competed in the IRONMAN World Championship and is a former marathon runner. “My personal mission is to ensure that the communities we serve continue to have access to high-quality, patient-centered care,” Urban said. “I am dedicated to enhancing the service offerings at our facilities and continuing to providing world-class care for Lake Houston Area residents. I want to continue developing both personally and professionally so I can live a rewarding and fulfilling life.”

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Spring 2017 | 9

Educate YourselfGet to know your Humble ISD Board Candidates


ne of the primary goals of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce is to civically engage local community members and businesses with local elections. The election for the Humble Independent School District School Board Candidates takes place on May 6, with early voting starting on April 24 to May 2. The Chamber recently contacted all candidates running for a position on the Humble ISD School Board and surveyed them with the questions below. Each question had a 100-word limit, and answers have not been edited for content, grammar or spelling.

“ What issue prompted your decision to run for school board this term?”

Abby Whitmire

Humble ISD Trustee Position 4, Nonincumbent A sizeable portion of the community feels that their concerns have been ignored or dismissed by the current board. This district belongs to all of us, and everyone in the district deserves to be addressed with dignity and respect.

Bob Rehak Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Nonincumbent Numerous people expressed dissatisfaction with the direction and openness of the current board. They felt I could make a difference and urged me to run.

Angela Conrad Humble ISD Trustee Position 3, Incumbent I want to ensure that our schools are among the highest achieving schools in the state and that requires true alignment across the organization. I’m exciting about this challenge because of the input gathered recently from business representatives, community leaders, parents, students and educators to create our “Portrait of a Graduate.”

Christopher Herron Humble ISD Trustee Position 3, Nonincumbent

10 | Lake Houston Business Matters

I believe that public funds should be used for public schools. With the prospect of the Texas legislature considering bills to allow “school choice,” and the current Humble ISD board’s decision to hire Dr. Elizabeth Fagen, it appeared that our school board was positioning itself to implement a school voucher program. My personal story was made possible by public schools. Public schools gave me the tools and skills to choose my own path. I have a vested interest in making sure that our children have the same opportunity I have had. I decided to make my pro-public school voice heard.

Cliff Crossett Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent I currently have 2 children in the Humble ISD School system with 2 more starting in the next few years. So I will have 4 children going through the school system. I want to know that we are doing everything possible to give our kids the best future possible if they take what we give them and run with it. I want to know that we’ve done it responsibly, and we’ve left a bright future for those who follow in our footsteps through Humble ISD and the surrounding communities.

***Edgar Clayton, running for Position 5, was contacted several times for comment, but the Lake Houston Area Chamber received no response from him.

Shawn Biazar Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent The demographics of the Board consists of people with backgrounds in finance, business and education. Many of my fellow candidates come from or are well educated in these areas of study. I would like to round out the Board by adding a member with a solid foundation in safety and security.

Jonathan Prevot Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent I am not running in reaction to any issues. My wife and I chose our home because we wanted our children to be in Humble ISD schools. I am running for Position 5 to be a positive force in our community and in the lives of our future neighbors. The issues that are important to me include our budget and preparing our children for success after high school. That includes students prepared to enter college and the work force.

Roli Cruz Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Nonincumbent A lack of #equityineducation and seeing the dangerous decisions that are being made in this country that will have an effect on our communities and schools prompted me to run in Humble ISD. We are responsible for the preparation of an entire generation and we must make sure they are prepared for the task by helping them to fully learn, develop and compete.

Robert Panzarella

Charles Cunningham Humble ISD Trustee Position 4, Incumbent I was initially an active volunteer and a concerned parent of children who attended school in Humble ISD. I ran for the school board in order to improve education and make a difference for the children in our communities. Currently I am serving as board parliamentarian; I am also chairman of the Board’s Audit Committee and serves as the Board’s representative to the Humble ISD Education Foundation Board. I am also a member of the Finance Committee and the Building and Planning Committee.

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent There was not one issue that prompted me to run. I wanted to run as I felt that it was time for me to give myself to public service. I wanted to do my best to make the Humble ISD the best district that it could possibly be. I am a legacy candidate as my mother was the first woman on the Humble School board. I have lived here my entire life. I went to Humble schools and my kids all went to Kingwood schools.

Lohit Datta-Barua Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent There are several issues like school ranking, funding, growth, community relation, etc. However, as a family of educators it is the ranking of some schools that prompted me run for the baord to get involved in the decision making process to devote full time to excellence in education for area children. Our children had graduated from Humble High School and went onto Stanford and Princeton University. Education is the only vehicle to the future for our children and we cannot leave any school, any student behind.

Robert Sitton Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Incumbent The greatest challenge for Humble ISD is growth. We are currently serving over 41,000 students. That number is expected to top 52,000 over the next eight years. We must manage that growth with new facilities and additional staffing needs. We must remain fiscally responsible while meeting the needs of all students and continuing to attract and retain the best teachers possible.

Martina Dixon Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent There was no particular issue that prompted my decision to run. I feel a school board trustee should have proven leadership experience with a heart for educating all children, and I have both.

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Roli Cruz

Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Nonincumbent How would you address the issue(s) that prompted you to run for the school board?

What is your position on vouchers for public school?

What factors do you believe the state consider in their accountability rankings of school districts?

What role, if any, should business play in public education?

What prior board and/or community involvement experience do you have? (either private, public or non-profit)

What professional experience or skill will be an asset to you as a Humble ISD board member?

My entire campaign is hinged on these tenets: Care, where our district cares the full development of our students through initiatives that focus on physical health and advocacy, Collaboration, where our district emphasizes wellness for educators and a strong community, and Communication, where we commit to accountability and the sharing of ideas. We need to show students a model that they can replicate on local and global levels and it starts with these tenets.

I do not support the use of public school vouchers, but rather making #equityineducation the focus of our district. Quality education should be the standard, not an option and making sure that all public schools perform at an optimum level is my passion and should be our goal as a district. These factors are important to look at when it comes to measuring accountability:are the full breadth of resources made available to the district, what type of support do educators and staff receive, have all things been been considered for each student when measuring competency, proficiency and growth, responsible allocation of funds and how families are prepared to make classroom education come full circle at home.

Bob Rehak

Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Nonincumbent Listen. Learn. Lead.

I am against vouchers. They have the potential to undermine the financial stability of our public school system, which already offers exceptional choice. Plus, no one has yet defined how private schools that would benefit from public tax dollars would be overseen or held accountable. I respect the current five domains proposed by the State (with slight rewording): Student achievement, Continuous improvement, Helping students who fall behind, Post secondary readiness, Community and student engagement I also believe Districts should be compared on: Extracurricular offerings, Special ed, Financial management and debt ratios, Maintenance/upgrades of older facilities, Class size and student/teacher ratios, Teacher training (continuing education) and turnover, Counseling, Ability of students to learn on their own, Language offerings, Customer-service ratings for school-board members.

There should be a symbiotic relationship where businesses provide resources and mentorship to students and in return they receive the best talent for their industry. After all, we are not just educating children, we are educating leaders who will carry our country for generations to come.

I strongly believe in public/private partnerships. They represent a way to supplement the offerings of schools at low/no cost, prepare students for careers, and show them how the concepts they learn in the classroom can be used in the real world. The latter adds excitement and a sense of purpose to education that stimulates self-learning.

The City of Humble has been where myself and siblings have all been educated. At the moment I have a sister who is in high school in the district. This has given me first hand knowledge of the issues and a familiarity with the community and what they deem important to them when it comes to education — all insight that is key to the position on the school board. Additionally, working at a Fortune 500 company I have been placed in several stretch roles that has taught me how to drive develop and execute a strategy with many key stakeholders.

I was: President of the North Park Place CA for almost two decades. President of the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council, which represented more than 30 homeowner and commercial associations, the Humble ISD, Lone Star College and two Chambers of Commerce to the City of Houston. Board member of the Kings Forest Homeowner and Bear Branch Trail Associations, Steward of East End Park, Founding member of the All-Earth Ecobot Challenge. In addition, I have donated services to raise awareness of many local charities.

I am an analytical thinker who believes that every decision should start with a why and then a how. Decisions should be rooted in strategy and executed with compassion. I’ve learned personally and professionally that I thrive where I can analyze, calculate and decide towards the desired outcome. My professional experience has placed me in front of all kinds of people from a grandparent curious about technology to the stakeholders of the largest tech company we know. I have been able to serve both well and plan to do the same on Humble ISD.

Before retiring last year after 45 years in the communications business, I was a senior executive of two global ad agencies and founded my own, which quickly became one of Houston’s top ten agencies. That start-up experience helps bring a “customer service” perspective as well as financial oversight experience to the board. I understand the needs of educators because I was one — a professor at Northwestern University. I also have experience in building a public/ private partnership called the Environmental Marketing and Advertising Council. It included Fortune 500 companies, environmental groups, media, government regulators and even the United Nations.

12 | Lake Houston Business Matters

Robert Sitton

Humble ISD Trustee Position 1, Incumbent The impact of sound financial management, addressing our debt and taking care of our staff, has positioned us well. We completed all 2008 bond projects, including the purchase 7 tracks of land and building 3 new schools needed for anticipated growth. We retired and/or refunded high interest debt and saved the tax payers in excess of $100 million dollars. We passed a balanced or surplus budget for the past 6 years, while adding $40 million to staff payroll moving teacher pay to 4th in our peer group. A future bond referendum will be needed to keep up with anticipated growth. I am against any proposal that would divert public money away from public schools with little or no accountability. Our board passed a resolution earlier this year opposing vouchers and most recently, it was part of our legislative agenda passed at the February board meeting.

Having been a teacher, I am firmly against “teaching to the test.” Too much emphasis has been placed on a single, high stakes test. Does it really measure what happens in the classroom? While in Austin in February, I met with Mike Morath, Texas Commissioner of Education. We had a very productive meeting concerning the new A-F system. We agreed, as well as the elected officials I met with, this system needed changes. Less emphases on “the test” and attendance, and more emphasis on desired outcomes with more local control. I think it is vital that we maintain public/private partnerships with local business. Our curriculum must keep our students relevant in the market place. I am very proud of the partnerships that have been formed in the past few years. For example, we have added internships in the automotive industry and the architecture industry, as well as others. With the passage of HB 5 in the 2015 legislative session, it has given us the flexibility to add additional pathways to career readiness. We must give every student the tools they need to be successful regardless their chosen path. I taught school for eight years in Aldine ISD. It’s very rewarding to see my former players and students today and all they have accomplished. I spent several years involved with the Humble Baseball Association and the Humble Area Football League. I volunteered with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo for ten years. Currently, I serve as the Chairman of Kingwood Medical Center and on the Executive Committee for the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, I was honored as Citizen of the Year and in 2104 with the Lifetime Membership Award from the Council of PTAs. I am currently a partner with Edward Jones Investments. Combining my business experience with my experience in the classroom, gives me a unique prospective. I can understand the financial constraints of the district and the financial needs of the teachers. Over the past six years, as a trustee, I have utilized these experiences serving on various committees, most notably, the Finance and Building & Planning committees. Another committee that I currently chair, the Program Evaluation committee, evaluates the efficiencies and relevance of district programs. Prioritizing from an educator’s view and from a finance view is paramount for our continued success.

Specializing in


Independent Bank

2661 Royal Forest Drive Kingwood, Texas 77339 713.600.6789

A Better Career Starts Today!

Lone Star College • 281-312-1600 • EEOC Spring 2017 | 13

Angela Conrad

Humble ISD Trustee Position 3, Incumbent

How would you address the issue(s) that prompted you to run for the school board?

What is your position on vouchers for public school?

What factors do you believe the state consider in their accountability rankings of school districts?

What role, if any, should business play in public education?

What prior board and/or community involvement experience do you have? (either private, public or non-profit)

What professional experience or skill will be an asset to you as a Humble ISD board member?

Christopher Herron

Humble ISD Trustee Position 3, Nonincumbent

Organizational alignment is the key to achieving better performance. This will require the board to develop strong vision and mission statements that reflect a common understanding of community expectations for students’ educational experiences. From there, administration can then set strategic objectives that are aligned with the district’s long-term goals and translate these strategic objectives into an operational strategy that can be implemented, monitored and evaluated.

I would support initiatives and policies which directed public funds exclusively to public schools. With already limited resources available to our public schools, diverting any funds would be a devastating and crippling blow to our public school system. I will counter the argument for competition to public schools by pushing for school programming which addresses root causes of the achievement gap and poor student preparation for success after high school. It is my intention not to leave behind any student not able to take advantage of a voucher or student savings account.

I believe that all Texas students deserve access to a quality education. Taking money from public schools to fund vouchers not only hurts students and local communities, it also creates an unnecessary entitlement program because only a portion of Texas students would actually qualify for the entitlement. Further, private schools are not required to report test results, graduation rates, and other performance metrics to the public, leaving taxpayers in the dark on how well students are being educated. I’m also worried about the risk of losing funding for programs aimed at helping students with special needs and disabilities.

I believe that voucher programs frequently present a false choice and a false hope to many families. Unlike public schools, private schools do not have the same accountability to the community. They use selective admission processes. Students can be expelled or dismissed without adequate due process. Vouchers and/or student savings accounts may not be sufficient in covering tuition, course fees and extra-curricular expenses. These financial responsibilities fall on the families.

I support the establishment of a comprehensive assessment and accountability system that looks beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice exams to meaningful assessments that have value for students, parents, and teachers, as well as measures what each community deems important in promoting college and career readiness. It should be a fair and understandable system for illustrating school performance that does not rely on simple labels such as A through F.

I believe the state should consider individual student progress, closing the performance gap, and post-secondary readiness. I believe that schools should be measured against individual student progress in mastering fundamental skills and knowledge in Reading, Math, Science and Social Studies. We should have a means to calculate a return on our investments in students and teachers.

Businesses partnering with public schools creates mutual benefits for each party. Business owners provide insight into what employers need from those entering the workforce and that helps assist in curriculum development. Additionally, as businesses support public schools by offering internship and job shadowing opportunities, it helps produce a better educated future workforce. Businesses can also contribute volunteer time and money, which provides schools with the extra support they need in key areas and can boost morale and improve retention for the business.

I believe that our district should partner with businesses along several dimensions – acquisition of resources, planning of curriculum to meet business needs, and job training and internship programs. Partnering with the business community can lead to better student experiences and better outcomes for post-secondary readiness. Expected outcomes can include measurable and meaningful returns to the community like increased graduation rates, lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer children entering the criminal justice system.

I’m currently serving as Vice-President of the Humble ISD Board of Trustees and chair the Board’s Technology & Data Governance Committee and the Board and Superintendent Evaluation Committee. I also serve on the Legislative Committee and previously on the Audit Committee. I am a recent graduate of the Leadership Lake Houston program with the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and participate in alumni and BizCom events.

Most recently I earned my Master Trustee designation from the Leadership TASB program in preparation for future service to Humble ISD. Participating in this program allowed me to build relationships with colleagues from around the state while discovering solutions for today’s public education challenges and learning how to address the challenges the future is expected to bring.

14 | Lake Houston Business Matters

I have worked on the boards of the Girls Scouts of Southeast Florida from 2010-2015, and the American Lung Association of Southeast Florida from 2008-2015. In addition to serving of the board of the Girl Scouts, I served in the capacity as Treasurer from 2013-2015, and was the Chairman of the American Lung Association from 2014-2015.

My professional life has evolved to having competencies and abilities to solve complex problems with multidimensional inputs in ambiguous environments and figuring out how to achieve organizational growth in those same environments. The challenges the district, a large and complex organization, will face over the next few years will require trustees skilled in understanding how to assess and frame situations, identify alternatives, and make plans to achieve objectives and goals. I would bring the experience of navigating the intersection of public, private, and governmental interests and entities. I have developed billion-dollar projects and understand finance and accounting.

Charles Cunningham

Abby Whitmire

Humble ISD Trustee Position 4, Incumbent

Humble ISD Trustee Position 4, Nonincumbent

My objective for this school district is to ensure that all of our children have access to a quality education. An education that enables them to achieve their full potential and that will allow them to compete for opportunities on a state, national and global stage.

If I am elected to the school board, I plan to set aside time weekly to meet with community members, parents, and anyone who would like to talk to a board member, in addition to an open-door policy. I will take their perspectives to the full board and push for a respectful and thoughtful response.

I am for school choice. Humble ISD is a school district of choice. We have the Early College, Career Technology & Education (CTE), International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. I am not going to stop speaking out for real school choice, not the mythical system of choice that was being considered this legislative session. I have friends who have children with disabilities. I am frustrated when their children are used as an excuse to support school vouchers.

Taxpayer dollars should be spent on schools that are open to all children and accountable to the people. Under most voucher bills, private schools can take taxpayer money and deny admission to any student they choose – it’s the private school making the “choice” to admit students. Money that would usually go to public schools pays for vouchers, causing them to lose state funding to pay for vouchers without being able to cut overall operating costs. For example, Milwaukee was forced to raise property taxes multiple times to ensure the public schools were adequately funded after their voucher program began.

I believe in accountability, but that accountability must factor in the needs of our children and must allow for multiple ways to assess them. I will continue to speak up for a better and more accurate accountability system and not for a system that is based on a flawed, high stakes test like A-F (STAAR). A test that we know is flawed is not good for our children or teachers.

A good accountability system should look past standardized test scores and include various measures of student achievement, like grades, student work, teacher evaluations, attendance, and graduation rates. It should also measure what the district is providing for resources, space, class sizes, experienced and accomplished teachers, and a rich curriculum. The goal of accountability rankings should be to help districts improve, instead of punishing them.

I am a Businessman and through my service on the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and with my company at Center Point Energy, I have been a leader in bring business and education together. I have been instrumental in organizing business and education forums. Whether the goal is workforce readiness or an opportunity to support the community, business throughout the state have benefited from collaboration with school districts.

The local business community plays an important role as a partner in education. Businesses can provide valuable extracurricular support through programs like internships and other projects that offer students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience to apply their knowledge in the working world, contributing to activities like coding clubs, vocational skills classes, and shadow programs. The business community can also raise much-needed supplemental funding for educational activities and programs.

Prior to being elected to the Humble ISD board, my community involvement included serving on the Lake Houston Chamber Governmental Affairs Committee, Vice-Chairman, Northshire III HOA President, Boys Scouts of America District Finance Chairman, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 66 Credit Union Board Member, and Humble Parent Teacher Association Member.

I was a member of the 2013 Class of Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans, an initiative to engage young leaders in philanthropy. Members pool funds, collaborate on teams and allocate grants impacting crucial issues. As a Junior League member, I’ve chosen projects that directly impact children. In New Orleans, I trained students with the Safe Sitter program, which teaches child care training to all youth. In Houston, I volunteered at the Holocaust Museum, which hosts schools and operates a robust education program, and at Ben Taub, working with teen moms to ensure they had support to begin their parenting journeys.

The skills that I bring to the board are my Business Acumen, Education Experience and Community Service.

I have dedicated my life in service of others. In my career as a nonprofit fundraiser, I worked tirelessly to promote the missions of my organizations. I have developed budgets, built relationships with community stakeholders, and successfully solicited donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government grants.

Spring 2017 | 15

Shawn Biazar

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent

How would you address the issue(s) that prompted you to run for the school board?

I would like to re-establish the LETS program within the police department. LETS is an acronym for Law Enforcement Teaching Students. LETS allows law enforcement to have positive interactions with students. I would like to see reliable camera systems with good video quality in all buses. If the District would invest and implement a student ridership tracking system using RFID technology in our buses, it would aid in the quick and efficient location of missing students.

What is your position on vouchers for public school?

What factors do you believe the state consider in their accountability rankings of school districts?

What role, if any, should business play in public education?

I do not support the voucher program, as I believe there is no inherent accountability.

Cliff Crossett

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent

Two big things that jump out at me is Humble ISD’s ballooning debt which needs to be brought back under control, and our Title 1 schools which the ISD now has 11 of them. We need to address both of these issues and turn these negatives around.

I’m not generally in favor vouchers. That being said if someone had a specific plan not just a general idea I would always being willing to listen. The school boards job is to help effect positive change. We can’t effectively do this with a closed mind.

I believe the state should look at the District holistically when considering accountability rankings. At a minimum, they should consider: • Cumulative student grade point average • Student attendance • Student graduation rate • Performance on standardized testing • Improvement on standardized testing from previous years

I think that the teachers are being forced to teach to the STAAR test and that’s sad. When teachers are forced to teach to a test it takes away their ability to help facilitate real learning for the kids. When we take into account Reading, Writiing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies you need to be able to think and reason your way with things not just learn how to take a test. We need to get back to their grades not tests.

Businesses should play an active role in public education. They could help provide a supporting hand in helping students reach their full potential. It has been said in many circumstances, but also applies to education: It takes a village to raise a child.

Our local businesses are very important in our schools. The businesses and our children help each other. Our children learn from local businesses, and our local businesses and their leaders benefit greatly from getting involved with the school systems. It takes support from one another to be successful. If you want to see one local business that does a GREAT job just take a look at HEB. They really support our educational system.

What prior board and/or community involvement experience do you have? (either private, public or non-profit)

What professional experience or skill will be an asset to you as a Humble ISD board

I have a great deal of experience and success solving complex problems under stressful conditions during my past and present position as a Texas peace officer. From this, I have learned and come to understand the value of communication and interacting with the community. I am most effective when listening to people and understanding their wants and needs.

Having worked for the District police department for over a decade before transitioning to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, I am familiar with some of the challenges we face. I am personally vested in the District and the community that I serve with school and student safety being my top priority.


16 | Lake Houston Business Matters

I’m on the board for US Cardio Partners as well as Rhythm Endovascular & Heart Institute of Texas. I coached my son’s KFL 7 on 7 football team last year, and our kids are involved in Rowland Ballard Ballet and in Kuk Sool Won.

I think being a business owner and having to make tough decisions on a daily basis will help me. This is especially important when looking at the dollars and cents of running a school district. When you look at this it helps distinguish that no other candidate for Position 5 has my business background or experience in running a business with their own dollars involved and at risk.

Lohit Datta-Barua

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent

Martina Dixon

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent

Focus on student centric customized learning based on aptitude and special educational needs. Attract the best teachers with motivation to inspire every student and provide appropriate tools. Emphasize unconventional learning ensuring that education meets the future resource needs for a changing environment in business, technology and global competition. Ensure that every tax dollar is spent on value added education.

See question 1.

I firmly believe in spending public money for public education only. Tax dollar must not be syphoned to private for-profit education through so called voucher or good sounding word like “school choice”. Public education is the back bone of this country. The great majority of Americans are products of public education. If public education is falling behind, we need to improve it, not abandon. If public education is abandoned, it will further divide the country into rich and poor, educated and uneducated. We need to invest more in public education, not less.

Vouchers are a state issue, not a school board issue. I would follow any legislation the state puts forth regarding school vouchers. However, vouchers may not be in the best interest of Humble ISD, because any loss of revenue could prove to be detrimental to the district.

A district’s success is not simply their students’ grades or reading, writing and math, although those are important elements. It is about creating a true learning environment. The success matrix of measurement of a school district should include the following, but not limited to curriculum offered, graduation rate, dropout rate, socioeconomic environment of a particular student community of a school, diversity or lack of it, health & safety record, leadership of the district, innovative ways to reach out to disadvantaged student community, merit incentive to attract the best qualified teachers, funds spent on actual education vs support services.

I like the A-F accountability rating in place, because it is easy for those outside of education to understand. However, there are criteria within each competency in need of tweaking, for example, I do not think attendance should weigh so heavily as a measure for elementary and middle schools in regards to whether we are bridging the gap with underserved student populations.

Business is the recipient of resources from public school products. They have a moral obligation to invest itself into education and the community for its own sustainability. Public-private partnership is essential with an unbiased business support for the sake of education to develop the human resources for a changing business environment. Educators role is to educate and businesses role should be to support financially or otherwise and to advise on the type of future resources they may need.

Businesses have a vital role in public education, but mostly it comes from supporting the schools by donating time, money, and goods.

A past Board Member for the American School of Gas Measurement Technology, A past Keynote speaker for Texas Gas Association (TGA) annual conference, Volunteered at AMS (1st President of Orchestra Booster club), HHS (Band Booster Club), currently volunteering at Fall Creek Elementary School, Volunteered for Houston ISD Junior Achievement program & Texas Scholar program. I was instrumental in establishing an English Language Fellow program working with the US Embassy in Luanda and the University of Agostinho Neto, the biggest public university in Angola, Worked w/ Houston Hunger Network at a Food pantry, Worked at Humble Area Assistance Ministry.

Currently, I serve as treasurer on the Humble ISD Education Foundation Executive Board. I am a former school board trustee at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, a former board of director at Cherish Our Children International, a former Council of PTA’s executive board member, I headed the planning committee to reinstate Humble High School’s PTSA, and I was the Lake Houston Chamber’s Leadership class president in 2013-2014. I am, also, a member of the Humble-Kingwood Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, and the Kings Trail Chapter of the NCL.

Ours is a family of educators – my biological father, brother, sisterin-law, daughter, son-in-law all are educators. I am an educator, an engineer, an author and an inventor. To me education is the only vehicle for our children’s future. However, as an engineer I shall add diversity of thought to the board. As an engineer we like tackling issues. My project management skill delivering projects within budget and schedule with safety and quality will add another dimension and help manage budget and capital expansion of a very fast growing school district in the state.

I have a BA in Communications from Auburn University, my post baccalaureate in Construction Management in Engineering from LSU, and my teacher certification from University of Thomas. I have school board experience, non-profit board experience, financial experience, I have extensive school board leadership training with the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools, chamber leadership training, and I am a former teacher with 10 years of experience.

(see previous answer on page 11)

Spring 2017 | 17

Robert Panzarella

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent

How would you

See above.

address the issue(s) that prompted you to run for the school board? (see previous answer on page 11)

What is your position on vouchers for public school?

What factors do you believe the state consider in their accountability rankings of school districts?

Jonathan Prevot

Humble ISD Trustee Position 5, Nonincumbent Humble ISD has a bottom up budget process. Meaning the district must develop the budget and provide justification at each level up to the board. This can provide cost savings, but requires that the board be diligent in determining what costs are truly justified. Ultimately, I would like to see Humble ISD decrease its reliance on bonds. This will be a long process, but it will save money and provide a positive financial future. I would like to work with the district to develop extracurricular activities that are self funded or community supported.

I would not be for vouchers. They hurt public education for many reasons and I am afraid they would hurt some of our poorer schools the worst. They are a part of the national movement to privatize education and dismantle public education.

I am against school vouchers. I am against any program that would put public funds into an institution, public or private, that has little to no oversight by the taxpayers funding it. Parents should be in control of their children’s education. Parents have a greater vested interest in their children’s success than anyone else in the discussion. However, abandoning the public school for a private one with public funds is not the answer. Greater community involvement is needed.

Accountability has to be about more than test scores. Right now our accountability system is mostly a measure of poverty and not at all a measure of the quality of education at any particular school. I think it’s okay to consider test scores and graduation rates etc but we should also be looking at schools like they are the center of their community. The state does not adequately fund education which puts everyone at a disadvantage. Recapture needs to be fixed and pressure needs to be put on legislators to fund public ed.

School districts need to nurture well rounded students capable of entering both college and the workforce in a cost effective way. Districts should be graded on student academic success, but also on student’s placement after high school and the district’s financial stability. Benchmarks for student placement should include students entering college, students entering the work force, how well they are prepared for that transition and who is actively recruiting those students. Financial benchmarks should include spending per student, tax rate, growth and debt.

Business partners are great but we have to be careful not to let big donors have any control or influence over curriculum, programming, etc. If a business becomes a school partner or donates money they sometimes think they have a seat at the table when it comes to school planning. Decisions about education should be made by educators. School board trustees should speak and act on behalf of the educators and students they represent which means we need to talk to the teacher and we have to do it often.

Local business should have an active roll in public education. Ultimately we want our children to be productive members of society. It will be these businesses that our children will apply to for employment during, after, or instead of college. It is these businesses that will ultimately determine if we have truly prepared our children for success and what skills we need to improve. Local businesses should want to actively participate in public education, without a strong workforce they can not produce for their customers, and without a successful workforce they may have no customers.

I have been on the Northeast Hospital Board of Authority for over 15 years. I have overseen million dollar budgets with the hospital and I have been actively involved in the sale of the hospital. I have been very active in Boy Scouts with being a scout leader for my four sons that all became Eagle scouts and leading campouts in Texas to High Adventure camps in New Mexico, Canada, and Florida.

I have been active in the Boy Scouts of America. I was a den leader and Cubmaster for pack 511 and an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 511 in the Sam Houston Area Council sponsored by Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. I personally fund a free online art tutorial program here in Humble. This program has brought the gift of painting to over one hundred thousand men, women and children around the world, changing lives and lifting spirits through the knowledge that they can achieve goals.





What role, if any, should business play in public education?

What prior board and/or community involvement experience do you have? (either private, public or non-profit)

What professional experience or skill will be an asset to you as

I am an emergency medicine physician and I have had to think fast on my feet for my entire career. I have also had to be a leader in the ER when it was needed and also be able to make quick life or death decisions. I feel all these would benefit me and make me an asset as a Humble ISD board member.

a Humble ISD board member?

18 | Lake Houston Business Matters

I am a licensed engineer in Texas and a small business owner. As an engineer I worked for a small private firm, the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department and I have started my own company. I have served on multiple committees for the City of Houston including engineering selection, product approval and specifications update. I have managed projects from identifying the public needs through determining a solution, design and construction to fulfill those needs. I have managed engineering consultants and contractors. I have managed large projects and budgets, both for the public and for my own companies.






BELTWAY 8 & W LAKE HOUSTON PKWY HEB SHOPPING CENTER 12680 W. Lake Houston Pkwy, Ste 510 Houston, TX 77044 (281) 454-7455

BELTWAY 8 & WILSON RD WALMART SHOPPING CENTER 4830 Wilson Rd, Ste 300 Humble, TX 77396 (281) 441-7638

Charles Bender Performing Arts Center, originally Charles Bender High School located at 611 Higgins Street in Humble.


IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS Humble’s City fathers are transforming their city



a city that doesn’t see snow, the City of Humble appreciates the snowball effect going on right now in their city. “Word of mouth and example are powerful tools,” Humble Mayor Merle D. Aaron, Sr. explains. “People see their neighbors cleaning up their property. Maybe a new awning, repainting the building or just power washing the driveway.” “People also see new curbs, gutters and concrete on their streets,” Aaron said. “It’s the snowball effect. They want to spruce up their property, too. They want to know what’s going on.” What’s going on are two major programs transforming the City’s landscape – the Public Works Department’s Capital Improvement Project and the innovative Downtown 20 | Lake Houston Business Matters

Improvement Program. “We understand that the quality of life is what makes a city the place where people want to work and live, and where both large and small companies want to do business,” Aaron said. Orange barrels have dotted the Humble city landscape over the last couple of years as improvements are made on major thoroughfares. Every workday, these roads transport up to 150,000 commuters through the 10 square miles of Humble. The $12.5 million Capital Improvement Projects includes new water and sewer lines, curbs, gutters and new street concrete. The first phase, south of First Street, is complete, so the orange barrels have been moved to the north section of the

“We understand that the quality of life is what makes a city the place where people want to work and live, and where both large and small companies want to do business.” - Mayor Merle D. Aaron roadway for the second and final phase. The City also is about to begin adding two additional lanes plus turning lanes to the north-south segment of Townsend Road by Target and Costco. That portion of Townsend will match the four lanes on the east-west segment completed in 2015. And the City is about to build an additional million-gallon water tower located off Wilson Road near city limits. “This is a $20 million investment in our city,” Mayor Aaron said. “And it’s amazing to think we didn’t borrow the money. We funded it from our general mobility fund.” The Downtown Improvement Program is a much smaller program financially but its impact on Humble is just as dramatic. The program offers two-to-one matching grants – up to $10,000, for any residence or business property that qualifies. Guidelines for the program are clear. No more than 70 percent of the budget set by the City Council can go to residential properties. The rest must be spent on commercial buildings. Both residential and commercial properties are to be located in or near Humble’s historic Downtown. The improvements must be viewable and enhance the “... outward appearance of the property.” That includes such things as façade improvements, significant cleaning, restoration or new masonry, awnings, window and door replacements, attention to details such as cornices, soffits and canopies, sidewalks, outdoor lighting, parking lot and driveway improvements, fencing and other amenities that make a building pedestrian-friendly. The program also encourages removing debris and dilapidated structures, and demolition.

“Our goal is to improve the appearance of the city,” Mayor Aaron said. Some of residents and businesses have applied for grants involving just a few hundred dollars to power wash and paint their building or residence. Three residents, however, requested and received the full $10,000 grant by building brand new homes in the Downtown District. “This really helps new businesses that didn’t have the capital to spruce things up,” Mayor Aaron said. “This also gives businesses and residents the opportunity to renovate without having to tear down a building.” Ten residences in Downtown Humble have taken advantage of the program since it was created in 2015 for a total investment of $66,288.22 by the city. Another eight commercial businesses have participated in the program since its beginning for a total city investment of $38,723.37. Six additional residences and two additional commercial properties have been approved and are under renovation. Humble’s City Fathers are particularly proud of their efforts to transform the decaying but much-beloved former Bender High School into an ultra-chic Performing Arts Center. The Bender Performing Arts Center was not a part of the Capital Projects or the Downtown Improvement Program but it helped to initiate the snowball effect and create a new era in Humble. “The new Charles Bender Performing Arts Center is a major step in helping us create quality growth in our community,” Mayor Aaron said. And those predictions have come true. “We just approved additional funds for next fiscal year,” Mayor Aaron said. “And we’ll continue approving funds as long as our citizens have an interest and it’s working well.” For more information, call the City of Humble at 281446-3061, or email at and request the Downtown Improvement Program application.

Owned by Jack Sanderson and located at 420 Staitti Street in Humble Spring 2017 | 21

internships How they can help you and your business BY MORGAN MCGRATH | PHOTOS COURTESY OF HUMBLE ISD 22 | Lake Houston Business Matters


strange to think that the children born in 2000 will be hitting the workforce or going to college in a few very short months. However, these Millennials have already been trained to do the jobs that our growing economy needs right now, thanks to programs through the Humble Independent School District and Lone Star College System. And area businesses are being able to help the future of the workforce gain that knowledge. The Lake Houston Area business community has a remarkable opportunity to partner with the local educational institutions to improve the community. Humble ISD’s practicum program through the Career and Technical Education Department works to provide students with business and industry experience as part of their high school curriculum. Students are exposed to a unique combination of classroom instruction and placements in technical work environments where they can acquire new information, concepts, techniques and procedures related to their specific career interests, according to their website. “Programs like this allow students to see what they like and what they don’t,” Marley Morris director of the CTE Department at Humble ISD said. “If a student who is passionate about becoming a nurse or doctor interns at the hospital and faints at the site of blood while they’re still in high school, they don’t waste their money going to school for years for a career that will never be a good fit for them.” The CTE coursework is modeled much like a college’s, which is beneficial to students, according to Morris. With almost 160 CTE courses that children ages 12 to 18 can participate in, this program allows students to get a real-life feel for what the next chapter of their lives might look like. Each student must go through a selection process for these internships. Their attendance, grades and performance in previous classes are taken into consideration. Once they are approved by their teacher, they may interview with the company that is interested in hiring them. If the student is offered a position, they will intern or work at the business for four days a week for 1 to 1.5 hour shifts. The business will have direct contact with a teacher who will mediate the relationship between the business and the student. Throughout the internship, the business will evaluate the student, who will receive a grade for their efforts at the end of the course. “[A business] wouldn’t have to invest a lot of time in [hiring an intern],” Morris said. “You get a highly driven student that has a vested interest in your company

The four advantages to hiring an intern, according to Morris 1. The business getting a glimpse of the future job pool 2. The opportunity for a business to secure loyal, long-time employees 3. The business directly adding value to its community and its local school district 4. The ideas that young minds can bring to the table for those who are willing to listen For more information on the HISD practicum program: contact Dr. Marley Morris at A meeting with each business to determine what kind of help it needs and how many interns it can accommodate in paid or unpaid positions. More information about CTE: LSCS Info: For more information on the Lone Star College System program, contact Jill Todd at

- CONTINUED ON PAGE 24 Spring 2017 | 23


24 | Lake Houston Business Matters

and who is willing to learn and could potentially be a long-term employee.” Lone Star College–Kingwood has a very similar program in place. An internship, paid position or volunteer position is often required in the field of study for a student to graduate. This program is much more in-depth than the high school programs. “I do not provide students with job opportunities,” Roger Chambers Chair of Lone Star College– Kingwood Business Administration said. “However, a requirement for completion of an Associates of Applied Science in Business Administration and its three specialties (human resources, management and marketing) is a co-operative education course. The course aligns education in the classroom with on-thejob experience. The student’s place of employment is now their classroom for a semester.” This program allows the student to fully immerse themselves into the business world by working on approximately four projects that improves the company or job function in a 12- or 16-week timespan. The student will also be able to create a portfolio of their efforts and add to their résumé, according to Chambers. Kseniya Smith was given the opportunity to intern with the college to complete her degree in administration with a specialization in human resources. “I would like to think that my efforts everyday supported the needs of the faculty and the students we assisted through our diversified support programs for students,” Smith said. “Being from another country and working toward completing my first degree, I felt very connected to the students that passed through our department seeking support.” Smith said she was very fortunate to receive this opportunity as it made her realize that college administration is the career path she was meant to take. “My goal now will be to continue furthering my education but following a plan or path that will hopefully return me to university careers,” Smith said. “I personally feel my contributions in future will be better served in human resources assisting the university with recruitment and staff placements as well as supporting the employee’s rights and needs through HR provided services.” Throughout this process, the student also builds a documentable portfolio that becomes a mark of achievement and a notable resume item. “Business is our lifeblood,” Morris said. “That is what keeps our economy going. We need our students to see what they should expect once they’re out of college.”

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Spring 2017 | 25


Highlighting successful Lake Houston Area entrepreneurs

What a Thrill

Deats keeps Custom Built Awards on people’s shelves BY JERRY LA MARTINA | PHOTOS BY HOPE PHOTOGRAPHY 26 | Lake Houston Business Matters


amela Deats, owner of Custom Built Awards, is a thrill seeker. It’s the thrill she gets when she sees the excited looks on her customers’ faces, and it’s the essential thing that motivates her in her work. “Trophies are in my blood,” Deats said. “This is what I do. Around town people know me as the trophy lady. There’s

nothing more exciting than taking the trophies to a park and seeing a little kid shake it over his head.” Custom Built Awards is located in Humble. The company manufactures custom trophies and awards. “[We make] signature trophies that nobody else in the world makes,” Deats said. “As well as plaques, ribbons, medallions, acrylics. Basically anything and everything in the way of awards.” Deats is originally from Houston and grew up in the North Forrest district. She started Custom Built Awards in 1979 and moved to Humble in 1983. She moved the company to an 8,000-square-foot building in 2012, near historic downtown Humble at 1106 North Houston Avenue. “I started the business because I had to survive,” Deats said. “I never dreamed the business would grow. I was newly married. I felt like we could sell a few trophies. And here we are. I have customers from coast to coast.” When she put the word “custom” in her company’s name, that’s exactly what she meant. “One time a person came in and brought us flywheels from airplanes when United Airlines was here,” Deats said. “We’ve had people

bring in alien stuff from movies, Barbie dolls and stuff to put on fishing trophies. The name Custom Built Awards got me in trouble because now I have to live up to it.” She has plenty of help living up to it, too. She hires a lot of mothers, college students and housewives who work when she’s extra busy. She does her best to give them flexibility and work around their hours. “I was that mother who needed a job,” Deats said. “I had three children, and no one gave me that opportunity.” She also won’t let her employees miss their children’s parties or sports practices, and she encourages them to work from home when necessary. “I feed them, too,” Deats said. “We’ve got a beautiful kitchen. A couple days a week we cook lunch for everybody. It’s rare that someone comes to work for me and leaves. I treat people like people.” The most important things to her when she started her business were surviving and creating a great place to work. She has people who can run the company, and she hopes to fully retire someday.

Spring 2017 | 27

Facebook Live:

The ins, the outs and how to make it work for your business BY RANDALL CHESNUT WITH SPOKEN ABOUT


ith the strong social media presence within the

year when the company tested the new service with se-

society we now live it can be difficult for brands

lected accounts. Now available to all users, Facebook Live

to deliver their message with all the noise. One

requires only a video camera, an Internet connection and a

of the ways many companies and individuals are breaking

Facebook account. The social media site does all the rest.

through that noise is live streaming. It started off with Peri-

As a user, one can now share live video, while friends

scope two years ago and has now invaded YouTube, Insta-

and fans react to and comment on the video as it streams.

gram and Facebook, with Facebook coming out on top as

One key feature that sets Facebook apart from its competi-

the leader in live streaming.

tors is the ability of viewers to react to individual parts of

According to Brightcove, a leading online video plat-

the video, generating an impressive amount of engagement

form, social video generates a massive 1,200 percent more

data in real time. The good news is that any size business,

shares than images and text combined. Then add in social

large or small, can use Facebook Live for marketing pur-

video with the world’s most powerful social network and

poses. Below are three ways your business can benefit from

what do you get? A social media magnet that’s bound to

this revolutionary marketing tool.

draw views and shares. Facebook Live made its debut last

28 | Lake Houston Business Matters


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Facebook Live connects customers to businesses through video. Once a video streams live, it remains on the site so that customers can watch and react to it later. These videos can also be shared with friends and family, potentially increasing its reach. Businesses can use Facebook Live in many different ways, but three great options include:




“Behind the scenes” content: People love to feel that they have an exclusive look at something other people don’t have access to seeing. So, peel back the curtain on a business’ manufacturing process, business decisions or daily operations . . . whatever one feels comfortable sharing. Show customers how unique hair coloring is made, or the creation of an amazing dessert. Give them access to a side of the business few have ever seen before. Daily updates: Service-oriented businesses can share daily updates, tips and helpful hints with their followers via Facebook Live. These types of quick tips or daily tips can become a popular social media feature if they’re filled with useful information. Live-streamed events: If a company hosts conferences or events, live streaming the event is a great way to engage with customers and followers. Chances are there are plenty of followers who want to attend the event but don’t have time to or can’t afford to.


Facebook Live videos can be edited, and the ability to key in descriptions can make them as engaging and keyword rich. Write a catchy headline and description of the video first. Since this is what will appear in users’ news-

30 | Lake Houston Business Matters

feed, it has to grab their attention while reflecting what’s in the video. Facebook Live users can also choose the audience for their videos. Group the audience into categories, and then select the groups who will view the video, or allow it to be seen by all. As the video plays on Facebook, the user will see a constant stream of data that includes the number of viewers watching. Inviting viewers to subscribe to future videos will assure videos appear in people's newsfeed any time a new video is posted. Once the live stream is complete, it will be saved to the business’ Facebook profile just like any other video. After the video has ended, the title and description are editable. At this point, a category can be chosen for the video, as well as features like a call to action.


If you have a Facebook page and want to start using Facebook Live for business, simply download the company’s free app, Facebook Pages, to get started. With 1.86 billion users every day worldwide, Facebook remains the world’s most influential social media site. Facebook Live brings that influence to a whole new level by harnessing the power of social video in ways never seen before.

RANDALL CHESNUTT is an online marketing authority, educator and speaker. He is best known as an expert in Facebook marketing and speaks about simple and effective online marketing strategies using Facebook advertising. Over the last few years, Randall has become the go-to marketing expert for Fortune 500 businesses, celebrities, small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.

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