WHA Welcomes New Board Chair and Executive Committee Leadership in 2022

The West Houston Association Board of Directors welcomes new officers to its ranks starting January 1, 2022. Marlene Gafrick, Director of Planning for MetroNational, will succeed Heath Melton, President of the Phoenix Region for The Howard Hughes Corporation, at the helm of the West Houston Association.  

“I have had the honor and pleasure of working with Marlene for the past three years serving in the capacity as Chair and Marlene as Vice Chair of the West Houston Association. Marlene’s passion, dedication, and industry expertise has been extremely impactful as we continue to move the West Houston Association forward in influencing quality planned development within the region. We will continue to benefit from her expanded leadership, influence and impact as our incoming Chair,” says Heath Melton, WHA Board Chair from 2019-2022. 

“Marlene brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Board from her years of public service with the City of Houston and her planning expertise continuing at MetroNational. Marlene’s involvement in public infrastructure planning and written public policy will afford the Association to continue to properly influence officials and other area leaders in the mission to maintain quality growth” says Mark Kilkenny, Vice President of Development at Twinwood, L.P. and former Chairman of the Board 2006-2008. 

Marlene Gafrick joined MetroNational in 2013 as Director of Planning after serving for over thirty years with the City of Houston Planning Department, including as director of the department from 2005-2013. Gafrick has been serving as Vice Chair of the WHA Board since 2019, and previously served as Chair of the Regional Mobility Committee.  “I am honored to lead the West Houston Association as we keep working to make our region more sustainable, resilient and a better place to live, work, and bring up a family,” says Gafrick. 

Serving alongside Gafrick as Vice Chair will be Lee Lennard, PE, President and CEO of BGE, Inc. Lennard has been serving on the West Houston Association Board since 2018 and previously served as Chair of the Flood Control and Drainage Committee. Lennard has more than 30 years of civil engineering consulting experience covering the full range of project development. “I look forward to building on the legacy of excellence that is the West Houston Association and advocating for a vibrant quality of life for all who call West Houston home,” says Lennard. 

Throughout his career, Lennard has served in leadership capacities as President of the Society of American Military Engineers, Houston/Galveston Post; President of the American Council of Engineering Companies – Houston; and most recently, Chairman of the American Council of Engineering Companies – Texas 

 “Lee led the efforts to provide the engineering analytics for the Flood Mitigation Plan prepared by the West Houston Association following Hurricane Harvey. This became the framework for the Harris County Bond Issue on August 25, 2018 and for the continued efforts of Houston Stronger to this day. Lee dedicated a significant amount of his personal time and company resources as part of those efforts. He was an integral part of this entire effort,” says John Moody, CEO Parkside Capital and former Chairman of the Board 2016-2018. 

Both Gafrick and Lennard are WHA Compass Award recipients. Gafrick brought a planner’s forward-thinking perspective to the table and helped ensure the vision of quality and sustainable growth would be carried throughout West Houston Association’s 2060 Plan. Lennard brought an engineering knowhow and get-it-done attitude in response to Hurricane Harvey to motivate a team of WHA members to create the Houston Stronger Plan and subsequent Houston Stronger coalition. 

“West Houston really looks at the 2060 plan as something implementable. It’s not a plan that we are going to put on the shelf. West Houston Association sees it as a guide for deciding which projects and policies to support within the region,” says Gafrick. 

“West Houston took the lead after Hurricane Harvey and say “no” to the status quo. Our efforts and those of many grassroots leaders in the community were confirmed on August 25, 2018 when over 84 percent of Harris County voters said “yes” to investing $2.5 billion in flood control infrastructure. There is much more to be done to improve the citizens of Harris County’s resiliency against flooding,” says Lennard

Serving with Gafrick and Lennard as Board Officers are Rainer Ficken as Treasurer and Alia Vinson as Secretary. Rainer Ficker, Vice President Operations – Houston for Brookfield Properties has been serving on the WHA Board since 2020. Alia Vinson, Partner at Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP is new to the Board and currently also serves as Vice Chair of the WHA Water Resources Committee. 

Jim Russ, President of EHRA Engineering is also new to the Executive Committee this year, serving with returning members Mark Kilkenny, John Moody, and Rob Bamford. Two other new members to the board of directors in 2022 are Howard Cohen, Partner at Schwartz Page & Harding, LLP who also serves as Chair of the WHA Government Affairs Committee and Mark Gehringer, Vice President – Land Development for the Howard Hughes Corporation who also serves as Chair of the Sustainable Infrastructure Committee. 

The West Houston Association is honored to announce our new leadership on the Board of Directors and looks forward to continuing to provide leadership in quality growth for the region as it has for the past 43 years. WHA continues to collaborate, educate, and advocate for quality development, sustainable infrastructure, long-term, planning and sound public policy that will lead to a greater West Houston region where everyone has opportunity for great experiences to live, work, and play.