On December 1st, the West Houston Association held its Annual Awards Celebration at the Hyatt Regency Houston West. This year, we recognized our Rising Leaders Class 7, bestowed two Compass Awards, awarded a Sustainability Stars project, presented the Star of Excellence award, and announced incoming board members and committee leadership.
The event started with WHA Board Chair, Marlene Gafrick (MetroNational) recognizing our 2022 Rising Leaders. The program provides an accelerated introduction to the topics and issues of interest to the association and its members as well as an opportunity for networking among others who aspire to be leaders within WHA in the coming years. Over the course of the year, our Rising Leaders attend seven sessions based on topics in alignment with WHA Committees and our 2060 Plan, engage with experts, industry leaders, and creative thinkers, and build their cross-industry networks. This year’s participants included: Aaron Carpenter (Allen Boone Humphries Robinson), Andres Aranzales (Vogler & Spencer Engineering), Andrew Lang (BGE, Inc.), Caleb Stone (Howard Hughes Corporation), Christine Crotwell (Masterson Advisors), Emily Heineman (Caldwell Companies), J.T. Gaden (EHRA Engineering), James Parker (Costello, Inc.), and Mackenzie Osborne (Inframark).
Next, WHA Executive Committee member Rainer Ficken (Caldwell Companies) presented two Compass Awards. WHA adopted the compass Award in 2018 to recognize members that lead efforts and provide direction to the organization that inspires sustainable and quality growth across the region and beyond.
The first recipient was Taylor Reed (Vogler and Spencer Engineering). Taylor was a member of last year’s Rising Leaders cohort and displayed his can-do attitude starting on day one of that program. From there he played a major role in keeping the 2022 TopGolf Tournament in focus and on track. Since then, he has been an active member of the Sustainable Infrastructure committee where he led the effort to coordinate with the Quality Planned Development committee on updating QPD recognition program with sustainability in mind.
The second recipient was Matt Stoops (LJA Engineering). Matt has been involved with WHA for a while, including working on the WHA Development Map for several iterations. He really stepped up this year, taking the lead on coordinating our 2022 Economic and Demographic Profile working with WHA staff and other WHA members to keep us on target for our September release date while adding a new section on housing. He is also currently involved with revamping our commercial Quality Planned Development standards, an ongoing project that he will continue to be involved with this coming year.
WHA Executive Committee member Jim Russ (EHRA Engineering) then presented our Sustainability Stars Award for the Bayou Greenways project. Houston Parks Board’s Bayou Greenways includes new and rehabilitated trail segments across the city of Houston. This incorporated neighborhood parks, land acquisition for additional greenspace, multi-agency coordination, pedestrian bridges, habitat sensitive landscaping, community connections and ongoing maintenance of improvements. The project was recognized with four stars for sustainable investigation, investment, integration, and inspiration. The award was accepted by Matt Nielson and Richard McNamara with the Houston Parks Board.
The night concluded with WHA Board Member Howard Cohen (Schwartz, Page & Harding) presenting our Star of Excellence to Jim Murphy. West Houston Association’s Star of Excellence Award recognizes non-members who have made substantial contributions to the Greater West Houston area, and whose work complements our shared vision. We honor our Star of Excellence Award recipients as shining examples of the leadership and determination that is required for everyone to find great experiences and opportunities in Greater West Houston.
Jim Murphy started his career working at the West Houston Association as a project manager from 1983 to 1986. A native Houstonian, he has been the driving force behind the Westchase District, which has been instrumental to the success of West Houston and has attracted more than $2 billion in new investment to the area. He served as trustee of Houston Community College from 1997-2006, as a board member of the Houston West Chamber of Commerce and the West Houston Medical Center, and was a founder of the Alief Education Foundation. Along the way, he found the time to run for public office and was elected in 2007 to serve House District 133. His tenure in the legislature spanned seven sessions, and an impressive 13 committees and sub-committees. Most recently, he championed House Bill 1410, an initiative that was born out of discussion amongst WHA members and supported by Houston Wilderness, Master Planned Community stakeholders, developers, and many others. Now law, HB 1410 will mean additional greenspace and recreational facilities, and a better future for West Houston and beyond.