Officers & Executive Committee
Chairman of the Board
Marlene Gafrick moved from Missouri to Texas to join the City of Houston’s Planning and Development Department as an associate planner right out of college. She then climbed the ranks to Director in 2005 and after 33 years with the City, retired in 2013. Gafrick then joined MetroNational as Director of Planning. Gafrick has been serving as Vice Chair of the WHA Board since 2019, and previously served as Chair of the Regional Mobility Committee. While with the city, Gafrick was instrumental in getting a substantial update to the parking ordinance completed and Chapter 42 amended expanding the designated Urban Area. As Co-Chair of the West Houston 2060 Plan, Gafrick brought a planner’s forward-thinking perspective to the table and helped insure the vision of quality and sustainable growth would be carried throughout the document. The 2060 plan was just recognized with the Our Great Region Award in Diligence by Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC). Gafrick is also a Past President of the Houston Real Estate Council, former Chair of the Board of Scenic Houston, and previous Chair of the WHA Regional Mobility Committee.
Vice Chairman of the Board
Lee Lennard serves as President & CEO of BGE, Inc, where he leads strategic initiatives; promotes a culture of entrepreneurialism, respect and appreciation; and encourages employees to make a difference for their clients, communities and throughout the world. Under his leadership, the firm upholds the core values established by its founders, serves clients with value-added excellence, and creates a future filled with opportunity and vitality. As a licensed professional engineer with more than 30 years of experience, Lee is a recognized expert in flood control issues and an active advocate in the engineering community. Through his leadership with the West Houston Association as past Chair of the Flood Control and Drainage Committee, Lee most recently led the creation of “Houston Stronger,” a broad coalition of business and community leaders dedicated to working with government officials to fund and implement a comprehensive regional flood and storm resiliency plan to safeguard citizens, property and the environment.
Rainer Ficken provides operational and senior leadership for the Houston Division of Newland. His responsibilities include oversight of land acquisitions, envisioning, planning, budgeting, and development operations, builder relationships and selections, lot contract development and lot closings, commercial contracts and sales, financial planning, and achievement of business plan objectives as well as managerial duties for the Houston team. Rainer has over 25 years of combined experience in land development consulting, community planning, and development. During his career at Newland, he has developed and led the operations of various master-planned communities within the Austin and Houston area. Before joining Newland, Rainer managed development teams at nationally-recognized land development firms. Rainer has provided development guidance and obtained development approvals for thousands of residential lots along with office, commercial and mixed-use developments during his career within various jurisdictions.
At Large Executive Board
Rob Bamford joined the Johnson Development Corporation in 2012 as the Vice President and General Manager of Cross Creek Ranch. The community has won multiple awards including WHA’s QPD Award. Previously, Bamford managed the 1,250-acre master planned community, Grand Lakes, by Trendmaker Homes. Bamford has played a key role in WHA by previously serving on the Executive Committee as Treasurer and serving as Chair of the WHA Quality Planned Development (QPD) Committee since 2017.
Mark Kilkenny joined Twinwood, L.P. as Vice President of Development. He was previously Executive Vice President of Development and Government Affairs at Mischer Investments, Chair of the City of Houston Planning Commission, Chair of the Texas Alliance for Responsible Growth, Environment, and Transportation (TARGET), President of the Utility District Advisory Corporation (UDAC), and past-Chair of the West Houston Association. He currently serves as Chair of the WHA Membership Committee.
Jim Russ is President & CEO of EHRA Engineering, and fourth generation Principal. Jim began his career in the Civil Construction industry soon after earning his Building Construction degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX in 1986. He made the move to Civil Engineering in 1998, focusing on Land Development, Municipal Engineering and Public Infrastructure. As a leader, Jim is keenly aware of the delicate balance in a firm that exists between team member focus and innovation and client service. He is committed to inspiring a company culture that emphasizes quality of service, professionalism, honesty and integrity. These are his personal guiding principles and ones that he continually emphasizes within himself and his team. Growing up in this business, Jim discovered early on he had a liking for building things. It was the satisfaction he received knowing he was instrumental in building something for others to enjoy. He understands the importance of producing quality products with honesty and integrity; something he has committed himself to do on a daily basis. Jim is actively engaged in the growth and maintenance of the region through his volunteer work as an Executive Committee Member, Board Member and Committee Chair for numerous Civil Construction and Engineering industry professional organizations and associations, chambers of commerce and economic development councils throughout the Greater Houston region. Russ was previously Chair of WHA’s Sustainable Infrastructure Committee, which created the Sustainability Stars Award.
John Moody began his career as a founder of Wood, Campbell, Moody & Gibbs (1973-84) of Houston, TX. He was managing partner for several years. The firm was a full service commercial law firm with 35 attorneys in 1984. Mr. Moody was President of the Moody Corporation, a Houston based land-development Company which served as the master developer for four projects encompassing 2,500 acres and over 1,500 developed lots from 1984 – 1987. Next, Mr. Moody was President of Paine Webber Properties (1987-91), the real estate principal group of Paine Webber, Inc. where he was responsible for the management of over $3 billion of assets and the structuring, marketing, and sale of new funds to the Paine Webber retail network. He served as President and CEO of Cornerstone Properties, Inc. in 1991 as NYSE traded REIT that grew from $500 million to $4.5 billion of trophy office assets and was sold to Equity Office Properties in June 2000. The IPO investors in Cornerstone achieved an IRR in excess of 20%. Mr. Moody left Cornerstone Properties in 2000 and became president of Marsh & McLennan Realty Advisors from 2001-2004, an entity which provided global real estate services. He then went on to become president and CEO of HRO Asset Management (2004-05), a real estate advisory firm which acted as exclusive U.S. advisor to Commerzebank’s real estate unit (CGI). HRO Asset Management purchased $850 million of assets for CGI, which have been liquidated at an IRR in excess of 30%. Presently, he is the organizer and sponsor of Parkside Capital Land Fund (2006-Present). Moody is also a past Board Chair of the West Houston Association.
Board of Directors
Peter Barnhart is a Development Partner at Caldwell Companies bringing a very successful history of acquiring, developing and selling large residential and commercial development projects. Peter’s financial, construction and marketing skills combined with a unique blend of experience in commercial and community development, allows Caldwell Companies to plan and create environments where people like to live, work and play. Barnhart plays an integral role in identifying, acquiring and developing land tracts for future master planned communities as well as well as commercial projects. Peter is also the key team member to handle the negotiations related to the acquisition of prospective properties. Peter’s 20 years of real estate experience includes six years with RealtiCorp Commercial Investment Fund in Greenville, SC. Beginning as Director of Sales and Marketing and moving up to Regional Partner, where he handled complex land development transactions in seven different states and involving more than 4000 acres of land. Peter also has experience with Byzance, Inc. and Plantation Homes. He is a past president of the Houston Real Estate Council, board member of the Greater Houston Builders Association, member of the Urban Land Institute, member of the Real Estate Development Association Professional Advisory Board, and an Adjunct Professor to the college of Architecture at Texas A&M.
Todd A. Burrer is Vice President of Texas MUD’s for Inframark. He has over 20 years of management experience in the area of operations, customer service, and billing within the water and wastewater industry. His responsibilities have included overall financial, operational, and compliance for the Texas municipal utility district business. At Inframark, he is the leader of the senior level management team charged with managing day-to-day operations for the Texas MUD Region with over 400 employees, 180 utility districts, and 128 water and wastewater facilities that serve over 400,000 Texans. Actively involved in the Association of Water Board Directors, he currently serves as a member of the Program and Legislative committees as well as the Advisory Council. He is also Chairman of the Greens Bayou Coalition, serves on the Board of Directors for the Cy-Fair Educational Foundation, and is Vice Chair of the WHA Membership Committee. In 2020, Todd was asked to serve as a regional representative for San Jacinto County on the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) regional flood planning groups. This planning group will be responsible for developing Texas’ first regional flood plans by January 2023, which will culminate in the state’s first-ever state flood plan.
Howard Cohen has focused his legal practice on public finance, local government law districts, representing municipal utility, levee improvement and other types of special districts in the Houston metropolitan area. Serving as both general and bond counsel, Howard has represented districts before various state and local government agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Public Finance Division of the State Attorney General’s Office, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Harris County and Montgomery County, as well as the cities of Houston, Pearland, Sugar Land and Richmond. Howard is registered with the Texas Ethics Commission as a lobbyist and is substantially involved in state legislative and rulemaking matters with the Texas Legislature and state agencies that regulate special districts, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Howard also represents landowners, developers, lenders and other private entities in a broad range of legal and legislative issues related to special districts, municipalities and other local governments and contracts with entities for the construction and financing of public infrastructure. Howard has substantial experience in general real estate matters and, since 1998, has been certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Commercial Real Estate Law. Howard is Chair of the WHA Government Affairs Committee and also serves as a member of the Legislative Committee of and the Advisory Council to the Texas Association of Water Board Directors. Prior to joining Schwartz, Page & Harding, L.L.P. in 1998, Howard practiced commercial real estate law in Houston with Hoover Slovacek, LLP and with Fouts & Moore, LLP.
Carolyn Wolff Dorros joined Wolff Companies in 2006 and is currently Executive Vice President. She works on the oversight and management of the company’s financial asset portfolios as well as strategic planning, marketing and communications. Dorros graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1997 and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she earned honors in her second year. She has served as President of the Harvard Business School Club of Houston and as Chair of her class’s 10-year reunion. Prior to joining Wolff Companies, Dorros was the Administrative Director of Neurosciences at Stanford Medical Center, where she also served as Director of Business Development. She also worked at Medsite, Inc., as a Product Manager and as APM/CSC Healthcare as a Research Associate. Dorros serves on the Boards of Texas Children’s Hospital, St. John’s School, Wolff Family Foundation, and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, as well as the President’s Leadership Council of Houston Methodist Hospital. She previously served as WHA’s Board Secretary.
Mark Gehringer serves as Vice President, Land Development for the Howard Hughes Corporation. Mark’s primary responsibility is providing leadership for the land development department for Bridgeland, a 11,400-ac master planned community in northwest Harris County. Mark brings over 25 years of civil engineering, hydrology/hydraulic studies, and project management experience. He is a registered professional engineer (PE) and an Envision Sustainability Professional (Env SP). Mark is the Chair of the WHA Sustainable Infrastructure committee and serves on the Fort Bend Subsidence District Board, Vice Chair of the Katy Area Economic Development Council, and is a members of the Association of Water Board Directors (AWBD) Advisory Council.
David W. Hightower serves as executive vice president, development, at Midway. Prior to joining Midway, David was executive vice president and chief development officer with Wolff Companies, a Houston-based investment and land development firm, where he was involved in ownership, development, and/or management of more than 6,000 acres of commercial, residential and agricultural land investments and development. He had primary responsibility for marketing, sales, project planning and development for the firm’s real estate assets and new investment acquisitions. He also was responsible for more than $100 million of municipal infrastructure improvements, as well as regulatory and government-related activities. Prior to joining Wolff Companies, Mr. Hightower was a practicing civil engineer, consulting on municipal engineering projects for public and private-sector clients. A founding member and director of the Harris County Improvement District #4, (The Energy Corridor Management District), David has served in leadership positions in the West Houston Association, the Urban Land Institute, the Greater Houston Partnership’s Real Estate Advisory Committee, and the Houston Real Estate Council, as well as numerous industry and civic organizations. Hightower is also a past Board Chair of the West Houston Association.
Dr. Zachary Hodges has been president of Houston Community College System’s Northwest College for over 25 years. Hodges is charged with the task of developing new programs and improving those that exist to best meet the needs of local communities and industry. Dr. Zachary Hodges, was named the 2013 Entrepreneurial President of the Year by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). Taking progressive steps by testing small projects and building successes that fueled support for the next phase of growth in entrepreneurship, Dr. Hodges developed HCC’s Center for Entrepreneurship in 2009 by committing start-up funding to hire a director for the Center. Continuing success and commitment to both programs, the college also won and spearheaded the HCC Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in 2011, which offers Greater Houston small business owners access to a practical business and management education. Hodges is also the Chair of the WHA Education & Workforce Committee.
Kyle Lippman brings 20 years of legal real estate knowledge and experience to NewQuest Properties. As a partner, he is responsible for coordinating legal affairs, and participates in all aspects of new projects including land acquisition, creating structure of ownership/development entities, solving development issues, negotiating tenant leases, and negotiating construction and permanent financing for projects. Prior to NewQuest Properties, Kyle joined Quest Properties in 2001 as Senior Partner focusing on all legal aspects of the firm’s real estate transactions. Before joining Quest Properties, Kyle spent nine years at the Houston law firm of Nathan, Sommers, Lippman, Jacobs & Gorman as a Partner, and prior to that worked in the Houston office of the Dallas based law firm of Winstead, Sechrest & Minick under the same title. As a former practicing lawyer, Kyle is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the Houston Bar Association. In addition, he is an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, as well as past President and member of the Board of Directors for Lakeside Country Club.
Heath Melton has recently been named the President of the Phoenix Region for the Howard Hughes Corporation where he will will lead the development of Douglas Ranch, HHC’s recently acquired 37,000-acre master planned community (MPC) located in Phoenix’s West Valley. In his previous role as Executive Vice President of Master Planned Communities in the Houston Region, Melton was responsible for residential planning and development of HHC’s three highly acclaimed MPCs in Texas: The Woodlands, Bridgeland, and The Woodlands Hills. Prior to joining The Howard Hughes Corporation in 2015, Melton was Director of Land Development at Taylor Morrison Austin. He previously served as Development Manager for Sueba USA, overseeing their single- and multi-family residential business. Melton is also a past Board Chair of the West Houston Association.
Jack Miller, managing principal of R. G. Miller Engineers, specializes in the design and completion of master planned communities, as well as the complete development of unimproved land into residential and commercial property. He has more than 35 years of professional civil engineering experience in planning and design, construction management, project management, coordination of master-planned land development projects, utility district projects, roadway facilities, public utilities and major capital improvement projects. Miller is Past President of the American Council of Engineering Companies-Houston, serves on the board of the Houston Engineering and Scientific Society, and is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies-Texas and the American Society of Civil Engineering. Miller is also the Chair of the WHA Water Resources Committee.
Richard “Dick” Phillips is the Associate Vice Provost, Outreach and Community Engagement Chancellor for the UH System with a focus on the Sugar Land and Katy campuses. He previously served as Associate Vice Chancellor for the UH System at Sugar Land, responsible for the management of operations at both UHS system teaching centers (at Sugar Land and formally Cinco Ranch), where he was responsible for coordinating academic program delivery, planning new academic programs, facilities planning and construction, governmental relations, marketing and all general administrative matters, as well as overseeing development operations at the UH-Victoria campus. Phillips served as Associate Vice President for University Advancement at UHS Sugar Land from 2005-2007, and prior to assuming his duties at UHSSL, Phillips’ 26 years in higher education administration has included 13 years as associate vice president for enrollment management and institutional advancement at the University of Houston-Victoria, and an equal number of years as vice president at an international multi-campus university system in Iowa, and at a private college in Missouri. At UHV, Phillips was instrumental in developing the Letting Education Achieve Dreams (LEAD) initiative to promote and enhance partnerships with the ultimate goal of increasing the college-going rates in the university’s service region.
Matt Timmons is the Assistant Vice President at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in health education and from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with dual master’s degrees in Healthcare Administration and Business Administration. Since joining Texas Children’s Hospital in 2001, Matt has enjoyed progressive leadership roles in multiple areas including Pediatric Intensive Care, Ambulatory Services, Clinical Business Operations and most recently as director of Cardiology at Texas Children’s Heart Center. Matt is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Andrea French, Transportation Advisory Group
Deborah January-Beavers, Houston Wilderness
Richard Johnson, Rice University
Mary Anne Piacentini, Katy Prairie Conservancy
Dietrich von Biedenfeld, University of Houston – Downtown
Tim Early, Texas A&M University
Joe B. Allen, Allen, Boone, Humphries, Robinson LLP
Jim Boone, Allen, Boone, Humphries, Robinson LLP
Fred Caldwell, Caldwell Companies
Bradley Freels, Midway Companies
Ned Holmes, Ned S. Holmes Investments, Inc
Peter Houghton, Rooted Development*
Larry Johnson, Johnson Development
Jim Jard, MetroNational*
Bob Jones, Jones Engineering Solutions
Jack Linville, PGAL**
Walt Mischer, Jr., Mischer Investments
Ted Nelson, Newland Communities*
David Ramsey, NewQuest Properties
David Wolff, Wolff Companies*
* Past Chair of Board
**Founding President of WHA
Past Chairman of the Board of Directors
2022 – Current
Marlene Gafrick (MetroNational)
2019 – 2021
Heath Melton (Howard Hughes Corporation – Bridgeland)
2016 – 2018
John S. Moody (Parkside Capital)
2013 – 2015
Peter Houghton (Howard Hughes Corporation – Bridgeland)
Joel Marshal (Marshall Investments LLC)
2009 – 2011
David Hightower (Wolff Companies)
2006 – 2008
Mark Kilkenny (Mischer Investments)
2003 – 2005
Ted Nelson (Newland Communities)
2001 – 2002
Lynn Grafing (Conoco Phillips)
1997 – 2000
C. Harold Wallace (Consultant)
1993 – 1996
Jim Jard (MetroNational)
1989 – 1992
Guy Harrel (Savoy Group)
1986 – 1989
Billy Burge (Ayrshire Corporation)
1979 – 1985
David Wolff (Wolff Companies)