The West Houston Association adopted the Compass Award in 2018 to recognize members that lead efforts and provide direction to the organization that inspires sustainable, quality growth. Board members and committee chairs nominate and vote on award winners. There have been 13 Compass award winners to date.
2021 – Jim Boone, Tricia Brasseaux, Deborah January-Bevers, Lona Shipp, Noe Escobar
2020 – Bill Callegari, Todd Burrer, Michael Bloom
2019 – Marlene Gafrick, Kate Wythe, Alia Vinson
2018 – John Moody, Marlene Gafrick, Lee Lenard
Jim Boone, Tricia Brasseaux, and Deborah January-Bevers
HB 1420 – Parks & Recreational Facilities
Jim Boone, Tricia Brasseaux, & Deborah January-Bevers received Compass Awards in 2021 for their leadership and the combined efforts of their teams’ work on HB 1410. HB 1410 provides increased financing opportunities in a fiscally conservative and pragmatic way by allowing established and financially healthy municipal utility districts to have more flexibility in programming bonds for parks and green spaces. Ultimately this will mean more open spaces, native habitats, trails, parks, lakes, and other dual use features that both enhance quality of life and also improve drainage.
Lona Shipp and Noe Escobar
Rising Leaders Top Golf Tournament
Lona Shipp and Noe Escobar received Compass Awards in 2021 for their leadership of WHA’s first Rising Leaders Topgolf fundraiser. The annual WHA Golf Tournament had seen declining interest and revenue, and then was not able to be held in 2020 during COVID. WHA came back strong with this new event that provided a more inclusive experience than a traditional golf tournament where members could more easily network and both golfers and non-golfers alike could have a good time. The event also raised a significant amount of money for WHA to ensure a funding source for the Rising Leaders program and contribute to WHA operations. The event would not have been possible without the sponsors, and even more importantly the large number of WHA Rising Leaders from classes 3 & 4 who worked together to coordinate and execute this event.
Bill Callegari and Todd Burrer
Water Workforce Development
Bill Callegari and Todd Burrer received Compass Awards in 2020 for their extraordinary efforts in seeking a resolution to the growing decline in regional water service operators.
At a WHA Water Resources Committee meeting, Bill Callegari of TNG Utility mentioned an issue in the regional water service provider industry. Licensed operators are aging out of the workforce faster than new ones entered into the pipeline. WHA’s Education and Workforce Development Committee responded by collaborating with the Water Resources Committee to create a Water Workforce Forum and hosted workshops to spread awareness and solicit solutions for the need. Todd Burrer of Inframark played a significant role in contributing to the collaboration of regional partners – the Water Environmental Association of Texas (WEAT), Si Environmental, and the City of Houston Public Works Department.
WHA also recognizes the following individuals for their efforts concerning this growing problem: Julie Nahrgang – Water Environment Association of Texas, Michael Thornhill – Si Environmental, Dylan Christenson -Black & Veatch, Katie Zheng – SouthWest Water Company, Janet Harreld – Houston Community College, Zachary Hodges – Houston Community College.
Promotion of the Envision Rating System
WHA appeared at the first meeting of the new Harris County Commissioners Court in 2019, asking Judge Hidalgo and the commissioners to support the Envision program item being proposed by Harris County Engineer John Blount. One WHA member is most responsible for promoting Envision. That member is Michael Bloom. In 2016, Michael Bloom generated the idea for the Envision program and moderated the panel for the Envision Technical Forum. Bloom, Environmental Engineer and Sustainability Consultant for R.G. Miller Engineers, was instrumental in aiding WHA’s promotion of the Envision Rating System, a best practices guide on developing and implementing resilient and sustainable infrastructure. Bloom was presented with a Compass Award in 2020 at the West Houston Association Green Development Forum.
WHA has supported thoughtful transit since its inception. WHA’s founding Chairman, David Wolff, later served as the Chairman of the METRO Board. The West Houston 2050 Plan and West Houston 2060 Plan both call out the need for improved, grade-separated, high-capacity transit. The METRONext plan will provide for bus rapid transit on Beltway 8. This Beltway BRT will connect METRO’s existing Park & Ride facilities near the Beltway to a new facility at Beltway 8 and I-10. As late as October 2019, this Beltway 8 BRT route was shown as a Gessner BRT route that would run through local neighborhoods at grade level. The village mayors and City of Houston Council members strongly opposed this Gessner BRT. The West Houston Association and its members, specifically Marlene Gafrick had been following this issue for over two years and working on an alternative. WHA worked with METRO Chair Carrin Patman and CEO Tom Lambert to make thoughtful changes leading to a jointly authored op-ed with WHA and TAG: Houston in the Houston Business Journal. The bond referendum passed with approximately 68% support of voters.
2060 Plan & 2019 Economic & Demographics Report
Advocacy is not just about a solution. Often, it’s about how you present a solution and the information necessary to give it context. In 2017, John Moody, Marlene Gafrick, and WHA’s Committee Chairs had worked to gather the ideas that became the West Houston 2060 Plan. At the time, WHA was just considering an update of the 2050 Plan and was struggling with how to present these ideas in a way that would attract attention and inspire the imagination. Kate Wythe along with Aaron Tuley from Halff Associates, supported by Steve Spillette and Ty Jacobs of CDS worked with WHA staff to transform data and ideas into a true planning document. The West Houston 2060 Plan received an HGAC Our Great Region Award at the beginning of 2019 and has attracted attention from academics from SMU in Dallas to Dartmouth in New Hampshire. Then Kate and Aaron worked with Steve and Ty to produce the 2019 Economic and Demographic Report which has set a new standard for WHA documents and has given new relevance to WHA as an organization that can help promote the region.
This Compass Award was presented to Alia Vinson on behalf of Joe B. Allen, to recognize the efforts that led to the creation of Houston Stronger. This effort provided the foundation for the collective advocacy for the 2019 Bi-Partisan Budget Act, the passage of the Harris County Flood Bond, and inspired the passage of Senate Bills 7 and 8. Without Joe B. Allen, Alia Vinson, Kristen Hogan of Allen Boone Humphries and Robinson, Houston Stronger and the work that it has done would not exist. These three individuals and the entire ABHR team have shown leadership and generosity that paved the way for a more resilient region. Many other individuals and groups, from ACEC to Greater Houston Partnership were instrumental in Houston Stronger. From start to finish, Joe B., Alia, and Kristen have set the table and made sure that everyone in our community and beyond can come to the table.
John Moody, Marlene Gafrick, and Lee Lennard
West Houston 2060 Plan and the Houston Stronger Plan
The first WHA Compass Awards were given as a way to recognize members who were going above and beyond during a particularly busy time for the association. Work on the West Houston 2060 Plan started in 2017 and involved dozens of members across all of our committees. While the plan was in progress, Hurricane Harvey made landfall and had dramatic effects across the greater West Houston region and beyond. This led to WHA’s helping start the Houston Stronger coalition and being highly involved with the Houston Stronger Plan. In recognition of the leadership of WHA members during this time, in 2018, John Moody, Marlene Gafrick, and Lee Lennard were given engraved compasses for their outstanding efforts on our West Houston 2060 Plan and the Houston Stronger Plan.