People to Watch 2021May 29, 2021 ● By Allie Spletter
Frisco is filled with innovative individuals who put their vast education, experience and talents to tremendous use while working to ensure this dynamic city remains a place that people are eager and excited to call home. Frisco STYLE is pleased to shine a spotlight on several extraordinary folks who are dedicated to making a difference locally. We applaud your efforts and appreciate your unwavering commitment to the community.
Frisco Family Services
Nicole Bursey, executive director of Frisco Family Services, knew from a young age that she was called to serve. A strong work ethic was instilled in her as she watched her mother, father and grandparents serve as examples through their work. “Doing and being your best begins with preparation, and I always strive for excellence in all that I do. I believe that I am who I am today is the result of growing up in a hardworking, loving and faith-filled family.” Her mother and grandmother, she says, “are the epitome of grace and tenacity. They not only taught me how to be a lady, but also the importance of preparation in anything that you do.”
Ms. Bursey considers the work she does through Frisco Family Services to be her calling, and views her daily interactions as opportunities to strengthen families. “When we have strong families,
we have strong communities. It brings my heart joy to know that the work I am doing professionally is tied to my purpose in life. When I see a client come in with tremendous worry and fear in their eyes and then leave our location smiling, that brings joy to my heart. It’s a real indicator that they now have hope that they did not have when they initially walked through our doors,” she explains.
A member of the Potter’s House of North Dallas church, she and her husband serve as leaders in the Better Together Marriage Ministry. She is also a member of Leadership Frisco Class XV and the Frisco Noon Rotary, in addition to serving as an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and on the Lambda Upsilon Sigma Charitable Education Foundation Board. Ms. Bursey believes her greatest contribution to the city of Frisco is her work at Frisco Family Services as well as in marriage ministry. “Both have provided me the opportunity to give hope and encouragement and strengthen families in our community.”
President/CEO, Frisco Chamber of Commerce
Tony Felker has, essentially, had a front-row seat as Frisco has grown, evolved and settled into the incredible community it is today. Mr. Felker has served as president/CEO of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce since 2009. Previously, he was employed with the chamber as vice president, director of membership, membership retention and governmental affairs.
A couple of years after moving to Frisco, Mr. Felker applied for the Leadership Frisco Class III and the rest, as they say, is history. “Since then, I have been involved in a wide range of organizations, committees, elected positions and other positions involved with the community as a whole. I think Frisco is the type of city that just brings this sort of passion and community service out in certain people,” he says. “Frisco has such a history of vision and partnerships; you don’t have to look far to get involved and plugged in. It’s been amazing to have been a small part of so much that has been accomplished.”
Mr. Felker believes his greatest contribution to the community stems from being himself and doing his part while staying positive about the work he and the chamber are doing in addition to being a good partner during the time he has been in Frisco. “What they see is what they get. I am real, I have no agendas, and I just want to do my small part to help Frisco in whatever way I have been called to do so. At the end of the day, that is really the best that anyone can hope for,” he says.
His proudest accomplishment was winning the Frisco Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award, which encouraged him to keep moving forward. “Always keep looking forward … or, as I have been quoted (as saying) on occasion, ‘We don’t slow down in Frisco. … Keep the foot on the gas, otherwise … you are coasting.’ People should be engaged in their communities … however that is defined.” Mr. Felker says, “Being involved in ways that I have been allows me to give back and help the community grow.”
Creator/Admin, Frisco Residents Who Care Facebook page
Change often cannot happen without the tireless efforts and vision of those who are ready to lead, create, moderate and forge new paths. Jamie Heit is a change-maker in our community. She created and oversees the Facebook page Frisco Residents Who Care, which has more than 10,000 members. It embraces community involvement and discussions about issues that impact residents’ daily lives while promoting a kind and engaged community.
After a career in public relations, Ms. Heit turned her attention and energy toward raising her three kids, and she has been involved in their lives and the community in many facets. “Throughout the years, I’ve served as team manager, room parent, team treasurer, etc., and I recognized that being involved really makes a difference,” she says, “so I expanded my involvement to include more community and civically-engaged projects, most notably running the Frisco Residents Who Care community page. I apply many of the same rules to my Facebook group that I teach my children: be kind, compassionate and tolerant of others regardless of having different socioeconomic, religious or belief systems.”
Ms. Heit considers her greatest contribution to the community to be leading a year-long grassroots efforts to find a more suitable location for the Oncor substation, during which time she not only learned how to lead a large group of residents through an involved process, but also how to work alongside city staff and elected officials to come to a mutually-agreeable solution to a complex problem. “It was
through this work that I recognized the true impact being an informed and involved citizen can have on one’s community.”
Ms. Heit served three years on the Frisco ISD Long Range Planning committee, the FISD Facilities and Evaluations committee and participated in the 2019-2020 FISD Insight program. She serves on the marketing committee for Frisco FastPacs and earned the 2020 North Texas Bridge Award for building bridges between people, organizations and communities.
Publisher, Community Impact Newspaper
Communities are built and thrive upon people who seek to make the lives of others better, who help inform community members and work hard to ensure that businesses and residents alike are supported. Christal Howard, publisher of Community Impact Newspaper, says its mission lies in the idea that everyone deserves to know about news that is happening in their community – whether or not they can afford to subscribe to the local paper – and that news should come to them not only free of charge, but free of bias.
Helping in the community has long been part of Ms. Howard’s life. This has led her to believe in the importance of civic engagement and helping to shape the future of one’s community rather than sit on the sidelines. “My mother modeled this for me from a young age, and I hope my kids will take the same from me one day. Mom was always involved in volunteering, organizing neighborhood events, teaching Sunday school,” Ms. Howard recalls. “We do everything at CI while holding not only our mission, but our values close: faith, passion, quality, innovation and integrity. The other key part of our mission is to help local businesses thrive. The local business owner is the heart of a community – the one who sponsors the Little League team or donates sandwiches for volunteers. Telling their stories is important, as is giving them a way to reach their customers.”
Ms. Howard says she is lucky to be part of various impactful organizations throughout the community including the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, Frisco ISD Education Foundation and Frisco Family Services. Each month the paper goes out, she says, the hope is “we help at least one person feel more connected and informed about this city we get to call home. I think that is a uniquely valuable contribution.”
Chair, Frisco Arts Foundation
Frisco is an eclectic city, and although it boasts a little something for everyone, Frisco Arts Foundation Chair Tammy Meinershagen continues to forge the way for the arts scene to grow as much as the city has.
“The biggest reason I feel compelled to champion the arts in our city is because the work here is not done,” she says. “I believe that exposure to and experience of the arts is essential to the health of each individual, as well as the community as a whole, and there’s so much more we can do to make Frisco a welcoming place for creatives. Art gives us time to reflect, it inspires creativity and it brings us together. Each of us has unique perspectives, and when they’re shared through art, those expressions have the power to change lives and heal hearts.”
Frisco Arts champions and invests in artists, arts organizations, "art-repreneurs" and young creatives through grantmaking, capacity building and scholarships. The foundation believes that thriving arts and culture fuels innovation, economic growth and community, and it partners with multiple sectors to strengthen the presence of the arts in Frisco.
Ms. Meinershagen has served in many capacities regarding arts and culture, as the public relations/marketing chair of the Texas Music Teachers Association, diversity chair for the Frisco ISD Council of PTAs, and board member of Frisco Public Art and Frisco Arts. She was appointed to the 2015 Citizen Bond committee by then-Frisco City Council Member Jeff Cheney, who is now mayor.
Ms. Meinershagen believes her greatest contribution to the community lies in changing the conversation surrounding the arts in our city and creating a platform for the arts community to be seen, heard and mobilized. “My role of advocating for the arts in Frisco is honestly like working through a difficult piece of music full of drama,
beauty and adventure,” she says. “It’s not easy, but I choose to keep breaking through the walls and getting to the other side of ‘yes.’ I believe we can dream big for the arts in Frisco and build a lasting legacy for the future.”
Chief, Frisco Fire Department
A leadership role in a city the size of Frisco is a monumental task – one that Frisco Fire Department Chief Mark Piland has held with strength, steadfastness and a desire to keep the city and its residents safe no matter the circumstances.
Chief Piland says his personal mission has always revolved around a sense of duty and a love for the job he has had since starting as a firefighter. “My goal is to ensure myself and our department is better today than we were yesterday, and I constantly convey that message to members of our department. We have the best firefighter-paramedics anywhere, and they deserve no less than my best and the best from our leadership team,” he explains.
His faith is the most important aspect of his life, as it has gotten him through many trials and tribulations. “There are many situations and incidents that I have been involved (in) that could have had a catastrophic outcome, but God saved me from harm,” he says.
Throughout his career, Chief Piland has held numerous ranks – from firefighter, captain and battalion chief to shift commander, deputy chief and now chief. “Participating in Virginia Task Force 2 was a certainly an honor of a lifetime as I had the opportunity to respond to the nation’s disasters for 16 years,” he says. “I learned so much from those experiences. Today, I serve on the International Fire Chiefs committee on urban search and rescue, and help develop policies and strategies for the international fire service as we work with federal and state (urban search and rescue) teams.”
Chief Piland also volunteers on the board of trustees for Medical City Frisco and Medical City Plano, and facilitates volunteer activities across the city by supporting them through Frisco Fire. “I have been so blessed during my career. I have had the honor of working with the best firefighters in the world. I would not be here today without these outstanding men and women. They taught me so much over the years … how to be a firefighter, leader, officer and mentor. Frisco Fire Department has absolutely been remarkable.
I can’t believe what our firefighters do every day to take care of Frisco. I am so proud to be their fire chief.
Founder and Executive Director,
Melody of Hope
As Frisco has grown, so have its cultural and arts scenes. Charlie Wendell, founder and executive director of Melody of Hope, has been at the forefront of working to ensure that the city continues to grow and develop in a way that attracts music and arts lovers. The nonprofit organization supports and advocates for other nonprofits throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.
“My motivation stems from a deep desire to see Frisco develop as a cultural hub for the arts,” Ms. Wendell explains. “It’s a problem that Frisco doesn’t have a larger arts presence. But by building our live music programs into nonprofit and community events, we are helping do our part to fix the problem and create a platform to display the arts more.”
Ms. Wendell considers being a wife and mother her proudest roles. Currently, she also serves on the board of the Rotary Club of Frisco as community service chair; is a founding board member of 2talented, a hip-hop nonprofit; and is Frisco Arts’ governmental affairs ambassador.
“During my time leading Melody of Hope, my proudest accomplishment has been how many nonprofits we have helped and how many live music events we have built. I have served and volunteered with over 50 different nonprofit organizations, and have built over 200 live-music programs at no cost to the organizations since 2013.”
Her greatest contribution to the city, she says, lies in her spirit for community collaboration, as she has fostered the ability to partner effectively, which strengthens the fabric of the community. “Through MOH’s innovative collaborations through our music programs with nonprofits, artists, civic leaders, businesses and churches, we can contribute to the well-being of our city, work together to educate the public on issues happening in our city, and create quality arts programing for our residents to enjoy,” she says. “We have created this attractive platform for people to know if they attend a MOH event, they are using music to help make a difference.”