Pure Gratitude: A Tribute to Frisco's City Manager George PurefoyJun 01, 2022 ● By Lisa Sciortino
When George Purefoy became Frisco’s first city manager on Nov. 1, 1987, the city’s population was around 5,000 people. Back then, the Plantation Resort subdivision was under development and the proposed Frisco Jetport appeared poised for takeoff.
Fast forward more than 34 years to today when, after spending a decade growing faster than any other large city in the nation, Frisco is now home to around 215,000 residents. Although the jetport failed to materialize, other retail, residential, commercial developments and destinations ¬– including Stonebriar Centre, The Star, Toyota Stadium and the forthcoming PGA Frisco – did develop and flourish (many as part of public-private partnerships) under Purefoy’s watch, which is set to conclude this month with his retirement.
In celebration of a career that can only be described as remarkably successful, Frisco STYLE reached out to more than a dozen past and present city officials and other community leaders and asked them to share their thoughts on the impact Purefoy has had on the city – both personally and professionally – as well as the big shoes he’s leaving behind for Frisco’s second city manager, Wes Pierson, to fill. (Editor’s note: Responses were edited for length and clarity.)
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney
“Having served with George for nearly 15 years, it will not be the same without him. He is someone I have looked up to and certainly aspire to emulate his great qualities of integrity and leadership. … However, perhaps his greatest skill is the ability to adapt and evolve as the city changed. This is why he has successfully been able to lead Frisco for 35 years.
Frisco is a very different city than when he started. He’s known as quiet, and you will often find him in the back of the room. Yet, when he spoke, everyone stopped and listened. … George has a quick wit and was never afraid to trade wit with his colleagues and council members – something we all loved. He will be missed, but we know Frisco will continue to be successful in the future because of the strong foundation he has built.”
Robert M. Warren
Former Frisco Mayor (1989-1996)
“When the city of Frisco reached the population of 5,000, making it eligible to have a city manager, we sent out search parties and found George Purefoy at the city of Columbus, Texas. We interviewed him and found him to be just what the city needed. We hired him to be Frisco's first city manager, and, in retrospect, I have no doubt that was the best move Frisco has ever made.
George is one of the most honest, most caring and finest, men I have ever known – and in my 101 years, I have known a lot. He knows how to solve problems that confront the city and manages to do it in the least-obtrusive way. … Without George Purefoy, Frisco would not be the city it is today.”
Former Frisco Mayor (1996-2002)
“As Frisco’s first city manager, George successfully helped the city move from a small agricultural community into one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. He managed the growth with excellence while keeping the tax rates from becoming problematic for the property owners. As the community grew, he hired competent managers to join his team. As a tough negotiator, he was able to work with City Council to bring quality growth. … His legacy in Frisco is well-documented and I wish he and his family the best in his retirement years.”
Former Frisco Mayor (2008-2017)
“`Behind the scenes’ – that phrase best describes the George Purefoy I know. No person has had a larger impact on Frisco – past, present and, I’m confident, in the future – than George. While most people see the projects as the pillars of success, I have had the honor of seeing the details of the man who was the foundation of the success.
While elected officials such as me were cutting the ribbons, George was standing behind a pillar somewhere not wanting to be visible, already having built the foundation. He would never ask for nor want the recognition, although it is well-deserved. He only cared about taking care of the taxpayer, protecting the families and treating his employees fairly.
My respect for George has only grown over the last 27 years and I am proud to call him a friend, a mentor and a good man! There is not enough room here to bring up the many projects we have worked on together and the challenges we have faced over the years: Exide, Grand Park, sport facilities, corporate relocations, Ebola scares, public safety and a long list of other subjects.
Throughout all the issues we faced in my tenure on city council and as mayor of Frisco, I am so thankful to have had George by my side and, most of the time, leading the way."
Former Frisco Assistant City Manager
“I worked for several city managers during my career and George certainly stands out as the most visionary. It took us a short while to develop our working relationship, but I can remember him telling me to always say what I thought, not just what I thought he wanted to hear. He always made time to listen to concerns and was such a caring individual. I feel blessed to have worked for him for 20 years.”
Frisco Deputy City Manager
“I remember early in our time working together, George told me we really only need one rule when it comes to how we should manage: `Do the right thing.’ That has been a clear and consistent message from George the entire time I have known him. And he does not just say the words, but he actually lives it and manages by that rule.
George … has taught me so much about city management but also about being a good husband, a good father and about being a good person. He has been my boss, my mentor and my friend all this time. While he will hold your feet to the fire on getting the job done each day, he will never throw you under the bus. He is quick to push you to the front for the credit when things go well and just as quick to take the heat when things do not. I cannot thank him enough for all he has done for our city, our staff and for me.”
Special Assistant to the Frisco City Manager
“While I can take no credit for hiring what I believe to be the best city manager serving anywhere for the last 34-plus years, I was given some insight into what city council saw in Mr. Purefoy.
Prior to his arrival, they told me they believed him to be honest, humble, smart and a hard worker who was well liked and respected by everyone they met in Columbus, Texas, where he was city manager. Additionally, several of them told me how impressed they were upon learning he took virtually every Friday afternoon off to spend time with his young daughter, Christal, who he adored. His devotion to (wife) Debra and Christal, and his commitment to his faith, may have been the most impressive things about George Purefoy in the eyes of those elected officials.
Real and visible growth began in Frisco soon after George’s arrival. I have always known George to make the decision he believed would best serve our citizens and he has always been supportive of Frisco’s staff. There is no doubt Frisco, my family and I have been truly blessed by George, Debra and Christal choosing to move from Columbus to Frisco.”
Frisco Deputy City Manager
“Reflecting on working for George over the years, I often thought of this passage in Psalms 127: `Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.’ George, in his roles as both the builder and the watchman, always sought God’s purpose and blessing in what was to be accomplished. That, to me, has been the foundation of his success and his lasting legacy in Frisco.”
Frisco Director of Development Services
"George’s influence has been instrumental to making Frisco what it is today. … George’s leadership attracted development that reduced the tax burden on residents. … George is humble and has routinely deflected accolades to others. City managers come and go in so many cities, but Frisco has been the beneficiary of George’s steadfast leadership and compelling vision of the future.”
Frisco City Attorney (not pictured)
“Luckily for Frisco, George (among his many talents) was and is a master at seizing opportunity, expanding it, bringing together public and private partnerships to focus and support the plan, and then executing and building it – all the while giving credit to others. How often do you see a city manager do that? About as often as you see another Frisco. George and Debra, I love you and wish you all my best.”
Frisco City Council Place 2
“I’ll never forget my first meeting with George Purefoy in 2014. I had been appointed to the Citizen Bond Committee to help determine the projects for the remaining 40 percent of Frisco, and I wanted to hear his perspective. As I walked in, George met me with a calm, gentle smile and said, `Hello Ms. Meinershagen. You may be surprised to know this, but I actually have always wanted to see an opera house built in Frisco.’ … George’s impact has shaped the Frisco I know and love. It will be an honor to continue his incredible legacy.”
Frisco Library Director
“While under his watch, Frisco has grown into one of the finest cities in America. There is no other way to say it: George Purefoy was the right man, at the right time and Frisco was the right place. We live in a thriving community in large measure because of George Purefoy’s vision, integrity, courage and leadership.”
Dr. Mike Waldrip
Frisco ISD Superintendent
"The City of Frisco is what it is today in large part because of George Purefoy. His wisdom, his intelligence and his vision have been instrumental in making this city one of the best places in the country to live, work and play. The city and its citizens, present and future, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to George.
I was in a meeting once with George and … he was asked his opinion about an issue. Without saying a word, he simply gave an emphatic thumbs down. Nothing more was discussed, no clarifying questions were asked – we simply moved on to the next thing. That's the respect everyone has for George and his leadership. A man of few or no words, but tremendous influence."
Dr. Rick Reedy
Former Frisco ISD Superintendent
“There can be little doubt that he has been the chief architect in the transformation of the City of Frisco from a small rural community into a major suburban city.
The evidence of his vision and accompanying action is visible all around us. What may not be as well known is the indispensable role he has played in the evolution of Frisco’s school district. His belief in partnerships (his mantra was, `If it’s good for the school district, it’s good for the city’) led him to insist that the school system be included in the many public-private partner collaborations that have produced additional revenue and resources and thereby more opportunity for schoolchildren than could otherwise have been possible. George and Debra Purefoy Elementary is so named to honor the long-term commitment of the Purefoys to the betterment of the school system.
The Purefoys are practitioners in the art of the great virtues – of humility, of kindness, of generosity and, most importantly, of faith.”
Developer and FC Dallas President
“Frisco wouldn’t be the thriving city it is today without the pioneering vision of George Purefoy. He has spearheaded so much business, commerce and sports development into the city. My father, Lamar, worked with him to bring FC Dallas to Frisco and I’m proud to have continued that relationship.
This entire community has benefitted from George’s leadership and commitment to making Frisco one of America’s most innovative communities.”
Geneva M. Polster
Frisco Family Services Board Member
“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Purefoy on a daily basis for 10 ½ years. I was an administrative assistant in the City Manager’s office and witnessed the outstanding character of this man. Running the day-to-day operations of a city is no easy feat and doing so in one of the fastest-growing cities in America takes many traits that Mr. Purefoy exemplifies. I have watched him interact with grace and humility toward everyone he comes in contact with.
Mr. Purefoy is kind, thoughtful and decisive with his intentions, which is a true benefit to our city. His ability to lead and work with many mayors, council members and staff is seen in all that is Frisco. He is a man of faith who with his wife and daughter took a chance in Frisco 35 years ago and for that, I am grateful. … His impact on Frisco is immeasurable and his legacy will forever be written in the history book of Frisco.”
Former Frisco Mayor (2002-2008)
“Frisco is what it is today because of George Purefoy. In my 50 years-plus in the business and nonprofit world and then mayor, I have never worked with a man I admire more. His love of God, family, this city and the citizens who live here has made this one of the most unique cities in the country. George’s dedication, determination, integrity, creativity and reputation for doing what he promises enabled him to build great teams over these 35 years.
He worked with numerous City Councils and Mayors, and with each new leadership team he built confidence and a culture of, `This is Frisco and we can do it,’ always finding bigger and better projects making Frisco a better city. His ability to create public-private partnerships and work as a team with the FISD, EDC, CDC, Chamber of Commerce, counties and universities set Frisco apart from other cities.
During my years on council and as mayor, he established a reputation for trust and getting projects done, working with people like Tom Hicks bringing the RoughRiders and a new stadium to Frisco. What is now the Comerica Center and Dallas Stars executive offices followed. His relationship with John Q. Hammons and confidence he instilled led to the Embassy Suites & Frisco Convention Center, and he had a special place in his heart for Lamar Hunt when the Soccer Complex (now Toyota Stadium) was open in 2005.
From 2004-2008, George and his dedicated staff – thanks to major bond elections in 2002 and 2006 – built Frisco from a town to a city. The City Hall and Library, Central Fire Station, Police station, Senior Center, Heritage Center, Athletic Center and millions of dollars in roads set the stage for the future.
I was honored to serve Frisco with George, Debra and his family.
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.