Advisory Board North Texas

Bobby Abtahi is a lawyer with a passion for civic service in his hometown of Dallas. He started his public service work in 2008 as a Dallas Assistant City Attorney & Community Prosecutor. In 2012 he was awarded The President’s Volunteer Service award by the Obama White House for his work in Southern Dallas. He has served three terms on the Dallas City Plan Commission and held the title of Vice Chairman for his final two terms.

Chris Applequist is the Vice-President of Generation Housing Development (GHD), a leading, Texas-based affordable housing development group. Chris has been involved in the development of approximately 4,000 multifamily units, with a capitalization value of approximately $425,000,000. His development experience stems from working with some of the largest multifamily developers in the county and includes the development of student housing, conventional market-rate apartments, senior housing, luxury condominiums, and affordable apartments. Chris also has extensive experience in structuring public-private partnerships with municipalities, county governments, and housing finance corporations.

Tillie Galan Borchers is a Director of Investments at Civitas Capital Group and is responsible for originating and underwriting investments for the Grow South Fund and other Civitas managed funds. Ms. Borchers brings over 13 years of experience in underwriting and asset management of commercial real estate loans secured by projects throughout the U.S.

Lucy Burns began her career at Lehman Brothers in New York City where she worked in Private Client Services. From there she transitioned into real estate as the head of investments for Groupe Arnault in the United States. In 2006 Lucy joined The Ratkovich Company in Los Angeles where she managed the renovation of a 500,000 square foot high rise on Wilshire Boulevard. The role involved oversight and management of the complete replacement of the building’s central plant, asbestos abatement, common area upgrades and a $5 million lobby renovation. Mrs. Burns also handled lease negotiation, asset positioning, partnership relationships, and property management. In 2008 Lucy entered the family real estate business, where she manages Billingsley Company’s office and single-family property portfolios.

Bill Chaney has successfully prosecuted and defended numerous complex commercial disputes with millions of dollars at stake, multiple parties and parallel litigation across several courts. He has resolved cases involving an incredibly diverse range of challenging issues, including fraudulent investments, genetically-modified crops, ATM and electronic payment processing, oil and gas mineral rights, a variety of aviation issues plus much more.

Chantel Cheatham was appointed as a Director of Legal of Pizza Hut, LLC in October 2020 and serves as a Secretary of Pizza Hut of America, LLC, which is based in Plano, Texas. Previously, Ms. Cheatham was a Partner at Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, LLP (“Thompson Coe”) from September 2018 to October 2020 and served as a Senior Attorney from May 2016 to September 2018, based in Dallas, Texas.

Trammell S. Crow is the founder of EARTHx (formerly known as Earth Day Texas), the largest annual environmental exhibition and programming initiative in the world. What started as an event covering a few blocks in Dallas in 2011 has expanded to a year-round series of events, forums and more. In 2017 EARTHx welcomed more than 100,000 attendees as it continues to grow as the hub for education, innovation and relationship-building not just within the environmental community, but beyond, as we all have a stake in the future of our planet.

Alan Dorantes formerly served as Chief of Staff/General Counsel for Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. In this role, Alan served as a critical partner to the CEO and the Executive Office. He worked closely with other Executive Team members in the execution of their strategic priorities. He played a critical connective role with both internal and external stakeholders helping to build strong relationships and ensure effective communication. 

Lois is an accomplished independent consultant, writer, research assistant and teacher, as well as an active community servant. She graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and went on to earn a double master’s degree at the University of Texas at Dallas in environmental science and science education. After moving to Dallas, she became involved in a local environmental group where her success prompted the Dallas City Council to appoint her to the City of Dallas Park and Recreation.

Jerry is a second generation Dallas developer and property manager. He is the president of Jerome Frank Investments. As investors who build, the 75-year-old firm has been involved in a broad variety of projects from military officer housing on Air Force bases, to high rise luxury apartments on Turtle Creek. They have developed commercial and industrial warehouses and award-winning residential land planning projects. He has served on the Board of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, and is proud for the opportunity to develop supportive housing and quality neighborhoods.

Ron Gafford spent forty-two years in the construction industry, including seven years in commercial and residential real estate development. The last three years he has been engaged in private investments and board membership in public, private, and non-profit boards. Ron's career began after graduating from Texas A&M University (1972) with a degree in building construction. He had a brief tour in the Army Corps of Engineers after completing his basic training at Ft. Riley, Kansas (1971) and Engineers Officer Basic Training at Ft.Belvoir, VA (1972). He also completed the AMP, Graduate School of Business, Harvard University (1987).

Dr. Michael A. Horne is the Regional Superintendent of KIPP (“Knowledge is Power Program”) Texas Public Schools—Dallas-Fort Worth, a network of seven college-preparatory, tuition-free, public charter schools educating 3,000 students in southern Dallas. Over ninety-eight percent of KIPP Texas Public Schools—Dallas- Fort Worth students are Black or Latinx; and over ninety-percent are free and reduced-price lunch eligible. To date, KIPP Texas Public Schools-DFW alumni have graduated from college at a rate of 4 times the national average for low-income students. For more than 15 years, KIPP Austin, KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth, KIPP Houston, and KIPP San Antonio have put thousands of students on the path to and through college. In 2018, Michael was named a “40 Under 40” honoree by the Dallas Business Journal.

In the course of her work, Sharon's favorite thing is to step back in the middle of a frenetic event and watch all of the guests (who are hopefully having fun, learning something, making new connections, and creating memories). She is the founder and president of Ensemble, an experiential design studio based in Dallas, TX. Ensemble works with clients to build programs, experiences and activations to help tell the stories of our clients’ missions in ways that stick with people. Prior to starting Ensemble, she co-founded Public City, a community engagement firm, which she co-led from 2013-2017.

Tim is widely regarded for his leadership experience in the banking, education and non-profit sectors. Tim Maiden has worked in the finance industry since 2001 and participated in over $350M of capital transactions during his career. This includes community banking, middle-market lending, public finance and commercial real estate. His leadership style is personal, solutions-driven and results-oriented. Tim Maiden currently serves as an SVP at Simmons Bank and adjunct professor at University of North Texas at Dallas. Additionally, Tim Maiden provides organizational and leadership training to non-profits and marketplace organizations.

Heidi is the vice president of strategic planning at Medical City Healthcare (HCA North Texas). Heidi was previously a director of health industries advisory, strategic transformation practice at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLP.

Andrés Ruzo is a National Geographic Explorer, TED MainStage Speaker, TEDBook Author, and host of the award-winning National Geographic Latin America show Misterios del Inframundo (Mysteries of the Underworld). He is a geothermal scientist, conservationist, science communicator, and educator, and his work has been featured on the NatGeo Channel, Magazine, and social media. Furthermore, he has served as an ambassador for various NatGeo project partnerships and initiatives, including work with LEGO, Coors Light, and BMW, as well as keynoted over 300 NatGeo events.

Jim is a project manager at Beck Group, a commercial structure and architecture company based in Dallas, TX. He is currently leading the construction of four new parks in downtown Dallas, including the recently completed Pacific Plaza. Previously Jim was a project engineer intern at F.H. Paschen. Jim has a B.S. in architectural engineering and construction management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Jim is married to Jessica Shipley, marketing manager at the Beck Group. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Oklahoma.

Enisha served as Director of Board and External Affairs at Texas 2036, a public policy nonprofit that uses data to drive forward-thinking change for Texas. There, she was responsible for building and maintaining Texas 2036’s board of directors and ensuring diversity across several demographic measures – ethnicity, geography, industry, age, and gender. Additionally, Enisha was responsible for building and maintaining relationships with community, civic, and business leaders across the entire state of Texas.

Tamela is a founding partner and principal of ESmith Legacy, LLC and the head of client services for E Smith Advisors, the real estate development company founded by former NFL player, Emmitt Smith. Tamela’s focus at the company is on social infrastructure development (civil infrastructure development). Tamela is a former Yum! Brands and Starbucks executive.

Joan Walne, a Colorado native, arrived in Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University and graduated in 1976. Upon her marriage to Alan Walne, Dallas and more specifically, Lake Highlands, became home. Along with their son and daughter, the Walne family became integrally involved in all things Lake Highlands. Joan chaired/served on task forces, building committees, Young Life leadership, was PTA president at multiple schools as well as President of the Lake Highlands Women’s League.

For more than seventeen years, Asheya Warren, CPSM, has worked with numerous architecture/engineering/construction (A/E/C) firms, ranging from large national corporations to emerging minority-owned/small businesses. Her project involvement primarily focuses on major commercial construction management, architectural design, and real estate development projects in both the public and private sectors. This experience includes winning numerous landmark Dallas-Fort Worth project awards, such as the new Parkland Hospital and Museum Tower, in addition to other major commercial construction projects throughout the country. She has also championed numerous award-winning industry project award submittals. Asheya’s expertise also encompasses strategic community building, non-profit marketing, and community engagement.

Karl Zavitkovsky served as Director for the City of Dallas Office of Economic Development for 12 years until his retirement in June, 2017. Prior to joining the City, Karl worked for Bank of America's Real Estate Group for 16 years as the Managing Director and Commercial Real Estate Division Executive for the Central United States, He also supervised the Commercial Real Estate Advisory Group. Karl spent the early years of his banking career in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Caracas, Venezuela where he ultimately led Citicorp's real estate lending activities in Northern South America and the Caribbean. He relocated to Dallas in 1984 to head Citicorp Real Estate's Southwest Region.