DI People: Comerica, Toyota, Signify Health, Varsity Brands Make Moves

In this weekly roundup of executive moves in North Texas, you'll also find news from Axxess, TWU, Critical Start, The Container Store, COM Sovereign, Momentous Institute, Bio North Texas, and more.

Across North Texas, companies are promoting and hiring people to take on leadership positions within their organizations.

Dallas Innovates covers prominent personnel moves in Dallas-Fort Worth businesses and nonprofits—from the newest startups to well-established companies. Here are the people moves tied to innovation and technology in the region.

Don’t miss a move: Get Dallas Innovates Every Day. Have a move? Let us know.

Comerica Bank welcomes three to its Fort Worth market business team

Dallas-headquarted Comerica Bank named Freddy Espericueta, Ron Hilburn, and Piper Elam to its Business Banking Team, reporting to Fort Worth Market President Steven Colwick.

With more than 17 years of experience in the commercial banking industry, Espericueta has been named the Business Banking Group manager. In addition to his long resume, The University of North Texas alumnus earned a bachelor of business administration and later graduated from Pacific Coast Banking School. 

Similarly, Hilburn, a Business Banking Relationship manager, has worked in commercial banking for over two decades. A graduate from Texas Tech University with a BBA and master of business administration, Hilburn currently lives in Fort Worth and volunteers with various Tarrant County nonprofits.

Elam will work as the commercial relationship manager for Comerica’s Fort Worth market. Having been in the DFW banking and financial services industry for decades, Elam specializes in managing a diverse client base, ranging from small-to-mid-sized companies. Like Hilburn, he is a Texas Tech undergraduate alumnus and also holds his MBA from the University of Texas at 

Together the trio will work under Colwick’s leadership, who has spearheaded the Fort Worth Market since May 2019. 

“Our experienced team with extensive market knowledge will be able to execute and provide solutions for local businesses that are attracted to Comerica’s relationship approach to banking,” Colwick said.

Varsity Brands adds to its Board Of Directors

Varsity Brands, the industry leader in sport, spirit, and achievement, elected Jené Elzie to its Board of Directors.

Elzie, who currently serves as the chief growth officer for Athletes First Partners Agency, has had extensive experience in the sports and entertainment industry, including leadership positions across a variety of blue-chip companies and globally respected brands. She most previously served as VP of International Marketing for the National Basketball Association, where she developed and led the NBA’s international marketing efforts. Apart from the NBA, Elzie has served in executive management roles at NBC Universal/Comcast and Fox Sports. 

“We are delighted to welcome Jené to the Varsity Brands’ Board of Directors, and believe that her experience transforming brands for the digital age, strategic acumen in the sports industry and passion for the Varsity Brands’ mission will add immediate and tangible value to the Board’s work,” Varsity Brands’ Director Ryan Cotton said. “We look forward to benefiting from her perspective and contributions to the company.”

Toyota Motor North America makes manufacturing executive changes

Plano-based Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) announced executive changes to its manufacturing organization, effective June 30, 2021.

As part of the transition, Jim Zehmer, who currently serves as general manager, administration at Toyota Auto Body Company (TABC), will be promoted to president. Zehmer initially joined TABC’s finance team in 1992 and has since held a variety of leadership positions, including controller and manufacturing support general manager. In his new role he will report to Norm Bafunno, senior vice president, unit manufacturing and engineering, TMNA.

Zehemer will be replacing Mike Truax, current TABC president, who is retiring after a 37-year career with Toyota and New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., the former joint venture of Toyota and General Motors in Fremont, California. Apart from spearheading manufacturing and engineering solutions, Truax worked as a general manager in production engineering for in-house plastics products. 

Signify Health appoints a chief people officer

Headquartered in Dallas, Signify Health, Inc., a leading value-based healthcare platform that leverages advanced analytics names  Susan Yun as Chief People Officer.

With nearly three decades of experience, Yun has been known to excel in HR leadership in mid-size and large companies, including Information Builders, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and General Electric Corporation. In addition Yun spent over 14 years at NBC Universal and General Electric Companies living and working in Europe and Asia learning different cultures and consulting with some of the most respected organizations. 

“I am excited to be joining Signify Health at this pivotal time in the company’s journey,” said Susan. “I look forward to working with this talented team and, together, building an organization and culture that invests in people development and nurtures professional and personal growth while helping us all live our mission to enable more healthy, happy days at home.”

Axxess strengthens its team with two industry veterans

Dallas’ Axxess, a leading technology innovator for care at home, hired industry veterans Christopher Taylor and Jeanette Rubio to strengthen its senior leadership team.

Taylor, who brings more than 25 years of leadership experience, will serve Axxess as Vice President of Sales overseeing sales and marketing organizations and implementation teams. Throughout his career, Taylor has dedicated himself to educating and providing the care-at-home industry with telehealth solutions in order to enhance the quality of care hundreds of thousands of patients receive. In his new role, Taylor focusing on educating the care-at-home industry as a whole on several benefits Axxess’ complete suite of solutions provides.

“I’m really excited to join such a great organization of outstanding people who are laser-focused on empowering healthcare organizations and professionals with the world’s best technology solutions,” said Taylor. “I look forward to serving Axxess and showcasing the power of what a complete suite of technology can do for the care-at-home industry.”

Axxess also welcomed Rubio to its team as vice president. Rubio, who has worked in the healthcare technology field for a large portion of her career, has focused on leading client experience initiatives and assisted in organizational sales, product development, marketing and strategic growth. Because she has worked extensively in both the home health and hospice industries as an agency operator, she is uniquely suited for his new role. Rubio will now lead strategic initiatives hoping to drive client success and growth by optimizing Axxess’ full suite of solutions.

“Axxess has an outstanding culture that is empowering people to build the best home care technology in the marketplace,” said Rubio. “My passion is strategic planning, and I’m looking forward to helping grow and mentor leaders within the organization. Axxess’ ‘people first’ mindset will help us succeed as we continue to develop technology that will transform healthcare for everyone.”

TWU elects new chair of the Board

Texas Wesleyan University elected Glenn Lewis as its new chair of its board of trustees. Lewis is the first person of color to serve as chair in Texas Wesleyan’s 131-year history.

Not only is Lewis a Texas Wesleyan alumnus, but he has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2006, serving as chairman of the governance committee. A year prior to joining the TWU Board of Trustees, Lewis concluded 10 years of service in the Texas House of Representatives, representing the 95th district in Tarrant County. Currently, Lewis works as a partner at Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson law firm. Lewis is active throughout Fort Worth; he is on the board of Water from the Rock Inc, a member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce. Lewis became chair June and will lead the board as it transitions into the new Engage 2025 strategic plan.

“Texas Wesleyan’s mission is to facilitate success among all students from all backgrounds. Glenn has been a critical component in that mission and we are honored to have him serve as the new board chair,” said Texas Wesleyan University President Frederick G. Slabach. “The impact he has had across Fort Worth and Tarrant County is immeasurable. As we look ahead to our new strategic plan, we are confident that Glenn will help Texas Wesleyan make an even greater impact with our students and in the community.”

Critical Start creates two new roles to manage rapid company growth

Critical Start, a leading provider of Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services, promoted Jordan Mauriello to the newly initiated role of chief security officer and also appointed Ron Demers as the company’s new VP of Sales Operations (VPSO). 

Having been with Crirtical Start for more than seven years, Mauriello most recently served as the SVP of Managed Security. His new role as CSO encompasses all aspects of security, including threat intel and continuous security monitoring. Mauriello will now be responsibilities for expanding the company with more senior executives as well as building out the customer care organization for all managed services customers.

Before joining Critical Start, Demers worked in a global operations role at Siemens Industry Software where he successfully increased revenue and the number of partners by four times. In his new position, Demers will work to bring scalability to Critical Start’s go-to-market channel model hoping to solidify the company’s vision to provide the best MDR to the channel. As VPSO, he will also be responsible for overseeing the overall productivity and effectiveness of the sales organization while simultaneously managing the team’s continued expansion both nationally and internationally. 

“These two new appointments to the Critical Start leadership bench bring outstanding global experience and a true understanding of the vital need to deliver a solid experience for both our customers and partners,” said Rob Davis, founder and CEO of Critical Start. “Jordan’s move to CSO gives us the best opportunity to fight the industry’s evolving threat landscape and Ron’s background and sales leadership will be invaluable as we look to continue our rapid growth across industries and geographies.”

The Container Store’s new CEO makes key new hires

The Container Store’s new CEO, Satish Malhotra, is adding to its team with hires of executives from Neiman Marcus, GameStop, and J.C. Penney.

The company’s new chief information officer, Dhritiman Saha, most recently worked at Grapevine-based GameStop, where he was chief digital officer. In addition, he has had leadership roles at J.C. Penney, Target, and Kohl’s. 

The Container Store also welcomed Michelle Gill, a longtime veteran of Dallas-based Neiman Marcus, for the newly created position of vice president of merchandising. In her new roll, Gill will be working on the expansion of The Container Store’s private label and continue creating innovative products made from sustainably sourced materials.

In addition, Robert Higgins will now serve as the new vice president of real estate, LaTisha Brandon fills a new position of senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Ivet Taneva will work as senior director of environmental, social, and corporate governance.

The Container Store continues to look for a vice president of digital marketing and has other openings at the corporate level.

COM Sovereign adds Advisory Board members

COM Sovereign, a leading telecommunication equipment vendor, has named five new members to its Advisory Board in an effort to help integrate intellectual property rights from business units and expand its portfolio of 5G communications products.

The newly appointed advisers include: 

  • Jay Cohen, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and former chief technology officer at the Department of the Navy;
  • David Wiley, chairman and president of Widelity;
  • Cormac Conroy, who served in various executive positions at Qualcomm Technologies and Intel;
  • Sylvanus Bent, president of BGS Consulting and co-founder of Network24; and
  • Susan Schramm, founder of Go To Market Impact.


“We are at an inflection point in history, where investments in advanced communications technologies are of paramount importance to the economic and strategic security of the U.S. and its allies,” Cohen said.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board appoints new chair and vice chair 

Gov. Greg Abbott has named named Fred Farias, III, O.D. as chair and Donna N. Williams vice chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which provides leadership and coordination for the Texas higher education system, for terms set to expire at the pleasure of the Governor.

McAllen resident Farias, who has served on The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since 2015, is an optometrist and the CEO of 20/20 Vision Care. He has served on and is currently vice chairman of the board, chairman of the Academic and Workforce Success Committee, and a member of the Texas Higher Education Foundation. In addition, he serves on many local and statewide boards, including the The University of Texas (UT) System Chancellor’s Executive Committee, UT Austin Development Board, and is a member of the UT Longhorn Foundation Athletic Advisory Council, Vannie E. Cook Cancer Center, the Rio Grande Valley Arthritis Foundation and the Museum of South Texas History.

Williams, who lives in Arlington, is vice president and program manager for Parsons Transportation Group, Inc. She has served on The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since 2018, and is currently vice chairman of the Academic and Workforce Success Committee. She also serves of the Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health National Advisory Board, and the Parsons Federal Credit Union board of directors. Williams’ former member affiliations include the National Association of Professional Women, Project Management Institute, and a Board role for the Society of American Military Engineers, Corporation for National Community Service, Dallas African American Museum, and Justin F. Kimball High School Academy of Hospitality & Tourism.

Momentous Institute elects executive director

Momentous Institute, which works to change the odds for children by intersecting intersection of mental health and education, announced its director of Clinical Innovation, Jessica Gomez, as the new executive director.

For the last 15 years, Dr. Gomez has worked with children and families. She has been with the Momentous team since June 2013, in which she has served as a clinical and assessment supervisor for its training program and overseen doctoral and post-doctoral psychology fellows while simultaneously running in her own private practice. In addition, she has served on the mental health committee for the City of Dallas’ Welcoming Communities & Immigrant Affairs Committee for the last 4 years.

Dr. Gomez is the first Latina to lead Momentous Institute.

“Dr. Gomez brings deep expertise as a published thought leader and psychologist, as well as an intimate understanding of our mission through her direct mental health work with children and families,” Robert Smith, chair of the Momentous Institute’s Board of Directors, said. “She has a stellar track record as an innovative leader, and it was clear through our search process that she is the perfect leader to usher in the next era of Momentous Institute’s work to change the odds for children.”

Bio North Texas names new president, chairman, and CEO

Bio North Texas Foundation, an organization that represents the bioscience industry in North Texas, announces that its Board of Directors have named Kathleen Otto as CEO and Jason Wietjes as President and Chair. 

Prior to joining BioNTX, Otto served as executive director of BioBAT in New York for over six years. Before that, she was VP of Business Development and Programs at Bio New Jersey (BioNJ). In her new role, Otto will lead the nonprofit Bio North Texas Foundation in the commercialization of scientific discovery regarding human health, agriculture, and the environment in all 26 North Texas counties.

Wietjes, a shareholder at the law firm Polsinelli in Dallas, has served on the BioNTX Board for three years. Not only is Wietjes an active member in the regional Life Science and Technology startup community but he has served as a mentor for numerous community organizations. He is highly recognized for his work with clients, including publicly traded companies, entrepreneurs, startup companies and their investors to evaluate and protect valuable intellectual property, monetize IP assets, assess risk, and identify barriers to entry.

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.

Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.

One quick signup, and you’re done.
View previous emails.

R E A D   N E X T