DI People: Southwest Airlines, Collin County Business Alliance, UT Dallas, and More Makes Moves

In this weekly roundup of executive moves in North Texas, you'll also find news from Meritize, ECI Software Solutions, Cyber Group, Munck Wilson Mandala, Xpressdocs, Tailwater Capital, 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.

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Southwest Airlines announces leadership changes

Dallas-headquartered Southwest Airlines has announced two retirements and a series of leadership changes across its Operational, Finance, and Commercial Departments.

Greg Wells, who is the executive vice president of Daily Operations, is retiring and moving to an advisor role, effective March 1. Wells has a wide range of operational experience, working in nine different locations before moving to Dallas in 1997. 

SVP of Air Operations Alan Kasher, who is also a pilot, has been promoted to executive vice president of Daily Operations. He joined Southwest more than two decades ago and has worked in arious management positions within Flight Operations. 

Sam Ford has been promoted to VP of Operational Strategy & Performance. He has been with Southwest since 2007, and has served in various leadership positions on the company’s Customer Support & Services and Operational Performance teams.

Chris “CJ” Johnson has been promoted from managing director of Ground Operations to VP of Ground Operations. He began his career as a ramp agent and held various leadership roles in cities across the country.

Julia Landrum has been promoted to managing director of Financial Planning & Analysis, responsible for ensuring Southwest’s business plan and budget remain in line with its major initiatives, evaluating future trends, and providing economic and industry analysis.

Jim Ruppel, the VP of Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards, is retiring and moving to an advisor role, effective March 1. Ruppel has four decades of experience working for Southwest, beginning his career as a provisioning agent and serving in various leadership roles during his time there.

Collin County Business Alliance adds to its Board

Plano-based Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA), which aims to make Collin County an even more vibrant place to live and work, has added six new members to its Board.

The CCBA Board is responsible for collaborating with stakeholders in the area on key issues related to water, workforce development, and mobility. It will  be tasked with driving the recently launched Social Justice Action Plan, increasing Black voter engagement through the Collin County Votes initiative, supporting Black-owned small businesses, and create programs for students to further equity in underrepresented communities.

“I’m proud of the way CCBA is using its collective voice to bring attention to critical county-wide issues and taking a stand for social justice,” Sanjiv Yajnik, CCBA founder and board chair, said in a statement. “We are excited about working with these new CCBA leaders and the rest of the board to meet the important needs of our community.”

The new Board members are: Glenn Callison, a real estate shareholder at Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr; Rick Haddock, VP of Network Management at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas; Anthony Kyles, VP of Sales, Strategy and Retail Execution in PepsiCo Foods North America’s Quaker Division; Martina McIsaac, region head and CEO of Hilti North America; Rob Spencer, general manager of New Business Development at Toyota Financial Services; and Adrienne Trimble, president and CEO of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

UT Dallas names new dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

David Hyndman

The University of Texas at Dallas has named geoscientist Dr. David Hyndman as its new dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Hyndman has more than two decades of experience as a researcher, educator and academic administrator. Most recently, he was professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University. He is an expert in hydrogeology, and has earned grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for his research.

“I am honored to join the strong and collaborative leadership team as dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UT Dallas,” Hyndman said in a UTD blog. “I have been impressed by the exceptional growth trajectory of the University and the positive and forward-thinking views of everyone I met during the interview. I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, alumni and administrators to advance UTD’s future.”

Meritize appoints two c-suite executives

Benton McTaggart

Frisco-based Meritize, a developer of merit-based financing solutions and technology that connects workers with skills training programs, has promoted Benton McTaggart to chief people officer and Beck Pryor to chief business development officer. 

Pryor is a veteran of corporate strategy who most recently served as Meritize’s vice president of growth & strategy. She has experience in strategy and business development across a variety of sectors, previously serving as the business development and operations director for the Digital Insights business at global food corporation Cargil.

Beck Pryor

McTaggart is a professional coach, certified by the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching, who has experience in employee engagement, talent development, coaching, and internal communication. He previously was a career strategist and coach at personal finance company SoFi.


“In the aftermath of a devastating pandemic and an unprecedented and far-reaching employment crisis, we need to be laser-focused on helping workers access training they need to transition from industries that are struggling to those that are thriving,” Founder and CEO Chris Keaveney said in a statement. “The promotion of these two leaders from within our team is reflective of the important contributions they’re making as we continue to scale our impact and support awareness, access, and advancement for high-potential workers—including our own.”

ECI Software Solutions appoints a new CEO

Trevor Gruenewald

ECI Software Solutions, a provider of cloud-based business management solutions, has promoted Trevor Gruenewald to chief executive officer and Sarah Hagan to president and chief operating officer.

With the changes, ECI’s current CEO Ron Books will transition to the role of chairman. Gruenewald and Hagan will now be in charge of day-to-day operations, with Brooks continuing to work closely with the leadership team and Board of Directors.

Gruenewald will also be responsible for overall product and M&A strategy to position ECI for future growth. He has been at the company since 2009, and is a key member of the senior management team who has consistently driven double-digit growth in customers, revenues, and profitability.

In her role, Hagan will oversee all of ECI’s business units to continue building on the collaboration between the business and finance departments. She was formerly ECI’s CFO, and has also been a member of the senior management team for the past three years.

Cyber Group hires its first chief innovation officer

Rob Palacios

Cyber Group’s innovation lab was created in late 2020 to help its clients find new markets and build deeper relationships. To further Cyber Group’s new initiative, Rob Palacios is joining the Cyber Group team as its first chief innovation officer and also as an executive vice president.

Palacios brings over 30 years of experience to Cyber Group, including as both an executive and a consultant. During that time, he helped companies use technology to gain rapid market share and create competitive advantages, according to a statement.

“Rob’s background and experience will be immensely helpful to our customers and prospects that look for hands-on, real world expertise building fast-growth businesses,” Kanungo said.

Read more here.

Munck Wilson Mandala names new partners

Alison Battiste

Munck Wilson Mandala, a technology-focused law firm, has unanimously elected three new partners to work in its Dallas office in the complex litigation/dispute resolution section: Alison Battiste, Sarah Lopano, and Jordan Strauss.

“Alison, Sarah, and Jordan continue to impress us with their hard work and excellent litigation skills,” said Michael McCabe, co-chair of the MWM’s commercial litigation/dispute resolution practice, in a statement. “Their partnerships are well deserved.”

Sarah Lopano

Battiste has more than 13 years of experience in commercial and high-stakes litigation, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in business, intellectual property, and technology disputes. She sits on the Board at Family Gateway and is a member of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Leadership Dallas Class of 2021.

Lopano has more than eight years of experience in complex commercial litigation and intellectual property disputes. She often attends events on diversity and inclusion and business development and is a graduate of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Lead YP program.

Jordan Strauss

Strauss has more than seven years of experience in commercial litigation and intellectual property disputes, including complex patent disputes. She previously was a lead associate in a $10.1 million dollar infringement lawsuit, one of numerous other patent infringement cases.

“This is a defining moment in the legal careers of Alison, Sarah, and Jordan, and we are proud to call them MWM partners,” said Jenny Martinez, co-chair of the complex litigation/dispute resolution section, in a statement. “They excel as litigators and have impressed all of us this past year with their ability to adapt and bring value to our work.”

Xpressdocs taps a lead of its Emerging Markets team

Danielle Stiehl

Fort Worth-based Xpressdocs, a provider of brand management and marketing automation solutions, has appointed Danielle Stiehl as its VP of Emerging Markets.

Stiehl has 15 years of experience in sales and leadership in the direct marketing industry. She has been with the company since it acquired Amazing Mail in 2019, where she was CEO. In her new role, Stiehl will oversee the launch of a suite of marketing automation solutions.

“I’m proud of the capabilities we developed at Amazing Mail and believe the synergies of our combined organization will delight our customers, old and new,” Stiehl said in a statement.

Tailwater makes three promotions

Dallas-based private equity firm Tailwater Capital has promoted Scott Peters, John Spradling, and Drew Winston to principal.

Peters has been with Tailwater since 2013, primarily overseeing deal sourcing, transaction execution, and portfolio oversight. He has been active across both upstream and midstream investments and is currently a director of Pivotal Petroleum Partners. 

Spradling joined Tailwater in 2017 and has been responsible for sourcing, evaluating, executing, and monitoring investments during that time. He previously served as an associate at NGP Energy Capital Management, an energy private equity firm.

Winston has been responsible for sourcing, evaluating, executing, and monitoring the investments since coming to Tailwater in 2018. Before that, he was the director of Business Development at Sage Midstream, a private equity-backed midstream company.

GlobalStep appoints a chairman of the Board

Carter Pate

Dallas-based GlobalStep, a provider of end-to-end product life cycle solutions to the games industry, has named Carter Pate as its new chairman of the Board of Directors.

Pate is well known as a visionary business leader who has served on the Board of multiple public companies. He previously spent two decades as a partner at PwC, going on to serve as the the CEO of Providence Service Corporation and CEO of MV Transportation. He has expertise in regulatory compliance and corporate governance.

“Carter brings a wealth of experience and a distinguished track record in building global service organizations. He fully shares our passion for the success of our customers, excellence in service delivery and our desire to build an organization where our people can fulfill their inherent potential while creating value for our customers,” CEO Gagan Ahluwalia said in a statement. “I know that the Board is in good hands under Carter’s stewardship and will thrive with his leadership and expertise in corporate governance.” 

Lena Pope appoints a chief advanacement officer

Cathy Sheffield

Fort Worth-based nonprofit Lena Pope, which aims to improve the lives of Tarrant County children, has appointed Cathy R. Sheffield as its new chief advancement officer.

In her new role, Sheffield will execute comprehensive and diversified fundraising and marketing strategies. She will be tasked with ensuring Lena Pope has the resources needed to continue supporting child development and improving the behavioral and mental health of local children.

Previously, Sheffield founded and served as president of ThinkGiving. She has also been vice president at Thompson & Associates and held various development positions at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Health Foundation, Texas Health Resources Foundation, Cook Children’s Health Foundation, and Texas Christian University.

TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation expands Board

Cynthia P. Tarle

Dallas-based TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation, an organization that is commited to fighting cancer and ultimately finding a cure for all childhood cancer, has added Cynthia Tarle to its Board of Directors. 

Tarle is the founder of Tarle Law and serves as the managing director of their offices in Austin, Dallas, and San Diego. She has represented NASDAQ, NYSE-listed, Fortune 500 companies, governmental entities, and policyholders for more than two decades.

“The fragility of life came into laser focus the day I learned of Connor’s neuroblastoma diagnosis,” Tarle said in a statement. “No longer was childhood cancer something I read about or heard others discussing from a distance. Through Connor’s mother Joy Cruse, a dear friend of over 30 years, childhood cancer suddenly hit very close to home. No parent should have the burden of outliving their own child, yet every day cancer takes the most innocent among us, leaving families wondering how such a horrible disease can continue without a cure.”

Endurance Advisory Partners adds a managing director

Dallas-based Endurance Advisory Partners has named Steve Everbach as the managing director for its Commercial Real Estate Advisory.

Before joining Endurance, Everbach was the president of the Central Region for Colliers International Group. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Dallas Regional Chamber, The Real Estate Council, and Downtown Dallas. He has also held senior leadership positions for several global commercial real estate companies.

“Steve’s insights into the commercial real estate market will provide our clients with valuable advice at a critical time,” CEO Stephen Curry said in a statement. “As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, banks need to have a good understanding of their CRE loan portfolio, strategic alternatives for struggling properties and guidance on repositioning for new growth.  Commercial real estate developers, investors and service companies will also benefit from his expertise.”

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