A True Visionary

By Stephen Hunt

Anyone who has called Frisco home for some time will always use one or two words, change and growth, to describe our fair burg. According to biggestuscities.com, Frisco’s population jumped from approximately 6,500 in 1990 to around 35,000 in 2000 and nearly 117,000 in 2010. In 2022, Frisco had nearly 220,000 residents, a number which figures only to keep growing considering the breakneck pace of growth the community is known for shows no signs of slowing.
Between 1996 and 2002, Kathy Seei served as Frisco’s mayor, a six-year span when the community’s population grew by a whopping 300 percent. Under her watch, Stonebriar Centre, which brought thousands of shoppers to Frisco and helped spur development up and down Texas State Highway 121, opened in August 2000.
 Another feather in Seei’s cap is that during her tenure, the city built a minor league baseball park, initially known as Dr. Pepper Ballpark, just north of Highway 121 and the Dallas North Tollway, to house the Texas Rangers’ new Double-A affiliate in the Texas League, the Frisco Roughriders. Frisco obtained its beloved ‘Riders when the owners of the Shreveport Swamp Dragons, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants since 1979, decided to move the team to Frisco after the 2002 season.
The Roughriders were an overnight success, bringing a family-friendly brand of baseball to Frisco where fans could see tomorrow’s big-leaguers today, get an autograph or two, watch them play in a brand-new ballpark, and not have to drive all the way to Arlington to catch a ballgame. The ‘Riders continue to be among the attendance leaders in minor league baseball and have won numerous awards for their fan friendliness and great promotions, including the lazy river, a free-flowing waterway just beyond the right field fence, which is 174 feet long and contains over 68,000 gallons of water. 
 When Seei, who with her husband of 52 years, Bob, now calls Prosper home, sees Stonebriar Centre and ‘Riders Field, she can’t help but feel a sudden rush of pride for the crucial role she played in getting these two local institutions completed. “I hope they [the city of Frisco] stay prosperous and well-maintained as they continue providing essential services and improving our citizens’ quality of life.”
Seeing the Roughriders’ immediate success helped spur other local teams to relocate to Frisco. In 2003, the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League moved their practice facility and team headquarters near the new baseball stadium; the same year Comerica Center, which has hosted ice hockey, indoor football, concerts, graduations and has been home to the NBA G-League’s Texas Legends since 2010, opened.
 In August 2005, Pizza Hut Park, now known as Toyota Stadium, opened as the new home for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. The National Football League’s most iconic franchise, the Dallas Cowboys, moved their headquarters to Frisco in 2016, which helped spur the bustling development surrounding their base of operations, The Star. However, were it not for the success of early projects like Stonebriar Centre and ‘Riders Field, it’s unlikely these other teams would have moved to Frisco and spurred its incredible growth.
Seei, however, who calls “honoring the past while building the future” and planning for and managing growth simultaneously as the biggest challenges of her six years as Frisco’s mayor, doesn’t take credit for these two groundbreaking projects. “I am blessed to have had the Frisco citizens’ support, trust, and involvement. Little would have been accomplished without the team effort of the citizens and all our city leaders and staff.”
 But when asked what she loved most about her time as mayor, she didn’t hesitate in naming the strong can-do spirit she experienced firsthand while leading Frisco. “I loved getting the citizens involved in multiple ways,” Seei said. “We earned their support because they had an ownership stake in the future of their city. They also brought many great ideas from all parts of the US and beyond. They had great input on what they wanted to see in our future and what they didn’t want to see.”

She grew up in Belleville, Illinois, a city across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. When it came time to attend college, she chose Western Illinois University (WIU), in northern Illinois in Macomb, about three hours away. Her decision to attend WIU was a fateful one as it’s where she met her future husband, Bob. “We met during our senior year in 1969,” Seei recalled. “Bob was working in my dorm and I took notice! The rest is history! We have been married 52 years.”
 Seei earned a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Psychology from WIU and later a graduate degree from Texas A&M University in Educational Leadership and Administration. But how did she and her family end up in Frisco? Well, she has Bob to thank for that. 
“We were living and working in Plano for 10 years. Erin, our oldest, was entering first grade. Plano had grown and we wanted our children to grow up in a small-town atmosphere with a great school district. We also wanted to live where there was lots of open space for our kids to play ball in the front yard, ride ATVs, and play in the creek while in a safe environment,” she said.
 “Bob’s ‘hobby’ was to drive around and look for property. He came home one day and said he found a place to live in Frisco. So, we drove up. I fell in love with the little town where everyone waved as you passed them and said hello wherever you stopped. He showed me a lot in Custer Creek Farms in far east Frisco, a two-acre lot surrounded by farmland with a running creek. The rest was history!”

In addition to serving as mayor, Seei also was active in the community as a volunteer for various organizations including Arts of Collin County, which she served as president from 2004 through 2007, Habitat for Humanity, the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, which she served as a board member from 1996 through 2000, and the Metroplex Mayors’ Association, where she was president from 2001 to 2002.

 Since leaving office, she worked as Vice President of Corporate Development and Director of Business Development for the Southwest Region for multinational infrastructure consulting firm AECOM. In 2003, she started SEEI3 LLC, a company that designs serious games for small companies, international companies, cities, and individuals in a fun environment.

In 2009, she and Bob left Frisco for Westcliffe, Colorado, where they ran the Over the Brim Inn, a bed and breakfast that earned thousands of rave reviews from its visitors. “When we traveled, Bob would see a place and say it would make a great inn,” she said. “I loved fulfilling that dream while serving our guests. We closed in 2014 with a 95 percent occupancy to move closer to our children and grandchildren.”

 Kathy Seei is also one of Frisco’s prominent early figures to have a street named after her, Seei Circle, which isn’t far from ‘Riders Field, a facility she helped bring to Frisco during her time as mayor. She admits she wasn’t on board with having a street named after her, mainly because she was sure no one would know how to pronounce her last name.
Whether it was as Frisco’s mayor, her time in corporate America, heading up her own company, running a bed and breakfast in Colorado with her husband, Bob, or her countless hours of volunteer work in the community, Seei has always served with pride, passion, and dedication. However, when asked to name her proudest accomplishment, she quickly named her family. “Raising two great children [Erin and Rob)] and spending the majority of my career helping parents of children with disabilities get their kids in an inclusive public education environment where all students benefited [is what I’m most proud of],” she said. “My family, children, and grandchildren [were the favorite part of my journey]. I also loved working with children with disabilities and their families and helping Frisco grow into the incredible city it has become.”

 And even though the Frisco of today is much bigger and considerably more spread out than it was during her time as mayor, seeing what the community has become still brings a smile to her face. “[I’m] happy,” she said. “I’m glad we could raise our kids while it was small, but I’m also proud of the exceptional way it has grown. We anticipated and planned for the growth, so seeing so many young families decide to make Frisco their hometown is exciting.” 

During her time as Frisco’s mayor from 1996 through 2002, Kathy Seei helped lay the foundation for the community’s future growth and numerous successes, achievements she sees currently manifested in the bustling city. “It’s a great place to live, work, and play,” she said when asked what she still loves most about Frisco.

Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.

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