People to Watch 2023

By Christian McPhate and Lisa Sciortino

Frisco is a city that refuses to remain still. 
No longer the sleepy agricultural town it once was, seemingly every corner of our community bustles with business as companies large and small open their doors daily. World-class amenities – from healthcare and hospitality to fine dining and a variety of arts, cultural and entertainment options – and unparalleled educational opportunities abound here. 
Equally as integral as innovation is to Frisco, so are the people who work here and call this city home. 
Be it through their professional knowledge, skillsets and unique abilities or their tireless efforts in giving back to the community, their determination to succeed coupled with their dedication to our city provides the momentum that continues to propel Frisco into its successful future. 
We introduce you to seven of these outstanding  individuals  (Frisco’s  movers and shakers, if you will) whom Frisco STYLE has deemed 2023’s People to Watch.

Christian McPhate is an award-winning feature writer who moonlights as a journalism instructor at the University of North Texas. His bylines have appeared in a number of publications. 
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.

 Jason Cooley

City of Frisco Chief Innovation Officer
Frisco Family Services board member
Frisco Inclusion Committee Liaison

For City of Frisco Chief Innovation Officer Jason Cooley, coordinating innovative projects and aligning Frisco’s resources with emerging technologies is simply what he does.  
Also a board member for Frisco Family Services, Cooley holds a PhD in public affairs and uses what he has learned in school — as well as by serving in other city positions — to help improve the lives of Frisco residents through emerging innovative technology. 
Cooley leads the advancement of Smart City technology and municipal innovation for Frisco and also serves as the liaison to Mayor Jeff Cheney’s Frisco Inclusion Committee. 
“When I look at innovation, I look at it not just as technology like drones and driverless cars but also how we can do things to be more productive,” Cooley says. “Sometimes it’s not technology, but simply making sure that we’re being as efficient as possible.”
A New Orleans native, Cooley attended school at the University of Southern Mississippi where he studied speech communications as an undergraduate student and political science as a graduate student. He received his PhD in public affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas and has previously worked for cities including Arlington, Addison and McKinney. 
“I think working for a city gives you an opportunity to impact people’s daily lives in a positive regard as quickly as possible,” he says.
For the past 16 years, Cooley has been impacting people’s daily lives in various municipal government roles. Since joining the City of Frisco seven years ago, he has served as interim director of Parks and Recreation, interim intergovernmental affairs manager and assistant to the city manager.
As the chief innovation officer, Cooley works to identify emerging technology that aligns with the city’s profile and, in turn, with available resources to make it happen. His biggest project to implement so far is Wing’s drone delivery program, which is operating out of two locations at Frisco Station and at Eldorado Parkway and FM 423. 
After he learned about this project, Cooley had it in front of Mayor Cheney within a week. 
Cheney embraces technology, Cooley says. The mayor told him to “lean in and align resources.” Those resources included acquiring all the zoning needed to implement it. Cooley estimates it took about six months to do so. 
“It was something that had not been done before in the state of Texas,” Cooley says.
Another thing that hasn’t been done before is offering augmented reality (AR) as a wayfinding tool at Frisco’s Grand Park by overlaying a digital image onto the real world. 
Cooley says the city is moving forward with implementing it there with plans to make it available at other amenities in Frisco, including parks, at the Frisco Heritage Museum and the Frisco Public Library.
The technology, Cooley says, will allow smartphone users to experience Grand Park as though they were there. 
“We will use AR as a way to further activate the space,” Cooley says. “It will be used as an innovative way to provide wayfinding and highlight interesting and notable features in the park.”

 Ann Anderson

Anderson Agency, Farmers Insurance 
Spirit of Frisco Award recipient

About 10 years ago, Ann Anderson faced what she calls a “hiccup” in her life. 
A corporate-world veteran, she experienced a major injury that took her about a year-and-a-half to recover from. After her recovery, Anderson knew she needed to find a job to help with her family’s finances. 
Her son was in middle school at the time and on the autism spectrum. She says she wasn’t sure what his future held and wondered if it would be one that included him working for her to earn a living. 
She began investigating opportunities to own a business since it would afford her the opportunity to create a safety net for her son in case he needed it. That opportunity came from Farmers Insurance. Ten years later, Anderson owns and operates a successful insurance agency in Frisco. 
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce earlier this year awarded Anderson the 2023 Frisco Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Frisco Award, Meanwhile, her son has surpassed her expectations, graduating from Frisco ISD with honors and enrolling at Collin College to major in accounting. 
Anderson grew up as a military brat. Her father was in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Germany when she was born. Three years later, the family returned to the States, and she spent most of her childhood in San Angelo with her three siblings only to graduate high school in Washington. She quickly returned to Texas. 
Anderson’s mother was a working professional whose service was usually with the young military members that her father worked with on base. Anderson doesn’t recall a holiday when there weren’t a half-dozen service members spending the holidays with her family. Her mother was also involved in the military wives’ clubs and prison ministry. 
“That was an example for us to follow,” Anderson says, which led her to join a junior chamber of commerce and later volunteer in the Frisco community. Owning her own insurance agency afforded her the opportunity to do so. 
Since opening her business Anderson, who was a member of Leadership Frisco Class XX, has become the ambassador for and sits on the board of directors of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the Frisco Public Art board and the Frisco Fastpacs board. She is an active member of the Frisco Women’s League and the American Legion. 
According to the Frisco Chamber of Commerce’s website, the Spirit of Frisco Award recognizes individuals who exemplify “love, dedication, commitment and sincerity towards his or her city and fellow citizens … a person who truly embodies the spirit of our great city.” 
“I have a strong faith in God,” Anderson says, “and I believe that we need to serve others in whatever way we need to do that.”

 Karen White

Owner, Oasis Accents / Board member of Frisco Arts Foundation and North Texas Community Giving Foundation

When Karen White arrived in Frisco 17 years ago, she hadn’t planned on staying long. 
“I really just thought it would be a stop on my career journey and that I’d move on to the next opportunity,” recalls White, owner of the art and home décor boutique Oasis Accents, located in The Shops at Starwood. 
However, she says, the city “grabbed my attention, and I’m a Frisconian forever now.” 
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, to parents from Barbados and Guyana, White says education was key in her family’s household. A graduate of Cornell University, she spent nearly a quarter-century working in Corporate America as a human resources executive.  
After the company for which White was working relocated her to Frisco in 2006, she says she took a look around the burgeoning city and thought, “‘If all these companies and people and houses are here, there’s got to be a need for home décor.’ … I was like, ‘This is an opportunity to create something unique and different and fulfill my passion of being a small busines owner,’” which prompted her to open Oasis Accents in 2017. The business recently became part of the 2023 FC Dallas HomeGrown Partners Program. 
With a history of volunteerism in the cities in which she had previously worked and resided, White says, “I knew I had to get to know fellow (local) business owners. I knew I wanted to understand and live and breathe the Frisco community.” 
For two years, White served on the board of directors of the Frisco Family YMCA. She resigned from that role upon being elected more than a year ago to the Frisco Arts Foundation’s board of directors, on which she currently serves. 
“It made a natural sense that since my business is in the arts field that I also get more involved with Frisco Arts Foundation,” she says, adding that she believes local residents and others are “transitioning more and more to embracing original art in Frisco.” 
“As more people move here, (bringing) more and more diversity, I think you’re going to find more and more art collectors. … I think over time you’ll see more and more people coming over to art and collecting art.” (Oasis Accent’s gallery features locally produced artworks.) 
White also currently serves on the board of the North Texas Community Giving Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations and hosts the annual Texas Big Star Half Marathon & 5K fundraiser. 
She is also active on the local political scene and publicly supports Frisco ISD and Frisco city government candidates who “I know really well … and I know the sacrifice that they make for themselves as well as their families. I want (the city) to stay the course and continue to do the great things that we’re doing.”
White says she is truly passionate about her efforts to help “elevate the arts within Frisco to the same extent that we’ve elevated Frisco to Sports City USA. 
“It’s really about how do we continue to grow arts and culture within Frisco and really scale it to the level that we can impact not just Frisco residents but to all of the visitors that come to Frisco to truly demonstrate the fabric of our city, which is all about the various cultures that we have. Art is visual — it’s acting, it’s spoken word, it’s singing. It’s really (about) appreciating all art and elevating it to a much broader scale within the city.”

 Dominic Parks Jr.

Chef, Founder of ChefNIC & Co.

Chef Dominic Parks Jr. preaches excellence in service at ChefNIC & Co. in its offerings of catering, private chefs and take-home restaurant meals for its clients. 
Based in Frisco, the company’s core mission statement, Parks says, is Nutrition, Inspiration and Creativity (NIC), and it strives to achieve that in each meal it creates.
“I want my team to feel empowered,” Parks says. “You mean something to this company and are valuable here. I want you to feel like what you are doing is important and will help grow success. I don’t care if you’re the chef, the server or the dishwasher, there is no one more important than that person. … It’s not about me. I’m here to do my community stuff and advocacy stuff and don’t need the credit.”
Parks created the company’s concept when he was a student at the University of Arkansas as part of a class assignment. He stood outside of the bars and clubs along Dickenson Street, known as the “heartbeat of Fayetteville,” selling food and catering such events as graduations and weddings. He eventually grew his clientele to include Sam’s Club and Walmart before relocating his business to Frisco.
Today, his clientele includes the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, Frisco ISD staff and the Frisco fire and police departments. Parks was recently a finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Frisco Chamber of Commerce. 
Parks is in the process of opening a restaurant later this year. He plans to call it 3 Strands Bistro, Catering & Bar, a name that he says represents his connection with God that strengthened at a time in his life when he was struggling with heart issues and identity theft. 
Parks’ trial and tribulations have led him to live by saying every day,
“Hope x Faith x Prayer = Love.”
Parks originally wanted to be an architect until a college professor gave him a class assignment to pick something on campus that he wanted to change, and to create and implement the plan. He came up with the idea to offer chicken wings during football games at the stadium. He made his own sauce and cooked them for his class.
“Everyone loved them, including me,” Parks told Frisco STYLE in 2022. That love led him to change his degree to hospitality and restaurant management and he began working on a plan for ChefNIC & Co.
In 2014, he moved to Dallas, finished a degree in culinary arts at the Art Institute of Dallas and started working in the restaurant industry. He credits his Christian faith for helping him achieve his dreams, and does his best to share his journey in testimony as a way to inspire others.
Parks’ religious beliefs appear prominently in the new concept for 3 Strands from its purple, white and gold logo (which he explains represents the Mother, the Father and God) to the composition of the dishes that it will serve: protein, starch and vegetables. 
The number three, Parks explains, is prominent in the Bible from the Old Testament story of the three brothers thrown into the fire with an angel, to the New Testament tale of Jesus who was 33 when he died and rose on the third day to become part of what’s known as the Holy Trinity. 
“The Holy Trinity is God, Son and the Holy Ghost,” Parks says. “In the kitchen world, it’s celery, onions and bell peppers.”

 Brad Sharp

Founder, Sierramind / Co-founder and COO, Hexa Creative Hub / Frisco Downtown Advisory Board chair / Heritage Association of Frisco vice president

Brad Sharp is on a mission to “radically change” the lives of others for the better. 
It is no wonder given the many positive changes he has experienced personally and professionally over the past 17 years. 
Just prior to moving to Frisco in 2006, the Mississippi native was diagnosed with heart failure, a progressive disease. In 2011, he underwent a lifesaving heart transplant surgery that was followed by about a year of recovery. 
Since then, Sharp, a professional photographer, has become what he describes as a Frisco “community advocate.” 
His efforts began in 2014 when he participated in the City of Frisco’s City Hall 101 program, which offers residents a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inner workings of local government. Later that year, he applied for and was appointed to the city’s Public Art Board, on which he served for four years (three of those as its chair). 
Sharp went on to serve on Frisco Citizen Bond Committees in 2019 and 2023. Also, since 2018, he has been a member of (and currently chairs) the Frisco Downtown Advisory Board, which works to enhance the economy of that district as well as help with determining the best use of city-owned buildings there and advising the Frisco City Council and city staff. 
“I think Downtown Frisco has the potential to be a cultural center within Frisco,” he says, adding that what he enjoys most about participating on the advisory board “is being a voice for arts and culture in that space.” 
He is passionate about his work with the board because he doesn’t “want that to be an underdeveloped space that people get used to just driving by between” Frisco’s development-packed northern and southern edges. “I want it to be something that when people stop … they find something vibrant and beautiful.” 
Sharp’s resume overflows with volunteer efforts. He was a member of Leadership Frisco XVIII class; the 2020 class of the Leadership Arts Institute, which installed a mural created by a local artist at the Frisco Discovery Center; and currently serves as vice president of the Frisco Heritage Association. 
He also founded Sierramind, a business that (according to its website) provides “inspired coaching, education and training to enhance personal growth and facilitate transformational change.” Sharp says it was spawned as a result of his own personal “transformational journey over the past year.” 
Over the years, Sharp has been involved with several nonprofit organizations including serving on the board of directors of Frisco Arts and the Arts and Music Guild. 
In 2017, he co-founded Creative Frisco, which works with members of the creative community by providing professional development training and education, advocacy and collaborative opportunities. 
Most recently, he co-founded and became COO of Richardson-based Hexa Creative Hub with the goal of uniting “creatives” and others with members of the entrepreneurial community. 
Artists, he says, “celebrate each other’s differences, and they help each other when they have difficulties. … They express their souls to the world, and they are very vulnerable and unapologetic about it. I just love that.”

 Scott Stewart

Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Park Foundation

Imagine a place where year-round immersive and diverse free public programming occurs — concerts, films, fitness and well-being activities, culture, music and dance festivals. It’s a place where Frisco families will gather among monumental works of public art, architecture and gardens.
Located within Hall Park, near Highway 121 and the Dallas North Tollway, Kaleidoscope Park will offer all of this programming and more when it opens in 2024. 
Scott Stewart is executive director of Kaleidoscope Park Foundation, in charge of helping to fundraise and support the park. He says his role is to offer input and guidance on the design of different park elements and direction on programming activities at a park being dubbed as a future innovative arts-and-cultural destination near the heart of North Texas. 
“One of the pleasant surprises has been everyone’s excitement about the park,” Stewart says. “Every group that I’ve spoken with in Frisco and beyond, everybody has been excited and has questions. Everybody has (said), ‘Yes, this is what we need. We need more of this, a culture-focused park. It’s what we want and need and will add to our lives, to North Texas.’” 
After receiving a PhD in horticulture from the University of Florida, Stewart spent a decade running Chicago’s Millennium Park, a nationally renowned park with one of the largest green roofs in the world. It covers three-square blocks and offers a Ferris wheel, an ice-skating rink and outdoor music.  
At Kaleidoscope Park, events will occur nearly on a daily basis. For example, Stewart envisions Monday nights becoming local music night. Tuesday nights would be film night. Sunday afternoons could be symphony day or a night for families. 
“What I would love to see happen is Tuesday after work, it just becomes a thing to come to Kaleidoscope Park for whatever we might have going on,” Stewart says. 
Frisco city leaders recruited Stewart from Chicago to help cross the finish line to make it happen. They wanted to transform Hall Park from an office park to a community park, he says, because it directly benefits not only Frisco but also the entire North Texas region. 
It was an unusual step for a city that is known as Sports City USA. (Frisco is also becoming known as the “Silicon Valley of Golf” with the addition of the PGA headquarters and facilities.)
Thus, it is a natural fit for what the city is doing with Kaleidoscope Park, Stewart says. He points out that whenever a soccer or baseball tournament happens in Frisco, attendees will often look for ways to spend their time outside of the sporting arena. He wants Kaleidoscope Park to be their preferred destination. 
“As the city continues to evolve and develop, we need to be able to provide more for people and their lifestyles,” he says. “Kaleidoscope (Park) will bring that in the form of a cohesive regular arts-and-culture center for the people of Frisco and North Texas.”

 Shenna Lawless

Commander, Frisco Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8273
Legal Director, Rani Guerra Legal PLLC

Following a five-year career with the U.S. Army that saw Shenna Lawless deploy for 15 months to Iraq, the Frisco resident waited nearly a decade before becoming active within the veterans’ community. 
Since 2019, she has voluntarily served as the first female commander of the Frisco Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8273 since its inception in 1968. 
“It took me a while to transition out of the military, find my footing, find my place,” recalls Lawless, who was a paralegal in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) during her service. She earned several military awards, medals and decorations including the Combat Action Badge after her convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). 
After returning stateside, Lawless earned her Bachelor of Science in government from Texas Woman’s University. She and her husband, JD Lawless (a retired Army veteran), moved to Frisco in 2008. 
Now the parents of 10-year-old twins, the children were preschool age when the couple learned about a “veterans social” event that was being held close to their home and decided to attend. 
“It almost felt like we’d found our people, the people we enjoy being around …  (who) speak the same lingo as you in regard to the military and can relate not only to your successes but to your struggles,” she recalls. “I really fit in with the Frisco VFW. I enjoyed their programs and their mission and gradually started getting involved.”
The post commander role is a volunteer position (it is elected by the post’s membership). Lawless is preparing to begin her fifth term in July. 
She frequently is seen at Frisco-area events wearing her official VFW member cap. She proudly leads and represents Post 8273, which has more than 350 members but serves upward of 10,000 active-duty military members and veterans in Frisco and surrounding cities. 
“The VFW can “get a bad rap for being (an organization of) a bunch of older people,” she says.  “I’m significantly younger than some of the others and, being a female, too, I think it’s important that they take you seriously. … I’m doing it for others so that they can be proud of their service.” 
She divides her time between her family, volunteer work and career as the legal director at the Frisco law firm Rani Guerra Legal PLLC. 
Being post commander is “like (having) another full-time job, to be honest, but I could not have it any other way,” she says. 
It is rewarding, Lawless says, to assist fellow veterans through the VFW’s various programs, including the Unmet Needs Program, which provides financial grants, assistance and relief to local veterans and their families during times of need. 
The VFW is “a place where veterans in the community can come together and have that commonality, serving after we’ve served our country,” she says. “We all have that sense of service in our blood. … The VFW allowed me to do that.” 
Lawless is in the midst of a three-year term on the VFW National Legislative Committee, which monitors all veteran-related bills that are under consideration by the state legislature. She has traveled several times to Washington, D.C., (most recently in March) to advocate for veterans’ rights and benefits. 
She says she sometimes misses being a member of the military. “I miss being part of something big (and) that sense of pride and service that you get.” 
As Post 8273’s commander, Lawless says, “When I leave an event, no matter how much work (it took) to put it on, in the end, it’s just so incredibly rewarding for me. I absolutely love it.”
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