Alison Ortowski, Southlake’s Assistant City Manager, was named the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ 2020 Linda Keithley Award for Women in Public Service Winner at a virtual meeting on August 14.
She was nominated earlier this year by Mayor Laura Hill and City Manager Shana Yelverton for her nearly 17-year career in public service, including 13 with the City of Southlake.
“Alison’s impact on Southlake is tremendous,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “She is an outstanding decision-maker who can rightly rely on this strength, but generously works to ensure that voices are heard, and perspectives are honored.”
Ortowski’s public service career started as the Main Street Director for the City of Gatesville, Texas, from 2000 – 2003. She then served as the Downtown Project Coordinator for the City of Denton from 2003 – 2007. Southlake City Manager Shana Yelverton hired Alison in 2007 as the Assistant to the City Manager. In 2013, due to her ability to deftly handle complex and detailed projects, like the Southlake Citizens Satisfaction Survey and the production of Southlake’s award-winning annual budget document, City Manager Yelverton promoted Ortowki to Assistant City Manager.
“Alison is a woman of integrity who finds a way to get things done, a trustworthy, can-do professional who brings enormous energy to her work,” said Mayor Laura Hill. “She is brilliant and is beyond dedicated to serving Southlake with great competence.”
Ortowski is a member of ICMA – International City/County Management Association, TCMA – Texas City Management Association, TML- Texas Municipal League, and the Urban Management Assistants of North Texas. She has also acted as a liaison for SPIN (Southlake Program for the Involvement of Neighborhoods) and for the Community Enhancement Development Corporation (CEDC), the board that works with Council to support The Marq Southlake facility operations, and the Economic Development and Tourism Master Plan recommendations.
“Alison leads by example. She is a change agent within an organization that is constantly evolving, and she expects as much of herself, if not more than she expects of those she works with,” said Boerne City Manager and former Southlake Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher. “Alison is fearless, committed, and determined and does not shy away from tough challenges.”
The award recognizes a woman who displays the Linda Keithley traits of integrity, dignity, poise, loyalty, commitment, and dedication while serving as a faithful public servant. The award was established in 1986 to honor Mrs. Keithley for her 17 years of service to the Council of Governments.
Daniel Cortez, Deputy Director of Economic Development and Tourism, has been promoted to Director, effective July 1. After the departure of Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher, Cortez’s history of strong work performance, world-class professionalism and commitment to assist Southlake businesses and residents make him fit for the task to lead the Southlake economic development team.
“Daniel Cortez has many notable accomplishments under his belt,” said Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski. “His energy, creativity, intelligence and strong people skills make him ideal for this role.”
Since 2017, Cortez has worked to implement key recommendations of the 2035 Economic Development Master Plan. He has also created and implemented a commercial site assessment project, resulting in valuable insights into Southlake’s commercial centers. He managed the City’s first Business Climate Survey to understand the local business community’s strengths and challenges, track trends and ensure the City has useful data for business support programs.
“I am humbled at the confidence the City’s leadership has in me. I look forward to continuing to serve our business community with the same tradition of excellence Southlake is known for, with new inspiration and determination to meet the challenges of the future,” Cortez said. “There is truly no place like Southlake. It is my privilege to be part of a great community and I’m excited to strengthen the City’s relationships with local businesses.”
Ortowski also highlights his business retention work, noting that “he has established strong relationships through one-on-one visits and programs he’s created to improve business engagement with the City.”
Southlake youth have also benefited from Cortez’s hard work. Through the Southlake Kids Interested in Leadership (SKIL) program, Cortez has worked with Mayor Hill and Carroll ISD to offer selected students access to local business leaders through educational seminars and internship experiences. Cortez guides the students through the program, which has been in place for three years.
Perhaps Cortez has demonstrated his strongest performance with his work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Untangling the complex and sometimes confusing information related to the various executive orders was a terrific service he was able to provide to our business customers,” noted Ortowski. “He promoted businesses in unique and creative ways. He demonstrated a keen knowledge of the needs of our businesses and worked proactively to provide needed support.”
In his new role, Daniel will be responsible for economic development work, and will oversee the day-to-day activities of the City’s tourism and special events team.
Strategic. Focused. Achiever.
To the casual observer, Tourism Marketing Manager Cambria Jones can appear quiet and unassuming, but looking a little closer, it is easy to see that she is a woman on a mission, a force of nature, intent on performing at a very high level. She is willing to get into the game and compete. A great time manager, she works to accomplish as much as she can during her day. An enthusiastic person with great people skills, she can leverage partnerships to get even more done.
She is intent on winning the tourism game and uses her significant intellect and talent to get the job done.
Cambria is an outstanding employee, but she doesn’t seek the limelight for herself. Instead, she works to draw attention to Southlake and encourages visitors to spend time (and money) in the City.
Here are a few highlights of how Cambria has worked to market Southlake as a destination to visitors (think shopping and dining, bolstering sales tax collections, supporting local businesses):
As a result of Cambria’s efforts, followers of Visit Southlake social media accounts have increased significantly. In FY 2019, the Visit Southlake Facebook account had a 42% increase in followers, and the Visit Southlake Instagram account had a 34% increase in followers. Cambria is telling Southlake’s story to more people, in improved ways.
She successfully managed the Visit Southlake video and photography refresh project, resulting in updated assets that are timely, diverse, and representative of Southlake as a destination.
Cambria successfully managed a destination video project, highlighting Southlake. The video is featured as the cover photo on the Visit Southlake Facebook page. She has also audited video assets and prioritized needs for FY 2020.
Throughout 2019, Cambria made significant progress in building rapport with destination partners, including the Hilton Hotel and RPAI (the real estate investment trust that owns most of Town Square). Working together, Cambria and these partners highlight local businesses to strengthen the local economy.
To Alison Ortowski, who oversees economic development and tourism programs for the City, working with Cambria is “a dream.”
“Cambria is one of those employees who possesses the ‘X’ factor that makes her highly productive, but also pleasant and inspirational,” she said. “We have supreme confidence in Cambria’s ability to support local businesses and deliver strong results.”
For her strong commitment to marketing Southlake as a destination of choice and for behind-the-scenes, effective work, Tourism Marketing Manager Cambria Jones is one of Southlake’s best secret weapons and an unsung hero.
The Shopping & Dining Guide is intended to serve as a directory of retail and restaurant establishments, with nearly 400 business listings. In total, 36 new retail businesses and restaurants opened in Southlake over the past year and have been added to the updated Shopping and Dining Guide.
Alison Ortowski, Assistant City Manager and Interim Economic Development Director stated, “The many new businesses demonstrate Southlake’s growing economy. The City has more to offer than ever before, and the guides are an excellent resource for current residents and new visitors, which will increase awareness of local businesses.”
The Visitor Guide is intended to serve as a resource for educating tourists about elements that contribute to Southlake being a premier travel destination, including events, retail venues, restaurants, accommodations, and entertainment. Additionally, the Visitor Guide includes a map of the greater Southlake area, highlighting points of interest. Together, both the Shopping & Dining Guide and the Visitor Guide provide valuable information to both residents and tourists in a straightforward, easily accessible form.
The guides are available in print at several area businesses and inside Southlake Town Hall, suite 300. The guides may be viewed online at www.VisitSouthlakeTexas.com.