Thursday, March 23, 2023

Mayor John Huffman Says a Hee-Haw Hello with Buck Gieseke

This week on Minute with the Mayor, Mayor John Huffman talks with Buck Gieseke from Leadership Southlake about their life-changing project at Loving Long Ears Donkey Therapy and Sanctuary.

Each year, the Southlake Chamber of Commerce works to involve residents and others in a learning and professional development opportunity known as Leadership Southlake. This program encourages the acquisition of partnerships, business connections, volunteerism, and more; however, a cornerstone of Leadership Southlake is its dedication to community advocacy.

During this program cycle, the Leadership Southlake class voted on what philanthropy was the most deserving – donkeys! “Last summer, due to the intense heat, Loving Long Ears lost two donkeys because they were not able to transport them to the needed veterinarian care, so we determined that our project this year was going to be to raise money for a horse, or in this case – donkey, trailer,” said Gieseke.

Loving Long Ears is a local donkey sanctuary that saves donkeys from slaughter and neglect and allows them to recover in a safe and stable environment. This rescue is owned by Jules and Rick Peterson and is home to six gorgeous and loving creatures. With the donation of this trailer from the Leadership Southlake team, they hope to bring in more donkeys and expand the sanctuary eventually.

“It’s very easy to fall in love with these amazing creatures…I’ve noticed that all of them have very individual personalities,” remarked Gieseke as Daisy the donkey photobombed the set.

Mayor Huffman agreed and urged residents to contact Loving Long Ears for a chance to spend some time with their amazing donkeys. You can check out the Loving Long Ears Facebook page for more information about their rescue and upcoming events.

To watch the full episode of Minute with the Mayor, click below.

Support a Local Nonprofit Through North Texas Giving Day

Start the season of giving a bit early this year on North Texas Giving Day!

Founded in 2009, North Texas Giving Day is an online event organized by the Communities Foundation of Texas. Donors can contribute to this 18-hour event regardless of their physical ability or volunteer status.

More than 3,000 nonprofits will participate in North Texas Giving Day. Organizers describe it as “the largest community-wide giving event in the nation,” encouraging nonprofits to get involved.

Since its start, North Texas Giving Day has raised more than $441 million for nonprofits.

The giving season began early for the Southlake Chamber of Commerce. The organization previewed the North Texas Giving Day event during its August luncheon. A drawing for $1,000 was held for 17 local nonprofit organizations that spoke about their missions. John Fletcher of Fletcher Consulting Public Relations donated the $1,000 giveaway award.

Nonprofits in attendance included:

  • Swim 4 Elise Foundation
  • Southlake Kiwanis
  • Carroll Education Foundation
  • Catholic Charities Diocese of Ft. Worth, Inc.
  • Southlake Lions Club
  • Me Squared Cancer Foundation
  • Call a Ride Southlake
  • Kids Matter International
  • Metroport Meals on Wheels Inc.
  • I Can Still Shine Program
  • Southlake Rotary Club – District 5790
  • Miracle League Southlake
  • Kelly Sawyer Ministries
  • TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) One Love
  • American Legion Post 114
  • XO Marriage

GRACE was presented with the $1,000 grand prize from a random drawing.

For more information about North Texas Giving Day, how to contribute to your community, or to donate, visit the North Texas Giving Day website.

Southlake Chamber of Commerce Honors Daniel Cortez with 2019 Chairman’s Director of the Year Award

Daniel Cortez, City of Southlake, Deputy Director of Economic Development.

The Southlake Chamber of Commerce honored local business representatives, volunteers, civic groups, and youth at its 2019 Awards Banquet held Friday evening, June 21. Among the winners was Southlake’s Deputy Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Daniel Cortez, who received the Chairman’s Award.

Chamber President Mark Guilbert highlighted Daniel’s ongoing work with the Chamber and his efforts to promote Southlake businesses to explain his selection for the award. He noted that Cortez actively participates in Chamber Board meetings, and attends programs and events offered by the Chamber.

Particularly notable is his work on the Southlake Kids Interested in Leadership (SKIL) program, involving the development of local business job shadowing opportunities and organizing a scholarship reception.

“Daniel is a great representative for the City,” Guilbert said. “Everyone loves him.” Guilbert also praised Cortez for his new business outreach.

“Daniel was the perfect choice for this award,” said Alison Ortowski, Southlake Assistant City Manager. “He is committed to Southlake’s business community and willing to work night and day to support their interests.”

Other Chamber awards included:

  • John Fletcher, 2019 Chamber Director of the Year
  • Traci Bernard, 2019 Southlake Citizen of the Year
  • Ted Bilsky, 2019 Southlake Small Business of the Year
  • Janice Horak, 2019 Chamber President’s Award
  • Bill Tait, 2019 Southlake Volunteer of the Year
  • Lori Cerami, Swim4Elise, 2019 Civic Group of the Year
  • Sandra Baber-Sandefur, 2019 Chamber President’s Award
  • Kendra Scott, Southlake, 2019 Corporate Business of the Year
  • Dr. Paige Sohn, 2019 Chamber Ambassador of the Year
  • Mitchell Gruenewald, 2019 Southlake Youth of the Year
  • Mike Lafavers, Feedstore BBQ & More, 2019 Chamber Member Legacy Award

Congratulations to Daniel Cortez and all of the award winners.


Southlake Chamber of Commerce Commemorates 35th Anniversary with Mortgage Burning Ceremony

The February Business Exchange for the Southlake Chamber of Commerce was not just another event. Although it had all the staples of a regular Business Exchange (held monthly) – food, beverages and networking – the February 8 after-work reception also included special guest speakers, valet parking and a Champagne toast! More than 100 people turned out for the special Business Exchange, which was catered by Scratch Kitchen in Southlake.

According to Southlake Chamber CEO and President Mark Guilbert, he and his team pulled out all the stops to commemorate two special occasions: the Chamber’s 35th anniversary and paying off the mortgage for its building at 1501 Corporate Circle, which was the site of the event.

“We wanted to gather current and past members, as well as community leaders, to celebrate these milestones in the Chamber’s history, along with all of the people who got us here,” Guilbert stated at the event, taking the opportunity to recognize several past chairman of the board who were in attendance.

Representing the City of Southlake, which is a longtime partner of the Chamber, were Council Members Shawn McCaskill and Chris Archer.

“I want to congratulate the Southlake Chamber and recognize the great work they do in our community. We value our partnership with the Chamber for Oktoberfest, Leadership Southlake and other programs – all of these things make a big difference,” said McCaskill.

Archer reiterated the Chamber’s contributions in his comments. “The quality of people and businesses here are remarkable and make a difference in our community.”

Sandra Baber-Sandefur, who began working at the Chamber in 1991 and served as its president from 1994-2001, took the podium and told the crowd about the Chamber’s history and achievements during the past 35 years:

  • 1983: Southlake attorney Brad Bradley founded the Southlake Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1985: Chamber hosted first awards banquet.
  • 1986: Chamber hired first paid part-time staff member.
  • 1987: Chamber hosted first golf tournament.
  • 1989: Chamber hired first paid full-time president.
  • 1989: Chamber hosted first Southlake Stake-Out casino night fundraiser.
  • 1990: Chamber hosted first Leadership Southlake class.
  • 1998: Chamber surpassed 500 members.
  • 2000: Chamber broke ground on building.
  • 2001: Chamber hosted first Southlake Oktoberfest.
  • 2013: Chamber hired its fifth president, Mark Guilbert.
  • 2015: Southlake Oktoberfest exceeded 100,000 attendees.
  • 2016: Chamber began awarding annual $2500 scholarship to SKIL youth program.
  • 2016: Chamber hosted inaugural Women’s Empowered event.
  • 2018: Chamber paid off building mortgage.

To conclude the event, Sean Shope of First Financial Bank (which has held the bank note), led the official “burning of the mortgage” ceremony, along with Guilbert, Sandefur and former board chairman Ian McLean.

“As a longtime member of the Chamber, our histories are aligned, along with a desire to build a great community together,” said Shope.

The mission of the Southlake Chamber is to serve the needs of local businesses. For additional information, go to their website or call 817-481-8200.

Photos of the event were taken by Thaddeus Harden.

Brian R. Stebbins Memorial Park in Southlake Town Square Honors Developer

From the beginning, Southlake Town Square was envisioned to be a downtown area where people lived or visited frequently to shop, dine, conduct business and simply “hang out.” The combination of stores, offices and brownstones with water features, benches and parks have made this a reality enjoyed by thousands each year.

And while the opening of a new store or restaurant in Town Square typically garners a crowd, more than 150 people gathered in the Garden District April 14 to commemorate the unveiling of Brian R. Stebbins Memorial Park, named in honor of the late founder and developer of Southlake Town Square, who passed away October 2012.

According to his longtime business partner at Cooper & Stebbins, Frank Bliss, Stebbins would be especially pleased to see his memory honored with the park.

“This is the sixth park in Town Square and it is an appropriate tribute to Brian as he began his career as a landscape architect. In fact, he designed the first one, Rustin Park, on a napkin,” Bliss said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that was co-hosted by Cooper & Stebbins and the Southlake Chamber of Commerce.

Located behind the residential brownstones in The Garden District, the arboretum-like park was created by Southlake-based Highland Landscaping. The park features cast-stone bowls, decorative stone plinths, sidewalks, benches, boulders, and lighting so the park can be  experienced at night.

Ian MacLean, president of Highland Landscaping, described the park as a leading edge, sustainable landscaping project that features a living exhibit of native and adapted plants – such as Texas lace cactus, Mexican feather grass, Queen Victoria agave, yucca and red hot poker – in a formal landscape design.

“This park is a glimpse into the future of landscaping and dramatically changing water resources in our region. The park incorporates a sustainable approach and demonstrates the beauty that can be accomplished with plants that naturally thrive in Texas. The park requires zero maintenance and no water beyond what Mother Nature provides,” explained MacLean, noting that a drip irrigation system was installed to supplement rainfall, if needed, and uses a smart meter that is controlled at the Highland Landscaping office.

Bliss commended the hard work of MacLean and his team, who worked on the park for more than a year.

“We thought it was going to be a challenge to find a landscaper to pull this off. After talking to Ian at a [Southlake] Chamber of Commerce event, I invited him to bid on the project. Not only did he come in with the lowest bid, which Brian would have liked, but he was enthusiastic and creative,” said Bliss. “This partnership demonstrates the power of the Chamber and leveraging relationships with local businesses.”

When Stebbins arrived in Southlake in 1995, 130 acres at the northeast corner of Carroll Avenue and Southlake Boulevard caught his eye. Where most people saw an open field and farm house, he saw a downtown with shops, restaurants and businesses. Working with city staff and leaders, Stebbins was able to incorporate a town hall, post office, sub-courthouse and county offices into the mixed-use development, making it a true gathering place where people could shop, eat, and conduct business. Although not yet complete, his vision has certainly become a reality.

Since opening in March 1999, Town Square has become a 1.4 million square foot regional destination encompassing more than 150 stores, brownstone residences, Harkins Theater, Southlake Hilton, and offices. Most importantly, Town Square has remained true to its original purpose by hosting annual community events, as well as being a popular site for family gatherings and a visitor destination.

Brian R. Stebbins Memorial Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, April 14, 2016

Brian R. Stebbins Memorial Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, April 14, 2016

Building Leaders Worth Following: Hear from the World’s Top Leaders at LeaderCast 2014 on May 9

leadercastWhether you’re a business owner, board member, club president, community volunteer, school teacher or a parent, leadership skills are essential to your success. In addition, ineffective leadership has severe consequences on employee productivity and business revenue:

  • 65% of employees say they’d take a new leader over a pay raise.
  • Bad leadership costs the economy $360 billion every year in lost productivity.
  • 3 out of 4 people report their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.

Seeking to change attitudes and behaviors about leadership, Leadercast 2014 brings together the largest convergence of leaders in the world for a one-day event broadcast live from Atlanta to hundreds of locations around the globe. In Southlake, Leadercast will be hosted at the DPS North Training Facility by the City of Southlake and Southlake Chamber of Commerce. The event is open to the public and tickets are $149 per person. The event will feature world-renowned leaders:

  • Andy Stanley, leadership communicator and author
  • Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and author
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and human rights activist
  • Randall Wallace, screenwriter and director
  • Bill McDermott, software industry executive
  • Laura Schroff, former advertising sales executive and author
  • Dr. Henry Cloud, clinical psychologist and business consultant
  • Simon Sinek, leadership expert and author
  • Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States

Built on a belief that the world needs better leaders and leaders worth following, Leadercast is a leadership development organization focused on building leaders and changing leadership beliefs. Leadercast recognizes the need for more effective leaders across all businesses, as well as the need for effective leaders in communities and households. To combat the need, the organization produces events that create shifts in leadership practices and focuses content on developing the core of leaders:

  • Simplicity – brings clarity to the complex.
  • Creativity – fosters an atmosphere that allows others to dream.
  • Bravery – possesses a posture of unrelenting boldness.
  • Beyond You – leverages influence for the sake of others.
  • Insight – resolves to consistently do the wise thing.
  • Vision – moves towards a preferred future with little deviation.
  • Culture – architects the conditions to win.

“Leadercast is a fantastic opportunity to experience the wisdom of some of the world’s top leadership gurus. This year’s theme, Beyond You, challenges leaders to leverage their influence for the sake of others. Both current leaders and aspiring future leaders will benefit from this valuable event,” stated Mark Guilbert, president of the Southlake Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets may be purchased from the Southlake Chamber of Commerce online or by calling 817-481-8200. The simulcast will be hosted at DPS North Training Facility at 100 E. Dove Road in Southlake. Registration  begins at 7:00am, the live broadcast begins at 8:00am and  concludes at 3:30pm.


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Mark Guilbert Named New President of Southlake Chamber of Commerce

Editor’s note 11/1/2013:  The Southlake Journal recently published an article on Mr. Guilbert and Southlake Chamber of Commerce.  The link to that story can be found here.  

Mark Guilbert is no stranger to Southlake, its Chamber of Commerce and business community. Having served on the Southlake Chamber of Commerce board of directors for more than six years and as chairman from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, he is a familiar face and respected leader. Following the departure of former Chamber President Dana Davis in March, Guilbert has been running the day-to-day operations as interim president and assumed the role on a permanent basis in August.

During the past few months, Guilbert has been busy preparing a new budget, welcoming new board members, and gearing up for the Chamber’s largest fundraiser, Oktoberfest. But he’s just getting started. Guilbert discusses the Chamber’s plans to provide more value to members, assist with Southlake’s economic development initiatives, and gives a sneak peek of what’s to come in 2014.

Q: What is your background and how will this help the Chamber? 

MG: I have a BBA in marketing and my background is building a small business into a mid-size company. I have 30 years experience as a small business entrepreneur, including 25 years as the owner/operator of a Chick-fil-A franchise; the last 10 years being in Southlake. As an entrepreneur versus an administrator, I bring a different approach and skill set to the job  ̶  I understand the challenges that many of our members face and how to overcome them.

Q: What are your top 3 priorities for the Chamber?


  1. Become a preeminent business resource.
  2. Strengthen and grow the organization.
  3. Help members grow their business.

Q: What are some ideas/plans you have to help small businesses in Southlake?

MG: I want to provide “off the shelf” resources to help business owners with marketing, finance, leadership and other important topics. The Chamber should be the go-to place for programs and templates to help members grow their business. My goal is for members to leave our events and seminars with practical knowledge and tangible ideas they can put into place.

To do this, the Chamber is partnering with the University of North Texas to provide high quality training opportunities. We are working together to create a preeminent training program with university level faculty/trainers with a comprehensive curriculum specifically tailored to meet the needs of small businesses in Southlake.

Q:  What can we expect from the Chamber in the future?

MG: We are in the process of developing new membership levels that will bundle programs and marketing opportunities. The goal is to provide benefits and services to facilitate small business success and help members get connected in the community. One of the most important items on the Chamber’s to-do list is to redesign its website, which is already underway in conjunction with i5 web works and we hope to launch the new site in early 2014.

We made the decision to cancel Leadership Southlake this year and are already working to re-introduce the program Fall 2014. We want every module to be a home run and we didn’t think we could offer that this year.

Q:  What do you like to do when not working?

MG:  As a single dad, much of my time off is spent raising my three children. When time permits,  I enjoy physical challenges, high adventure, and connecting with nature. I like working out, hiking, participating in mud runs and triathlons, sky diving, scuba diving and water skiing.  I have been raising tropical fish since 4th grade.

For additional information about the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, contact Mark at 817-481-8200 or email at

Southlake Chamber of Commerce Places Priority on Economic Development in Search for New President

The Southlake Chamber of Commerce has a big year planned. In addition to its monthly luncheons, leads groups and networking receptions, the Chamber is continuing its Charter Business Breakfast Series and will host special events throughout the year:

  • Southlake Shootout Golf Tournament: April 22
  • Annual Awards Banquet: June 20
  • Oktoberfest: October 4-6
  • Regional Expo: TBD

According to Board of Directors President Traci Bernard, it’s business as usual despite the departure of former President Dana Davis, who left in February for a position with the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce in Northwest Arkansas.

“It goes without saying that I received Dana’s resignation with a sense of loss as well as pride in his selection,” states Bernard. “Dana’s contributions to the community of Southlake during his tenure are many. His leadership has influenced practically every aspect of our Chamber, from business to city relations, overall strategy, communications and marketing, information technology, and more.  Dana has been the consummate executive team member and will be missed as both a colleague and friend.”

Leading the Chamber on a day-to-day basis is Interim President Mark Guilbert, who served on the Chamber’s board of directors for more than six years and as chairman from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. Guilbert, along with the board of directors, is using this opportunity to evaluate the Chamber’s programs and future direction before hiring a permanent replacement.

“We are at a crossroads to redefine the Chamber and are taking a step back to determine the position’s role and research salary requirements,” explains Bernard. “We are working closely with the City to define our relationship, specifically as it relates to economic development.”

To do this, Bernard recently met with Southlake Mayor John Terrell and City Manager Shana Yelverton to discuss Southlake’s business recruitment, retention and expansion initiatives. Terrell and Yelverton provided input for the president’s job description and how the City and Chamber might become more closely aligned. Other topics under consideration is to how to expand Oktoberfest, which draws approximately 20,000 people to Southlake and is the Chamber’s largest revenue generator.

One of the most important items on the Chamber’s to-do list this year is to redesign its website, which is already underway and will be overseen by Guilbert in conjunction with i5 web works, an internet marketing agency in Southlake.

“Our mission of serving the needs of local businesses will not change, but we need to make sure we know what those needs are and how we can best address them,” Bernard adds.

For additional information, contact the Southlake Chamber of Commerce at 817-481-8200 or go to