Plano Chamber Announces Best of Plano 2023 Award Recipients
Plano Chamber Announces Best of Plano 2023 Award Recipients
Plano, TX – October 25, 2023 - The Plano Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the 2023 Best of Plano award recipients. The honorees will be celebrated at an awards celebration on Thursday, November 9, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Courtyard Theatre, 1509 H Ave., Plano, Texas 75074.
“In a time of continued transformation, this year’s honorees exemplify resilience and innovation,” says Plano Chamber President & CEO Kelle Marsalis. “Their relentless dedication and passion have paved the way for growth and unity in our Plano community. As we move forward, it's paramount to pause and recognize the driving forces behind our collective progress. We invite everyone to come together in celebration of these exceptional leaders and the bright future they're helping to shape.”
The Plano Chamber will present its highest honor, Citizen of the Year, to James Thomas, a beacon of selflessness and dedication. For over 47 years, James has woven his essence into the fabric of Plano. From his roles as a teacher, coach, and administrator, to his current dedication as the coordinator of student services for the district, he has touched countless lives. As the homeless liaison for the past thirteen years, he's been the guiding hand for our unhoused students and families in dire need. Known to many as Coach Thomas or Dudie, James's impact is felt far and wide. Whether it's connecting those in need to resources, standing at the forefront sharing essential aids, or even giving from his own pocket, James embodies the spirit of community. His unwavering focus on assisting others showcases the depth of his heart.
Also being recognized is Suzy Jones, Executive Director of the ArtCentre of Plano, who will receive the ATHENA Leadership Award®, presented annually by the Plano Chamber to one of Plano’s most accomplished businesswomen. Suzy Jones has been the pivotal force behind the ArtCentre of Plano for 15 years, transforming a modest gallery in downtown Plano into a dynamic arts hub at the historic Saigling House in Haggard Park. Today, the ArtCentre stands as Plano's cultural living room, championing enriching art exhibitions, community events like "Jazz in the Park," and essential programs for underserved youth. A staunch advocate for female artists, Suzy has amplified the voices of emerging talents, facilitating platforms for them to showcase their works and share their journeys. While she might operate behind the scenes, her impact is evident: from securing crucial grants that ensure the ArtCentre's vitality to orchestrating groundbreaking events like Texas' debut Harlem Renaissance Exhibition. Suzy's passion for the arts and her tireless dedication makes her an unsung hero of Plano's cultural tapestry.
Ginny Kissling, Global President & COO of Ryan, LLC, was selected as Business Executive of the Year. Ginny is a nationally recognized, award-winning tax advisory leader and has been frequently recognized as a role model for female leadership. She is a sought-after speaker and industry thought leader and has authored several published articles. Most recently, she was named to D CEO’s 2022 Dallas 500 list, an annual publication profiling the most influential business, civic, and nonprofit leaders in North Texas. Ginny currently serves as Vice Chair of the North Texas Food Bank and sits on the board of directors of Dallas Capital Bank. She is a long-standing member of the New York University’s Continuing Legal Education’s State and Local Tax Advisory Board and, in 2018, she received the prestigious NYU School of Professional Studies Paul H. Frankel Award for Outstanding Achievement in State and Local Taxation.
Ginny joined Ryan in 1992 as the Firm’s first intern and seventh team member. In 2002, she was promoted as Ryan’s first female Principal. She is the first woman to hold her current position of Global President and COO, along with her previous role of President of U.S. Operations. She was also the first woman to be appointed to Ryan’s Board of Managers in 2012. Her exemplary career has led to recognition at both local and international levels.
The Plano Chamber will present the Innovator Award to My Possibilities. First presented in 2017, this award was created to celebrate innovation and inspire other business leaders to continue pursuing new and creative ideas. My Possibilities is a 501(c)(3) for cause organization serving adults with disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s, Prader-Willi, head injuries and more. My Possibilities is the first full-day, full-year educational program of its kind in Collin County.
My Possibilities is designed to provide people with cognitive disabilities the chance to continue their education. We provide vocational skills, socialization opportunities, trade skills, and independent living skills to HIPsters that give them the chance to live the life they deserve.
The Plano Chamber is proud to award Frito Lay with the Outstanding Corporate Citizen of the Year Award. Frito-Lay, Inc is an American subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures, markets, and sells corn chips, potato chips, and other snack foods. The company is headquartered in Plano, Texas.
In addition to their 110th anniversary, Anti-Defamation League will also celebrate their recognition as this year’s Community Partner of the Year. ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all.
The Small Businessperson of the Year is Kalpana Murthy with WSI Kriti Web Solutions. Kalpana founded the local agency in 2009. She worked as a Senior Software Engineer and a team lead at Tektronix for over 15 years. She has a Graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Oklahoma. For the last eleven years she has dedicated her time helping small businesses do online marketing. Kalpana is a certified Digital Marketer. Her area of specialization includes Websites, Marketing Automation, SEO, Email Marketing, and Inbound Marketing.
Rebecca Frech, City Engagement and Pastoral Office Coordinator at Citybridge Church has been selected to receive the Rising Star Award, which recognizes a young professional (25-40 years old) whose professional success is matched by their commitment to serving the Plano community. Rebecca's journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment. As one of the youngest to complete Leadership Plano, she's showcased incredible tenacity. From clerking for the city of Dallas to her rapid ascent at CityBridge Community Church, her professional accomplishments speak volumes. Not to mention, her remarkable community engagements, including her roles with Poiema Foundation, and Tri-Delta's Collegiate Chapter.
The Distinguished Leadership Award (DLA) is a recognition that provides an opportunity for local programs like Leadership Plano to recognize exceptional graduates who have made significant and notable contributions for the betterment of their community. LaShon Ross, Deputy City Manager for the City of Plano and an alumna of Leadership Plano Class 22, has dedicated nearly three decades to public service. Launching her journey in her hometown of Texarkana, Texas, she swiftly rose from a temporary HR secretary to the city's Personnel Director. Transitioning to Plano as the HR Director, LaShon expanded her expertise into pivotal areas like Leadership Development, Conflict Management, and Emotional Intelligence. Her influence has not only remained within the office corridors; she has shared her insights at numerous local to national conferences and emphasized the power of mentorship, giving back to a community that groomed her.
Join us as we celebrate these outstanding leaders on Thursday, November 9, 2023. Tickets and reserved tables are available at www.planochamber.org.
About the Plano Chamber of Commerce: Established in 1946, the Plano Chamber represents over 1,200 businesses and community organizations in Plano and the surrounding area. Accredited as a 5-Star Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and awarded 2018 Chamber of the Year, the Plano Chamber of Commerce is committed to maximizing business development and economic growth of the community through advocacy, education, innovation, and collaboration.