April 2023 Newsletter

Greetings from your NLF Chair, Dr. Eli D. Mercer

Congratulations 2023 graduates and the parents! 

We are proud of your many accomplishments and look forward to great things from each of our graduates in the years ahead.


As the 2022-2023 school year draws to a close, we would also like to thank the outstanding educators of Northeast Tarrant County for your commitment to excellence in education. We are blessed with highly rated institutions with a broad range of programs and extracurricular activities that provide an outstanding platform to prepare graduates to succeed in their lives and careers. 


Last but not least, we celebrate the many outstanding leaders in Northeast Tarrant County who have mentored, supported, and poured themselves into these up-and-coming leaders. Thank you for your legacy of leadership and for taking the time to invest in the next generation. We are truly blessed in this community. 

We are excited to honor the 2023 cohort of NLF Scholarship recipients and present them with their certificates and laptops. We invite you to attend and help us to celebrate at our next NLF Breakfast meeting to be held this Tuesday, May 9th, at the Hurst Conference Center.

We would love to hear from you as we begin to develop our new website and social media strategy heading into the summer season. The NLF will be engaging members and community partners in this process to explore new ways to support our mission and facilitate communications between our for-profit, non-profit, government, and education leaders. If you would like to get involved in this process, or have ideas on ways to collaborate, contact me at the email below. 

Please join me in welcoming our newest NLF members:

  • Matthew Flippin, President of Hartwell University
  • Bryan Downer, CEO of the Community Enrichment Center
  • Seetha Modi, Director of Community Relations, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital HEB
  • Mike Monroe, Senior Vice President, Legend Bank


The NLF provides a forum for collaboration, dialogue, and engagement to build strong relationships. Click here to download the membership application.


With tremendous gratitude,

-Dr. Eli D. Mercer, Chairman of the Board of NLF


Aslam Khan’s Inspirational Words of Wisdom

at the Annual Award Luncheon

Aslam Khan may be known in the food services industry as “the chicken man” for starting his career as a dishwasher at a Church’s Chicken and advancing to become the system’s largest franchisee with over 300 locations, but he inspired our NLF Award Luncheon with a simple insight:


“I’m not in the chicken business or the hamburger business. I’m in the people business. We just happen to sell chicken and burgers.” Aslam was interviewed in a Q&A format by NLF board member John Fletcher.


Aslam, who has grown his Falcon Holdings empire to include Church’s Chicken, A&W, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Piccadilly Cafeterias, also turned around $3.5 billion TGI Friday’s from losing money to generating a $70 million sustainable profit in a single year.


As our keynote speaker, he shared his journey from Pakistan to the United States, where he walked through a jungle and crossed a river daily on the way to and from school.


He learned a lesson in manners when he was disrespected and rejected in his first job interview at a Church’s Chicken in Los Angeles. The next day, he was hired at another Church’s Chicken location and as he advanced through the system, he promised himself that he would teach that rude manager a lesson in civility.

When Aslam became the man’s superior a few years later, he helped the man discover the importance of civility. In his words, “When that manager looked past me, I promised never to look past anyone.”


The audience was amazed at how Aslam had funded the construction of a bridge crossing the same river that he traversed as a youth on the way to school. His generosity has shortened that trip from six hours to only 45 minutes and has opened the door to promising opportunities for villagers.


Aslam also talked about the importance of having a mentor, which came into play a bit later. During a Q&A session with the audience, one student – Josh Tran from Northwest ISD, who is a member of the Hillwood Leadership Program – asked Aslam if he would become his mentor. Without hesitation, Aslam agreed!

Among Aslam’s insights:

  • Life holds many miracles: After a lifetime of coughing and having unhealthy lungs, God provided a solution and I had a double-lung transplant and am  now cough-free

  • God gave me a new life and it’s up to me to do something meaningful with it

  • The key to being successful and to turning around businesses is earning the trust of the people you lead

  • Solutions can be simple: For Piccadilly’s, it was updating the food, making it from scratch – never frozen, and moving the business model from on-site cafeteria to fully to-go

  • I reward my best managers by giving them at least 25% ownership of the store they manage – a real motivation to excel

  • Every business has cycles – the key is to save money during the positive cycles, so you’re prepared to survive and even make acquisitions in the down cycles


He also shared about being partners with a New York City banker in a North Carolina restaurant concept. Aslam told the banker that they needed to inject $2 million of capital to save jobs and the company. When the banker said he would do nothing to help the employees because he was all about the money, Aslam responded, “Hasta la vista, baby. I’m buying you out.” And he did!

Prior to Aslam’s keynote, Mary Frazior gave a wonderful, personal introduction for her friend Howard Shotwell, who received the Distinguished Leadership Award. Howard left his wheelchair and surprised the crowd by walking up the steps and seating himself in his on-stage chair.


He shared how much he wished his wife Sandy could have attended, but her health prevented her (by the way, she has now left her healthcare rehab center and is back home).

Howard shared that his good friend and banker, the late Gary Johnson, originally invited him to attend NLF and the first person he met at an event was Mary Frazior.


He spoke enthusiastically about the Skills Training Scholarship Program that he launched during his 2021 chairman year, and he thanked Nick Sanders for switching chairman years because Howard experienced major health issues prior to his scheduled year.

Our chairman, Eli Mercer, thanked the Nancy & Alan Hamm Foundation for their generous $22,000 scholarship donation that allows the NLF Foundation to award $44,000 in scholarships. This brings the Hamm Foundation’s contributions to $88,000 over the last four years.


In addition, the Hamm Foundation contributed a one-time gift this year of $11,000 to the Skills Training Scholarship Program.


Eli also thanked Ish Arebalos from Coca-Cola Southwest Bottling for once again giving a new Dell laptop computer to each of our scholarship recipients. The fortunate winners will be introduced – and receive their laptops – at our May 9 breakfast.

TCC Northeast Campus President Dr. Kenya Ayers-Palmore detailed why the college is so passionate about vocational education and how its foundation is proud to partner with the NLF Foundation to fund scholarships.


We thank the Banquet Committee for an outstanding job, led by chairman Randy Clinton. Members are RaDonna Hessel, Mary Frazior, Craig Norton, and John Fletcher. And The Bowden Special Event Center did a marvelous job of catering and managing logistics.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Tarrant County College Northeast Campus

Tarrant County College Foundation

Luncheon Sponsor

 VIP Sponsors

Reserved Table Sponsors

Birdville ISD

City of Bedford

City of Colleyville

City of Euless

City of Grapevine

City of Haltom City

City of Keller

City of North Richland Hills

City of Richland Hills

City of Southlake

EECU Credit Union

Frost Bank


HEB Chamber of Commerce

Larry Anfin

Legend Bank

Lucas Funeral Home & Cremation Services

ONCOR Electric Services

Texas Silver Haired Legislature -

Representative Mike Taylor &

Representative Charles Scoma

TexOp Construction LP

NLF Foundation Selecting Scholarship Recipients


The Northeast Leadership Foundation’s scholarship selection committee met this past week to review and select the recipients of our scholarships. The committee was screening applications for three levels of scholarships:

  • Four-year universities
  • Two-year community colleges
  • Workforce (Skills) Vocational Scholarships


We thank Eli Mercer, Craig Hulse, and RaDonna Hessel for chairing our extremely financially successful Heart of North Texas last November, which once again funded our scholarship program.


And we are indeed grateful to Jean Ann Hamm and the Nancy & Alan Hamm Foundation for their generous $22,000 matching funds for our scholarship program.


  • We appreciate Olivia Bradshaw, a young lady graduating in May from the University of Texas at Austin with her education partially funded by our NLF Workforce Scholarship, for producing a short video about her educational experience that we played at the banquet. Her message helped put a face to the program and reminded us that we are making a powerful difference in the lives of young people.

Membership Continues to Grow Following

NLF Award Banquet


We continue to grow the influence of our organization and of our existing members by adding new members who make a difference in our community. We have received eight new applications, including four from guests who attended the award banquet.


As you interact with business and community leaders who impress you, please invite them to sit at your table for our next NLF breakfast on Tuesday morning, May 9, at the Hurst Conference Center. These influencers are making a difference in our area, so let's invite them to participate in NLF. Membership is the lifeblood of our organization.


Please welcome our new members:

  • Bryan Downer, new CEO of The CEC
  • Seetha Modi, Director of Community Relations, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital HEB
  • Mike Monroe, Senior Vice President, Legend Bank
  • Matthew Flippin – President of Hartwell University


For any prospective NLF members you may know, click here to download the membership application. We want both established and emerging leaders to continue to join our organization to further the dynamic growth of Northeast Tarrant County. 


We specifically ask you to welcome visitors and new members to our breakfast meetings because growing the power of networks is one of the main benefits of NLF.


Please reach out to Craig Hulse, our membership chairman, if you have a prospect: chulse@nrhtx.com or 972-849-3858.

May 9 NLF Breakfast


The focus of our May 9 program will be on our 24 scholarship recipients because they are the future leaders of their communities. As a leadership-oriented organization, this is one of our highest priorities.


At the breakfast, we will welcome our scholarship recipients and their parents, so please join in this celebration.


One of the event highlights is seeing the look on each student’s face when they receive their Dell laptop computer compliments of Coca-Cola Southwest Bottling Company.


Our upcoming breakfasts will continue our “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” theme:

  • August 8: Michael Morris, Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments
  • October 10: Sean Donahue, CEO of DFW Airport


We thank NLF Chair-Elect RaDonna Hessel for securing these impressive speakers.

Roundtables Continue to Provide Value


NLF provides a forum for community-focused groups to meet and share insights and best practices. Our roundtables consist of mayors, school superintendents and economic development directors.


  • Mayors met recently and will meet again June 1 in Keller to be followed by Colleyville and Southlake
  • Superintendents are completing their school year and are working on a date
  • Chambers of commerce met on Monday, April 24, with chamber CEOs and chairmen, and will meet on May 15 with CEOs only
  • Economic Development directors will all attend the ICSC (International Council for Shopping Centers) conference May 21-23 in Las Vegas


There is a new member of the Economic Development team as Chelsea Rose is moving from CEO of the Colleyville Chamber of Commerce to become Economic Development Director for the City of Colleyville. We wish Chelsea well in her new position. She is a member of our NLF Board and is a member of the Heart of North Texas committee.

Mark Your Calendar: 2023 NLF Event Schedule

Featured Events

Annual Award Luncheon

Date: Thursday, March 30, 2023

Time: 11 a.m.

Location: The Bowden Center, Keller

Keynote speaker: Aslam Khan

Heart of North Texas Conference

Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Time: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Location: Hurst Conference Center

Membership Breakfast Meetings

Location: Hurst Conference Center

Networking: 7:15 a.m. • Breakfast Open: 7:30 a.m. • Program Starts: 7:45 a.m.

Tuesday, February 14

Tuesday, May 9

Tuesday, August 8

Speaker: Michael Morris, Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments

Tuesday, October 11

Speaker: Sean Donahue, CEO of DFW Airport

NLF 2023 Membership Application
Visit our webpage!