March 2023 Newsletter

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

Spring is the season that we honor outstanding leaders in Northeast Tarrant County. We are blessed with many wonderful leaders at all levels to celebrate.


Each year, we honor one distinguished leader who has dedicated his or her life to serving others above self. It is my honor to announce Howard Shotwell as the recipient of the 2022 NLF Distinguished Leadership Award.


Please join our annual NLF Distinguished Leadership Awards Luncheon to be held this Thursday, March 30, at the Bowden Center in Keller. This year will feature internationally acclaimed entrepreneur and philanthropist, Aslam Khan, CEO of Falcon Holdings, 2017 CEO of the Year by the Fort Worth Business Press, and 2018 Most Admired CEO by the Dallas Business Journal.

In addition, we will be honoring our next generation of leaders at the luncheon by introducing and featuring past recipients of NLF Scholarships as well as parents, high school counselors, teachers, and mentors who helped them along the way. These scholarships make a meaningful difference in the lives of students and families. Thank you sponsors, members, and community partners for the support and leadership you provide to make these scholarships possible. 

Please encourage graduating seniors in Northeast Tarrant County high schools to submit this scholarship application by Friday, April 7. All graduating seniors are eligible to apply. A special thank you to the Hamm Foundation and Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages for your generosity. We are grateful!

Please join me in welcoming our newest NLF members:

  • Tim O’Hare, Tarrant County Judge
  • Tamanno Hodjihanova, Kingdom Ecosystems, LLC
  • Catherine Hollis, Mission Central Metroplex
  • Ed Riefenstahl, TCU Neeley School of Business
  • Faith Upton, Method Five Labs
  • Megan Vollmer, Smart Realty


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

Howard Shotwell to Receive the

NLF Distinguished Leadership Award 

One nominator wrote:

“Howard… has the traits of exceptional leaders: Unselfishness, vision, personal sacrifice, and a commitment to follow through.”

We will present Howard Shotwell with the 2022 Distinguished Leadership Award - the highest honor bestowed by the Northeast Leadership Forum. Our selection committee had a difficult task choosing from eleven highly qualified nominees who have provided amazing levels of service to NLF and the NLF Foundation.

Howard’s professional career has led him to manage concession operations throughout the United States at more than two dozen airports. Among these is DFW International Airport. Consistent with his service to his own community, he twice led the United Way drive for airport employees living in a six-county area. Howard and his wife Sandy moved to Hurst in 1980 and fell in love with the city.

Highlights of Howard’s service to the Northeast Tarrant County community:

  • Chaired the Northeast Tarrant Chamber of Commerce and served six years on the Board
  • City of Hurst Parks and Recreation Committee: Five years
  • City of Hurst Planning and Zoning Commission: Twelve years
  • Hurst Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association: Chaired for five years
  • Hurst Firefighters Annual Steak Dinner: Chaired & co-chaired for twelve years
  • Birdville Education Foundation Board: Six years
  • HEB Chamber of Commerce Board: Six years, three chairing the Business Advocacy Committee
  • Save Our Seniors (formerly Mid-Cities Care Corps): Started an advisory board and helped implement a very successful new fundraising program
  • Raised $25,000 for Hurst Fire Department - Kids Fire Trailer to teach fire safety
  • Led and helped fund campaign to pass the City of Hurst Criminal Justice Center
  • In a competitive race for Hurst City Council, he took the most hotly-contested race while recruiting two candidates to run for less-contested races – they won, and he lost
  • He has since recruited another candidate for City Council who won his race

His service to Northeast Leadership Forum includes:

  • Chaired NLF in the Covid year 2021
  • Created and helped fund the Vocational Education Scholarship Program as chairman and raised over $12,500 for pursuing vocational education
  • Coordinated with fellow NLF member Conrad Heede and the Tarrant County College Foundation to match scholarships and double the impact for NLF Foundation vocational scholarship recipients who attended TCC
  • Served on the NLF Foundation scholarship selection committee

Please join us as we honor Howard Shotwell for his outstanding service to Northeast Leadership Forum and to so many organizations in Northeast Tarrant County.

World Renowned Entrepreneur, Aslam Khan,

to Keynote Award Banquet

You can relate to our keynote speaker if you:

  • Grew up in a small Pakistani village
  • Were the first member of your family to receive a formal education
  • Trekked through a forest with wild animals on the way to and from school
  • On each of those treks, removed your clothes and held them above your head as you walked through chest-high water in a river and then dried yourself off and put the clothes on to go to school

Prepare to be inspired by his literal rags-to-riches story at this Thursday’s NLF Annual Award Banquet at The Bowden Center in Keller starting at 11:30 a.m.

His honors have included:

→ 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year - International Franchise Association (consisting of more than 1,400 brands in food, hospitality, and professional services)

→ 2017 CEO of the Year - Fort Worth Business Press

→ 2018 Most Admired CEO - Dallas Business Journal

Aslam will share his story of working in a Church’s Chicken cutting chicken and washing dishes as his first job in America. He then advanced again, and again, and again, until he became the largest Church’s franchisee in history - with over 300 locations.

You and your guests will discover:

  • How he motivated his team to higher achievement
  • How he became an acclaimed turnaround artist
  • How he convinced lenders to back him and grow into the largest franchisee in the Church’s system
  • How each year he gave 25-49% ownership of individual stores to the manager of the Church’s locations operated by his best operators
  • Learn why the financial backers of TGI Friday’s sought Aslam to turn around their floundering brand
  • You will be inspired by the leadership principles that continue to make him successful.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Education Sponsor

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

Growing Membership and Engaging Community Leaders

The NLF elevates, empowers, and educates the next generation of leaders in our community. Please join us in welcoming our newest NLF members to the organization:

  • Tim O’Hare - Tarrant County Judge
  • Tamanno Hodjihanova - Kingdom Ecosystems, LLC
  • Catherine Hollis - Mission Central Metroplex
  • Ed Riefenstahl - TCU Neeley School of Business
  • Faith Upton - Method Five Labs
  • Megan Vollmer - Smart Realty


Reach out to Craig Hulse, Co-chair of Membership, regarding membership: or 972-849-3858.

New Member Profile

Ed Riefenstahl

Ed Riefenstahl married his sixth-generation Texan wife Valerie upon coming to Dallas, Texas, from Dallas, PA, right out of school. They moved away twice, but kept being “drawn back to Texas roots.” 


Along with currently being the Director of Experiential Learning for Graduate Programs at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, Ed and Valerie both lead The Alternative Board of Greater Fort Worth Metro Area, or TABFW. At TCU, Ed started an innovative consulting initiative for full-time MBA students to work on projects for fee-paying clients. 


Ed helped start the former DFW Airport Rotary Club in the early 1990s and chaired the re-branded Accelerate FW Foundation, a 501(c)3 with a business incubator (IDEA Works) focused on growing entrepreneurs and small business in the local area. 


Ed served as a National Examiner for the Baldrige Presidential Quality Award, and in 2021 received FW Inc’s Entrepreneur of Excellence Award in Support of Entrepreneurs. That recognition included Ed, with the Puente Family, starting the world’s first-ever winery at an airport (DFW) in the mid-1990s.


Ed earned his undergraduate in economics from the University of Pittsburgh and his MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. 


Ed and Valerie raised their three sons in Grapevine starting in 1988, where all graduated from GCISD. They have two beautiful grandchildren, Clyde {6) and Ridley June (3).

NLF Foundation Scholarship Applications Due April 7

Next Friday, April 7, will be the deadline for scholarship applications from graduating high school seniors in Northeast Tarrant County. Applications must be received by high school counselors by end of day April 7.

The Nancy & Alan Hamm Foundation is providing matching funds of $22,000 so we will award $44,000 in scholarships. The Hamm Foundation has also made a one-time commitment of $11,000 for additional Vocational Education Scholarships for this coming school year. Tarrant County College Education Foundation has once again agreed to match any vocational scholarships for any students choosing to attend a TCC campus. In addition, our friends from Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages are once again donating a new Dell Laptop Computer this year to accompany the scholarships and set each recipient up for success in school.

Who Can Apply?

All graduating high school students from the districts below are eligible to apply if they will be attending a two-year college, a four-year university, or a vocational/trade school. NLF Foundation Board Members and volunteers have been meeting with area superintendents and reaching out to high school counselors to encourage applications from deserving students so we can award our scholarships. We will announce and introduce our scholarship recipients at the May 9 breakfast.

We partner with the following school districts:

  • Birdville ISD
  • Carroll ISD
  • Grapevine-Colleyville ISD
  • Keller ISD
  • Northwest ISD
  • Westlake Academy
2023 NLF Scholarship Application

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

Renowned Entrepreneur, DBJ “Most Admired CEO of 2018: and Fort Worth Business Press 2017 CEO of the Year"

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

Tuesday, October 11

NLF 2023 Membership Application
Visit our webpage!