By: Dustin Marshall, Leadership Dallas Class of 2014 & CEO Hazel’s Hot Shot
When my wife, Denise, and I moved back to Dallas in 2011, I was excited to come HOME! I grew up in Dallas but moved away for college and didn’t look back for over 15 years. In those 15 years, I lived in half a dozen amazing cities; I worked at several great companies; I traveled the world; I met my lovely wife; and together we made two (of our four) amazing kids. By all accounts, things were going well…but something was missing. I wasn’t HOME and I wasn’t sufficiently engaged in my community. I wasn’t making a difference in the lives of those beyond my family.
When I moved back to Dallas to join the leadership team of Hazel’s Hot Shot – my family’s expedited freight & logistics company – all that began to change. I was finally living in a city that I knew, that I loved, and that I wanted to see improve. I also had the luxury of time to give back to the community. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to do that.
Where could I learn about Dallas? Where could I learn about the problems faced by the DFW region? Where could I find other passionate and engaged leaders who were willing to give back? Where could I find non-profits that were tackling our most pressing issues?
To get some answers to those questions, I cast a wide net of former colleagues, friends, and family members and scheduled over 100 “coffee chats” to learn about organizations that were mobilizing change. Time and time again, the same answer came back – “You should apply to join the next Leadership Dallas class hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce.” Now… if over 50 people who you trust are telling you the same thing – it is worth looking into further. I started researching the program. The more I learned, the more that I knew I wanted to be a part of the next Leadership Dallas (“LD”) class.
After applying and being accepted, I got the chance to learn – first hand – how amazing the program truly is. Over the last year, I have spent many days with over 50 “classmates” – each and every one an engaged leader in our community. I know many of them will be lifelong friends. As if that wasn’t reason enough to participate, I have also had the amazing opportunity to speak with and to learn from some of the most influential people in our city. We’ve met with our State Representatives, our City Manager, our State Senators, the County Judge, the DISD Superintendent, our Council Members, Editors from the Dallas Morning News, a leading columnist for the Dallas Observer, DISD Trustees, local university Presidents, Criminal District Court Judges, and the Chief of Police. We’ve heard from dozens of leaders of amazing non-profits including Commit!, The Innocence Project, Stand for Children, Jonathan’s Place, and City Square. We’ve heard leading attorneys debate the merits of surveillance versus the impact on individual privacy; we’ve done helicopter “ride-alongs” with the Dallas Police Department; we’ve learned about the amazing prosthetic limbs made for kids at Texas Scottish Rite hospital; and we’ve learned more than I ever thought I’d know about the state water plan and the history of DFW and Love Field. I could go on and on with many more examples – but you get the point! The experience has been AMAZING!
I am soon (hopefully!) to graduate from the Leadership Dallas Class of 2014. With me, I will take many things. Beyond the friendships and the incredible experiences, I will take with me a keen awareness of the problems facing our city and our region – but more importantly, I will take with me a passion and a renewed energy to DO something about it. There is far too much talking about problems in our society – we need to take action. The Dallas Regional Chamber is taking action by educating leaders on how to make a difference. Join them!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead