December 2022 Newsletter

Greetings from your NLF Chair, Shelby Bruhn

This marks my final column as chairman of Northeast Leadership Forum. It’s been my privilege to serve in 2022, as we have continued the momentum from my predecessor, Howard Shotwell.

We will all remember 2022 for several reasons.

These include:

  • The second consecutive year of 20+ new members.(Thank you, Craig Hulse)

  • How Tarrant County partnered with the American Rescue Plan Act to provide grants for small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic.

  • Our annual award luncheon at the Marriott Westlake featuring world-renowned economist Dr. Ray Perryman. The event featured the Nancy & Alan Hamm Foundation matching the NLF Foundation’s $22,000 that allowed us to award $44,000 in scholarships. And Ish Arabalos from Coca-Cola Bottling Southwest graciously awarded a new Dell laptop computer for each recipient. And only at our event would an economist’s autographed books raise $3,500 for our scholarship program. Thank you, Dr. Perryman!
  • The quality of speakers at our breakfasts:
  • Patrick Brophey, Director of Legislative Planning, & Stakeholder Relations, and Christopher Lee, Director of State Relations, both from the North Texas Commission
  • Wes Lyons, General Partner at Eagle Venture Fund and Waymaker Funds
  • Cameron Cushman, Assistant Vice President of Innovation Ecosystems at The University of North Texas Health Science Center
  • Carlo Capua, Chief of Strategy & Innovation for the City of Fort Worth

  • Our fourth consecutive sold-out Heart of North Texas Conference featuring powerful speakers who reinforced our theme of May the Workforce be with You. Our tri-chairs of Kathryn Rotter, RaDonna Hessel, and Craig Hulse and their team netted over $30,000 for our scholarship fund!

  • Carolyn Sims and her NLF Foundation Board once again selected our 24 deserving scholarship recipients.


Please consider nominating a deserving candidate for our Distinguished Leadership Award, which will be presented at the banquet. The deadline for nominations will be Monday, January 23.


I’ve been impressed as I’ve seen our businesses and nonprofits lean on each other and be resources to benefit our community.


To each of you and your loved ones, my wife Katie and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy holiday season!

-Shelby Bruhn

 Incoming Chairman: Eli Mercer 

Dr. Eli Mercer is a Renaissance man whose background may astound you. Eli earned his BA in International Business, Spanish, French, and German at the University of Texas at Arlington. To deepen his proficiency in languages and cultures, he lived and studied in Berlin, Costa Rica, and attended the legendary Universite’ Sorbonne in Paris, France.

After 6 years launching international startups in Europe and Latin America, he came back to the U.S. to earn his MBA in International Management at Thunderbird School of Global Management, focused on Global Startup and Expansion in Asia and Latin America. He was hired by Thunderbird to launch the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship where he spent 3 years hiring a team, raising money, and traveling the world building programs, and linking alumni from various countries and industries for the launch, investment, and growth of new ventures.

He later returned to the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his MS in Science and Technology Commercialization and joined the University of Texas team as a Consultant and Program Manager at the IC2 Institute and as Adjunct Professor in the McCombs School of Business, where he spent 10 years working with leaders around the world building entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems through large-scale collaborations between regional governments, education, and the private sector. 

Eli received his Doctor of Education from Kansas State University, where he claims to have sent in some secret plays that won the team this year’s Big 12 Championship.

We first met Eli when he joined NLF as Dean of the Technology, Health, and Business Division at Tarrant County College Northeast. He chaired the Heart of North Texas Committee for three years and elevated our fundraising capabilities while also creating impressive speakers and panels.

Prior to joining TCC, Eli was Principal and Founder of Genesis Consulting and 3D Innovation Labs in Austin focused on global startup and expansion, early stage technology commercialization, and the development of 3D technology in research and development. During this time, he also served as Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin and Adjunct Professor of International Business at Austin Community College in order to give back to the community and help invest in the next generation.

Eli has served on numerous community and non-profit boards since he returned to DFW including the Economic Development Advisory Board for the City of Hurst, the HEB ISD Education Foundation, the Accelerate DFW Foundation, North Texas Community Theatre Company, and Venture Business Impact. 

He left TCC in 2020 to become CEO of Kingdom Ecosystems, LLC, a technology startup focused on consulting, community engagement, software, and multimedia solutions to optimize and grow human ecosystems. He currently serves on the Board of Eagle Venture Foundation and teaches one night class each year as Adjunct Professor of International Entrepreneurship at Dallas Baptist University.

Suffice it to say, when Eli says he is too busy to add anything to his schedule, he’s telling the truth.

He is married to his wife Hannah and they are proud parents of Samantha Rose. The Mercers live in Fort Worth and are active members of Venture Church in Keller.

Eli’s primary focus for NLF in 2023 will be engaging our membership and the community to “Take stock in our history while investing in our future.” His three stated priorities for the year include: Improving our digital footprint, membership and growth, and financial sustainability and impact.  

 Board welcomes new officers, chooses committee chairs 

Dr. Eli Mercer


RaDonna Hessel


Craig Hulse


Randy McCauley


Shelby Bruhn

Past Chair 

 Incoming Chairman, Eli Mercer, 

announced the following committee chairs 

Committee chairs will be:


RaDonna Hessel


John Fletcher

Trasa Cobern

Mayors’ Roundtable

Armin Mizani

Heart of North Texas

Kathryn Rotter

RaDonna Hessel

Craig Hulse

Chamber Presidents’


RaDonna Hessel

Economic Development

Directors’ Roundtable

Craig Hulse

Superintendents’ Roundtable

Dr. Rick Westfall

Nonprofit Roundtable

Randy Clinton

Dr. Faye Beaulieu

Awards Luncheon

Randy Clinton

Craig Norton


Craig Hulse

Chelsea Rose

 Nominations Due for NLF Distinguished Leadership Award 


Please devote some time to nominate the most deserving candidate you know for the NLF Distinguished Leadership Award, our highest honor. The award recognizes that person who has given many years of service to the Northeast Tarrant County area.


The selection criteria are as follows:

  • Service in civic or educational roles, non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce, elected office or other areas that allowed the individual to make general contributions to the quality of life and well-being of the residents of the Northeast Tarrant County area.
  • Preferably, positive involvement in multiple areas of our community with innovative activities and leadership qualities.
  • Various volunteer responsibilities and longevity in one or more organizations.


We require two nominators for each candidate. Each nomination may also include up to three letters of support. For a list of previous honorees as well as the nomination information and formplease click here.

Nominations are due by Monday, January 23.


We were pleased to recognize Tito Rodriguez, community volunteer and North Richland Hills City Council Member, with the 2021 Distinguished Leadership Award.

 Year-End Giving 

Consider Northeast Leadership Forum Foundation

As you consider year-end giving, please consider the NLF Foundation, where we continue to award scholarships.


In these past two years, inspired by past chairman Howard Shotwell’s fundraising, the Foundation awarded over $15,000 in scholarships to students who are now attending Tarrant County College and Culinary Institute of America. Each scholarship that we award to a TCC student is matched by the TCC Foundation.


We were honored to host Jean Ann Hamm and Charlie Powell from the Hamm Foundation at our December 9 NLF Board planning meeting, and look forward to continuing our partnership to provide scholarships and opportunity to recipients.



The Northeast Leadership Forum Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that is certified by the IRS. For details about a potential gift, please reach out to Carolyn Sims at (817) 905-0542.


Also, please remember that any scholarship money that specifies Tarrant County College will be matched by the Tarrant County College Foundation, so your contribution provides twice as much benefit if you give through NLF Foundation!

 NLF Foundation Scholarship Program has Broad Reach 

In the five years of the NLF Foundation scholarship program, 146 students have received a total of $209,500 to help fund their dreams of attending a community college, four-year university, or a trade school.


These students have attended 52 different universities, ranging from TCU, Texas Wesleyan University, and U.T. Arlington in the Fort Worth area, Stanford University and the University of Southern California on the west coast, and New York University on the east coast. Trade-focused students have attended Tarrant County College, the Culinary Institute of America, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical.

❆ Mark Your Calendar 

Membership Breakfast Meetings

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

February 14

May 9

August 8

October 10

32nd NLF Awards & Annual Meeting

Date: TBD • Location: TBD

26th Annual Heart of North Texas Conference

Wednesday, November 1 • Hurst Conference Center

NLF 2023 Membership Application
Distinguished Leadership Nomination Form