When outgoing Frisco Mayor Maher Maso took office in 2008, the city’s population was approximately 96,000. Five years later when Jeremy Lyon took over as Frisco ISD’s superintendent, that population had grown to about 130,000, and the school district had an enrollment of 46,000 students.
Today, the city has more than 160,000 people and a $5 Billion Mile under construction, and FISD has more than 55,000 students and 65 schools.
City officials have credited Frisco’s growth and success to the consistency in its leadership. Both Maso and Lyon will shake up that consistency when they leave their respective offices
Maso is term limited after nine years as mayor and will leave the mayor’s seat this month. Lyon announced his retirement and resignation earlier this year and will leave at the end of this school year.
On top of that, council member Scott Johnson is also term limited this year and will be vacating his seat soon.
Maso said Frisco City Council members have historically stayed on the council for long periods with little turnover. Council members, including the mayor, can serve up to three three-year terms.
“The term limits for Council has created some challenges, because so far they’ve been lining up in consecutive years where everyone reaches term limits, and over a three-year period you lose everybody,” he said. “I wish it would be more staggered.”
But despite the recent turnover of some long-standing council members, the city has been able to manage the growth well, Maso said.
“It would be a disaster if we didn’t have a good plan and implemented that plan,” he said. “Long-term staff and elected officials understand the importance of the master plan, understand the community created this. We’re not always changing direction.”
Tony Felker, a former council member and the Frisco Chamber of Commerce president since 2004, said a citywide culture known as “the Frisco way” has been instilled in the community that doesn’t rely on one person to carry out the city’s vision and plan. George Purefoy, who has served as Frisco’s first city manager since 1987, has been instrumental in implementing this culture into the city’s organizational structure, Felker said.
“The size of the organizations and the culture that has been put in place now help protect us from these changes being course-altering events,” he said.
Success of consistency
The Star in Frisco is one example of a project that is the result of consistent leadership working together, Maso said. The 91-acre development, which houses the Dallas Cowboys world headquarters and multiuse event facility, is a joint partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, the city, FISD, the Frisco Community Development Corp. and the Frisco Economic Development Corp.
A partnership where the city, the school district and other city entities work together does not happen overnight, Maso said.
“That sounds so easy to us, but that’s years of relationship building,” he said.
Soon after The Star in Frisco was announced, three other major mixed-use developments—Frisco Station, Wade Park and The Gate—all staked their claim near The Star in what is now known as the $5 Billion Mile.
These partnerships that city leaders have created have set the stage for Frisco to also become the sports medicine innovation center of the world and attract a major university, Maso said.
Some of what Maso calls Frisco’s “foundational leaders” have hit milestone anniversaries with the city recently. Jim Gandy, the FEDC’s first president, celebrated 20 years with the city last year. Purefoy will hit his 30-year anniversary later this year.
Though no retirements have been announced, city officials are preparing for the eventual turnover of some of the city’s senior leadership.
Felker said the next leaders on city and school district staff may not be from Frisco but can learn “the Frisco way.” Lyon, for example, is someone who took over the school district after a former long-serving superintendent and quickly picked up on the Frisco culture, Felker said.
“You don’t have to be from here to pick up and learn and integrate yourself into the community and to have that mindset of what we’re looking for,” he said.
As the FISD board of trustees prepares to interview superintendent candidates, Maso said this next City Council could also be interviewing city candidates soon depending on when retirements are announced.
“What I’m confident in is those leaders care so much about the community that when they decide they’re ready to move on or retire, they’ll do so in such an orderly manner,” Maso said. “They’ll go out the same way they came in and the same way they served, which is put the city first and foremost and the citizens first and foremost to make sure they’re taken care of.”