Commentary: TD Smyers: Leadership makes a difference

Leadership makes all the difference. It’s why causes succeed or fail; it’s why ideas take wing; it’s why the status quo is challenged; and it’s why enduring problems get are solved.

Since my arrival back in North Texas in 2008, after wandering the globe for nearly 20 years with the U.S. Navy, I’ve been privileged to work with a handful of rare top-level leaders – change agents who have brought vision, compassion, risk tolerance and moral courage to their roles.

These women and men are, or were recently, at the helm of Tarrant County’s most important interests and providentially have led the community through a milestone era of growth, need and change.

Mayor Betsy Price reliably leads with vision, energy and a servant’s heart through trying times, her gaze firmly fixed on a thriving Fort Worth.

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Mayor Jeff Williams forges sustained economic strength in Arlington with innovation, drive and a spirit of collaboration.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya masterfully and joyfully led our symphony orchestra while sharing a vision for sustainability.

Robert Earley makes the hard calls every day and invests his passion to revolutionize culture and care at our County Hospital.

Judge Glen Whitley leverages a lifetime of service with vision and transparency to enhance our County’s health and welfare.

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Heather Reynolds at Catholic Charities took aim at a seemingly unattainable goal of alleviating poverty and brought hundreds of families into financial independence – one at a time.

Fred Slabach continues to make smart risk decisions across economic sectors to revitalize and grow Texas Wesleyan University’s enrollment, image and standing.

Councilman Brian Byrd put his arms around a community many advised him couldn’t be saved and established LVTRise on behalf of families seeking a safe environment in which to thrive.

There are others.

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City officials like Robert Sturns and Fernando Costa are selfless in their dedication to our shared economic and neighborhood prosperity.

Business executives like Michael Bennett, Sean Donohue, Gloria Starling and Carlo Capua practice their craft with equal doses of excellence and compassion.

Dedicated social visionaries like Kara Waddell and Toby Owen are changing futures for our kids and those who have been left behind.

Across all economic sectors, at this singular time, Fort Worth’s leadership is strong.

At United Way of Tarrant County, our Board of Directors has just added a name to this list of chief executives. The name isn’t a new one; in fact, she’s very well known. They’ve wisely chosen Leah King, our chief operating officer, to succeed me as president and CEO.

Leah’s selection is both an acknowledgement of her singular qualifications for the job and an endorsement of the new strategic direction she’s played a major hand in authoring.

She is the right leader, at the right time, and there is no one I would rather hand the baton to in our relentless work to bring thriving communities, welcoming neighborhoods and a strong economy to Tarrant County.

The board’s decision to name Leah as our United Way’s new president and CEO sends a strong message to our team, donors and partners – a message of continuity and strength amidst change.

As Commanding Officer of both a U.S. Navy maritime patrol squadron and a joint service air base, I was blessed with the honor of leading America’s finest. I’ve seen leadership – good and bad – at all levels.

The leaders we have driving Tarrant County’s future are among the best I’ve known, and this will make all the difference in navigating the challenging waters ahead.

As my wife Barbara and I bring in the dock lines and sail off into retirement, it’s extremely gratifying to know this community we’ve come to love is in the hands of passionate, talented leaders.

Because leadership makes all the difference.

TD Smyers, is the former (as of Nov. 11, 2019) President & CEO of United Way of Tarrant County

Where is TD Smyers?

Apparently the sailor is not home from the sea.

As you read this, TD and Barbara are preparing to set sail on a 2013 Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 foot catamaran named La Vie Dansante – The Dancing Life – initially to The Bahamas – and then wherever the winds take them. A Fort Lauderdale Departure Party is scheduled for Dec. 31, 2019