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Southlake Style

Martin Schelling is at the Heart of Safety

Dec 09, 2013 09:17AM ● By Anonymous

By Linden Wilson

Martin Schelling is Southlake Style’s 2013 Community Impact Winner.

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As class president his senior year in high school, Martin Schelling never imagined that he’d continue to pursue leadership roles in politics — he just liked talking to people. Fast forward 30-plus years, and Schelling has held some of the most esteemed positions in the city of Southlake, where his commitment to bettering the town has been instrumental in making it a safe and wonderful place to live. From serving on the SPIN committee (Southlake Program for the Involvement of Neighborhoods) to cocreating Southlake’s Crime Control and Prevention District to his current role on city council, Schelling has devoted years to community service without expecting anything in return. Southlake Style is honored and excited to present Martin Schelling with the 2013 Community Impact Award.

A born leader

Martin Schelling grew up on a small farm in rural Iowa, where his father was a farmer and his mother was a teacher. The town had 1,600 people, and there were only 32 in his high school graduating class. Schelling chose to attend the University of Tampa in Florida — mainly drawn to the appealing weather — where he graduated with a major in management and a minor in economics. After returning to Iowa for a year to farm alongside his dad, he realized he wanted to try to pursue real-estate opportunities outside the state. In 1977, he moved to Dallas, taking up residence near White Rock Lake. With a job in Grapevine, he tolerated the commute until increasingly congested traffic along I-35 got the best of him. In August of 1992, Schelling moved to Southlake.

“I bought a house and a plot of land off of White’s Chapel, but it was a mess,” Schelling recalls. “You couldn’t even see the house from the road, and the people living there had it very run down. For about seven years, every weekend, all I did was work on that place.”

In 1996, Schelling met his wife, Linda, an equestrian professional from Scotland who received her formal training at a London riding school. At the time, Linda was working at Showtime Farms, right up the road from Schelling’s home.

“She would drive by every day, but we never knew each other until a mutual friend at the barn introduced us,” he says. The couple married in 1997 and now has two daughters, born and raised in Dragon Nation — Sydney, who attends Durham Elementary, and Sarah, who attends Carroll Middle.

“When I first moved to Southlake, the only things here where the Dairy Queen and the Magic Mike’s. I didn’t have kids, and I wasn’t married,” Schelling says. “My wife and I had careers and were kind of late bloomers. But we love Southlake for its school district and for all the amazing amenities it has, from the roads to the close airport to the topography. Everything you need is here — except for Pappadeaux’s; I wish that was in Southlake. But I don’t ever want to leave, because I love it here.”

Ensuring safety and security

Wanting to get involved in his community, Schelling joined SPIN when it started in 1994 and served on it for eight years. It was at a SPIN meeting that he was first introduced to Brian Stebbins — then giving a presentation about his vision for what would become Southlake Town Square — and where it was discussed that Southlake didn’t yet have any sales-tax revenue. In 1997, Schelling, City Manager Curtis Hawk and Chief of Police Billy Campbell got together and decided something needed to be done about generating revenue to pay for things like city real estate, special initiatives (i.e. school resource officers) and technology.

“We didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” Schelling says. “So we created the Crime Control and Prevention District to be authorized for five years — it would raise funds through a half-cent sales tax.” Once the legislation passed, a decision had to be made about whether the city council would serve as the board for the district or they would create a separate board. In the end, a separate board was formed and Martin served one year as its vice president followed by 12 years as president.

“At the time, city council was not very unified, and neither was the city,” recalls Bob Mundlin, a partner at Lifetime Benefits Insurance and longtime friend of Schelling’s who currently serves on the CCPD board. “Martin was keen to listen to everyone’s perspectives and then work to build a consensus. His skillset — real estate, zoning and building — phenomenally benefitted what we were doing there.”

One of the first things on the agenda for Schelling and the CCPD was to buy into the Northeast Tarrant County consortium, which allowed the public works, fire and police departments of Southlake and surrounding towns like Keller and Grapevine to be on the same radio system. It cost $1 million, which was steep, but it meant the city could respond more quickly and effectively if emergencies like a tornado or chemical spill occurred.

Four years into the CCPD, Schelling and other board members decided not to wait until the fifth year to authorize it for the next 15 years. The reauthorization passed with success and is set to expire in 2016.

“We stuck to our guns and were pretty frugal with our money,” Schelling says. “DPS headquarters is paid off, DPS West is paid off, and the bonds on the DPS North facility will be paid off in about five or six years. Then we’ll have everything paid for.”

Frugality, Mundlin says, is one of Schelling’s many strong suits. “Martin’s not a guy who spends money that he doesn’t have. He handles his civic endeavors the same way he does his personal endeavors. He’s an independent thinker and has a financially conservative perspective.”

Shana Yelverton, Southlake’s current city manager, worked alongside Schelling while he served on SPIN and collectively with him for the better part of 20 years.

“Martin is very dedicated to his work,” she says. “When you are one of the first board members for a brand new program, there is a lot of setup that goes into that. There’s a lot of careful consideration about how you’re going to move forward. Martin wasn’t someone who came in and then moved on to something different quickly. He really dug in and dedicated himself to that work.”

SPIN and CCPD aside, Schelling’s resume also includes past board positions with the Northeast Leadership Forum (of which he is still a member), the Southlake Chamber of Commerce and Bicentennial Park’s Adventure Alley. He served on both the 2025 and 2030 Southlake steering committees and is a member of the Metroport Cities Partnership — during his time as a board member and chairman, he playing a significant role in lobbying TxDOT to transform S.H. 114 from a state highway full of gravel trucks barreling down the road to the freeway it is today. And, rightfully so, Schelling was voted Volunteer of the Year in 2001. Yet of all his accomplishments, he counts building the main DPS facility as the most memorable.

“We were struggling to find a spot, and real estate was not really available,” he remembers. “We needed to buy some land from Cooper and Stebbins, which was an extremely pleasant experience. Brian couldn’t have been fairer or more forthright. That was the most meaningful contribution, that we got it built and under budget. It’s a beautiful facility.”

It’s good to be in Southlake

Twelve years ago, Schelling, Mundlin and others involved with CCPD bought the 47 acres of land that now houses the brand new DPS North training facility. Available for use by local police and fire departments, the 37,000-square-foot, $16.6 million facility includes classrooms, a clinic and a firing range.

“The building really fits into the setting,” Schelling says. “I think the brick selection is fantastic, and the interior is exceptional. It’s just a timeless building. Fifty years from now, someone will say, ‘That building really looks good.’”

In 2010, Schelling stepped back from his role on the CCPD to focus on his position as a partner in Conifer Real Estate and on running for Southlake City Council — a position he won in 2011 that is set to expire in May of next year. However, Schelling says he is considering a second three-year term.

“I’ve talked to my family about whether I’m going to run again in 2014, and my plan is to do it,” he says. “If I am reelected, I’d have my second term and then be term-limited out. Then, I think I might spend more time with my family and more time golfing.” Once his daughters are older, Schelling says he and his wife plan to downsize — but that they’ll never leave Southlake, and Yelverton can understand why.

“When you stay on a board for a long period of time like Martin did, you really get to see your ideas through to the end,” she says. “I can imagine it’s immensely satisfying for him to see his work on the ground come to life. Martin has been a wonderful volunteer in Southlake, a really committed person who worries about the future and is willing to put his own time into making it the best it can be. It’s hard to complain about living here — as we say, ‘It’s good to be in Southlake.’”