Skip to main content

Southlake Style

Coming to term

Apr 28, 2015 11:09PM ● By Dia

By Amy Reisner

Photography by BluDoor Studios

A Texas native who grew up in Northeast Tarrant County, Mayor John Terrell moved back to the area in the late ’90s from San Francisco with his wife, Joanne, to raise their family. “We chose Southlake, and that’s because we had our first child,” Terrell says. “We knew we wanted a community city—not just a city. We wanted a great school district, and we wanted a little bit of land, so we selected Southlake.”

And although community involvement was at the top of the family’s list, they never dreamed their patriarch would one day be mayor of this quaint little city. “I never had any intention of running for any political office—that was probably furthest from my mind,” he recalls. “But what we did decide is that if we were going to raise our children in this community, we were going to get involved.”

Joanne remembers exactly how their simple desire for community involvement turned into more than just joining the HOA or PTA. “We had been married about 12 years when we moved to Southlake, and in all that time, the idea of him in city government had never even crossed our minds,” she says. “Actually, when we decided to get involved, it still wasn’t on our minds. [John] just read an article in the local newspaper saying they were starting up the Leadership Southlake class again, and he was just going to attend that to learn more about the city.”

One position led to another, and soon Terrell was approached on the subject of running for mayor in 2008. “Since it felt as if I was given an entire education from the ground up, it seemed like a natural progression,” he says. “I decided I would love to serve the city in that capacity.”

Memorable City Projects and Programs

As city councilman and mayor, Terrell has seen so many of the projects through that shaped and 

 molded Southlake into what it is today. Certain projects, though, stick out as ones that made significant strides for the community and its residents. Of course, it should be mentioned that for years, city has held AAA bond ratings—the highest rating a city can achieve in financial management—and without them, many of these projects may not have had enough funding.


Safety has been top of mind for the city’s citizens for years— so no wonder it was top priority during Terrell’s tenure as mayor. From following through with Southlake’s master plan to building new DPS facilities, he has led many projects aimed at ensuring the city provides a safe environment for its residents. “Something that has set Southlake apart from other communities from the very beginning was the development of a long-term master plan,” Terrell says. “And one of the basic principles at the top of the master plan list is safety.”

Terrell was instrumental in setting up the Crime Control Protection District (CCPD) tax that paid for the new DPS facilities, which he says “represent not only architecturally award-winning, state-of-the-art public-safety facilities providing top notch service to our community, but also further exemplify this city’s ability to work together to accomplish great things.”

Transportation and Parks

During Terrell’s time in office, major strides in transportation and mobility were made. To say the roadways in and around Southlake have simply improved would be an understatement. But there are still some changes that will have to be made by the next mayor. “While much has been accomplished, there is still much to be done,” Terrell says. “I do regret that I will not be able to continue the efforts to further improve mobility in the city, but I am comforted by the fact that this will be left in the capable hands of others.”

Not to be overlooked in the arena of mobility enhancement are the more than 11 miles of new sidewalks and trails created during the past six years. Terrell is very passionate about parks and recreation for residents. “Our parks system is one of the best in the state, and when complete, Bicentennial Park will represent one of the finest parks in the Southwest United States,” he says. “That is something for which we can all The expansion and development of over 300 acres of parks, such as North Park and Bicentennial Park, which included new baseball fields, Miracle Field, a new children’s playground and the Marq, is part of the larger picture.

The Marq, Southlake’s soon-to-be community center, has been in the works for 10 to 12 years—and Terrell has been part of the project since the beginning. It is one of the developments he is most proud of. Phase I will include the construction of an events hall, multipurpose conference and meeting spaces, a club lounge, catering kitchen, senior center and events space, and is expected to be completed in late 2015.

Adjacent to the Marq and also in Bicentennial Park, Miracle Field is home to Southlake’s Miracle League, an organization that gives children and young adults with special needs the opportunity to play baseball. “It is great to see the city invest in those who can’t necessarily play baseball with other kids,” Terrell says. “The Miracle League is looking out for a part of the community that is mentally and physically impaired, and it not only provides something for those that are challenged, but it also gives something to our other kids who are not physically or mentally challenged in partnering with one another. It’s one of those projects that I take pride in as a city leader—having the entire city come together.”

Southlake’s former mayor Andrew Wambsganss (2003–2009) elaborates, Terrell is responsible the myriad ways the city has been able to join and work together. “John’s main focus in all of the projects he has initiated, led and overseen—the DPS facilities, the park systems, the enhancements of roads and sidewalk systems—are all for one purpose: to maintain the quality of life we have all become accustomed to in Southlake.”

Reflecting on family

Terrell will continue to fulfill his duties as vice president of commercial development at DFW International Airport but looks forward to extra free time to spend with his family, whom counts as his No. 1 priority.

Terrell explains that his children have only ever known him as a Southlake city official—he’s been in office since his oldest, Jacob, was an infant and before his daughter, Jordan, was born. There have been many activities that, while not lost completely, were not as commonplace in the Terrell family as they would have liked. One such family activity Terrell and his wife are both looking forward to? Family dinners. “We have two active kids—one is a graduating senior,” she says. “It will be nice on the nights that the kids are home for dinner to be fairly confident that John’s schedule will allow him to be there as well.”

The Terrell family embraced John’s time in office and made the best of the opportunities presented to them, which, according to Joanne, were great ones. “Often we would volunteer, usually as a family, for events that we might not have joined otherwise,” she says. “That involvement in so many varied activities introduced us to diverse groups of amazing people who are now some of our best friends. It gave us experiences we would not have had, and I believe it helped teach our children the value of serving others, even if it meant making sacrifices on a personal level.”

Building Relationships

  Terrell is the first to tell you none of the projects and programs during his tenure were done single handedly. When asked about his work, he is quick to mention others first. “We have one of the best city staffs on the planet,” he says. “You name it—every department has incredible elected leaders. The community should also understand the city would not be in the condition it is in today without the strong staff of hired individuals as well.”

There is a mutual respect amongst his peers and colleagues. Southlake’s City Manager Shana K. Yelverton says Terrell has always been willing to do whatever it takes to make Southlake an outstanding community. “He has applied his considerable intellect, strong work ethic and inexhaustible energy to the job of mayor,” Yelverton says. “It has always been obvious to me that he really cares about Southlake and the people who live here, and he has developed considerable expertise in the years of his involvement. He is willing to put in as much time as it takes to take care of city business.”

And the personal and professional connections Terrell made over the past 16 years as a city official have not just been with those of voting age. He recalls some mayoral duties that required no pomp and circumstance. “One of the things I have enjoyed doing the most as mayor is going to speak to second grade students at the elementary schools,” he says. “I will tell you as mayor of the city of Southlake, second graders think you are a rock star. They also think you make a lot of money.” However, what may be surprising to those second graders, and perhaps other city residents, is that being mayor of Southlake is an unpaid position.

Looking ahead

Even without a public title attached to his name, citizen John Terrell still has plans for Southlake. “I am ever hopeful that the city will continue to thrive with caring leaders who want what is best for the city as a whole; leaders with vision, creative new ideas and a passion to get things done; leaders who listen to the citizens that elected them to represent their interests.”

Having been entrusted for the last six years by the citizens of Southlake to lead these efforts, Terrell explains that summarizing the past 16 years is a hard concept to put into only a few words. “It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve this community with my fellow council members and the many volunteers on numerous boards and commissions that made what has been accomplished possible.

“I plan to stay very involved—you just won’t see me on cable every other Tuesday night. This community is thriving too much, and there are too many things to do. I will probably continue to volunteer in numerous ways and on various boards and commissions—if the city will continue to have me.”