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LEADING LADIES OF CELINA

Five Local Women Impacting Our Community

Article by Sharla Davenport & Christine Clark

Photography by Nicole Wierick

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

This month, we celebrate our Leading Ladies of Celina. A variety of influential women are having an impact on our community. These movers & shakers continue to make their mark on our city leading us to marvel at their drive, passion and purpose. We caught up with these women at the Olivia Clarke Homes model home in Celina Hills. We'll introduce you to each of these leading ladies, all as passionate about what they do as they are about Celina.

KATIE DUNN

Entrepreneur and Owner of Little Wooden Penguin

Katie Dunn is a fascinating entrepreneur who co-owns several small businesses, each of which specializes in unique and different market segments. Her passion is connecting people with others and encouraging women to help women. She and her husband, Taylor Witt, opened the doors of their business - Little Wooden Penguin mid-COVID. “It was like catching lightning in a bottle moment," Katie says. “Celina was a little bubble of a community and would not let us fail. You can see that this community has a heart for small businesses.” Since the time of the Little Wooden Penguin opening, Katie’s mission has been pay-it-forward. 

Katie enjoys organizing events such as: trivia night, speed dating for mom friends, and light-hearted workshops that teach pizza-making and cocktail-crafting at home. She loves to get people out and to have fun. But these events also create a platform that allows Katie to sponsor local charities such as the Samaritan Inn in McKinney where they were able to provide over 2000 needed items to help families in crisis.  

Another passion of Katie’s is the role that she plays in growing the entertainment district of Celina. She’s quick to look for opportunities to participate in city events with her Bar Trailer or partnering with other businesses to bring larger live-music events to town. She naturally looks for opportunities to create moments to move people to connect and find their tribe.

ALEXIS JACKSON

Director of Celina Economic Development Corporation

When a city is prime for growth, it’s crucial to have an authority in economic development. Celina has such a leader, Alexis Jackson, Executive Director for Celina Economic Development.

Jackson is the chief salesperson charged with drawing new businesses to town.  With over twenty years in the industry, she is focused on managing the way for proper growth and business attraction. 

As Director of Economic Development, a position held by few women, Jackson oversees marketing Celina, or as she says, “sharing our story.” She makes approximately forty presentations a year educating companies about Celina and the opportunities here. Jackson is having much success too, like her efforts to secure a much-needed hospital in Celina. 

Collaborating with local businesses is a favorite part of the job for Jackson. She often hosts roundtables championing businesses’ ideas and goals. Jackson is active in the community hearing the needs of small businesses. 

It is obvious why Jackson is leading the city to an exciting future, because of her genuine love for the town. She says, “In previous cities I've lived, I couldn’t say I was proud to live there, but not Celina. I am proud to live here. I am invested here.”  Having Alexis Jackson at the heart of Celina’s economic development is a great investment for us all. 

JANE HUDDLESTON

Lifelong Resident and Original Leading Lady

Honestly, there is no Celina without Jane Huddleston, a lifelong resident devoted to creating the town’s legacy. 

Having always lived on Pecan Street, her heart is devoted to The Square. “I love when I see so many families and people enjoying it. I couldn’t envision anything better,” Huddleston appreciates. It was not easy to keep businesses here, but she was devoted to The Square’s success. 

Jane Huddleston has given her time to numerous projects. These include the establishing of the Celina Senior Center, procuring a historical designation for Old Union Cemetery with the help of Fidelis Inter Se Club, being a part of the creation of city events like Holidays in Celina, serving on the Main Street Board, and volunteering at her church serving Wednesday night meals. Most notably, Jane founded the Celina Area Heritage Museum with exhibits honoring Celina’s history including the Veterans Memorial. 

Speaking of history, Huddleston made history as the first female appointed and elected to city council, rare to women during that time. She states, “I was very honored that the council would appoint a woman back then. It led the way.”  But she didn’t stop there, working full-time at local banks and owning a flower shop downtown.

Today, Jane’s service is limited due to family commitments. She can’t serve like she used to, especially at church, but “I can pray,” she notes. 

Huddleston is Celina’s legacy, a statement that discomforts her. She maintains, “Bragging about what you did ruins the purpose of why you do it.”  She continues, “You must remember your past to contribute to the present.” Thus, we honor Jane Huddleston, the original lady who led Celina.

MELISSA CROMWELL

President of Celina Chamber of Commerce

Eleven years ago, Melissa Cromwell and her family relocated from southeast Kansas to Celina on the advice of a real estate agent they met while visiting an open house in a nearby community. Now 11 years later, Melissa and her family are fixtures here in Celina.

Melissa is the President and CEO of the Greater Celina Chamber of Commerce. She firmly believes in community volunteering, showing up and helping. Shortly after moving to Celina, she started volunteering with the Main Street Board and then joined the Chamber of Commerce on a part-time basis in 2013 and took over the leadership role in 2014. She’s worked hard to build a strong relationship between the Celina Chamber, Celina Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Celina as well as strengthening the partnership with Celina ISD and the local Collin College campus.  

Melissa plays many roles in our community. She listens to business owners and residents alike and strives to help make connections that make all the businesses in the local area more successful. Daily, you see Melissa and the Chamber out in the community volunteering their time at city and school events and fundraisers. For this Leading Lady, supporting local is the name of the game.

LAUREN GRIFFIN THORSEN

Owner of Edit Your Brand

The best leaders often take the back seat to help others excel. That’s appropriate for Lauren Griffin Thorsen, owner of Edit Your Brand, a Celina-based public relations, branding and marketing firm for real estate developers, builders and construction companies across North Texas. 

Lauren saw a need to help these local businesses. She understands that these companies are experts at their craft but have a gap in their marketing, branding, and online presence. With her twenty plus years of expertise, she is helping to elevate local companies so they stand out and are heard.

“Although hugely successful, our clients often don’t have in-house marketing support, so we partner with them to oversee their branding and communications efforts. This frees them up to stay focused on running their businesses,” Lauren said. As a Celina resident, she understands the local landscape, both old and new, and is focused on positioning local business owners so they benefit from Celina’s continued growth.

Her company name, Edit Your Brand, says it all. Lauren Griffin Thorsen aims the spotlight on others and helps them shine.

  • Katie Dunn
  • Jane Huddleston
  • Alexis Jackson
  • Melissa Cromwell
  • Lauren Thorsen