Opening doors for A Dallas Native

Atmos’ Susan Harris finds new ways to understand, appreciate her hometown in DRC’s Leadership Dallas

As a Dallas native who’s lived her entire live in North Texas, Susan Harris thought she knew quite a bit about Dallas.

But she learned even more after going through the Dallas Regional Chamber’s flagship leadership development program: Leadership Dallas.

“Being a native Dallasite, I really thought that I knew Dallas,” Harris said. “Until I went through the program, I didn’t understand that there’s a totally different level of understanding and appreciation for Dallas once you have access to all the avenues of Leadership Dallas.”

The program opened many doors to nonprofits, businesses, and key city departments, she said.

Harris, manager of public affairs at Atmos, said she found it easy to get involved in the Chamber as her employer, Atmos, is a corporate member. 

She began her involvement in the Chamber about 10 years ago by attending luncheons to learn more about what was going on in the community and then represented Atmos on the Chamber’s education committee for several years.

In 2009, she was selected to participate in Leadership Dallas. The group’s community project involved refurbishing a gym at Jeffries Street Learning Center in South Dallas where a member of the group was serving on the board.

The group bonded and still stays in touch with occasional get-togethers, Harris said. 

“The professional relationships and the friendships that were made in Leadership Dallas will last a lifetime,” she said. “We also learned there is a great deal of need in Dallas, and we learned so much about all the worthwhile organizations that have needs and how we could better help them. It was just eye opening.”

Harris said she enjoys staying connected to the program through the chamber’s annual Leadership Dallas alumni program. The event gathers all graduates from Leadership Dallas and sends them out to different venues to participate in community outreach events.

Overall, Harris said Leadership Dallas helped her form relationships that she finds meaningful today. Those connections range from people in the utility industry to contacts at city hall and local nonprofits.

“It’s provided the connections with which to do business,” she said. “You can’t put a dollar value on that.”