Some of Texoma’s young movers and shakers gathered at the Sherman Municipal Building Thursday to be recognized as the “2018 40 Under Forty.” At a luncheon hosted by Texoma Marketing and Media Group, those selected were recognized for their involvement in making the community a better place for all to live and strive.

TMMG Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriguez said he believes 40 Under Forty has a bright future.

“TMMG’s 40 Under Forty is an important honor for the community,” Rodriguez said. “It gives residents a chance to recognize and highlight the young and up-and-coming leaders of Grayson County who will help shape the future of Texoma. The honorees are not only professionally accomplished, they are deeply committed to their community and give back with their time by volunteering throughout Texoma.”

Along with the 40 individuals recognized Thursday, Undaunted Founder Nate Essin was recognized as a “Person to Watch in 2019.”

“This year, we had more than 70 nominations,” Rodriguez said. “We expect even more next year and for nominees who didn’t make the list this year to return next year. We think this is a great way to recognize those who are giving back and are excited to learn more about all the incredible, caring people who live and work in Texoma.”

First Texoma National Bank Senior Vice President Sarah Whitt attended the luncheon to support Vice President Leigh Ann Sims, who was chosen for the list. Whitt said she was glad to help honor Sims, adding that Sims shows her love of service in everything that she does.

“I think that Leigh Ann has a heart for the people that she works with and that she serves,” Whitt said. “She has a passion for the community that she helps and that translates into her banking career. She makes the right decisions for her customers because she cares for them.”

Whitt also said it was important for Sims and others like her to get recognition because it shows the community cares about the work that is being done.

KXII-TV anchor Maureen Kane Stevenson, who was also recognized as one of the honorees Thursday, agreed with Whitt about how knowing that her work is valuable to the community has made her happy.

“Some of the things that I am involved in, like the Grayson County Children’s Advocacy Center, I see the benefit of our work,” she said. “It’s not just in going to the meetings and the fundraisers, but in hearing the stories from the staff who tell us that we are helping a child through the court system. We are helping this child heal from abuse. It gives me goose bumps. It makes me so happy.”

Kane Stevenson also said it has been rewarding for her to be able to spread the message that everyone can be doing something.

“We can all help in some way with whatever organization appeals to you,” she said. “What I choose may not be what appeals to someone else, but there is something for everyone especially here in Texoma.”

With such a rich culture of giving, Kane Stevenson said she is proud to call Texoma home.

“Any event or charity event, you will see so many people and when you hear about how much money is raised, it’s astounding how much people give and how much people care in their actions,” she said. “That is why we choose to stay in Texoma because it is such a generous community and it is such a caring community. … We love each other. We care about each other. We respect each other, and we lift each other up.”

Grayson College Welding Instructor Doyle Roy Jr., who is also a member of the Pottsboro Independent School District’s board of trustees and was included on the 40 Under Forty list, said he was happy to be in the room with so many people on Thursday because the people in there are the ones who make it happen in Texoma.

“I think it is important for people who have been here for generations to know that there is a lot of growth and exciting things going on in our community,” honoree Melanie Truxal said. “There are a lot of people that want to lead organizations and want to lead the way. They want to better the city and provide a brighter future for our future generations.”

Sherman Tourism and Main Street Manager Sarah McRae-Smith said that while it was nice being selected for the “40 Under Forty” award, the acknowledgment is more exciting for the future of the community.

“We want to motivate others to want to get involved and to build our community and serve,” she said. “We all care about this community so it is important that we all get involved. We want to inspire the kiddos that just finished college to want to get involved. We want them to know that this is the cool thing to do.”

Denison City Council member and Hempkins Insurance Agent Chris Spiegel said sometimes community leaders feel like they are on an island alone, but in sitting in the room with his fellow honorees Thursday, he realized just how many people are working together in Texoma.

“It highlights the organizations and I just hope that it continues to grow,” he said. “There are some people that were not here today that someone did not take the time to nominate or they did not think to nominate them. I promise now that I have been nominated and acknowledged that I will take the time to nominate someone next year who I think deserves this.”

Spiegel also wants this award to inspire others to get more involve and show the youth of this area that volunteering and working outside the hours of a regular job is a cool thing.

“A lot of times, I struggle with how I can engage the next group behind me for volunteerism,” he said. “Hopefully, this can set a precedent for others who want to be involved in things in the future. I did not see anyone up there that is not involved in something. These people are involved in everything. It was great to see.”

Look for the 40 Under Forty magazine in Sunday’s edition of the Herald Democrat for a complete list of honorees and information about each one. Also on Sunday, look for additional photos from the event at