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The acts of serving others and his community were instilled in the fiber of Chris Luna’s being at an early age. And the resulting actions continue today.
Luna was named President & CEO of the SPCA of Texas in late November 2023, and he hit the ground running. His first day—November 29th—was spent meeting with employees at the Ellis County Animal Care Center in Waxahachie, Texas, the Dallas Animal Care Center, the Myron K. Martin Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic, and the Dealy Animal Rescue Center—all in Dallas.
Midafternoon of the same day, Luna held a Press Conference at the organization’s headquarters alongside SPCA of Texas Board Chair Hiren Patel. With a look of pride, Patel noted, “Chris is an inspiring and innovative leader with deep experience and a proven track record in expanding organizational reach and impact leading to increased operational excellence. The Board search committee worked diligently for the last nine months to find the right candidate and we are confident that Chris will guide the SPCA of Texas into a bright future.”
When Patel introduced him, Luna graciously spoke about his delight in being chosen for such a unique opportunity. “Leading the SPCA of Texas into its next chapter of serving the animals and people of North Texas is an honor and a privilege,” he said. “I am beyond thrilled to work together with this exceptional organization of dedicated staff and volunteers as well as community partners to drive meaningful programmatic impact.”
When asked what about this job made him know it was the job for him, Luna didn’t miss a beat when he responded, “animals!” He has always loved animals and grew up with pets including a Dachshund named Dodie (after a character in a ‘60s sitcom), Thor (a German Shepherd), rabbits, fish, gerbils and “all kinds of animals.”
Luna was quick to add that the job’s appeal is about combining his passion for animals and working with a great organization.
“I really feel like the SPCA of Texas is a community jewel; a long-tenured, respected organization that everybody loves and respects,” Luna said. “I’m the custodian and it’s my job to make sure this institution does well, grows, and remains a great community asset. Then, I hand it off to the next leader.”
Something else Luna’s parents instilled in him that overflows into this leadership position is to be involved in his community—whether it was school, boy scouts, or their church—and to give back. His parents were overachievers and led by example.
Both were the first high school and college graduates in their families. Mr. Luna was an engineer for the same oil and gas company in Houston for almost 40 years, until retirement. Mrs. Luna served as a Registered Nurse in labor and delivery at a hospital for many years before she joined the administration of the Visiting Nurses Association in Houston, where she retired as an executive. All the while raising eight successful children and volunteering as much as possible.
Chris was seventh of those eight.
One of his dad’s favorite volunteer activities was being a Boy Scout leader. Luna loved the Boy Scouts as well, and worked hard to become an Eagle Scout, the highest honor awarded by the organization. “I really liked the Boy Scouts and what it taught me and I’m the over achiever type. That and my competitive nature are what really helped me achieve the Eagle Scout award,” he said.
Luna graduated college and Law School from The University of Texas at Austin and immediately moved to Dallas in 1986 to clerk for Chief Judge Robert C. McGuire, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas. This was an exciting experience for Luna for several reasons. Not only because he wasn’t representing a client but rather was a lawyer to the judge, conducting research and drafting opinions. “I also got to experience some great lawyers arguing cases and watching them in court. But, the clerkship also brought me to Dallas,” he smiled.
Luna was embraced by several communities within Dallas he said. “I was kind of an outsider, a native of Houston moving in from Austin, but I met so many lawyers, UT alumni, individuals from my neighborhood, and others. Within five years, I was elected to serve on the Dallas City Council.
“That’s what I love about the Dallas area,” Luna added. “If you’re willing to show up, participate, and be involved, Dallas will love you back.”
Luna practiced law at prestigious firms in Dallas for more than a decade before joining T-Mobile where he served for more than 18 years in several roles, including Vice President, Legal Affairs and Chief Counsel, Sales & Distribution. “I liked being at law firms, but, I really liked being an in-house lawyer,” he said. “I preferred working directly with the businesspeople—waking up thinking about that one client and going to bed thinking about that one client.”
Luna brings that same focus to the SPCA of Texas and has begun immersing himself into the organization. Often when an outsider is brought in to lead an organization, it is expected that changes will be made pretty quickly. It’s just the opposite with Luna and the SPCA of Texas. He plans to spend time getting to know the SPCA of Texas people and structure.
“Because the Board brought someone in from outside, it says they are willing to change things, if necessary,” Luna said. “However, I want to move slowly and get to know the organization, its processes, and its structure; I want to make sure we have the right people in the right place before any changes are made.”
In the few weeks that Luna has been in the President & CEO position he has put his focus and service qualities to work at the SPCA of Texas. He already has worked at one of the organization’s monthly Drive-thru Pet Pantries (every 3rd Sunday), served food at the employee Holiday Luncheon, and attended the Home for the Holidays Adoption Pavilion at NorthPark Center.
Luna believes that the SPCA of Texas “front liners”—the employees that work directly with the clients; people that handle adoptions, investigations, and community impact events; as well as those that care for the animals and work with the public need to be invested in and supported. “These are the people we need to take care of, and I want to be sure we are offering appropriate professional development and training opportunities for them,” he explained.
In the 21st century nonprofit arena, an organization’s leader is expected to be a primary development partner to raise money. This is another area where Luna excels. He already has identified numerous generous philanthropists in the North Texas donor world that are not affiliated with the SPCA of Texas and is partnering with the Development team to cultivate them. “I want to be involved in who we are talking to and identifying who we are missing,” Luna said.
Not only does he have successful fund-raising experience, but Luna also has a strong understanding of development from the other side—the money giving side. “More funders and grant-making entities are looking for results and metrics,” he explained. “They want to know how their investment is going to help solve a problem and to know how results will be measured.”
Chris Luna and his partner Kent Mecklenburg, who also is an animal lover, have been together for 27 years. The couple has Bacio, a Maltese, who is almost 18 years old. (Bella, Bacio’s sister, went to heaven about three years ago.) They previously rescued a precious Dachshund, Sophie, and Rasputin, a black cat.
The couple enjoys travelling and a few years ago, began taking cruises where the itineraries allow them to visit several hot spots on one trip. “Every port is a whole new experience,” Luna smiled. “We also really love visiting Nantucket in the summer where temperatures will be in the 60s and 70s while in Texas it’s 110 degrees!”
Chris Luna, J.D., joining the SPCA of Texas as President & CEO has breathed new life into the organization, one that looks to a bright future ahead.
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