Founders & Directors

Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation

John Speer

Vice Chairman

John Speer, BBA, CPA, MBA, has been involved in the home building and mortgage industries for over 40 years. He has participated in the construction and/or financing of more than $7 billion of real estate, including over 40,000 homes. Currently, John builds under the Travis Homes name.

John established Withers Energy Group, LLC in 2010 as an entrée into the energy industry. Since its inception, Withers energy has been immensely successful and profitable. John also co-founded Withers Capital Partners, LLC to bring his financial expertise to play in his new-found energy forum. Its primary investment is in Orca LNG, LTD (a Canada-based company) where he serves as Chairman. Orca LNG’s is licensed to export 27.6 million tons of LNG per year, comparable to about 4.2 BCF/day of natural gas, ultimately generating over $10 billion of revenue per year.

Mr. Speer has investments in real estate, construction, energy and ranching.

John Houghtaling

President

John Houghtaling is the managing partner and majority owner of Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling LLC, a law firm with a legacy that spans half a century. The firm famously paved the way to the $246 billion U.S. tobacco settlement in 1998, and since then has won settlements and verdicts in an additional $4.8 Billion in litigation. Houghtaling specializes exclusively in Property Insurance Claims. As of the first quarter of 2021, he leads the firm’s Claim Management team that is processing more than $3 Billion of property and loss claims for some of the largest property owners in the nation.  His firm currently manages insurance claims for clients with aggregate property assets of over $28 Billion. 

In 2021-2022, Houghtaling managed claims for over 226 hotels damaged by hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta & Ida, and manages more than $900 Million in claims from recent storms.   

Houghtaling is a national leader in first-party insurance litigation and has been retained for speaking engagements for property conventions nationally.  His claim practice has been profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and Business Week, and has been the subject of profiles on 60 Minutes and documentaries by CNN, PBS and Frontline.

Lawrence M. Blackburn

Vice President and Treasurer

As a CPA, Mr. Blackburn currently serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for AF Global having joined the company in late 2017. He formerly served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Goodman Global, Inc. since September 2001, as and was appointed to the Board of Directors in April, 2008.

Mr. Blackburn previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Goodman Global, Inc. since September 2001. Before joining Goodman Global, Inc., Mr. Blackburn served as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Amana Appliances from February 2000 to July 2001, when substantially all of the assets of Amana Appliances were acquired by Maytag Corporation. From April 1983 to August 1999, Mr. Blackburn was with Newell Rubbermaid, Inc. and previously Rubbermaid, Inc., where he had been President and General Manager of its wholly owned subsidiary, Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems, Inc. Mr. Blackburn contributes significant industry-specific experience and financial expertise.

Mr. Blackburn and his wife, Deana, are active in the Houston community supporting their children’s schools, church, the arts and numerous other local needs including as a Founding Member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation.

Franco Valobra

Vice President and Secretary

Franco Valobra was born in Lugano, Switzerland and grew up in Torino, Italy, where he trained at the Valobra family’s 100 year-old Jewelry Atelier. After earning a degree in Accounting, he moved to the United States in 1982 to open the first Valobra Jewelry showroom outside of Italy. The new location at 333 Royal Street is in the heart of the French Quarter and is the continuation of a multi-generational business, which was started in 1905 by his great-grandfather Vittorio Valobra, who was the official Jeweler to the Italian Royal Family, the Savoias. A graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, Mr. Valobra opened a new Jewelry showroom in Highland Village in Houston, Texas, in 2006, and in Lugano’s world-renowned Via Nassa in 2012. Valobra Jewelry creations have been prominently featured in Vogue and W magazines and have adorned celebrities at the Oscars and the Emmys.

Mr. Valobra was the founder of the Ferrari Club of Louisiana in 1999, for which he serves as president. He is also the founder and co-organizer of the French Quarter Classic, a world-renowned fundraising event organized in New Orleans to benefit cancer research. For 10 years, he organized and chaired the Highland Village Ferrari Festival in Houston, an annual event that benefits the Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Unit. He recently received the title of Cavaliere della Repubblica, a knighthood bestowed by the President of the Italian Republic.

Today Franco Valobra shares his time between New Orleans, Houston and Lugano. In addition to running the three Jewelry Ateliers, he is heavily involved in fundraising for UNICEF, Citizens for Animal Protection, Pin Oak Charity Event, Krist Samaritan Center, Boys and Girls Harbor, March of Dimes and several other worthwhile causes, with a particular emphasis to children’s health and well-being-focused charities. He is also a founder and a board member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation and serves on several boards, including the President’s Council of the Methodist Hospital Group, the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce and several others. Franco Valobra is married to his wife Nancy, and they have two children.

Katrina Arnim

Executive Director

Professional and Community:

Katrina Arnim currently serves as the Executive Director on behalf of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation. She is responsible for the implementation of the foundation’s commitment to providing supplemental funding support for the HCSO deputies and collaborative law enforcement initiatives within our community. Katrina manages the day-to-day operations as well as the planning and direction of annual fundraising events and other special fundraising initiatives necessary to underwrite the funding for the donation of specialized equipment and training for the deputies and law enforcement professionals at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, she was instrumental in working with the Founding Members for the development of the conceptual design, construction and dedication of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Fallen Peace Officers Memorial Garden.

Ms. Arnim, a licensed attorney in the State of Texas, formerly practiced law with a nationally recognized litigation boutique firm with an emphasis in complex, multi-party and class action commercial and product liability litigation matters, (including defective consumer products, pharmaceutical, medical device, aviation disasters and toxic tort litigation). She also has professional experience within the talent acquisition industry, having conducted multidisciplinary searches for law firms and as a retained consultant on behalf of large global corporate clients.

In addition to her commitment towards law enforcement community support initiatives, Katrina continues to be an ardent supporter of Houston’s thriving cultural and performing arts organizations.

She has previously served on the Houston Ballet Foundation Board of Trustees, as past President of the Houston Ballet Guild, past Board President for City ArtWorks, and as a Special Advisor to the Houston Symphony League Board. After having served in leadership roles during her tenure as an active member of the Junior League of Houston, she served as an outside board representative for the Spring Branch ISD Partners In Education Board and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Houston. 

Katrina continues to be actively engaged in both professional and philanthropic endeavors, including currently serving as the VP of Programs for the Charter 100 Houston and as a Special Advisor to the Houston Ballet Guild Board.

In this regard, she has been honored as a 2018 Hall of Fame Inductee by the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, Katrina has been selected and named as the Nutcracker Market Chairman Elect for the 2023 Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market.

Education and Personal:

Katrina is a graduate of South Texas College of Law, completed a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and undergraduate studies focused on American Justice at the American University, Washington, D.C. She is married to Cecil H. Arnim III, Executive Vice President of Veritex Bank.

Directors

  • David Baggett
  • Devinder Bhatia, MD
  • Jerry Caroom
  • Roberto Contreras
  • Greg Curran
  • David DeLeon
  • John Domolky
  • David Dunlap
  • Richard Fant
  • Jay Fields
  • William Harrison
  • Butch Mach
  • Steve Mach
  • Mike Mann, MD
  • John Moritz
  • Amber Mostyn
  • Michael Plank
  • Matthew Rigdon
  • Charles Reimer
  • John W. Sinders, Jr.
  • Alan Stein
  • Ugo Tombolini
  • Hallie Vanderhider
Emeritus Founding Members
  • W.A. “Cappy” Bisso, III*
  • W.A. “Beau” Bisso, IV
  • Patrick Burk
  • Tracy Krohn
  • Steve Mostyn*
  • John Schiller
  • Joe Rubbo


*Deceased

Honorary Founding Members
  • Anurag Dandiya
  • Jerome Bocuse
  • Daniel Boulud
  • Thomas Keller