AP NEWS

Arc of Katy salutes Katy businessman as ‘hometown hero’

May 5, 2019

The Arc of Katy selected Rusty Wylie, Chick-fil-A franchise owner/operator, as a Katy Area Hometown Hero.

Wylie is being recognized as a Hometown Hero for A Great Place to Live for community service, his support of Katy-area nonprofits and contributions by his three restaurants, according to The Arc of Katy.

He was honored at the May 3 Arc of Katy gala at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside. The heroes program began in 2018 “to demonstrate the organization’s pride in the community and to recognize those who make it a great place to live for its program participants, members and families.”

Wylie is sold on Katy, too.

How long have you lived in Katy? Why did you come to Katy?

I actually moved to Katy in 1995 when Chick-fil-a at Mason Road first opened. I was actually only supposed to be here a couple of weeks. Twenty-four years later I’m still here. We love it here. My wife and I have been married for 22 years. I have two daughters. Kelsey attends Faith West and is a senior. The second daughter is Kayla. She is 16 years old and is a sophomore.

How did you become involved in Chick-fil-A?

We — my wife and I — both went to Virginia Tech. I come from a family of golf professionals. I played college golf, but I didn’t want to play professionally. When I finished school, I went to work for a friend in Nashville, Tennessee. I started as a (Chick-fil-A) team member. I started in the kitchen. It was pretty crazy. That first store opened in 1995 (on Mason Road). The Cinco Ranch restaurant opened in 2005 and the Greenhouse location in 2015.

In 2016, you awarded the 100th leadership scholarship. The restaurants have always encouraged young people?

I’ve always connected with a certain age group — 16-22. I’m really comfortable around them. When I started I was 23. The only people I knew in Katy were all the kids 16-22. I feel like I’m the only one that got older. It’s a great generation to work with. They have a great work ethic and attitude. I have a real heart for that age group. (Working at Chick-fil-A) teaches people how to have a first job and what hard work looks like and how to work in teams. It gives them some idea of what service in the community looks like as well.

The Arc of Katy said Wylie and his restaurants regularly support Compassion Katy, Clothed by Faith, Katy Christian Ministries, Grace Fellowship, Kingsland Baptist Church, The Fellowship of Cinco Ranch, Second Baptist Church, Katy Independent School District (Katy ISD) Education Foundation, Katy ISD schools, Faith West Academy, The Ballard House, Living Water, Young Life, Hope Impacts, Friends of Sundown and others. How did you become so involved?

Part of our mission in Katy is to be an indispensable blessing to our community. It starts with the community at the restaurant. The community also can be the Katy community. Katy has a tremendous support system of nonprofits. Put on top of that our school district which does such a great job working with youths and others.

Why is community service important?

Katy is such a unique place to work together and to accomplish important stuff. All kinds of issues. Look at Hurricane Harvey and how everyone coordinated and worked together. We’re just better when we work together. This community has really blessed me. This is one of the ways I want to give back to the community which has taken such great care of me and my family.

How are you familiar with the Arc of Katy?

A friend of mine has a son who attends some Arc events. Over the years I’ve kind of run into some people who run the (Arc) board and kids who come into the restaurants.

What was your reaction to being named community hero?

I was surprised when they told me. I did not know I was nominated. It’s really sweet and very humbling. I appreciate them recognizing other citizens and businesses for the work they do. To whom much has been given, much is expected. Back in 1995, people did not know to say Chick-fil-A. Part of the corporate purpose is to glorify God. I can serve the community in unique ways. I really love the community and want to be part of the big Katy story for years to come.

Chick-fil-A has made headlines and drawn criticism for positions taken by company officials on social issues. Your thoughts?

We want to be a restaurant where everyone is welcome. We want to be a place where people can feel welcome and be served by others in a gracious way. I don’t get into politics at all. I find some of that stuff to be pretty mean-spirited. I’d rather focus on the good and the things we have in common rather than the things we don’t have in common. We want to serve others in the community and be a place of hospitality where everyone feels welcome.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love sports. I love golf. My daughter is ready to play college golf at the University of Kentucky. I love music and hanging out with friends. I’m on the board for the Katy Independent School District Education Foundation. I have to score teacher grants for that organization tonight.

What’s ahead? More restaurants in the future?

I think this is it. The work is super hard some times. It’s really fun. Not a whole bunch of us have three restaurants. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I still stay connected to the community. Further restaurants gets you further away from team members, the kitchen and guests. I know a lot of guests, kids and people. It really does start with the tremendous team members we have, and the leaders we have do such a fantastic job on a daily basis the way we try to work together.

karen.zurawski@chron.com