Leigh Ann Ripka

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Leigh Ann RipkaMy Dallas Story

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to these views.” 

For a long time, she saw the area in segments, out her car window. She traveled here a lot for work and play from her home in Louisiana – that’s how she became familiar with North Texas.  In 2023, when she had the opportunity to move here, it was easy to say yes.  

“I used to stay in an Airbnb right near where we live now, and I just fell in love with the neighborhood,” said Ripka. “The school system, walkability, proximity to major airports and also, the wonderful welcoming people were all major driving factors.” 

Currently, she’s vice president of Corporate Development at B&H Engineers, Inc. – a Native American-owned, WMBE and HUB-certified business that was recently recognized by the Dallas Business Journal with its Leaders in Diversity award. The locally established MEP-T engineering firm primarily designs projects with complicated commercial requirements around HVAC, energy efficiency, electrical powering, plumbing, fire protection systems, technology, communication and security controls. The company has received visibility for its work in healthcare on projects like the highly publicized Children’s Health and UT Southwestern Medical Center campus. The project – 4.5 million square feet of construction (about four times as big as the Trammell Crow Center) – will be transformational for the region and its ability to treat complex pediatric patients. 


Like many, Ripka’s path here wasn’t straightforward. She earned her degree in public relations, despite family pressure to “study something with a title,” like lawyer, nurse, doctor, or teacher. Out of college she went to work for an oil and gas company, where she stayed for seven years, but after the birth of her son, she decided it was time to make a change.  

She would work in the maritime industry for a few years, where her primary job was to translate complex solicitation requirements into digestible narrative that could be easily understood. The end goal was to win new business.  

“But my most important job is ‘mom.’ My life lacked balance and I was certainly asking myself lots of questions about what the future could look like.” 

Post-pandemic, and part of the great resignation, she launched an LLC by women for women, called “Let’s Vibe” – which primarily champions fundraising for special causes. Shortly thereafter, she joined a general contracting firm that is headquartered in DFW, which is how she became a frequent traveler to the region. 

“My primary motivation to depart Louisiana was my son’s education,” she said.  

His school told her in February of 2023 that they wanted to hold him back, and repeat first grade, as he was struggling with reading and writing. 

“The conversation caught me off guard, especially so far into the school year. He excelled in all other academic areas and I had no idea there was such a struggle until that day. As his mother, I wasn’t satisfied with the solutions presented to me. I couldn’t allow this one thirty-minute meeting to alter the trajectory of his entire life. There had to be another path.” 

It wasn’t long before she found another path – that led straight to North Texas. Shortly after that parent-teacher conference Ripka was offered a career opportunity at B&H Engineers. 

“I really connected with our CEO, Todd Abernathy, both his personal philosophy and long-term vision for the organization, plus the timing was near perfect with the school year coming to a close. It was one of those magical situations in life when all the stars align, and you know you are being called in a new direction.” 

In June 2023, they packed up and headed for Dallas. Her former spouse and coparent – very involved in their son’s life – also relocated. And then when her mom first visited, they discovered family living just two blocks away.  

“We’ve grown close and it’s so nice to have natural support built in from the jump — someone much bigger than you or I had been looking out for my little family” said Ripka.  

There have been other signs along the way that reaffirm her decision to relocate here – like when she received a random invitation to a Ranger’s game.  

“… and they go on to win the whole series! I’m sitting here scratching my head, is that what happens here, people just win?! I know with certainty, we are in the right place,” she said, laughing. 

At her son’s new school, an IB World School in the Dallas Independent School District, it was determined that he has ADHD and dyslexia, for which they were provided immediate resources, followed by an action plan to ensure his continued progress. 

“I can tell from all of our interactions that the teachers, administrators and support staff at the school really care about him as a person, and how he’s doing academically.”  

Ripka also joined the development committee at Readers2Leaders – a literacy nonprofit, servicing Dallas Kindergarten and elementary students. The idea is to prepare students for success through reading.   

Now, just one short year after being told he’d have to repeat first grade he’s in the 99th percentile for improvement in his 2nd grade class and learning Spanish. 

In their free time, Ripka is an avid runner and frequents White Rock Lake. Her second grader, meanwhile, is a dinosaur connoisseur, as well as a newly minted bowling enthusiast and loves going to the bowling alley in Lakewood Shopping Center, where they can have a mother-son date. 

“It’s dinner and entertainment for about $30 bucks,” said Ripka. “He really loves all the dinosaur things too. So far, the Perot Museum of Art, Billings Productions, and Traveling Jurassic shows are a few favorites” 

She knows that his love of bowling and T Rex won’t last forever but she isn’t worried. She feels good about being in a place that puts a premium on diversity, equity, and inclusion — especially given what she calls, “the booming economic landscape and future opportunities” that will be available to him as he grows up. 

“I see women being invited into the executive circle and working in high-ranking positions within big business — women whose voices are respected, valued and listened to by everyone. We are given decision making seats at the table in predominantly male fields. It’s progress we have been working towards for generations and I know there’s still a lot of work to do – we just have to keep paying it forward for the next generation.” 

She appreciates being close to two major airports that can get her to most of the country within three to four hours but says that future travel will be limited to family and friend adventures. Her days of living out of a suitcase are over, now that life in Dallas has begun.