“As co-CEO at RPG, my role is to help define a vision for each community in which we work,” said Tony Ruggeri.
At the helm of a near 50 year-old company, Ruggeri places an emphasis on innovation, questioning the status quo. This approach has helped RPG have a hand in forward-thinking developments like Celina’s Light Farms and The Villas at Legacy West.
It’s 7,200-acre Walsh in Fort Worth that’s on his mind right now though. Ruggeri and Jake Wagner, his co-CEO, visited more than 35 planned communities to understand what it would mean to be at the forefront of neighborhood design.
“Today, when you move to Walsh, you move in with a two-gigabit fiber internet connection included in your HOA dues. No one else in the country is doing this,” said Ruggeri. “At the same time, we pledged to preserve or reclaim at least one-third of the land at Walsh as open space or parks. Defining a balance between the new and old, technology and nature, was critically important to the identity and evolution of Walsh.”
Q&A with Tony Ruggeri
What would you go back and tell your 20-year-old self? There is a great quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I think that sums up a lot of what we struggle with in our earlier years: we get pushed to narrow our focus and end up building a myopic view of the world. Trust your instincts, fight through the noise or dissent, and have confidence that you’ll come out on the other end.
What else do you hope to accomplish by 40? A challenge I have for myself and we have as a company is to push further into creating community experiences that make a real impact and truly enrich the lives of the people in each neighborhood. Developers tend to gentrify everything we touch. We need to create quality for all, provide the setting for incredible experiences in areas with affordable housing, workforce housing, starter homes – that sense of community can be transformative for productivity. Ultimately, it comes down to giving more and more families the opportunity to provide their kids with a childhood that they never thought possible.
Describe your family. My background is 100 percent Italian, which means life has always revolved around food and family. My wife, Ashley, comes from a big family, too. The first time I met her parents, her mom cooked way too much food and everyone around the table was really loud. I felt right at home. We have been happily married since 2009, and now live in Lakewood with three beautiful children of our own: Michael, 3½; Juliana, 2; and Emilia, 5 months.
What’s one thing that some would never guess about you? I am pretty nerdy, but definitely caught the outdoor enthusiast bug. During high school I had the chance to live in Switzerland, and remember seeing The Matterhorn every day and deciding one day I would go back and climb it. As an adult I did just that, and have also finished two Ironman Triathlons and climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming.
Alter ego: I read Samantha Power’s biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello right after college and was adamant about going to work for the UNHCR, which helps protect and support refugees around the world. I would be helping rebuild communities for those that most need them.
Who would be your dream mentor? Walt Disney. His sheer optimism for what is possible and imagination are unrivaled. He saw the opportunity and created these incredible places that any family across the country or world could enjoy. That is motivating, and also extremely humbling.
What’s one thing that everyone needs to do or try in DFW? Go rock climbing at Mineral Wells State Park.
Favorite restaurant: Royal China at Preston Royal
Favorite app: Slack
Favorite nonprofit: Akola Project. Founder Brittany Underwood has done an amazing job building an inspiring and impactful program that empowers women across the globe. What started as a way to help develop a sustainable income model for women in Uganda has grown into a thriving social business.
About the organization
- 2016 revenue: DND
- Number of employees: 56
This Q&A has been edited from its original form for length and clarity.