Our Staff

  • Valarie Englert Senior Pastor

    Appointed in July 2014, Valarie is passionate about linking congregations and communities, seeking to join with others in bringing these relationships to fruition for a more just, Spirit-filled world. 


    Born in Shreveport, Louisiana with deep family roots in East Texas, she was ordained an elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2004, and has served previous appointments at White Rock UMC, First UMC Dallas, First UMC Rockwall and First UMC Commerce


    Valarie holds a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from SMU Perkins School of Theology and a bachelor's degree in Literary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas

  • Caroline Noll Associate Pastor, Pastor for Children and Families

    With a calling to serve children and a unique gift for helping them understand the love of God in a personal way, Caroline oversees all children's ministries at First UMC Garland. This includes Sunday School, Children's Time in Sunday morning worship and the Learning Academy preschool program.  


    An ordained deacon in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, Caroline holds a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from SMU Perkins School of Theology and a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University. 

  • George Topper Pastor for the Homebound

    A retired United Methodist pastor with seven appointments in 31 years of service in the North Texas Conference, George joined the staff of First UMC Garland in 1992. 


    George helps the homebound feel connected to our congregation and remain a vital part of its ministry. He also teaches a Sunday School class that bears his name. 


    Born and raised in Wichita Falls, George holds a master's degree from Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville and a bachelor's degree from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce). 

  • Kitty Williams Director of Music Ministries

    An accomplished musician and teacher, Kitty is responsible for Sunday morning worship and all church activities in which music plays a leadership role. This includes conducting the Chancel Choir and Pure Joy! Youth Choir, and overseeing the Children's Music Ministry. 


    Among the many hats she wears, Kitty is a singer, arranger, spiritual director, mission director, travel agent, tour guide, fundraiser, motivational speaker and friend. 


    Raised at First UMC Garland, Kitty spent 28 years 'in the wilderness' before returning in 2007 as Director of Music Ministries. Her professional experience includes teaching choral music at Greenville High School, where her choirs earned top ratings in University Interscholastic League (UIL) concert and sight reading. Prior to that, she taught voice as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce while serving as Director of Music Ministries at Wesley UMC Greenville


    Kitty holds a Master of Music degree with emphasis on conducting and choral from Texas A&M University-Commerce, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. She also has a Church Music Certificate from SMU Perkins School of Theology

  • Eldred Marshall Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries

    A conductor and critically-acclaimed pianist, Eldred leads First United Methodist Garland's efforts to cultivate Christian community in Garland and the surrounding area through music and fine arts. 


    This includes producing the West Avenue B Community Concerts - featuring Eldred and guest artists from around the area and around the world - and other musical and artistic collaboration with the greater Garland community. 


    Eldred also serves as organist and accompanist for the Chancel Choir and Pure Joy! Youth Choir, and assists with the day-to-day workings of the Music Ministry. 


    In addition to his role at First United Methodist Garland, Eldred serves as Artistic and Music Director for Opera DiversitĂ , an opera company based in Dallas-Fort Worth, and Music Director for the Next Gen Chamber Players of Mansfield. 


    He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) degree in Piano Performance from the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton and three Masters of Music degrees - in Piano, Organ and Orchestral Conducting - from Southern Methodist University (SMU). He also holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Yale University. 


    Eldred has performed in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, the Republic of San Marino and the People's Republic of China as well as throughout the United States.


    He has conducted the Ukrainian State Academic Orchestra and Kharkov Youth Symphony in the Ukraine; the Pleven Philharmonic Orchestra and Vidin Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria; and Filharmonica Oltenia di Craiova and the Constanta "Black Sea" Philharmonic Orchestra in Romania.


    Eldred has also served as conductor for the Children's Opera Division of the Riverside Opera Institute in California; assistant conductor for the Meadows Symphony Orchestra at SMU and the Opera dell'arte Ensemble in New York City; and has collaborated with the UNT Symphony Orchestra.  

  • Betsy Henderson Children's Music Coordinator

    Betsy leads our Children's Music Ministry, helping 3-year-olds thru 6th-graders love and appreciate music and making joyful noise to the Lord. 


    She co-directs the Wesley (4th-6th grade) Choir and supports volunteer staff directing the Cherub (3-, 4-, 5-year-olds) and Carol (1st thru 3rd grade) Choirs. Each year, she also helps direct two children's musicals and teaches music for Vacation Bible School and Kids for Arts, Music and Praise (K.A.M.P!). 


    A retired former Fine Arts Coordinator for the Garland Independent School District (GISD), Betsy directed the award-winning Garland All-City Girls' Choir. She served as the State Elementary Vice President for both the Texas Choral Directors Association (TCDA) and the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA). Recipient of a TCDA Award of Excellence, Betsy has presented more than 150 workshops for music teachers. She has also authored or co-authored music textbooks and other materials for publishers Hal Leonard and Macmillan/McGraw Hill and for the Choristers Guild. 


    Betsy holds degrees from Midwest State University and the University of North Texas. 


  • Heather Medlock Director of the Learning Academy

    Heather directs the Learning Academy, a Christian preschool program for children six weeks to five years of age. A member of First UMC Garland since 1988, she joined the church staff in 2018 after 17 years in the Garland Independent School District (GISD), including 14 as a classroom teacher and three in instructional support. 


    Heather holds a Master of Education degree from Concordia University Texas and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of North Texas

  • Nora Clines Nursery Director

    Nora is responsible for making our nursery a loving, caring, safe environment for children on Sunday mornings, on Wednesday evenings, and during church meetings and other events when childcare is offered. She joined the church staff after more than 13 years working in the nursery and teaching preschool classes at the Learning Academy


    Nora's experience also includes working in the Mother's Day Out, Kids' Night Out and Mothers of Preschoolers programs at The Heights Baptist Church Richardson and Buckingham UMC Garland.  


    Born in Garland, Nora is a graduate of South Garland High School. She also attended Richland College. She is state-certified in childcare and continues to pursue early childhood education. Nora loves to cook for family and friends. She specializes in making custom cakes and cupcakes. 

  • Josh Medlock Director of Missions and Student Ministries

    Josh plans and directs all church mission activities and leads our First Youth Fellowship for grades 7-12. 


    A long-time member of First United Methodist Garland, Josh was heavily involved as a youth leader, a lay speaker, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the Chancel Choir and an active participant in missions and musicals long before joining the church staff. 


    His passion for youth development has led him to develop a family-centered approach to ministry with teenagers. 


    Influenced in his early spiritual development and growth by his grandmother Mary Medlock, Josh is studying to become a local pastor and plans to seek full ordination in The United Methodist Church. 


    He brings a wide variety of professional experiences that serve him well in his role at First United Methodist Garland - from printing press operator, loss-prevention specialist, warehouse manager, courier, fry cook, assistant scheduling manager, martial arts instructor, sales trainer and service technician to his most recent position as turn manager for a multi-family management company. 


    Josh also holds a 1st Degree Black Belt (Kukkiwon-certified) and a 3rd Degree Black Belt (American Martial Arts Academy) in Taekwondo. 

  • Nelda Klawetter Director of Senior Adult Ministries

    With a passion for recognizing and acknowledging the gifts of others regardless of age, Nelda serves as an advocate for our older adults, and helps ensure homebound members feel valued and connected to the church. 


    In this role, she does extensive visitation, often including serving communion in their homes. She also recruits and trains volunteers to visit and help care for the spiritual - and in some cases, physical - needs of these very important members. 


    Nelda provides advice and support to older members and the families who support them by staying current on local living and rehabilitation facilities, and by participating in various workshops to remain knowledgeable on aging and grief. 


    She also coordinates with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Texas to host quarterly bereavement luncheons and twice-annual grief support groups for the entire community at our church. 


    Nelda joined the staff of First United Methodist Garland in 2008 after spending 23 years helping to build a thriving older adult ministry at New World United Methodist Garland. 


    A lifelong United Methodist, she served six years on the Conference Board of Older Adults and 15 years as a lay delegate to Annual Conference. 

  • Mark Buford Director of Communications

    Mark is responsible for the church website, social media, email publications including First Week and First Reflections, electronic signage, worship bulletins, and other internal and external communications. He also produces multimedia for worship and other activities, and manages the church computer, video and building access network. 


    Mark previously served more than three years as Director of Communications for First United Methodist Plano. Prior to that he spent 32 years in high-tech public relations and marketing communications with Nortel Networks and Harris Corporation. 


    Mark began his professional career with five years as a sports writer for The Morning Sun in Pittsburg, Kansas and The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, and he continues to cover high school football as a freelancer for The Dallas Morning News


    Mark holds a bachelor's degree in Marketing from Dallas Baptist University. He is also a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). 

  • Harriette Chavez Business Manager

    Harriette has been responsible for business and financial affairs at First United Methodist Garland since 2006. 


    A veteran of many years in the financial industry, she enjoys the challenge of working with computers and numbers, especially for non-profit organizations. She previously served as financial manager for The Salvation Army Garland and treasurer for New Hope Fellowship Garland


    Harriette enjoys sewing, knitting and traveling. She also enjoys writing, and has been published in Guideposts

  • Yolanda Pendleton Office Manager

    Yolanda manages the church office, including office volunteers, office supplies inventory, office procedures and more. She coordinates the church calendar, schedules weddings and memorial services, and manages contractors who provide the church with printing, copying, janitorial and other services. She also serves as administrative assistant to the senior pastor. 

  • Steve Ritchey Facility Superintendent

    Steve is responsible for opening, closing and securing our building, setting up and tearing down rooms for church activities and events, some custodial tasks and basic patch and repair of the building and building systems. 


    He previously served as Interim Facility Manager for First United Methodist Plano. Prior to that, he spent 40 years in the grocery business, working for various retail and wholesale outlets. 


    Steve's hobbies include reading, woodworking and keeping up with friends and relatives.

  • Cindy Fisher Food Services Coordinator

    Cindy manages the church kitchen, managing menus and providing meals for Wednesday WINDOWS since its inception more than 20 years ago, and for other church activities as required. 


    Certified in food safety, she has been in the food services business for more than 30 years, mostly as Student Nutrition Manager for the Garland Independent School District (GISD). 

  • Harry Andreasen Food Services Assistant

    Harry assists with meals for Wednesday WINDOWS and other church activities as required, including menus, shopping and cooking. He joined the church staff in 2014 after a number of years as a kitchen volunteer. 


    A member of First United Methodist Garland since 1996, he helped form and led God's Old Geezers for nearly 13 years. Before that he served for a number of years on the Missions Committee and the Church Council.