The votes are in and the people have spoken. But, who would you have picked to be 2009’s CEO of the Year?

As you’ll see on here, respondents to the Southern Methodist University Cox School’s annual CEO Sentiment Survey selected Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines for that honor. The airline’s chief executive was a solid choice for several reasons, our Senior Editor Jason Heid writes—not least because of Southwest’s performance compared to its industry rivals.

If you’d asked us, though, we’d have thrown a couple of other names into the hopper as well: Jerry Jones, the controversial and flamboyant owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and Bill Lively, the quietly determined president and CEO of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee.

To us, Jones’ inclusion in the competition seems like a no-brainer. In late summer he debuted his Cowboys Stadium, a $1.2 billion palace in Arlington that some have called the Eighth Wonder of the World. While we think that might be a slight exaggeration, there’s no doubting the stadium’s magnificent scale—or its immediate impact as a world-class attraction.

Jones persuaded Arlington taxpayers to bankroll part of the venue’s cost, paid for the rest himself, and ushered the project to completion in one of the worst economies since the Great Depression. Now it’s open for business and virtually 100 percent sold out.

Say what you will about Jones’ performance as an NFL general manager, you’ve got to give him this: He’s an entrepreneur par excellence, one who creates jobs and wealth—and excitement—for North Texas.

Lively’s leadership skills may be more understated than Jones’, but they’re every bit as effective. Since taking the reins of the Super Bowl Host Committee, the Sherman, Texas, native has helped secure more million-dollar sponsors for the big game—which will be played here in 2011—than any Super Bowl Host Committee in history.

Before that, Lively led the fundraising campaign for Dallas’ new AT&T Performing Arts Center. Under his direction, more than $334 million was raised for the center, including no fewer than 130 gifts of $1 million or more. Prior to assuming that role, Lively had worked more than two decades at SMU, where, among other things, he founded the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and served as vice president for development.

Over the next 15 months, the labors of these two men will combine to benefit our region even more than they already have.

Thanks to Lively, the run-up to Super Bowl XLV will last all year, with an array of events and programs planned to boost the economy from Dallas to Fort Worth, and everywhere in between. The run-up will culminate on Feb. 6, 2011, when the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played at Jones’ Cowboys Stadium.

It’s a welcome scenario in a struggling economy. And, absent a couple of business leaders named Jones and Lively, you have to wonder whether any of it would be happening at all.