Forty Under Forty
Southwest Florida teems with bright young leaders who have distinguished themselves in their professions and in the community, and in these challenging times, they are a silver lining. Although these individuals already make a difference, it’s certain that they will continue to shine and lead our region to a brighter future.
In recognition of this vibrant and talented group, Gulfshore Business proudly salutes 40 rising stars under 40 years old in our seventh annual 40 under 40.
WHY HER: A native of the Czech Republic with a degree in civil engineering, Aielli found her calling in the restaurant business and helping charitable initiatives. After running a successful Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C., and visiting Naples for many years, she and her husband, Fabrizio, moved here to open a restaurant and create some much-needed jobs. Sea Salt, which is responsible for 84 new jobs in Naples alone, supports many charities, including the Children’s Hospital, Education Foundation and Naples Backyard History. In Washington, she was honored as National Woman of the Year for her support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Even after Sept. 11, 2001, when it was tough to raise funds, she persisted. “We cannot forget about these blood-related diseases,” she recalls thinking. “We’ve got to keep it going and just move forward and just keep helping.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Aielli relaxes on the tennis court or by curling up with a good book.
Dr. Dena Baker
WHY HER: Baker realized there were a lot of Southwest Floridians who don’t have easy access to a veterinarian, particularly in the Everglades. So six years ago, she decided that instead of making pet owners come to her, she would take her vet services on the road and meet patients at their homes. Dedicated to controlling stray populations, she provides low-cost spay and neuter services. She has also come out with her own veterinary products, which have gone nationwide. Currently, she’s also launching Neapolitan Pet Resort & Wellness Center, which she describes as a Ritz-Carlton for animals, complete with pools, puppy classes and cat condos.
She doesn’t stop at dogs and cats, providing help to Shy Wolf Sanctuary residents from time to time, and she participates in century bicycle rides, raising between $3,000 and $6,000 per event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “I have been very fortunate in my life to be where I am and get to do what I love every day. I love finding ways to give back,” she says.
OFF THE CLOCK: The sky is no limit for Baker, who counts skydiving and traveling among her favorite hobbies.
WHY HER: A dual citizen of the U.S. and Brazil, Black suffers from wanderlust, which has fueled her love for culture and the arts. Her passion for helping other people, however, came from her parents. “Serving the community and making your neighborhood a better place is not a responsibility, it’s just something you do,” she says. Since her childhood, when she helped her mother on the job at nursing homes, Black has known she wanted a career that serves others, which she finds “selfishly rewarding,” she says.
Her current job touches on all those passions. At the Alliance, people have the opportunity to communicate with a paintbrush or on a stage, and Black, who has a master’s degree in nonprofit management, guides the organization’s efforts to nurture the arts in Lee County. Preparing for a full theater season, introducing a new Italian festival and starting an independent film series, Black has her work cut out for her. But she still contributes to other community organizations, including the Junior League and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.
OFF THE CLOCK: Besides spending time with her daughter, Emerson, and husband, Chris, Black finds peace and relaxation in gardening and photography.
WHY HIM: Clients know they can count on him to offer guidance year-round, not just during
tax season, to help them grow their businesses through hands-on accounting and financial services as well as tax strategies. “We focus on providing services to businesses in timely manner, instead of waiting until it’s too late to do anything with them,” says Briers, who launched the firm in June 2007.
Apparently, that approach has paid off. “Our first year out of the gate doubled my goal as far as sales,” says the West Virginia native, whose father, Thomas, is a partner in the firm. The trend continued into the current year; again, he’s exceeding expectations.
Briers uses the broad experience he gained by working at Ernst & Young and later as Asian corporate controller with Springs Global U.S., where he directed the Asian financial operations in Shanghai, China, until returning to the U.S. in 2007.
Away from the office, Briers sponsors educational programs for entrepreneurs, volunteers for Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida’s CEO Academy, is active in the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce and much more.
OFF THE CLOCK: Briers enjoys time with his wife, daughter and son. When time permits, he hits the beach or golf course.
WHY HER: This self-described Southern belle from Kentucky was among the first generation in her family to earn a four-year college degree—two of them, in fact, in paralegal science and English—plus two associate’s degrees in business. She’s putting them to use in construction, where she’s proud to hold her own as one of the female minority. “I am direct and speak my mind but I try to season it with grace,” she says.
She’s responsible for the company’s administration, from employee benefits and payroll to tax preparation, and she fills her off hours with community service, from participating in young professionals groups and business groups to volunteering for charitable organizations. Butler has been a Big Sister since 2001, currently to a 13-year-old. She’s also serving on the Boo Ball Committee for a Charlotte County Red Cross fundraiser for the second year. And after doing time walking dogs and cleaning cages for the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte, she’s completed orientation to help boost the League’s fundraising efforts.
OFF THE CLOCK: She enjoys socializing and entertaining, and she cooks well—the result of a great-grandmother who owned a restaurant in Kentucky, she says.
WHY HIM: Michael Cherniawski practices what he preaches. The Michigan State advertising grad moved to Fort Myers in 2007 before his wife, knowing only his in-laws, but that didn’t slow him down. “You have to stick your neck out and be uncomfortable,” he says. “It’s a matter of jumping in head-first.”
He quickly joined the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and was a founding member of Advancing Business Leaders and the Above the Line business networking group. Such networking opportunities opened doors to meet many of the people who became business partners in his ventures—the Florida franchise of MLSonline.com, a one-stop shop for mortgage, title and real estate services, and Magic Flash Drive, which provides remote computer support.
Cherniawski serves on the Executive Council of the Boys and Girls Club of Lee County and is active in Blessed Pope John XXIII Catholic Church, coordinates youth programs and does mission work. “Wherever I go—business, personally, spiritually—is building a sense of community,” he says.
OFF THE CLOCK: He already completed three marathons in Chicago, Detroit and San Diego. Up next—a triathlon.
WHY HIM: Ciabaton wasn’t in Naples long before he began reaching out to help others.
Five years ago, he and his wife, Dayanna, moved here to be close to her parents and raise their growing family—George, 11; Jack, 9; Abby, 6; and Zoe, 4. Soon after Ciabaton was named vice president of sales and marketing for Naples PrintSource, he began sharing his expertise in how to use printing and direct-mail marketing to benefit nonprofit fundraising, through seminars, speaking engagements and newsletters.
Ciabaton and his family participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk every year, but it was his oldest son’s brief stay in a hospital that persuaded him to get even more involved in volunteer work. “It sent a powerful message to me that I need to step up and do more things in the community.”
A few months later, he began volunteering with the American Heart Association, and in 2007 he was named auction committee chairman for the Collier County Heart Ball.
OFF HE CLOCK: He enjoys rock climbing and even completed rock-climbing school in Yosemite National Park in 2003.
Dr. Michael J. Collins Jr.
WHY HIM: This eye surgeon is helping those who help others through “Giving Eyes.” He created the program last year to perform free LASIK surgery for deserving individuals in Southwest Florida, and received hundreds of nominations.
“It was supposed to be one. It was hard to narrow it down,” he says. “We decided to do three”—a flight paramedic, a firefighter and an individual who works with children’s charities.
Collins plans to continue Giving Eyes, choosing one person each year for the procedure, which costs several thousands of dollars and typically isn’t covered by insurance. “It’s one thing we’re uniquely qualified to do for people,” he says. “How many people can give the gift of sight?”
His influence reaches far beyond Southwest Florida. He reviews new scientific research for the medical journals Cornea and Journal of Refractive Surgery. He also teaches courses at the American Academy of Ophthalmology each year for doctors who want to learn new techniques or refine skills.
OFF THE CLOCK: He enjoys spending time outdoors with wife, Kristin, and daughters Ellie, 8, and Sadie, 6, as well as fly fishing and kayaking.
WHY HIM: Connell started losing his sight as a teenager to a degenerative retina disease and is now legally blind, but that doesn’t stop him from fighting crime. With help from a special magnifying machine, Connell can read his computer, which he uses to track criminals who sell stolen goods to pawn shops. A civilian employee, he inspects pawn shops, second-hand dealerships and metal yards. “I go with a detective or state investigator to make sure [proprietors] are filling out their transaction forms correctly,” says Connell. He was honored in 2000 for tracking three people who pawned $80,000 worth of stolen property in just three months.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of South Florida and trained at the Visually Impaired Persons (VIP) of Southwest Florida. Now he helps VIP by coordinating safety programs for blind teenagers and serving as a board member, among other community activities.
OFF THE CLOCK: The father of two has become famous in his neighborhood for taking the family’s Chihuahua, Chi Chi, for walks in a bright pink stroller, a color his wife, Laura, thought appropriate for the female dog.
WHY HIM: A lot of high-tech innovation was nearly lost to the power of a low-tech ball. If Jim Cossetta had pursued a career in baseball instead of business after graduating from the University of Georgia, 4What Interactive may never have been born.
After graduation, Cossetta returned to Naples with wife, Ronnie, to raise a family—Ben, now 9, and Jillian, 6—and took a job at NCH Healthcare System. Before long, in 1995, he teamed up with childhood friend Wade Mastro, along with Reid Atwood and former partner Carl Rushford, to create 4What Interactive.
It has grown into an international technology consulting business, and the Economic Development Council of Collier County named 4What one of its top innovative companies.
He is involved with Habitat for Humanity, using 4What’s video-based technology to help the organization reach out to people, and he’s recently gotten involved with the Naples International Film Festival.
OFF THE CLOCK: Cossetta coaches a kids’ traveling baseball team called the Naples Dawgs, as well as a local youth soccer team as part of the Naples Optimists.
WHY HIM: As a kid with a penchant for drawing, becoming a designer was never a far cry for Curl. When it comes to landscape architecture, he’s right there at the forefront. In his two years at Naples-based PK Studios, Curl has incorporated environment-friendly xeriscaping into each of his sustainable designs. The goal? To conserve energy and prevent the unnecessary use of resources. His project at Edison State College was recently designated the first LEED-certified landscape architectural design for new construction in Collier County by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The father of three and diehard University of Florida Gators fan also helps the community through involvement in the Rotary Club of Naples, as well as serving on committees for the Collier County G.A.C. Land Trust and Conservation Collier.
OFF THE CLOCK: During college, he traded in the Florida sunshine for a trip to Austria, where he learned to snow ski on a glacier.
WHY HIM: Curry is driven by a desire to learn anything and everything that comes his way. “I’m always looking for how I can improve myself. Don’t just sit,” he says. That attitude helped him move up from operations assistant to network manager in the 13 years he’s been at Oswald Trippe and Co.
His involvement in the community is widespread, though he tends to focus on those charities that promote education, children’s services or the arts. He’s the president-elect of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts and is active with the United Way, American Cancer Society and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among others. His efforts haven’t gone unrecognized—he’s received OTC’s Community Service Award for two years and was named an Emerging Leader by the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.
OFF THE CLOCK: He has a love for being active—in snowboarding, scuba diving, ice climbing and spear fishing—and has a private pilot’s license.
WHY HER: For Daley, Naples has that small-town je ne sais quoi. The Southwest Florida native tried to move away for a stint with the Marriott Vacation Club in Orlando in 1998, but found herself right back in Naples just four years later. “I was dying to get back home,” she says.
Now she writes, produces and directs commercials and TV programs for clients through Sky Angel Productions, which has three national channels available to more than 15 million households. She’s currently working on a documentary series about autism, which she hopes will provide a snapshot of what it’s like to live with the disorder. Daley also puts her production skills to use helping nonprofit organizations including the Immokalee Foundation, Big Life Ministries, Project Help and the Florida Baptist Children’s Home.
OFF THE CLOCK: She’s part of a family of musicians. Daley plays violin, viola and cello, and her husband and father-in-law are also musically inclined.
WHY HIM: Some would say Dockweiler’s job is one of the most important out there. As a pre-kindergarten and physical education teacher, he says the best part is “setting the foundation for kids for the rest of their education.” The Kennesaw State University graduate didn’t always plan on working with children—he majored in sports marketing management and spent a few years running a men’s professional tennis tournament in Atlanta before moving to Naples and starting his current career.
He actively supports local organizations, especially ones that benefit children, including the Naples Winter Wine Festival and the Children’s Museum of Naples, and encourages his students to do so as well. During his time as varsity basketball coach at Naples High School, he took his team to volunteer at a soup kitchen during the holidays.
He and his wife, Heather, are expecting their first child this summer.
OFF THE CLOCK: He’s a shopaholic. “I shop more than my wife and have more clothes than [she does].”
Bobbi Jo Edwards
WHY HER: A love for helping people and some encouragement from her mother, who’s a correctional officer, was all it took for Edwards to decide to join the sheriff’s office when she left the Air Force in 1994. Since then, she worked in corrections, road patrol and as a criminal investigator in the domestic violence unit before landing in internal affairs five years ago, where she investigates allegations of misconduct regarding deputies. As a certified training officer, she uses her experience in different areas to mentor young professionals, and also participates in Naples High School law studies presentations, the CCSO Citizen’s Review Panel and mounted-patrol presentations.
The Naples native is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at Hodges University and was named its 2008 MPA student of the year.
OFF THE CLOCK: Edwards recently returned from a trip to China, where she adopted a 15-month-old girl named Megan.
C. Chad Elkins
WHY HIM: Elkins begins every morning at 5:30 and stays on the go until he turns in after
11 p.m. It’s a necessity with all of his roles, from business owner and partner to creative director and community volunteer. “I have a very long day. I love it,” says the Bonita Springs resident.
A West Virginia native with a degree in landscape architecture, he’s a principal of Genus Loci Studio, a landscape architecture and design firm. But he decided to branch out and start other ventures after the economy began to negatively impact the business. He started a networking group, FaceTime5, described as “speed dating for your business,” and owns several businesses based around a philosophy of re-use and recycling, such as the Cape Coral consignment shop he started, called Second Hand Rose. It sounds like a lot of work, but Elkins says it’s all fun to him. “All of my hobbies are what I do,” he says.
OFF THE CLOCK: Elkins often entertains friends by cooking up an “eclectic mix” of cuisine styles. He likes to take Southern standards and comfort foods and “gourmet them up.”
WHY HIM: In his 14 years with WilsonMiller design and engineering firm, English has worked his way up to principal and now managing principal of the Naples office.
He has been involved with many noteworthy projects, such as Ave Maria Town and University, where he was engineer of record for its first phase. “That was a huge undertaking and a huge challenge,” he says. And he’s earned a name for himself for his engineering design on golf courses, including the Estuary at Grey Oaks Country Club, Pelican Landing and Raptor Bay Golf Club—one of the first Audubon International-sanctioned courses. Located between Estero Bay and Halfway Creek, the course has design elements that mesh with the natural surrounding landscape. “Just a beautiful setting,” he says. “It’s just teeming with wildlife.”
He’s also a leader in professional and community organizations, from the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Committee and the Education Foundation of Collier County to the local chapter of the Florida Engineering Society, which named him Engineer of the Year last year.
OFF THE CLOCK: English has been competing in triathlons for the past two years.
WHY HER: Ferguson brings her love of sports, fitness and health to her clients, who range from 7 to 77 years old, and from post-surgery patients to high-level amateur athletes. “If you don’t have your fitness and you don’t have your health, everything else suffers,” she says. An exercise physiologist and coach, she describes her business as a multi-sport “wellness center on wheels.”
As a member of the USA Triathlon team, she represents the country as she races in triathlons around the world, including Denmark and Australia, and she’s received national All-American Honors, the highest amateur ranking available for competition. She’s one of only 50 level-two advanced USA triathlon coaches in the nation—and she aspires to claim a spot among the elite level-three coaches.
For the past decade, she’s been a volunteer coach for the Southwest Florida Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Program. And Ferguson, who earned her first track scholarship in sixth grade, recently founded a local youth triathlon team.
OFF THE CLOCK: Ferguson, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in sports nutrition, is a live-theater fan and cites Wicked as her current favorite show.
WHY HIM: Tim’s first “job,” at age 10, was at his father’s Cape Coral Parkway McDonald’s. “We’ve been in the business 40 years as a family,” he says. “My dad has owned a McDonald’s my whole life.”
A graduate of the University of Central Florida and Hamburger University corporate training school, Frederic now owns one local restaurant and is chief operating officer of six, overseeing nearly 300 employees. An emerging leader among McDonald’s franchisees, he was appointed the “People’s Representative,” working on behalf of employees throughout the state on matters such as benefits, hiring and training. He was also elected vice president of the McDonald’s Southwest Florida Marketing Association, which includes 54 restaurants in five counties. He co-founded the McFlats fishing tournament, raising more than $100,000 for the Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Florida, on which Tim serves as an Advisory Committee member. He and his restaurant managers also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
OFF THE CLOCK: Frederic is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, going to two or three games a year at Raymond James Stadium.
WHY HIM: Growing up in Tennessee, Frensley longed to be near the beach. So he got a degree in marine science and environmental science and went to work as a naturalist, first at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina, and now at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where he was quickly promoted twice in five years. “I just fell in love with the organization, and I fell in love with the area,” he says.
He’s now a manager, responsible for overseeing the nature center as well as environmental education, not just for children, but also for professional landscapers and government staff. He’s been recognized for his support of the Coral Reef Alliance, and his dedication overlaps into his personal life. He and his girlfriend are on-call to retrieve injured wildlife for treatment at the Conservancy. He belongs to the Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, serving a South Carolina chapter as vice-chairman. He also co-founded a Boy Scouts Explorer Post.
OFF THE CLOCK: Not surprisingly, Frensley loves to surf, often near West Palm Beach.
WHY HER: Hussey gets things done, whether that means facilitating an adoption or helping establish a program to help care for those with Alzheimer’s or autism. A certified family mediator, she works to solve legal problems hampering families. “I enjoy helping people resolve their issues,” says the Fort Myers resident, “helping people come to their own resolutions and giving them ownership of how they’ll carry on, as opposed to a judge deciding how their lives must be resolved according to the law and facts.”
Active with organizations including the Pilot Club of Fort Myers and Lee County Sheriff’s Youth Activities League, Hussey uses her skills to assist others. “I’m not a teacher, I’m not a nurse, but I have certain talents as a lawyer and as a mom and as a member of my church congregation,” she says. “So I do these things to do good, to do right.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Hussey might be found on the golf course or in the pool with her husband, Durward, and 9-year-old son, Alex. “I like to just spend time with my family,” she says.
WHY HIM: For many, 2008 wasn’t the best year to start a business in Southwest Florida. But Ingram realized that the tough economy created a need for his Bonita Springs-based professional employer organization, which handles human resources, payroll and employee benefits for companies like Galloway Family of Dealerships and FineMark National Bank & Trust. “There are people whose solvency is at stake in making these kinds of processes better,” he says. “It’s no longer just a nice idea; it’s exactly the right thing at the right moment for a lot of companies.”
He also realizes the role education plays in Florida’s future and works with such groups as the Heights Foundation and Dunbar Festival Committee to provide education opportunities for local students. “Florida is a place that can’t get enough people who care about education,” he says. “It seems a little short on that, on people who feel like that’s an important thing.”
OFF THE CLOCK: “I play a little golf,” says the father of four. “But I can’t get any of my kids to want to do it yet.”
Dr. Kelly Johnson
WHY HER: Johnson’s work often brings a smile to people’s faces, including her own. Since 2006, she’s served as the staff dentist for the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, providing dental screenings and other services for low-income children living in Collier County. “It’s really been rewarding to be able to provide for some, if not all, of their dental needs and to have them learn how to take care of their mouths better,” she says.
Because most of her patients have had limited, if any, experiences with a dentist, Johnson keeps SpongeBob stickers at the ready. “The atmosphere is always incredibly fun and kid-friendly,” she says. “The whole staff loves going to work every day, and I think the kids pick up on that.”
When she’s not working, she’s often volunteering in her own two children’s classrooms. “If I’m not on the Care Mobile with other people’s children, I’m in school with my own,” she says.
OFF THE CLOCK: “We have a busy household,” says Johnson. “I’m really just running from basketball to dance to baseball to swimming lessons to tennis.”
WHY HER: She may not be Batman, but Kerskie is fighting crime in her own way. The former financial advisor helps protect individuals and businesses against everything from identity theft to workplace fraud. About a year ago, she co-founded the Cyber Safety Institute to teach schools, corporations, nonprofits and individuals about online threats. “When people first started using the Internet, no one told you how to use it,” she says. “You just plugged in and played around. That’s like someone handing you the keys to a car and saying, ‘OK, drive.’ If you don’t know about online dangers and how to recognize them and protect yourself from them, you’re going to be a victim.”
Her latest business venture is a program to reduce medical identity theft and insurance fraud. “Making sure people are educated is a big passion of mine,” she says. “With victims, I kept seeing the same patterns over and over again. I really enjoy helping clients discover the facts so they can make informed decisions.”
OFF THE CLOCK: The mother of two enjoys being “unplugged,” whether boating, gardening or camping with her son’s Cub Scout troop.
WHY HER: Specializing in luxury high-rise projects in the Naples and Marco Island areas, Krümm brings the elements of duality and balance to her designs. “I approach an interior as I would a painting, creating a composition by incorporating elements such as color, contrast, line, form and texture,” she says. She’s also developing her own product line, including furnishings, bed linens and tile. Krümm’s work has appeared on HGTV and in books and magazines, and she recently served as a contributing editor of the book Modern Interior Design, the American Collection, which will be released in China this year.
She has contributed her work to the Southwest Florida Symphony Society’s annual Designer Showcase, and she is involved with the Marco Island City Council’s City Arts Advisory Committee and the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts.
OFF THE CLOCK: Krümm practices martial arts such as Shaolin Tai Chi. “Tai Chi plays a strong role in helping me in my eternal quest for balance,” she says. “It has had a profound effect on my life and my work.”
WHY HER: Naples wasn’t on Melvin’s radar when she left home in Virginia 20 years ago and moved to Detroit. But a distinguished stint at a Motor City bank, where she earned numerous awards, allowed her the option of transferring to a Naples branch. She’s with Wachovia now, but her winning ways continue, much to the satisfaction of her clients and the many others she meets.
She teaches customers how to succeed by holding seminars and coaching sessions for them. As a community leader, she volunteers her time with organizations that look to grow economically. “I just love being around people, seeing people become successful at achieving their goals,” she says.
Her benevolence has not gone unnoticed. For example, Melvin received a 2009 Women of Achievement honor from the American Association of University Women for serving as a positive role model to girls and women. Other organizations she’s involved with include the local NAACP chapter and the Haitian Coalition of Collier County.
OFF THE CLOCK: When her singer husband, Daniel, performs locally, she’s there. “I just go and listen to my husband sing. And I get to meet a lot of people,” she says. “I just enjoy my nightlife.”
WHY HIM: His record of courtroom victories includes several high-profile cases, such as the defense of country singer Mindy McCready in a child custody battle, and of a marine company sued after a local woman was disfigured in propeller accident.
Moon’s work has landed him in the local and national spotlights, including an appearance on CNN’s Nancy Grace, where he “handled himself like a seasoned veteran” when discussing McCready, according to his nominator, William Alzamora.
He’s received a “BV” peer review rating by Martindale Hubbell, the highest for an attorney who has practiced fewer than 10 years. The designation is based upon legal ability and ethics.
Some of his wins are from pro bono cases he takes each year, often at the request of defendants or their families. “I try to make sure people get a fair shake,” he explains.
Moon belongs to various municipal boards, volunteers for multiple charity organizations, and works with Junior Achievement at the middle-school level, teaching kids about business and success.
OFF THE CLOCK: He likes spending time with his wife and stepdaughter, and traveling through Europe and Florida.
WHY HIM: Rebol returned to Port Charlotte in 2002 to raise his family, work and enjoy the friendly community he enjoyed growing up in. “I love how you can walk into a grocery store or restaurant and you will know somebody,” he says.
As a student at Florida State University, he undoubtedly had plenty of people waving at him, as well. Rebol was the starting outside linebacker for three years and was named team captain in 1995 to the Hitachi Academic All-American Team in his senior year.
Rebol’s motivation is rooted in the lessons he was taught as a child from his parents and from being on the Seminole team: hard work and teamwork. Those values have guided him on a successful career path as a partner in a civil engineering firm as well as someone who is active in the community; Rebol serves on four nonprofit boards and has volunteered for several local charities and organizations.
Above all, Rebol relishes his role as a family man, all in the familiar locale of Port Charlotte. “It’s small, but it’s big enough. It’s the perfect balance.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Rebol enjoys fishing. And when his two children get older, he plans to take them to FSU games.
WHY HER: A Kentucky native and former Wildcat with 16 years of experience in human resources, Rexroat first joined Fifth Third Bank as an HR manager in 1994 while living in Kentucky. She left in 1998 to work for Arthur Anderson LLP in Atlanta, at the time one of the biggest accounting firms in the country. At Anderson, Rexroat managed the Experienced Hire Recruiting function for the Business Consulting practice. When she returned to Fifth Third Bank four years later, it didn’t take long for her to start climbing the corporate ladder. She is now the senior vice president and was recently named the HR director for the Florida Region.
Rexroat also volunteers for several charities, currently as a board member of the Collier County chapter of the American Red Cross and the Naples Players/Sugden Community Theatre. She also serves on the United Way Budget Review Committee and the HR Collier’s Diversity Committee.
OFF THE CLOCK: Lisa is an avid golf player and takes full advantage of the numerous golf courses in Southwest Florida.
WHY HIM: In the nearly two years since becoming Growth Management Director, Ruggieri has tackled significant and challenging projects, most notably Smart Charlotte 2050. Planners typically work 10 or 20 years out, but Ruggieri convinced county officials that the magic number should be 40. “With issues facing us now with redevelopment and conversion of rural lands, we needed regulations to guide growth,” says the New Hampshire native. “With 120,000 pre-platted lots [in the county], it will take a lot longer.”
To facilitate public input, he oversaw the creation of a Web site so people can view the progress and issues and comment on them.
He’s also spearheading a study of the U.S. 17 corridor.
Ruggieri’s acumen and efficiency in the public realm come from his years as a planner in the private sector, which “puts me on equal footing [with developers],” he says. And after working with private companies, he knows how discouraging lengthy plan approvals can be, so he’s taken steps to streamline the process, which is good for attracting business to Charlotte County.
OFF THE CLOCK: It’s all about quality time with his wife and two kids, and he tries go fishing with his dad.
WHY HER: When it comes to bringing in chamber business, Schivinski aces it. In a contest run by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), the Alva resident this year ranked No. 1 in the country for Total Dollar Value of New Members and third in Number of New Members Recruited. And with sales exceeding $193,533 as of May, she achieved an ACCE Bronze Level Lifetime Achievement Award—even though she started at the chamber only about two years ago. The Cape Coral High School and Florida Gulf Coast University grad attributes those accomplishments to her approach. “I just thoroughly enjoy everything I do. With all things that I do, it’s always a larger picture involved to help overcome challenge,” she says.
Schivinski, who has an 11-year-old daughter, Aspen, and is engaged to be married, is active in organizations including the Boys & Girls Club and the Fort Myers Rotary Club.
OFF THE CLOCK: Schivinski, who grew up in Colorado, never learned how to snow ski, but she is an avid equestrian and enjoys fishing. A few years ago she pulled in a 25-pound grouper, winning first place in an angling contest.
WHY HER: She helps the firm succeed by closely attending to its clients, even if that means driving across the country for a face-to-face. She and her husband, Aaron, spent two months this summer traveling 6,500 miles through several northern states to call on their customers. “We visit people who don’t live in Southwest Florida all year,” she says. “We get to see them from their local perspective.”
Sevigny is no stranger to adventure and travel. The Norristown, Pa., native moved away from home at age 14 to attend the School of American Ballet in New York City, and later became a professional ballerina, once hitting 22 U.S. cities in 28 weeks. With a double major in communications and theater from Fordham University, she eventually transitioned into marketing. She lends her creative talent to the business she and Aaron have owned for three years.
To help satisfy her theater yen, she volunteers for Gulfshore Playhouse—in addition to supporting the Humane Society, Immokalee Foundation and other nonprofits.
OFF THE CLOCK: She travels, kick-boxes, golfs and takes loving care of her blind, 14-year-old Pekingese and 12 goldfish. Oh, and she knows song lyrics from all musical genres and eras.
WHY HIM: Spilker’s passion for the environment crosses his professional and personal lives. He was creating wetlands for companies like DuPont in Texas until landing a job with Turrell, Hall and Associates, which brought him, his wife and their 10-day-old baby to Naples. He quickly became a partner at Turrell, Hall, but was recruited by Collier Enterprises to build Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club, including a hurricane-resistant boat-storage facility and a water-flow system protecting mangroves. “We did some pretty revolutionary things there,” says Spilker.
A leader in the Friends of Rookery Bay, the Marine Industries Association, the Collier County Habitat Conservation Planning Committee and the MS Walk, among others, he takes most pride in his role as a foster parent and adoptive parent of two. “That’s probably the most important thing my wife and I’ve done,” he says. Spilker shares his love of nature with their four children—ages 6, 7, 8 and 9—fishing, hiking and camping.
OFF THE CLOCK: This astronomy buff has five telescopes. “You get pretty philosophical when you look through a telescope, because you realize how small we are in the scheme of things.”
WHY HER: As sole staff member of the charitable arm of the Lee Building Industry Association, Taulman does everything from answering phones to drumming up contributions to delivering construction materials. “One hour I may be in a meeting with the mayor about funding, and in the afternoon I am in sneakers going out on the job site and scoping out a possible project,” she says.
With her history of voluntarism, including Hope Hospice when she was in high school, Taulman put her communications degree from Florida State University to work for Lee Mental Health before Builders Care presented a new kind of opportunity to help people—many of them elderly or disabled.
“It’s so rewarding to work with building industry members who are down and out and trying to keep their doors open but are still finding ways to help out,” says Taulman, who is also Florida Public Relations Association board member and on the ArtFest Fort Myers steering committee. And the clients are “some of the most wonderful but most needy people in our community,” she adds. “You know they’re praying for you each and every night.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Taulman sells her hand-sewn diaper bags on www.etsy.com.
WHY HIM: With master’s degrees in agri-business and agri-business economics from the University of Florida, Troyer joined the family’s farming business. In addition to overseeing daily operations and supervising up to 125 employees at one of Florida’s largest potato farms, he uses his computer skills to write programs to monitor pesticide use, track inventory and other tasks. Troyer, who grew up in Alva, also runs a crop-insurance company, which he launched in 2002. It now covers clients in five states.
“The farming industry’s kind of a close-knit community,” he says. “It’s more about relationships.”
He serves on the boards of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, which promotes the industry, and Lee County’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, which reviews tax exemption claims on agricultural properties. And during harvest, he gives farm tours to Alva Elementary students, letting them dig potatoes with their own hands and fielding their questions. “Most people don’t realize how much work it takes to get your food produced and to the table,” he says. “It’s helpful for school kids to see that.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Troyer bicycles 20 to 30 miles on weekdays and 50-plus miles on weekends.
WHY HER: Although the economy has taken a toll on the Charlotte-DeSoto BIA’s membership, Tucker maintains a “remarkable optimism,” as nominator Todd Rebol says, that keeps the organization and its members moving forward.
She started in marketing nearly four years ago at the CDBIA before snagging the top staff position in 2008. As executive officer, she serves as an advocate for builders and the industry. “When I came on board, it was when things were going gangbusters for the building industry,” Tucker says. “The biggest challenge is to keep our volunteers energized, focused despite what they’re facing in business, which has been dire for a lot of folks.”
She’s active in the Enterprise Charlotte economic development partnership and the executive council of the Florida Homebuilders Association, and she’s volunteer coordinator for Charlotte County’s Art in Public Places.
Her efforts were recognized when former association President Jim Sanders presented her the CDBIA President’s Award. “I was completely shocked,” she says. “I don’t think in our association’s history it’s been awarded except to volunteers.”
OFF THE CLOCK: Years before she was a stay-at-home mom, she was an Army ROTC cadet and still knows how to fire an M-16.
WHY HER: Thousands of Southwest Floridians wake up weekday mornings with Turco, and rely on her to start their day. And in a crisis, like Hurricane Charley, she’s part of the news team keeping them informed.
But even after 12 years in the business, bad news, especially about children, still gets to this mother of two. “Sports was originally what I wanted to go into,” she says. “I’m a good-news kind of person.”
She supports the American Heart Association, Child Care of Southwest Florida and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which she serves as a board member. “I try to work for causes for women and children,” says Turco. She also teaches Sunday school and some evening vacation Bible school classes—even though she gets up for work at 1:45 a.m.
“Not a lot of people want to wake up and look their best at 4:45 a.m.,” says Darrel Lieze-Adams, executive news director for Waterman Broadcasting. “She embraces it. She’s one that others turn to as they start their day.”
OFF THE CLOCK: This University of Oklahoma journalism graduate spent a couple of years flying overseas from New York as an airline attendant.
Dr. Farrell C. “Toby” Tyson
WHY HIM: While he was at Cypress Elementary School in the mid-1980s, he learned computer programming to computerize files for his stepfather’s ophthalmology practice. In high school, he worked on the clinical side, refracting patients and running diagnostics. He also joined his family on medical missions to Mexico, Kenya, Honduras and the Turks and Caicos.
He attended Johns Hopkins University, where he studied biomedical engineering and, even as an undergrad, took part in research to adapt an Excimer Laser, used primarily in industrial settings, for surgery on human tissue. It is now used commonly in LASIK surgery.
Since returning and taking over the business, Tyson has grown it from one to six locations with more than 70 employees. It boasts a division dedicated to FDA studies or techniques and products such as multifocal lenses in cataract surgery, giving patients near and far vision, and real-time refraction to measure a patient’s vision during surgery. “It’s allowing us to stay at the forefront of ophthalmology and benefiting our patients,” says Tyson, who also lectures worldwide on glaucoma and cataract procedures and writes a monthly column for Ophthalmology Management magazine.
OFF THE CLOCK: He sails competitively.
WHY HIM: As an assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade, Williams faced an irate mother as he prosecuted her teenage daughter. But his efforts to get the girl into drug treatment eventually won her mother’s gratitude. “Public opinion of attorneys isn’t great, but I always thought I was fighting for the public good,” Williams says.
The Detroit native brought that sense of service four years ago to Lee and Collier counties, where he joined both counties’ bar associations and was recently elected president of the Isaac Anderson Jr. Bar Association, a local affiliate of the National Bar, dedicated primarily to African-American judges, lawyers and law students. Named a 2009 Rising Star in Florida’s Super Lawyers magazine, Williams provides pro bono counsel, judges high school mock trials, supports Susan G. Komen for the Cure and March of Dimes, and serves on the Collier County Foreclosure Task Force, which earned him special recognition by Legal Aid of Collier County.
OFF THE CLOCK: A self-described Fantasy Football and reality TV addict, this high school athlete snubbed a college football recruiter to go to Emory University. “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll go back and try my hand at the NFL,” he jokes.
WHY HIM: Wynn is upholding a reputation for business prosperity that three generations of Wynns before him created in Southwest Florida. At 14, he started at Wynn’s Market, and moved into the hardware business when he was 19, working full time while he completed his bachelor’s degree and MBA.
He has helped it expand to six locations and has helped tweak the growing company’s business model, leverage technology and diversify to fend off increasing competition from big boxes like Lowe’s and Home Depot. “We have faced very intense competition and I’ve been a partner in making significant changes in how we run the business,” he says.
Wynn serves on the YMCA of the Palms and the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce boards and as an elder in his church, and Sunshine Ace Hardware gives financial and volunteer support to everything from Boy Scouts to the Salvation Army. “We don’t turn too many people away,” he says.
OFF THE CLOCK: He looks forward to annual family fishing trips in the Everglades, where sharks and alligators compete for the fish they hook. “They don’t call it Shark River for nothing,” Wynn says.