Forty under 40
Southwest Florida boasts an abundance of talented men and women who have achieved great things at a young age. Although these individuals already make a difference, it’s certain that they will continue to shine and lead our region to a brighter future. Let us introduce you to some of them.
Gulfshore Business magazine is honored to recognize 40 individuals under 40 years old who have distinguished themselves in their professions and in the community. We’ve assembled an impressive and diverse group from a variety of professions, including education, law, finance, medical, public service and the arts, as well as entrepreneurs.
Their accomplishments are significant. In their day jobs, these rising stars stand out among their peers, whether it’s by serving their clientele with sincere devotion, boosting the bottom line or representing their organizations in dignified fashion. After hours, these honorees volunteer, sit on boards of charitable organizations and still devote time to their families and loved ones.
Please read on to find out how they are making a difference.
Founding Partner, Goede, Adamczyk & DeBoest
“Not enough lawyers realize that they are in the service industry. If you went to a restaurant with a fancy name and famous chef and paid top dollar, you probably would not go back if the food or service was average. I think the same concept applies to the practice of law.”
Off the clock: He’s a scratch golfer and club champion at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples. He also sings, boats, cooks and entertains.
Partner, Vice President, iPartnerMedia
“You just have to believe in yourself and where you want to go. There have been so many times people have questioned us regarding our professional decisions and timing. Had we listened to those naysayers, we would have missed so many opportunities. We’ve stuck to our beliefs, worked hard and everything has always worked out. “
Off the Clock: He’s a Miami sports fan (Dolphins and Heat) who stays in shape by working out and practicing yoga.
Shari S. Armstrong
Public Relations Representative, Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida
“We're all here for a reason, and sometimes the only person that may understand is you. People may not understand the decisions we may make. But, I've learned that they are not for people to understand. They are for me and I have to live a life that not only provides, but also fulfills.”
Off the clock: She sings, dances and acts—talents she teaches to kids at Quality Life Center as part of the arts program she started there.
Matthew R. Bechtel
President, MJRDB Architecture
“It is tempting to enter the workforce as a cocky, twenty-something know-it-all. Don't give into that temptation. Instead, find a good mentor and glean as much as possible from him or her—take the good and leave the bad. It will pay dividends in the long run, and you'll gain respect among your colleagues and peers.”
Off the clock: He plays bass guitar and recreational sports, draws, does woodworking, tinkers with cars and landscapes.
Owner/Principal Designer at Expotique Home by Dwayne Bergmann and Dwayne Bergmann LLC
“I was fortunate to be raised by parents who set an example of integrity, faith and hard work. The environment I was raised in was extremely supportive and encouraged confidence. My parents helped me set and accomplish goals, they taught me attention to detail, and the importance of going after my dreams.”
Off the clock: Dwayne and Luis Insignares recently added twin baby boys to their family.
Kathleen Oppenheimer Berkey
Attorney and Certified Land Planner, Pavese Law Firm
“Learn as much as possible and be open to doing new things outside of one’s comfort zone or prior experience. Although you are just beginning, and it may feel like what you don’t know far exceeds what you do, do not forget what you bring to the table.”
Off the clock: She sails, kayaks, skis and travels, presumably with the camera she enjoys using. She and her husband are “parents” to two rescue cats.
President, 42 Holdings, "A Family of Companies"
“The gift of being in business is the gift of creating value and growing the greatness in other people. Community business is the backbone of America. I have learned that we are all capable of great things through the greatness of other people.”
Off the clock: A former New Jersey state trooper, he spends many of his off hours on his tractor, fine-tuning his landscaping. Most of the time, one of his three sons is on his lap the entire time.
Melissa R. Blazier
Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office
“Always keep your head up and stay strong, believe in yourself and your convictions, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Not all goals are easily attainable, however, you should always strive to achieve them.”
Off the clock: The married mother of son Dylan, 15, she enjoys photography, fishing and boating.
Attorney, Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt
“I've learned that you should compete with yourself, not your peers/colleagues. You are the only person who can define what success means to you—you should not aspire to be what someone else is or what they want you to be if that does not seem right for you.”
Off the clock: She’s “obsessed” with the stock market, and also spends time in the gym and visiting with her family in Labelle, where she grew up.
Executive Vice President/Co-founder, Scotlynn USA Division Inc.
“Don't immediately judge someone or a certain situation based on your first exposure to them or it. Dig a little deeper and get the facts before jumping to a conclusion. Many things in business are not what they initially appear to be. Quick, uninformed decisions are sometimes necessary but usually they will lead you to regret.”
Off the clock: He enjoys spending time with his two brothers, girlfriend and dog, Bella. He also can be found on the water boating, fishing or kayaking.
Engineering Manager, The Pelican Wire Company Inc.
“Never stop learning. What makes you valuable today is not going to be sufficient ten years from now. [Also] treat frustrations as opportunities. If you can solve, prevent or eliminate a frustration, be it yours or someone else’s, that now less-frustrated person is going to be more effective and efficient in his or her job.”
Off the clock: He and his wife, Emily, keep busy with their three children. He enjoys fishing, swimming, hitting the beach and reading.
R&D, Promotions, Web Mistress at The Seymour Agency
“During childhood, I was told to color inside the lines. In my twenties, I was told to think outside the box. Now, I realize there is no box. If you want to limit yourself, that's fine, but don't let other people do it for you. Connect with people who believe in you.”
Off the clock: A former English teacher, she’s passionate about the written word. She’s an avid reader who donates her time to a literary agency, helps authors achieve their dreams.
Glorita “Glo” Cuiffi
Chief Operating Officer, Scott Fischer Enterprises
“A degree is a piece of paper—all it shows is that you can learn. Don’t think that a degree entitles you to a leadership role. You still have to earn respect and responsibility. Do everything that you can get your hands on; ask for extra work. Don’t ever use the line ‘it’s not my job.’”
Off the clock: She’s working on her MBA. Married for nine years, she and her husband have a fat cat.
Kelly Lyon Davis
Attorney, Quarles & Brady
“A good way to ensure success is to not get too comfortable and simply follow a routine. ‘Because that’s how we have always done it’ is no reason to do it that way this time. We can all do better; we can all be better.”
Off the clock: She tries her best to "go on vacation" every weekend, whether that involves the beach, boating or a spring-training games (she is a Red Sox fan by marriage).
Vice President, Public Relations Coordinator, IberiaBank
“It may sound trite, but it is true. Find a career where you can do something you love. Look for a position that changes often and presents new challenges. Doing something slightly different each day is energizing and allows you to explore your talents and grow as a professional.”
Off the clock: A married mother of two, she has a busy volunteer schedule, including serving as a board member and Goddess Night Committee helping in the classroom for Junior Achievement.
Executive Director, Collier County Medical Society & Foundation of Collier County Medical Society
“Stay positive and don’t accept an average performance from yourself, maintain your integrity, be nice and friendly to everyone, beware of workplace drama, accept tasks assigned to you that are “beneath you” with humility, and when possible continue pitching in on those tasks when you are managing others.”
Off the clock: She’s an avid reader of science-fiction novels. She enjoys yoga, rollercoasters and is a black belt in taekwondo.
Controller/Partner/CPA, Dalton, Greiner, Hartman, Maher & Co.
“I know I have certain expertise and talents that I can contribute, and I try to maximize my efforts in whatever time I have to give. I look for others who have talents and expertise that complement mine, because I am well aware I cannot be master of all things.”
Off the clock:
The married mother of three sons leads her own local online fitness group and participates in local races and mud runs.
Elizabeth Anne McDaniel-Garcia
President and Head of School, Discovery Day Academy
“I strive to make a difference in the broader [education] field by contributing to reform efforts through writing, research, participation in the nation’s leading reform organizations and speaking engagements. I believe that career ambitions must be rooted in providing a broader social impact. If you lead with a philanthropic mind-set, personal success will follow.”
Off the clock: She enjoys sewing, cooking, interior decorating, DIY projects and writing, as well as spending time with her husband and two children.
Jonel Lindsey Gomez
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Ophthalmic Facial Plastic Surgery Specialists
“Embrace every opportunity that you have to grow in your career. I learned early on that some of the greatest opportunities for career advancement and networking often begin as relatively small tasks or even volunteer based positions.”
Off the Clock: The Maine native spends time with her two children, Kinley, 10, and Alden, 9, and is into bass fishing.
System Director, Marketing & Communications, Physicians Regional Healthcare System
“To effect change, “the experienced” must lead the way. In my case, this title goes to my parents, Charles and Kristine Hamilton. Through their influence and supervision, my professional and personal development began at a very early age. Both entrepreneurs, my parents included my brother and me in all of their professional discussions.”
Off the clock: The ninth-generation Floridian fishes and scuba dives. Cooking, running and volunteering are also among her after-hours activities.
President and Executive Director, Bonita Springs Assistance Office
“It wasn’t until I met a widow living in extreme poverty with five children lacking knowledge of how to pull herself out of poverty that [I] woke up. That day changed my life and I haven’t stopped bettering myself to help those that don’t know how to.”
Off the clock: She is involved in a start-up company called Cake Bites that is booming after only a few months. She has been married to Ryan for 17 years, and they have two daughters Kayla and Brooke.
President, Co-Founder Atilus
“Careers vary. In many ways I haven’t had much of a ‘career,’ or at least the kind of job the word “career” conjures up in my mind. I think of cubicles, and mindless tasks, of beating a printer to death because it reads ‘PC load letter.’ I would saysomething that’s served me well is never giving up on learning.”
Off the clock: Aside from a variety of charity work, he’s into Bitcoin and works out and hikes.
Chef Chocolatier, Head of Research and Development, Norman Love Confections
“Be secure enough in yourself to support and empower your employees in things they have natural passion for, even, if as a result, they become better than you in those areas. By helping and encouraging your staff to develop their own unique skills, you strengthen your business as a whole by reinforcing their confidence and sense of pride.”
Off the clock: She is married to a chef who specializes in in-home catering. They have a 3-year-old son and infant, who was born in May.
Assistant Director/Owner, Harmon-Meek Gallery
“Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity presented to you. I have [done this] and it has led me to some amazing experiences that I would never have imagined I would do professionally.”
Off the clock: She often guest-lectures on the history of art in Naples and the art industry for local groups such as the Art Association, Leadership Collier and the various social clubs.
Owner, Just Like Family Home Care, Just Like Family Concierge Transports Services and Just Like Family Call & Care
“I would tell that person [someone just beginning his or her career] to find something that they really truly enjoy doing as a career. Don’t do something for the paycheck, do something for the passion. If you find something that you love doing you will never get tired of it.”
Off the clock: Jacob and his wife, Elisabeth, have been married for 13 years and they have two children, Noah, 11 and Joshua, 9.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Neale
Colon and Rectal Surgeon, The Colorectal Institute
“Dr. John Fobia, General and Vascular Surgeon of Mercy Catholic Medical, Philadelphia, [influenced] my career the most; he was the epitome of what a surgeon should be. Compassionate, sympathetic, skilled, affable, diligent.”
Off the clock: He’s earned the reputation as a romantic after taking his now-fiancée on a trip to France and surprised her with a diamond ring and proposal at a chateau complete with winery tour and limo ride.
Anchor, NBC2 News
“Reporting and investigating news inevitably involves emotional situations. I always consider the people behind the stories. How would I want to be treated by a journalist if I found myself in that situation? I get interviews because, after 10 years working in the southwest Florida market, people know they can trust me. My approach to business is to treat people fairly.”
Off the clock: He is a professional tennis coach. He married Lori in June 2013 and became an “instant father” of two.
Javier A. Pacheco
Attorney and Partner, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur
“Clients know when you are looking out for them primarily, as opposed to looking at the bottom line from the beginning, if the approach the professional takes at a first meeting with the client is: ‘Do you need my services, and are my services the most cost-effective way to resolve your problem?’ Taking that approach is the best way to obtain a client’s trust.”
Off the clock: Earlier this summer, he and wife Paula headed to Brazil for a few weeks to catch the World Cup.
Maria T. Palacio
Principal Librarian and Regional Manager, Northwest Regional Library; Coordinator and Multicultural Program, Lee County Library System
“I would advise someone just beginning his or her career to seek out mentors both inside
and outside of their organization. Mentoring is a two- way street that is rewarding for both the mentor and mentee and I highly recommend this kind of connection.”
Off the clock: She is a voracious reader—especially literary fiction— and belongs to two book clubs. She keeps fit with strength training and from going for long walks with her family.
Managing Director—Office Division, LandQwest Commercial
“No commission is large enough to jeopardize your integrity. Greed can lead to a very short career in any industry, and Southwest Florida has seen more than its share of examples in commercial real estate. The responsibility that you inherit when a client places their trust in you is a great one. This kind of trust is greater than a fee.”
Off the clock: He’s the cook in the family (wife Jennifer and an 18-month old daughter) and grows many of the ingredients.
Vice President, Travel & Mobile Solutions, CSI globalVCard
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every question has a purpose, and every question has an answer. People will appreciate and respect you more if you are willing to say: “I don’t understand” or “why are you doing things this way.” It shows you have a want and a need to understand the company you are working for, which goes a long way with employers.”
Off the clock: She dedicates time as a committee member for Barbara's Friends, an organization affiliated with the Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Vice President of Operations and Director of Behavioral Health, Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida
“There are often professional choices that are hard to make, decisions about jobs or career paths that can trip us up due to fear. If you consider where and how you would make the most significant impact for the greatest good, then you can never really go wrong. I have returned to that piece of advice many times over.”
Off the clock: She stays active by traveling, hiking, scuba diving and home decorating.
Program Director, Naples Equestrian Challenge
“When things seem impossible, never lose hope. Interacting with the families of participants with special needs at Naples Equestrian Challenge has taught me to look at the big picture, to not sweat the small stuff and to be thankful for every day. Watching the volunteers at Naples Equestrian Challenge has taught me the most notable lesson learned of giving back.
Off the clock: She loves to ballroom dance, play tennis and hang out with her new rescue pup.
Brian Simmons Jr.
Owner, Southwest Florida Moving & Delivery
“[The] first impression is important, follow through on all services being provided to the client, and always strive to far exceed the clients’ expectations. Go in level-headed [and] expect to fail before you succeed. Learn from mistakes. Don't let it get you down.
Off the clock: He likes motorcycles and has built them from scratch. He also taught his son, who is legally blind, to ride dirt and speed bikes.”
Partner, Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons
“Credibility, reputation, and trust (CRT) mean everything in the appraisal industry given that we sell an opinion for a living. While that opinion is based on analysis, statistical research and knowledge of the market, it’s still ultimately our opinion. No matter the industry or client, if you can earn (CRT), you’ve won the business.”
Off the Clock: He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Alicia. He enjoys traveling, history, FGCU athletics as well as running and playing basketball in his free time.
Owner, Stokes Marine Inc.
“There are a two primary ways of learning something. You can go to school for it and pay in the form of tuition or you can learn it in the “school of hard knocks,” often referred to as the ‘real world.’ However, often times you have to pay for it both ways before the lesson truly sinks in.”
Off the clock: The married father of two enjoys fishing, boating and scuba diving. On land, he likes to catch a round of golf.
Vice President of Finance, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Hodges University
“Don’t be afraid of the difficult and/or unpopular decisions. Not everyone is willing to make hard choices, and the promotions and responsibility go to those who demonstrate that they can make them. Accept every opportunity presented—even if you are not sure at the beginning that you know how to manage the task.”
Off the clock: Erica and her husband work on home-renovation projects, are involved at Summit Church and go to the beach with Trinka, their six-pound mini Dachshund.
Carmen Isbely Vasquez
Real Estate Broker, U.S. Prime Realty
“One must learn how to overcome the challenges of our careers, and learn how to face them in an ambitious manner. A lot of people at the first obstacle get scared and give up on the chance of hope. If you want to become a successful individual, you must never give up on the goals you set in your career.”
Off the clock: She’s a busy volunteer, working with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Youth Haven and Collier County Chapter for Abused Women.
Daniel I. Wasserman
Dermatologist, Skin Wellness Physicians
“Life is not meant to go it alone. One should learn his or her limits and not be afraid to ask for help. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire. Understanding that true success is not achieved by climbing over others, but by raising those around you.”
Off the clock: With three children, he and his wife spend much of their weekends at their sporting events. He also participates in lectures for continuing medical education.
Director of Education, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
“My family has lived in this part of Florida for over 200 years. My motivation in my career is to inspire others to protect what I love so much—natural Florida. Helping people to make that connection that caring for our environment will protect what we all love is easy if you can relate it to their own lives.”
Off the clock: A member of the Tuscarora Tribe, he’s an accomplished artist in Native American crafts including beadwork and sculpture representing his Haudenosaunee culture