2017 40 Under 40
Saluting Southwest Florida's young achievers.
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Andres Paz (39)
Local sales manager at Univision/DLatinos
Andres Paz is the kind of worker that’s the first to arrive in the office and last to leave. He admits to not being the “most talented, smartest or best at a particular skill,” but it’s his dedication that has led to his success. The Univision/D’Latinos sales manager puts extra focus on his client relationships, and is known for his likeability and professionalism.
Paz also finds time to make a difference in the community. In the past few years, he’s been involved with or donated to more than 20 organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Boys and Girls Club, David Lawrence Center, Conservancy of SWFL Council of Hispanic Business Professionals and more.
The RAB-certified radio- and integrated-marketing consultant graduated cum laude from Kean University and was named a Growing Associate in Naples (GAIN) by Leadership Collier Foundation in 2015. Paz is married to his wife, Carolina, and has a daughter named Paulina. He enjoys playing soccer and is in several competitive leagues. —Melanie Pagan
Jenna Persons (34)
Partner, Strayhorn & Persons law firm
No goal seems to be too large or too scary for Jenna Persons. In September 2009, the sixth-generation Southwest Floridian ran for mayor of Fort Myers, and though she did not win, she still earned 34 percent of the vote. She’s also a founding member of the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida and has managed to raise thousands of dollars to support Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. (ACT Women’s Shelter) by chairing Arts for Act three years in a row. Early in her career, she even spent two years assisting U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and has managed and assisted political campaigns throughout the region.
Persons has been involved in a number of other organizations in the area, including the Lee County Bar Association, Lee Republication Women’s Club, Edison Kiwanis and Southwest Florida History Museum. She’s been nominated multiple times for the the Apex Award with the Greater Fort Myers Chamber Woman in Business, recognized as as a Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star, and featured in Gulfshore Life as one of Southwest Florida’s young professional impact players. She likes hunting and fishing in her spare time. —Melanie Pagan
Jeff Poirier (32)
Chief operating officer at AXI International
Jeff Poirier is a firm believer in education, whether or not it’s through established channels. “Education should continue throughout your career,” Poirier says. “Your education is the hidden giant on whose shoulders you stand.” Poirier, who holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Maine and an MBA from Davenport University, admits to changing directions many times in his life, but continuing his education even outside of college has helped him better understand himself and get to where he is today.
He’s since paid it forward by speaking to Dunbar High School students about furthering their education and careers and helped youth in other ways, too. Poirier has sponsored high school sports teams through AXI International, and hosted a mentoring day at AXI for AMI Kids. He’s also sponsored Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida through the business.
Poirier specializes in a number of engineering topics, from new green technology to fuel management solutions, leading his team at AXI to many significant advancements in the fuel industry. He fosters a cross-functional team environment to increase employee’s capabilities and opportunity to always learn something.
Poirier is newly married and enjoys computer programming, traveling, SCUBA diving, fishing, snowboarding, playing golf and boating with friends and family. —Melanie Pagan
Ryan C. Reid (36)
Founder and CEO, TerraSmart
Ryan Reid founded TerraSmart after running the marketing and sales department of another local solar and pool company and learning about the government’s 2009 investment in renewables. He saw holes in the solar industry and envisioned building a company that aligned with what was being funneled from the government down. Like many entrepreneurs, the first few years were rough, but the end of 2012 became a turning point for the business, and the company grew from grossing sales of $40,000 per year to more than $70 million in 2016.
With TerraSmart, Reid created the first utility-scale project on U.S. tribal lands with Moapa Southern Paiute Solar and earned the Solar Builder's 2016 Project of the Year award as a result. He has led company efforts to volunteer and donate to Susan G. Komen, Habitat for Humanity, and Pitching in for Kids Inc. Reid has also presented to Hodges University business and marketing classes.
Reid has three children with his wife, Courtney. He’s an active golfer at The Club at Renaissance and enjoys being outdoors with his family and two dogs. —Melanie Pagan
Kelly Rhoades (32)
Volunteer and guest services manager at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Following a memorable piece of advice from a wise boss, Rhoades believes that “if you show acts of kindness every day you will feel better about your work and feel more fulfilled.” Working for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has made her no stranger to kindness.
Being actively involved in the community as a choreographer and a devoted worker among beloved volunteers at the Conservancy, Rhoades relies on compassion and hard work to steer her in the direction of success.
The talented dancer enjoys spending her free time with family, fiancé George and her puppy, Rocky. —Tess Raines
Lynette Rhodes (36)
Owner, Platinum Dry Cleaners
Platinum Dry Cleaners is not your average clothing cleaner. Over the past three years under Lynette Rhodes’s leadership, the company has doubled in size, making it the largest operation of its kind in the Southeast U.S. It’s been consistently ranked as a top business for customer satisfaction by Gulfshore Business, SWFL Choice and more. Rhodes says the success of the business largely depends on how she treats her employees and that’s why, through the company, she’s purchased nearly 200 hours of private English lessons for staff members and pays above industry-average wages.
She’s just as dedicated to her family as she is her company, “consistently balancing the needs of three children and a fourth on the way with an extremely demanding business,” according to her husband, Andrew Rhodes, who co-owns Platinum Dry Cleaners. “Her selfless commitment to teamwork, honesty, her clients, family and relationship with God enables her to find excellence in all areas of her life,” he adds.
Rhodes has volunteered in various capacities with the Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts of America, and Dress for Success and Women of Initiative. She enjoys reading, traveling, sewing, theater, and spending time with her family in her downtime. —Melanie Pagan
Nicole Roland (29)
Director of operations and owner, Crave Culinaire and Venue Naples
If you’ve attended a charitable event catered by Crave Culinaire, you’ve likely seen Nicole Roland working the crowd. She makes it a point to be present during each of these dinners, donating her time for the benefit of various nonprofit organizations around town.
You’ll also catch Roland organizing gatherings at Venue Naples. She opened the multi-use venue earlier this year with her husband, Crave Culinaire Chef Brian Roland, for special events ranging from pop-up dinners to private galas, and designed it to reflect an elegant and modern urban loft.
Providing hospitality comes naturally to Roland, who graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in event management. Before embarking on her journeys with Crave Culinaire and Venue Naples, she served as private dining director for Fleming’s Steakhouse & Wine Bar, director of events and marketing for Naples Humane Society, and then director of events and marketing for Gulfshore Life.
But it’s her “dedication to making each event something special and unique” that makes her so successful within her current roles, her husband says. Roland also serves on the Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation (CHEF) board of directors, with the mission to serve the culinary and hospitality arts professions by providing scholarships, awards, financial incentives and skills development opportunities to deserving individuals in Southwest Florida. And she’s on the gala committee for Girls on the Run.
In her spare time, Roland enjoys working out, cooking, exploring new restaurants and traveling the world. —Melanie Pagan
Christopher A. Rozansky (39)
Executive director, Naples Airport Authority
Christopher Rozansky’s love for aviation stems back to his youth, when he was involved with the Civil Air Patrol. Since then, he’s come to manage one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country, overseeing 80 employees, an annual budget of more than $20 million, and driving the airport’s annual economic impact of $283.5 million throughout Naples and Southwest Florida. He’s also developed a set of skills that let him communicate and coordinate with proper authorities on regulations related to safety, noise and specific procedures.
In 2012, the Florida Department of Transportation named Rozansky Aviation Professional of the Year. That same year, Airport Business named him among its top 40-under-40 class.
In addition to supporting the local Civil Air Patrol chapter, Rozansky is spearheading a student initiative to have local high school students shadow Naples Airport Authority management and help them hold a mock board of commissioners meeting. The goal is to give the students a taste of aviation and government while they’re young, just as he had.
Rozansky is married with a 1-year-old son, Caleb, who he often brings to watch planes take off and land via the public observation deck at Naples Airport. —Melanie Pagan
Melissa Vogt (35)
Director of sales, marketing and public relations, Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Melissa Vogt says she’s dedicated to making a positive impact on everyone she comes in contact with. “Working in the arts and entertainment field makes maintaining that positivity pretty easy, as the theatre’s goal is [to] provide entertainment that makes you smile, laugh and forget about your worries for a few hours,” Vogt says. And she’s definitely experienced a few worries of her own.
Vogt had her son when she was just a teen, and raising him alone as a single parent while balancing a demanding job and being active in the community has been challenging at times, she says, but she’s since managed to find a good rhythm. She’s even become a “group buddy” at Valerie’s House twice a month, supporting the group’s children and keeping them engaged in their activities.
Vogt is also planning for her role as incoming chair of Leadership NEXT, where she’s a founding committee member. In her spare time, Vogt enjoys staying active and spending time with her son, Austin. —Melanie Pagan
Jessica Walker (38)
Marketing and public relations manager at Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A.
As the marketing and PR manager of Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A., Walker realizes the importance of having an honest and understanding relationship with people. She has worked with a number of vastly different scenarios and industries that have allowed her to gain a good understanding of what people are looking for, and adapt to that specific need.
When it comes to performing well at her career, Walker gets into the mind of her clients. “I try to imagine whom I will be working with and what I would want if I were in their position.”
She doesn’t leave her big heart at work at the end of the day. In her free time, Walker values spending time with her family, enjoying everything the Gulf has to offer and completing jigsaw puzzles. —Tess Raines