40 Under 40: Class of 2014
This year’s best and brightest among Generation Next include philanthropists, artists, community leaders, athletes, educators and entrepreneurs—all nominated by friends, family, coworkers, admirers and Connecticut Magazine editors.
Jessica Carso, 33, Middlefield
Development director, Connecticut Humanities, Middletown
Jessica Carso’s philanthropic work has put her in high demand in the nonprofit sector, but, more importantly, as an advocate for social change she’s making a difference in people’s lives. Carso’s effective fundraising helped launch Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center into the forefront of the Middletown arts community. She now is Director of Development for Connecticut Humanities, and is passionate about her volunteer work with the Middlesex County Community Foundation, where she helps to raise money for programs that will empower women and girls in the county to be self-reliant and reach their full potential.
Chion Wolf, 33, Hartford
Producer, WNPR’s “The Colin McEnroe Show”
It was Chion Wolf’s charitable spirit that opened doors for her at WNPR. After she volunteered for one of the station’s fund drives in 2006, the good deed led to an internship and eventually to “The Colin McEnroe Show” as announcer, producer, writer and occasional sidekick. A local celebrity in her own right now, Wolf also spends her time helping out arts organizations and many causes in the Greater Hartford community. She's also a founding member of the Hartford Hot Several marching band, in which she plays trash can bass drum, and champions the Hartford Has It campaign.
Vincenzo M. Landino, 28, Wallingford
Development manager, Connecticut Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Vincenzo Landino uses his energy and charisma to make the world a better place. At the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation he is one of the principals behind “New Haven’s Finest,” an event created last year to honor local business professionals. Known as an idea man, Landino is also the founder of the HubCap, a one-of-a-kind NBIA Certified Business Incubator recently opened in downtown Wallingford. Business pros will be on hand to give guidance to new start-up companies and will mentor local public school students. Workshops and classes will be offered as well. We think Landino’s concept is a winner that will be a shot in the arm for many aspiring entrepreneurs.
Lily Gagliardi, 27, Middletown
Heart disease prevention activist
Lily Gagliardi was born with an extra pathway in her heart. The condition was difficult to diagnose and wasn’t identified until she was in high school. Surgery corrected the defect, but her experience inspired her to start Lily’s Kids Inc. to educate and help other young people with similar heart conditions. Her work led to last year’s passage of a law in Connecticut that now requires hospitals to screen for heart disease in all newborns. She also developed the Heart Yourself program that teaches children and their families how to keep their hearts healthy (she presented the program at the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit in Washington, D.C.). Last year the Connecticut General Assembly awarded Lily a special citation for her continuing efforts as a community leader.
Mia Landegren, 18, Bridgewater
Mia Landegren, the daughter of Patti and Erik Landegren (of Bridgewater Chocolate renown; Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorites) is a triplet, along with sisters Emma and Hanna—and she’s also one-of-a-kind. The former Shepaug High School (Washington) and 2012 Connecticut State Women’s Amateur golf champion is a freshman member of the national powerhouse University of Alabama women’s golf team. The top-10-ranked Crimson Tide begins the spring season in February. Notably, Landegren is joined on the Crimson Tide by Daniela Lendl, the daughter of the former No. 1 tennis player in the world (and part-time Goshen resident) Ivan Lendl.
Arika Kane, 28, Stratford
R&B singer, voice of VH1 “Hollywood Exes”
From growing up in a musical family in Killingly to being a singer-songwriter whose “Make It” is the theme song of VH1’s “Hollywood Exes,” with songs featured on “What Chilli Wants,” “Basketball Wives” and “Single Ladies,” Arika Kane is an artist whose brand of budding success is built on two big I’s: independence and integrity. Kane is aligned with the Connecticut-based independent label BSE Recordings, and while her VH1 affiliations may not seem deep and philosophical, talking to Kane and listening to her lyrics reveals that she’s all about empowering women and succeeding with substance, rather than flirting with the passing fancy of fame.
Christopher Rosario, 32, Bridgeport
Director of Anti-Blight & Illegal Dumping, Office of Neighborhood Revitalization, Bridgeport
Rosario began his career in Bridgeport mayor Bill Finch’s office as a constituent services representative. In 2012, he was put in charge of anti-blight services. Among other responsibilities, he works with Bridgeport neighborhoods in the “Clean and Lien” program, which removes severely distressed buildings and puts a lien on the affected property. When he took on this role, there was a backlog of 900 buildings on the blighted property list; now, says the mayor’s office, that number has beeen reduced to 500, and the average inspection turnaround period for these properties has fallen from 180 days to 30. He’s also a member of the statewide anti-blight task force.
Schuyler J. Ebersol, 20, Cornwall
Author, The Hidden World (Age of Tolerance)
The nephew of former NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol says he’s worked on more than 50 books already, but it’s the first, published by Koehler Books in December, that everyone’s talking about. Like his Harry Potteresque Hidden World protagonist Nate Williams—who, after suffering a premature heart attack, finds out he's a shapeshifter—Ebersol discovered his passion for writing after a debilitating illness at 15 left him wheelchair-bound and unable to attend school. Now he’s recovered and a freshman at the University of Virginia, with a commitment from Koehler to publish all five projected volumes in the Hidden World series (No. 2 is finished), and three other completed manuscripts he’s shopping around.
Matthew Lesser, 30, Middletown
Connecticut state representative
It was May 2008 when Matthew Lesser was selected to run as a candidate for state representative. He was still in college, but had already earned a political reputation for himself throughout the state, credited with garnering huge voter turnout among students. He had worked on campaigns for big names, like Obama and Kerry. He was 25 when he first took office, but now in his third term, Lesser is still making waves, winning his last election in 2012 while battling testicular cancer. He was nominated by a 40- under-40 alum, who said “Matt is a strong progressive voice in the state legislature on democracy issues, economic justice and the environment.” Lesser has lived in Middletown, where, despite his role in state government, he still serves on numerous local boards and commissions.
Khalilah Brown-Dean, 37, New Haven
Her scholarly work on the political dynamics with regard to the American criminal justice system and voting-rights policy has garnered international attention. (She convened a 2005 national conference in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.) She’s been a political analyst, adviser and commentator for CNN, PBS, National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal, and serves as a senior justice advocate for the Soros Foundation. Brown-Dean has authored the soon-to-be-published Diversity in American Politics and Once Convicted, Forever Doomed, which examines the consequences of mass incarceration for local communities and neighborhoods.
David Gere, 38, Cromwell
David Gere must have a clone or two—how else could he do all this? He’s produced and acted in full-length movies, short films, documentaries and music videos. He founded Shadow Films and is a producing partner at Woodhaven Production Co., where he has a five-film distribution deal with Universal/Screen Media. Currently, he’s winding down filming of Sensory Perception, with an all-Connecticut crew, and will exec-produce Star Trek Equinox: The Night of Time. Gere also co-owns Bluu Café & Ultra Lounge in Danbury. In addition, he gives time to Middlesex United Way, Ability Beyond Disability and No Bully Zone, and mentors young adults interested in the entertainment business.
Gary Holder-Winfield, 38, New Haven
Connecticut state representative
After work brought him to the Elm city, now State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield began work with grassroots organizations in an area always passionate to him: social justice. Holder-Winfield has continued that trend and, serving now in his third term in the General Assembly, is largely credited with working to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut. He’s also endeavored to focus the state on early-childhood education, the Trust Act and a program to stop racial profiling, and fought to end discrimination against transgendered people. Originally from the Bronx, Rep. Holder-Winfield credits his experience of growing up in a tough environment, watching his father succumb to drugs and his mother struggle as a single parent as being the source of his passion for social justice. Holder-Winfield has larger political ambitions—he ran for New Haven mayor last year and has now announced a run to fill Toni Harp’s senate seat.
Sammy Vega, 31, Hartford
Former boxer, motivational speaker
At age 16, Sammy Vega was cleaning law offices. These days he’s office manager for Dressler Strickland, which means coordinating four buildings serving 35 employees. That’s hardly why Vega is on this list. As an amateur boxer, he won seven national championships and a bronze medal at the 1997 World Junior Olympic Championships, among other accomplishments in the ring, which included being ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 4 in the world in his weight class at one point. Outside the ring, Vega is a role model and motivational speaker who, as executive director of Mega Education, inspires inner-city students to maximize their potential.
Ryan Martin, 34, Somers
Despite playing a sport that has an off-season, Ryan Martin doesn’t take time off from basketball. Despite being a double amputee with Spina Bifida, the wheelchair athlete plays on a professional basketball team in Madrid. But when he’s not in Spain, you can see Martin on the court playing, cheering or coaching. He founded the Ryan Martin Foundation, which, among other activities—such as mentor talks, speaking engagements and helping to develop sports camps for wounded veterans—hosts a basketball camp each summer for children with disabilities, completely free of charge to campers. The camp has grown each year—and has exposed children from across the state to the sport of basketball that took Ryan around the globe. Prior to competing professionally, Martin also played in college, during which he participated in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association national title game. Ryan was raised in Somers, one of 12 children. He is also a program coordinator for the Hospital of Special Care mentorship program, and volunteers at other sports camps.
Sirena Huang, 19, Windsor
When Sirena Huang played the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Hartford Symphony in December, it was, perhaps, a bittersweet homecoming for the Windsor native, Loomis Chaffee graduate and Juilliard sophomore; her last concert as artist-in-residence with the HSO and one of the first after signing with Columbia Artists Management as a point of departure for a global presence and career. Articulate, poised and passionate about the music, and praised for the grace, clarity, narrative voice and growing intensity in her playing, Huang is a Connecticut prodigy on the cusp of classical music stardom.
Manny Sanchez, 25, New Britain
Member, New Britain City Council
Manny Sanchez was the youngest member of New Britain’s common council at age 22—and now during his full second term on the council is continuing to shine. Between his work on the council, serving on several other boards and commissions, and working full-time at Goodwin College, Sanchez also finds time to coach the Connecticut Roughriders basketball club, which plays across the country, and spearhead initiatives for the city. He’s recognized for helping to bring a national monument to New Britain memorializing Borinqueneers—the name given to the 65th infantry of the U.S. Army—which fought in World War I, World War II and Korea, despite being a Hispanic segregated troop. Politics may just run in his blood—Sanchez is the nephew of Connecticut state Rep. Robert Sanchez.
Erika Arias, 36, West Hartford
Weekday mornings, residents around the state can wake up to Erika Arias anchoring the morning news for Fox CT. A mom who has had her fair share of TV news gigs through the country, she wasn't always content reporting from a news desk. Arias was nominated for an Emmy when she covered the historic nightclub fire in Rhode Island for a CBS affiliate there. Prior to Fox CT she worked for WFSB; before that she had trotted the country doing different kinds of news and freelance work. Though she was raised on the West Coast and attended college in Boston, Arias has always had ties to the Connecticut area through her grandparents, and spent time during her childhood here.
Andrew Niblock, 38, Greenwich
Educator, Greenwich Country Day School
Andrew Niblock was teaching fifth grade in New Orleans when Katrina hit town in 2005. In the aftermath, he and a small band of colleagues set up a temporary school for displaced Louisiana students in Houston. He later came back to Connecticut, spending five years as director of the lower school at Hamden Hall. Now he holds that post at Greenwich Country Day School. Niblock has become a sought-after lecturer on early childhood education at state, regional and national school conferences, and was recently dubbed “a true rising star” by Douglas J. Lyons, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.
Samaia Hernandez, 32, Hartford
Press secretary to Gov. Malloy
Members of Connecticut media may see a familiar byline pop into their inboxes now and then when a statement from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s press secretary arrives. Samaia Hernandez was named to the governor’s communications staff last year, after she spent years working for Connecticut media, including WNPR, the Hartford Courant and Meriden Record-Journal. Among other accolades, Hernandez earned a first-place reporting award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a story she wrote about a Hispanic plaintiff in a discrimination case lodged with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Daniel Trust (Ndamwizeye), 24, Bridgeport
Rwandan genocide survivor, philanthropist, LGBT advocate
When Daniel Trust was 5, his family sought refuge in a church during one incident in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His mother held his hand—and minutes later she was dead, murdered by machete-wielding Hutus slaughtering Tutsis. His father and two sisters were also killed in the genocide. Tragedy did not break Trust; it made him determined to change the world. Today, Trust is a TD Bank employee and an in-demand motivational speaker with a message of peace and hope, especially for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. After “coming out” as gay, Trust helps young people navigate issues of sexual identity amid a still intolerant world, as his foundation also funds scholarships devoted to improving education for Connecticut students.
Daymon “Daym” Patterson, 36, New Britain
YouTube food critic, TV show host
What’s up B? This member of our Connecticut ‘fam’ used to be a manager at chains such as Walmart, and then the six-foot-five-inch fellow with an even bigger, magnetic personality became a YouTube sensation and digital-age entrepreneur based on the everyman appeal of his dash-cam food reviews of fast food staples. That led to the debut last summer of his own branded show on the Travel Channel, where “Best Daym Takeout” took viewers to iconic food cities like Chicago and New Orleans. Become part of his “fam” via Facebook at www.facebook.com/DaymDrops. Word.
Joshua Borenstein, 38, North Haven
Managing director, Long Wharf Theatre
Now in his third season as Long Wharf’s MD—where he’s just overseen a $4 million renovation of the Claire Tow Stage—Borenstein has spent his entire career meshing his love of the arts with his passion for community education. While working as a project manager with the arts consulting firm AMS Planning and Research, he spearheaded CultureTrack 2011, one of the largest national studies of audience participation in the arts. A former employee of Boston’s Huntington Theatre Co. and New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre, Borenstein has guest-lectured at Yale, Boston University and SCSU, and serves on the boards of the National Corporate Theatre Fund and Connecticut Arts Alliance.
Craig Baker, 37 Stamford
Chief education officer, Domus
In the span of 15 years, Baker has risen from being a first-year social studies teacher to leading educational programs for Domus, which oversees three charter schools that educate more than 350 high-need and at-risk youth in Stamford and New Haven. In addition to supervising 80 staff members, he’s provided training in de-escalation techniques for New Haven public school personnel, helped to coordinate the summer enrichment program inside a juvenile detention center and even coached the football teams at the two Stamford Domus schools. He was also recently honored by his alma mater, Sacred Heart University, with an alumni leadership award.
Amanda K. Ruisi, 31, Fairfield
Founder, AKR Public Relations
Connecticut native Ruisi cut her teeth as a college intern at NBCUniversal Television, where she went on to become the youngest East Coast Senior Press and Talent Relations Manager, handling publicity for shows such as “The Apprentice” and “Law & Order.” In 2010, she established Westport’s AKR, a celebrity, entertainment and lifestyle public relations firm that’s represented some cultural heavy-hitters: Coty Prestige, 495 Productions, Jennifer Lopez, Balenciaga, Leighton Meester & Vera Wang. Now that AKR has satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles, Ruisi has more clout with which to support favorite charities like the ASPCA and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
Mates of State - Jason Hammell, 37, & Kori Gardner, 39, Trumbull
Indie pop band
Happily married hipsters Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner Hammel make beautiful indie-pop music together as Mates of State while raising their two children in the burbs of Trumbull, Kori’s hometown. Jason plays drums and Kori plays keyboards and sings vocals and they write songs. With multiple albums, a busy touring schedule, fans around the world and a new movie, they’re rising stars in our book.
Megan McConville, 27, Manchester
President and owner, Offshore Construction Inc.
In an industry dominated by men, McConville’s ownership of a full-service commercial and industrial roofing contracting company may seem like an accomplishment in itself, but she’s also grown the business—which handles new roof construction and re-roofing projects as well as specializing in solar and green roofing. In the past three years, Offshore has gone from five employees to nearly 20 while profits have increased by more than 400 percent. As with any construction-related effort, it helps that she started with a solid foundation: Her father and grandfather also ran their own roofing businesses. Recent clients have included ESPN, Mystic Seaport, Riverview Hospital and Yale Divinity School.
Kimberly Dulka, 39, Seymour
Owner, Red Clover Farms/All-American Valley General Store
It took a bolt of lightning for Dulka to open All-American Valley, a downtown Seymour oasis of local produce, crafts and other hand-sewn, homegrown goodness. After she was struck during a summer storm in 2011, this fourth-generation family farmer decided to stop selling to farm markets all over the state and develop her own outpost close to home. Now two years old, the general store hosts delectable weekly farm-to-table “feasts” in its gourmet Red Clover Café and a Wednesday night open mic that draws 100 fans at a time. Regulars come to hear Kim—a onetime Nashville country performer—yodel (check her out on YouTube).
Thea Montanez, 34, Hartford
Founder and managing director, Montanez Consulting LLC
For Montanez, philanthropy is her life’s work. As she says, “Had it not been for the generosity of others, I’d never been able to return to college and complete my degree.” Formerly the manager of philanthropy for The Hartford Financial Services group, she now runs her own philanthropy design and management firm. She is also the president of the Hartford Public Library, and serves on the boards of directors of Grace Academy and the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network. In addition to jumping out of a plane once for charity and traveling to Haiti to volunteer at a women’s sexual assault clinic, she was personally recruited by Arianna Huffington to blog about her experiences for The Huffington Post, and also curates content at SociallyConstructed.com.
Margaret Middleton, 34, West Haven
Executive director and co-founder, CT Veterans Legal Center
Inspired by the plight of veterans trying to deal with the aftermath of combat trauma, Margaret Middleton connected with fellow attorney Howard Udell to found the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) in 2009, the first organization in the country to integrate legal services into the Veterans Administration mental health care. Working with attorneys from across the state who volunteer their time, CVLC has been able to help more than 900 veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness overcome barriers to housing, health care and income. In addition, Middleton is a clinical visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and has also testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding military sexual trauma and the VA’s disability compensation benefits process.
Andrea Ravitz, 34, Bristol
Multicultural marketing director, Access Health CT
Access Health CT, Connecticut’s state health exchange created under the Affordable Health Care Act, has brought Andrea Ravitz on board as its multicultural marketing director to reach out to Latino families who are still in need of health insurance. Ravitz, who hails from Costa Rica, has been described as a media “powerhouse.” It didn’t take her long to start communicating to her target audience. A talented speaker, she’s now a familiar voice on Latino radio stations, giving information-packed interviews in Spanish for her listeners. She has also started a person-to-person outreach effort through doctors, teachers, churches and even mothers.
Tyler Anderson, 36, Avon
Tyler Anderson had already blended, toasted, sautéed and roasted his way into our hearts during his years at the Copper Beech Inn. Now he’s knocking our socks off as chef/owner of stunning new Millwright’s Restaurant in Simsbury, while “turbo charging the local farming economy” with his commitment to local buying and an on-site farmers’ market. In addition, Anderson has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Liver Foundation, Connecticut Farmland Trust, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital and the M.S. Society, and will be chairing Share our Strength in Hartford this year.
Tiffany Billings, 21, New Milford
Tiffany Billings began dancing at 3; her talent was nurtured at Fine Line Theatre Arts in New Milford, and she credits the grace and discipline of ballet with helping her become one of the “world-famous” Rockettes. Initially she was with a regional company that performs the ‘Christmas Spectacular’ in Nashville, Tenn. This past holiday season marked her third under the bright lights at Radio City Music Hall. At one point in December, she Tweeted about 31 shows coming in 12 days, being grateful for a “boyfriend foot massage” and the Detroit Red Wings; a high-kicking all-American young woman.
Craig Gambardella, 34, Guilford
Director, Tara Troy Gambardella Foundation
After losing his wife and unborn son to heart disease in 2011, Craig Gambardella picked himself up and started the Tara Troy Gambardella Foundation to grant wishes to Connecticut children living with heart-related conditions. The foundation gives kids experiences that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible, awards scholarships and has an Acts of Kindness page on its website where others are encouraged to share good deeds in Tara’s honor. He’s also starting a Young Widow/Widowers support group to help people cope with the kind of grief and loss he knows too well. He’s planning a fundraising walk for May 10.
Colleen Kelly Alexander, 38, Clinton
Motivational speaker and writer
In October 2011, Alexander—a competitive triathlete—was run over and ripped apart by a 30-ton freight truck during a routine bicycle ride. She flatlined twice in the hours following the accident, received more than 70 blood transfusions and spent five weeks in a coma. Despite dire medical predictions, she’s resolutely on her feet and back on the athletic circuit, having completed more than three-dozen events (including road races and Half-Ironman competitions). She’s also become a tireless public speaker/advocate on a variety of subjects, including personal empowerment, blood donation and bicycle safety.
Jamie Calli Mascia, 32, Southington
Local TV producer
You may not see her in the flesh on Channel 3’s “Better Connecticut,” but Jamie Mascia’s fingerprints are all over it. She plans the daily show, books the guests, decides on the topics, orders graphics, coordinates new segments and lots more. She started at WFSB nine years ago, rising through the ranks from script runner and teleprompter to evening news producer, manager and finally to her current position, executive producer. She organized and executed a complete kitchen makeover for a Waterbury mom paralyzed in an accident, and executive produced the Hartford Dress for Success fashion show last year.
Javier Colon, 35, Hartford
Although it might seem that Javier Colon became an “overnight” musical sensation when more than 13 million tuned in to see him win the inaugural season of NBC’s “The Voice” in 2011, the Stratford native spent nearly 15 years trying to gain that success. After five years at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School, he did stints in groups like EmcQ and The Derek Trucks Band before going solo and eventually breaking through. He credits his high school teachers in Stratford for pushing him to pursue his musical ambitions; consequently, he is now paying it forward, supporting young people by donating his time to programs like Achieve Hartford! and working with aspiring singers at New Haven’s Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES).
Bill Taibe, 37, Weston
Chef, LeFarm, The Whelk
Bill Taibe’s been on our radar since he signed on as executive chef of G/R/A/N/D in 2001 at the tender age of 25. He’s been wowing us ever since, first at Relish Food & Wine in SoNo (2003), then at Napa & Co. in Stamford (2006), and now at his two Westport stunners LeFarm (2009) and The Whelk (2012), which critic Elise Maclay called “a thrill-seeker’s paradise for been-there-done-that foodies.” Taibe has been a semifinalist for Best Chef: Northeast at the James Beard House the last three years running, and has appeared on “The Martha Stewart Show” and “Today.”
Rachel Reese, 31, Fairfield
Executive director, Volunteer Square
As the executive director of Volunteer Square, a nonprofit organization that matches those looking to do volunteer work with more than 100 local charitable organizations, you might think the dynamic Reese would have reached her philanthropic quota, but that’s far from the case. In addition to sitting on the boards of Family Centers in Greenwich, the Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk and the Peter Wojtecki Veteran Housing Foundation in New Canaan, she also volunteers at both Family Centers and Family & Children’s Agency as well as Person-to-Person in Darien. She also blogs regularly for the Darien Patch, sharing her insights on volunteering—she’s like a gift that keeps on giving.
Erin Stewart, 26, New Britain
Mayor of New Britain
Last November, Erin Stewart became the second-youngest serving mayor in Connecticut when she won the top office in New Britain. She formerly served on the city’s Board of Education and as a legislative aid at the state Capitol.
A Q & A with Erin Stewart
Why did you decide to go into politics?
I suppose you can say I’m genetically programmed for politics. My mother’s family was very involved: many of her uncles served as city councilmen, most notably my Uncle Dominic Badolato, a longtime Democratic State Representative who was also executive director of AFSCME from 1968-1996. It is almost unbelievable to think his great niece would be the Republican Mayor of New Britain! My father served the city for eight years as its 38th mayor, retiring from politics in 2011. Through their examples, I developed a passion for public service, with the understanding that you give back to the community that gave to you. That is my passion: Helping those who need help, and ensuring that New Britain is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I will work tirelessly to ensure that those of us who live in Hard Hittin’ New Britain have a government they can trust.
What issues come with being elected to public office at an age that is young compared to many other elected officials?
Well, I will say that I can’t go to the grocery store anymore just for a “quick trip,” but that goes for any elected official anywhere. There’s always someone stopping you, and that’s okay, but it’s definitely a lifestyle change. It’s important to always be visible in the community; you’ve got to be in touch with the people that you represent, otherwise how are you best able to lead? I will say that my social life has taken a hit. I’ve always got an event here, a fundraiser there, it’s hard to find time for friends and I just have to make sure I do a good job at blocking off personal time in my schedule (and hope that the person whose event I declined will understand). It’s interesting that at 26 years old, I am the CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation. I think most people who come in to meet with me don’t necessarily know what to expect… they picture this naive young woman, and then quickly find out they were very wrong.
Your campaign motto was "people over politics." Why, and what makes you able to keep it now that you’ve been elected?
Oh that’s easy, and it surrounds around one word, communication. All you have to do is reach out and talk to people. I stated many times during the campaign that everyone would have a seat at my table. That's why I’ve brought back the Mayor’s open office hours, where once a month I cancel all meetings, open the doors to City Hall and invite whoever wants to come in and chat with me about anything, issues they may be having, ideas for the future of our city. I welcome cookies, too.
Getting through this first budget cycle! The learning curve is tremendous, but I’m confident that I’ve surrounded myself with great experts and professionals to help me get the job done. You are only as good as those you surround yourself with. I’m a firm believe that I’m never the smartest person in the room, and if I am, then I’m certainly in the wrong room.
40 Under 40: Class of 2014