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WelcomeThe winners of the Business Journal’s fourth-annual Forty under 40 awards were selected from more than 75 nominees and represent new honorees not previously chosen in 2007, 2008 or 2009. (See the photo gallery.)

Nominations, which were taken during the month of January, came from friends, fellow workers, managers and the Business Journal editorial staff. When the Business Journal launched this project four years ago, many told us we would never find 40 business leaders under the age of 40. We thought otherwise. Indeed, we have found 160. Their achievements represent both the current dynamism of the North Bay and the promise of the economy in the future.

Contained in the brief biographies that follow are incredible achievements, good humor, inspiring stories and much sage advice from people so young. Congratulations to this year’s winners and those that preceded them.

Brad Bollinger, Editor in Chief

North Bay business leaders under the age of 40, listed alphabetically

Clay Angel, M.D., 34

Physician, medical staff president

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, San Rafael

As an internal medicine physician at Kaiser, Dr. Clay Angel treats patients with a variety of conditions including stroke and heart attack. But he also directs the hospital's Rapid Response and Critical Event Teams in addition to his daily rounds. He initiated and now consults with the Discharge Planning and Rounding team, a multidisciplinary project that coordinates patient care from admission to discharge, the first of its kind in the country. Dr. Angel acts as physician expert in Kaiser's comprehensive electronic medical record project, making the medical center one of 27 facilities nationwide named a Stage 7 EMR hospital. Being on the positive, progressive side of electronic technology is exciting, but equally rewarding is the time he takes to guide his patients and their families through the hospital experience.

Favorite book: “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho

Favorite movie: “Avatar”

Last vacation: Stinson Beach. Why fly when the best destinations are at your doorstep?

Michelle Ausburn, 32

Senior manager

Moss Adams, Santa Rosa

Michelle Ausburn is responsible for attracting and developing passionate people to sustain and grow the firm. “I know my clients, their business, and deliver exceptional service to those clients. I maintain the highest level of ethical and professional standards and create long-term value for the firm. My leadership positions within the firm include the office Wine Industry Group and our recruiting efforts.” Her greatest professional challenge was coming to the realization that the public accounting profession is just as much about being great with people as it is about being technically sound.

Hobbies: Food and wine, movies, traveling and spending time with my family

Childhood dream job: A CPA

Favorite book: “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac

Nate Bisbee, AIA, LEED AP, 35

Associate principal and design director

TLCD Architecture, Santa Rosa

Nate Bisbee joined TLCD 12 years ago, was promoted to a new position as design director two years ago and became a shareholder recently. He contributes to the firm's marketing, human resources and financial operations.

Hobbies: Traveling, sketching, running and reading

Favorite movie: "Goodfellas" by Martin Scorsese

Best advice received: "Don't reinvent the wheel." Best advice can sometimes be bad advice that we are determined to prove wrong. I've always strived toward innovation and originality rather than mimicry and the status quo.

Greatest professional challenge: To keep the big picture in mind when working through the complex details of a project.

Greatest job accomplishment: Completed buildings. He is lead architect on the $26 million new library and learning center for Napa Valley College.

Childhood dream job: Architect

Kadin Blonski, 31

Associate attorney

Lanahan & Reilley LLP, Santa Rosa

Kadin Blonski said some of the best advice he ever received was to avoid being dragged into a conflict “that would not provide value or achieve your goals.” Now, as an associate attorney for the past year and a half at Lanahan & Reilley, he’s embraced this notion to fully understand the litigation process. “I am responsible for litigating cases on behalf of my clients of the firm. In many cases I am the lead attorney and am entirely responsible for how the case is litigated,” he said. His greatest professional accomplishment came when he recovered $85,000 for an elderly client who had loaned money to someone who refused to repay the debt. “I was able to deliver the check to her two days before Christmas,” he said. The greatest professional challenge he faces, he said, is to balance “zealous advocacy for my clients with the necessity of maintaining civility and friendships with my colleagues and the community at large.”

Favorite book: "Atlas Shrugged"

Favorite movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”

Last vacation: Camping at Lake Pinecrest

Jefferson Buller, 37

Senior vice president, senior client manager

Bank of America, Santa Rosa

Jefferson Buller is a commercial banker and coordinates a team of partners in analysis and execution of financial strategies and services as well as credit, deposit and treasury management products to middle market companies. “I am responsible for managing a portfolio of clients in a variety of industries, and in addition to being the primary bank advocate and key financial adviser for them, I am accountable for enhancing and deepening existing relationships as well as prospecting new business,” he said. His greatest professional challenge has been the economy. “There is no overstating the challenge the current economic climate is presenting to businesses and individuals at all levels of the spectrum. No one is immune, and it makes business very difficult for everyone at the moment.”

Best advice received: “Breathe, always remember to breathe.”

Favorite movie: “A Very Long Engagement”

Linda Mayberry-Chavez, 39

Co-owner and operator

Safety & Environmental Compliance Associates LLC, Chavez Family Cellars, Healdsburg

Linda Mayberry-Chavez and her husband, Carlos Chavez, started the firm in 1999, and they started a commercial wine brand in 2006. She is recognized as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the HR Certification Institute and is designated as a subject matter expert in California labor law. She is active in Healdsburg-area philanthropy, coordinating wineries for the 2009 Healdsburg Crush Festival, serving as a member of a local grant committee for the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and leading the Healdsburg club of Soroptimist International, a Philadelphia-based group of professional women who volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls.

Favorite after-work drink: Wine, of course

Favorite movie: "Grease" by Randal Kleiser

Favorite book: "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz

Karen Cividanes, 39

Manager of client relations

Optio Solutions, Rohnert Park

Karen Cividanes was asked by her employer to leave her job – so she could start Optio Solutions, an accounts receivables management division of CrossCheck, the nation's third largest check approval and guarantee provider. She has been there two years, and the most important thing she has done is increase revenue 100 percent in 2009 over 2008. The company has 42 employees. "As manager of client relations, I am responsible for a department that responds to all our clients' needs, questions, problems and request," Ms. Cividanes said. Within the company, she said "we believe morale is increased by working as a team to help others. To that end we have teamed with the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Salvation Army to collect items for the needy. As a group we raised a significant amount of money during Breast Cancer Awareness Month." She is also involved in the Water Project to bring clean water to Africa and India.

Greatest professional accomplishment: Management having enough confidence in me to offer me the opportunity.

Favorite movie: “Slumdog Millionaire”

Favorite after-work drink: Zin Favorite book: "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

Geoff Coleman, PE, PLS, 38

Registered civil engineer, professional land surveyor, construction documents technologist

BKF/Carlenzoli, Santa Rosa

Geoff Coleman has been with the 225-person firm for 12 years and oversees a team of five. When he's not at work he teaches civil engineering, surveying and computer-aided design at Santa Rosa Junior College and writes engineering and surveying textbooks for colleges nationwide. His work in education has been recognized with the Michael P. Caldwell Award from the Construction Specifications Institute.

Favorite book: "Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles" on property surveying

Hobbies: Being outdoors, waterskiing

Childhood dream job: Follow in my father's footsteps and build things

Jason Cunningham, 35

Agency medical director

West County Health Centers, Guerneville

Site medical director

Sebastopol Community Health Center, Sebastopol

Jason Cunningham oversees clinical services for West County Health Centers, where, as the director for the past year, he’s helped the agency transition toward a “patient-focused, relationship-centered, team-based clinical delivery system.” The past year, while rewarding on a personal level, was not an easy one for the company, he said. “The recent expansion of one of our health centers has been disruptive to our agency, adding a significant pressure to our staff, changing staff roles, moving staff across the agency, in a very difficult economic environment.” Throughout that transition, he said he and the staff never lost sight of the main goal – providing excellent patient care. “It has been through this process that I’ve become convinced that we have the potential to do something special for our patients.”

Favorite book: “Cost of Discipleship,” by Deitrich Donhoeffer

Favorite after-work drink: Black and Tan

Best advice received: “Always ask, ‘How will it affect your patient?’” and “Primary care is a service industry.”

Patrick Donahue, 35

General manager, enterprise content management division

Scott Technology Group, Rohnert Park

Patrick Donahue's role at office equipment and systems provider Scott Technology Group is to move the company into the business of the future, transitioning clients from high carbon footprint, paper-based workflows to more sustainable electronic document management technology. His greatest challenge to date was moving from Oracle Corp., with its driving, competitive culture, to Scott's, where soup potlucks and suspender contests keep employees connected.

Best advice received: “The only person qualified to decide whether to buy your solutions is your customer,” from Sharon Drew Morgan.

Favorite book: “Out of Egypt," by Anne Rice

Favorite after-work drink: White Russian

Last vacation: I won a trip to Germany based on sales volume, sent an employee instead and took my wife on a surprise trip to Maui.

Dylan Dupre, 30

Director, project development

SPG Solar, Novato

As business development manager for the largest independent solar provider in the North Bay, Dylan Dupre helped the company expand beyond residential into the wine and agricultural markets. He especially enjoyed SPG's invention and installation of the first floating solar system in the world at Far Niente Winery in Napa. Another milestone was putting together a proposal to put solar on 34 schools in a district and pay for the entire system with the savings in its energy bills. That installation, the largest in a California school system, will save the district $17 million over 20 years.

Hobbies: Soccer, hiking, biking, meditation, yoga, snowboarding, surfing and reading

Favorite book: “Wings to Freedom,” by Yogaiaj Gurunath Siddhanath

Favorite after-work drink: Tulsi Tea

Last vacation: India

Jason Ehn, 33

Senior SBA loan officer

Redwood Credit Union, Santa Rosa

When Jason Ehn was growing up, he wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Since that didn’t end up working out, he became a lender. As the senior loan officer in the SBA department at Redwood Credit Union, Mr. Ehn is in charge of expanding SBA services for communities it serves. His greatest professional accomplishment has been assisting RCU in becoming the top SBA lender in the North Bay for the fiscal year 2009. “Making sense of business and commercial real estate lending in these difficult times is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “I feel that I can play my own small part in our community’s economic recovery by financing the growth of local businesses, and I try to challenge myself with this task every day.”

Favorite book: “High Fidelity,” by Nick Hornby

Favorite after-work drink: A glass of Redemption at Russian River Brewing Co.

Judd Finkelstein, 37

Owner and winemaker

Judd's Hill, Napa (Silverado Trail)

Judd Finkelstein has been in a winemaking and ownership position for the past 12 years. His father, Whitehall Lane Winery founder and artist Art Finkelstein, started Judd's Hill as a boutique vintner in 1989. In 1992, the company expanded into custom winemaking with Judd's Hill MicroCrush. Since early last year Judd Finkelstein has been putting to use his undergraduate television production degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University with "Judd's Enormous Wine Show" series of short whimsical yet educational Internet videos on the brand to build consumer buzz.

Hobbies: Playing ukulele in his Hawaiian band The Maikai Gents and practicing cocktail mixology

Favorite after-work drink: Wiki Wiki Grog by The Wiki Wiki Grog Shop, Napa

Childhood dream job: Filmmaker or makeup artist for zombie movies

First job: Folding wontons during high school at Maggie Gin's, St. Helena

Brian Finnegan, 31

Partner

Burr Pilger Mayer, Novato

When not working in the assurance department of Burr Pilger Mayer, Brian Finnegan is on the board of directors of LITA, an organization committed to fighting loneliness and isolation in elderly community. He also serves at the Novato Youth Center and is a board member at the Novato Chamber of Commerce. His biggest challenge professionally is juggling responsibilities at work, volunteerism within the community and finding time with his wife and two young daughters. His most admired business person is Steve Mayer – a founding partner and BPM's current president and CEO.

Best advice received: “Be nice to the janitor, someday he could be your boss.”

Favorite book: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

Favorite movie: “The Godfather”

Favorite after-work drink: Lagunitas IPA

Dominic Foppoli, 27

General manager and co-owner

Foppoli Wines, Windsor

Vineyard and winery specialist

W Real Estate, Santa Rosa

Independent Asian export specialist

Pureland USA, Shenzhen, China

Dominic Foppoli's wine business experience extends to not only management of the century-old family wine business for the past three years but also helping other vineyard and winery owners find buyers or sellers for their properties and helping to put together a wine export network in Asia called Pureland USA. Last year he was second vice president on the Santa Rosa Active 20-30 organization executive board. He is set to earn a master's degree in wine business from Sonoma State University in May.

Recent milestones: Expanded direct shipping nationwide and received placement of a wine in an issue of DC Comics' "Batgirl"

First job: Family restaurant busboy at age 10

Favorite after-work drink: Gentleman Jack and Coke, local microbrew

Admired businesspeople: Dan Kosta and Mike Browne of Kosta Browne Winery

Michael Green, 36

Attorney, partner

Abbey Weitzenberg Warren & Emery, Santa Rosa

After nine years as an attorney at Abbey Weitzenberg Warren & Emery, Michael Green made partner last year and now manages an extensive litigation case load in areas of construction defect, personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability. While he continuously strives to achieve the best balance between “demanding professional obligations and family and recreation time,” Mr. Green manages to spend significant time on numerous community and nonprofit activities, among them serving as the president of the Consumer Attorneys of Sonoma County in 2009 and 2010, the American Inns of Court and the Sonoma County Bar Association, among others.

Hobbies: Mountain biking, snow and water skiing, golf

Favorite book: "Gunning for Justice," by Gerry Spence

Favorite after-work drink: Natural Light

Last vacation: Park City, Utah, February 2010

Jeremy Greer, 26

Owner, chief operations officer

Nate Gulbransen, 33

President

Westcoast Solar Energy, Rohnert Park

Jeremy Greer and Nate Gulbransen are both working for national solar provider Akeena Solar's local branch when they decided Sonoma County and the North Bay offered more opportunity than a corporation based elsewhere could appreciate. They made the jump and several others followed to their startup Westcoast Solar, which less than a year later employs 16. For Mr. Greer, learning how to delegate tasks was a challenge; for Mr. Gulbransen, it was taking time off for himself and his family. But both are immensely proud to be running their own company and to be handing out bonuses to the staff at their first Christmas party.

Favorite movie: Jeremy, “Tombstone;” Nate, “Caddyshack”

Favorite book: Jeremy, "Beowulf;" Nate, "It's Not About the Bike," by Lance Armstrong

Favorite after-work drink: Jeremy, Capri-Sun or ice cold beer; Nate, ice cold Lagunitas Pils

Last vacation: Jeremy, Rubicon camping and four-wheeling; Nate, Disneyland with the family

Susan Hansen, 37

Executive director

4-H Foundation of Sonoma County, Rohnert Park

For the past two years, Susan Hansen has directed the youth-oriented nonprofit group, which has 28 directors, a 6,000-square-foot meeting facility in Rohnert Park and gives out $50,000 a year in grants and scholarships to 4-H programs and youth. A recent benefit barbecue grossed $90,000 from 600 attendees. Mentor: My father, Keith Swenson, who taught me that I could accomplish anything with hard work and an enthusiastic attitude.

Professional challenge: Learning to say "no." Hobbies: Equestrian riding, skiing, being outdoors with family

Childhood dream job: Veterinarian

First job: Veterinary assistant

Last vacation: Pheasant hunting in South Dakota with family

Favorite movies: "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Man From Snowy River"

Mike Harris, 39

Senior vice president

CrossCheck, Rohnert Park

City councilmember

City of Petaluma

In the 18 years he has been with Cross Check, Mike Harris has dealt with all the front-end risk assessment and pricing functions while serving on the Petaluma City Council for seven years. He counts completing the General Plan as the most important event in his professional career. He admires Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin for “taking a simple concept and building a business model around to become one of the most successful companies in the world in only 12 years.” “Their ability to deliver a product search in such a simple fashion is a model that should be replicated by others businesses by keeping their business models simple, organizing the employees around the concept and executing on your business plan,” he said.

Favorite after-work drink: Vodka and tonic

Favorite book: “What would Google do?” by Jeff Jarvis

Hobbies: Basketball and running

Steve Jannicelli, 36

Senior manager, business consulting

Moss Adams, Santa Rosa

Steve Jannicelli has been a senior manager for three and a half years. The practice focuses primarily on strategic business planning, cash flow management and profit enhancement, guiding clients through either growth or turnaround strategies. “We are specifically looking at strategic forecasting, trend and benchmark analysis, and management reporting and dashboards,” he said. His first job was at Round Table Pizza. He was there when minimum wage went from $3.35 an hour to $4.25 an hour. “I let my imagination run wild with how to spend all that extra money.”

Best advice received: "You don't learn anything when you're winning," his dad told him as a kid. “Any time I am faced will difficult circumstances, this helps me to look for the lesson and how to get better as a result.”

Favorite movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”

Jessica Jauregui, 32

Human resources manager

St. Joseph Health System-Sonoma County, Santa Rosa

Jessica Jauregui oversees four major functions within the human resources department for St. Joseph Health System – recruitment and selection, employment, employee and labor relations and training and development. She and the eight employees who report to her provide support to nearly 2,600 employees within Sonoma County. The cross-section of health care and human resources fields presents numerous challenges, she said. “The fields of human resources and health care are constantly changing. One of the most professionally challenging aspects of my job is that I must always be mindful of these changes and be able to apply them to my organization.” Part of that responsibility, she said, requires that she read and interpret the constantly evolving laws that pertain to employment and health care.

Hobbies: Running, reading, spending time with family outdoors

Favorite movie: “Saving Private Ryan”

Favorite after-work drink: Glass of pinot noir

Bob Just, 29

Project manager, strategic services

St. Joseph Health System-Sonoma County, Santa Rosa

As the strategic services’ project manager for St. Joseph Health System-Sonoma County, Bob Just manages and implements key projects, supports strategic planning, identifies and implements cost-saving measures and conducts research and financial analysis. He’s been in his current position for the past 17 months and with St. Joseph for eight years. He said his biggest professional accomplishment occurred last year, when he successfully coordinated the relocation of six major departments at the hospital. “The planning process was rather complicated, as most departments were being asked to occupy less physical space. All told, these moves resulted in mid six-figure cost savings for the organization,” he said.

Community activities: Volunteering monthly at the Redwood Empire Food Bank

Favorite book: “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card

Favorite after-work drink: Sonoma and Napa red wines

Geoff Kruth, 34

Wine director and sommelier

The Farmhouse, Forestville

Director of operations

Guild of Sommeliers, Petaluma

For the past five years Geoff Kruth has been wine director at The Farmhouse inn and restaurant in Forestville. His undergraduate degrees at Sonoma State University in the late 1990s were in music and computer science. In 2008 he earned the Master Sommelier designation, becoming one of fewer than 160 with that title globally and the only one in Sonoma County. He teaches classes for the Court of Master Sommeliers and speaks at wine industry events. As head of operations for the Guild of Sommeliers, in the past year he helped propel the educational foundation to a membership association with more than 1,000 professionals.

Favorite after-work drinks: Fernet Branca or other Amaro liqueur

Mentor/admired businessperson: Master Sommelier Fred Dame of Constellation Wines U.S.

Favorite movie: "The Godfather"

Favorite book: "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting," by Milan Kundera

Ken Kurtzig, 34

Founder, chief executive officer

iReuse LLC, Sausalito

Since founding his environmental consulting company five years ago, Ken Kurtzig has helped Autodesk, Delta Dental, Charles Schwab, Adobe, PG&E and Wells Fargo improve sustainability, and he's more committed than ever. A recent milestone was signing a partnership with Green America to jointly develop a full sustainability tool for businesses. His responsibilities include sales, business development, product development and "anything else that no one else wants to do." He recently hired an operations manager to handle consulting and marketing. His company, at 15 employees now, continues to grow in both staff and services. A new product is the iReuse tracking and reporting application.

Community activities: Board member of MarinLink, environmental adviser to Marin County supervisors

Favorite book: Just about any murder mystery when I have time

Hobbies: Playing with my wife and kids, golf, bicycling

Carol Larson, 38

Director of nursing practice, assistant medical group administrator

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Santa Rosa

As director of nursing practice for Kaiser, Carol Larson is responsible for all nursing on the outpatient side and ensures that nurses and medical staff work within the scope of their practice while maintaining high quality care. In her role as assistant medical group administrator, she is responsible for the emergency department, medical imaging and lab, ensuring that the departments perform to the proper level of expectations. Since October, as the flu coordinator, she has overseen efforts that have resulted in more than 75,000 injections to Kaiser members. She also co-authored a textbook about women’s cancer.

Best advice received: To stay focused and to fulfill set goals

Favorite movie: “Blues Brothers”

Favorite after-work drink: Lemon drop

Kevin McGee, 39

Vice president and executive administrator for the office of the chairman

Jackson Enterprises, Geyserville

Proprietor and brewmaster

Healdsburg Beer Co., Healdsburg

From his early career as a prosecutor focusing on gang crime, Kevin McGee for the past five years has been assisting Jess Jackson in his various businesses under the Jackson Enterprises umbrella. That includes the 35 wineries and other related operations worldwide in Jackson Family Wines; the newly launched artisan foods division with luxury-tier olive oil, verjus and soon Perigold truffles; as well as Stonestreet Thoroughbreds for breeding and racing. Initially a study in entrepreneurism connected to his role at Jackson Enterprises, Healdsburg Beer Co. has become successful in its own right, with the IPA winning a bronze medal in the U.S. Open Beer Championships. Mr. McGee is enrolled in the Stanford Executive Program this summer.

Favorite book: "Game, Set, Match," by Len Deighton, and "The Story of Ferdinand," by Munro Leaf

Hobbies: Cooking, playing ice hockey, snowboarding, making beer

First job: Ski instructor at age 15

Dustin McMullen, 31

Founder

Lavid Designs, Rohnert Park

Dustin McMullen started Lavid Designs last year after five years as business development and project manager for Summit Electronic Systems, part of the Santa Rosa-based Summit Technology Group.

Greatest accomplishment: Starting a new business in a difficult economy.

Greatest challenge: I strive to give clients quick responses and maintain a high level of satisfaction. This becomes challenging to balance between client and personal time.

Hobbies: Running, playing golf and softball, photography and fishing

Favorite reads: Magazines and "The Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad

Favorite movies: Low-budget movies with unknown actors and directors

Dustin Mowe, 31

President

Portocork America, Napa

Dustin Mowe has worked for wine cork distributor Portocork America for eight years, serving for the past three years as president of the 34-employee subsidiary of the Amorim Group, which operates in 100-plus countries. Portocork America revenue has grown more than 150 percent in the past five years, including more than 10 percent last year, during a particularly tough time in high-end wine sales.

Best advice received: Be swift and decisive. Just learn from the bad decisions, because we will all make them.

Favorite book: "The Way to the Top," by Donald Trump

Hobbies: Competitive cycling and collecting wine

First job: Paper route

Childhood dream job: Police officer

James Nevin, 34

Trial attorney

Brayton Purcell, Novato

As a trial attorney with Brayton Purcell, James Nevin represents hundreds of plaintiffs in asbestos trials in state and federal court in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Ana, Los Angeles and Seattle. This has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in settlements and 12 verdicts. In his very first trial in 2005, he obtained a record-setting verdict of $1.25 million in San Francisco on behalf of a former laborer. Most recently, he achieved another record-setting verdict in Seattle of $10.2 million for a former paper mill plant worker.

Best advice received: Bad things happen to good people, and we need to be there to help them.

Childhood dream job: Dolphin trainer, then attorney

Hobbies: Restoring old homes, playing with my children

Carlos Perez, 31

President, CEO, founder

Bike Monkey, Santa Rosa

Carlos Perez always had a bike around. He grew up on the side of a hill on St. Helena Road and he and his siblings, who were home-schooled, loved to explore. “It wasn’t until I figured out that there was a competitive part to cycling that I really got interested,” he said. He started a bike-related website for fun and in 2006, he put together his first event: an 80-person mountain bike race in Cobb.

“We got the word out through the Web,” he said. “All of our outreach was through social media.”

It was hailing and rainy, and there were people from out of state. Keith Bontrager of the bike company Bontrager, came. “I was amazed,” Mr. Perez said. “I’m nobody, and all these people showed up."

He started to produce a print edition of his Web site, Bike Monkey Magazine, and quit his job of 10 years at Medtronic Inc. to focus all his attention on cycling. He continued with the Cobb race and just this month produced the fifth event with 630 participants.

But his biggest professional accomplishment was producing Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo last October, the largest mass-start race in the United States with 3,500 participants. People came from all over the world to participate in the Fondo, said Mr. Perez. “Though we worked so hard, this was really Levi’s event,” said Mr. Perez. “He has such a genuine heart.”

This year will be the second GranFondo, and there is a cap of 6,000 participants. It is currently almost sold out.

“The GranFondo was on-par with the Tour of California, economically speaking,” he said.“The net impact was over $1.2 million in tourism revenue in addition to the $90,000 that was raised by the event for its beneficiaries.”

Best advice received: Delegate. But don’t pass the buck.

Education: Colorado Technical University

First job: Selling home-made bread and farmed eggs to neighbors from my family’s miniature ranch in Calistoga

Favorite book: “Into Thin Air,” by Jon Krakauer

Chris Reiter, 36

Vice president, employee benefits

Woodruff Sawyer & Co., Novato

Chris Reiter has been working in insurance since 1996 and with 257-employee Woodruff Sawyer & Co. for the past two years. His expertise is in health care, wellness and alternative funding programs. He served as a member of the Northern California Employee Benefits Council board for three years and was president in 2008. Mr. Reiter was chairman of the Employee Benefits Conference put on by the Northern California Human Resources Association for the past three years.

Favorite movies: "The Bourne Identity" and sequels

First job: Washing RVs at age 13

Childhood dream job: Fighter pilot or stockbroker

Hobbies: Playing golf, hiking, snowboarding and tasting wine.

Michelle Scanlon, 33

Commercial lines manager, account executive

Brown & Brown of Northern California, Novato

In addition to her role as commercial lines manager, Michelle Scanlon is also an account executive handling a $700,000 revenue book of business, quality control liaison to the corporate office in Daytona Beach and licensing coordinator, among other responsibilities. With this impressive workload, she said her greatest professional challenge is “balancing the demands of my ‘first’ job as a single mother with the demands of my professional life.” She is also no stranger to the difficult economy, and works to encourage and motivate “employees who may feel stress or strife due to the need for increased productivity in a tough economic environment.” Of the 23 three employees at Brown & Brown, nine report to Ms. Scanlon.

Mentor/admired businessperson: My father. He worked for the same company for 39 years and taught me everything I know about a strong work ethic.

Hobbies: Traveling, walking/hiking, spending time with my daughter/family/friends, Giants baseball, and I am a voracious reader (sometimes up to three books per week.)

Favorite after-work drink: A glass of Cakebread chardonnay

Ylisa Sanford Seymour, 39

CFP, senior financial adviser, partner

Sanford, Jigalin & Seymour, a financial advisory branch of Ameriprise Financial, Santa Rosa

Ylisa Sanford Seymour works with two partners in their franchise of Ameriprise Financial. One of her partners is her mother. She works on client acquisition, hiring staff, employee reviews, client consultations, marketing investment selection, servicing clients and managing their relationships. “As a leader I am responsible for developing a vision for our firm and empowering my team to execute that.” She said she the financial crisis has been the most difficult event she has had to deal with, and she doesn’t expect to see anything like it again in her career or lifetime.

Mentor: Her mother

Favorite movie: “In Cold Blood”

Last vacation: Tahoe. “We love to travel, but most of our vacation memories are made in Tahoe.”

Nicole Smartt, 24

Regional account manager

Star Staffing, Healdsburg

Nicole Smartt has worked in human resources for six years. In that time she progressed from business services manager for Remedy Intelligent Staffing to account representative at Select Staffing to her current role starting last August at Star Staffing, with a dozen of the 14 people in the company reporting to her.

Maintaining morale in the current economy: To simply acknowledge accomplishments with a small gift card or recognition in front of a group goes a long way. The firm uses a third party to conduct a "climate survey" of employees every year or two to get candid comments on the organization.

Best advice received: You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.

Childhood dream job: Professional basketball player and equestrian rider

Mentor: Sales strategy and personal-development author Jeffrey Gitomer

Hobbies: Exercising, playing sports, equestrian riding, volunteering, reading, watching movies and spending time with family, friends and my puppy, Mr. Boogies

William Soper, 33

CPA, partner

Beels Soper LLP, Petaluma

Since founding a full-service public accounting firm at the age of 28, William Soper has learned when to turn off his phone and relax, but he also grew his firm's revenue by 23 percent last year and expanded both staff and office space. He credits his success to delivering quality service to his clients, investing in employees and giving back to the community. A non-stop talker as a child, he was frequently kidded about growing up to be a politician, and he's lent his people skills to the boards of the Petaluma Educational Foundation and the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations and nonprofits. Next: an MBA to add to his bachelor's of science in accounting from the Sonoma State University School of Business.

Favorite book: "Think Big and Kick Ass," by Donald Trump

Favorite movie: “Good Will Hunting”

Favorite after-work drink: Sapphire gin martini, up, two olives

Marcos Suarez, 32

Broker, owner

Prominent Realtors

Getting through the real estate downturn has been a challenge for Marcos Suarez, but it hasn't interfered with his cultural activism. He was recently recognized by the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was appointed chair of the chamber's biggest and most successful annual event produced in partnership with Telemundo, the KSTS' "Hispanic Business Salute." He's a founding member and adviser of the Latino Business Association at Sonoma State University, his alma mater, and hopes it develops into a producer of Sonoma County leaders. Mr. Suarez considered careers in teaching and the law, but finds being an advocate for community is his true forte.

Favorite book: "One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Favorite after-work drink: Glass of Vino de Casa red blend from Ceja Vineyards

Amber Twitchell, 30

Economic recovery director

California Human Development, Santa Rosa

In her position with a nonprofit that focuses on providing employment training, housing and other services to vulnerable populations in the state, Amber Twitchell is responsible for managing and developing stimulus-related activity, including oversight of a $2.25 million grant. She's also board president of Community Housing Opportunities West, a newly formed nonprofit that provides emergency shelter to the homeless in rural Sonoma County. She serves on the board of River to Coast Children's Servicies as well. Ms. Twitchell finds working in the nonprofit sector challenging because the needs of the community almost always outweigh the resources available to generate solutions. But truly assisting people and helping them move out of poverty, she believes, is an important goal.

Mentor/admired businessperson: My friends in Sonoma County are all passionate, intelligent, community-minded individuals whom I'm fortunate to know.

Favorite book: "The Death and Life of great American Cities," by Jane Jacobs

Favorite after-work drink: A nice martini

Last vacation: Las Vegas

Rich Vitali, 35

President

Coordinated Project Installations, Santa Rosa

Rich Vitali and his staff of 10 have built such a solid reputation for installing modular office furniture and filing systems and managing relocations and storage that some Bay Area companies won't hire anyone else. His client list reads like a directory of the best businesses in the region, including American AgCredit, Amy's Kitchen, BioMarin, JDSU, State Farm Insurance, Sutter Health, Travis Air Force Base and all the local counties and municipalities. Purchasing Coordinated Project Installations was the most successful event in his working life so far; acquiring a warehouse is next on the list.

Mentor/admired businessperson: Minna Vitali is full of integrity, extremely detailed and has helped me get to where I am today.

Hobbies: Baseball and snowboarding

Favorite movie: Anything with Ben Stiller. He's a funny guy.

Jana Trout Wacholz, 39

General manager

Wild Oak Saddle Club, Santa Rosa

Jana Trout Wacholz manages a 200-member private club, and she's glad to be back in hospitality. Her Facebook page features Ms. Trout Wacholz with a statue of a rearing horse, a glass of wine and a soccer ball, and those are her passions. She loves playing and coaching soccer, gardening, wine tasting and riding, and finds Sonoma County a rich source of each. With the nine employees under her she encourages collective decision making and values connecting with other businesses that share a common goal. "Laughing a bit more at ourselves is important, and so is accepting the fact that every once in a while you're going to have a bad day," said Ms. Trout Wacholz.

Favorite book: "All Things Bright and Beautiful," by James Harriot

Favorite movie: “Black Beauty”

Favorite after-work drink: Lemon drop

Randy Waller, 28

Broker, owner

W Real Estate, Santa Rosa

In 2005, only his second full year of real estate, Randy Waller closed 70 transactions representing more than $40 million in sales. As a result he was ranked No. 2 in sales for all of Sonoma County real estate professionals. In 2007 he decided to leave RE/Max and go out on his own in what turned out to be the year of the sharpest decline in real estate values in memory. Sheer tenacity helped him and his 11 employees to make a profit in their first, and the county's worst, year in the business. Now he's moved the brokerage to a central location in downtown Santa Rosa.

First job: Mary's Pizza delivery

Favorite book: The Bible, and then "The Broker"

Last vacation: My honeymoon in Kauai. I should take more.

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