Forty Under 40 winners for 2009


The winners of the Business Journal’s third-annual Forty under 40 awards were selected from nearly 100 nominees and represent new honorees not previously chosen in 2007 and 2008.

Nominations, which were taken during the month of January, came from friends, fellow workers, bosses and the Business Journal editorial staff.

When the Business Journal launched this project three years ago, many told us we would never find 40 business leaders under the age of 40. We thought otherwise. Indeed, we have found 120. 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 alphabeticallyJoe Bartolomei, 36

Co-owner and partner

Farmhouse Inn, Restaurant and Spa,


As an owner/operator of a 10-room wine country inn, Joe Bartolomei is optimistic about the future. “Despite the depressed economy, our business continues to grow and by May we will add eight new luxury rooms. We are also in the process of sourcing a site for another high-end destination property.”

Working with his sister and partner, Catherine, his greatest challenge is in managing a diverse team of entrepreneurial employees with a passion for delivering high-quality customer service and making people happy.

Most admired businessperson: “My father, Lee Bartolomei, is a phenomenal example. He founded his own company, Deposition Sciences Inc., in 1984, that currently employs 100 Sonoma County residents and does over $16 million in sales annually. He taught us to do what we love and the rest will follow.”

Kelly Bass, 27

Marketing and public relations manager

Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce,

Santa Rosa

In addition to overseeing marketing and branding strategies, Kelly Bass is also in charge of the chamber’s award-winning Summer Algebra Academy program that introduces pre-high school students to practical applications of algebra in high-tech, real world situations. She was also instrumental in establishing the successful chamber Young Professionals Network.

Her next goal is to launch a comprehensive adult English language learning program that businesses can adopt for their workers emphasizing the role parents play in their children’s education.

Best advice received: “Listen more than you speak.  Watch other people’s body language, it speaks louder than words.”

Ryan Beach, 30

Assistant vice president and community


Sonoma Bank, Santa Rosa

When not developing, managing and executing sales strategies to enhance the growth of the bank’s in-store locations, Ryan Beach inspires future leaders in the organization to respond to the escalating needs of the community.

“My most measurable and rewarding accomplishment has involved growing retail banking locations from the ground up – from accepting the first deposit to managing the balance sheet of a $57 million branch.  I’ve learned through the years that to be successful, focus on what you can control.”

Favorite book: “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”

Favorite after-work drink: Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder

Amy Bolten, 37

Public information officer

Sonoma County Water Agency,

Santa Rosa

As if managing a number of renewable energy and water conservation projects were not enough, Amy Bolten is now planning to launch the Sonoma County Energy Independence program.

She has also played a significant role in pioneering efforts to introduce green-building standards in the mainstream residential construction field while trying to balance her career and being a good mother and wife.

“I’ve learned through the years that when you are new to any organization you should just sit and listen for a long time and don’t start giving opinions until you really understand what you’re talking about.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: “First, a famous actress; then, a doctor…Yeah, right.”

Last vacation: "Hawaii in 2005.  I need a vacation!”

Jason Brabo, 39

Associate principal and Health Care Studio leader

TLCD Architecture, Santa Rosa

Serving as a principal in the firm as well as leading the health care practice, Jason Brabo oversees staffing, marketing and manages health care projects totaling $120 million.

“My most rewarding role is managing the architectural design of the new Kaiser Permanente Hospital North Tower expansion in Santa Rosa. I am proud to be a part of such an important project in the community and have enjoyed the collaboration among the owner, contractor and our design team.”

One of his major accomplishments was becoming a principal at TLCD Architecture. “I always knew I wanted to be an architect.”

Mr. Brabo credits his father for instilling a strong work ethic and his mother for instilling optimism. “The best advice I ever received was don’t wait for good things to happen, make them happen.”

First job: “Pulling nails and construction site cleanup for my father.”

Adam Brown, 39

Executive director

Disability Services and Legal Center,

Santa Rosa

“When I’m not operating my own nonprofit – bringing disability concerns to the forefront of political, economic and community discussion – I am teaching at the Empire College School of Law,” said Adam Brown, who also serves on the Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

His greatest accomplishment was in receiving an award for pro-bono work from the Sonoma County Bar Association and Empire College.

“My parents, both executives, set extremely high benchmarks for achievement, fairness, humility and compassion, but when I was young my only ambition was to be an astronaut – until I tasted Tang.”

Hobbies: “When my three kids are grown, I’m hoping to take up sleep.”

Favorite after-work drink: Nyquil

Trevor Buck, 33

Vice president and partner

NAI BT Commercial Real Estate,

San Rafael

According to Trevor Buck, all you have in the commercial real estate sales business is time and information. You can either use them or give them away.

He got his foot in the door in 1998 thanks to the help of a “great group of professionals such as Matt Brown and Steve Leonard,” who shared their knowledge of the business with him and gave him access to the market and eventually better and better deals.

Greatest personal challenge: “Keeping my head above water in a business that requires a good deal of constant client contact and development.”

Last vacation: Snow cat skiing in Canada

Robert Cantu, 37


Western Builders, Santa Rosa

He started his career as a construction laborer, and now Robert Cantu is president and project manager in charge of business development as well as overall client satisfaction for a North Bay construction company.

“My professional challenge today involves balancing the needs of a small corporation, three LLCs and one sole proprietorship.  In the future, my goal is to become a real estate developer.”

He also serves on the executive board of the North Coast Builders Exchange and as a board member of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. In addition, he is a Special Olympics sponsor, an avid supporter of West County Youth Football & Cheer and the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association.

Best advice received: “Greed is the professional’s path to the gravestone.”

Jeff Carlton, 30

Vineyard manager

Dutton Ranch and Vineyards Inc.,


While not coming from an agricultural background, Jeff Carlton’s job involves managing farming operations from pruning and irrigation to harvest of grapes as well as all maintenance activities for Dutton Ranch and Vineyards.

“I am especially proud of receiving an award for Most Outstanding Young Person in Agriculture for the Harvest Fair in 2008 and for also being elected state chairman of the California Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. My next goals include being accepted into the California Agriculture Leadership Program as well as purchasing my own land and planting a vineyard.”

Mentor/most admired person: “My wife is my mentor, my best friend and the smartest person I know.”

Last vacation: “Our honeymoon in Bora Bora in 2007”

Tim Degraff, 32

Senior vice president

WRA, San Rafael

Serving as a certified wetland scientist for an environmental consulting firm, Tim Degraff is responsible for managing large projects involving wetlands, endangered species and complex regulatory approvals. He also oversees the firm’s marketing efforts and is the primary “rain-maker” for WRA.

He started at an entry-level position in the firm and became part owner within five years and then SVP at age 32.

“My objective is grow the firm at 10 percent each year while expanding our services to meet clients’ needs.  I would also like to be president of the firm before 40.”

Today Mr. Degraff works full time while also attending graduate school and conducting original research for his thesis.

Favorite book: “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

Bridget Doherty, 30


Cal-West Rentals Inc., Petaluma

Without formal business training, Bridget Doherty at age 22 found herself heading Cal-West Rentals after the sudden death of her father.  “I chose to jump in and take over the family business and was fortunate to be surrounded by 18 loyal, experienced employees who helped me to learn and grow.”

She continues the firm’s commitment to customer service, quality equipment and local community involvement. Her next goal is to expand the business and add other locations.

Most admired businesspersons: “Don Calegari, owner of Roto-Rooter of Marin, and Brian McGinnis of American Rentals in Los Angeles have provided countless hours of guidance, advice and rental knowledge.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: “I dreamed of being a marine biologist until I realized science was not my strong suit. My second choice was to be a pro-bono attorney working with at-risk youth.”

Ted Grafe, 33

Public relations consulting practice leader and North Bay marketing manager

Burr Pilger Mayer, Santa Rosa

As founder of the Public Relations Practice Group for one of the North Bay's largest accounting firms, Ted Grafe’s greatest challenge is to organize and execute on the long-term and more urgent needs of a range of professional clients.

“I am responsible for serving public relations clients in the region and firmwide as well as being in charge of business development and direct marketing.”

He believes in the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer when he said that “Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success.” If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Mr. Grafe’s next professional goal is to become a partner of Burr Pilger Mayer.

Favorite book: “The Corporate Mystic - A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground” by Gay Hendricks

Marc Hagenlocher, 39

Director of operations

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts,

Santa Rosa

Along with managing six large capital projects last summer, Marc Hagenlocher is also in charge of events, production, maintenance and the information systems departments at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.

“Getting a building that was originally designed as a church 35 years ago to function as a home for a performing arts center has been my greatest professional challenge.”

Mr. Hagenlacher believes that one should not lose the race before it starts. “This sage advice came from Levi Leipheimer, who showed me how critical proper attitude is to performance.”

Hobbies: “A passion for bicycle riding, tinkering on cars, metal work and making things”

Favorite book: Any “How-To” book

Justin Hansel, 34

General manager

Hansel Auto Group, Santa Rosa

Joining a family legacy marked by more than 150 years in the transportation business, Justin Hansel is now responsible for day-to-day operations of Hansel Ford Lincoln-Mercury.

He has also been given the opportunity to play a much more active role in all eight of the firm’s dealerships in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

“The most important thing for me right now is to not allow the current economic challenges to get in the way of our long-term goals. Key among these is revolutionizing the car-buying experience through our standards of excellence in employee training, retention and development.”

Best advice received: Always maintain “pigheaded discipline and determination.”

First job: “Sweeping up cigarette butts, washing cars and stocking parts at our dealerships in Petaluma”

Abdul Harris, 39

General and laparoscopic surgeon and

managing partner

Santa Rosa Surgical Associates,

Santa Rosa

Graduating from medical school and becoming the first member of his family to ever attain a postgraduate degree are the most memorable professional accomplishments for Dr. Abdul Harris.

Today he is a managing partner responsible for all administrative oversight of a surgical group practice. He also acts as a physician liaison between the board of directors and the office staff as well as with Northern California Medical Associates, a firm that merged with his company last March.

“When I was elected Department Chief, General Surgery, at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, I addressed professional surgical staff education, privileges and credentials as well as physician disciplinary actions. I also evaluated new technology, surgical techniques and procedures. This was my greatest challenge.”

Last vacation: Seeing the inauguration of President Obama in Washington, D.C.

Eric Harrison, 31

Vice president of resource development

United Way of the Wine Country, Santa Rosa

Despite the tight economic climate, Eric Harrison led United Way’s highly successful fundraising efforts during the 2007-2008 campaign by surpassing that year’s annual goal of $3.9 million with an additional $350,000.

“My greatest professional challenge is to exceed that mark by reaching a goal of $4.6 million by June 30, 2009. Somewhere down the road, I would also like to be the president and CEO of a local United Way.”

When not fully engaged in revenue generating activities to fund the annual budget, Mr. Harrison is also involved with marketing, communications and donor relations activities spanning three counties.

Best advice received: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might,” Ecclesiastes 9:10

First job: Cashier

Christina Hollingsworth, 33

Audit manager

Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Petaluma

Over the years Christina Hollingworth has established herself as a trusted adviser for a growing number of established businesses in the North Bay.

Currently she provides audit, review, compilation and consulting services as well as guidance and supervision, for professional staff members who audit firms within the technology, manufacturing, services and nonprofit sectors.

“Helping each of my clients understand pertinent accounting issues facing their businesses so they can be as efficient and successful as possible is my greatest professional accomplishment.”

Best advice received: “The professor in my first college accounting class at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley said, ‘Be a CPA and you will be able to write your own ticket your whole life.’ I have been doing that ever since.”

Favorite movie: Forrest Gump

Shayne Hughes, 38

COO, CFO and primary facilitator

Learning as Leadership, San Rafael

“I never set out to become an executive coach or public speaker,” said Shayne Hughes, who wears three hats at Learning as Leadership. “Neither did I expect to be co-directing this firm or to be consulting for CEOs and management teams of Fortune 500 companies, including government agencies such as NASA.”

His greatest accomplishment was based on his experience in using the company’s methodology to change how teams work together.  “I developed a vision of how we could expand our programs to create culture change in large organizations.”

Greatest professional challenge: “Learning to do business development. I was terrified of trying to sell our services.”

Hobbies: “I’m writing a blog about politics and a paper on the parallels between the most pervasive conflicts we observe in corporate culture and those in international conflicts.”

Kristen Ingersoll, 33

Attorney and partner

Beyers Costin, Santa Rosa

While carrying a full case load in the legal areas of trusts, estates, estate planning, conservatorships and guardianships, Kirsten Ingersoll also finds time to get involved in community and nonprofit activities.

“I volunteer with Legal Aid to represent pro-bono clients in difficult and/or contested guardianship cases. I am also a member of the volunteer committee to rewrite the Sonoma County Superior Court Local Probate Rules and serve as an alumni mentor for law students through the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Career Resource Program.”

Best advice received: “Good legal advice includes helping clients consider the cost-benefit analysis in pursing their moral victory for the ‘principle.’”

Favorite after-work drink: “Water or juice and sometimes a strawberry Daiquiri, but definitely not now that I am pregnant.”

Aaron Jobson, 30


Quattrocchi Kwok Architects,

Santa Rosa

In addition to overseeing project managers and architects at QKA, Aaron Jobson leads the transition team implementing a new type of 3-D design process called Building Information Modeling (BIM) as well as “QKA Green,” a comprehensive effort to make the firm’s architectural designs and business practices more environmentally friendly.

“My current challenges involve serving as the project architect for the American Canyon High School and positioning QKA as an industry leader in the design of sustainable educational facilities.”

Mr. Jobson believes in thinking positively, in not giving up and that honesty is always the best policy.

Hobbies: Backpacking, mountain biking, travel and spending time with family and friends.

Favorite after-work drink: Boont Amber Ale, and a little beer tasting from time to time

Cassie Johnson, 25

Executive vice president

Delphi, Inc. Santa Rosa

Creating strategic plans for high-profile business clients, political candidates and ballot measures are only a few of the tasks that engage Cassie Johnson. She also produces print materials and manages electronic media projects as well as develops and edits questionnaires for market surveys and focus groups.

Her most intriguing assignments involve trying to stay ahead of the news. “It is a thrilling yet tricky challenge since political issues can change hourly. In politics, perception is the only reality.”

Ms. Johnson’s next professional goal is to run a congressional or statewide political campaign.

What you wanted to be when you grew up: “Given my health history as a cancer survivor, I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist because I thought I could empathize with my patients.”

Favorite book:  The Bible

Scott Kincaid, 33

Senior vice president and senior loan officer

First Community Bank, Santa Rosa

Dealing with a wide variety of people with individual personalities in a way that is complimentary to their lifestyles is all in a day’s work for Scott Kincaid.

With responsibility for business development, loan structuring and negotiations as well as credit underwriting and portfolio management, Mr. Kincaid believes that in life, always give 100 percent and live with no regrets.

“Of course, in the words of Edward Monahan, when it comes to marriage, you can be right or you can be happy, so you have to decide which is more important.”

Being promoted to SVP prior to the age of 30 was his greatest accomplishment to date. Mr. Kincaid’s next goal is to attend and graduate from a professional banking school.

Favorite book: “The Millionaire Real Estate Investor” by Gary Keller with Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan

Richard Kirby, 38


Kirby Construction Co. Inc.,

Santa Rosa

“Stepping out from inside the corporate cage and deciding to go it alone” was a major step for Richard Kirby.  “However, I now think that a better accomplishment is the ability to surround myself with motivated people as interested as I am in seeing the company succeed and become a sustainable organization.”

Making it through this tight economy while finding ways to keep growing effectively and efficiently is his greatest challenge today.  In the past, he took a different view. As the head of a company, “knowing that you are going to screw up and knowing you are going to have to fix it” was his main concern.

Best advice received:  Always deal with issues directly and immediately. “Martin Siesmore of Medtronic taught me that you need to negotiate well up front, while you are holding the ball.”

First job: "Shoveling horse manure. Some things never change!”

Tiffany Kuehl, 36

Office manager and CFO

Napa Electric, Napa

Being part of the team that restructured Napa Electric and turning it into one of the leading union electrical contractors in the area, tops the list of key accomplishments for Tiffany Kuehl.

Her job encompasses supervising the clerical and retail staff as well as managing human resources, payroll and accounts payable/receivable as well as working with an accountant and an insurance broker.

“My goal has always centered on putting together a team of employees that respect each other and work toward common objectives.  I strive to be a better leader and one who has complete trust from employees.”

Best advice received: “Delegate responsibility and allow employees to take charge of their jobs.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: “A nurse, because I wanted to take care of others.”

Josh McGarva, 33

CEO, Construction Exchange

Vice president and part owner, Western

Water Constructors Inc., Santa Rosa

Holding executive positions with two companies, Josh McGarva strives to stay on top of his game while still being a good husband and father of three.

“As I look back, landing WWC’s first $40 million job and launching the Web site were significant milestones for me. I want to take WWC to be a $200 million-a-year company and grow Construction Exchange to be a pervasive professional networking site for the construction industry.”

Most admired businessperson: “My dad and partner at WWC, John McGarva.”

Favorite movie: Braveheart

Renee Mengali, 31

Owner, principal and CPA

Mengali Accountancy, Healdsburg

Operating a full-service outsourced accounting firm utilizing automated workflows in a paperless office environment is what Renee Mengali is all about. “I work hard to ensure that all client deadlines are met and that, as a firm, we are consistently exceeding client expectations.”

Her father, Gary Palmatier, owner of Ideas to Images and a fellow entrepreneur for more than 20 years, gave her the best advice:  “Keep your overhead low.”

Favorite book: Thomson QuickFinder Handbooks. “Tax resources are my passion. Yes, I’m a tax nerd!”

Favorite movie: “Are there any movies about accounting?"

Chad Meyer, 33

Founder and CEO, Soutirage,

CEO, Meyer Family Office, Yountville

As the chief executive officer of a family-owned business, Chad Meyer moved quickly out of the starting gate when establishing Soutirage. His team realized $6 million in sales the first year the company was founded using only $100,000 in initial capital.

“My chief concern has been focusing on cash flow as well as employee management and motivation.”

Mr. Meyer now wishes to explore new company development opportunities, perhaps one involving an airline.

Best advice received: “Don’t build it and hope they’ll come.  Sell your product before you sink a dollar into the business.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: Pilot

Favorite book: “Nuts,” the story of Southwest Airlines

Courtney Millstone, 34

Quality director

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Santa Rosa

Improving the quality of patient care in addition to enhancing clinical and operation performance of the Kaiser Medical Center and its ambulatory sites is all part of Courtney Millstone’s job description.

“Early in my career, I took great pride in the quality of patient interactions. Today I also find great satisfaction in creating a solid team and achieving set goals. When the leadership is strong, the team comes together and everyone shares a common vision. As a result, goals are not just achieved, they are blown high out of the water.”

Ms. Millstone attended graduate school at age 34 while holding a full-time job and with four children at home.  “This was the best decision I ever made. I feel more energetic and positive each day I come to work.” Her next professional goal is to graduate from law school in 2012.

Favorite book: "'Eat, Love, Pray,' a truly amazing book"

Ramin Ramhormozi, 38

President and CEO

Shopping Stand Inc., Santa Rosa

A consummate student of business strategies, Ramin Ramhormozi applied this knowledge in taking his enterprise from the startup stage to more than $1 million in revenues.  He has now set a goal to reach $25 million by 2014.

He believes in the philosophy of nothing ventured, nothing gained. “This approach has always guided my entrepreneurial decision-making process and has helped me set the course for my overall vision of the corporation.”

His greatest challenge came when he sold a previous company and took a job with a purchasing firm that required a move far from home, as well as being on the road two weeks every month.

Favorite book:  “Trump: Art of the Deal” and Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Spiritual Lows of Success”

Last vacation: "Chicago – what a great city filled with life and history.”

Jenny Romeyn, 37

Founder and president

Cupcake, a boutique for the trendy tot,

Santa Rosa

For some, a measure of success is taking existing sales numbers of a business purchased in 2003 and tripling them by 2008.  For Jenny Romeyn, this was just the beginning. She now plans to maximize the potential of her existing location and then consider opening a new one.

“Someone advised me to analyze sales reports more closely before going to market to avoid the potential to over buy. I’m listening to this advice, but I haven’t quite mastered it.”

Most admired businessperson: “My husband. He taught and inspired me to be truly passionate about running a successful, professional business while always striving to achieve more.”

Favorite book: “Pigs in Heaven,” by Barbara Kingsolver

Mike Ryan, 36

Vice president and North Bay sales manager

Wells Fargo Insurance Services, Petaluma

Working with clients and finding solutions that provide great value to their businesses is among Mike Ryan’s best professional accomplishments.

“My challenge is not to work off bad information. The best counsel I ever received was don’t go too fast. Make certain you have all the details before you act.”

Mr. Ryan aspired to be a professional golfer when he grew up. His first job was as a driving range attendant at the Bennett Valley Golf Club.

Favorite Movie: Stripes or Caddyshack

Hobbies: “Golf, skiing, running and spending time with my wife and kids”

Allison Schutte, 39


Hanson Bridgett, Larkspur

As a partner in the Government Group Section of her firm and as a specialist in municipal law, Allison Schutte focuses on implementing recycled water and resource recovery and waste-reduction projects. Her practice also includes advising clients on public water supply policy, environmental compliance, public contracting and solid-waste management.

Ms. Bridgett achieved a key personal goal when she was elected partner in December 2008.  “Creating a sustainable work-life balance is the most challenging aspect of my personal career.”

Best advice received: “Do what you say you will do. It’s not elegant, but it sums up the follow-through and commitment we all need to foster.”

Dean Smith, 39

Branch manager

Pace Supply, Santa Rosa

Communicating with employee groups and individuals to identify new ideas that could help the company succeed is a high priority for Dean Smith.

“At the same time, my greatest challenge is in dealing with people who are not always reasonable and in working out differences of opinion.”

Mr. Smith’s next professional goal is to become president and CEO of Pace Supply like Ted Green, his most admired businessperson.

Best advice received: “Never step out of line or over those you wish to support you in the future.”

Favorite after work drink: Water

Rebecca Taylor-Ford, 28

Manager of nursing supervisors and float pool

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Santa Rosa

Providing oversight, support and guidance to the nursing supervisor department, float pool nurses and unit assistants is part of Rebecca Taylor-Ford’s responsibilities at Kaiser.

“My greatest accomplishment was seeing my first nursing research study published entitled: 'Effect of a Noise Reduction Program on a Medical-Surgical Hospital Unit.'"

Today Ms. Taylor-Ford’s key challenge is “reinforcing among those in the health care community the power that nurses have to positively impact the lives of people in the community, which goes beyond bedside care to include research, political activism and community involvement.”

Next professional goal: “Obtaining a Ph.D. in nursing”

Kelvin Tetz, 34

Business assurance senior manager

Moss Adams LLP, Santa Rosa

When not completing and reviewing financial statement audits for construction and real estate companies, Kelvin Tetz is often sought out by the people who work for him to be their career coach and mentor.

“My objective is to develop and retain top-notch people in the team of construction and real estate auditors throughout our firm.”

The best advice he ever received was “you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: A Navy Seal

Hobbies: Scuba diving, trap shooting, golf and camping

Richard Thomas, 34

Director of product development

Medtronic CardioVascular, Santa Rosa

Running the Endovascular Innovations Product Development team comprised of 52 technicians and engineers as well as working to design therapies aimed at treating diseases of the aorta are tasks Richard Thomas finds extremely rewarding.

“Thus far my chief accomplishment was in leading a cross-functional team with different personalities, motivations and values to bring our Talent Abdominal device to the U.S. market."

Community and nonprofit activities: “Our group cleaned up flood debris at Spring Lake and worked on hiking trails at Lake Sonoma. It’s important that local businesses continue to improve the community in which we live.”

Favorite book: “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Pedro Toledo, 31

Director of community and government relations

Redwood Community Health Coalition, Santa Rosa

Developing and managing advocacy and policy operations for a network of 16 nonprofit community clinics – with an operating budget in excess of $100 million – and one that serves 150,000 people in Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Yolo counties, is what keeps Pedro Toledo engaged.

“The best aspect of my job is being a storyteller and sharing the success of these clinics with our partnerships, community organizations as well as with local business, health and government leaders.”

Greatest professional accomplishment: “Working as an aide to Congresswoman Barbara Lee and also when I was involved in encouraging political participation within the Latino community”

Ulises Valdez, 39


Valdez & Sons Vineyard Management,


The ability to have the fruit from vineyards he manages recognized as some of the best in the Russian River Valley by Wine Spectator magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle has been gratifying for Ulises Valdez.

“I lost my dad at a very early age and only finished the third grade in Michoacan, Mexico. I had to begin working to support my family. At age 16 I came to the U.S. and began working in the fields and started to dream of having my own business.”

His next professional goal is to own a vineyard and make some of the best wine in the county.

Favorite books: Wine magazines.

Darren Wong, 37

Assistant general manager and controller

Fountaingrove Golf and Athletic Club,

Santa Rosa

With multiple job responsibilities as controller, human resources and IT manager, Darren Wong finds himself becoming more involved in operations of the club and in carrying out the vision of the board of directors.

“The greatest challenge for me is to keep from overloading myself by taking on too many responsibilities. I always try to always improve at everything I do.”

The best compliment he has received came from employees who told him they would want to work for him wherever he goes.  “I mentor my staff so they can have new skills, knowledge and experiences.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: A professional bowler.  “I still compete in a few regional PBA tournaments each year and also like to play tennis in USTA leagues as well as baseball with my son.”

Michelle Zyromski, 37

Managing partner

Zyromski Konicek LLP, Santa Rosa

Addressing the need for growth in an uncertain economy is Michelle Zyromski’s compelling challenge as managing partner and a civil litigator with the Zyromski Konicek LLP law firm.

“My goal is to maintain and continue to improve the quality of legal services we provide as we grow and to consistently offer our clients with the same quality of service available at major metropolitan law firms.”

Mentor/most admired businessperson:

“I would include all of my colleagues in our incredibly talented local legal community who have freely and generously given me advice whenever I ask for it.”

Best advice received: “Keep the overhead low.”

Show Comment