Forty under 40 winners for 2008

Who will lead the North Bay into the future?

That is the question the Business Journal sought to answer as it searched for a second year for 40 young leaders under the age of 40 having an impact on businesses and communities in the region.Finding 40 exceptional business leaders under 40

The 2008 Forty under 40 exceptional young business leaders were chosen from 120 nominees in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties.

Nominations were opened in late January, and winners were selected in March. The honorees were selected by the editorial staff of the Business Journal based on having risen to the very highest positions within their companies or organizations. They also were analyzed for the number of people who reported to them and the level of responsibility within their organization.

Congratulations to the winners. ---Brad Bollinger, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher

Many are leading companies that have been in their families for generations, keeping the tradition of locally owned businesses alive in the North Bay. Others made their mark by striking out on their own or using their skills to serve the community.

In the years ahead, the North Bay economy will have to confront many challenges -- health care, a strained transportation system, housing prices that remain out of reach for many employees, an aging population and mass retirements by baby boomers.

In the wake of these retirees and with the pressing challenges ahead, the 2007 and 2008 winners of the Business Journal’s Forty under 40 are evidence the region will be in good hands for the coming decades.Renee Amochaev, 39

Financial adviser

Wachovia Securities LLC, Private Client Group, Santa Rosa

Since coming to Wachovia Securities in 2004, Renee Amochaev has helped her clients manage approximately $25 million in investable assets in the global-equity and fixed-income financial markets.

She started her Wall Street career on Main Street, Santa Rosa, in her late 20s and has been an advocate for the status of women in the financial services industry when it comes to achieving equal opportunity and pay.  In 2005 Ms. Amochaev became the lead plaintiff representing 2,500 female advisers in a national discrimination class action lawsuit against Citigroup Inc., which settled the suit for $33 million just this month.

Best advice received: “Trust your gut, know your stuff and don’t ever let fear of the unknown paralyze you.  If you’re going to kick up dust, wear cowboy boots!”Donna Beels, 39


Beels Soper LLP, Petaluma

After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s of taxation from Arizona State University, Donna Beels gained experience as a business adviser providing tax planning, financial issue analysis and auditing services and by applying generally accepted accounting principles to closely held firms and nonprofit organizations.

In 2005, she launched a new public accounting firm in Petaluma with partner and fellow CPA William Soper and has seen 300 percent revenue growth in just two years. “My role involves developing and maintaining client relationships with the real estate developers and construction contractors we serve.”

Most admired businessperson: “Oprah Winfrey.  Not only is she a great business person, but she is also known for giving back to the community.”Forty under 40 nominees to watch in 2008April 14, 2008

These 2008 Forty under 40 nominees, though not winners this year, have proven to be successful young professionals worth keeping an eye on. [read more]Kevin Bernard, 35


Russell & Davis Architects, San Rafael

When not focused on construction management projects -- such as the international terminal at SFO, Gold’s Gym, Century Theaters, Discovery Channel Stores and Williams-Sonoma retail locations -- Kevin Bernard leads Russell & Davis Architects in embracing innovative technologies for architecture as well as sustainable products and green building practices that will benefit the environment and provide a better future for Bay Area communities.

“My father, Keith Bernard, taught me the value of cooperation and leadership through teamwork as well as how to be a creative problem solver.”

Best advice received: “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans. So, be flexible, adaptive, honest and open to life’s path -- because the most memorable parts of life probably were not planned.”David Berry, 37


Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, Santa Rosa

Attorneys handling all aspects of litigation, from investigation through the trial phase, know that part of their job is to supervise other lawyers who do the same.  “You have to be a good mentor. I vividly remember how hard it was to learn this job and how lucky I was to have people like Richard Abbey take an interest in my professional development,” said David Berry.

His greatest accomplishment has been in helping clients who are afraid of a lawsuit ease their fears by becoming active participants in resolving their cases.

Greatest professional challenge: “Demystifying the legal process for clients who have never been involved in a lawsuit.  Movies and TV paint a picture of our legal system that creates unrealistic expectations about what it can do for you.”Brandon Blevans, 35


Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty, Santa Rosa

At age 29 Brandon Blevans left a “white-shoe, big-city” law firm -- where he had to overcome the perception that youth equates to inexperience -- to start a boutique Wine Country labor and employment law practice that would ultimately grow to become a merger target.

He joined Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty as managing director of the Santa Rosa office, where he also serves as a member of the management committee and heads the firm’s Commercial Ventures and Wealth Management Group. Active with both the California and Sonoma County Employers Advisory Councils, Mr. Blevans offers the advice that “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to fix it?”

Next professional goal: "Teaching a labor and employment course at a major law school."Brody Carlson, 37


Connections IT, Santa Rosa

Brody Carlson wanted to become a police officer when he grew up, and he realized his dream by serving as a Sebastopol volunteer police officer for nine years. He also co-founded an information technology firm that currently has about 10 percent of California’s gaming casinos as customers.

“My greatest personal satisfaction comes when helping customers understand new technologies available to them.  I have always believed in maintaining high integrity and standing behind a handshake and want to do all I can to maintain solid relationships as we begin to replicate our business model in other locations around the country.”

Favorite book: “Way to the Top,” by Donald TrumpOscar Chavez, 34

Executive director

Community Action Partnership, Santa Rosa

Overcoming obstacles is all in a day’s work for Oscar Chavez, executive director of the largest social services nonprofit organization in Sonoma County.

“We continue to manage the Community Action Partnership in an era of declining federal, state and local financial resources while attempting to fulfill the ever-increasing demand for assistance to families in need,” he said.

Mr. Chavez’s goal is to diversify the funding stream by developing a social-purpose business venture along with earned-income strategies, while also expanding private-sector partnerships that can work together to improve the social and economic conditions of low- income residents of Sonoma County.

Most admired leaders: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Mother Theresa and singer Manu ChaoMeredith Cionci, 34


Zainer Rinehart Clarke, Santa Rosa

As a new partner in the ZRC accounting firm, Meredith Cionci is responsible for managing a variety of accounting and auditing functions as well as tax client relationships.

She says that while the accounting industry is continually evolving, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with regulatory changes in all areas, including taxation. “My greatest challenge is in choosing areas of specialization that I like so that I can focus my energy. You can’t do everything, so you have to find what you like to do and be the best that you can be.”

Hobbies: “I absolutely love soccer and have been active in many women’s indoor and outdoor leagues for several years. I also coach my 5-year-old son’s soccer team in Windsor.”Brian Crowley, 36


Brown & Brown Insurance of Northern California, Novato

Brian Crowley has been with Florida-based Brown & Brown Insurance for five years, becoming Northern California president in Novato in 2007.

“It is a pleasure for me to work with a consistent, dedicated staff of bright insurance professionals,” he said. “My goal is to continue to grow Brown & Brown’s footprint in the region through aggressive recruiting of talent as well as through the acquisition of suitable agencies.”

Best advice received: “He who speaks the least, thinks the most.”

Childhood career ambition: Shortstop for the Yankees, but his first job was as a busboy at a steakhouse.Sean Cutting, 38

President and chief administrative officer

Sonoma Valley Bank, Sonoma

When not setting strategic direction or overseeing operations and the performance of the Sonoma Valley Bank, Sean Cutting is guiding this financial institution with 52 employees into a new era of community banking. His objective is to utilize technology to attract a wider range of customers while also increasing the deposit and product base.

“I made a successful transition from a corporate banking culture to a strong community-based institution.  My goal is to continue to grow one of the most profitable and respected banks in California and take it to the next level.  While this process can be compelling, I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff.  Life is too short.”

Hobbies: Cars, tennis, skiing, coaching -- but “life as a father with two young children is enough!”Robb Daer, 39


George Petersen Insurance Agency, Santa Rosa

With responsibility for client management, business development and corporate strategy, Robb Daer concentrates on maintaining business growth in uncertain economic times.

Having built a successful insurance career from the ground up over 15 years with the George Petersen Insurance agency, Mr. Daer expects to double the size of the company in the next five years.  He supervises 45 of the agency’s 105 employees and has weathered a number of volatile economic cycles.

“It’s important to remember that you can’t worry about things you can’t control.  You must have confidence in yourself and the good people around you.”

First job: Washing dishes in a family restaurant at age 12.Stephen Donley, 36

City manager

City of Rohnert Park

“Multitasking” doesn’t begin to describe the work of Rohnert Park’s chief executive.  Stephen Donley is responsible for a $36.1 million operating budget and a $152.4 million capital budget serving 42,500 residents in addition to a payroll that includes 190 full-time and 196 part-time employees plus 513 volunteers.

“Reaching an agreement with the city’s unions to reduce the medical liability by $30 million -- allowing the city to have long-term financial stability -- was my greatest accomplishment,” he said. “The next challenge involves eliminating the city’s structural operating deficit while repositioning the local economy to be competitive following the loss of telecom industry jobs.  I also want to implement the city’s Climate Change Action Plan designed to reduce Rohnert Park’s gas emissions by 35 percent.”

Favorite book: “Alexander Hamilton,” by Ron ChernowBrooke Dunton, 29


Wine Valley Insurance Services Inc., Napa

Even before starting her business from scratch at age 21, Brooke Dunton had already been pushing herself to the limit.

“I took three jobs to make ends meet until I could get the firm going and hire staff. I also had to develop relationships with insurance carriers and convince them that we would represent their products well.”

Today, Ms. Dunton oversees office operations to ensure that productivity and growth are constant.  Her personal goal is to become a Certified Insurance Carrier and finish her master’s degree.

Best advice received: As John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”Robert Eyler, Ph.D., 37

Associate professor and chair, economics department

Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

In addition to serving as chair of the Sonoma State University Economics Department, Dr. Robert Eyler is also the director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis. While he considers finishing a book he authored on economic sanctions to be his greatest professional accomplishment, his greatest challenge is getting 18-year-olds to understand basic economics -- and to slow down.

“When I was young, I wanted to be a physicist, an historian or a professional baseball player.  My personal career goals have changed somewhat over the years, and now I would like to enter university administration with the ultimate objective of serving as a university president some day.”

First job: “A farmhand on my family’s ranches in Valley Ford and Bodega”

Mentor/most admired businessperson: Larry Brackett, Frank Howard Allen RealtorsSylvia Flores, 34

Regional rental manager

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Novato

Managing 32 Rent-A-Car locations in a territory from the Golden Gate to Fort Bragg and from Emeryville to Vacaville may seem like a daunting assignment.  Sylvia Flores handles these demands on her time with ease while addressing the needs of about 150 employees and her 3-year-old son, Alex -- “I always figure it out.”

Ms. Flores has been with Enterprise for 10 years and aspires to become a regional vice president of the company in the Bay Area.  “Two pieces of advice I received really stand out.  Always ask questions so that you fully understand what is expected of you, and you can’t be scared to put yourself out there and take a chance.”

Favorite books: “Angels and Demons,” by Dan Brown and “Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman,” by Esther WachsTodd Frediani, 39

Vice president, wealth management

Smith Barney, Santa Rosa

In a financial advisory practice, some of the greatest challenges involve coping with client emotions in a volatile market, according to Todd Frediani, a certified financial manager who provides a suite of wealth management services to business owners, professionals and corporate executives.

“Recently I helped a long-time client resolve retirement planning decisions as he left his company. The following week I had two of his colleagues call to see if I was taking new clients. It makes you feel pretty good when you get that kind of feedback.”

Best advice received: “Do what’s right for your client, and you’ll never have to worry about the future of your practice.”Michael Garcia, 37


Lanahan & Reilley LLP, Santa Rosa

In addition to managing his legal practice and becoming engaged in client development, marketing, hiring and training as part of the management team at Lanahan & Reilley LLP, Michael Garcia also founded California Dream Real Estate.  He is also the co-founder of Webhunter LLC, a way for businesses to advertise to customers and for customers to locate local firms.

Mr. Garcia has always had a strong work ethic.  “At the age of 22 while attending college full time, I was promoted to supervisor at a financial institution and was responsible for managing 15 employees.  Now I want to advance my legal career and practice while still taking time to be with my kids.”

Best advice received: “Make your vocation your vacation.”Gregg Gayre, M.D., 39

Chief of ophthalmology

Kaiser Permanente, San Rafael

As chief of the department of ophthalmology and chief of cosmetic surgery, Dr. Gregg Gayre treats Kaiser Permanente patients from all over Northern California. He is also a member of the Department of Mohs Surgery, a center of excellence for the treatment of skin cancer.

“I am very proud to be in a position to directly save lives and equally proud of being able to advance my profession by contributing to more than 10 medical texts and by publishing 30 articles in medical journals,” he said.

Dr. Gayre’s latest text, “A Diagnostic Atlas of Common Surgical Diseases,” is a broad-ranging guide discussing the pathology, diagnosis and treatment of 120 eyelid disorders.

Greatest professional challenge: "To provide the best possible health care for the members our health maintenance organization while striving to keep the cost of care affordable."Brenda Gilchrist, 38

Co-founder and principal

The HR Matrix LLC, Santa Rosa

With a passion for human resources management and 15 years of experience, Brenda Gilchrist and partner Gary Hochman co-founded The HR Matrix LLC.  She is also a professional speaker and an expert witness for HR-related matters.

”I launched two successful companies and had fun while doing it. My biggest challenge was becoming head of human resources for a company of 200 employees at age 24. I was like the ‘Doogie Howser of HR.’ My second challenge was deciding to quit my safe VP of HR job with a big Sacramento firm to start my own company.”

Hobbies: Competing in triathlon and half Ironman distance races -- and starting a company that has become the first-ever nationwide age group triathlon team for women, Grafals, 39

Vice president of finance

Infineon Raceway, Sonoma

Finding the right motivation and rewards for employees is a priority for Sara Grafals, who manages the finance department, IT, risk management and personnel as well as legal and compliance issues and is a corporate liaison for Infineon Raceway.

“Everyone is motivated by different things and must be managed differently. Applying optional management styles can be quite challenging.  I also have been able to turn a finance/controller position that is typically viewed as the ‘gate keeper’ or ‘naysayer’ function into one that helps find creative ways for departments to abide by the rules and cross-communicate.”

First job: Selling women’s apparel. “I soon moved to shipping and receiving -- once a bean counter always a bean counter!”

Best advice received: "Be comfortable in your own skin."Dana Grande, 36

Vineyard manager

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Healdsburg

A self-described overachiever, Dana Grande manages 300 acres of wine grapes and almost half of the vineyards’ 75 employees.

“My greatest professional accomplishment was in earning the respect of our foreman, a man who has been working with Jordan Vineyard & Winery as long as I have been alive,” she said.

Ms. Grande is active in industry and nonprofit organizations. She has been board president of the Alexander Valley Winegrowers, a member of the County Winegrape Commission’s Sustainable Practices Committee and director of the Sonoma County Vineyard Technical Group.

Hobbies: "Reading fiction, watching 'Dirty Jobs' on the Discovery Channel and hanging out with my daughters."Anna Guyer, 38

First vice president and branch manager

Wachovia Securities LLC, Santa Rosa

Becoming a branch manager was a major accomplishment for Anna Guyer.

“I am honored to work with a group of top-notch financial professionals dedicated to helping our clients achieve their financial goals and live their best lives.  My personal goal is to significantly expand the branch and our client relationships, increase the number of employees and grow revenue over the next several years.”

For Ms. Guyer, education is the key to a better future.  “That’s the advice I received from my parents.  I am the first member of my family to have a college education.”

Favorite books: Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and “If I Ran the Zoo.”  “I have no time to read grown-up books, just those I read with my child.”Jeri Hansen-Gill, 38

Public affairs manager

Napa Valley Vintners, St. Helena

Raising public awareness and helping to shape positive perceptions of the Napa Valley wine industry is what Jeri Hansen-Gill is all about.

“My primary role is managing community issues and outreach efforts for our vintners and to ensure that their positions are represented. I had to learn how to shift gears quickly while also finding time for a variety of projects,” said Ms. Hansen-Gill, immediate past chair of the Napa Chamber of Commerce.

Outreach examples include managing the Napa Green Certified Winery program, supervising a two-year climate study and working with local stakeholders to develop transportation programs for employers and employees. Outreach efforts include Adopt-a-School, Napa Neighbor, Afternoon in the Vineyards, Heard it Through the Grapevine tours and Auction Napa Valley Community Relations.

Favorite after-work drink: “Red wine, followed by red wine, with red wine coming in a close third.”Adam Heher, 36

President and CEO

Swisher Hygiene, Petaluma

In a health-conscious culture, providing proprietary technology and specialized sanitation procedures for lavatories used by customers and employees alike gives businesses an important edge, according to Adam Heher, president of a company offering a complete suite of solutions that set the standard in the hygiene-services industry.

“Leaving a financial consulting position with Coopers & Lybrand to start this business at the age of 24 was both my greatest professional challenge and accomplishment. My next goal is to launch another startup in a new industry.  For me, giving up is not an option.”

What you wanted to be when you grew up: Self-employedBobbi Hoff, 38

President and CEO, CPA, Realtor

G Text, Pisenti & Brinker, Coldwell Banker, Santa Rosa

Wearing three hats is the norm for Bobbi Hoff. She is president and CEO of G Text Inc., a startup creating games on cell phones; a CPA with Pisenti & Brinker LLP; and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, where she assists clients with locating and evaluating home and commercial purchase options in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties.

“When with Deloitte & Touche LLP, I was selected to manage tabulations for the Grammy and Day Time Emmy Awards.  My second accomplishment was in serving as director of investor relations for OnHealth Network Co., where I completed two private security offerings, a public offering, acquired two companies and eventually sold the business to WebMD.”

She is currently a candidate for Santa Rosa City Council.

Best advice received: “Work hard and follow your passion.”Stephanie Huang, M.D., 38

Medical director

Chernoff & Associates Cosmetic Surgeons, Santa Rosa

Dr. Stephanie Huang directs both surgical and non-surgical patient care while also managing daily operations of Chernoff & Associates Cosmetic Surgeons, a practice with 25 employees and offices in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Newport Beach.

Her goal is to balance a full-time career that includes expanding the practice into other Sonoma County cities while also raising 5-year-old identical twin boys.  The best advice she ever received was “always treat your patients like members of your family.”

Greatest professional accomplishment: Completing her head and neck surgical residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals where she worked an average of 125 hours per week for six years.

Favorite movie: “A Beautiful Mind”Josh Johnsen, 38

Corporate vice president and partner

George Petersen Insurance Agency, Santa Rosa

Deciding to stay in business or to sell out was the biggest challenge Josh Johnsen had to face at age 24, following the sudden death of his father who had founded a local insurance company.

“I decided to carry on, as he would have wanted me to do, and did so in the face of considerable pressure from some in the industry. One person advised me to stick with it, and I am very happy that I took that advice.”

Mr. Johnsen merged his business with the George Petersen Insurance Agency in 2005 and now manages, cultivates and mentors sales and production groups while helping his partners execute a vision of profitable growth.

Mentor/ most admired businessperson: My fatherKate Kelly, 37

Assistant vice president of marketing and public relations

Redwood Credit Union, Santa Rosa

Juggling three vital functions keeps Kate Kelly focused as she oversees marketing, public relations and market research for Redwood Credit Union.

“It’s been exciting to see how we have grown and expanded our reach during my 15 years with the company.  Today we are serving more and more North Bay residents and small business owners as we assist them with achieving a better financial life.”

Her goal is to become a more inspirational and motivational leader.  “I work with an amazing team, and I strive to serve them well.  But there is always room for improvement.”

Favorite movie: "My favorite comedy would have to be 'Defending Your Life.'"

Greatest professional challenge: Work and being a mother of two children, 4 and 9

Best advice received: "Trust your gut."Saunda and Paul Kitchen, 34 & 36


Mr. Rooter of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa

This husband-and-wife team started from nothing and built a thriving business now in its tenth year that employs 32 members of the local community.

As co-owners of Mr. Rooter, Saunda and Paul Kitchen delegate a lot of authority to their “amazing leadership team” while still assuming all of the responsibility. Their greatest challenge is “learning how to say no.”

Best advice received: “If you want to be great parents and great business partners, you must be a great husband and a great wife.”Jordan Lavinsky, 36

Senior counsel

Hanson Bridgett LLP, Larkspur

With primary responsibility for real estate litigation at Hanson Bridgett LLP, Jordan Lavinsky enjoys what he does.

“I wanted to find a firm where, even after five years on the job, I would still look forward to coming to work every day while also being able to balance career and family.”

As a child he wanted to become a lawyer. He achieved this goal after receiving a J.D. degree from the University of San Francisco.  Mr. Lavinsky is active in the community with Legal Aid of Marin, is a member of the board of directors of the Marin County Bar Association and also a lecturer at USF.

Hobbies: "Traveling, music, sports and particularly golf -- although I’m not very good -- and mountain biking."

Best advice received: "Treat others as you would like to be treated."Teejay Lowe, 32

Director of community relations

G&G Supermarkets, Santa Rosa

His first job was as a bagger at G&G.   Today Teejay Lowe has expanded his role in the family business to encompass managing all media and government affairs as well as marketing and advertising.  He is also responsible for financial-asset management and development.

“One of the best things that ever happened to me was meeting the governor and making such an impression that he appointed me to the Regional Water Quality Control Board,” Mr. Lowe said.

Greatest professional challenge: “To have the self restraint to not act on every business opportunity that comes to mind.”

Best advice received: "Be in the moment."Chris Schumacher, 38

President and CEO, executive vice president and COO

Optio Solutions LLC and CrossCheck Inc., Rohnert Park

With a dual leadership role as head of Optio Solutions, an accounts receivables management company, and as the chief operating officer of CrossCheck, the third-largest check approval and guarantee company in the nation, Chris Schumacher has his hands full.

“I am charged with operational management, strategic planning and technology utilization to help these companies grow and thrive.  My objective is to increase revenues and market share by delivering innovative products and services that bring value to our customers.”

Mentor/most admired businessperson: “My dad, who started a small insurance company and was able to support a family with eight children while still finding time to attend sporting events for all of us.”Scott Shapiro, 28

Senior vice president

Warren Capital Corp., Novato

A future career in finance could have been predicted for Scott Shapiro when he took his first job at Bohemian Grove and as he grew up close to the Shapiro Family Foundation.

Today he manages day-to-day operations and transaction flow at Warren Capital Corp. while also underwriting transactions and working closely with funding partners.  His duties also include sales and marketing in addition to serving as the IT and Web site manager -- in his spare time.

“I am especially proud of helping to build our health care business up to $25 million over several years and for the opportunity to create long-term relationships with many of our financial partners.”

Favorite book: “Moneyball,” by Michael LewisRex Stults, 39

Industry relations director

Napa Valley Vintners, St. Helena

Protecting Napa’s good name and handling tough wine industry issues are just part of his job description.  Rex Stults is also fighting for wine consumers’ truth-in-labeling rights by appealing to the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

“Wine consumers should be able to expect consistent and truthful wine labels,” he said.

Previously he was CEO of the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce for eight years.  “I take pride in transforming the chamber into a dynamic, pro-active organization with the largest membership of any chamber for a town of its size in the U.S.”

Best advice received: “When you are on your deathbed, you most certainly won’t look back and think to yourself -- I wish I had attended more meetings.”Scott Sullivan, 39


Soundvision, Novato

Creating and growing Soundvision into a nationally recognized, award-winning company is Scott Sullivan’s greatest accomplishment.  His company specializes in the design and installation of whole house audio/visual entertainment systems, custom home theaters and automation and control devices.

“My personal goal is to learn to lead and mentor instead of pointing out the answers.”

Best advice received: “Always be profitable. Get credit from the bank when you don’t need it, and never take a partner.”Geof Syphers, 37

Chief sustainability officer

Codding Enterprises, Rohnert Park

Aligning his company’s business goals with social and environmental objectives is the primary responsibility of Geof Syphers.

“I find partners to help create real solutions to big problems like climate change and social inequity while generating jobs and profit.  The challenge is to find ways to bring together the knowledge and concerns of the environmental community with the management capability and capital of the business community.”

Securing the One Planet Communities endorsement for Sonoma Mountain Village was his greatest accomplishment. “I want to build a prototype zero-carbon/zero-waste home at Sonoma Mountain Village and prove to the world that this is possible, profitable, beautiful and fun.”

First job: Building robotic food-packing machineryJay Takacs, 36

Principal and CFO

15000 Inc., Santa Rosa

As a co-founder of this consulting mechanical engineering firm in downtown Santa Rosa, Jay Takacs finds himself having to grow the firm despite the housing and construction downturn while continuing to lead the design community towards green and responsible construction.

“Adapting to a changing economy and responding quickly to market conditions has allowed us to grow even in slow times.”

Mr. Takacs has been a member of the Santa Rosa Board of Regulatory Appeals for two years and also a board member for R House charities, an organization that houses, trains and educates teenage boys and girls with violent track records.

Favorite movie: “The Good, Bad and the Ugly”

Mentor/most admired business person: Warren BuffetMarc Van Riper, 37

Director of administrative services

Kaiser Permanente, Santa Rosa

Starting as an entry-level phlebotomist, Marc Van Riper soon became a senior lab assistant and later a supervisor in Kaiser’s Santa Rosa laboratory.

He later became an administrative services supervisor, a unit manager for cardiac lab services and the acting medical records director for health information management transcription coding. Today he is responsible for the oversight of multiple departments within the Santa Rosa Medical Center.

“I’m very happy doing what I am doing, but becoming a manager of different disciplines has been a challenge.”

Favorite book: “Now Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham

Best advice received: "I may not be the smartest ... but I will work hard, use my resources and give people basic respect."Alena Wall, 31

Executive director

Northern California Center for Well-Being, Santa Rosa

Alena Wall implements healthy business policies and worksite wellness programs. She also manages operations and supervises employees at two locations addressing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight management, basic nutrition and overall wellness.

“I want to strengthen our capacity to reach more people who need health education,” she said.  She is chair of the Community Activity Nutrition Coalition Steering Committee and the Wellness Forum for the Sonoma County Coalition on Health and Wellness. She received the State Achievement Award for injury prevention for a Peer Education Program she developed and also developed the first diabetes program in Marin County to be accredited by the American Diabetes Association.

Best advice received: “Work only for the best, and be just as enthusiastic for the successes of others as you are for your own.”Cami Weaver, 39


Becoming Independent, Santa Rosa

Managing a nonprofit organization with a $13 million budget and a staff of 337 at seven sites in three counties that serves more than 1,100 individuals with disabilities requires many talents. Cami Weaver became CEO of Becoming Independent in October 2007 after 17 years of pursuing every professional development opportunity available.

“I am deeply committed to BI’s mission of promoting community inclusion and participation for people with disabilities. Connecting with all of the workers and creating meaningful time with the direct-care staff is vital.  I also want to establish a major-donor and a planned-giving program to increase revenue and create future sustainability for the staff and the people we serve.”

Last vacation: “Disneyland with my sons.  It was the first time for all of us.”Kevin Zucco, 38


ZFA Structural Engineers, Santa Rosa

Kevin Zucco heads a company that develops safe and code-compliant structural designs for new buildings and for retrofitting old ones.

He keeps up to date on green-building concepts and designs as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional.

“I am also focused on business development and growing ZFA throughout Sonoma, Marin and Napa Counties, in the Bay Area and Sacramento. My greatest accomplishment was passing the California Structural Engineering exam, the most difficult license test in the U.S. with a failure rate of 80 percent.”

Hobbies: "Supporting my beautiful wife Kimberly, sporty son Grady -- 5, spunky daughter Gigi -- 3, and new smiley son Griffen -- 10 months."

Favorite book: “Into Thin Air”

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