Forty Under 40 – 2016

About Forty Under 40

By Michelle Higginbotham, associate publisher

It is virtually impossible to read through a list of previous recipients of the Forty Under 40 awards without seeing some familiar names. Since 1997, Springfield Business Journal has been recognizing outstanding young professionals in Springfield and the surrounding communities, representing a wide variety of local businesses and industries. Many of our area businesspeople, politicians, health care providers, and community leaders have been recipients of this award. What they all have in common is their contributions to improving our community, both through their professional lives and volunteer service.

The 2016 recipients are profiled in this issue and will be honored at a reception and awards ceremony held at the University of Illinois at Springfield next month. All of the individuals were selected from nominations made by our readers, so thank you for taking the time to tell us about your interactions with these outstanding young professionals. While some people received multiple nominations, the selection process does not merely involve tabulating votes, but rather looking at the overall picture of the individual’s businesses and community involvement. 

It is only because of the ongoing commitment of our sponsors, Security Bank and the University of Illinois at Springfield MBA Program, that we are able to recognize a new Forty Under 40 class each year. We also appreciate Edgar Curtis, president and CEO of Memorial Health System, who is serving as the keynote speaker for this year’s event. Finally, thank you to all of our readers who took the time to submit nominations and helped us identify these very deserving individuals.



Edgar J. Curtis has served as president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System since January 2008. Curtis provides senior level administrative leadership for the overall strategic direction of the health system. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

In addition, Curtis serves on the boards of the BJC Collaborative, LLC; Vizient Mid-America; and the Illinois Hospital Association. He is chair-elect of the IHA board of directors and chair of IHA’s Transforming Illinois Healthcare task force. He also serves on the Illinois Higher Education Commission on the Future of the Workforce, the board of directors of the Midwest Healthcare Quality Alliance and is a member of several leadership councils for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Curtis has also served in leadership roles with several health-related and community organizations, including the Springfield Urban League, United Way of Central Illinois and Central Illinois Foodbank.

Curtis received his master of business administration degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana and his bachelor of science degree in nursing from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He began his career as a registered nurse and later served in management and administrative positions at Memorial Medical Center from 1979-1993. Beginning in October 1993, he served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Memorial Health System and Memorial Medical Center until December 2007.

Quinn Allen

Age: 31 Occupation: Insurance producer, Lee/ O’Keefe Insurance Agency Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, LinkedIn Education: Williamsville High School; Springfield College in Illinois; Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Family: Wife –Jessica; Son – Quinn; Parents – Steve and Pam Allen; Sister – Courtney Hoffman (Husband – Bryce) Affiliations / Community Activities: Youth basketball and baseball coach; visitor to Harvard Park Elementary students. Past: Special Olympics Polar Plunge; prepared meals for Ronald McDonald House; educated new drivers about auto insurance in  high school driver’s ed classes.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Fishing
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Meeting different / new people from all over the country
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Encouragement! Encourage our youth to be great. Encourage them to make a difference. Encourage them to help others. Encourage them to be part of something bigger.

Courtney Babiak

Age: 32 Occupation: COO and financial advisor at Troxell Financial Advisors Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn and Facebook Education: Bachelor of arts in psychology and master of public administration (MPA) from the University of Illinois Springfield Family: Husband – Mike; children – Lillian and Bennett; dog – Izzy; mother – Marilynne Cunningham; brother – Joey Langbehn; sisters – Jessica and Olivia Langbehn Affiliations / Community Activities: United Cerebral Palsy fundraising/blue chip committee; IWIL; Elks Lodge; coaching Rochester youth/peewee soccer. My husband and I are currently in the beginning steps of developing an adaptive soccer league for children with varying special needs in the Springfield Area.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I love the outdoors and water so anything involving pools, lakes, boats, kayaks, etc.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Getting to work with people of varying backgrounds  and helping them envision their goals and develop plans to achieve them. The investment industry is always changing and I love the fast paced environment-it keeps me on my toes.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? It is critical for Springfield to develop and promote events that appeal to both young professionals and families.  Larger cities such as Chicago and St. Louis have a plethora of things to do and places to see. Springfield today hosts so many more events than it did when I grew up here, either downtown, at the fairgrounds, the PCCC, etc. We need to keep the momentum going. I also believe the Springfield community needs to support  networking/mentoring for our youth, especially with locally operated businesses. Often times local high school and college students are encouraged to move away and follow their dreams in larger cities. While travel, education, and experiences away from ‘home’ are incredibly important, I want Springfield to remain a viable option. And one that doesn’t limit their aspirations in any way. I think maintaining a sense of community is key to our hometown success.

Alex P. Block, AIA

Age: 37 Occupation: Senior architect, Crawford, Murphy and Tilly, Inc. Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram Education: Lutheran High School; University of Detroit, Mercy (BA and MA in architecture) Family: Wife – Missy Block; parents – Tim and Lynn Block; sister – Amanda Block Affiliations / Community Activities: President, Prairie Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; executive council member, image and design council chair and events council member of Downtown Springfield, Inc.; assistant scoutmaster/troop treasurer Boy Scout Troop 1; PechaKucha Springfield steering committee; Sangamo Club membership and marketing committee; volunteer for Forever Home Feline Ranch
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Good bourbon, cigars and too much of my wife’s famous homemade coconut oil popcorn.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? CMT provides the support and flexibility to be involved with multiple community organizations.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Springfield should strive to support local small businesses, provide a wide variety of quality community events and support local live music and art events.

Nathan Bishop

Age: 31 Occupation: Program director, Downtown Springfield Incorporated Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn Education: Masters degree in urban and regional planning – University of Colorado, bachelor’s degree in science – Murray State University Family: Wife – Cara; daughters – Harper, Vivienne; dog – Dash Affiliations / Community Activities: American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP); Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association; Urban Action Network advisory member; co-founder, Springfield Forward; Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) working groups; Springfield Comprehensive Plan steering committee
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Fantasy baseball and pizza
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The best perk of my job is having the opportunity to be involved in the revitalization of downtown. This is where my family and I enjoy frequenting, as it provides a uniqueness unmatched anywhere in the it’s pretty nice to have so many great local establishments and things going on downtown that are steps away on a daily basis.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Today’s young professionals want more than a job, they want a city they can make their own. They want dense urban amenities that allow them to dive in and have fun when they’re not working, and they want a wide labor market so they can find their next job when they’re ready. Collaboration locally will be key, with a particular need for large local employers to support each other to attract and retain talent. One of the biggest selling points for this region is definitely the affordability factor. For Springfield, the offer to business needs to include an offer for people. This means addressing the wider components of place-making and livability, such as housing diversity, transport options and cultural activities, which in turn will help talent stick. Downtown revitalization is already underway and is the ideal place to put resources and energy to bring these components together.

Brent Boesdorfer

Age: 35 Occupation: Co-owner-operator at Custom Cup Coffee / manager at Boesdorfer Trucking, Inc. Email: [email protected] Online: CustomCupCoffee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Education: St. Louis University – BS in marketing; University of Illinois Springfield - MBA Family: Wife – Kendra Boesdorfer; sons – Connor, Benjamin and George; dog – Bean Affiliations / Community Activities: Downtown Springfield Inc.; Young Philanthropists; Illinois Trucking Association; Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Thursday night basketball social league
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Meeting and getting to know our customers and other small business owners on a personal level, being part of downtown and our community growth...and free coffee.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Invest more in cultural and commerce centers (i. e., downtown) to make that decision to leave for Chicago or St. Louis a little bit harder.  We have a great opportunity to create new attractions and replicate those that people leave to find right here in our own city.  I left for St. Louis when I was 18, came back at 26, and found a completely different experience. That was from 1998 to 2006.  We have moved even further in the right direction since then, but there is so much room to grow, as we have noticed personally with our coffee company.

Kendra Leigh Boesdorfer

Age: 37 Occupation: Co-owner-operator of Custom Cup Coffee Email: [email protected] Online:, Custom Cup Coffee – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Education: Saint Louis University Family: Husband – Brent Boesdorfer; sons – Connor, Benjamin and George; dog – Bean Affiliations: Member of Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Downtown Springfield Inc., Springfield Art Association, Young Philanthropists, parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I don’t really feel guilty about it but I love going to a nice lunch at any of the amazing locally owned restaurants in town. It is a real treat to sit and have a moment to just enjoy the food and catch up on some reading or work.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Ha! The obvious answer is all the coffee I can drink! Honestly, the bigger perk for me is forming relationships with my customers. I am grateful for the many interesting people that I get to see and talk to on a daily basis.
  • How should Springfield retain young professionals? Springfield needs a strong downtown that our local residents support. Our city has a lot to offer in a lot of areas, and I find it frustrating when our resources are under-appreciated. Young professionals want a sense of community and to feel that they can live a fulfilling life here outside of work. As a community, we need to promote ourselves and what we have to offer. Personally, I have found opening a small business downtown has been a rewarding endeavor. I don’t know if my husband and I would have tried it anywhere else.

Brandon C. Cox, PhD

Age: 38 Occupation: Assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and cross-appointed to the department of surgery, division of otolaryngology Organization: Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn and Research Gate Education: B.S. in biology from the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA; Ph.D. in pharmacology from Georgetown University, Washington, DC; postdoctoral training at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN Affiliations: Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO); Society for Neuroscience (SfN); American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET); and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Community Activities: Participate in many trivia night fundraisers for local organizations.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Well-made bread, sushi and the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Interacting with some of the top scientists in the world.  It is a thrill to see a Nobel Prize winner give a talk about their research.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Improve the networking opportunities for young professionals so that they can establish a life in Springfield outside of work.  This is especially needed for those of us who are not from Illinois.

Virginia Ferguson

Age: 29 Occupation: Move More and volunteer coordinator Organization: genHkids, Inc Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram Education: B.A., sociology/anthropology, UIS Affiliations / Community Activities: Founding member, Midstate Mayhem Roller Derby; volunteer, Girl Scouts of Illinois; Illinois Specialty Growers Association; certified youth bicycle skills instructor.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I don’t believe in feeling ‘guilty’ about them, but my unlikely joys are hip-hop music and British comedy.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Smiling kids, delicious, fresh vegetables from the community garden, the chance to break up hours of paperwork to play some foursquare at a school recess, being surrounded by our enthusiastic, passionate community partners, the chance to work toward meaningful, long-term solutions to complex issues - my job has LOTS of perks!
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  We are so fortunate to have so many assets: a low cost of living, ample, beautiful green spaces like Washington and Lincoln Park, short commutes, farmers markets, highly-skilled medical professionals, higher education opportunities, etc. I’d personally like to see continued efforts to make Springfield more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly to encourage people to step outside their doors and foster that great sense of community.

Brian Frieze

Age: 29 Occupation: President, Sangamon Reclaimed Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, LinkedIn Education: United States Air Force and Lincoln Land Community College Family: Wife – Brea; daughter – Ruby Affiliations / Community Activities: Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Local First Springfield
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Good steak and an ice cold beer
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The opportunity to create and grow a business from the ground up in my hometown. It’s been great to work with customers to create something they can’t find anywhere else. I love sharing the stories associated with each piece of furniture, some of our materials date back to the pre-Civil War era. It’s great to keep that history alive by passing it along to each of our clients.
  • How should Springfield retain young professionals like yourself? We have to continue to develop downtown by adding green spaces, parking and housing. I believe a core urban center in Springfield would create an environment for growth and creativity by drawing more people downtown. It’s a shame to see all of the beautiful historic buildings downtown sit empty due to lack of interest from local businesses or support from local consumers. We hope to eventually make one of these historic buildings the home of Sangamon Reclaimed. I think this type of investment in our community would create excitement and investment, not only downtown, but also the community as a whole. With this, other issues within our community, such as schools, would also benefit from additional revenue and community involvement.

Jessica L. Galanos

Age: 34 Occupation: Associate attorney, HeplerBroom, LLC law firm Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn, Facebook Education: Southern Illinois University School of Law, 2008; Southern Illinois University, B.A. paralegal studies, 2003 Family: Husband – Chris Affiliations / Community Activities: Chatham Area Chamber of Commerce, director; Girls on the Run of Central Illinois, fundraising and events leadership committee and governance committee; Sangamon County Bar Association, member and mentor with the Lawyer-to-Lawyer mentoring program; Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association, member; Government Bar Association, member; Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, member.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Unhealthy coffee drinks with chocolate and whipped cream.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  Being with a client who has just prevailed in his or her case.  Whether the person finds out because she is standing there after a verdict is read or because I have just called to deliver the news, the best part of my job is being there to see the relief and excitement from someone that has likely been worried about the case for several years.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? I think Springfield has to do more to keep pace with the things that young professionals are looking for in a home.  That will obviously include things like employment opportunities and affordable housing, but it also includes things like entertainment, outdoor recreation, athletic events and opportunities for young professionals to socialize with each other.

Sabha Ganai, MD, PhD, FACS

Age: 39 when nominated Occupation: Assistant professor of surgery, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; director of Gastrointestinal Oncology, SIU Simmons Cancer Institute Email: [email protected] Online: Twitter: @DrSabha Education: B.S., biomedical engineering, University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering; M.D., Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California; Ph.D., molecular and cellular biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst; M.P.H. candidate, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Family: Single mom; brothers live in southern California Affiliations / Community Activities:  Zonta International, Springfield Chapter
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Karaoke!
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  Helping patients deal with their cancer diagnosis.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Providing a vibrant and creative environment to thrive outside of the workplace.

Melissa Hamilton

Age: 36 Occupation: Founder of Your Corner Office, Inc. and president of Synergetic Solutions, Inc. Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook/URCornerOffice; Twitter  @URCornerOffice; LinkedIn Your Corner Office; Education: Attended District 186 schools, graduating from Lanphier High School. Went on to attend college at Benedictine University at Springfield and graduated with a bachelor’s of business administration in management and organizational behavior. Family: Celebrating 13 years of marriage to high school sweetheart Wayne Hamilton, Jr. Together we have one son, Tyree Hamilton, who is a recent graduate of Springfield High School. Affiliations / Community Activities: Personal: Co-chair of Downtown Springfield, Inc.’s retail coordination committee; co-chair/secretary of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce IT committee; Q5 Diversity Development Council member. As Synergetic Solutions, Inc./Your Corner Office: Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce; Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce; Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Downtown Springfield, Inc.; Local First; Synergetic Solutions, Inc. DBA Your Corner Office is certified in these programs: CMS Small Business Set Aside, CMS Business Enterprise Program, and IDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I would definitely have to say watching celebrity reality television programs. I typically watch them while cleaning or just needing a “relax” day.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?   My entire job as a whole is one big perk. I truly enjoy helping people and my community in any way I can be of service. I like being a part of helping someone succeed or find success. Even if it is something as simple as giving someone advice or just listening.
  • How should Springfield retain young professionals like yourself?   In order to retain young professionals here in Springfield, we need to create more awareness of the opportunities Springfield has to offer: education, careers, entertainment, family growth and personal development. We need our young professionals to feel a part of something great and allow them to share their ideas on how to make Springfield better. Their contribution of new ideas can be a stepping stone towards recognizing their future can be right here in Springfield. Just because we are considered “a small town,” we still have plenty to offer.

Danielle Hunt

Age: 38 Occupation: Senior tax manager, Kerber, Eck, & Braeckel LLP Email: [email protected] Education: MacMurray College, bachelor of science in professional accountancy Family: Husband – Ian Hunt; children – Kaitlyn and Liam Affiliations / Community Activities: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; tax division of AICPA; not for profit division of AICPA; Illinois CPA Society; Missouri Society of CPAs; treasurer – MERCY Communities, Inc.; vice treasurer – Illinois Women in Leadership; former treasurer – The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Chocolate
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  Being able to assist clients, in various life stages, plan for and achieve their financial goals.  Compliance with tax filing responsibilities is the core of my practice and I truly enjoy that work, but it’s those opportunities to add value and have a meaningful impact to that client that are the most rewarding.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Springfield’s job market is more diverse than many believe; we are more than state government and hospitals.  Every day I work with a variety of regional employers who provide wonderful opportunities for career advancement for various levels of education and industry.  Helping young professionals to understand that these opportunities are available locally and that they don’t have to move away to enjoy a comfortable life is integral.  However, the biggest threat to Springfield is the uncertainty surrounding the state budget.  Continuing to operate without a state budget will lead those that are able to seek stability of school systems, social organizations, and future tax obligations outside this area.

Sarah Jones

Age: 36 Occupation: Nonprofit consultant/Self-employed Online: I’m a social media junkie, so I keep my current profiles and contact info on an about me page. Education: University of Illinois - Springfield Family: Here in town I have my parents, Michael and Debra Jones, two younger sisters, Rebecca and Rachel, and my terrific niece, Isla Mae Steward. My grandma’s family has been in Springfield for seven generations so I have some cousins around, too. Affiliations / Community Activities: I’m currently a board member for the local Sierra Club. I have also served as a volunteer at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Junior League member and Kids in the Kitchen chair, Kings Daughters Organization member and cookbook committee person, Girl Scouts volunteer and a tour guide at many historic sites as well as involvement with my church.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Wasting weekends by watching full seasons of my favorite shows and random documentaries on Netflix (I highly recommend the documentaries Dinosaur 13 and Inequality in America).
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? I have gotten the chance to meet people and learn things that I never would have expected when I was a history student at UIS with my heart set on a job in museum administration. I have worked with private schools, arts organizations, a national breast cancer support organization and an international student exchange program. The variety of my projects, as well as the flexibility, is wonderful. One of my current projects is a race event this fall for The Friends of the Sangamon Valley. Did you know we have the largest preserve for Franklin Ground Squirrels in the country? I learn something new with each group I get to meet. It’s also amazing to have the chance to make a positive impact on our community.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? I would love to see our community continue to support projects that bring families back into our traditional neighborhoods (like the work the Enos Park Association is doing). I grew up on the south side of town near the center of the city and it was nice being within walking distance to my school, a park and restaurants. Keeping families at our city’s core is important. Also, more service and community engagement opportunities for families with younger children. Spending time working with other people on community projects helps us feel more engaged in our city and more likely to stay as we move up in our professional life.

Paul Kabbes

Age: 28 Occupation: Associate athletic director – University of Illinois Springfield Email: [email protected] Online: Twitter @PaulKabbes Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from Illinois Wesleyan University;  Master’s degree in sports management from Illinois State University Family: Single. Youngest of four children to Mike and Jody Kabbes and grew up in Normal. Affiliations / Community Activities: Capital Area Sports Commission (Springfield) – board member; NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics) – active member;  Miracle League of Central Illinois (Normal) – previous board member
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Golf. Honestly can’t spend enough time on the course, despite being an awful golfer. Truly enjoy playing as much as possible.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  The people. Between UIS coaches and donors in the Springfield community, I truly think I interact with the best people in town on a daily basis.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Reward hard-working people. It doesn’t always have to be on the financial side – continue giving them greater responsibility and allow them to grow every single day in the workplace. Work ethic is something that can’t be taught…reward those who have it and help them grow long-term.

Micah R. King

Age: 38 Occupation: President, Identi-Check, Inc.; vice president of project management King Technology, Inc.; secretary-treasurer eGrain, Inc. Email: [email protected], [email protected] Online: LinkedIn Education: BA in economics, minor in physics from Rollins College Family: Son – Kalvin M. King; brother – Isaac King; sister – Kim King; parents – M. Kay and N. King Affiliations / Community Activities: On the board of the Springfield Lake Shore Improvement Association (SLSIA)
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Anything outside makes me happy. Hunting, fishing, wake surfing, wakeboarding, gardening, fitness
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? KingTech: We assist children in DCFS care to find relatives for placement options. It’s nice to help speed the process up and help a child find a stable home fast and with family members. Identi-check: I’m happy to help lower the hiring risk for employers by helping them know who they are hiring. eGrain: It’s interesting to be at the forefront of bringing technology to the farming business. Overall though, it’s great to work for a family-owned company allowing for a flexible schedule during hunting season.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Paul Palazzolo called it “Springfield Next” during his run for mayor, and his initiative was intended to build a city that can take advantage of the ability to attract and grow jobs and retain the next generation of young professionals. We should build off this concept and help bring the young professionals back to Springfield. Bring the options and variety from the big cities where the young professionals currently reside to Springfield.  Create community growth that is stimulating to young professionals and their families. Our leaders should listen to millennials and young professionals about what is wrong with Springfield and take steps towards improvements. Springfield parks are primarily located in highly populated areas and offer more than just the park with a jungle gym and soccer goal. They offer outside entertainment, arts, bike paths and other fun activities for the entire family. But what about the parks at the lake? Opportunities at the lake for entertainment and recreation seem endless. For example, it’s sad that a national landmark such as the beach house is no longer accessible to the community except for private rental.   I believe more emphasis should be placed on downtown Springfield, helping stimulate business to create more jobs for young professionals.

Amy Lally, MS, RODC

Age: 39 Occupation: Manager, leadership and team development, Memorial Health System Email: [email protected]; [email protected] Online: LinkedIn Education: BA, psychology (University of Illinois Springfield); MS, management and organization behavior (Benedictine University) Family: Spouse – Doug; Children – Chloe, Carson, Declan, Aria (due in September) Affiliations / Community Activities: Served as external consultant/facilitator for Mayor Langfelder’s 2015 community ward meetings; served on steering committee and as external facilitator for Toxic Charity conference with author Bob Lupton; volunteer work: Mini-O’Beirne holiday store; team manager, Springfield Area Soccer Association U13 Boys (SASA); president (2016/2017)  Central Illinois Organization Development Network (CIODN); member and registered organization development consultant (RODC) - International Society for Organization Development and Change (ISODC); member – Organization Development Network (ODN); member – Illinois Women in Leadership (IWIL); member – Young Springfield Professionals Network (YSPN); certified facilitator – VitalSmarts; certified facilitator – FranklinCovey; certified OD process consultant professional – Institute of Organization Development; certified coach – Association for Talent Development; certified coach – InsideOut Development; certified MBTI practitioner – CPP, Inc.; certified FIRO-B practitioner – CPP, Inc.; Certified Trainer – Association for Talent Development; certified technical trainer – CompTia.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Sleep, sweets and reality television – pretty much in that order after my kids’ activities!
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The absolute best perk of my job is having the most amazing team. We are fortunate each and every day to work with leadership and their teams to provide development and growth opportunities through coaching, consultation, classes and interventional work. To see a “light bulb” go off for someone, as well as their resulting behavioral change, is so intrinsically rewarding. By developing our leaders and teams across the health system, we are ultimately creating a better experience for our patients and their families.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Springfield is a wonderful community offering many types of opportunities for all phases of life – networking, professional associations/groups, family events, theater/arts, etc. Continue to offer diverse opportunities to continually engage young professionals across their career AND family life cycle.

Joshua Laurent

Age: 38 Occupation: District service manager / profitability specialist / Lean Six Sigma Green Belt – Bobcat Company Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn Education: B.S. in business management and organizational leadership – Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary (North Dakota), Universal Technical Institute (Arizona) Family: Spouse – Candi Laurent; children – Vincent, Victor Affiliations / Community Activities: Lean Six Sigma
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Baseball, business, history.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  The greatest perk of my job is helping small businesses become more profitable, hire more employees and be able to better service their customers. I have worked with businesses on the verge of collapse and some that are in great shape, just looking to get a little better. Every time I can help a business solve a problem or take that next big step forward is a reward within itself. After working with nearly 200 different small to medium size businesses in the last eight years, being able to see them overcome so many problems and become more successful than they thought they could be, is the best perk I could ever hope for. I have always subscribed to the theory that my success is determined by how many people I serve and how well I serve them.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Retention of young professionals or talented employees is one of the hottest topics of towns, cities, and businesses alike all over the country. In my current role, I cover all of Illinois, Michigan and Indiana and everyone is asking the same question. Retention of young professionals comes down to opportunity, compensation, recognition and living environment. A town such as Springfield or a business in general must strive to offer the majority, if not all four, of those attributes in order to retain talent. With Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis so close, Springfield will always struggle without serious long-term planning towards retention and attraction of talent outside of the state and medical fields.

Jakob Lohrenz

Age: 33 Occupation: Account executive, LRS Consulting Services Email: [email protected] Education: Attended Lincoln Land Community College and Malcolm X College Family: Wife – McKenzie; daughter – Irie; son – Nash Affiliations / Community Activities: Board of directors at Family Service Center; donating to many organizations across the Springfield area
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Night eating
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Always meeting and conversing with new people
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? I would say that more companies need to create an atmosphere where people want to stick around. There are many ways to accomplish this, such as investing in your personnel via training and technology upgrades that assist them in their everyday duties, creating a work environment that is a fun and exciting place to come to every day and offer talented professionals the opportunity to be paid exponentially and made to feel they are extremely valued to the company.

Chris Long

Age: 34 Occupation: Director, Gem PR & Media, Inc Email: c[email protected] Education: BA in international relations and BSS in psychology and criminology Family: Wife – Gemma Long; baby Long due fall 2016 Affiliations / Community Activities: Springfield Jaycees and American Business Club of Springfield
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  I love going to the movies because I have to ignore my phone for a couple of hours.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? We’re just putting the finishing touches on our new office.  I made sure to install a beer fridge.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  I’d like to see more investment in infrastructure, including broadband.

Gemma Long

Age: 33 Occupation: CEO, Gem PR & Media, Inc. Email: [email protected] Online: Twitter: @gemma_long and @GemPRMedia; Facebook:; LinkedIn: ; Skype: Gemma_GemPRMedia Education: BA first class honors in journalism; MA in journalism and international relations; Press Association Dip; CIPR Dip; MCIPR Family: Husband – Christopher Long; expecting arrival of baby Long in November. Affiliations / Community Activities: Business Networking International; Central Illinois Networking Group; Friends of Memorial (board member); Illinois Women in Leadership (board member); Rotary Club of Springfield South; Springfield Jaycees
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I love to stay busy and to know that I’m helping my clients grow their businesses through strategic PR, marketing and media activity. I don’t enjoy ‘switching off’ because I want clients to know we are here for them 24/7. So, when I can tear myself away from my Mac or the cellphone, my guilty pleasure is spending time with friends and family. With some of my family overseas I regularly speak to them on Skype and that’s one of my favorite ways to take time out.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? What I love about Gem PR & Media is that we work with so many different clients from the health and insurance industries to retail companies and technology businesses. No two days are the same, from managing social media accounts, to organizing and promoting a 5K in Washington Park to helping clients receive the recognition they deserve on TV, radio, online or in print. I love my job, the people I work with and value each and every client here in Springfield, St. Louis and overseas.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Young professionals, in particular millennials, appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow in their job. They also want to take on responsibility and participate in discussions about how the business grows in order to make their mark and further their career. Millennials want to work with brands that stand out for the right reasons and contribute to community. At Gem PR & Media we are involved with a number of nonprofits in the city in order to  create positive change and that keeps me motivated to continue to grow our consultancy and support those in need of a little extra help.

Tara Long

Age: 37 Occupation: Photographer /owner, Tara Long Photography Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, Instagram: taralongphotography Education: Blessed Sacrament School; Sacred Heart-Griffin; Eastern Illinois University (degree in elementary education) Family: Husband – John Long (attorney with Cavanagh & O’Hara Law Offices); children – Lennon, Norah, Harrison Affiliations / Community Activities:  Member of Young Philanthropists; member of Junior Circle of Hope; photographer for “Let It Be Us”  (photographing foster children in hopes of finding them permanent homes); member of Blessed Sacrament Parish (doing photography work for the school and parish when needed);  photographer for the Pink Gala (photographing survivors of breast cancer).
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Going to concerts with my husband and friends, traveling with my family, and the occasional quick trip to Anthropologie.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?   Biggest perk by far is that I get to make people happy every single day  (there aren’t many jobs around where you get to say that!) and that I get to be part of a really amazing group of women in my #TLONGFAM Group, who are always willing to help others and always showing how incredible our community of local moms truly is.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Creating camaraderie is so important.  Local businesses learning from and leaning on one another helps businesses not only to grow but helps us grow as good people/citizens as well, which in turn makes our community a place where we want to raise our families.  The fellowship we have in Springfield is truly what makes the Springfield community a great place to be a young professional.

Rachel Miller

Age: 29 Occupation: Staff attorney with the SIU-Land of Lincoln Medical-Legal Partnership Organization: Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, LinkedIn Education: BA in history from the University of Florida and a JD from Saint Louis University School of Law Family: Husband – Patrick Miller Affiliations / Community Activities: board member for the Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association; Sangamon County Bar Association; Memorial Festival of Trees
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I really enjoy gardening and mixing in new plants (frequently).
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Helping clients improve their quality of life
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? People sometimes say that they don’t think there’s anything to do in Springfield, but I think it’s very much the opposite. Previously, it might have required a little legwork to find out about activities, but I think the park district, city and local businesses have been really great about cultivating new and fun events for residents. Springfield can retain professionals by continuing to sponsor cultural and networking opportunities.

Andrew Novaria

Age: 27 Occupation: Employee benefits/commercial insurance consultant, American Central Insurance Services Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram Education: Bachelor of Arts, political science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Family: Wife – Christine Novaria Affiliations / Community Activities: United Way executive co-chair, American Business Club, Springfield Young Philanthropists, Sangamo Club member, and Young Springfield Professionals Network
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Anything from Café Moxo
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The biggest perk of my job is meeting new people. Having the opportunity to work for a locally owned independent insurance agency, and being involved in the community, has allowed me to meet people that I would have never known otherwise.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Continuing to grow our downtown area with outdoor dining, beer gardens and great festivals/concerts.

Christine Novaria

Age: 27 Occupation: Contract food buyer Company: M.J. Kellner Foodservice Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn Education: Bachelor of science in agriculture and consumer economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Family: Husband – Andrew Novaria Affiliations / Community Activities: Illinois Women in Leadership hospitality committee co-chair, United Way employee campaign coordinator and 2014 campaign co-chair, Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery volunteer, Hope School-Junior Circle of Hope member, Sangamo Club member
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Drinking a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc on Lake Springfield with my husband, parents and siblings.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  M.J. Kellner is now an employee-owned company, so the biggest perk that I receive is ownership in the work that I do every day.  Another perk is that we take turns cooking lunch for the company every month in our commercial test kitchen!
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  I believe that it is important for businesses to keep their policies current in regard to work/life balance.  With today’s technology, young professionals are able and willing to work anytime and anywhere.  Flexibility and technology in the workplace are key factors in retaining young professionals, no matter the city.  Springfield truly is a great place to live and work.  I am looking forward to continuing my career and starting my family here.

Sam Perks

Age: 26 Occupation: Broker/Team leader : The Sam Perks Team at RE/MAX Professionals Email: [email protected] Online:; Twitter: @SamPerksTeam; Instagram: SamPerksTeam Education: SIU-E and Lewis & Clark Community College Family: Significant other – Benjamin; dogs – Reagan and Lincoln; parents, three brothers and one sister. Affiliations / Community Activities: Commercial Real Estate Network committee member (chairman, 2015); Capital Area Realtors government affairs committee; Sangamo Club; National & Illinois Association of Realtors; Capital Area Realtors
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I love a gourmet dining experience. I like to cook, but I love to try local restaurants with creative menus wherever I go. I think food should be art and not just functional. Springfield has some great places to try new things.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The ability to be genuinely useful at major milestones in our clients’ lives. Specifically, RE/MAX has allowed me to develop my services as a commercial practitioner, while expanding my residential brokerage team and offering property management services simultaneously. Being “full-service” is a huge perk for my clients and me…and ‘Everyone Likes Perks.’
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Springfield is succeeding at expanding cultural activities, providing well-managed parks and entertainment venues and improving infrastructure. The next step is to excite and inspire young people to create new things. Government and business leaders must play an active role in showing young people that their innovative ideas are valued here, and that we want to help them build reality out of creative thinking. Young people often feel like that don’t have a seat at the table, and that must not be the case.

David J. Picchi

Age: 34 Occupation: Supervisory Contract Specialist of the Illinois National Guard. Department of the Army Contracting Officer, GS Series 1102 Organization: Illinois Army National Guard Email: [email protected] Education: Associates degree – Highland Community College; bachelors in economics – Northern Illinois University; masters in public administration – UIS; certified contracting professional level III – Defense Acquisition University Family: Wife – Rebecca Picchi; son – Henry Affiliations / Community Activities: Member of the Army Acquisition Corps; lifetime member of the National Guard Association of Illinois; Springfield area foster parent.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Energy drinks.... I know they are terrible for me but I can’t resist them.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The travel. Sometimes it’s to places no one wants to go (Afghanistan) but other times it can be really great.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Focus on improving the appeal of the city through its free places. Where possible improve the city parks and the area around Lincoln’s home. People need great free spaces to be creative and create community.

Andrew C. Proctor

Age: 34 Occupation: Alderman, Ward 5 - City of Springfield and director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Department of Employment Security Email: [email protected] Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Bachelor of Arts – political science Family: Wife – Heather; sons – Charlie and Lincoln Affiliations: Springfield City Council, Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission, Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association and Downtown Springfield, Inc.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure: Watching “The Mindy Project” on Hulu.
  • Best perk of your current job: The people I work and serve with.  As alderman for the City of Springfield and director of legislative affairs for IDES I have the privilege to work and serve with outstanding professionals and the opportunity to meet, interact and cultivate new relationships on a daily basis.
  • How should Springfield retain young professionals like yourself? Continue the revitalization of downtown Springfield by attracting businesses that provide additional nightlife activities that millennials enjoy.  Improving the inner core older neighborhoods adjacent to downtown to increase the number of affordable housing options for young professionals to live.  As well as increase recreational options throughout the city that can be enjoyed by young families, such as the Third Street rail corridor transformed into a bike path after the 10th Street rail consolidation is complete.

Brandon Rebbe

Age: 37 Occupation: Technology director at Zdi Email: [email protected] Online: LinkedIn;Twitter @brebbe79 Education: Attended LLCC for one year, when I decided that formal education was not exactly suited for me. The rest of my education has come from self-study, hard knocks and the drive to keep learning and never accept defeat. Family: Wife – Brandi Rebbe; son – Dash; daughter – Arlen Affiliations / Community Activities: I have been a member of the Springfield ABC club for 17 years. I joined this club when I was 20 years old and it’s one of greatest impacts I have had in my life. I served as president of the club from 2014-2015 and have held several other positions in the club as well.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I enjoy excellent bourbon and good cigars way too much!
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The ability to work with cutting edge technology alongside people who have my same morals and work ethic. In the tech industry you typically do not hear about a group of people who were raised on farms changing the way people do business across the world. The company I work for does exactly that. We are Midwestern people with a work ethic that helps us drive our business. We have clients all over the globe and do work for several fortune 500 companies that are a household name.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? At this point, I don’t feel like a young person anymore! I started in this industry when I was 16, and the average age of the people who work on my team is about 26. I am the grandpa of the group. If you want to keep younger people interested, you need to cultivate their ideas. It is hard to come up with something new in this day and age, but we can find ways to do things better and easier with a perspective. The younger generation is ready to tackle those great ideas from 15 years ago and make them better.

Lindsay Record

Age: 37 Occupation: Executive director, Illinois Stewardship Alliance Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, LinkedIn Education: Arizona State University, B.A. in interdisciplinary studies; School for International Training, master’s candidate, intercultural service, leadership and management Family: Husband – Terry Frank; children – Oliver, Adeline Affiliations / Community Activities: Illinois Farmers Market Association, board member; Illinois Farmers Market Task Force, vice chair; Contact Ministries, volunteer; Illinois Women in Leadership, member
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I don’t want to say guilty, because I think food is meant to be enjoyed, but if I had a weakness it would be made-from-scratch cookies or craft beer.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The food! Working with local farmers means that our meetings, conferences and events usually feature locally grown food, which is always super fresh and delicious.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? I think we have great festivals (like Bites on the Boulevard and the Old Capitol Art Fair), and I’ve been a big fan of the Old Capitol Farmers Market my whole adult life, which I think contributes to sense of place and serves as a gathering place for community.  I would love to see more green space, bike lanes and community gardens. Walkable and livable communities that celebrate culture, art, food, history and diversity are attractive to me.

Katrina Schroeder

Age:  27 Occupation: Director of community impact, United Way of Central Illinois Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram Education: Bachelor of Arts in communications, minor in graphic design, from Quincy University. Family: My wonderful fiancé and pets. Affiliations / Community Activities: Countless work affiliations; Junior League of Springfield; Young Springfield Professionals Network; graduate of Leadership Springfield
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Frozen coffees; Dip-N-Dots; anything chocolate
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? The people! My boss and coworkers, the leaders of our community organizations, the committee members I serve with, and most importantly the volunteers I support. They all have, and continue to contribute to my career story, and I am continuously thankful for the challenges they involve me in, the faith they have in me, and the constant support they provide.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? That’s tough! I truly believe there are some things the community can’t influence, such as finding a spouse, having a family close by, and/or finding the job that fulfills their vision for themselves. What I can say is having employers that are open and supportive of flexible work models that support and strengthen families and the individuals within them is key.  Most people I know  would rank their job as one of the most important pieces in their life, especially starting out in their career, and when the company they are employed by no longer is helping them meet their goals, whether individually focused, family focused, or community focused, they begin to look elsewhere. Creating an environment where the person is just as important as the employee is key in developing a committed and impassioned workforce.  People have a hard time leaving the community where their goals became a reality.

Tracy Shaw-Peterman

Age: 32 Occupation: Realtor/broker/GRI, The Real Estate Group Email: [email protected] Education: Bachelor’s degree Family: Married with one son and one daughter Affiliations / Community Activities: Founder of The Sherman Area Chamber of Commerce, second term president, Sherman Area Chamber of Commerce; vice chair – community service committee at Capital Area Realtors; social committee at CAR; chair of Sherman homecoming.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Shopping and ice cream
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Creating my own success. Time freedom.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? I’m embedded deep in my roots here, no plans on leaving.

Abby Sgro

Age: 27 Occupation: Associate attorney, Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C. Email: [email protected] Education: J.D., Saint Louis University School of Law; University of Dayton School of Law; Eastern Illinois University; Bachelor of arts in journalism with minor in Spanish and pre-law Family: Husband - Ben Sgro; parents - Charles & Lynn Allgire; in-laws - Gregory and Leslie Sgro, Nick Sgro, Sarah Sgro Affiliations / Community Activities: Illinois State Bar Association; Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association; Sangamon County Bar Association; Government Bar Association; newly appointed registration chair for Illinois Women in Leadership; founding member of Junior Circle of Hope; Illinois Innocence Project Task Force committee member and pro-bono attorney; at-risk student mentor for; wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; CJA panel member.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Reality TV and Mexican food.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  The variety of work.  I learn something new every day, and I interact with new people on a regular basis.  Also, my co-workers are a major perk.  They make my work days enjoyable.
  • How should Springfield retain young professionals like yourself?  Springfield’s best quality is the plethora of community and volunteer organizations, as well as the closeness of the community.  In order to retain young professionals, Springfield should continue to keep the amazing community and volunteer organizations alive.  New restaurants and shops are always a bonus, too!

Christopher J. Stritzel

Age: 37 Occupation: Project engineer, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Email: [email protected] Online: Twitter (@cstritzel), LinkedIn Education: BS, civil engineering, University of Illinois, New Berlin High School Family: Wife – Tiffany; Children – Owen and Paige Affiliations / Community Activities: Member West Side Christian Church; Camp Compass volunteer; past Springfield Sharefest volunteer; past president Illinois Society of Professional Engineers (ISPE); past Project Lead the Way mentor; Leadership Springfield alumnus (2014); volunteer youth baseball and basketball coach
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Chipotle (they know me by name) and ice cream (cookie dough)
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  The best ‘perk’ of my job is the flexibility CMT provides its employees to allow and encourage them to become engaged in various extracurricular activities outside of the workplace.  From volunteering at local not for profits, to serving on committees and boards, to remaining involved with family activities and sporting events, CMT remains steadfast in its commitment to the growth of the individual employee, both internally and outside the workplace.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Retaining young professionals starts with changing the culture and perception of our community.  Often times we take for granted what we have right in front of us.  As a lifelong resident of the Springfield area, I have come to cherish the family values provided by our community to young professionals and their families.  Marketing this culture, as well as providing opportunities for quality education and safe, family friendly activities, will help sustain Springfield as a ‘Best Place to Live’ for years to come.

Matthew R. Trapp

Age: 39 Occupation: Senior associate at Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C. Email: [email protected] Education: Pleasant Plains High School; Illinois College (BS in biology); Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law (JD) Family: Wife – Sarah; parents – Dr. Robert Trapp and Kathleen Trapp; sisters – Caitlin Watson, Leanne Bensko, and Claire Adams Affiliations / Community Activities: Illinois State Bar Association; Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association; Sangamon County Bar Association; Government Bar Association; Appellate Lawyers Association; Lincoln Douglas Chapter of the American Inns of Court.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  Chipotle
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job?  The best part of my job is working with people I really enjoy being around and who encourage maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? There are many factors that go into whether young professionals stay in cities like Springfield or move elsewhere.  Increasingly, younger people are considering more than just their employment when deciding where to live.  Quality of life has become more and more important.  I think young professionals want to be in a place where there is affordable housing, good neighborhoods and schools for their children, and a variety of options with respect to things like networking opportunities with people their age, entertainment, restaurants, and nightlife.  Springfield has many of these qualities.  However, I think Springfield can constantly work to improve in these areas. I have read that having a vibrant downtown is essential to attracting and retaining young professionals and is one of the most common traits of cities that are successful in doing so.  One of the most common complaints I hear about Springfield is that people don’t feel downtown offers enough diverse entertainment and nightlife options besides the occasional festival in the summer and fall.  Whether true or not, I think continuing the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Springfield is important so that it becomes a social and entertainment destination for people after work and on weekends rather than just a place they go to work.

Brad Turasky

Age: 34 Occupation: Co-owner and vice president, Y-T Packing Co; brand operations for Turasky Meats and Smart Grillin Email: [email protected] Education: B.A. in business management – Lincoln Land Community College, Ultrasource Meat Processing Academy Family: Wife - Dana; Children - Vincent and Spencer; Parents -Joe and Carolyn Affiliations / Community Activities: past president, Illinois Association of Meat Processors; board member, American Association of Meat Processors.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Listening to Justin Timberlake, watching “The Bachelor” and drinking fine wines.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Taste-testing! Traveling is another huge perk. This year I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Frankfurt, Germany, for IFFA, which is the leading international trade fair for processing, packaging, and sales in the meat industry. Mingling with 63,000 trade visitors from 143 countries is a fantastic way to get some insight on how meat plants across the world do business.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Springfield is one of the best places to start a family. Keeping with tradition and creating new projects within the city helps to sustain people like us. Creating more activities and events like fundraisers can help keep young professionals involved in the community. New and upcoming businesses that reach across the country will bring growth and commitment for people to stay.

Blake Turner

Age: 39 Occupation: Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, information systems analyst; Lanphier High School, boys head varsity basketball coach Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat Education: Kansas Wesleyan University, B.S., business administration Family: Wife – Kelly Newman Turner; Daughters – Shelby, Chelsea, Olivia Affiliations / Community Activities: Phi Beta Sigma fraternity; past state president Phi Beta Sigma fraternity; Lanphier High School boys basketball coach; American Cancer Society ambassador; Greater All Nations Tabernacle Church of God in Christ
  • Biggest guilty pleasure?  It would have to be never missing an episode of  “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” and “Meet the Press.”  To the naked eye, they would appear to be three very different television shows that occupy my time; however, they are really the embodiment of my passion for all things political.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? I am blessed to be able to coach a sport I love on the same court where I played in high school and have the opportunity to influence young men not only with regard to their athletic abilities, but more importantly, in their educational and social choices during and after high school.  Coaching basketball at Lanphier High School is truly my dream job!
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  I love Springfield and never considered not returning after college.  When I hear people say “There is nothing to do,” I respond, “Perhaps there is nothing you want to do, because Springfield is filled with adventure.”  However, I think Springfield could do a better job of marketing itself and all it has to offer, and be more strategic in marketing to addressing the concerns of Springfield’s African-American community.  Young professionals such as myself are not all interested in the “bar scene” and would like to have opportunities that may be social in nature, but also support professional development, networking, and advocacy for our specific interests.

Amanda Vinicky

Age: Under 40 :) Occupation: Statehouse bureau chief Organization: NPR Illinois (WUIS 91.9 FM in Springfield) Email: [email protected] Online: I’m on all of them (anyone else use Anchor?) but especially Twitter - it’s great for news junkies! @AmandaVinicky; Facebook: Amanda N Vinicky; Snapchat: avinicky; Instagram: vinicky; Soundcloud: AmandaVinicky Education: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – B.A. in political science, B.S. in journalism; University of Illinois Springfield – master’s degree from the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) program Family: The best parents, brother, cousins, aunts, roommate, colleagues and friends a gal could ask for! Plus, a blue fish named Stevie Ray. Affiliations / Community Activities: YMCA (yoga teacher), Springfield Road Runners Club (thank goodness for Abe’s Army), Illinois News Broadcasters Association, WSEC-TV (Capitol View co-host), Vachel Lindsay Association, farmers market shopaholic, supporter of downtown Springfield and the arts, a happy volunteer whenever and wherever needed!
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? A horseshoe (duh) and half-price wine night at Augie’s
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Free license to explore the state, to indulge my curiosity, to meet fascinating people … and to ask questions/demand answers of Illinois’ political leaders on behalf of people and groups who can’t. (Another perk: I’ve no social media guilt -- tweeting and following Facebook updates is part of the job!)
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Continue to work to make it a friendly, safe place to live with activities, restaurants and shops for everyone.  Springfield is home to gems -- kudos to places like Maldaner’s, Floyd’s, the Hoogland and the Dana-Thomas House that have been around for years, and welcome/thanks to relative newbies like Custom Cup, Driftwood, the updated Elf Shelf and the Old State Capitol. Support them, help them thrive, and more will come! Want more of us? I’d love affordable downtown condos and a convenience store that’s open beyond 9-5, a rooftop bar/restaurant, and additional Sunday brunch options. A state budget would probably help, too, huh?

Veronica Williams

Age: 34 Occupation: Contracts, projects and agreements manager at Illinois Department of Transportation Email: [email protected] Online: Facebook and LinkedIn Education: Bachelor’s in communications and graphic design, Master’s degree in law and public administration Family: Mother, father, sister and brother all reside in my hometown of Peoria. Affiliations / Community Activities: I am active on the board of the Quantum 5 (Q5) Diversity Counsel and as the networking chair for the Young Springfield Professionals Network (YSPN). I collaborate with the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce and was recently appointed to the City of Springfield’s community relations board whose goal and action is helping to shape and define a new era in advocacy and leadership. I volunteer at First United Methodist Church for multimedia support, sing with the New Life Choir and provide technical and professional services to organizations that support social and societal and improvements. My motto is, “It isn’t problem solving, it is solution creation.” I have confidence that with the right attitude, any positive change is possible.
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? I believe the following quote says it best: “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.” – Theodore Isaac Rubin
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Learning new and progressive skills, having an opportunity for career advancement and meeting new professionals.
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself? Embrace innovation, positive change and the abilities this generation has to improve on the existing and create the future. Social, professional and community inclusion is the key.

Tony Zasowski

Age: 37 Occupation: Head coach/ general manager, Springfield Junior Blues Email: [email protected] Education: University of Notre Dame Family: Wife – DJ; daughter - Esmeralda Affiliations / Community Activities: March of Dimes Signature Chefs
  • Biggest guilty pleasure? Stopping for a morning doughnut on my way to work.
  • Best ‘perk’ of your current job? Getting to travel regularly, including some off-season trips (including two trips to Russia and one upcoming to Sweden).
  • How should Spring?eld retain young professionals like yourself?  Opportunity.  Attract great companies with opportunity for professional growth along with developing the food and entertainment around Springfield.

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