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10th Annual 40 Under 40 Awards

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40 Under 40 Cover
40 Under 40 Cover

Congratulations to the outstanding honorees who comprise the Class of 2009 – the 10th annual selection of San Diego’s finest business people.
Recognizing the achievements of these young business and civic leaders in whose hands lie our region’s future is a task we do not take lightly here at San Diego Metropolitan. And it’s one we can’t do alone. We want to thank this year’s judges who made the hard cuts from a number of excellent candidates down to the “Final 40.” This year’s judges — all past 40 Under 40 honorees — are: Cynthia Burke, division director, Criminal Justice Research, SANDAG; Melanie Cruz Walsh, director of development, division of physical sciences, UCSD; Dennis Guseman, Ph.D., dean, College of Business Administration, Cal State San Marcos; Shandon Harbour, president, SDA Security; Adrian Kwiatkowski, director of community and governmental relations, The Monger Company; Lisa Martens, principal, Fish & Richardson P.C.; Louise Torio, owner, Historic San Diego Marketing and Consulting; and Jason Wood, senior vice president, Cisterra Development.
Meet this year’s honorees on the following pages.  Better yet, meet and celebrate with them in person on Sept. 18 at a spirited luncheon in their honor at the San Diego Convention Center. We’re also inviting back all the past year’s honorees as we mark a decade of overachievement that has made our region all the richer. It should be quite the networking event.
We’d love for you to join us! Tickets are $75 and the YWCA and its Becky’s House will benefit. Contact Cyndi, Rebeca or Lisa at
(619) 906-4104 for details.
And now…presenting the Class of 2009!
— Kris Grant, Editor

Finding ‘forever families’ for foster youth

Elizabeth Barnes
Elizabeth Barnes

What happens when a foster child turns 18? Unlike most children whose families are there to continue providing financial and emotional support, foster children are emancipated, meaning they are left to fend for themselves. Elizabeth Barnes, 35, wasn’t satisfied with that reality. She presented a plan to the board of directors of Walden Family Services to help emancipating foster youth and, in 2001, the Independent Futures program was launched with Barnes serving as the first teen services coordinator. Starting with just six young adults, today she is the director of the program, which currently serves 154 current and former foster youth, ages 16 to 26. Under her leadership, hundreds of kids have gone on to vocational schools and college and now live safe and productive lives. Since founding the program, Barnes has spoken at numerous conferences across the country to help other agencies serve this fragile population. In addition, she helped changed the way foster care treats children who self identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or who question their sexual orientation, through the formation of the LGBTQ network. Again, she has spoken on this program at conferences across the nation. Last year, Barnes launched Walden’s adoption program to help special needs foster children and youth find “forever families.”

Bringing biotech breakthroughs to market

Elizabeth Bui
Elizabeth Bui

At the age of 5, Elizabeth Bui found herself with a bullet wound in her foot and tossed with her sister onto a small fishing boat to escape Saigon in 1975 as U.S. troops pulled out of Vietnam. From her meager beginnings as a Vietnam “boat person” refugee, and orphan, Bui persevered. Now the director of intellectual property and corporate Development at Novocell Inc., she has contributed significantly to the body of work surrounding intellectual property in the biotechnology industry in San Diego. Last year, Novocell announced that human embryonic stem cells for the first time can be turned into pancreatic cells capable of producing insulin for diabetic patients. Bui, 39, managed the partnership process pairing Novocell’s discovery with industry giant Pfizer Research.  Through her work, Novocell was awarded two landmark patents dealing with stem cell therapies. Earlier, Bui was a member of the intellectual property team at DLA Piper LLC, working at the San Diego office of the largest private law firm in the United States. She helped to reshape the IP transactional group and position DLA Piper as the quintessential intellectual property law firm for biotech companies in Southern California. Despite her busy schedule, Bui is a member of the board of directors of the Toussaint Academy of Arts and Sciences that provides a home, mentoring and structured education for at-risk teenagers in San Diego. She also speaks to junior and high school students on career opportunities and works closely with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and helped organize the group’s 2009 annual fund-raising gala.

An employer’s best friend and adviser

Marie Kenny
Marie Kenny

Marie Burke Kenny, 39, has been a partner with the law firm of Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps since 2004. As a leader of Luce Forward’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, she provides ongoing preventive counseling to companies to protect them from claims and create effective defenses to litigation. Nevertheless, California employers are easy targets for wage and hour class action lawsuits and Kenny works with companies to conduct comprehensive wage and hour audits and to implement effective solutions to avoid potentially substantial wage and hour liability. Implementing aggressive defense strategies, Kenny has solved many class action suits for a fraction of their original demands. While saying she enjoys the way the legal profession allows her to be a “problem solver,” she is a tenacious litigator with a pleasant demeanor, leading one colleague to dub her the “baby-faced assassin” and the consummate advocate for her clients. When not involved in litigation, Kenny advocates for balancing law careers with family life for working mother attorneys through “MAMA” – Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, where she is a founding board member. She is also an adjunct professor of employment law at San Diego State University’s human resources certification program and has lectured to many sections of the California State Bar Association and business associations throughout Southern California.

Mobilizing San Diego’s volunteer corps

Sue Carter
Sue Carter

Sue Carter became the executive director of Volunteer San Diego in 2006 and just a year later was put to the test when the 2007 wildfires ripped through San Diego. Thousands of volunteers were mobilized by Volunteer San Diego, which served as the lead agency for coordinating the masses of spontaneous, unaffiliated volunteers. For the organization’s accomplishments during that literal trial by fire, it earned commendations from Volunteer Centers of California and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. Carter, 36, has improved the organization’s financial position, increased its earned income from $55,000 to $286,000 annually, increased participation in the organization’s various programs from 20 to 50 percent, and made its social Web presence and national podcasting experience a national model. Carter frequently speaks about volunteerism and has presented at the White House Conference on Community and Faith-based Initiatives, the National Park Services’ national conference and the San Diego Foundation’s Survive-and-thrive Initiative. She is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and has served on the board of the Association for Fundraising Professionals. Currently, she is an executive coach who mentors nonprofit executives through the Fieldstone Leadership Network. She was appointed to the California State Commission on Service, California Volunteers, by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2008 and is one of the youngest members in that role. During her tenure, Volunteer San Diego was named one of the “Best Places to Work” in San Diego.

Call him the ultimate ‘people person’

Scott Chadwick
Scott Chadwick

With more than 10,500 employees, the city of San Diego is one of the largest employers in the region. After having successfully led the city’s labor relations efforts on behalf of Mayor Jerry Sanders since 2006, Scott Chadwick, 37, became the city’s Human Resource Director this past January. He’s the point person for employment matters including discipline, contract negotiations and enforcement, grievances, training, the city’s diversity program, ADA and the Human Relations       Commission. But he also gets the “fun” part: contract negotiations with the city’s many labor organizations. This year, Chadwick obtained two-year agreements with five labor organizations including the Firefighters Local 145, the Municipal Employees Association and the Deputy City Attorneys Association that resulted in a yearly savings of more than $30 million for the two-year period. And last year Chadwick reached agreements with three more labor organizations that will save taxpayers $25 million annually once fully implemented. The San Diego Taxpayers Association recognized his efforts by awarding the city of San Diego the Grand Golden Watchdog Award for 2009.

Charting new treatments for venous disorders

Dr. Van Cheng
Dr. Van Cheng

Dr. Van Le Cheng, just 33, has her own private practice, the San Diego Vein Institute, and has already established herself as an expert in her field of medicine — phlebology — which focuses on the treatment of varicose vein problems. Cheng graduated from Harvard with highest honors and trained in surgery at the University of California San Francisco. She was then named the first phlebology fellow in the United States, through her UCSD/Scripps fellow. She is one of just a few Southern California doctors to be a member of both the American College of Phlebology and the American Venous Forum, the nation’s most prestigious organization dedicated to the study of venous disorders. Most recently, as part of the Surgeon General’s campaign, Cheng’s institute became an AVF-designated ultrasound testing center for deep venous thrombosis (DVT).  Published estimates of the incidence of DVT in the U.S. range from 130,000 to 550,000 cases per year, at a cost of $3 billion to $4 billion annually. Cheng is also active with the San Diego Meeting of Asian Professionals and the media chair for the group’s “Taste of Asia” fundraising celebration at the International Cottages in Balboa Park. As a member of Beyond Productions, she raises funds to rebuild earthquake-stricken schools in Asia for underprivileged children.

An online community driving offline action

Scot Chisolm
Scot Chisolm

In 2005, Scot Chisholm, 28, founded a new venture to answer the question: How can young professionals contribute to our communities when we are too young (translation, too broke) to attend high-end, black-tie charity events but too old to not take an active part and pitch in, at least in some small way? The answer is Stay Classy Inc., San Diego’s leading philanthropic social network, supporting charitable initiatives through the production of fundraising events and its Website, stayclassy.org. The first year, Stay Classy raised $4,000 for the American Cancer Society and now, four years later, expects 2009 revenues to top $500,000. This year’s primary initiative for Stay Classy is its Campaign for Abandoned Youth, with a goal to build a shelter to keep the estimated 2,000 homeless youth in San Diego safe.  The organization has partnered with San Diego Youth Services to raise $500,000 toward building or renovating a structure and Chisholm has had architectural drawings prepared for an eco-friendly shelter. Since the organization’s founding in 2005, Stay Classy members have come together to plant trees, clean beaches, help offset the pollution of local businesses, coordinate wildfire collection drives and, in 2008 alone, contribute more than 2,500 hours of volunteer service.

Business litigation, pro bono work cross paths

Oleg Cross
Oleg Cross

At just 29 years of age, Oleg Cross is a successful attorney, book author and father. A native of Ukraine, Cross moved to San Diego in 2006 and now handles complex business litigation and high-stakes class action cases for the law firm of Cooley, Godward, Kronish LLP. Cross is also highly devoted to pro bono matters in which he often represents indigent clients in civil rights and immigration cases. He represented a client in a federal civil rights action against a major California municipality, where the plaintiff alleged a pattern and practice of discrimination based on the plaintiff’s HIV-positive status. As part of the same case, Cross also pursued claims against a large and well-represented corporate defendant. The case is currently pending and set for trial. Cross also has represented indigent asylum-seekers, assisted Holocaust survivors applying to receive reparations from the German government and acted as co-counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal civil rights action against a major municipality, charging that its police force had a pattern and practice of using excessive force. Cross opened his own law firm this month, Cross Law Group, specializing in business litigation and appellate work. He also is a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer and a volunteer for the Duke University Alumni admissions program, interviewing applicants from San Diego high schools. He has co-authored a book, “Nail Your Law Job Interview: The Essential Guide to Firm, Clerkship, Government, In-house and Lateral Interviews,” published by Career Press in 2009.

Opening doors for MOMpreneurs

Pollie Gautsch
Pollie Gautsch

She’s a lawyer, a mother of two young children and an environmentalist. And Pollie Gautsch has harnessed all three of her interests in two Websites. The first, SanDiegoGreenHomes.com, was named the Best Green Resource by San Diego Magazine in 2007. It brings together a network of San Diego County green building product and service providers dedicated to building homes that are environmentally friendly, energy efficient and healthier. As the owner of G&A legal, a law firm that assists individual and business clients in the areas of entertainment, intellectual property, technology, sports and comprehensive legal counsel, Gautsch, 38, has also carved out a unique niche for her firm in helping “MOMpreneurs” start, manage and protect all aspects of their businesses. She has helped hundreds of moms actively balance the roles of mother and entrepreneur and in protecting their intellectual property and further their conceptual ideas into thriving businesses.

A Toast to Italian chef and entrepreneur

Martin Gonzalez
Martin Gonzalez

When Martin Gonzalez visited Florence in 1998-99, it wasn’t just a pleasure trip. He was immersing himself in extensive training and education of traditional Italian cooking techniques by Acqua Al 2’s executive chef Stefano Innocenti, so that he could introduce the recipes and culture of Florentine cuisine to San Diego. And when the sister restaurant opened in September 2000 in the Gaslamp Quarter, it was an instant success, with the Gaslamp Quarter Association naming Acqua Al 2 the best new restaurant in 2001.  Subsequent awards and accolades have been collected over the past eight years and now Gonzalez is planning to open a new establishment in Downtown San Diego: Toast Enotec e Cucina — the first enoteca, Italian wine library in San Diego. It will have enomatic dispensing machines that will serve the freshest and largest selection of wines by the glass. Toast will provide patrons a choice of more than 400 wines, and to complement them all, Gonzales, 35, has developed a menu of appetizers, lunch dishes and dinner entrees.  Away from the restaurant, Gonzales spends time with his wife and two children. He is involved with raising awareness and research funding for autism, a cause close to his heart because one of his daughters is autistic. In fact, last year, Gonzales arranged a fundraising event at Acqua Al 2 by partnering with the Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation, with Padre players serving guests, acting as chefs, waiters and bartenders.

Giving comfort food for patrons

Matt Gordon
Matt Gordon

Matt Gordon is co-owner and executive chef at Urban Solace, a restaurant he opened in 2007 with general manager and partner Scott Watkins. They rebuilt the remnants of a prior establishment into a delightfully relaxing venue with an interior courtyard patio and a two-story façade that is reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter. But in addition to the comfortable surroundings, it is the satisfying, feel-good fare, the “comfort food,” that has made Urban Solace a hit in San Diego and part of the reason 30th Street is the new up-and-coming place to be and be seen in San Diego. Try Gordon’s warm cheese biscuits with orange-honey butter or sweet-potato French fries with blue-cheese dressing as a warm-up to his barbecued lamb riblets or a cider and molasses-glazed roast chicken. Gordon, 37, is a 17-year veteran of the restaurant industry and is self-trained under the supervision of several chefs. He has headed several kitchen operations ranging from formal fine dining to bustling high-volume corporate restaurants. Gordon also was the executive chef and food and beverage director at Hospitality Inc., one of San Diego’s top catering companies that include Festivities Catering and Picnic People. Gordon is an active member of the North Park Business Owners Association and North Park Main Street and a generous in-kind contributor to Dining out for Life, Mama’s Kitchen, the American Liver Foundation Culinary Gala and the Wine and Roses fund for Camp Oliver for underprivileged children.

Leading the way for nonprofits

Jonathan Grissom
Jonathan Grissom

For more than 11 years, Jonathan Grissom, a partner at the law firm of Higgs, Fletcher and Mack, has focused his legal practice on assisting nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations.  He represents nonprofits with issues such as entity creation, governance, regulatory compliance, charitable solicitations, tax-exempt bond financings, endowment funds, federal and state tax exemption, fiscal sponsorships and protection of assets and mergers.  Additionally, Grissom, 38, devotes more than 300 hours annually to providing pro bono legal assistance to area charities. He has assisted hundreds of charities in San Diego and throughout the state in accomplishing their missions. Among the types of organizations he has assisted are social welfare organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, environmental groups, senior housing facilities, animal welfare organizations, arts and cultural institutions and groups dedicated to philanthropic causes. He is a director and secretary for Accion San Diego, a charitable microfinance lender; and the board chair of Nonprofit Management Solutions. A 2003 graduate of LEAD San Diego, he is a member of the Membership and Leadership Action Team selection committee of LEAD San Diego and a member of the legal committee of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Growing minds and bottom lines

Amy Hutchens
Amy Hutchens

Amy Hutchins founded AmyK Inc. in 2000 with the goal of offering her consulting experience to businesses and business leaders to stimulate new ideas and foster inspired connections for their personal and professional growth. Based in San Diego since 2006, AmyK travels the world helping companies and individuals grow their minds … and their bottom line. A self-described brain-geek, Hutchins, 37, calls what she does “igniting brilliance.” Hutchins draws on her master’s experience in education and brain research from Johns Hopkins University in helping leaders capitalize on the way the human brain works so they may be more effective in business and in life. Hutchins has delivered more than 600 lectures to thousands of executives on leadership and sales and she has worked with Martha Beck, Oprah’s life coach and columnist for O Magazine. Now she is partnering with the University of San Diego Alumni Association to offer a seminar on the importance of standing out in today’s economy. Hutchins is an active supporter of multiple charitable organizations including Camp Wamp, a camp for children and young adults with physical disabilities, Voices for Children and Laura’s House. She is a member of the task force committee for the San Dieguito United Methodist Church, where she also co-chairs of the newcomer committee.

A thesis for socially responsible investing

Shane Johnston
Shane Johnston

After writing his senior thesis at UC Santa Barbara on economic development in Latin America, traveling through Africa and interning in Washington, D.C., Shane Johnston decided that he wanted a career dedicated to reversing the unsustainable “race to the bottom” that he saw in an increasingly deregulated global system where environmental and labor standards continually plummet. As a financial adviser and partner with Blue Summit Financial Group, Johnston specializes in socially responsible investing, paving the way toward a more ethical and sustainable model for doing business in the 21st century. As a partner in the firm, he oversees the marketing and client service operations and manages more than $80 million in assets. Johnston is a volunteer board member of San Diego Outdoor Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to making quality outdoor education available for San Diego students. At the national level, he is an active member of the Social Investment Forum, a national nonprofit membership association dedicated to advancing the practice and growth of socially responsible investing. He participates in the nonprofit group Co-op America, now known as “Green America,” with the mission to harness economic power to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

Patent attorney pursues Clean Tech

Carl Kukkonen
Carl Kukkonen

Carl Kukkonen is a founding partner of the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC, where he counsels clients on significant patent issues that serve to protect companies’ most valuable assets. He is one of San Diego’s top attorneys in the technology, intellectual property and cleantech space representing both large, multi-national companies and well known technology companies such as MySpace and privately held local companies including Tapioca Mobile, HRE Wheels, Nextivity and Semtek. Kukkonen, 35, has been actively involved in cleantech since the 1990s when clean technology was in its infancy. He is committed to fostering a clean-tech community in San Diego by counseling early stage companies in a variety of technologies and as a member of the board of CleanTECH San Diego, a nonprofit membership organization formed to accelerate San Diego as a world leader in the clean technology economy. He is also on the board of the MIT Enterprise Forum, which serves as the “global voice of entrepreneurship” for entrepreneurial networking, inspiration and education in San Diego. Kukkonen also works to organize volunteer work parties for San Elijo Lagoon, one of the few remaining coastal wetlands of San Diego County and home to an exceptional number of animals and plants.

Resourceful networking

Julie Magnuson
Julie Magnuson

What Julie Magnuson started 10 years ago as an online resource to connect a small group of San Diego’s human resources community has grown to a 400-member organization that is known as San Diego’s most effective way to connect to the HR industry.  The San Diego Recruiter’s Roundtable — SDRR — offers network and an online membership directory, a job board of all member company openings, a resume database for recruiters, a discount link for resume writing assistance for job seekers and professional development events and mixers for members. SDRR also provides its members with direct access to a top labor attorney and benefits broker, who offer private expert advice on difficult HR-related issues. SDRR is the first HR networking association to fully utilize top social media avenues such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to manage its members’ recruiting presence in social media. At 38, Magnuson, in addition to her duties as SDRR chairperson, maintains an active HR consulting practice, Magnuson Consulting, which she launched in 2001 and which serves more than 65 leading San Diego employers in a variety of industries and a focus in high-tech and biotech. She is a certified mediator of the San Diego Mediation Center.

Marketing for the right cause

Denise Mahaffey
Denise Mahaffey

Denise Mahaffey, 38, is the founder of Malama Marketing. Malama is a Hawaiian word meaning “to care for” and Mahaffey’s firm is a leader in optimizing, fundraising and designing effective cause-marketing programs. National campaigns have included producing and delivering more than 625 computers to needy homes and schools through TIG and Magic 92.5 FM’s Computers for Kids programs and supporting the NFL’s Youth Sports Clinic. Her firm’s services include business development, marketing consulting, advertising, public relations and online campaigns. She has provided pro bono marketing and fundraising to several nonprofit organizations including, among a long list not mentioned here: Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy Association, San Diego Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs of Carlsbad, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, the Deacon Jones Foundation and Stan Humphrey’s Celebrity Classic. Earlier this year, Mahaffey helped expand The Good Ol’ Gals business networking organization by establishing and leading its newest chapter in Del Mar.

X marks the brand

Jennifer Martino
Jennifer Martino

Jennifer Martino has a guiding principle for herself and her clients at ProjectXMedia: If your business is to change and grow — as it must continuously to thrive — you must change and grow first. Martino, 37, has been guiding her clients in branding and design since founding her firm in 1996. She directs all design efforts at the firm and oversees production of all collateral and materials. She is vice president of marketing and a member of the executive board for San Diego State’s Alumni Network and serves on the advisory board for graphic communicators for Palomar College. At San Diego Rotary Club, she is chair of the membership retention committee and works with the Hoover High School Interact Club. She is a frequent guest lecturer for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, the Art Institute and Palomar College. She was named a semi-finalist for the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Bravo! 2008 Signature Award, which recognized San Diego women business owners who have been consistent and persistent in business practices for at least 10 years and who have made a commitment to foster the economic growth of other women-owned businesses.

Innovativeevents rev up dull economy

Nicole Matthews
Nicole Matthews

Nicole Matthews is principal of The Henley Company, an event management and personal concierge firm. Through strategic partnerships, Matthews, 36, has self-produced events around major social and cultural moments. Take “Sex and the City,” the movie, for example. In 2008, by partnering with key companies, Matthews created a sold-out event that provided guests with a unique experience that included a private showing of the movie, an after-party, a swag box including official “Sex and the City” merchandise and a VIP shopping experience. She has replicated the model with additional movie premiers and the inauguration of Barack Obama. These innovative events have pulled the firm through the tough economy and contributed 40 percent to Matthews’ bottom line. As a personal concierge, Matthews simplifies the lives of busy executives through her lifestyle management services. And she finds time to be an adjunct/associate professor at Mira Costa Community college and Mesa College, where she teaches in the hospitality program.  Last January, Matthews was the Awards Chair for the International Special Event Conference and Trade Show held in San Diego and as the local chapter president, increased membership by 40 percent. She is a Certified Special Events Professional, the hallmark of special achievement in the special events industry and currently held by fewer than 250 in the world.

A more tenacious leasing advocate

Misty Moore
Misty Moore

Misty Moore is a rising star in San Diego’s commercial real estate industry, where she is vice president of tenant representation with Jones Lang Lasalle. Previously, she was a vice president with The Staubach Company, which was acquired by Jones Lang Lasalle last year. Her non-exhaustive energy in the pursuit of the ideal facility at the best economic terms has created a long list of loyal clients. She also possesses an in-depth knowledge of the many pitfalls tenants face in lease negotiations and has an uncanny ability to achieve creative, cost-effective solutions for her clients, rewarding them by consistently exceeding their expectations. Moore, 33, is a frequent speaker to University of San Diego masters in real estate graduate students and corporate real estate directors and attorneys from across the country. Moore serves on the board of directors for the AjA Project, a nonprofit, after-school photography program for refugee and immigrant youth in San Diego. And she is actively involved with Run Women Run, a nonprofit that encourages and mentors qualified pro-choice San Diego women to run for office or seek appointed government positions. She is a board member of the Downtown San Diego Partnership and founder and immediate past board chair of the Young Executive Society at the University Club.

Fighting Irish in her blood

Cynthia Morgan
Cynthia Morgan

Cynthia Morgan may have obtained her juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1999, but she hasn’t really left the university. In fact, this year, Morgan, 35, a shareholder at the law firm of Seltzer, Caplan, McMahon, Vitek, was recognized and profiled by the Notre Dame Law School as an outstanding alumni for her volunteer hours as a mentor to law students and new alumni. Morgan personally meets with every Notre Dame student or law alum that contacts her and assists them with career advice, job placement and information about the San Diego legal community. She also keeps tabs on the young lawyers and acts as a resource to them throughout their careers. Morgan, who specializes in land use and real estate transactional practice, also serves on Seltzer, Caplan’s recruitment committee and sustainability committee. She is vice president of the East Village Association and is a member of the Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders. Morgan also organized and ran the Women’s Resource Fair this past March, a one-day, one-stop shop for homeless, battered, abused and addicted women and their children. She’ll do the same next year. As co-chair of that event, Morgan was in charge of a task force of 26 volunteer attorneys and professionals who provided legal, medical and social services for more than 600 women and child care for more than 200 children.

New PR model: Pay-on-performance

David Oates
David Oates

In 2006, David Oates launched a public relations and marketing agency based on a somewhat unorthodox but appealing compensation model: pay for performance. Bucking the typical retainer structure, Oates’s Stalwart Communications charges clients only when it produces results such as positive article placement, industry awards, speaking opportunities and lead generation. Oates, 39, is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a 15-year public relations veteran who has worked with a wide range of clients in government, technology, consumer and nonprofit arenas. Rotary Club of San Diego, Club 33, named him Rotarian of the Quarter last January. For the club, he is vice chair of the military affairs committee, vice chair of the public relations committee, chair of the enlisted recognition luncheon and chair of last February’s Young Rotarians events. Oates is moderator of the Pay for Performance podcast and a frequent guest interviewer on CDEO BizTalk radio.

Rhode to the top

Satnley Panikowski
Satnley Panikowski

Meet the only lawyer in San Diego who was once a Supreme Court law clerk and a former Rhodes Scholar. Stanley Panikowski, 37, is the son of a a Philadelphia police officer and a legal secretary and the first person in his family to graduate from college. After receiving his law degree from the University of Virginia with the highest award for its graduates, Panikowski went on to clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Today, Panikowski is one of the leading appellate lawyers for the world’s largest law firm, DLA Piper. He has argued and won appeals on behalf of some of the world’s leading technology companies including Hewlett-Packard and Samsung in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. And he was part of the DLA Piper team that won a big victory in a securities case in the California Supreme Court in January 2008.  Panikowski is actively involved in pro bono work representing veterans and veterans’ organizations and assisting the Animal Legal Defense Fund in important appeals. He is an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, a board member for Promises2Kids and a five-year board member of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars.

Parenting the Young Democrats

Colin Parent
Colin Parent

Colin Parent, 28, is an up-and-coming leader in San Diego, both in the legal community and the community as a whole. Parent is an attorney at the global law firm DLA Piper, focusing on commercial litigation and professional responsibility law. He also has become active in San Diego politics, where he is the political director for San Diego County Young Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, Parent organized the group’s support for Todd Gloria’s successful campaign for City Council, and hosted two fundraisers at his North Park home. He also co-organized two fundraisers for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign with the San Diego chapter of Young Lawyers for Obama. And Parent planned and implemented a media strategy for Young Democrats’ “Farewell to W at the W Hotel,” an event that drew more than 1,500 people, more than doubled the Young Democrats local membership, and was named the “Outstanding Project” for 2009 from the California Young Democrats. Parent also founded and serves as president of the American Constitution Society, San Diego chapter. ACS is an organization dedicated to advancing a progressive view of the law and the local chapter has hosted a number of debates and panel discussions. As the spokesperson for the League of Conservation Voters, Parent is the face of the prominent local environmental organization. In his local community, Parent serves on the North Park Planning Committee.

Bringing businesses and vendors together

Ryan Peddycord
Ryan Peddycord

Ryan Peddycord is an entrepreneur with a passion for helping other entrepreneurs succeed. At 33, he’s launched three successful businesses. His latest, Resource Nation, has experienced exponential growth this year and attracted the attention of Fortune, INC. and Money magazines and The Wall Street Journal. Peddycord’s first experience leading a company came right on the heels of the dot.com bust, while serving as executive vice president for ARS Inc., a market leader in research for the telecommunications and consumer electronics industries. After the company experienced negative growth for the first time in its history, Peddycord was given the reins and within a year, turned the lagging sales around to seven figure earnings. Next, he orchestrated an acquisition of Current Analysis, forming the largest provider of tactical competitive response solutions for the telecommunications industry. In 2006, he founded Resource Nation with the motto, “Profit through Knowledge.” Its core service is an online vendor location service. A business describes the project and budget and Resource Nation matches them with three to five trusted, pre-screened vendors, such as payroll services or Web designers, within its extensive network of local and national vendors. Peddycord is a past member of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of East San Diego County and has formed partnerships with organizations that promote women and minority-owned business ownership.

Giving back moves lawyer forward

Natalie Prescott
Natalie Prescott

This year, Natalie Prescott published her first book, “Nail Your Law Job Interview,” a comprehensive guide for young and senior lawyers on the intricacies of interviewing for law-related jobs. Of course, if they all had Prescott’s resume to back up that interview, they’d have it nailed for sure. At age 28, Prescott is an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP, where she practices appellate law and commercial litigation. She began her career in Odessa, Ukraine, as a TV newscaster and journalist. Upon relocating to the United States, she completed her undergraduate degree in three years, obtained her masters in one year and went on to graduate from Duke University School of Law, where she was elected to serve as editor-in-chief of a legal journal. Today, Prescott serves as co-chair of the San Diego chapter of the “Moving Forward by Giving Back” committee at her firm, a community-service initiative launched to assist San Diego nonprofits during the economic downturn. She volunteers for Meals-on-Wheels, helping seniors stay independent. She has provided legal assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina, to indigent immigrants, to individuals with disabilities and children. She has served as a Ninth Circuit Pro Bono volunteer. Last year, Prescott was the recipient of the prestigious Jack Berman Award of Achievement from the California Bar Association, an award given to just one young lawyer annually for outstanding contributions to the community and the public.

A trucker’s best friend

Virginia Price
Virginia Price

You’re a trucker whose big rig has just jack-knifed on the I-5, spilling its load of hazardous material. Two other vehicles are involved; Hazmat has evacuated the area. Who ya gonna call? Virginia Price’s Transportation Practice Group at Klinedinst PC. In less than 10 years as an attorney, Price, 33, has achieved shareholder status with Klinedinst. She serves as chair of the firm’s Transportation Practice Group, which she built almost single-handedly. Her primary focus is representing trucking companies and the transportation industry in a variety of litigation matters focusing on catastrophic loss claims and cargo liability. Price has always had a keen awareness of her clients’ needs. As an example, she created a firm-wide 24-hour rapid response protocol, ensuring that members of her legal team would provide immediate response to clients involved in an accident. In addition to mentoring and training attorneys within her firm, through the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Price participates in training and mentoring high school students for their peer mediation program. She works with students teaching ethics, mediation techniques and the importance of confidentiality. And for her efforts, she was awarded the group’s Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services.

Raising equity, finding partners

Thomas Reiter
Thomas Reiter

Thomas Reiter, 38, is chief financial officer and serves on the board of directors of Media Cart Holdings. Media Cart is a leader in delivering computerized retail and grocery shopping cart systems that both assist shoppers and deliver point-of-purchase video communications for retailers and consumer product goods manufacturers. The system uses the precise location of the shopping cart in the store as well as relevant shopping history and demographic data to drive pertinent communications at the point-of-purchase. Reiter has been instrumental in raising equity — $57 million — structuring revenues, contracts, introducing strategic partners and implementing the business plan for Media Cart, now in operation in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Reiter served in the U.S. Army National Guard while putting himself through college. He has worked in capital market transaction and real estate, most recently with McMillan Companies. Through his unique experiences, skill set and focused determination, he has participated in some extraordinarily complex real estate, private equity and capital market transactions with some of the world’s most notable investors and preeminent financial institutions. Reiter is active with the San Diego Red Cross and Junior Achievement program.

Success in the City

Jenn Seeger
Jenn Seeger

Carrie Bradshaw had her newspaper column; Jenn Seeger has her Success in the City blog. It’s just one element of her Diva Center Website, the online headquarters for her Pacific Beach-based center that serves to create an avenue for promoting female personal growth and entrepreneurship by developing a community of support. Seeger, 31, has partnered with local businesspeople in the areas of life coaching, career development, health, nutrition and fitness, love and dating, style and beauty and home. Through these affiliations, she is helping to empower women through skill building, developing like-mind relationships and creating plans for financial independence. Seeger began her career as a financial advisory executive with Sagemark Consulting, specializing in supporting high net-worth individuals with retirement, investment, estate and business planning. Through the Diva Center, Seeger plans to use her personal and organizational network to support local nonprofits. In the works are events to support Dress-for-Success and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Seeger is a member of the Rancho Santa Fe Business Professional Women’s Association.

Hospitality arena finds a welcome mat

Jamie Sigler
Jamie Sigler

These are exciting times for Jamie Lynn Sigler, 31, founding partner at J Public Relations, now in its seventh year. This year the firm opened a New York office, the better to serve its list of prestigious hospitality, travel and lifestyle industry clients; among them, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas currently undergoing a $750 million expansion; San Diego’s hottest new upscale eatery and lounge, Suite & Tender at the Se San Diego Hotel, and top gaming destination, Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort. The firm also doubled its employees in the last year. Though business has boomed, Sigler has remained committed to community service. She is a board member of the Touissant Academy and part of Father Joe’s Villages. She helped the Academy launch a science lab on the campus that enables graduates to enter directly into four-year colleges. She helped develop and launch “Pierre’s Place,” a restaurant run by the Touissant students, providing job experience for the students and funds for the school. Sigler also provides pro bono media relations and public relations for Mama’s Kitchen’s annual Mama’s Day AIDS walk. And for the Jenna Druck Foundation, she provided pro bono PR services to pack the entire Sports Arena for a motivational lecture by Tony Robbins and authors of “The Secret.” The event raised more than $100,000 for the Young Women’s Leadership charity and “Families Helping Families.”

Placing people in jobs, children in homes

Brandy Sloaterman
Brandy Sloaterman

Armed with 15 years of accounting and recruiting experience in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500s, Brandy Sloatermen, 37, co-founded Vaco San Diego, a consulting and placement firm in 2005. Her approach is relationship focused and driven by a long-term vision where she takes care of people now and in the future. And it seems to be working well for the national network of Vaco offices that has been named to the INC. 500 in the position of #33 fastest growing privately held companies in the U.S.  Outside of work, Sloatermen has been involved with the Angels Foster Family Network for three years as a single foster mother to a little boy and has just recently adopted him.  Over the three-year period, Sloatermen established a unique mentoring relationship with the young birth mother, becoming a positive, supportive person to a woman who had never experienced this type of relationship before. Despite the fact that reunification efforts failed, Sloatermen has ensured the birth mother that she will be involved in her son’s life. Sloatermen and Vaco San Diego continue to work with the Angels Foster Family Network in their goal to help children find loving homes in San Diego.

Creating wealth and stamping out SIDS

Shawna Such
Shawna Such

As a wealth management adviser at Merrill Lynch, Shawna Such, 37, identifies and delivers financial solutions for individuals, families and businesses to help them accomplish their financial goals. Her clients include local business owners in San Diego and a wide variety of entertainment industry players in Los Angeles. Such received her Certified Financial Manager designation in 1997 at Merrill Lynch and in 2000, at age 27, she was selected to manager a Merrill Lynch branch in Del Mar. Since then, she has achieved the designation of Certified Financial Planner and has received numerous awards and recognitions for excellence in leadership and financial planning. This past February, she made the list of five-star advisers in San Diego Magazine. Such co-founded, with her husband, the No More SIDS Foundation in 2007. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS, claims the lives of six babies every day and is the leading cause of death in babies after one month of age. The foundation delivers pertinent information about SIDS prevention to caregivers, day care centers and parents. In her home town of Carlsbad, she is a founding member of the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation whose purpose is to build a city endowment to help meet the needs of local charities and encourage responsible, effective philanthropy.

Tagging best practices and passing them on

Brian Suerth
Brian Suerth

Brian Suerth, 38, is executive vice president and partner for Technology Assurance Group (TAG), an international association of independently owned communications companies that deliver best business practice training and consultation. TAG supports the evolution of its member companies by providing powerful competitive advantages through education of proven business processes and the introduction of new technology through its strategic partnerships with leading manufacturers and application service providers. During his time at TAG, Suerth has rapidly risen to national notoriety as a sales and motivational speaker in the areas of management, sales, strategic planning and marketing. As a result of his exceptional performance, his relationship at TAG has grown from an independent contractor to employee to co-owner. Today, Suerth sits on the Advisory Board for Telematrix, a leading provider of unified communications systems for the hospitality industry. He has been active in the community throughout his career, participating in the marketing committee of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and a committee member for the annual Asian Business Association convention. He is a member of the board of the Human Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources and learning experiences for intellectually gifted, low-income elementary students.

Providing a Latina perspective

Nora Vargas
Nora Vargas

Nora Vargas, 37, serves as the first Latina and first vice president of education and binational affairs for Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties, the second largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the nation. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the overall vision and plan for the agency’s Education Forum. Her public affairs experience includes serving as the first manager of San Diego State University’s Office of Legislative Relations, where she promoted higher education policy issues. She was the founding director of the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Immigrant Rights. She served as an aide to Congressman Bob Filner and, in Washington, was a Schedule C Presidential Appointee to the U.S. Selective Service during the Clinton administration. An accomplished political consultant, she has directed successful campaigns at the federal, state and local levels. She was a member of the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996 and in 2006 she led the campaign to elect Mary Salas to the California State Legislature. She serves on the boards of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality and the Parent Institute for Quality Education. And she is an adviser to the National Democratic Institute’s “Win with Women” project in Latin America.

Fleeing civil war, assisting refugees

Hamsa Warfa
Hamsa Warfa

Hamse Warfa was born in Somalia. He moved with his family to the United States in 1994, after escaping Somalia’s civil war and spending almost three years living in a refugee camp in Kenya. He attended Crawford High School in San Diego, graduated from San Diego State with a degree in political science and received a Master of Science in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College. Last year, Warfa completed an advanced graduate-level certificate program on the Foundations of Conflict Analysis from the United States Institute of Peace. Now Warfa, 31, is harnessing his life experiences and education to provide technical assistance to refugee-owned businesses. As program officer with Alliance Healthcare Foundation, he manages grants, providing technical assistance to grantees and prospective grantees. Prior to his current position, he spent eight years as Associate Executive Director for Horn of Africa, a refugee assistance organization whose mission is to provide culturally and linguistically relevant services to East African refugees and immigrants. He continues his affiliation with Horn of Africa, as president of the Institute for Horn of Africa Studies and Affairs. And he is the chairperson for the San Diego Refugee Forum, a professional association of organizations and advocates serving all populations fleeing violence and persecution and taking refuge in San Diego.

Forging border alliances

Jason M-B Wells
Jason M-B Wells

No one disputes that there are huge issues surrounding the international border between Mexico and the United States. But in the international dialogue, regional business and commerce are often overlooked. Jason M-B Wells, 35, the executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, has fought tirelessly and effectively to counter this tendency. He successfully inserted regional border infrastructure, specifically the need for the expansion of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, as a municipal priority during Mayor Jerry Sanders’ first executive trip to Washington. He successfully opposed Custom and Border Protection’s plan to close the San Ysidro Port of Entry pedestrian bridge. He created the San Ysidro Border Coalition efforts, resulting in a 40 percent decrease in the private, tax-generating land the federal government planned to acquire and he established a unified voice for the binational region surrounding the world’s busiest land border crossing. And in 2008, Wells originated and drafted the historic letter of intent between Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos and Mayor Sanders, committing themselves and their administrations to a coordinated effort to reduce border wait times between San Diego and Tijuana. This letter of intent was the catalyst for the agreement between Baja California Governor Osuna Millan and the Baja California municipalities forging a coordinated plan for the California/Baja border crossings.

The right recipe for today’s kitchen

Lisa Wilson-Worth
Lisa Wilson-Wirth

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and Lisa Wilson-Wirth has poured her heart into creating modern and sustainable kitchens that enhance her clients’ well-being, lifestyle and health. As president and owner of Arclinea San Diego, Wilson-Wirth, 35, applies SMART technologies and creative design solutions that have garnered interest from national magazines including Remodeling, K+BB, LUXE and Riviera and local notoriety in Ranch & Coast, San Diego Home/Garden and San Diego Magazine. Bon Appétit magazine took special notice of Wilson-Wirth firm’s commitment to Green Design, calling its bold, contemporary design for a historic Sherman Heights Victorian “the New Dream Kitchen” in the magazine’s April 2009 issue. Seeing an unfilled market need for European kitchen and bath solutions, Wilson-Wirth’s firm became the exclusive distributor for the Arclinea Collection, a line of custom Italian cabinetry that dates to 1925. Recent high-profile projects have included custom kitchens and baths for the 18 units at the Lofts at Moonlight Beach and a sleek, all-stainless steel bachelor’s kitchen that played host to an episode of “Sam the Cooking Guy.” Wilson-Wirth is an allied member of the American Institute of Architects, and industry partner for the American Society of Interior Designers, and a former board member (three years) of  Slow Food San Diego and a former (four-year) Convivium leader of Slow Food USA.

A mentor for law students and young lawyers

Erika Hiramatsu
Erika Hiramatsu

When she’s not pursuing her job responsibilities in the San Diego office of the California Attorney General, Erika Hiramatsu, 37, mentors law students and young lawyers. In fact, she is well known by her peers for her strong commitment to this pursuit.  Hiramatsu has been a regular volunteer mentor for the Lawyers Club of San Diego. In 2002, she started the Judge-Law Student Mixer, which gives law students the opportunity to interact with judicial officers from the state and federal bench. Since its formation, the program has expanded with the addition of several co-sponsoring bar associations in the county, including the San Diego County Bar Association. Hiramatsu, a leader with the Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego, serving two terms as its president, works as a deputy attorney general in the Appeals, Writs and Trial Section of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office. She worked on the California State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission for several years. Earlier this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer appointed her to the federal Judicial Nomination Committee. In the community, Hiramatsu works on the board of the Japanese American Citizens League and is a devoted student of the elegant and ancient art of the Japanese tea ceremony. She studies the Urasenke school of tea. Accolades come easy for Hiramatsu. She has received recognition for her ongoing support and commitment to diversity from such organizations as the San Diego County Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association and Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association. She holds a Community Service Award from the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

On the waterfront

Kristin Peterson
Kristin Peterson

Kristin Peterson, 30, is director of operations for the San Diego Port Tenants Association, reporting to the association’s president, Sharon Cloward and the association’s board of directors. The nonprofit association is dedicated to enhancing trade, commerce and tourism on San Diego Bay’s tidelands while protecting the area’s environment. Toward this end, Peterson works closely with the Port of San Diego, state and local government and community organizations such as Centre City Development Corporation, the Environmental Health Coalition and labor groups. Over the past four years, Peterson has also served on the Port of San Diego’s marketing advisory committee, tidelands advisory committee, Port-with-No-Borders committee and the financial assistance committee.  She also plays an active role in the Working Waterfront Group, a coalition of industrial businesses on San Diego’s waterfront. Peterson also serves as the producer of Operation Clean Sweep, which is a partnership of the Port Tenants, the five port cities and the United States Navy.  This annual event produces the most extensive cleanup of San Diego Bay where Peterson oversees the work of more than 1,000 volunteers. She also volunteers for the San Diego Fleet Week Foundation to support military families.

Building momentum for San Diego businesses

Kobe Bogaert
Kobe Bogaert

A native of Belgium, Kobe Bogaert, 37, moved to San Diego in 1995 and he’s been on a fast track of success for the past 14 years teaching companies and boards of directors how to be stronger, more productive and successful. Bogaert is a principal of Strategic Momentum Inc., a San Diego-based company that helps its clients dramatically improve the productivity of its people doing business with people. Having worked in the U.S. and Europe, Bogaert has an extensive international network to help his clients establish relationship with domestic and international companies. In addition to his work with Strategic Momentum, Bogaert serves as chair and a founding member of the Marketlink Committee at Commnexus. Marketlink is one of the region’s most recognized programs that pair regional technology companies with multinational technology companies. He serves on the program committee of the Corporate Directors Forum, whose purpose is to help directors be better directors through education and peer networking.  And he serves on the program development committee of the Chairman’s Roundtable, whose mission is to strengthen San Diego, one company at a time. The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization is comprised of successful San Diego CEOs with diverse industry backgrounds who provide businesses within the county advice on how to manage and grow their businesses through a well defined mentoring program.

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Voice Your Opinion


We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: info@probolskyresearch.com