If you want to get something done, you give it to a busy person. If you want to find the easiest way to do something, you give it to a lazy person. And if you want to honor people for working hard at their companies and making a difference in the community, you give them the Rising Star honor.
This is my way of saying these 27 young professionals EARNED this award. They do far more than just show up for their jobs, and they do far more than just be in this community. They change their companies and their community for the better.
We at the CSBJ are tired of hearing the negative speak that ALL of our young professionals are leaving, ALL of our entrepreneurs are leaving. That is just not true. Thousands of young professionals that are under age 39 are not only staying in this community, but they are making a big difference too.
Our hope is that the Rising Stars from today’s awards reception use this award and their energy to continue changing this community and their companies for the better. With the past, present and future Rising Stars in our community, the possibilities for Colorado Springs are endless.
Adrienne Tuck – Bridgers & Paxton
Adrienne Tuck is in the business of making an impression. After she joined Bridgers & Paxton’s new Colorado Springs office in 2011 as the regional marketing manager, Tuck helped increase annual billings by 155 percent. She also worked with the firm’s marketing team to rebrand the corporation.
Now 34, Tuck works with the teams that include building contractors, architects and rest of the design teams in a collaborative design process.
“A lot of what I do is relationship development,” Tuck said. Typically, she works with the team at Bridgers & Paxton, but sometimes she will present the proposal herself.
“Sometimes, we pursue a project directly with the owner. When that happens, sometimes I’ll do the proposal myself,” Tuck said.
The military brought her and her husband to Colorado Springs, where her husband served as an attorney. She’s passionate about the military community and veterans.
She is also volunteering for the Pikes Peak Workforce Center’s Youth Council developing a mentorship program for teens who have barriers to education and employment. There, she works with teens coming out of the foster care system, those who are disabled, pregnant or parenting youth and coming out of the division of youth corrections.
At age 31, Tuck began training and competing in local competitions in the sport of Olympic-style weightlifting.
Her personal mantra is: “I cannot be of service to others unless I practice a lot of self-care.”
Tuck loves the mountains here and enjoys watching the cadets fly. Her favorite lunch place is the Adams Mountain Cafe.
Originally from Dallas, Tuck earned a degree in political science and journalism-public relations from Texas A&M University.
Becky Jones – Security Service Federal Credit Union
The business development manager at Security Service Federal Credit Union is responsible for outside sales at the credit union, creating and building relationships, “to spread the news about what Security Service has to offer and to see what we can do for them,” Jones said.
“Recently, she joined the Women’s Foundation of Colorado Springs and is actively involved in [its mission of building resources and leading change so that every woman and girl in Colorado achieves her full potential,” said Barbara Martin in her nomination of Jones. Jones also volunteers for Junior Achievement.
The 30-year-old’s favorite aspect of Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak.
“It’s always there. It brightens my day. Every time I see it, I see something different. I love living here,” said Jones, who moved to the Pikes Peak region at age 1.
Her favorite happy hour place is Rock Bottom because it’s next to a movie theater, and for lunch, she loves Panera.
“I love how busy it is, and I am a people watcher. It’s a meal and a show,” Jones said laughing.
Jones enjoys helping women and girls with their education, exposing them to benefits of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.
“I believe in a lot of things the Women’s Foundation does. A big one for us is the price of day care,” Jones said.
She is also passionate about law enforcement. Her husband, Jason, is a Colorado state trooper, and she’s “drawn to that. That’s our career and life.
As for her motto, “Play first, and make up the rules later,” she said. “I dive right into things.
“I’m working on a project right now. Instead of the planning, let’s get together and throw some ideas out.
Benjamin Harvey – Northwestern Mutual
A proudly self-proclaimed nerd, Benjamin Harvey joined Northwestern Mutual as an intern while a student at Colorado College in 2000. Since then, he has earned certifications as a wealth management advisor at Northwestern.
He has received many national awards for his financial planning practice and has served as president of the NAIFA of Colorado Springs (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors) and is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).
“I’m blessed to be able to help people with the complexities of their lives, financial planning that centers on their goals and aspirations and provides fully for their dreams,” Harvey said.
“I get to be a nerd and connect to people at a human level.”
In college, he studied the Russian language and comparative literature. He graduated in 2000.
His personal mantra: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
The native of a small town in Iowa, Harvey enjoys the small-town feel of Colorado Springs, while also appreciating its big-city amenities. And, he added, “the outdoors are awesome.”
His favorite lunch spot is a toss up between The Famous and Phantom Canyon. He also mentioned Subway … Subway is his client, he said laughing. While he said he doesn’t “really happy-hour any more,” but when he did, he enjoyed Nosh and Ivywild.
The 37-year-old is married to Che, and they have a son, Harvey’s “mini-me,” named Kolya.
Harvey’s passion in life is to always be intellectually curious and to use that in helping others.
His other passions include volunteering as a board member for Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Pikes Peak Region, as the board treasurer of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, as crew leader for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
Beth O’Brien – CSHP
O’Brien, 34, works as marketing coordinator and graphic designer for Colorado Springs Health Partners. A lifelong runner and triathlete, O’Brien grew up in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York before attending Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where she graduated in 2003.
After that, she entered the workforce at AT&T as a graphic designer before moving to Colorado Springs and her job at CSHP, which she said is “very interesting, and I love it.”
She described her work ethic: “Work hard, play hard.”
In her five years at CSHP, O’Brien has been promoted twice and progressed into a management role for the organization’s ten locations. She also has a freelance graphic design business and continues to compete as a triathlete in local, regional and national events. She is also active in community in nonprofits, including the American Heart Association, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, 9Health Fair, Junior Achievement and the American Diabetes Association.
To demonstrate her persistent spirit, friends of O’Brien shared this anecdote with the Business Journal: While competing in a triathlon a few years ago, a driver illegally drove a vehicle onto the cycling course. O’Brien was clipped by the car, flew over the handlebars of her road bike, but was mostly uninjured and hopped right back on to finish first in her class.
“Beth is a serious badass,” a friend said.
O’Brien said she enjoys the Pikes Peak Region’s “trail systems and active, engaged community (particularly on the Westside.” Her favorite place to go for lunch is Sonterra Grill on Tejon Street, just blocks from her downtown office. She also enjoys meeting friends for “Wine Wednesday” events at 2South on the city’s Westside.
Karole Campbell of Madwoman Marketing has known O’Brien since she started at CSHP and characterized her as “one of the most thoughtful, lovely and smart women I know.
“She has grown so much in her time with CSHP,” Campbell said. “Beth is intuitive, thorough and deliberative. She considers all marketing options and how they integrate with one another and comes up with great interactive solutions for the business.”
Brad L. Hallock – McAlpin Foster Advisors
“I like helping people make good financial decisions,” he said.
Hallock earned his undergraduate degree in finance from Colorado State University and his MBA in finance from UCCS. He is presently working toward his Certified Financial Planner accreditation.
His most noteworthy professional accomplishment he said, was working with an area small business owner to “get his finances under control and pay off $160,000 in debt over a 1-year period.”
Hallock was nominated for Rising Stars by McAlpin founder and Certified Financial Planner Maile Foster. Yvonne Boggs, branch retail executive with BBVA Compass, wrote his letter of recommendation.
“Brad has volunteered his time as an ambassador for the Regional Business Alliance, served on the board of The ARC of Colorado Springs as well as The Resource Exchange,” Boggs wrote. “It is wonderful to see and know an individual that wants his community to flourish and invests his time to see if happen.”
Hallock said he became involved in volunteer work after pursuing special needs planning as part of his job.
Hallock, a native of Sheridan Lake, a town a few dozen miles outside Lamar, said he is from “literally the middle of nowhere.”
He has lived in Colorado Springs since 2001.
“My wife [Whitney and I talked about living here for three or four years,” Hallock said. “But waking up every morning to this scenery — we’ve grown to love it. We not only love the beautiful nature, but we’ve also met some very wonderful people.”
Hallock said of his mantra: “After 17 years in this industry, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I try to eliminate the bad and the ugly every chance I get.”
As for his favorite spot about town, Hallock admitted he doesn’t go out much anymore thanks to his 6-year-old son Jefferson, but a craft brewery always tops his list.
“Any craft breweries in town,” he said. “Red Leg, Iron Bird, Pikes Peak [Brewing Company, Trinity, [Bristol at Ivywild. There are so many to choose from.
Candace Michele Datz – First Congregational Church
Candace Datz has been the director of youth and adult ministry at the First Congregational Church since July 2014. She graduated Colorado College in 2013, cum laude with distinction in history/political science, focusing on the Middle East.
She wasn’t a traditional student. After graduating from high school as class valedictorian in 2003, she got an associate of arts degree from Treasure Valley Community College and spent the next several years working for “Youth With a Mission.” She began as the short-term youth coordinator in 2005 focusing on the logistical needs of international teams, coordinating a team of 150 in China and smaller teams in Thailand post-tsunami. From 2007 to 2009 she served as a leadership team member, a job that included leading a three-month trip to southwest China with eight students.
In 2010 she enrolled at Colorado College while serving as worship leader at the Springs church. She was the main leader of musical worship for this church of more than 1,000 members, singing and playing the acoustic guitar at services.
In her current position, she develops curriculum and dynamic, relational programming for First Congregational’s youth ministry, oversees adult education programming and collaborates with pastoral leadership, staff and lay people to respond to congregational needs.
She also works part-time for Greenclean, an eco-friendly cleaning company that she owns with her husband. Datz volunteered as social media manager for Pete Lee’s successful re-election campaign.
“My mantra is just ‘LOVE,’ ” Datz told the CSBJ. “Pretty much if I have a question or problem, it can be handled by choosing to love myself, my neighbor or my community more, and to walk out that love in tangible action.
“I adore the people of Colorado Springs,” she continued. “There is such an interesting and strange convergence of people here, and I find myself intrigued and wanting to go deeper into the community. My absolute favorite spot any time of day is the Wild Goose. It’s become my ‘Cheers,’ and I love walking in and knowing that I will see someone I know and probably meet someone new too.
Claire Anderson – Senior Resource Council
She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, and an MPA from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Graduating cum laude from Gustavus Adolphus, she was selected for membership on the St. Lucia Court, the St. Ansgar Guild and inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Association Honor Society.
Before joining the Senior Resource Center, Anderson served as residence hall director at Central College, program coordinator for Opera Theatre of the Rockies and more recently as executive director of the El Paso County Bar Association. She has also served on numerous local boards and committees and is a graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak’s Leadership NOW! program (Class of 2008). While at Central College, Anderson received the 2008 Service Standard Award in Sustainability. She was recently nominated for Leadership Pikes Peak’s Emerging Community Leader Award.
Anderson enjoys working out, coffee, learning to cook, and is an active vocalist and performer with many local performing arts groups, including Opera Theater of the Rockies. A Colorado Springs native, Anderson has strong ties to the community and is deeply involved in many local nonprofits.
Her mantra: “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” She loves the city’s open spaces.
“There’s always an interesting and beautiful place for a hike or a walk,” she said. “I also love the coffee shops. …you can always find a small, curious place for a great latte.” And her favorite spot for lunch or happy hour?
“Sonterra!” she said. “You can’t beat the margaritas.
Elizabeth Mickelson – US Air Force
And through her service in the U.S. Air Force and volunteer work, it is clear she has given her life to serving others — both at home and abroad.
“Her commitment and devotion to the military and to the community is apparent,” said Rodolfo Reyes, USAF section chief at the Client Services Center. “She is an empathetic, independent and ambitious woman that knows how to succeed and excel in whatever endeavors she sets her mind to.
Mickelson is a non-commissioned officer in charge for the Client Systems Team of the 50th Space Communications Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base. She joined the military in 2001.
She came to Colorado Springs in 2005 after a deployment to Ramstein, Germany, where she first developed a passion for helping people through the Wounded Warrior Project. She has continued to volunteer with that organization since being stationed at Shriever, and she has also become active with local nonprofits, including Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Habitat for Humanity and Honor Flight.
Mickelson is also currently earning a degree in nursing and hopes to become a nurse practitioner.
“Mickelson is definitely a star among her peers both personally and professionally,” Reyes said. “She is adamant about helping humanity and excelling in every aspect of her life.
Michelson said a mantra by which she lives her life goes like this: “Learn. Laugh. Love. Approach life with determination; turn words in action. Live with your whole heart; all or nothing.
She said she enjoys several aspects of Colorado Springs, including hiking, running, festivals, art galleries and volunteer opportunities. Her favorite places to dine are Salsa Brava, Al Sushi and Arharn Thai.
Evelyn Spencer – Kinder Morgan
Spencer, 33, works as a senior scheduling representative for Kinder Morgan in Colorado Springs — a role she uses to leverage her community activism.
Her work consists of providing training for scheduling and allocations pertaining to El Paso Natural Gas, TransColorado and Mojave pipelines, as well as customer accounts representation. When she isn’t doing that, Spencer is active with the Rocky Mountain Young Professionals Summit, Junior Achievement, Colorado Springs Rising Professionals and the Pikes Peak Boy Scouts Council.
“I love to be a part of many things and want to make a difference not only in my life and my family’s life but also in the community that we live in,” she said. “I want to leave a legacy that makes my children, grandchildren and [great-grandchildren proud! I want them and others to be inspired by my life with the hope that they will pay it forward, volunteer their time and make the community even better than the one they were raised in.
Spencer said there are a few mantras she tries to live by and that inspire her to make a lasting impact on the world around her.
The first is a verse by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.
The other is a quote by Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’
Spencer said she loves just about everything about Colorado Springs, especially that it is family-friendly, full of trails, surrounded by beautiful nature, culturally diverse and full of “amazing individuals that are not only inspired to succeed in their profession, but also enjoy mentoring and sharing their knowledge with the younger generations.
She is also active in her support of the troops. Coming from a military family, Spencer said she is a proponent of the local veterans’ programs and the support they provide.
“We want to support the veterans that have devoted their life to our country and give them a reason to stay in Colorado when they retire,” she said.
Spencer said her favorite place to have lunch is either Fujiyama or Little Nepal in downtown Colorado Springs, and her favorite places for happy hour are The Ritz and The Rabbit Hole, which are also downtown.
JaDee Harsma – DLR Group
Architect Edward Bladowski, principal at the DLR Group, wrote her letter of recommendation.
“I hired JaDee out of college nine years ago, and since then she has grown to be an integral part of our firm and plays a vital role in each project with which she is involved,” Bladowski wrote. “She is a strong leader and is extremely successful in getting teams to work well together while having fun at what they’re doing. Through her educational projects, she is able to serve the younger generations in a manner that enables them to have the opportunity to be in a friendly, healthy, safe and imaginative environment.
Harsma received her undergraduate degree in graphic design from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and her master’s in architecture from Iowa State University. She specializes in buildings for education; design can change lives, she said.
“Design can be inspiring,” she said. “Creating collaborative space can invigorate students and create a desire to learn, and I get to be part of crafting that.
Harsma has been recognized in national publications for her work, such as the “Shaw Design Is …” Award for her work on the Falcon Virtual Academy. The design of Falcon Virtual Academy is one of Harsma’s hallmark projects and also has the distinction of being one of the highest award-winning designs in the DLR Group portfolio, according to her nomination form.
She said of her personal mantra: “I strive to always foster creativity, embrace innovation, bring great design and add a little color to every aspect of my life.
Harsma said, being from the Midwest, her favorite thing about Colorado Springs is the weather.
“The sun,” she explained, was the most appealing thing about the Front Range. “The Midwest is gray from October through May.
When not outside, Harsma can be found a her favorite local eatery, Shuga’s.
Jeremy Wimer – Colorado Technical University
So he set his sights on earning an organizational and strategic communications degree from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He landed a temp job at Colorado Technical University, which ultimately led to a full-time supervisory role and his passion: helping people, specifically teens.
The now-28-year-old runs a team that focuses on preparing students for higher education. He’s also responsible for compliance with policies from the Department of Education and the university.
In a volunteer capacity, he is involved with teens in Colorado Springs at Leadership Pikes Peak, as co-chair of its Leading Edge program for high school students. He co-founded a committee that works with foster youth to develop life skills “you would normally learn from parents,” so they’re better prepared to live independently and enter the workforce, he said.
A member of the 2012 LPP class, he commended the organization for introducing him to the community, its challenges and its strengths. It also opened his eyes to the opportunities to volunteer.
He loves Colorado Springs, the mountains and environment.
“I’m impressed with the arts and music focus we have. A lot of people don’t realize how much we have here,” he said.
He also enjoys the Colorado Springs Rising Professional group, with whom he enjoys happy hour at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub.
He’s a big wings’ fan, so for lunch, he’ll visit Buffalo Wild Wings.
Wimer adopted a cultural philosophy as his guiding principle for life: bushido. Derived from the Samarai, bushido focuses on seven virtues that lead to a chivalrous way of life – integrity, courage, honor, veracity, benevolence, loyalty and truth.
Joe Lavorini – Rocky Mountain Field Institute
As program director of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, headquartered on the city’s Westside, he is second in command at the small, environmental stewardship nonprofit. But that doesn’t mean he sits in a cushy office all day. Lavorini spends a lot of his time in the field, overseeing the programs he helps put in place.
Originally from western Pennsylvania, Lavorini moved to Colorado in 2005 to be closer to the natural wonders he loves. He graduated from UCCS with a degree in geography and environmental studies with a focus on sustainable development. He began work at RMFI in 2008 and has since climbed through the ranks to take the program director position in January.
He loves to travel the world and has spent considerable time in Italy. When he’s not working or globe-trotting, Lavorini enjoys fly fishing, spending time on the trails or decompressing at one of the city’s yoga studios. When he wants to go out for a beer, Lavorini said he goes to a neighborhood bar like Thunder & Buttons or Tony’s.
Prior to working for RMFI, Joe served as director of the Colorado Springs Conservation Corps working on energy efficiency projects in the Pikes Peak Region.
“Joe’s commitment to our community and our local environment is nothing short of tremendous,” said Poor Richard’s owner Richard Skorman, the nonprofit’s founder. “I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of the Business Journal’s ‘Rising Star’ than Joe Lavorini. We are very lucky to have him in our city.
Lavorini said that he doesn’t have a mantra, but identifies with the words of Neil Young: “Keep on rockin’ in the free world.
Lavorini said what he loves most about Colorado Springs is its accessibility.
“Whether it’s to people, to trails or a place to take chances, Colorado Springs is accessible,” he said. “The city has the communal benefits of a smaller town while still offering the cultural options of a bigger city. There is an eclectic mix of people here that encourage you to consider different ways of thinking. That’s how growth happens and how we as a community progress to being a place based on being inclusive.
Jordan Empey – Stockman Kast Ryan and Company
He has risen quickly in the firm, beginning as a tax consultant, being named a tax senior in 2008, a supervising tax senior in 2010 and a tax manager in 2013.
“Jordan is on partner track,” wrote David Kast in nominating Empey as a Rising Star. “He is among the youngest staff we have made manager, and as a result, the firm chose to send him to Rainmaker Academy – a significant investment – prior to becoming a manager.
“Jordan has assumed numerous leadership roles and is now leading our auto dealer niche. His responsibilities also include coaching/mentoring three staff members. He has participated in our coaching program since its inception. In addition, he has presented at firm tax seminars not only for our clients but also for the Colorado Society of CPAs as well as the Construction Financial Management Association.
“Jordan has grown his practice and has significant client responsibilities serving as the ‘In Charge’ for over 200 client relationships, including large and small businesses as well as individual clients.
Empey, 32, is significantly involved in the community. He volunteers for the Family Life Network, sponsoring families and doing pro bono tax preparation for single moms. He graduated from the Leadership NOW! program of Leadership Pikes Peak, and has volunteered for Urban Peak.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” he said, a mantra that should serve him well as tax season gathers steam. His favorite things about Colorado Springs?
“The people, outdoors, weather, being in a community where you can make a direct impact, the traffic (not much) and awesome place for my two boys to grow up,” he said. “My favorite lunch place is Sonterra. For happy hour, most places north downtown, now Odyssey.
Joshua Gates – Pikes Peak United Way
“I do quite a bit of fundraising, corporate campaigning, grant writing,” Gates said of his job. “I managed Manitou flood recovery funds which generated $100,000 in assistance to Manitou small businesses.
Gates was nominated by Carrie McKee, executive vice president at Pikes Peak United Way.
Deborah Muehleisen of Deborah Muehleisen Strategies Inc. penned his letter of recommendation. She wrote that she met Gates in 2011 while she was vice president of resource development for Pikes Peak United Way. Gates was interviewing for a position as seasonal development officer for the organization, a position Muehleisen initially thought Gates was not qualified to take.
“This quiet, unassuming, modest young man stunned the interview committee with his deep understanding of the health and human services needs in our community,” she wrote, “and [Gates made the most passionate, articulate and [authentic presentation in support of the work of Pikes Peak United Way and its partner agencies that we’d heard.
“Josh’s impact on Pikes Peak United Way and its partner agencies was immediate and profound,” she continued, “and we quickly knew that we needed to create a permanent position for this young man. He is a fearless and tenacious fundraiser, yes. But it’s his passion for wanting to help create a better community for all our citizens that drives him. He is authentic, caring and collaborative. Josh is the real thing.
Gates’ said his favorite thing about living in Colorado Springs is the proximity to the mountains and related outdoor activities.
“The best part is, it doesn’t cost money,” he said of doing outdoor activities.
His mantra: Live deliberately. That includes deliberate trips to Jose Muldoon’s, his favorite local spot for food and drink.
Keith E. Clayton II – Cherwell Software
Keith Clayton is the associate general counsel of Cherwell Software, a position he’s held since 2013. He’s a native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, and he moved to the Colorado Springs area in the mid-1990s.
He graduated from Fountain Valley School in 2003, and attended Wabash College, from which he graduated in 2007. While there, he studied political science and religion, was a member of the indoor and outdoor varsity track teams and academic chairman of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies.
His passion for politics and government led him to Boston College Law School, from which he graduated in 2010. During his time in Boston, Clayton served as the articles editor of Boston College’s intellectual property and technology forum and the secretary and community service chair of the Black Law Students Association.
After graduation, Clayton returned to Colorado, passed the Colorado Bar Exam and returned to law school, this time at the University of Colorado. In 2011, he received a master of laws in information technology and intellectual property.
Clayton is actively engaged in the community. He was appointed to the Pikes Peak Library Board in 2013 by the joint action of the Colorado Springs City Council and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, and is a graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak’s Leadership NOW! program.
Clayton’s mantra quotes Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” What he likes most about Colorado Springs is its history of change. And when asked about his favorite lunch/happy hour place, he gave a three-letter answer: Jun.
Clayton currently lives in the Black Forest, and when not reading the law, he can be found on nearby tennis and racquetball courts or playing with his dog, Adida.
Lauren Andrus – Northwestern Mutual
She worked for El Paso Corporation until 2007 as an environmental consultant and tribal liaison while also serving as a piano teacher and accompanist. In 2007 she left El Paso to co-found the Modbo Gallery, which in 2009 expanded to an adjacent building, now the S.P.Q.R. Gallery. In 2013 she joined Northwestern Mutual as a financial representative.
Andrus is an accomplished pianist, dancer, choreographer, exhibit curator and downtown difference-maker. She was the first woman in the Colorado Springs Northwestern Mutual office to receive a Pacesetter 40 Award. She was awarded a Downtown Development Authority grant in 2009, and Modbo/S.P.Q.R. received annual Best Of awards five consecutive years from the Independent and the Gazette, as well as a Pikes Peak Arts Council Award. The Independent named her a cultural white knight from 2012-14 and she was named a cultural ambassador in Sunset Magazine in 2011. She produces shows and cabarets as well as singing/performing in several local bands.
Her mantra is “Dum vivimus, vivamus.
“This is on the clock face on the corner of Pikes Peak and Tejon,” Andrus said, “and means, roughly, ‘While we live, we should live.’ I like it because I’m a dork for Latin and because It’s less hackneyed than ‘carpe diem.’
Andrus loves that Colorado Springs has so much room for growth, particularly in the creative community.
“There are so many interesting and lovely people here who are doing interesting and lovely things,” she noted. “And unlike some bigger cities, the Springs hasn’t reached its capacity yet—there’s still room for new ventures of all kinds. I also love the diversity of our community—we have reeeeallly conservative conservatives and reeeeallly liberal liberals and everything in between.
“My favorite spot for lunch, drinks, or lunch with drinks is Shuga’s,” she said. “I love what [owners Kurt (Bunch) and Alexius (Weston) have done – it’s the closest thing to a European café in the Springs, in my opinion!
Lauren Hug – HugSpeak
“Austin is the prettiest city in Texas,” Hug said. “But it doesn’t hold a candle to here.
Hug moved to Colorado Springs with her husband Andrew, and their two children in 2012. They were to close on a house in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood two days after the Waldo Canyon Fire started.
“We were under contract but couldn’t get financing because it was a federal disaster area,” Hug said. “We were packing our truck [in Austin when our Realtor called and said, ‘We need to talk.’
She said the community’s response to the fire only solidified their decision to move.
Today, Hug owns HugSpeak, a social media marketing and research firm.
“I do branding to full-on social media strategies and management,” she said.
Hug was nominated to be a Rising Star by Karole Campbell of Madwoman Marketing Strategies.
Campbell wrote in her nomination letter: “In Lauren’s brief time here, she has connected with a tremendous number of organizations and has done a tremendous amount of community involvement and pro bono work. …
“Lauren has an incredibly positive can-do attitude and a commitment to business and personal excellence as well as a vision for excellence for the Pikes Peak community. …
“I always joke that Lauren is my partner who believes I/we can fly. She pushes our team to excellence, drives us to work harder, better and smarter and thinks there is NOTHING we cannot do.
Hug said of being recognized as a Rising Star: “It’s amazing. It’s a huge honor. I work on a lot of collaborative projects and this makes me feel like I’m really part of the community. I haven’t been here that long, but this feels like this is home.
Hug said her mantra is simple: Be nice to people. She is often nice to people at her favorite gathering place, Shuga’s. “Their ‘Revolver’ is amazing,” she said.
Liz Haltiwanger – KKTV
Following an internship with another CBS affiliate, Haltiwanger found a home in Colorado Springs with KKTV, where she’s worked for the past 11 years.
Her proudest professional moment has been the station’s coverage of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.
“I’m so proud of our team and the community service we provided during the wildfires,” she said. “Everybody stepped up and did something in the community. … It was such a tremendous effort and long hours day after day. I was impressed to see the people around me be that dedicated.
Haltiwanger said there are many things she enjoys about her job. “I love my coworkers. There are great people here. … I just love being in news for so many reasons.
Haltiwanger said she is “passionate about keeping people informed and [fulfilled when we can do that when people really need us the most — fires, blizzards — when people are counting on us.
Haltiwanger was nominated as a Rising Star by Stacy Poore, chief development officer with Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.
Shannon Coker, marketing and communications director for Care and Share, wrote Haltiwanger’s recommendation letter.
“I feel strongly that Liz is an amazing community asset and trustee,” Coker wrote.
Coker explained that Haltiwanger assisted in the organization’s disaster relief efforts beginning in 2012.
“The role of a nonprofit is to serve,” Coker wrote. “We rarely have the financial resources to tell our story or share how we can help. … During the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, we simply couldn’t have accomplished our mission without the help of Liz and KKTV.
Haltiwanger said she was “excited and honored” by her Rising Star recognition.
And her favorite thing about Colorado Springs?
“It’s so beautiful. There are so many good people here and there’s an excitement and energy about the city.
As for a mantra, Haltiwanger said she lived by many, including “there’s no substitute for hard work” and “kindness matters.
When downtown, look for Haltiwanger at The Famous, one of her favorite dining spots.
Marina Funtik – Thomas S. Jennings, DDS, PC
Funtik, 33, began by training as a dental laboratory technician while still in high school, and then studied dental assisting at Pikes Peak Community College.
“After graduation,” Dr. Jennings wrote in support of her nomination as a Rising Star, “she assisted local oral surgeon Dr. Michael Onstadt until she began her nine-year journey to become a prosthodontist, a specialist in complex restorative dentistry. Dr. Funtik received a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry, a doctorate in dental medicine, and finally a master of science in prosthodontics.
Her journey included attending St. Lawrence, from which she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biochemistry and the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. She finished her education as the chief prosthodontics resident.
Funtik is now a board certified prosthodontist, a designation considered the pinnacle of restorative dentistry.
Funtik practices with Jennings in a comprehensive general dentistry office.
As well as providing comprehensive care in the office, she travels to senior centers such as Liberty Heights and Bonaventure and offers classes in dental care at no cost to the residents.
She has volunteered in South African and Alaskan tribal communities and looks forward to doing so again. She participates in study groups and other dental organizations in order to help her peers elevate their practices, and she looks forward to teaching in the future.
Funtik’s mantra is to serve each patient’s needs with a commitment to excellence and integrity. What she loves most about Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak, and for lunch/happy hour, she’ll gladly go to Salsa Brava.
Funtik is grateful for the opportunities the United States has provided for her. Originally from Serbia and Montenegro, she was proud to become a United States citizen in 2012. She has received numerous academic and professional awards, and says that she enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, gardening and snorkeling.
Michael Thieme – USAF Academy
“She deserves the award more than me,” Thieme said of his wife Shannon.
Being an active duty military officer, Thieme changes jobs every couple years. He’s been in El Paso County almost two years, so he figured he has another year to go.
“My last assignment was in North Dakota; we love the warmer weather and topography [of Colorado Springs,” Thieme said. “I’m hoping I’ll get a following assignment in Colorado Springs so we can stay a little longer.
He likes the Springs because it feels small enough to have “a little bit of a small-town feel” and large enough to have city amenities, he said.
Thieme worked full-time while attending college at the University of Iowa and law school at William Penn University. He and Shannon have sons age 13 and 10, and they adopted a girl with special needs from China two years ago. She is now 5.
Thieme’s favorite restaurant is his home.
“I rarely get to eat lunch away from my desk, and I don’t drink,” he said. “I would much rather eat my wife’s cooking than go out. My wife is of Hispanic descent and she makes some fantastic food.
Thieme volunteers as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) as an advocate for children in foster care or those who have experienced domestic abuse or neglect.
His passion is criminal law. He has worked as a criminal prosecutor for much of his career. He will be teaching criminal law at the Academy this spring, and he has taught law and economics and law for Air Force officers.
Michelle Schaunaman – TESSA
Schaunaman works as the outreach coordinator for TESSA of Colorado Springs, providing education to high school students, military personnel, local businesses, civic organizations and others about domestic violence and sexual assault — promoting awareness.
She also coordinates events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month and operates the nonprofit’s growing social media and outreach presence. Her goal is to educate the community, the state and the nation in order to transform a culture that permits the existence of this violence. She does so through her words and her pen. She volunteers as the social media director of TEDx Colorado Springs, of which she is a strong supporter.
In her role at TESSA, Schaunaman has performed more than 40 interviews with local and regional media outlets and has been actively involved in other nonprofit organizations, most notably Leadership Pikes Peak and its Leading Edge program.
She describes her work ethic thusly:
“I often say to myself, ‘Don’t be afraid of success,’ ” she said, “because success takes risk, hard work and often putting yourself in a position to be judged by others. It’s easy to say ‘no’ to opportunities if we’re afraid of risk, hard work or judgment, so I take calculated risks, work hard and don’t worry about being judged.
Schaunaman loves many things about Colorado Springs, and she said it’s hard to choose just one as her favorite.
“There are so many great things about the Springs — the view, the people, the food, all the entertainment options,” she said. “When people tell me they have to go to a bigger city for great entertainment or food, I think, ‘You’re missing out! Colorado Springs has so much to offer too!’
When she isn’t working or volunteering, Schaunaman said she enjoys eating at local restaurants, of which her favorite is Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery.
“Their calamari is fabulous, but I am a big fan of their cupcakes,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just go there for a cupcake and coffee!
She has also recently started a food and drink blog called Masch Up to document her love of the finer things.
Onye Ikwuakor – US Anti-Doping Agency
Onye Ikwuakor, 33, is legal director for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Ikwuakor received his Rising Star nomination from USADA Senior Communications Manager Annie Skinner while Travis Tygart, USADA’s CEO, penned his letter of recommendation.
“In his position as legal affairs director at USADA, Onye plays a vital role in accomplishing our mission to protect the rights of all the clean athletes who represent our country in Olympic, Paralympic and Pan American sport,” Tygert wrote. “Onye holds himself to the highest ethical standards and is a strong leader who is dedicated to creating a collaborative environment for his high-performing team and for USADA as a whole. Onye’s professionalism and open, warm personality have made him an invaluable asset to our organization and the stakeholders we serve.
Ikwuakor, who received his law degree from Stanford, has been involved in the investigation and adjudication of high profile anti-doping cases, including the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team doping conspiracy, and he represented USADA at international events and training in Spain. He researched and worked with Holme, Roberts & Owen to draft dietary supplement safety legislation and helped draft legislation advocating the classification of designer steroids as Schedule III controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by President Obama.
“The Colorado Springs community is lucky that Onye has chosen to call our city home,” Tygart continued. “He has served as a board member of Atlas Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, and is currently in consideration for a board member position with the Pikes Peak YMCA.
“Onye’s professional work as well as civic engagement, make him an ideal candidate for recognition as a 2015 Colorado Springs Business Journal Rising Star, and I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of an excellent employee and community member.
Sarah Harris – Downtown Partnership
She left to attend college at the University of Denver where she studied real estate and construction management.
“Place-making is my passion,” said Harris, now the director of business development and economic vitality with the Downtown Partnership. “I like a lot a of things about my job, like having the opportunity to influence and form the place that is the heart of the city, which is downtown. I’m passionate about downtown being the epicenter of everything we do. And I get to meet lots of interesting people.
Harris said her favorite thing about downtown is seeing friendly, familiar faces. She said, if she could do one thing to make downtown a better place overnight, it would be increasing the availability of urban-living options.
As for Colorado Springs as a whole: “People who live outside the city have a perception of what Colorado Springs is, but when you live here —everyone is so inclusive and inviting and people do actually care about and value the arts,” she said, adding the scenery and healthy culture also appeal to her.
Harris was nominated by Lisa Tessarowicz of Epicentral Coworking. Her nomination letter was written by Susan Edmondson, CEO of the Downtown Partnership.
“Sarah has packed more experience and tangible achievements into her early career years than anyone I know,” Edmondson wrote. “In this past year she has helped countless businesses start, expand and relocate downtown. She was integral to the launch of the Downtown Sunday Market and conceived and implemented the successful holiday Pop Up Shop program.
Regarding her favorite place to unwind, Harris said, “I actually live in the Ivywild neighborhood and I love walking over to the Blue Star. Oh, I should probably pick a place downtown. I like Sonterra Grill too.
Shannon Rauen – Colorado Springs Rising Professionals
As program coordinator for nonprofit Colorado Springs Rising Professionals and an active volunteer for the military community, that quote has become a mantra which guides her life.
Since she joined CSRP last year, Rauen has served as the organization’s spokesperson, overseeing the development, communication, implementation, registration and evaluation of its events and programs.
She has also been responsible for leading the Army Family Readiness Group, a volunteer organization that helps hundreds of military families at Fort Carson. In the program, she recruits and manages up to 20 volunteers and has herself volunteered nearly 4,000 hours of her own time, for which she was recognized as the 2012 Fort Carson Volunteer of the Year.
She has also been a frequent speaker for the organization and has presented in Washington, D.C., and at Fort Carson, addressing audiences on issues on women’s leadership and more.
“As a frequent speaker in Washington, D.C., and Fort Carson, Shannon has addressed audiences on everything from women’s leadership in the 21st century to what to wear to a military ball,” said Chelsea Hixson, community outreach manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “She has also forged strong strategic partnerships with community and local government organizations in several positions, which resulted in an increase of volunteers and donors.
She graduated with a bachelor’s in political science and women’s studies from the University of Arizona and a master’s in management and leadership and a master’s in human resource development from Webster University.
Rauen said she loves many things about Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, especially “the natural beauty, the weather, the people, the trails and outdoor activities.
“This is such an amazing place to call home,” she said.
She said her favorite place to lunch is Marigold Bakery & Cafe.
Shawna Rogers – UCCS College of Business
She wears many hats at the growing University of Colorado Colorado Springs: director of the Office of Professional and Executive Development, director of extended studies in the College of Business and staff advisor for the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Rogers worked for a startup company in New Mexico for nine years, while working on her bachelor’s degree, until moving to Colorado Springs in 2009 to serve as assistant director of the local Small Business Development Center. She served that role until 2012 when she became interim director of the agency. During that time, she also served as project manager for the El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization at UCCS.
“Rogers had other offers to assume professional roles, but opted instead for the more risky, but more meaningful, task of starting a much-needed professional training unit within the college,” said Thomas Duening, El Pomar chair of business and entrepreneurship at UCCS. “With no prior experience to draw upon, Ms. Rogers has nonetheless built the foundation for OPED’s long-term success.
In her role at UCCS, she has also been instrumental in the development of programs including the EPIIC Nights Speaker Series, EPIIC Shark Tank and Ignite Colorado Springs.
“Shawna played a significant role in the creation and launch of community events and programs through her roles at UCCS, many of which still continue and are her legacies,” said Colorado Springs City Council Member Jan Martin.
Rogers, 32, obtained her bachelor’s degree in business administration in management from New Mexico Highlands University in 2006, and plans to graduate this year with her MBA in innovation management and marketing from UCCS.
Rogers said two sayings help keep her motivated:
“Work hard and have fun in what you are doing — if it’s no longer fun, stop doing it,” she said, and “stay true to who you are.
Rogers said one thing she loves about Colorado Springs is that it is easy to find people who enjoy similar interests.
“Whether you are into yoga, entrepreneurship, dogs or soccer, there are mini-communities of people who are also passionate and excited about the same things,” she said. “I also love the fact that I can be on spectacular mountain hiking trails within a short 10-minute drive.
When going out to enjoy lunch or a drink for happy hour, Rogers prefers to go to local spots such as Wild Goose or Shuga’s.
Todd Baldwin – Red Leg Brewing Company
At the end of his military service, he considered his career options.
“I didn’t serve so I would have to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life,” Baldwin said. So he started a craft brewery.
Red Leg Brewing Company opened, appropriately enough, on July 4, 2013. Its unusual name is derived from the nickname given Union artillerymen during the Civil War who could be recognized from the cardinal stripe on their trousers.
The brewery, located on Forge Road in Colorado Springs, is veteran-owned, veteran-run and military-themed.
“Our craft beers are brewed and designed for our current and former military personnel,” Baldwin said. “We have a wide range of craft beers for production from pilsners, IPAs, double IPAs, stouts, saisons, ales, lagers and a variety of seasonal blends.
About one-third of the brewery’s patrons are current or former soldiers. A portion of the sales from each of four seasonal brews will benefit the Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) of units honored by each brew. FRGs provide assistance to spouses and children of deployed soldiers.
“My intent is to have a great brewery that has been impactful on many people’s lives, not just our own,” said Baldwin, whose mantra is very simple.
“Serving those who serve,” he said. “I love the community atmosphere that Colorado Springs has.
And his favorite happy hour place?
“Is this a trick question?” he asked with a smile.
It’s pretty clear that Baldwin has a favorite – the taproom at Red Leg Brewing.
Trenton V. Stafford – Kirkpatrick Bank
“For as many places as I have been, this has been one of the more open communities about being accepted in,” said Stafford. His favorite restaurant for lunch is The Famous, and his personal mantra is: “I live life with no regrets.
Stafford received his bachelor’s degree in business with a dual emphasis, finance and commercial bank management from Oklahoma State University.
He was recruited from the Bank of Oklahoma by Hunt Development. Hunt made him responsible for entitlement and development of the real estate portfolio in the western U.S. According to his nomination from Kirkpatrick Bank Senior President Jocelyn Wall, Stafford “was instrumental in growing real state portfolio to approximately $100 million in asset value.
Before moving to Colorado Springs, Stafford led a development team in New Mexico that included public/private partnership with the University of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque.
“He had an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, and in 2009 formed B&S Holdings LLC. With great success, he sold this very profitable business in 2012,” said his nomination.
He was recruited by Kirkpatrick Bank to manage the Colorado market in 2012. According to his nomination, Stafford “is responsible for building and managing Kirkpatrick Bank in [the Colorado market, and since September 2012, added significant personnel assets to the organization and experienced 30 percent growth within the Colorado bank.
He also initiated the bank’s first United Way campaign for Kirkpatrick Bank in Colorado Springs and received the organization’s annual First Campaign Award.
Prior to moving to Colorado Springs, Stafford volunteered for the 4-H, served on business improvement districts, boards of directors, economic development councils, supported United Ways and has promoted National Association of Office and Industrial Properties.
He is on the board of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and is the co-chair of the 2015 Pikes Peak United Way Tocqueville Society campaign.
In a letter of recommendation, Bill Berenz wrote, “Immediately he made an impact at Kirkpatrick Bank by assembling a team of experienced bankers and implementing a strategy to grow the bank and increase the bank’s visibility and brand in the community.