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Rowland: Expect big things from county’s ‘Best Under 40’

Published: Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The McHenry County Business Journal’s 2013 “Best Under 40” class underscores the talent produced in and attracted to this area.

This year’s 13 honorees include entrepreneurs, business owners, civil servants and emerging professionals in a variety of fields. It’s an amazing group that will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the county’s businesses, nonprofits, local governments and community organizations in the years to come.

A panel of four “Best Under 40” winners from 2012 selected these 13 people from among 50 nominees:

• Mark Michalak, 37, of West Dundee, is the owner of Jersey Mike’s Subs franchises in Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake. Michalak and his more than 30 employees raised more than $22,400 for local charities and organizations last year and are on pace to top that this year.

• Erin McElroy, 33, of Crystal Lake, is the advancement coordinator at Lakeside Legacy Foundation. Her job is to help move the foundation forward. To that end, she has helped bring new events and programs to life at the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park and the historic Dole Mansion.

• Kevin Slimko, 38, of Lake in the Hills, is the owner of Slim’s Barber Shop in Crystal Lake. Slimko learned the trade from Marino Lagatuz Jr. at Model Barber Shop in Chicago, which “had the world’s pickiest customers.” The father of two volunteers with organizations such as the Neurofibromatosis Network, which advocates for federal funding for NF research, and St. Baldrick’s Day, which raises funds for pediatric cancer research.

• Michael Buchanan, 34, of McHenry, is the director of security for Centegra Health System. He served with the Army National Guard for four tours of active duty training troops at Fort Polk for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He volunteers with the Centegra Foundation, hangs lights at Hearthstone Communities and speaks to students about the meaning of Veterans Day.

• Tyler Lewke, 38, of Bull Valley, is the CEO of Keller Williams Success Realty, a real estate company with 150 agents. He spent years working to save the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake. He organized a campaign to purchase the historical property and create what now is the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park.

• Geneva McClain, 35, of Woodstock, is CEO and owner of Just Quality Services Inc., a moving and services company based in Woodstock. On advice from a cousin, the mother of four children opened her own business and wrote her own “rags-to-riches” story, as one friend put it.

• Brian Fowler, 37, of Crystal Lake, is vice president of commercial lending at Crystal Lake Bank & Trust Company.

He serves as the treasurer of Community Action Agency of McHenry County, chairman of the Crystal Lake Economic Development Committee and the board of Downtown Crystal Lake.

• Elizabeth Vonau, 37, of Crystal Lake, is an attorney and partner with the Kililis, Ridings & Vonau law firm. She has volunteered with nonprofits such as Turning Point, CASA of McHenry County and the Crystal Lake Jaycees and has plans to start a community center in Crystal Lake.

• Kevin Garringer, 29, of Crystal Lake, is an account executive at LPS Midwest & Stan’s Office Technologies. The father of three volunteers with the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

• Jeffrey DeHaan, 27, of Crystal Lake, is senior financial adviser and chief compliance officer of BSC Private Wealth Management LLC in Elgin. He serves on the Crystal Lake Economic Development Committee and the board of the United Way of Greater McHenry County. He is the youngest member of the 2013 “Best Under 40” class.

• Joe Ponitz, 34, of Belvidere, is a partner with the Franks, Gerkin & McKenna law firm in Marengo. A non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, he has worked to raise money for cancer research and serves on the Governance Committee of Healing Pathways Cancer Resource Center. He also has served as the secretary for the board of directors of the McHenry County Youth Service Bureau.

• Erik Morimoto, 37, of Crystal Lake, is the director of engineering and building for the City of Crystal Lake. He has helped implement many of the city’s green initiatives, such as the city’s rain garden, watershed protection studies, rain barrel incentive program and the first buffered bike lanes in McHenry County. He also has worked closely with the city’s Clean Air Counts Committee.

• Carl D. Vallianatos II, 39, of McHenry, is the assistant principal at McHenry High School’s West Campus. He was instrumental in turning St. Baldrick’s Day in McHenry into a community-wide fundraising event to benefit pediatric cancer research and is a member of the McHenry Rotary-Sunrise and the McHenry Area Character Counts Coalition.

Winners from the ninth annual “Best Under 40” group were honored at a dinner Oct. 2 at the Crystal Lake Country Club. As Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley pointed out in his keynote address, all of these people are leaders, whether they know it or not. He also said the group proves there are many paths to success.

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