2013 Class of 20 Under 40: New leaders, classic values

20U40_logo_2012_webA family nurse practitioner, a few engineers, a financial controller, an environmentalist, an insurance agent, business advisors, small business owners, an educator, a grant writer, a real estate broker, a fitness instructor, a pair of nonprofit leaders, two Fort Drum professionals, and a physician. Our third annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties. All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, coaching a Little League team, teaching Sunday School, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks. All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 25 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be. NNY Business recognizes these 20 men and women along with their companies at a special luncheon at Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn. The 2013 20 Under 40 class:

Jamie Lee, 32: SUNY Attain Lab

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONJamie Lee never thought she would end up settling in the north country. She was born and raised in Depauville, and hoped she would wind up working for a Fortune 500 company in a major city.

She later found that she didn’t like the money-above-all focus of corporate culture, and found a life, a family and a career in Jefferson County.

Ms. Lee is an instructional technology coordinator at the SUNY Attain Lab at the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, an initiative started by the state legislature to provide Internet access and computer training to those who would go without.

Many people over the age of 35 do not understand computer basics, a fact Ms. Lee found surprising when she started the job. Even people who think they have a good understanding of basic programs often find out they have a lot to learn.

“People tell me all the time ‘oh I know Word, I know PowerPoint, I know Excel,” but when they take this class there is so much more to this program than they actually imagined.”

Ms. Lee says working at the lab provides her the human focus she needs to feel fulfilled in her work.

“I want to be an individual who helps people realize their dreams, which I do here at the lab.”

Many of those who come to her have lost their jobs, and need the computer training to have any hope of finding work.

“So many people come into our lab and they’re unemployed. They’ve been working at a company for 30 years and suddenly they have no employment,” she said.

Keeping up with rapidly changing technology proves challenging, and Ms. Lee must keep on top of the trends to be able to provide community members with the training they need.

Where once she dreamed of big cities, now she can’t imagine living anywhere other than her close-knit community in Brownville.

“We’re so closely connected,” she said.

“My family is here, and my family means the world to me,” she said. “Why would I want to go anywhere else?”

Her ties to the community have stirred up her passion for community service.

The Jamie Lee file

Hometown: Brownville

Professional position: Instructional Technology Coordinator, SUNY Attain Lab at the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown

Family: Husband Ryan M. Lee; daughter, McKenna R., 7, and son, Brenden M., 5.

Education: Bachelor’s in business administration, SUNY Brockport; bachelor’s in education, SUNY Oswego, master’s in literacy education, SUNY Oswego

Community involvement: Commissioner for the Town of Brownville Joint Fire District, member of the General Brown school board, secretary of the Thousand Islands Young Leaders Association

Last book read: “House of Hades” by Rick Riordan

“We need to be a part of what happens where we live,” she said.

She has been a member of several committees, helping to establish the town of Brownville Fire Department, teaching others about the school budget and joining the General Brown School District Board of Education.

Her ties to the community and happiness in her career have not stopped her from setting her sights higher. She wants to turn her interests in politics and local issues into a spot on a town council, and eventually run for a state or even federal government position.

“I see myself getting there, but at the same time I do have two children, and I need to make their life valuable and direct them where they need to go before I further my direction and my ambition,” she said.

She tells her children to follow their dreams while always looking out for others.

“The advice that I give to them every day is to be a kind individual, and to look to be what you want to be,” she said.

— Jacob Tierney

Jessica L. Page, 29: Page Fitness Athletic Club

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONMost people would be surprised to know that Jessica L. Page, co-owner of Page Fitness Athletic Club, only works out 30 to 60 minutes a day and wasn’t active in sports in high school.

A former national fitness competitor who now runs a thriving fitness club, Mrs. Page says she struggles with the same thing everyone else does when it comes to working out — finding time. She’s also trying to work off the baby weight from her second child.

“I feel like our clients can relate a little more,” she said.

Mrs. Page is licensed in massage therapy, cosmetology and coaching — a varied background that she says has helped her understand the human body.

She fell in love with fitness after teaching group classes and competing in Fitness America pageants, for which her husband helped her train. A 2009 win at the Model Capitol Championships in Annandale, Va., and a top 10 finish in the International Fitness America Pageant in Miami landed her a feature spread in the November 2009 issue of Oxygen Magazine.

“I really just fell in love with the feeling of working out and I could see what it could really do for someone, she said. “It was just really powerful.”

Mrs. Page taught at CANI Fitness for about five years before she and her husband purchased it in September 2009. It was then a “desolate membership-style gym” and “not a successful business,” she said.

“We had the drive, we loved fitness, but we knew nothing about owning a business or how to run a business,” she said.

They had a three-year vision for their ideal training facility, one where people wouldn’t plug away solo on machines, but get the support and structure needed to succeed. But after competitor Planet Fitness opened in 2011, wiping their membership from 700 to 200 in a year’s time, transitioning to their vision accelerated.

“Then it wasn’t a blessing, but now I look back on that experience and I think that made us the business owners that we are today and it made our vision so much clearer,” she said. “It was a struggle for about a year, but now we are completely evolved into a training facility and we don’t offer memberships.”

The Jessica L. Page file

Hometown: Adams

Professional position: Co-owner, Page Fitness Athletic Club, Watertown

Family: Husband, Christopher; sons, Zachary, 2, and Tyler, 7 months

Education: New York state licenses in massage therapy, hair styling and coaching

Community involvement: Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, AUSA, BNI, Women in Business networking group

Last book read: “Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver” by John Dijulius

The club is home to Crossfit and has three trainers and eight boot camp instructors who offer personalized support to the club’s roughly 200 clients through boot camps, group and private training course.

Page Fitness was named Fitness Business of the Year for North America this October by the coaching company NPE after the Pages presented their story, business model and client results at a national conference. The couple was also selected to author a chapter in the 2012 Amazon bestseller “Bigger Better Faster Stronger” written by leading fitness experts.

Mrs. Page radiates a positive, upbeat enthusiasm, echoed in the club’s bright, cheerful décor, that she uses to inspire and comfort clients who might be down on themselves for getting out of shape.

“I feel like a smile can go a long way,” she said. “We want this to be the best part of someone’s day when they come here.”

Other than helping numerous community members change their lives and get on a path to a healthy lifestyle, Mrs. Page is active in the community through donations that the club makes to various causes, AUSA, Business of Women, the Chamber of Commerce and club fundraisers such as a recent “turkey buster” workout where community members can work out for free with the donation of a canned good for the local food bank.

Outside of work, Mrs. Page enjoys spending time with her two sons — Zachary, 2, and Tyler, seven months — skiing and reading. She credits her parents, who own Hi-Lite Markings in Adams Center, and her uncle as valuable mentors, as well as the Rev. Kirk S. Gilchrist, who provides a “good perspective and balance.”

She believes mentors are vital keys to business success.

“Don’t think you know everything because we’re constantly learning every day and evolving,” she advised potential business owners. “Be open to feedback from the people that do business with you and be involved in the community.”

— Leah Buletti

Victoria M. Peck, 30: Children’s Home of Jefferson County

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONAs the youngest of six girls, Victoria M. Peck had a sense of empathy, emotional strength and respect engrained in her from a young age, as well as a passion for helping others.

“Being one of six girls, there’s not any time to think about just you. Everything I did affected seven other people in my home,” said Mrs. Peck, who has worked for the last eight years at the Children’s Home of Jefferson County.

Three of her siblings wound up in social work.

Mrs. Peck started at the Children’s Home during an internship in her last semester of college and that August started as a direct care counselor in the residential cottages. She then worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift in non-secure detention while tutoring teenagers during the day, before moving to non-secure casework and finally into foster care, which became her passion.

“I’ve always found foster care the rewarding side of child welfare,” Mrs. Peck said. “We get to work diligently for re-unification, and if not, adoption is an alternate route. It’s finding forever families or mending families so children can return.”

In foster care, she started as a recruitment and training coordinator, then became the intake coordinator, a position that drew on her strengths from residential work. While in intake, she traveled throughout the state promoting programs. At the time, the Children’s Home was serving numerous children from St. Lawrence County in the Watertown area, which ultimately led to her spearheading the Children’s Home taking over recruitment and training for all of the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services’s foster homes in early 2012.

The program has seen astounding expansion under her direction: Initially, it was prepared to serve 30 children with two directors and three staffers, but it’s now been serving more than 100 children for over a year, with nearly 20 full-time and 10 part-time staff members.

“It’s been a rapid growth in a short amount of time,” Mrs. Peck said.

Every position she’s held at the Children’s Home has built on the last, each giving her the knowledge and skills to “mentor and lead fellow colleagues.” She credits many prior supervisors as “amazing mentors” in teaching her professionalism, dedication and commitment to the agency’s work.

Though she didn’t always know she wanted to go into nonprofit work, pursuing a Spanish major for the first half of her college career, she said she loves the “relationship building” aspect of her job; work is now what keeps her going during tough personal events.

“I enjoy being a positive force,” she said.

The Victoria M. Peck file

Hometown: Clayton

Professional position: Director of Foster Care, St. Lawrence County, Children’s Hoe of Jefferson County

Family: Husband, Derek M. Peck

Education: Bachelor’s in psychology, Wells College, Aurora

Community involvement: A lot through work, hopes to get involved in Resolution Center of Jefferson and Lewis counties as a mediator.

Last book read: “Season of Life” by Jeffrey Marx. “It’s about a football star and it’s about turning young, adolescent males into men and being men for others, meaning don’t be selfish and give everything you have to others. It was very emotional. I lost my father the last week of July so to read this, I felt like I knew my dad.”

But social work isn’t without its challenges, especially given that “everything is urgent, and requires immediate attention.” In her first two years at the Children’s Home, she struggled with separating out emotions and questioned if it was the right job for her.

“You have to be emotionally sound to be able to desensitize from the day to day, knowing that if I wasn’t strong emotionally I wouldn’t be any good tending the children and families,” she said.

She’s acquired that emotional strength through a strong network of family and close friends — one reason she decided to remain in her north country home, where three of her sisters live.

That support network, she believes, is key to the success of any young professional.

“I think that through working at the Children’s Home, I’ve been exposed to so many organizations and professionals throughout the community and I’m aware of what’s going on,” she said. “I believe that for any emerging professional in the community, you have to get involved.”

So, too, is a certain faith in process.

“Everything happens for a reason, I believe that,” she said when asked what advice she’d give to young leaders. “I believe that every experience builds on the next, and you may not always know the reasons at the time …

I think of all of the lessons to where I am today and had I turned my back then, during trying times, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So not to give up.”

— Leah Buletti

Kristen M. Reed, 25: CREDO Community Center

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONKristen M. Reed is community service.

Between the lines of the 25-year-old’s lengthy resume of volunteer board membership and officer positions is a passion for community and the desire to help change the world one idea at a time. Encouraged by relatives and college professors to never quit, Ms. Reed said she embraces new challenges because she knows they are just steps toward success.

“Don’t take no for an answer” is the best advice she said she’s followed from James E. Reagan, communications director for state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

“I think about that constantly, whether I advise someone of healthy life choices or in an organization,” Ms. Reed said.

She has spent the past two years as a vocational/rehabilitation counselor at Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions helping people who struggle, or who have struggled, with addiction to alcohol or other substances obtain life skills and education to help them work toward establishing or re-establishing a career.

“Every day is a new day,” she said. “You’re working with people at some of the lowest points of their life and you’re able to make changes that will uplift them. Seeing success stories of people helps keep you going.”

What also has kept Ms. Reed going for most of her young adult life, she said, is giving people a chance to start over, through work done at Credo.

“When I was 16, my mom got hit by a drunk driver,” she said. “She was semi-paralyzed and I feel like the more people I can help directly, the more families I can save from that experience.”

When not at work, Ms. Reed often helps other people create their own successes, whether it be helping the elderly during a game of bingo, participating in various Jefferson Breakfast Kiwanis events and meetings or helping lay a community service foundation for youth involved with their school’s Key Club.

“Each day is a new chance to help people, even on the weekends,” Ms. Reed said.

She said she is inspired to remain involved in the community because she lives by the Kiwanis motto of ‘serving the children of the world.’ Recognizing it takes multiple volunteers to accomplish that, and more, Ms. Reed said if the north country had more serious economic development more young adults would be attracted to the area. More people of that segment of the population, she said, could then volunteer in their local area.

The Kristen M. Reed file

Hometown: Ogdensburg

Professional position: Vocational/rehabilitation counselor at Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions

Family: Parents, Mark Reed and Barbara Remillard, Florence, S.C.; grandparents, Julia and Richard Smith, Dexter

Education: Bachelor’s in communications, SUNY Potsdam, 2010

Community Involvement: Jefferson Breakfast Kiwanis and NY Young Professionals Kiwanis Club

Last Book Read: “A Place of Yes” by Bethenny Frankel

Turning obstacles into opportunities is a challenge that Ms. Reed said she has accepted for many years because obstacles often can be overcome. One hurdle that she said she has jumped over numerous times is the myth that young people are selfish and only want time for them.

“A lot of times people in their 20s are called ‘Generation-Me,’” she said. “There are twenty-somethings who are selfless. You think of clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis and you think of older people. There are young people who care about the world. I think there’s this misconception that young people can’t do (big) jobs.”

Ms. Reed is one of those exceptions. She was the International president for Circle K, the collegiate branch of Kiwanis, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada for meetings. Ms. Reed also held the title of national collegiate counselor ambassador for the March of Dimes, and was governor of all state Key Clubs in 2006.

She currently holds the titles of co-coordinator of the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Lt. Governor for 2014-15 of the St. Lawrence Division of Kiwanis, which represents clubs from Malone to Watertown.

— Rebecca Madden

Michelle M. Roden, 32: Fort Drum Family & MWR BOSS program

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONIn Michelle M. Roden’s eyes, a smile and a healthy sense of humor are the keys to working and leading effectively.

A healthy bit of creativity doesn’t hurt either.

“If you’re not having fun then you’re not doing it right,” she said.

On the day she spoke with the magazine, the head of the post’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program was in the final stages of preparation for a post-apocalyptic zombie-themed 5K that would host more than 600 soldiers and family members.

Mrs. Roden said her preparation for the event had been months in the making, as she attended 5Ks around the area to get a better idea on how to improve areas of the event like pre-race registration.

Mrs. Roden is a face many of Fort Drum’s soldiers see during their day, as her office helps coordinate recreational and community service projects for thousands of 10th Mountain Division soldiers. Without the office, many of the program’s participants would otherwise be socially isolated in their barracks or apartments.

One of her daily challenges is overcoming complaints from soldiers that there is nothing to do.

“There’s stuff to do, you just have to look for it,” Mrs. Roden said.

She would know. Mrs. Roden has lived in Northern New York for her entire life, and now resides in Clayton. Graduating from Thousand Islands High School and taking classes at Jefferson Community College, Mrs. Roden took the job on post after working with the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton.

One of the keys to her development in her work, Mrs. Roden said, has been the mentorship she has received from other leaders on post. The post’s leadership program, she said, pairs people together from different departments.

“It makes you appreciate what you do,” she said.

The Michelle M. Roden file

Hometown: Cape Vincent

Professional position: Senior program adviser, Fort Drum Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Fort Drum Family & MWR program

Family: Husband, Matthew Roden

Education: Thousand Island High School, college coursework at
Jefferson Community College

Community involvement: Organizer and volunteer, Thousand Island High School Memorial Volleyball Tournament; volunteer, Clayton Christmas Parade; volunteer for various fundraisers for Save the River, Polar Bear Dip for River Hospital and the Antique Boat Museum.

Last book read: “The Husband’s Secret,” Liane Moriarty

Other leaders on post have taken notice of Mrs. Roden’s work ethic during the seven years she has been on Fort Drum.

“Her logistical skills are above and beyond something I’ve seen from people her age,” said Donna W. Orvis, marketing chief for Fort Drum’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “She knows what to ask for.”
Mrs. Orvis added that Mrs. Roden’s attitude has made her stand out from others.

“She always has a smile on her face,” she said. “No matter what job she has for herself, I’ve never seen her have a bad attitude about anything.”

Mrs. Roden’s attitude and outreach with soldiers has made an impression on the post’s leadership.

Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, who as garrison commander oversees much of the daily activity on post, praised Mrs. Roden during an October conference about social media at Fort Meade, Md. for reaching out to a soldier whose mother had raised concerns about their social life.

At the end of the day, Mrs. Roden says helping soldiers and their families every day is the favorite part of her job.

“That’s why we’re here, that’s why we have a job, to take care of the soldiers, to make sure they’re active, and not in the barracks twiddling their thumbs,” she said.

— Gordon Block

Edward C. Siebels, 37: Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONAs a youngster growing up in the north country, Edward C. Siebels, 37, did not fully appreciate what he had.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school. Later, he and his wife, Elizabeth W., moved to Fredericksburg, Va., where he graduated from Mary Washington College.

“We were young and we thought what we wanted was to get away,” he said. “We weren’t quite ready to settle down to a role here.”

While in Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Siebels kept their eye out for a place they could make their own.

“We were looking for a small town that we could call home where the cost of living wasn’t so far out of whack,” Mr. Siebels said. “We wanted it to be a little more country.”

Then, their eldest son was born and Mr. Siebels deployed to Afghanistan.

“That kind of changed our whole outcome on life,” he said. “What we were looking for in Virginia was what we had. It was right here all the time.”

Mr. Siebels was a soldier for almost 13 years, both active and reserve, enlisted and commissioned.

Now his job as the director of maintenance of Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes overseeing 4,000 homes maintains a connection to the military.

“I enjoy being around soldiers. I enjoy the Army,” he said. “Part of what I get to do here is serve soldiers. That means a lot to me.”

Mountain Community Homes is a Winn Companies military housing project. The Boston-based firm oversees the property management at 13 military installations nationwide.

Mr. Siebels’s maintenance department completes approximately 40,000 service requests annually with a staff of 85 technicians, cleaners and supervisors. Mr. Siebels is not adverse to putting on a tool belt himself and is typically the first in to work and the last to leave.

“I enjoy the fast pace, solving problems,” he said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to listen more, not to be so quick to jump in and solve problems. I listen to the folks that work for me. Usually, they have the right answer. Seven years ago, I was quick to answer and not so quick to listen.”\

The Edward C. Siebels file

Hometown: Gouverneur

Professional position: Director of Maintenance, Fort Drum
Mountain Community Homes

Family: Wife, Elizabeth W. Siebels, a fourth-grade teacher at East Side Elementary School in Gouverneur; sons, Cole E., 10, and Owen W., 7; daughter, Lilah E., 4.

Education: Bachelor’s, Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Va.

Community Involvement: Gouverneur Central School Board, assistant coach with the Gouverneur Pee Wee flag football team, Sunday School teacher.

Last book read: “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey

Mr. Siebels has been recognized for his professional accomplishments.

WinnResidential, the 7th largest property management company in the country, recognized Mr. Siebels in 2009 and 2012 as a Winner’s Circle Recipient. The award is given annually to only 100 of the 3,000 employees who work for Winn Companies nationwide.

In 2010, Mr. Siebels was the recipient of the Power of Pride Award for maintenance leadership. He was chosen in 2012 for the Winn Star Mentor Program.

Never one to sit still, Mr. Siebels is also active in his community. He is a member of the Gouverneur Central School Board, a coach and has traveled to Haiti as part of a mission group building houses and churches for victims of hurricanes.

Being committed to the community is key to building its success, Mr. Siebels said.

“I think one thing that needs to happen is for us to build as many opportunities for jobs like I have that keep people engaged and excited,” he said. “We just need more opportunities for young people to enjoy the area. “

— Martha Ellen

Junior J. Stefanini, 37: Body Pros, Elite Auto Repair, Pro Towing

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONJunior J. Stefanini believes that hard work can compensate for the obstacles life throws your way, including the loss of his father at the tender age of 7 and the fact that college wasn’t a financial reality for him, aspiring to the philosophy “get up early, go to bed late.”

“You work, you just work,” the owner of a construction firm and four Watertown-area car businesses said.

Mr. Stefanini moved to the north country from Queens in 1997 to work for the Caprara family. He opened Body Pros on Route 11 in Watertown in October 2008, taking out a mortgage on his home to make ends meet and leasing the space from F.X. Caprara.

“No risk equals no reward,” he said.

In October, Mr. Stefanini announced a 12,000-square-foot expansion at the former Davidson GMC dealership on outer Washington Street, which opened as the new headquarters of Body Pros Collision Experts — a hub for all things automotive, including collision and general auto repair, towing and a Hertz auto rental franchise. He bought the building and 4.3-acre commercial parcel in August, as well as the former Davidson Chevrolet building to the south and its 15.6-acre parcel. The former building houses a suite of automotive retailers.

He also owns Extreme Builders, a general contracting firm that is building townhouses in the Preserve at Autumn Ridge off County Route 202 north of Sam’s Club.

Mr. Stefanini is not a car dealer, but aims to provide customers who may not be able to afford a new car a similarly high level of service. As a trained mechanic, he believes such skills are a “dying breed,” with young people averse to working with their hands.

Though he said his 2-year-old son Aston will go to college, he credits the numerous successful business owners with whom he worked from the age of 13 as providing a vital education of the sort you can’t get in the traditional classroom.

“I would not be where I am without good people — only they can take credit for ‘no risk, no reward,’” he said. “Without good people, I would be nothing.”

He also credits his wife, Karla Richardson, whom he described as a “very driven person who encourages him to stop and smell the roses a little bit,” with his success.

Along with an impeccable work ethic—he notes that he got his big break in business when he ascribed to the ethos of first in, last out — Mr. Stefanini advises other business owners to trust themselves.

“Only you know what you’re capable of,” he said. “Just love what you do — follow your heart. Believe in something, then go after it.”

The Junior J. Stefanini file

Hometown: Queens, New York City; moved to Watertown in 2007

Professional Position: Owner/principal, Body Pros, Elite Auto Repair, Pro Towing and Extreme Builders
Family: Wife, Karla (Richardson); son Aston, 2

Education: High school diploma

Community involvement: Volunteer work and fundraising for the Heather A. Freeman Foundation and Watertown Urban Mission

Last book read: The Berenstain Bears’ Bedtime Story by Stan Berenstain (with son); avid reader of business biographies and autobiographies

He also advised young people to be smart about credit management.

In the community, Mr. Stefanini is a major sponsor of the Heather A. Freeman Foundation, which promotes positive individual and community values. He’s also involved with fundraising for the Watertown Urban Mission.

“I believe in paying it forward if you can afford to do it,” he said.

A devoted runner, he enjoys hunting, golf and working out in his spare time, and met his wife while exercising at Page Fitness Athletic Club in Watertown.

Despite his drive and business acumen, Mr. Stefanini has a lighthearted spirit, and said employees or those he does business with would be surprised to know that he often wears his heart on his sleeve.

With the hopes of having at least one more child, he said he thinks Watertown could use some more businesses that cater to children, such as places to throw fun birthday bashes.

“I’m looking forward to becoming a kid again when my kid gets older,” he said.

— Ken Eysaman

Dr. Jason F. White, 39: Internal Medicine of NNY

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTIONDr. Jason F. White, 39, admits he’s not your typical physician. While he was recognized earlier this year for overwhelming compassion to his patients, Dr. White is also known for his work to ensure the city of Watertown’s tree population remains healthy and vibrant.

As vice chairman for Tree Watertown, he has helped replace thousands of trees that died as a result of the 1991 ice storm and a microburst windstorm that hit the area in 1995.

Dr. White, who grew up in Watertown, returned to practice medicine nine years to “give back to the community I love,” he said.

“It’s the right size community to make a difference,” he said. “I believe in the community. Making positive change is very cool.”

As a doctor at Internal Medicine of NNY, he has had a positive impact on the local medical community through his involvement as a committee member for the Jefferson Physician Organization, a group of physicians who find ways of improving the quality of patient care, and with the Fort Drum Regional health Planning Organization.

With a busy medical practice and a young family, he still took on the role as a chairman of a JPO pilot program to study specific chronic disease.

“As a physician, I have an opportunity to have a positive effect on people on a day-to-day basis, which I find is very rewarding,” he said.

This year, Dr. White was given “The Most Compassionate Doctor Award” at Samaritan Medical Center’s Doctor’s Day for the way he focuses on communication and caring in the doctor/patient relationship.

He got his commitment for people and the community through his parents, Peter L. and Melanie J. White, who described as honest, caring people. His father died about 18 months ago.

Along the way, he learned it was just as good supporting someone else who was doing something positive than to have done it himself.

“I think the No. 1 thing is listening,” he said. “If it’s people running the community or someone sweeping the floor, you can get good advice.”

For the past several years, Dr. White has been involved in Advantage Watertown, a group of business and community leaders who meet on a monthly basis to discuss and brainstorm how to make Watertown a better place to live.

In recent years, Advantage Watertown has talked with developers about how it can help with move their projects along, looking at ways to improve the city’s housing stock and what can be done to ensure local businesses succeed.

“It’s fun to share success with somebody else,” he said.

As a member of Watertown’s tree advisory group, Dr. White helps to plan and select the best places to plant trees in the city. The group puts together an Arbor Day event in the spring and another tree planting in the fall.

The Jason F. White file

Hometown: Watertown

Professional position: Physician at Internal Medicine of NNY

Family: Wife, Michele D. White; son, Michael E., 9, and daughter, Madison E., 10

Education: Cornell University, 1991; Upstate Medical University, Rural Medical Education Program, 2001; Lancaster General Family Practice Residency Program, 2001-2004

Community involvement: Tree Watertown, Neighbors of Watertown, the Black River Committee, Advantage Watertown, the Jefferson County Historical Society and the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park

Last book read: “Lincoln on Leadership” by Donald T. Phillips

It involves getting other volunteers and the city’s Department of Public Works to help plant several dozen trees along city streets or city parks and school grounds.

A Black River Committee member, Dr. White has also lobbied to expand bike and walking paths on both sides of the river.

The city is seeking some state funding for two biking and hiking trails that someday could connect to the rest of Watertown’s system along the Black River. This summer, Dr. White was instrumental in convincing the Watertown City Council to seek state funding for an 875-foot-long bike trail along Huntington Street, as well as money for design work to connect Veterans Memorial Riverwalk with Whitewater Park about a half-mile away.

Someday, Dr. White would like to see the city’s 2½-mile hiking trails as a continuous system that would run mostly along the river.

He has never regretted moving back to the north country.

— Craig Fox

Brooke E. Rouse, 30: SUNY Canton SBDC / 24 East Main St. Bed & Breakfast

Brooke RouseBrooke E. Rouse spends her workdays assisting others achieve their dreams.

At the same time, she’s advancing her own career, running a thriving downtown business and volunteering with several organizations.

The 30-year-old starts her busy days by making breakfast at 24 East Main St. Bed & Breakfast, which she owns and operates with her husband, Charles F. Rouse.

Then she’s off to her job as a small business advisor at the Small Business Development Center, a state and federally-funded agency housed at Wicks Hall on the SUNY Canton campus, where she’s been employed since 2011.

In that role, she meets one-on-one with clients from across St. Lawrence County who are interested in starting, expanding or selling their own business. The work entails explaining the legal regulations and other logistics of running a business. The counseling service is provided at no charge to potential business owners.

“I feel like my job is basically to help people to conquer the barriers to opening a business,” Mrs. Rouse said. “Every day you empower people to make their dreams come true. It’s very satisfying.”

She said it’s important to emphasize to clients that owning and operating a business is not easy, but it is rewarding.

“If you work hard, you can achieve your goals,” she said. “It allows you to use your creativity to create an income and a lifestyle too. In some sense you have more control of your fate.”

During her career, she’s learned a great deal by networking with others about their businesses, keeping an open mind and seeking advice from people with particular specialties.

“I’ve always engaged with people of all walks of life. People are your best resource because there are a lot of people out there who may have more experience than you,” she shared.

She credits her interest in business development to her family background, including having a father, brother and grandfather who all run their own businesses.

“I come from an entrepreneurial family. That’s really the root of it,” she said.

The Brooke E. Rouse file

Hometown: Millbrook

Professional position: Small Business Advisor at Small Business Development Center, SUNY Canton

Family: Husband, Charles F. Rouse

Education: Bachelor’s, St. Lawrence University, Canton; master’s, tourism and hospitality, University of West Indies, Barbados; New York State Certified Small Business Advisor

Community involvement: Canton Village Board (appointed to one-year term, 2013); Canton Chamber of Commerce; Canton Rotary Club; Co-coordinator, Remington Art Festival; Traditional Arts in Upstate New York; St. Lawrence County Arts Council; marketing chairwoman, Canton Canoe Weekend; St. Lawrence County Bed & Breakfast Association

Last book read: “The Dirty Life,” by Kristen Kimball

Although she grew up in various places along the East Coast, Mrs. Rouse said Canton is the place she considers home. She appreciates the north county’s proximity to the Adirondacks and Canada and the cultural opportunities available at the area’s colleges.

“Instead of paying big money and sitting in traffic, you can walk out your back door and be at a free lecture,” she noted. “The quality of life here is really high.”

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2002 with a degree in global studies and a minor in psychology, she returned to SLU a year later to take a job as assistant director of student activities.

Next, she headed to Barbados where she spent a year obtaining a master’s degree in tourism and hospitality at the University of West Indies. To help achieve that goal, she was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.

Outside of work, Mrs. Rouse has embraced the Canton community by being actively involved in several organizations and projects.

Getting young professionals involved in civic organizations is a way to keep them engaged in the north country, she said.

For several years, she has co-chaired the Remington Arts Festival, an annual event that brings locals and visitors to Canton for an art show and sale in the village park and several other activities including music and horse-drawn carriage rides.

She also assists with coordinating and marketing the Canton Canoe Weekend sponsored by the St. Lawrence Valley Paddlers to engage the local community and visitors in paddling and the heritage of Canton canoe builder Henry Rushton.

She also serves on the Canton Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, the Canton Rotary Club, St. Lawrence County Bed & Breakfast Association, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York and the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

Why does she remain in Canton?

“I feel that the sense of community is so strong and supportive. That’s priceless to me,” Mrs. Rouse said.

— Susan Mende