40 Under 40

ACCE is dedicated to recognizing and supporting the most talented professionals in the chamber industry. This annual recognition program showcases 40 of the industry’s top emerging leaders who have demonstrated success in their careers and made significant contributions to the communities they serve. The list includes CEOs and staff professionals from a wide variety of roles and chamber sizes. During a year that challenged us all, their creativity, dedication and commitment to identifying innovative solutions will help shape the future of the chamber profession.

Ashley Biggar
Director of Downtown Brookings
Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Kelsey Doom, President & CEO, Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce
As the downtown business director for the city of Brookings, Ashley uses her stellar communication skills to advocate, promote and enrich the experience for downtown business owners in their relationship with the Brookings Area Chamber. Her marketing savvy and eye for design experience has transformed the look and feel of many of the chamber’s events and materials. Her drive, enthusiasm and passion for the downtown business district shows through in her volunteer work as well, whether creating public art to give the community a boost or problem solving to help drug court participants complete their volunteer hours during COVID.

Amanda Blackwood
President & CEO
Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber chair Leigh White
Amanda leads the strategic direction, vision, culture and business operations of the chamber and passionately advocates for issues and programs that support the economic success of our members in the six-county Capital City region. Under Amanda’s leadership, the Sacramento Metro Chamber is focused on three core values: being mission-driven, collaborative and growth-oriented. Through her dedication, diligence and leadership by example, she continues to make a true and measurable difference in the Greater Sacramento region.

Joe Bost
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
Charlotte Regional Business Alliance
Nominated by Janet LaBar, President & CEO, Charlotte Regional Business Alliance
This year, more than ever, the importance of advocacy and connections to decision makers at the state and federal levels should be clear, and chambers are leading the way. Joe Bost has been with us for more than three years, including during a merger with our regional economic development group. His collaborative nature, political background, service to our members and relationship building with key stakeholders have clearly come together to the benefit our organization and community.

Cally D'Angelo
Senior Director, Membership Services & Small Business Initiatives
Gwinnett Chamber
Nominated by Nick Masino, President & CEO, Gwinnett Chamber
A true chamber champion, this not just a job for Cally, this has been her career. During her time at the Statesboro Chamber, her internship turned into a permanent position. She worked at the Port Wentworth Chamber, where she increased membership 70 percent, and then the Savannah Area Chamber, where she spearheaded the state’s largest political event. Next, she joined the Gwinnett Chamber. She has increased events revenue 180 percent, which led to two promotions.

Britt Delo
Director of Membership
Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Jane Clark, CCE, IOM, President, Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce
Britt shines as one of the chamber industry's brightest women and has demonstrated success in her career and made significant contributions to our community. As we navigated the pandemic, Britt’s relationships have been crucial in maintaining sponsors and renewing members. While the initial budget impact of the pandemic looked incredibly bleak, through Britt’s tireless efforts, we retained nearly all premier sponsor dollars and have over an 80 percent membership renewal rate. This success is a testament to the work Britt has done since joining our team.

David Diaz
Chief of Staff
Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Nicole Quiroga, President & CEO, Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
David is remarkably proactive, creative, innovative and passionate. He came to the chamber in 2017 and enabled the chamber to literally evolve. David brought with him a younger generation of entrepreneurs and members, all his media contacts, new sponsors and a deep empathy for what our regional minority businesses were experiencing as they maneuvered through the complicated processes that business owners must to become viable and profitable.

Tiffany Esposito, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Nominated by chamber chair C. Richard Mancini, Esq., Chairman, Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.
Tiffany and her team designed a new membership model and a new corporate structure that allows SWFL Inc. to be a business organization that is on forefront of offering services, information, networking and access to businesses throughout Southwest Florida. She functions as a seasoned leader and has the confidence and respect of the entire business community. Her creativity, dedication and commitment to finding innovative ways to enhance the membership and serve our community is inspirational.

Jordan Ferrell
Vice President of Communications & Development
Charleston Area Alliance
Nominated by Steven M. Rubin, President & CEO, Charleston Area Alliance
Jordan manages all communications, marketing and development for the alliance, while also creating new initiatives and events for our organization and community. Her recent accomplishments include partnering with YWCA Charleston to implement racial bias training, speaking at ACCE Events Conference, creating Keep it Local Kanawha Valley, a multi-partner collaboration to stimulate our economy, and developing MaskUpCWV campaign to promote safe community practices.


Brent Francis
Director, Advocacy & Outreach
Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Janet Riopel, ICD.D., President & CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
Brent has been instrumental in our considerable success as the recognized and credible voice for business in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Over the summer, Brent designed and led a very comprehensive consultation process, working with over 200 leaders from across industry sectors, institutions and non-profits, that resulted in a comprehensive report entitled Forging Our Future. This report lays out a set of recommendations on how governments can help ailing businesses withstand the ongoing pandemic, harness new opportunities to boost our economic recovery and build a more inclusive economy that supports long-term growth and diversification.

Dexter Josh Freeman, IOM
Vice President of Operations & Administration
Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Beth A. Bowman, CCE, IOM, President & CEO, Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Dexter represents the talent that our profession should be recruiting and mentoring for executive positions. He is a role model – hard working, intelligent and a strategic thinker with a servitude character that makes him a popular colleague, catalytic leader and friend. Dexter managed a successful $3.1 million capital campaign that promoted AVID and STEM curriculums for three school districts within our city. He also established measurements and processes that improved our performance, earning us our third 5-Star U.S. Chamber of Commerce accreditation and being named a finalist for ACCE Chamber of the Year for two consecutive years.

Anahi Godinez
Director Strategic Partnerships & Events
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Martin Breidsprecher, COO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
By implementing best practices and key performance metrics in programs, Anahi was able to help the chamber grow in its reach and its ability to bring partners to the table. 2020 has been a challenging year as we learned to navigate a new normal in our day-to-day operations and programming, but with Anahi’s leadership and innovative mindset, we have been able to pivot, adapt and excel at the work that we do.

Adrian Isaiah Hale
Senior Manager, Talent Strategy, Workforce Development, & Education Initiatives
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Bob Duffy, IOM, President & CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce
As Rochester Chamber has been charged with developing and growing regional workforce development, Adrian’s work is critical to our success. The relationships he has forged, paired with the passion with which he carries out his responsibilities, make him one of our finest employees and a benefit to the chamber world. For as long as I have known him, he has shown an unwavering dedication to improving our community.

Whitney B. Harmel
Vice President Membership & Development
Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Christine Ross, CCE, IOM, President & CEO, Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Whitney has made it her mission to understand best in class not-for-profit best practices, has true leadership command and has applied a sophisticated sales strategy to her work with fantastic financial success. She quickly realized the impact we could have on the daily operations of a business and took responsibility for supporting members through strategic alliances. She took personal responsibility for elevating our foundation’s cutting-edge Teacher Externship program, digitizing the application process to attract over 200 teacher applicants in 30 days and $40,000 in foundation revenue.

Cecilia Harry
Chief Economic Development Officer
Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC
Nominated by Dirk Draper, President & CEO, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC
Cecilia has been an active leader in the Regional Recovery Council that the chamber formed with our county’s Public Health Department in early April. This partnership, unique in Colorado and recognized by industry as a best practice, has ensured a balance between economic health and public health in COVID policy decisions. Collaborating with community partners, Cecilia has led the council to address remote learning, child care, and similar essential aspects of our community fabric.

Shannon Haswell Furtick
Business Development Services Manager
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Karen Riordan, President & CEO, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
Shannon is an outstanding leader who puts 100 percent passion and energy into every project she undertakes to make her community a better place to live, work and play. During her tenure at the chamber, she has managed networking events, directed the chamber’s young professionals organization, helped raise money through charity events and more. In her current role, she oversees the retention efforts for all 2,700 chamber investors and oversees many chamber programs.

Andi Holland Johnson
Chief Policy Officer & Director of Regional Engagement
Commerce Lexington Inc.
Nominated by Robert L Quick, CCE, IOM, President & CEO, Commerce Lexington Inc.
In my 32-plus years in the chamber industry, seldom have I witnessed a more complete person with an eye for seeing the bigger picture and turning that vision into reality. Andi is a person of great character and gifted with remarkable instincts in dealing with people of all ages, mindsets, status and perspectives. She exemplifies so many aspects outlined in the Horizon Initiative, especially in the areas of catalytic leadership, resource alignment, and efforts to address political and social fragmentation.

Stephanie Keinath
Vice President, Strategic Initiatives
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Christopher Kershner, CAE, IOM, President & CEO, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce
Over the past year, Stephanie has helped lead our business community through multiple community challenges, including devastating tornadoes and COVID-19. Most notably, Stephanie helped lead the Dayton area’s response to the 2019 Dayton mass shooting by overseeing a community event with over 35,000 attendees. Stephanie is a true strategic leader who is able to combine strategic thought with high value deliverable actions for the betterment of our members and the community at large. Stephanie is a true asset to our employers, our organization and our community.

Elizabeth Kerns, IOM
Chamber Manager
Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber chair, Joni DeLon, Director of Business Development, Primrose Retirement Communities
Elizabeth is a true team player, as evidenced by the fact that she's elevated the organization’s employee education, mentorship program and business engagement. Elizabeth has done an outstanding job with retention during this pandemic. Her council respects her leadership and shows it by volunteer involvement and continued support with strategic planning. Her recent success in redeveloping the Leadership Kokomo program is just one example of the great work she's done for our chamber.

Courtney Ligi
Membership & Business Development Director
Waterbury Regional Chamber
Lynn Ward, President & CEO, Waterbury Regional Chamber
Since the emergence of COVID-L9, Courtney has gone beyond her job title and taken this as an opportunity to help us pivot to make us a truly virtual chamber. The March lockdown happened during our leadership program year. Courtney used her leadership skills and creativity to have the students continue the program - and even graduate - virtually. She also led the development of an online-only version of our annual Duck Festival, creating an event that still supported 40+ local non-profit organizations and raised over $22,000.

Katie B. Luna
Brawley Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber president Dr. Kathleen Lang, VP Regional Operations, California Health & Wellness
Katie has lifted our chamber from fiscal instability to a financially sound position, increased our membership and calibrated our chamber to align with the Convener, Catalyst, and Champion model. She launched the Imperial Valley Business Recovery Task Force, which has focused on mitigating the impact of COVID on the business community and within work environments. She continues at the forefront, leading every step of the way and building bridges of communication and understanding instead of accepting long-standing silos of local government, business communities and the general population.

Kara Luzik Canale
Vice President
Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC
Nominated by David Black, President & CEO, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC
Kara is smart, has an exceptional work ethic and has taken time to learn and understand our business and mission. She has reshaped and modernized our communications strategy with a new web site, extensive use of social media, use of analytics in our strategy and hired a new communications director. She has excelled in all areas of her position. She has been a game-changer for our organization and a trusted voice in senior staff discussions.

Joey Mak
Vice President, Programs
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Jack Lavin, President & CEO, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Under Joey’s leadership, the chamber has expanded its program portfolio, which continues to meet the diverse needs of member organizations. In the last year alone, Joey increased programming and funding to expand the work of the Illinois SBDC; developed and accelerated our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; launched the Chamber Apprenticeship Programs to connect underserved students with work-based learning opportunities and led the chamber’s transition to 100 percent virtual programming.

Carolyn Marsh
Events Manager
Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Ian McLean, President & CEO, Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce
In addition to performing her job at an exemplary level, Carolyn demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to the chamber and community. Our chamber does over 100 events within our fiscal year and nine major annual events. Just over a year after Carolyn joined our team, our province shut down due to Covid-19. Under her direction we launched our first online event. In a few short months, Carolyn and her team had taken our entire events program for the year and transformed it to allow the chamber to continue to connect with our community virtually.

Julia McGowen
Director of Marketing & Communications
Greater Houston Partnership
Nominated by Clint Pasche, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications , Greater Houston Partnership
Julia is prepared, timely, innovative and a game changer. Her ability to effectively collaborate across the organization during a significant internal data systems conversion and integration was remarkable. She willingly stepped outside of her scope of responsibilities because she saw a need and knew it would be critical to the success of the organization. She led the efforts to tie the new system to our website that enhanced our member experience and created future opportunities for sophisticated marketing programs.

Kayla Meyer
Lincoln Young Professionals Group Coordinator
Lincoln Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Wendy Birdsall, CCE, IOM, President, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce
Kayla demonstrates an unparalleled level of passion for our community and the young
professionals within it. She has elevated the Lincoln Young Professionals Group to be the largest in the state and one of the largest in the nation. With young professionals comprising nearly 35 percent of employees in Lincoln, Kayla identifies opportunities to present exceptional programming and events to unite, empower and engage this influential demographic.

Guy Occhiogrosso
Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber chair Lynn Murphy, NERC/WECC Regulatory Compliance Consultant, Puget Sound Energy
Over the last six years, Guy’s leadership has helped rebuild our chamber into a sustainable business model. He has created and maintained valued partnerships with business, nonprofit and government. He has demonstrated a collaborative style which shines bright on the business community and has allowed the voice of business to be heard in conversations that maybe would not have been possible otherwise.

Elizabeth Osburn
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
Tulsa Regional Chamber
Nominated by Mike Neal, CCE, IOM, President & CEO, Tulsa Regional Chamber
Elizabeth’s proactive leadership, innovation, and tenacity were paramount to our chamber’s relevance and action during a global pandemic. Elizabeth led our chamber’s efforts to aggressively utilize local CARES Act funding, resulting in a $500,000 COVID-19 economic recovery campaign, $150,000 workforce reskilling strategy, and chamber-led distribution of 2,550 PPE kits to more than 1,980 businesses. Elizabeth and her team hosted at least 40 virtual meetings to help businesses navigate PPP, EIDL and other federal assistance programs, and to interface directly with elected officials.

Mark Owens, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.
Nominated by co-chairs Cantey Alexander, Triad Regional President, Truist Bank and Jeff Lindsay, Executive Vice President & COO, Novant Health
Mark is a servant-leader with a deep commitment to advancing the quality of life and business success across our community. Mark has effectively developed strong partnerships and built an accomplished team to implement targeted economic development efforts in areas including talent recruitment and retention, place marketing and workforce development. A significant example of his exemplary leadership is the successful consolidation of two legacy organizations in the community into a new consolidated organization, Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.

Ross Phillips
Senior Vice President Community Development
Rogers Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Raymond Burns, CCE, President & CEO, Rogers Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce
Ross has become a trusted and valued member of our senior leadership team at the chamber. He is playing a strategic role in our current and future planning and is charged with developing our future customers, members and investors. He helps us not only stay relevant but necessary to future leaders and generations. He is accountable, reliable, knowledgeable and trusted by all generations.

Sully Pinos
Director of Business Solutions & Innovation
York County Economic Alliance
Nominated by Kevin Schreiber, President & CEO, York County Economic Alliance
Knowing the unemployment issues this pandemic has caused, Sully created a weekly virtual career fair that has connected over 35 employers with over 850 job seekers. Sully outlined and executed an aggressive plan to ensure every business and non-profit was aware of the CARES Act-funded YoCo Strong Restart Fund. Her work included virtual webinars, office hours to assist technical needs, business visits and she singlehandedly led bilingual services to ensure details on the grant reached our Spanish speaking community. Her leadership led to grants of $11.9 million to 705 small businesses and $2.1 million to 107 nonprofits.

Molyna Richards
Executive Director
Waltham Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber president Douglas G. Waybright, President, The Nelson Companies
Molyna not only excels in her role as executive director, she propels her chamber forward. She adeptly applies her ability to listen, assess and understand prior to voicing her opinion. While she takes great care not to step on someone else's toes and is inherently peaceful, she does not hide from controversy. This, along with her ability to be creative and forward-thinking, allows Molyna to gently, but firmly, persuade others to move forward when they may otherwise remain stagnant.

Tosha Swan
Manager of Programs & Communication and Young Professionals Group Director
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Bruce Bustamante, President & CEO, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Tosha has increased the quality and content of literally every project she has taken on. In 2020, the content and model of communications were squarely in Tosha’s hands, and she played a critical role in communicating to members during the COVID-19 pandemic. These communications were critical in providing a path to survival for our small business members as she updated information on programs such as PPP, EIDL and CARES Act Grant money. Tosha’s eye for quality and work ethic has elevated the Anchorage Chamber’s reputation for providing quality and relevant programs.

Kate Teel
President & CEO
Greenville Pitt County Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Ashli Watts, President & CEO, Kentucky Chamber
Kate is a force of nature, and I have been so impressed to see the success she has had at the helm of her chamber. Her strong business acumen and administrative leadership has shown through with 2019 having the highest number of members and best financial year in the chamber’s rich history. She has been able to retain talented staff, grow new programs and be a constant cheerleader and advocate for her community.

Ashli Watts
President & CEO
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber chair Winston Griffin, CEO and Chairman, Laurel Grocery Company
With a global health pandemic, an economic plummet and record-breaking unemployment numbers, the world seemed to turn upside down. However, through Ashli’s leadership, these events spurred the chamber to use an innovative, outside-the-box approach to re-think its vision and provide more value than ever for Kentucky’s business community. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the growth, which has proven true for Ashli during her entire career with our state chamber.

Rebecca Wood
COO & Vice President, Investor Development
Greater Louisville Inc.
Nominated by Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, CCE, IOM, President & CEO, Greater Louisville Inc.
Rebecca has proven to be an exceptional and dedicated leader whose proficiency has served our staff well. I have witnessed her tremendous growth and development and believe that Rebecca is truly a star. While our growth as an organization is a team effort, Rebecca’s leadership has helped us maintain our revenue, improve our brand and elevate staff satisfaction despite this being a year of unprecedented challenges.

Andrea Woodard
Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Public Policy
Greater Des Moines Partnership
Nominated by Jay Byers, CCE, IOM, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership
In a hyper-partisan world, Andrea has led our government relations efforts with the highest level of civility, working with our stakeholders and elected officials on both sides of the aisle in local, state and federal government to advance meaningful policy updates and legislation that benefit our region. Andrea’s efforts during the most recent state legislative session led to passage of legislation on issues including Future Ready Iowa, universal licensing, police reform, Empower Rural Iowa funding for broadband, liability protections in response to COVID-19 and Iowa Reinvestment Act reauthorization.

Joe Woolley
Nashville LGBT Chamber
Nominated by chamber president Ron Snitker, Executive Director, Business Development, Waller
Joe’s outstanding leadership qualities, demonstrated through his contributions to the efficacy, growth and reputation of the organization, have been invaluable. Under Joe’s reign, membership has grown on average 30 percent each year; currently, we have 540 members, which makes us one of the largest LGBT chambers in the country. We have an exceptional retention rate that is around 80 percent. The chamber’s impact on advocacy for our members and the LGBT community has been monumental. In the past two years alone, the chamber aligned with partner organizations to defeat over 20 anti-LGBT bills in the state legislature. At the local level, Nashville became the first city in the South and the thirteenth in the country to recognize LGBT-owned businesses in its procurement practices.

Alex Zarookian
Director of Investor Relations & Special Events
Jefferson Chamber
Nominated by Todd Murphy, President, Jefferson Chamber
Alex’s talent for event planning, management and execution is beyond her years. All of our signature events have been elevated to new levels, structurally and monetarily. And with a high investor program accounting for nearly 40 percent of our revenue, her acumen for developing and maintaining relationships with our larger investors is simply incredible. Like so many chambers, we had to reinvent our finances and our relevance amidst the pandemic. Under Alex’s leadership, we shifted and literally reinvented five major events, and to date, have salvaged most of our budgeted numbers.

Natalie Zeller
Senior Vice President of Finance
Greater Topeka Partnership
Nominated by Yesy Lawrence, Human Resources Manager, Greater Topeka Partnership
Natalie joined the Greater Topeka Partnership’s (GTP) when it was a newly-formed conglomeration of several existing profit entities all aligned around a central strategic purpose. She organized the complex public and private accounting structures, stewarded the company’s finances in its earliest years and then guided the organization through the existential threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GTP’s executive leadership team are at a loss as to how the organization could have endured through those formative years without her steady, knowledgeable, assured but humble leadership.

Samira Zimmerly
Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by chamber chair Kevin Day, President & CEO, Western Reserve Group
Samira is the lynchpin of the Wooster Chamber, as she manages the overall operation of the organization. Over the past 10 years she has been the driving force in developing the strong community presence and positive reputation of the chamber. Even as 2020 has presented unique challenges, Samira has led the chamber in adapting to the needs of the community and has ensured the organization remains a resource for local businesses.


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