Eight local women standouts were given awards Thursday at the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s annual Women’s Council.
Cheri Fleming of Valencia Acura won the Lifetime Achievement award. She and her husband not only turned around their auto dealership, which was flagging when they bought it, but she has been deeply involved in civic matters, even rising to a leadership role on a multi-national basis as president of Soroptimist International of the Americas.
Maureen O’Gara-Adford of the Gish Seiden accounting firm won the CEO of the Year award. She is the first female to hold the managing partner position in the company’s 75-year history, and she is renowned as a get-it-done executive who hardly slowed down when she battled cancer two years ago.
The Executive of the Year award went to Debra Donovan, executive director of Valley Village, which serves challenged people. Known for her mentorship skills, she developed a strong team of leaders over the years who have successfully managed the operation despite cutbacks in government funding.
Marie Lemelle of Platinum Star Public Relations won the Volunteer of the Year honor. Since founding the company 20 years ago, she has been involved in a long string of community-based projects and causes. She is particularly fond of finding ways to empower women and girls and to fight homelessness.
The Rising Star award went to Erin Beck, CEO of the Wana Family Network in Glendale. It allows parents to swap babysitting services with each other. She has acquired three similar operations over the last year or so, including one in the United Kingdom, and she is involved in Glendale’s Tech Week.
Janet Marinaccio, the president and CEO of MEND – Meet Each Need with Dignity, won the award for Nonprofit Leader of the Year. Since joining MEND three years ago, she had to implement a turnaround plan, close unsustainable programs and start new ones to put the organization on firmer financial ground.
The Business Owner of the Year honor went to Adrianna Cruz of the U-Frame It Gallery. Since she took over the family business in 1988, it has evolved into a top custom frame shop in Los Angeles, and Cruz is involved in several chambers of commerce and other business organizations.
The Business Team of the Year award went to Jennifer McLain Hiramoto and the economic development department in the city of Glendale. The team has been instrumental in developing Glendale’s tech ecosystem over the last several years, and it has been involved in Tech Week, which last year drew 5,500 people to downtown Glendale.
The awards were presented at a virtual meeting late Thursday morning by Charles Crumpley, publisher of the Business Journal; Luanna Lindsey, Business Marketing Segment Leader for Wells Fargo; and Miri Rossitto, founder and chief executive of Cowe Communications in Woodland Hills. Wells Fargo and Cowe were presenting sponsors of the event.
Lindsey and Rossitto also participated in a brief panel discussion about women in the workplace including, among other topics, how their roles have become more challenging in the pandemic.