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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

WOMEN IN BUSINESS AWARDS HONOREES

Executive Newcomer Award MARLA VASQUEZ Wells Fargo Community Bank The San Fernando Valley Women in Business Award for Executive Newcomer goes to a returnee rather than a complete newcomer to the region. Earlier this year, Marla Vasquez, a Wells Fargo veteran of 15-years, returned to the San Fernando Valley to assume a top leadership role as regional president of Wells Fargo’s San Fernando Valley Community Bank after a two-year stint serving as Pacific Coast regional president in the Santa Barbara and Ventura market. Previously, Vasquez was the Glendale/Burbank district manager and the North Valley District Manager for Wells Fargo’s San Fernando Valley Community Bank. Under her leadership, in 2009 Wells Fargo’s contributions to area nonprofits will remain consistent with the previous year’s donations, despite the economic downturn. That’s no small feat, according to those in both the non-profit and banking industries. Vasquez has served on the boards of two nonprofit organizations: The Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) of Santa Barbara County and Casa Pacifica. Last year, she was instrumental in securing a $250,000 EQ2 loan from Wells Fargo to fund WEV’s Small Business Loan Fund, which provides startup and expansion capital to small businesses that do not qualify for conventional bank financing. She also served on California State University Channel Islands Dean’s Leadership Council. Recently, Vasquez told the Ventura County Star that being involved in community service is one of the best parts of her job as head of the community bank. “I am proud to work for a company that cares so much about our local communities,” Vasquez said. “Once a team member is hired at Wells Fargo, the first thing we tell them is that we will empower and support them if they want to be involved in the community.” Volunteer of the Year CHRISTINE KENDRA DESCHAINE Lee & Associates L.A. North/Ventura Christine Kendra Deschaine, principal-retail specialist at Lee & Associates-L.A. North/Ventura, Inc., is one of just 29 shareholders at the regional commercial real estate giant. But it was her volunteer, civic, and charitable activities that caught the attention of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Women in Business Awards Selection Committee, and which garnered Deschaine the Volunteer of the Year Award. A brief overview of Deschaine’s involvements includes the American Lung Association Breathe Easy Ride-Santa Barbara event. For that event, rather than getting sponsorships for the ride, she sponsored herself and paid the entire fundraising commitment herself. This month, Christine will be joining a team traveling by boat to impoverished villages along the Amazon River in Brazil to bring much needed medical and educational supplies to the families and orphans there. She has also worked over a number of years with a small charitable group called Embrace Uganda that has “adopted” the village of Kaihura and annually raises funds. Already his year, working with the Union Rescue Mission, she prepared 100 sandwiches and beverages for an Easter Sunday service at the Hollywood Bowl. On the business side of her career, Deschaine joined Lee & Associates in 1995 and became a shareholder at the branch in 1999. In spite of the current real estate slump, Deschaine has still completed 150,000 sq. ft. of transactions, including a secured 15-year, 30,000-square-foot lease. Deschaine earned her B.S. in business administration from University of Nevada; is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, and a sponsor in Los Angeles Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). Professional Achievement Award SUE GEORGINO City of Burbank Having been for years at the nexus of community development and private-sector business activities as the City of Burbank’s director of community development, Sue Georgino is the Business Journal’s choice for the Women in Business Professional Achievement Award, 2009. Georgino has been working as a businessperson for 30 years, with 17 of those spent non-consecutively at City Hall. Among her most recent achievements she is proudest of are negotiations with the airport authority to attain noise relief for surrounding neighborhoods of Bob Hope Airport. Balancing the interests of residents, businesses that rely on the airport’s core flight activity, as well as the airport authority itself successfully is testament to Georgino’s communications ability, as well as her tenacity and creativity in finding solutions to tough problems. In addition to redevelopment and business-improvement work, Sue Georgino has forged a path to create what has, by all measures, made real the Johnny Carson’s once tongue-in-cheek label of “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.” Add to that the creation of Connect with your Community, a program designed to make Burbank a more economically integrated community, where even at-risk residents have a voice; and one can easily see why Georgino was a contender for the award, and ultimately the finalist. Georgino holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, Los Angeles, and a master’s in public administration also, from CSLA, as well as a master’s in theology from Mount Saint Mary’s College. Not For Profit Leadership Award CYNTHIA KAWA New Horizons In recognition of the strong reputation she has built in the San Fernando Valley as a talented leader in the community and in her own organization, New Horizons President and CEO Cynthia Kawa is the Business Journal’s finalist for the 2009 Women in Business Not-for-Profit Leadership Award. New Horizons is an award-winning non-governmental, social-services agency that serves the adult developmentally disabled community. Under Kawa’s administration, the 55-year-old institution has grown significantly, tripling the number of clients served from 225 to more than 800 at present. New Horizon’s programs bring full, meaningful and productive lives to clients, who, without the targeted help they receive from Kawa, her employees and volunteers, might have been considered burdens to society in another time and place. Kawa has expanded the organization’s operating budget from $3.5 million to nearly $14 million during her tenure. But, she said, her work is far from done. Kawa’s current challenge is to find new ways of continuing to serve her clients at the same level it always has, even while more than 10 percent of her funding is being cut due to California’s current economic crisis. To that end, an important element of New Horizon’s innovative nonprofit approach is to be a vital and significant member of the San Fernando Valley business community, contributing $15 million each year in produced goods and services, as well as purchases from local businesses. The produced goods are the fruits of the labor of New Horizon’s clients, and come from manufacturing and service-sector labor. Kawa has mandated that whenever possible, New Horizons should always buy the supplies and services needed for day-to-day operations from local firms. Cynthia Kawa is a native of Los Angeles and holds a dual bachelor’s degree in French and psychology and a master’s degree in psychology. She is also a licensed marriage and family therapist. Business Development Executive of the Year ROSE NIELSEN Woodbury University Rose Nielsen has brought a high-level of effectiveness to revenue building at Woodbury University during one of the most challenging times for fundraising and business development in three generations. That, in part, is why Nielsen is the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s 2009 finalist for the Women in Business, Business Development Executive of the Year Award. This year’s Women in Business selection committee reviewed many exceptional nominees. And Nielsen was one of the top. During the past twelve years Nielsen has demonstrated a strong dedication to Woodbury University’s mission of “providing the highest level of professional and liberal arts education,” to the higher-education community. When she first arrived at Woodbury, the university had never raised more than $225,000 in any given year. With Nielsen at the helm, that barrier was smashed. In fact, she has been effective in securing the first of what turned out to be several single-donor million-dollar gifts for the school. Nielsen is also president of the Woodbury University Library Associates Board, for which she tirelessly volunteers her time and labor for fundraising efforts. Nielsen’s community involvements are many and substantive. They include her current role as secretary of the KCET Women’s Council, to which she has belonged for 13 years. Known as a very demanding board commitment, KCET Women’s Council has enjoyed Nielsen’s hands-on volunteer efforts for 11 of those 13 years. She is also serving her fourth year as president of the Braille Institute Auxiliary. She has been a volunteer of the institute for 13 years. Twelve of those have been spent on the board of directors. She is also currently the membership/roster chair for the Christ Child Society. Those activities and her daily work at Woodbury augments the school’s “integrated nature of (its) educational environment, cultivates successful students with a strong and enduring sense of personal and social responsibility (and helps to) prepare innovative learners who are adept at communicating and willing to cross the boundaries of knowledge in a rapidly changing and complex world.” Executive of the Year MARGARITA DeWITT Sheffield Manufacturing The San Fernando Valley Business Journal presents its Executive of the Year commendation in the 2009 Women in Business Awards to Margarita DeWitt. As CEO of Sheffield Manufacturing, DeWitt has grown the firm, which she acquired in 2004, from one teetering on the edge of bankruptcy into a $30 million business in just a few short years. She is described as “a hands-on owner who makes each and everyone of her 140 employees feel like Sheffield is a great place to work.” That description, while certainly earned by her own actions, is also part of a family legacy she credits to her father. DeWitt follows in the footsteps of her father, an engineer, who was also an entrepreneur who believed in helping employees shine through encouragement and trust, rather than by instituting authoritarian management practices. DeWitt’s firm supplies specialized parts to U.S. military contractors, such as Boeing and Lockheed. When she bought Sheffield, which was founded in 1952, it was losing $100,000 to $200,000 per month. With her insights and management prowess forging a new future for the company, it is solidly profitable today. DeWitt enjoys finding companies with potential, acquiring them, and making them profitable again or for the first time ever. In each circumstance, she moves into a new company without the intention of laying employees off. Such was the case with Sheffield. “You get a lot of loyalty by not going in and firing people when you buy a company, and by treating them as valuable assets,” she told the Business Journal. The Argentine immigrant came to the U.S. as a child with her parents in 1962, and quickly learned English. DeWitt supports numerous charities, and holds an A.S. from Long Beach City College. Business Owner of the Year MITZI LIKE L/B/W Insurance & Financial Services Inc. Mitzi Like, the Business Journal’s Women in Business, Business Owner of the Year Award finalist has been in the property and casualty industry for more than 30 years. In 1991, along with father Don Like, she teamed up with Bernerger & Winikoff to form L/B/W Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. Further honing her skills as both a broker and a manager, she became CEO of the firm in 2002 and moved the company to Valencia in 2004. Those events mark a period of accelerated growth for L/B/W that continues today. Like has doubled the firm’s annual revenue and made it the largest independent, full-service agency in the Santa Clarita Valley. In fact, L/B/W is a household name in the local region. In 2008, L/B/W was ranked in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal as the No. 1 Best Place to Work with 15-49 Employees. Then, in May of this year, L/B/W received the Business Journal’s Best Community Spirit Award in the Santa Clarita Valley Business Leadership Awards. Mitzi Like is a member of the National Alliance for Insurance Education, Insurance Brokers and Agents, San Fernando Valley, ProVisors, Sitkins International, National Association of Women Business owners (NAWBO) L.A. Chapter and Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce. Mitzi Like is very active in her community both as a volunteer and a financial supporter of numerous local charities and service organizations, including the Michael Hoefflin Foundation and Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. She has also been responsible for helping lobby for state legislation that she believes will help consumers of insurance and financial-services products. Entrepreneur of the Year TAMARA GURNEY Mission Valley Bank, Mission Valley Bancorp Tamara Gurney, president and CEO of Mission Valley Bank and Mission Valley Bancorp, started a bank and made it successful in only 30 months ,doing so during a dismal era for banking in general. Gurney has been selected as the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s 2009 Women in Business Entrepreneur of the Year. Although Gurney is quick to say that she is just one of the co-founders of the bank, anyone who knows Mission Valley Bank’s history agrees she has been the organization’s keystone founder and key leader since its inception nine years ago. However, Gurney’s business career spans 35 years in total, during which she has held numerous jobs, some in banking and others. According to her, it was the triumphs and tragedies of those years that have provided Gurney with the experience to successfully head a 60-employee organization that has bucked national trends in the banking industry every step of the way. As if running a bank weren’t enough, Gurney also serves on several boards of directors, including those of the Boys and Girls Club of the Santa Clarita Valley, College of the Canyons, Southland Opera, and Pacific Coast Bankers Bank, to name but a few. Government Leadership Award LAURENE WESTE City of Santa Clarita The recipient of the Government Leadership Award in this year’s Women in Business Awards is Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste who was elected to the Santa Clarita City Council in 1998. She stands head-and-shoulders above politics-as-usual, enjoying a reputation of serving her constituents with a vigor and wisdom. Mayor Pro-Tem Weste came to elected-representative government work after a long career in business, as well as having served as a commissioner for the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, a post she held from the moment of the city’s inception in 1987. Weste has served two one-year terms as mayor. Among the accomplishments she is proudest of is the establishment of numerous parks, the preservation of thousands of acres of open space, and the construction of a cross-town trail system. But these days, much of her time and energy as a member of the Santa Clarita City Council is spent focused on protecting and enhancing the quality of life for some of the community’s most vulnerable citizens namely, its senior citizens. By fiercely defending and working to preserve and grow programs she believes function well to bring dignity and wellbeing to the aged population of the city, Weste believes the overall welfare of Santa Clarita is safeguarded. In the future, Weste expects to work for more open spaces to be created in her city, as well as more roads being built, the creation of new sports fields, a revitalization of Old Town Newhall, and the establishment of an open-space greenbelt completely surrounding the city. She also has plans to see the preservation of the last un-channeled river in Southern California, the Santa Clara River. CEO of the Year THERESE TUCKER Blackline Systems Therese Tucker is founder and chief executive officer of BlackLine Systems, which develops and markets financial software. She is also the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Women in Business CEO of the Year for 2009. Tucker started BlackLine Systems six years ago, after retiring from SunGard Treasury Systems but realizing that she still wanted to work. Insightfully identifying a need in the world of financial reporting, Tucker creatively positioned her firm to deploy an instant hit product soon after retiring from SunGard. Merging her two talents in technology development and financial reporting, Tucker created a new and successful business endeavor. She was initially its sole investor. Ultimately, the privately held BlackLine Systems became the first company to provide enterprise-wide financial applications that automate the entire month-end close process. With a staff of just 35 employees, Tucker boasts a client roster that includes such powerhouse companies as AT & T;, Costco, Cox Communications, eBay and Northrop Grumman. BlackLine also lays claim to having at least five more clients in the Fortune 100. Prior to founding BlackLine Systems, Tucker was the chief technology officer of SunGard Treasury Systems. In that role, she headed up product development for SunGard’s five corporate treasury systems, managing more than 200 people in six locations in four countries. Prior to her role as chief technology officer, she had been head of development of the Global Trader system, an institutional trading and portfolio management system acquired by SunGard in 1997. Education Leadership Award A. SUSAN CARLEO, PhD. Los Angeles Valley College Dr. Susan Carleo, president of Los Angeles Valley College, is the recipient of the Business Journal’s 2009 Women in Business Education Leadership Award because of her unique accomplishments as a teacher, a shaper of educational curricula, and as a leader in the administration of public higher education. Dr. Carleo has been in the top post at LAVC since 2008, but this is not her first time at the college. She worked in various positions from 1967 to 1989, then again from 1996 to 2002. In her current role, however, Dr. Carleo is responsible for a multi-million-dollar budget and 1,600 employees. She has a B.A. and a master’s degree from San Diego State University, a Ph.D. from UCLA and community college supervisorial and instructor certificates and credentials. She has been working in the business of education for 32 years. Before returning to Valley College for the third time, Dr. Carleo held the position of senior associate vice chancellor for human resources for the Los Angeles Community College District for five years. There, she managed all human resource duties, including hiring, evaluation and termination. She also served as the district’s chief labor negotiator for its six unions. Prior to that, she was vice president of academic affairs at Los Angeles Valley College for seven years. In that capacity, she was responsible for the planning, organization, administration and supervision of the college’s total instructional program. She coordinated all academic hiring and evaluation processes, chaired the college council and coordinated the college educational program review process. Dr. Carleo has also served as CIO at Schenectady County Community College in Schenectady, N.Y., and acting vice president and dean of academic affairs/vocational education at Los Angeles Harbor College. Before serving at Harbor College, Dr. Carleo was the director of the Center for the Advancement of Business, Labor & Education (CABLE) at Los Angeles Valley College. She established the Center after serving as a department chair/professor at Valley College for ten years. Business Leadership Team PAULA WILSON SUSAN DION JUDI ROSE Valley Community Clinic The triumvirate of finalists comprising the top brass at Valley Community Clinic are the collective recipients of the Business Leadership Team Award. Led by President and CEO Paula Wilson, the team runs one of the largest clinics serving at-risk, uninsured, and under-insured patients in Southern California. Wilson has been a businesswoman for 30 years, 16 of those at her current post. She earned her B.A. in business administration at the University of Puget Sound and is currently finishing a Master’s degree in public health administration. Among her proudest achievements in recent years was succeeding in raising $5 million for the purchase of Valley Community Clinic’s current building location. Next, in her role as vice president and chief operating officer, Susan Dion oversees 75 employees, though not all directly. She has been a businessperson for 28 years, and has worked in health care for 19 the last two-and-a-half at Valley Community Clinic. Past positions have included an 11-year stint as the executive director of the women’s Clinic and Family Counseling Center, as well as director of Surgical Center-Sherman Oaks, director at another clinic in Santa Monica, and others. Dion currently sits on the board of Valley Care Community Consortium, and volunteers at her daughters’ schools. Meanwhile, Judi Rose, the organization’s vice president, development & government affairs, is in charge of strategies and implementation of all fundraising, community awareness and patient marketing activities. Having rejoined Valley Community Clinic in 2007 after an earlier stint, Rose also heads government liaison activities, supervises development staff, strategizes budgets and growth possibilities and works to ensure financial viability. Among her accomplishments, are growing revenues from $450,000 in 2006/2007 to $1.6 million in 2007/2008; repositioning VCC in the business community and “re-raising” awareness of its services and importance in the community. Rose’s professional affiliations include serving on the board of trustees for Pacifica Hospital of the Valley from 2005 to the present; the boards of VICA and the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce; and the Women’s Political Caucus, San Fernando Valley Chapter.

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