Congratulations to the VEGAS INC 2016 40 Under 40 honorees

With a magic combination of smarts, skill, compassion and commitment to community, the honorees of our annual 40 Under 40 publication represent the best that Southern Nevada has to show the world, and VEGAS INC is proud to share their stories with you.

In our 16th annual publication, we’re recognizing 40 men and women from a cross section of industries in the valley who have one thing in common — they’re making Las Vegas a better place.

As has been happening since 2001, nominations for the honor poured in. We assessed each candidate’s community service, entrepreneurial spirit and impact on their respective industries.

40 under 40

Guests attend 40 Under 40 at Audi Henderson on March10, 2016. Launch slideshow »

How they shape the future manifests itself differently from honoree to honoree. More than one is helping our students get a firm foothold on the path to greatness, perhaps setting our youth up to be future 40 Under 40 honorees.

A common theme motivates them — tenacity. As Sierra Vista Principal John Anzalone said, “Do not allow the things that life throws at you to become an excuse.”

Others possess an outlook that helps showcase Southern Nevada in the best light possible. “I’ve lived all over the world — Berlin, London, New York — no city has ever embraced me or my family as much as this city has. I’m very loyal to Las Vegas,” said Max Tappeiner, vice president of hotel operations at the Venetian and Palazzo.

Humility is another important ingredient in the mix. “Success and fulfillment are more likely to find you when you treat people with respect,” said Andy Moore of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck.

Take the time to read about these young leaders and their amazing accomplishments. This distinguished group plays a crucial role in Southern Nevada’s business development.

A special thank you goes out to sponsors Switch, Sephora and Audi of Henderson, which toasted the honorees at a private reception. Another special thank you goes to Station Casinos and Red Rock Resort for hosting the soiree where we honor these leaders and innovators.

•••

Nehme Abouzeid

Executive Director of Brand Marketing and Advertising

Wynn Las Vegas

■ Age: 39

Nehme Abouzeid

Nehme Abouzeid

As a kid growing up in Boston, Nehme Abouzeid spent considerable time fending off misconceptions about his father’s homeland, Lebanon, as the Middle Eastern nation endured a civil war in the 1970s. These experiences helped to shape a sharp media mind. By 22, Abouzeid was a reporter in Beirut and two years later was producing a National Public Radio news show in Los Angeles.

Today, he oversees branding and marketing efforts for Wynn Las Vegas. Whether brainstorming brand awareness opportunities for shows, clubs and other venues, or serving in a role that helped him become a familiar face on the Strip — emceeing events at Lagasse’s Stadium — he counts his media education and experience as one of his greatest assets.

“In business school, a lot of the other majors couldn’t write well or communicate well. … I don’t regret a single day of my liberal arts studies. It all made me a better businessperson,” he said.

“I’m proudest of being a versatile person and quick study in my field,” he said. “I’ve worked with a deep Rolodex of people from a lot of industries and all can say I’m a fair person, a good person.”

Abouzeid is also active in the Las Vegas nonprofit community. He has served on the boards for KNPR and the youth charity After-School All-Stars.

— Brian Sodoma

Stacy Acquista

Assistant Vice President of Marketing

HCA Far West Division

■ Age: 31

Stacy Acquista

Stacy Acquista

When Stacy Acquista took an marketing internship at North Florida Regional Medical Center in 2005, the recent college graduate saw it as a chance to gain some experience before she moved into entertainment public relations and marketing. But she quickly felt a pull to health care that was quite unexpected.

“I was really pleasantly surprised. I took the internship on a whim. It opened up a world to me I never thought about,” she said. “If I were to give advice to anyone it would be to find something you’re passionate about. But it’s not always obvious what you’re passionate about until you try something out.”

Acquista’s passion involves telling patient success stories and educating a community on health care offerings. That’s especially the case in Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas is very transient and multigenerational and many people just don’t know their local health care options,” she said. “We have top physicians and top specialists offering services people are going to Arizona and California for.”

Acquista wears many hats overseeing public relations and marketing for eight regional HCA hospitals, including Sunrise, Southern Hills and MountainView.

Acquista has also served as a co-captain on Sunrise Health’s 2015 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk fundraiser, which raised more than $50,000. She was also Sunrise Health’s fundraising lead for the 16th annual KLUC >Toy Drive which contributed more than 60 toys, 10 bikes and $8,000 within a week.

— Brian Sodoma

Soraya Aguirre

Partner

Holland & Hart LLP

■ Age: 39

Soraya Aguirre

Soraya Aguirre

Becoming an attorney was a no-brainer for Soraya Aguirre. Her grandfather had been a judge, and an early interest in humanities and the liberal arts along with plenty of family encouragement, established a great foundation for law school.

In 2006, she moved to Las Vegas and in only two years was named partner; at 31, she was one of the youngest in Holland & Hart history. Aguirre has also been honored four times as a “Rising Star” by Mountain States Super Lawyers.

She enjoys the personal nature of her work. Aguirre learns about family histories, how a family generated wealth and brings expertise for how to handle succession plans and other matters.

“It’s fun to learn about their businesses and families and be part of their success story. It’s a real privilege and honor,” she said. “The way wealth is often grown here is very different than in New York. I went from working with primarily Wall Street managing directors … to entrepreneurs and small to medium to large business owners here.”

In Aguirre’s work the biggest compliment isn’t just a referral, it’s the fact that many generations within one family look to her for help.

“I’m always extremely proud to have been entrusted, not only by first, but often second and third generations. To maintain that level of trust is something really special to me,” she said.

Aguirre is a supporter of Harvest Hub, a regional effort to help produce locally sourced healthy foods for at-risk populations. She is also a member of the United Way of Southern Nevada’s Women’s Leadership Council.

— Brian Sodoma

John Anzalone

Principal

Sierra Vista High School

■ Age: 39

John Anzalone

John Anzalone

For John Anzalone, the first step is always trying to be good to people.

“Working in the school district we come across all types of people, from all walks of life,” he said. “A goal of mine has always been to treat families, staff and students exactly how I would expect my own family to be treated. I have respected my superiors, as well as my subordinates. I have been fair and consistent in my message, and that has gone a long way.”

Anzalone has also been “extremely” ambitious ever since he can remember. “If there was a leadership position to be had, I went for it. It didn’t matter if the situation was to be in charge of a lemonade stand or a high school, my instinct was to lead.”

Anzalone got a lot of satisfaction last year in seeing two magnet programs come to fruition at Eldorado High School. “For a school with over 40 years of tradition, it needed a draw for kids; a reason for great students to attend. I pushed for video game technology and web design to come and it happened. Though I was assigned to Sierra Vista H.S. over the summer of 2015, and missed the grand opening in the fall, I can honestly state that I had a part in making these programs happen for the amazing kids at Eldorado, and those who will attend in the future.”

His advice for colleagues is to complete whatever you start. “If you start a masters program, do not stop. Do not allow the things that life throws at you to become an excuse. Always put your family first. Do not allow work to take over your life. If you always remind yourself of how you want others to speak of you once you pass, you will go far. Get educated, don’t settle, and believe in yourself, even when it seems as though nobody else does.”

— Howard Riell

Steve Aoki

Producer, DJ, Entrepreneur

■ Age: 38

Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki puts on 300-plus shows a year and is one of the top-grossing DJs on the planet. Naps and meditation, he says, are the keys to maintaining his schedule.

Aoki grew up in Newport Beach, Calif. During college, he booked underground music shows and produced some albums independently. But after completing a sociology degree from UC-Santa Barbara, he considered staying in school to teach and perform research. But when he moved to Los Angeles in 2002 music again became the focus.

By the mid-2000s, the pull to create his own music while also helping others proved to be the winning formula. He has remixed artists like Drake, Kanye West, Eminem and many others.

“When I finished my first solo remix in 2007 I decided to pursue music production as a career decision rather than a hobby and that ultimately gave me more focus in this world,” he said.

Aoki has also established the Steve Aoki Fund, which seeks to support organizations doing research on brain health. In 2016, the fund will partner for fundraising events with the SENS Research Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

“Ultimately I would love to see brain degenerative diseases like ALS, dementia, Alzheimer’s etc. be eradicated (but) until then (we’ll) raise awareness and money towards organizations doing good work to fight these illnesses,” he said.

— Brian Sodoma

Brent Bluett

Movement Disorders Specialist

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

■ Age: 39

Brent Bluett

Brent Bluett

Brent Bluett recalls having had numerous unsatisfying jobs before he went into medicine and ultimately realized that “no matter what industry you are in, you will have to work hard if you want to become successful and reach a level of independence.”

Bluett said it was his mother and father who were his primary mentors. “My mother was a psychometrist; she worked with children with learning and social disabilities. She taught me kindness and to have the utmost compassion for others. She had the biggest heart and always did the best to take care of the children at school. She also taught me to remain humble, and never forget I am a person before I am a doctor.”

The compassion and humility he learned from his mother has had a lasting effect. “Just because I wear a white coat does not mean I am not a human being first.”

He calls his father “one of the most wonderful, hard-working people I have ever met in my life. He never thought about himself first, he always worked tirelessly for our family. He taught me discipline, integrity, and selflessness.

Bluett drafted a national Centers of Excellence initiative for a nonprofit organization called CurePSP that is dedicated to opening medical centers which will provide top-notch care to an underserved and under-recognized disorder — Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which is similar to Parkinson’s Disease but with a more severe disease course and worse prognosis. “A nationwide initiative to improve patient care would be my biggest professional accomplishment to date.”

— Howard Riell

Jake Cannon

District Manager

Smith's Food & Drug

■ Age: 35

Jake Cannon

Jake Cannon

Jake Cannon joined Smith’s Food & Drug 16 years ago as a part-time produce clerk while earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Weber State University, ascending the ranks in various capacities — including division customer first manager, human resources coordinator and key retailing manager — before assuming his current post as district manager two years ago.

The Northern Utah native and graduate of the Food Industry Management Program at USC has grocery experience that pre-dates Smith’s back to his high school years and he now manages 18 regional stores and some 2,500 associates. Among his recent accomplishments, Cannon was instrumental in helping to convert six local no-frills Food 4 Less stores into Smith’s locations last year, training 800 displaced Food 4 Less employees and putting them back to work at Smith’s stores.

“With Food 4 Less being part of the Kroger family, there was definitely a concern that these folks were treated well, and we did right by them,” said Cannon.

Among his other professional milestones in his previous positions, Cannon designed and implemented several customer service programs, initiatives and policies that helped Smith’s achieve the highest satisfaction success of national Kroger divisions, and also helped to create and implement a department manager development leadership plan. He also developed and executed solutions that saved the company $755,000 in expenses, labor, supplies and equipment costs over a period of two years.

Cannon leads a team of about 300 employees who participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, where Smith’s is a presenting sponsor donating funds along with water, bananas and granola bars, and also supports Three Square Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Las Vegas and Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas.

— Danielle Birkin

Sara Childress

Director of Publications/Executive Editor M Life Magazine

MGM Resorts International

■ Age: 36

Sara Childress

Sara Childress

Sara Childress started as a receptionist in the MGM/Mirage marketing department after graduating with a journalism degree from UNR in 2003. While it wasn’t exactly where she wanted to start her media career, she was very candid with her bosses that if something opened up at M Life Magazine — an in-house lifestyle luxury publication — she wanted a shot.

Three months later that offer came to fruition. Childress hasn’t looked back.

Today, Childress also enjoys a director role in MGM Resorts’ corporate public relations department while also running M Life Magazine, which has a 178,000-strong distribution rate. Childress is credited with enhancing its editorial content and visual appeal. Under her watch, M Life has won the AGA Communications Awards for Best Customer Publication three years in a row. She has also collaborated with the resort operator’s internal digital design team to launch M Life TV.

“When I first started, the magazine was only in its second year and people or venues would decline to be featured. Now some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry request to be featured on the cover,” she said.

The media pro says limited staff means she wears more hats — which she’s happy to do.

“I get to be part of every step of the process. We have a very small team so I get to be involved in the editorial, design, production and distribution. It’s gratifying to hold the magazine in my hands after press and see what all that hard work created,” she said.

Childress is also actively involved with Best Buddies, which helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also volunteers for Opportunity Village, Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House.

— Brian Sodoma

Colin Comer

Founding Partner

Play Management

■ Age: 35

Colin Comer

Colin Comer

Colin Comer credits his quick success to a combination of “incredibly good luck, lots of hard work and a series of really amazing people in my life who have served as mentors and advisors.”

Comer moved to Las Vegas from Chicago. What he calls his “Vegas adventure” began with a job interview with the Light Group in October of 2010. “I met with the company CEO, Andy Masi, who told me unflinchingly that he was very difficult to work for and I should think long and hard if I really wanted to do that. Being very comfortable in my hospitality career in Chicago, I couldn’t help but jump at the challenge to see if I could make it among the entertainment capital of the world.”

The process of launching Play Management in 2015 was “very intense,” he said, but has also been highly rewarding. “(Business partner John Pettei) and I were given the opportunity by Light and Daylight’s ownership to create our own company and to partner on these incredible venues. I would never in a million years have imagined I would become a managing partner of not one, but two world-class venues in a city like Las Vegas. There were definitely some naysayers who predicted we would fall on our faces and it’s been really rewarding to have done the opposite.”

His advice is basic. “Work very, very hard — somewhere right now, there is someone else in your chosen field who is thinking that also, and is doing it. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Keep calm and carry on. This sounds simple and some people will laugh at me for quoting the famous stoic World War II British mantra, but it’s brilliant. The people who can stay calm under the toughest circumstances are often the ones who succeed. As you gain success, gain even more humility.”

— Howard Riell

Ryan Cupersmith

Managing Partner

Ernst & Young LLP

■ Age: 39

Ryan Cupersmith

Ryan Cupersmith

Ryan Cupersmith grew up in New Jersey and spent his high school years working on the Atlantic City boardwalk. That and his family’s trips to Las Vegas shaped an interest in the gaming industry and gaming law.

“It’s an industry that has always really appealed to me and I’ve been fortunate to have worked in it most of my career,” he said.

Cupersmith has spent his entire 17-year auditing career with Ernst & Young. His expertise is in helping gaming companies with assurance and tax matters, financial statements and reporting, internal controls, due diligence for acquisitions, transaction law and other advisory services.

Prior to arriving in Las Vegas in 2009, Cupersmith helped Ernst & Young establish and grow its Asian gaming practice, particularly driving growth in markets like South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

In 2006, Tom Roche, the firm’s global director of gaming industry services, chose Cupersmith to lead a team that would pursue a large global hospitality and gaming company as a new client. Cupersmith’s team succeeded. Cupersmith was admitted as partner in 2012 and then appointed office managing partner for Las Vegas in 2015. He is among the youngest managing partners in company history. Today, he oversees 80 professionals in the local office.

Cupersmith also supports several area nonprofits and the education community. He is a board member of the Las Vegas chapter of the After-School All-Stars, which offers programs to help children stay safe and succeed in school.

“As a father of two small kids it’s important for me to give back to the community in this way. These programs provide valuable mentorship and educational opportunities to kids who need them,” he said.

Cupersmith is also a member of the Lee Business School executive advisory board.

— Brian Sodoma

Kelly Dove

Attorney

Snell & Wilmer

■ Age: 39

Kelly Dove

Kelly Dove

As a youngster in Philadelphia, Kelly Dove had an affinity for courtroom programming, whether it be “Law & Order” or “The People’s Court.”

“It’s really cliché, but I’ve always been interested in the law, and while I worked hard in law school at UNLV, it also clicked and came naturally to me, because I love writing, research and analytical work,” said Dove, who also holds degrees in philosophy and English literature from Rudolph-Macon Women’s College as well as a master’s degree in philosophy from Rice University.

An attorney at Snell & Wilmer since 2009 who had the rare distinction of serving two federal clerkships in 2007 and 2008, Dove focuses her practice on commercial litigation and appellate law, and has provided counsel in more than 100 state and federal appeals and writ proceedings. But it’s her pro bono work that really makes her tick.

Dove had the privilege of serving on the legal team as pro bono counsel in the landmark marriage-equity case Sevcik v. Sandoval, filed in April 2012 on behalf of several plaintiff same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. A judge ruled against the couples, but upon appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court declared the Nevada same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in October 2014, and enjoined state employees from denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

“It was moving to work with those couples, and to get to know them and hear their stories,” Dove said. “Being involved with that case will always remain a highlight of my legal career.”

Her pro bono work also includes the representation of a human trafficking victim. Dove is working to expunge the criminal record the woman obtained while being forced to work as a prostitute.

A member of the Nevada State Bar’s Appellate Litigation Section, Dove chairs the pro bono committee.

— Danielle Birkin

Greg Duffield

Senior Vice President, Retail Services

Bank of America

■ Age: 39

Greg Duffield

Greg Duffield

In his 22 years with Bank of America — where he began as an entry-level teller — Nevada native Greg Duffield has scaled the corporate ladder to currently serve as a senior vice president, and is instrumental in running the financial institution’s 400-person retail services customer contact center in Las Vegas, having played a key role in building the center from scratch.

Serving worldwide clients with a volume of some 200,000 calls per month, the center addresses everyday banking concerns, offers 24-hour service for lost and stolen debit cards and provides support for hearing-impaired customers. Responsible for hiring, developing and training local employees, Duffield also helped launch the call center’s new digital services, which resolve complex online and mobile banking issues.

But Duffield is perhaps proudest of his efforts on behalf of workplace tolerance, and has in fact emerged as the go-to guy for diversity, having served in multiple leadership roles for company LGBT programs and training events.

Duffield was honored in this capacity as one of 22 manager recipients of Bank of America’s 2015 Global Diversity and Inclusion Award, recognized among some 1,000 nominated employees.

“I believe it’s important for associates to bring their authentic selves to work, and (Bank of America’s) core values are about diversity and inclusion, which is one reason I’ve stayed with them for so long,” said Duffield, who also helped to increase the bank’s local LGBT employee advocacy program from 15 to 180 members and allies.

Duffield also participated on the bank’s team in the 2014 and 2015 AIDS LifeCycle event, a seven-day, 545-mile charity bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, raising $236,000 and $324,000, respectively.

“I’m really proud of what the bank has done locally in terms of diversity and volunteerism,” said Duffield, who also supports Human Rights Campaign and The Center.

— Danielle Birkin

Katie Fellows

Vice President, General Counsel

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

■ Age: 35

Katie Fellows

Katie Fellows

A former Division I ice hockey player who also played softball as an undergraduate studying political science at Yale University, Katie Fellows holds a J.D. from UNLV — she also attended Tulane University Law School — and originally planned to pursue a career in sports law.

Then the St. Paul, Minn., native, who relocated to Southern Nevada in 2003, discovered gaming law, developed an interest in entertainment, administrative and regulatory issues, and realized it was a great fit.

“It happened organically while I was still in law school working at Jones Vargas, then I got a call out of the blue from Caesars Entertainment and closed my eyes and jumped off the cliff to go in-house, and loved every minute of it,” said Fellows, who put her experience with Caesars to good use when she joined Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2011, keeping busy as the property’s only in-house attorney by managing all legal affairs. “Resorts are sort of like small cities, and they are very heavily regulated.”

Fellows handles everything from employment issues and lawsuits to regulatory matters, intellectual-property situations, food and beverage leases and booking entertainment acts.

She was recently involved in the legal aspects of remodeling the iconic Center Bar and also in securing performers such as Rascal Flatts. She is also currently involved with the expansion of the meeting and convention space, slated to open this fall, and planning for pool season, which begins in April.

Vice chair for the Southern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross — “first responders for disaster,” she said — Fellows is on the UNLV law school’s Gaming Law Policy advisory board and is also a member of the Las Vegas Founding 75, a group dedicated to bringing a National Hockey League team to Las Vegas.

— Danielle Birkin

Kelly Frey

Former Director of Entertainment and Public Relations

Caesars Entertainment

■ Age: 35

Kelly Frey

Kelly Frey

The director of entertainment, public relations and social media at Caesars Entertainment is the unofficial welcome wagon for the company; a role Kelly Frey knows well, having created a plethora of high-profile events to build buzz for the company’s local properties.

In 2012, Frey was instrumental in gathering worldwide media exposure with the Shania Twain welcome event at Caesars Palace, which kicked off the singer’s residency.

“We knew Shania loved horses, so we worked with Metro and the county to close down Las Vegas Boulevard for 15 minutes, and Shania arrived on horseback with a posse of 40 horses,” said Frey. “It was the first time we had done something that crazy and different, and it was the highlight of my career.”

With the stage set for innovative events, Frey went on to plan and execute a welcome event for Olivia Newton-John’s residency at the Flamingo in April 2014, whereby the iconic songstress cruised through the Linq Promenade in an actual convertible featured in the movie “Grease.”

In November of that year, Frey was also the driving force behind “Britney Day” — Nov. 5 — to celebrate pop singer Britney Spears’ one-year anniversary in residency at the Axis at Planet Hollywood.

“Britney really wants to be part of the local community, and announced her partnership with Childhood Cancer Foundation,” McCullough said, adding that the singer has raised some $120,000 for the nonprofit.

— Danielle Birkin

Ross Gdovin

Vice President of Marketing

Golden Entertainment Inc.

■ Age: 39

Ross Gdovin

Ross Gdovin

When Ross Gdovin first came to Golden Entertainment Inc., he was employed as a slot analyst. It was far different from the actuarial work he had been doing in Philadelphia, but with that industry showing few prospects in Nevada, he looked to apply his mathematics background elsewhere — and now he couldn’t be happier.

Gdovin holds a graduate degree in math and actuarial science. Within a couple years, he asked to use those skills on the marketing side of the gaming business.

“I thought of marketing as TV commercials, branding and billboards, but there’s a heavy science to it — and particularly in gaming. There’s extensive database marketing and modeling and I was able to apply my skills in the field quickly,” he said.

In his time with the company Gdovin has helped usher Golden through incredible growth. The company is now the largest tavern operator in the country and recently opened its 50th PT’s. It also has the largest distributed gaming route in Nevada and owns three casinos in Pahrump. Golden recently purchased the Rocky Gap Casino-Resort in Maryland.

Gdovin is also the co-organizer of Golden Entertainment’s annual 98.5 KLUC Toy Drive. He is also a “Ride Safe” organizer, a program that encourages patrons to use Uber to avoid drinking and driving to get home safely. Golden donates a dollar for every ride taken from one of its taverns to the Friends of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation.

— Brian Sodoma

Alicia Green

Founder / Marketing Strategist

Hendricks Drive Advertising

■ Age: 36

Alicia Green

Alicia Green

What is the secret to success?

“I wish I had a blanket answer to share with aspiring entrepreneurs,” said Alicia Green. “I recall wondering why my predecessors couldn’t just lay it out for me. That answer often changes depending on who you are talking to, but I would just say to diversify your skill set and focus on a glaring issue that you can solve. I don’t feel like I have reached any ‘magical destination’ people may perceive as the success pinnacle. I think success is a verb. You have to constantly feed that beast.”

In 2015, Green established her start-up, Hendricks Drive Advertising. “After completing my degree in 2012 I attempted the traditional corporate ladder, but at that point my children were already 12 and 8 (now 15 and 11). I needed to expedite my career advancement so I made some requisite pivots, ended up doing a sabbatical of sorts in Silicon Valley for about eight months by doing a lot of back-and-forth travel. I discovered the power of injecting technology into a lot of what I enjoyed in previous roles — event planning, branding and market strategy — so I took the leap.”

High on her list of things to do in the coming months, Green says, is to “keep a healthy pulse on my happiness index. My family places high value on time and experiences. If we are able to squeeze in the occasional getaway and regular ‘sitcom moments,’ We know we are on the right track.”

She recalls a recent dinner conversation when it occurred to her teenage son to compare our personalities to countries. “He associated my personality to Switzerland. I asked why and his response was, ‘Because you care less about the details of the problem and more about solving it.’ I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Switzerland piece, but I’ll take it.”

— Howard Riell

Wesley Gregg

General Manager

Gaudin Ford

■ Age: 39

Wesley Gregg

Wesley Gregg

Family-owned Gaudin Ford has enjoyed a Top 50 ranking among the world’s 3,200 Ford dealerships. General Manager Wesley Gregg is a big reason for that success.

Gregg’s technology background helped him in the auto industry. He started building websites for small businesses in the 1990s. Then, when he worked for Reno Lithia Subaru, he saw how the auto industry needed to better integrate technology into the customer experience. He learned how and became a valuable asset for any auto dealer.

“The auto industry was well behind the curve in the way it communicated with customers. With the evolution of the Internet, the web became more than information. It became a conversation point to where you could communicate with the customer through email, chat … there was more transparency. This really set the tone for the rest of my career,” he said.

Five years ago, he seized the opportunity to join Gaudin as general sales manager; he became general manager three years ago.

“It was fundamentally different because it was family owned and operated. It wasn’t this big corporation with 136 dealerships. It really fit with my belief system and how I wanted to be connecting with a local community,” he said. “My goal now is to grow and sustain Gaudin Ford and put it in a position to be around for another 100 years.”

Gregg also supports the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation and Shriner’s Hospital. Gregg, in cooperation with the Gaudin dealership team, also recently helped a homeless family with basic needs and housing.

“For me, that was just about giving someone an opportunity and propping them up a little for a fresh start,” he said.

— Brian Sodoma

Chris Gumiela

Vice President of Marketing

Monte Carlo Resort & Casino

■ Age: 31

Chris Gumiela

Chris Gumiela

Chris Gumiela believes that having worked only for MGM Resorts International in his professional career has helped him develop and refine his own personal brand.

“It is all about performance,” he said. “If you don’t successfully deliver on what is requested of you, big or small, there are plenty of other worthy and willing individuals ready to step up.”

Next in importance come relationships. “My mentors have been a huge part of my growth and have been there when I needed advice, motivation, or just a beer and conversation.”

Gumiela has learned that “nothing is beneath me. While delegation is necessary people learn by watching, and the example I set will be what will be remembered by my team.” He is also convinced that “it’s all about progress, not perfection. I can’t expect to be perfect, nor can I expect my team to be perfect. But what should always be expected and achieved is progress towards eventual perfection.”

In his view, 2015 was a set-up year. “It was my first full year as the vice president of marketing at Monte Carlo, so I was finally comfortable in the role and at the property. But all, if not most, of the work that was done was for the future of the property. We are in the midst of an incredible change, and there is a ton of strategic work that is necessary in order to ensure the decisions we make are informed and ultimately correct.”

For the future, a major goal is "ensuring that we capitalize on the new neighborhood that MGM Resorts is creating. That will be the key to success for the property.”

— Howard Riell

Joe Haro

Director of Corporate Partnerships

Hakkasan Group

■ Age: 35

Joe Haro

Joe Haro

Chicago native Joe Haro has kept up with the pace of an evolving Las Vegas. A graduate of UNLV with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Haro joined Hakkasan Group in the summer of 2014, updating his title from director of sponsorship and beverage to director of corporate partnerships to better reflect the synergy between vendors and clients.

“While beverage is certainly our bread and butter, I deal with companies across the board from luxury lifestyle to fashion to technology, and, having sat in the sales seat, I can put myself in their shoes and understand the challenges they face,” said Haro, who was raised in New Jersey and relocated to Southern Nevada in 1998. “Partnerships used to be more of a one-way street, but we really want to help drive our partners’ brands on a national level.”

Haro said the focus for 2016 is creating partnerships with other upscale brands outside beverage, citing Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Apple and Starbucks as examples.

“The great thing about Las Vegas is that it’s not just about gaming, and with new companies and entrepreneurs coming in, (it’s exciting to see) what we’ll become in the next 10 or 15 years,” said Haro, who is helping to make a difference in future generations by serving as chief marketing officer for the non-profit Las Vegas Business Academy, which focuses on education for young professionals by offering promising local students up to $75,000 in scholarship funding to earn an MBA, MHA or J.D. from UNLV.

Haro also serves on the board of the UNLV Football Foundation.

— Danielle Birkin

Raymond Hess

Director of Planning Services

The RTC of Southern Nevada

■ Age: 39

Raymond Hess

Raymond Hess

Raymond Hess discovered the planning world when he took a job in Brooksville, Fla., as a community development coordinator. What appeared to be a position focused on creating special events, taking public input and creating ordinances involved much more. Hess found himself closely tied to economic development efforts, land use and other community matters. He was most intrigued by planning.

“If you do it (planning) well you can really address the needs of a community,” he said. “A lot of that really resonated with me along with how multidisciplinary the work really is. … There’s so much coordination and collaboration to do as well.”

Hess is now a major part of Southern Nevada Strong, a comprehensive plan to improve economic development, education, transportation choice and other community concerns. As a core administrator of an effort very much in its infancy, his team works to bring parties together to discuss transportation issues, changes and needs and how these elements impact local economic competitiveness and education.

Hess also has overseen the development of the regional transportation plan, which will program more than $8.5 billion in local transportation projects over the next 20 years. He is also proud of his team’s efforts to help fund the Boulder City Bypass project for the future I-11 corridor. The $300 million financing effort was creative for how it used federal funds while bringing cost savings and a shortened implementation timeline.

— Brian Sodoma

Daniel Kouretas

Founder / CEO

Kouretas Ventures, LLC

■ Age: 38

Daniel Kouretas

Daniel Kouretas

When he was growing up, Daniel Kouretas recalls, he was able to observe someone at close range from whom he learned to develop his own business acumen: his own father.

“My father and my brother have been my primary mentors,” he said. “My father taught me to never chase a deal, and to be patient. As a child I saw this philosophy play out and learned it was a successful strategy for business deals. My brother has taught me to work collaboratively with groups to achieve the common goal.”

Over the years, Kouretas developed a personal philosophy of remaining positive. “My business philosophy is to never chase a deal but to recognize viable opportunities and put forth my best effort into those. These merge, because no matter the outcome of my business ventures, I have a positive outlook because I know that I gave it my all.”

In 2016, he plans to see many of his projects come to fruition. “I plan to see the Lucky’s Lounge brand expand throughout the valley and even beyond. Furthermore, I plan to see a fast-casual dining concept that I have been working on come to life that will offer patrons a unique dining experience. Finally, I expect to continue to foster new relationships that may open even more doors for business opportunities.”

To anyone looking for success he offers the following suggestion: “Focus. In order to be successful in life, an individual must identify a goal and then focus on that goal. The focus is what differentiates those who are successful from those who are not.”

— Howard Riell

Shauna Lemieux

Communications and Brand Manager

Vegas PBS

■ Age: 37

Shauna Lemieux

Shauna Lemieux

While Vegas PBS may have a strong brand presence in the valley, Shauna Lemieux thinks there’s a lot more to know about the enterprise, and she’s always looking for a way to tell us all about it.

“Sometimes people know us and love us as a TV station, but they aren’t always aware of the other things we do to leverage that great TV programming,” she said.

Lemieux points to Vegas PBS’ robust adult education program, workforce development efforts and GED certificate training as just a small sample of offerings that go overlooked in the Vegas PBS conversation. The entity has also placed a strong emphasis on helping to transition veterans into civilian life as well.

Lemieux’s team has been designing new branding and marketing materials for Vegas PBS, both in Spanish and English, and combining that with an effective communications campaign via radio, television and other media channels. All of this is done with the idea of keeping the brand more consistent with the national brand while also targeting specific messaging for local needs.

“Everyday, with my job I get to help promote the wonderful work that we’re doing across the organization. … I’m fortunate to work with and share those programs with the community,” she said.

Prior to joining Vegas PBS, the Wisconsin native worked in communications for nonprofits and health care entities. She was also the communications and development specialist for CASA of Brown County in Green Bay, Wisc. She is also currently on the board of the child abuse prevention agency, Olive Crest.

“Nonprofits are where my passion is. I like working with organizations with fewer resources than the big guys, but whose mission is helping the community,” she said.

— Brian Sodoma

Glenda Lippman-Monkarsh

CEO/Owner

Lippman Media

■ Age: 37

Glenda Lippman-Monkarsh

Glenda Lippman-Monkarsh

Genda Lippman-Monkarsh was not a typical student when she was younger, having been diagnosed with dyslexia in early elementary school.

“While it made school difficult for me, it taught me other important skills that translated well to the business world,” she said. “For example, I learned to look at problems in an alternate light and search for different answers when other people may settle for the first or easiest one.” She also learned to keep trying even when things were challenging, and to work hard every day even when it is not apparent that there was forward progress.

“I try to find the positive in every situation,” she said. “Even when others might look at a circumstance and struggle to find the silver lining, I take a step back and see what I can take away from the situation to prevent it from occurring again, or to know how to address it in the future. I enter every day with the mindset that it is an opportunity to learn and improve my myself and my business.”

Last year was a huge one for her company, which saw her expand her team by adding a full-time content writer and a social media director. In addition, she signed two large clients, a law firm and a medical practice. “Remarkably, both clients have seen substantial growth during their first year with us, doubling their new client referral rates. I am really proud of our team and what we accomplished in 2015.”

For the year now unfolding, Lippman-Monkarsh plans to continue to provide excellent customer service to her existing clients, including the newest medical practice she signed only recently. “I also would like to continue to educate the public about affordable advertising and marketing options. Growing a business isn’t just for the big companies; everyone can learn to market.”

— Howard Riell

Marty Lopez

Executive Chef

35 Steaks + Martinis/Hard Rock Hotel

■ Age: 35

Marty Lopez

Marty Lopez

Growing up in the Philippines, Marty Lopez was heavily influenced by American cinema. “Top Gun” had him wanting to be a fighter pilot some day; but a far more low-key part of his life steered him towards a culinary career.

Lopez enjoyed helping his grandfather in the kitchen. He would visit markets to find ingredients and was exposed to what Americans would probably see as exotic cuisine.

“The first thing I learned to make was squid. … Cooking was my baseball, my football,” he said. “My fondest memories are in the kitchen with my family, and having that quality time.”

Today, he and his 35 Steaks + Martinis team enjoy rave reviews. Last year the venue took Las Vegas Weekly’s 2015 “Best Steakhouse” Reader’s Choice Award.

Previously, Lopez worked for Gordon Ramsey, and in 2012, he was also part of the Bacchanal Buffet opening team at Caesars Palace.

Now, as an executive chef, Lopez embraces a role that requires many hats.

“People associate a chef with the food, but that’s actually about 25 percent of it,” he said. “You’re also helping to fulfill the business model. … You have to treat the funds coming in as your own money and manage everything efficiently. … But then you have to be very accommodating to guests, meeting their needs, even with dietary restrictions … and you have to be very personable.”

In the future, he would like to establish a charity kitchen. “It’s just something I always wanted to do. There are so many people out there who need help,” he said.

— Brian Sodoma

Alexandra Lourdes

Partner

The Refined Agency

■ Age: 31

Alex Lourdes

Alex Lourdes

Alexandra Lourdes has a couple of rules for herself that she has always followed.

“Regardless of what goal I set for myself,

I see it through — even those that I may have questioned midway through,” she said. “In every experience, I have always learned something new or met someone who has led me to where I am today. The challenges and accomplishments of each goal are equally rewarding.”

Another of her rules is to pay it forward. “I love seeing the good in people, connecting them with someone I may know, or giving someone advice and recommendations from what I have learned. I have been lucky enough to encounter the most amazing people that have been cheerleaders for me since Day One. Even complete strangers have gone out of their way to connect me with someone or help in some way, so I always make sure to pay it forward.”

The rules appear to be working. Last year was one of her best yet, she explains. “I graduated from UNLV with my Ph.D. and launched a new company, the Refined Agency, with my business partner Lin Jerome. Being able to make a real impact on the success of local businesses in Las Vegas through interactive marketing and community events was the most rewarding professional achievement of 2015.”

Her major goal this year is to grow the Refined Agency into a national brand.

“Many people advise that you should surround yourself with people you want to be like,” she said. “While I believe that is true, what was more important to me was to always surround yourself with positive people who see the best in you.”

— Howard Riell

Layke Martin

Assistant Dean for External Relations

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law

■ Age: 36

Layke Martin

Layke Martin

Layke Martin is committed to helping students and alumni of UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law navigate the cutthroat legal employment market.

A native Nevadan who holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from UNLV, Martin began her own career as a news producer for the local KVBS News 3 morning show but realized her inherent curiosity coupled with her excellent writing and listening skills would translate well to the legal field.

Also, “If I went to law school I would never have to work graveyard,” said Martin, who went on to obtain her J.D. at Boston University School of Law, practicing locally in business litigation with Marquis Aurbach Coffing and also serving as an adjunct law professor at UNLV, a move which cemented her passion for working with students. She came on board as the law school’s director of career development in 2001, and assumed her current post in November 2014.

Martin’s advocacy efforts also include outreach to lawyers, law firms and judges as well as fund-raising. Last fall, she spearheaded the Dean’s Scholarship Initiative, a three-year, $2 million campaign which has thus far raised more than $500,000 for student scholarships.

She also created the law school’s 10-week, paid internship program in 2012, pounding the pavement to enlist companies such as Caesars Entertainment, NV Energy, Boyd Gaming Corp. and Southwest Gas.

“We didn’t have students interning in the legal departments at the city’s largest companies, so we set out to change that, and provided great opportunities that didn’t previously exist,” said Martin.

— Danielle Birkin

Kate McCullough

Community Services Supervisor

Nevada Donor Network

■ Age: 36

Kate McCullough

Kate McCullough

Organ donation has long been a hot-button topic for Kate McCullough, whose high-school friend received a life-saving kidney transplant 13 years ago. Even as a student at Slippery Rock University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, organ donation was on her radar, having planned an organ drive in conjunction with her membership in the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Flash-forward to 2011, when — after 10 years in broadcast media, including her local role as news producer at 8 News Now — she took a leap of faith and joined the nonprofit Nevada Donor Network, where she leads the strategic planning and implementation of programs and initiatives designed to raise awareness of the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation; increase statewide donor registrations; and heighten the public’s support and understanding of organ donation, including multicultural outreach. She also oversees education, and youth and multicultural outreach for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Organ donation is something I’ve always believed in, and I’m amazed by what one person has the ability to do,” said the Erie, Pa., native, who was instrumental in launching NDN’s first multimedia “Everyone Counts” campaign last year, and also led the organization through a complete rebranding, including the design of a new logo, in 2014. With the launch of the new logo, McCullough also began the task of creating a new website with the goal of providing educational resources for the public as well as the organization’s valued community partners.

A supporter of the Simon Keith Foundation, which provides financial support to children who wish to return to an active and healthy lifestyle following a life-saving transplant, McCullough also serves as team leader for Donate Life Nevada.

— Danielle Birkin

Kurt Melien

President

Live Nation, Las Vegas

■ Age: 39

Kurt Melien

Kurt Melien

Kurt Melien is committed to keeping Las Vegas the entertainment capital of the world.

“Las Vegas has evolved, and really appeals to all different types of ages and faces and demographics, and music really helps to drive that diversification,” said the Massachusetts native, who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from College of the Holy Cross and a degree from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

A former executive with Caesars Entertainment — where he served as vice president and head of entertainment — Melien also worked at Harrah’s Entertainment and Six Flags Inc., experience which serves him well as president of Live Nation, Las Vegas, a post he assumed in January 2015.

Melien promotes concerts both large and small across venues including Mandalay Bay Events Center, T-Mobile Arena, The Foundry at SLS, MGM Grand Garden Arena, the Axis at Planet Hollywood and Las Vegas Village, serving as an informal ambassador for the city wooing music agents and artist managers to bring top-notch artists to town. Through a collection of marketing efforts, Melien also ensures that fans know about each event in the city and can get tickets in their hands.

Recent accomplishments include working with Caesars Entertainment to bring Jennifer Lopez to residency at the Axis, a deal long in the making, according to Melien, who was also instrumental in bringing Lionel Richie and Pitbull to Planet Hollywood.

“We’ll also probably do a dozen shows a year at the new T-Mobile Arena, and have already signed Janet Jackson,” said Melien, whose personal philanthropic efforts include assisting the homeless and low-income families in the area. “We also just started working with the Foundry at SLS, with a younger-skewing demographic and great energy. We’re always talking to artists in an ongoing courtship.”

— Danielle Birkin

Andy Moore

Shareholder

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

■ Age: 39

Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore

Since becoming an attorney in 2004, Andy Moore has strived to do his job well and to help others perform to the best of their abilities.

“I think the main reason why I have enjoyed some success and derived enjoyment from my profession is because I really enjoy working with others to assist clients,” he said. “When I did litigation work, I really enjoyed collaborating with other attorneys to brainstorm potential arguments that we could make in a contentious matter. As a gaming attorney, I enjoy working with others in providing answers to clients’ questions about certain regulatory requirements, or working with colleagues to get a large multijurisdictional licensing project completed.”

His philosophy of both life and business is to treat people with respect. “If you do that outside the office and inside the office, the people around you will definitely enjoy your company substantially more than if you don’t do that. Additionally, success and fulfillment are more likely to find you when you treat people with respect.”

Moore urges those around him to “try to have fun in doing whatever you do.

I enjoy the company of others, and it’s important to make the office a fun and positive environment. There are long hours and drudgery inherent in the legal profession. It’s better to handle that drudgery with humor rather than with misery. No one really likes to hear people complain about how many emails they need to respond to.”

Another good piece of advice is to remember that success comes to those who show up. “Support your colleagues and friends with their various endeavors. If a colleague or friend is hosting an event, show up rather than finding excuses not to go.”

— Howard Riell

Jessica Peralta

Owner

Fit4Mom Las Vegas

■ Age: 35

Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta

Like many new moms, when former registered nurse and clinical professor of nursing Jessica Peralta was pregnant with her first child, she gained a bit of baby weight.

But the Georgia College & State University graduate, who moved to Southern Nevada in 2006 and has a passion for health and wellness, was undaunted, and set about getting back in shape.

Trouble was, she couldn’t find a workout venue where she felt comfortable and supported in her own skin. So in 2012, she took a leap of faith and opened a local franchise of Fit4Mom at Town Square.

“Since then, we’ve grown to 13 locations from Henderson to Summerlin to North Las Vegas, and are the second franchisee in the network to launch our own studio space,” said Peralta, adding that Fit4Mom Las Vegas recently won the Franchise of the Year Award.

Fit4Mom's signature program is Stroller Strides. It includes power walking/jogging and intervals of strength and body-toning exercises using a stroller and the environment. A spinoff, Stroller Barre, is a blend of ballet, Pilates, barre, yoga and stroller-based exercises designed to help moms build strength and muscle tone, while Fit4Baby targets pregnant women. Body Back targets new moms with a high-intensity workout to blast calories and increase strength.

“All of our programs target the body, mind and soul in a supportive atmosphere,” said Peralta, who is active with Baby’s Bounty, Jingle Bell Run and Butterball Burn.

— Danielle Birkin

David Perisset

Co-CEO

Exotics Racing

■ Age: 37

David Perisset

David Perisset

David Perisset believes that success is “very relative,” and doesn’t feel as if he has achieved more than a lot of people around him.

“A lot of people are successful with their family, their involvement within their community or in sports, for instance,” he said. “Looking at the success we have had with Exotics Racing, which is now the largest driving experience in the world, I can only say that it is due to a group of people, starting with my business partner Romain Thievin.”

Success, Perisset said, is “made of encounters, opportunities, and a little bit of luck. I grew up in a great family environment and had a fantastic education, but on the other hand I was never spoiled and never had it easy. Everything started there. Then I had successes and failures, but always bounced back and found new goals and objectives.”

Exotics Racing went through a lot of changes and new developments last year. “We completed two large projects for us: we opened a new Driving Center at our track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which improved tremendously our customer experience and the working environment for our team. We also launched a new website.”

Perisset wants to continue to develop activities in California at the Auto Club Speedway. “It is our second location, which we opened two years ago, and it is now profitable. We are going to invest more in our track and in our facility, and launch new activities. One of them is our new EXR Series, which is going to change the way racing is done.”

— Howard Riell

Bridget Richards

Senior Vice President — Las Vegas Investment Services Division

Colliers International

■ Age: 38

Bridget Richards

Bridget Richards

For Bridget Richards, success appears never to have been in doubt.

“I started working early and developed a strong work ethic,” she said. “I’ve always envisioned success as a certain reality. It’s important to capture exactly what success looks like in your mind’s eye before you take any action. For some reason I have always had a vision. I go through life thinking I can do anything, and sometimes I get lucky.”

In her own estimation, said Richards, “I think it takes individuals to create success. One person with a dream and a plan is sufficient; if that person can communicate her vision effectively everyone else will become a believer.”

Looking back, Richards believes that 2015 was a year of change “and the year I decided to pursue my happiness and to work on only projects and people I am passionate about since I gave birth to my beautiful son Jesse on Nov. 23. Might as well be happy; life is short. I don’t want to waste one minute working with jerks. The freedom you gain from being selective is priceless.”

Her twin goals for this year are to be a great mom and to pursue her career with passion and a fun mindset. “The two are intertwined completely. I never put a client into a deal that I wouldn’t do myself, and for that reason we all win.”

She cautions people coming into her industry about hiding behind a computer keyboard. “I see a lot of that, people who send an email rather than call. It’s foolish to rely on technology in place of human interaction.”

— Howard Riell

Spencer Stewart

Chancellor

WGU Nevada

■ Age: 39

Spencer Stewart

Spencer Stewart

How has Spencer Stewart — who has served as Chancellor of WGU Nevada for just over six months now — managed to achieve so much in his career in so little time?

“The word managed suggests a rather calculated, controlled approach to achieving success, which is just the opposite from my personal experience,” he said.

“I suppose whatever success I’ve achieved thus far is, to a great degree, the result of discovering very early in my career what I love doing and, to a greater degree, the good fortune of being surrounded by encouraging colleagues, patient mentors and supportive family members.”

Last year was one of endings and beginnings for Stewart, he said. “I transitioned from Nevada State College after spending 14 remarkable years working shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest and most talented people in Nevada. We built something of lasting value and importance for this community — its students, parents, and employers — for years to come.”

His plan for this year is to do much of the same at WGU Nevada. “My hope is that I’ve learned a bit from my previous experiences — both successes and failures — to help move WGU Nevada forward at the pace and with the quality that the ‘New Nevada’ requires.”

Whatever the future holds, Stewart’s outlook remains unchanged. “I think David Brooks summed it up nicely when he described the difference between résumé virtues and eulogy virtues. The eulogy virtues are the ones we aspire to, the ones we’d like to be remembered for, because they matter the most. As a result, the most important work we will ever do will be within the walls of our home.”

— Howard Riell

Kevin Sweet

Vice President of Slot Operations and Marketing

The Cosmopolitan

■ Age: 30

Kevin Sweet

Kevin Sweet

Destined for a career in gaming, Kevin Sweet pulled the lever on his first slot machine when he was 4 years old and was instantly enthralled with the rush.

“I knew by age 5 that I wanted to work in the casino industry, and the obvious place to go after college was Las Vegas,” said Sweet, a New York native who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University.

Sweet relocated to Southern Nevada in 2006, working in various capacities at Treasure Island, Bellagio, Aria and Las Vegas Sands Corp. — with a brief stint at Seminole Gaming in Hollywood, Fla. — before assuming his current post in January 2015 at the Cosmopolitan, where he puts his diverse knowledge of slot operations garnered both domestically and in Macau and Singapore to insightful good use.

Sweet has been instrumental in reinvigorating the Cosmopolitan’s casino, with a push toward a more gaming-centric model and renewed focus on slot players. For starters, Sweet spearheaded the addition of the new High Limit Slot Lounge, which debuted last December to positive reviews.

“We used to share a high-limit room with table games, which was not really conducive to either department, so by separating them out we enhanced the gaming experience on both sides,” said Sweet, adding that slot revenue has grown under his guidance by more than 20 percent.

Sweet was also behind the effort to revamp the Identity Membership and Rewards program and was also a driving force behind the new sports book, which opened the week before Super Bowl Sunday.

“This last year has been very exciting, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Sweet, who supports the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and Communities in Schools of Nevada.

— Danielle Birkin

Max Tappeiner

Vice President of Hotel Operations

The Venetian / Palazzo

■ Age: 34

Max Tappeiner

Max Tappeiner

With his father in the business, Max Tappeiner grew up around luxury hotels. He always felt a strong pull to the field, so it seems natural that he would excel in the business. But it was a unique life event that ultimately planted the seed of ambition in this rising young executive.

At the age of 21, Tappeiner was diagnosed with life-threatening thyroid cancer. Eventually grateful for a positive outcome, the experience shaped his view on career success forever. He attributes his rise through the corporate ranks to being “laser focused.”

“I think this is the best job in the world. You host and are gracious with people and are always interacting with a young, talented team. It’s invigorating,” he said. “There’s really no hiding in hospitality from guests, from team members or from results. You are 100 percent exposed. There’s 100 percent visibility, and I enjoy that very much.”

Tappeiner spent 13 years with Mandarin Oriental and was responsible for the successful unveiling of the luxury brand at CityCenter in 2009, amidst the global financial crisis. He moved to the Venetian and Palazzo last year and doesn’t see himself leaving the valley anytime soon.

“I’ve lived all over the world — Berlin, London, New York — no city has ever embraced me or my family as much as this city has. I’m very loyal to Las Vegas,” he said.

Tappeiner is also president of the Las Vegas Business Academy, a nonprofit agency that provides scholarship opportunities for students seeking certain advanced degrees from UNLV.

“What’s unique about the program is the mentorship component,” he said. “We hope that really serves as a platform for individuals to become successful leaders in our community.”

— Brian Sodoma

David Tina

Broker/Owner

Urban Nest Realty

■ Age: 38

David Tina

David Tina

Success, reflects David Tina, is relative “and so much more of a moving target than a destination that I rarely slow down enough to acknowledge it. I’m always looking forward to the next project.”

Tina considers himself to have been fortunate to be around different businesses and people from a very early age. His father was a New York City firefighter who opened a restaurant with three partners before his son reached middle school. He was also a licensed Realtor on Long Island “and involved in so many things all while raising me by himself. Even though I had to grow up quickly, I gained a ton of real-world experience by spending so much time with my dad. To be able to have that much exposure to such a diverse amount of industries at such a young age was invaluable.”

In 2015, he was elected as the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and Urban Nest Realty became the sixth most productive real estate office in Las Vegas. In less than four years, the vision he and his colleagues set forth of being a company that values quality over quantity became a reality. “Our agency closes more deals per agent than any of the offices ahead of us, and we have a higher average sale, as well. We accomplished all of this while staying true to our roots by being a locally owned company that is not a franchise. We thrive in the underdog role, and

I couldn’t be prouder of our agents.”

His company is hard at work expanding its luxury footprint with a separate division. Says Tina, “We are continually raising the bar.”

As for the big picture, he notes, “There shouldn’t be a difference of philosophy between life and business; it’s all life.”

— Howard Riell

Jennifer Turner

Vice President, Business Banking Sales Manager

Nevada State Bank

■ Age: 34

Jennifer Turner

Jennifer Turner

As a senior in high school in her native Las Vegas, Jennifer Turner was in search of a job that could evolve into a career, and a family member suggested bank teller. To that end, Turner joined Bank of America in 1999, taking a brief leave of absence in 2002 to join the U.S. Marine Corp., from which she was honorably discharged as the result of illness.

She returned to the company and went on to serve as branch manager until 2010, joining Nevada State Bank in a similar capacity in 2013, and assuming her current position in August of last year, using her years of experience to manage the Southern Nevada retail development officers.

“I didn’t know I would have this kind of passion for (the banking business), but as I started to build relationships with clients I realized I was making a contribution to people’s lives, and that really inspired me,” said Turner, who will receive her associate’s degree in business administration from College of Southern Nevada this May, and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UNLV — while continuing to work full-time — starting in the fall. “I’ve had people come and thank me and say that because of my advice, they were able to save money to get that first house or new car or start a college fund.”

In her current role, Turner now manages and is actively growing a team of 10 retail development officers who help small-business clients, and is always looking to grow partnerships, including working closely with the SBA.

In her previous role, overseeing 15 branches as retail market sales manager, her effective training skills resulted in team members meeting or exceeding their personal sales goals and the team achieving 115 percent in overall production.

Actively involved with Junior Achievement, Turner teaches financial literacy to elementary students on behalf of the organization.

— Danielle Birkin

Lauren Westerfield

Vice President of Interactive Marketing

Station Casinos Inc.

■ Age: 33

Lauren Westerfield

Lauren Westerfield

Southern Nevada native Lauren Westerfield combined her passion for creativity and one-on-one marketing with her love of technology in her current position overseeing interactive and nontraditional marketing for Station Casinos.

A graduate of USC who holds degrees in communications and Spanish, Westerfield originally came on board with Station Casinos in a marketing capacity in 2005, leaving the company for brief stints working for Golden Nugget Las Vegas and Laughlin, Aliante Casino + Hotel and at International Gaming Technology, where she honed her affinity for merging technology and innovation, experience that serves her well in her current post, which she assumed in January 2015. Her focus now centers on using nontraditional marketing methodology to transform the way the industry thinks as a whole while keeping Station Casinos ahead of the curve.

“The increasing pool of millennials has become something that all casino operators are facing now,” Westerfield said, adding that the challenge is to deliver an experience instead of just a brand. “The industry is used to doing business a certain way, but direct-mail and free buffets are no longer attractive to this younger audience, so we’re working on solutions to get them to our resorts.”

One such effort includes Silent Savasana, a poolside yoga event which debuted last spring at Red Rock and Green Valley Ranch resorts. During the program, participants don headsets that stream wireless instructions to guide them through various moves.

“We topped out at 350 participants across both properties one month, and are gearing up for the next season,” said Westerfield, who is also revamping and updating Station Casinos’ kiosk games, and hinted that the company will be launching first-in-the-city interactive innovations later in 2016.

President of The Meadows School Alumni Association, Westerfield is also a marketing volunteer for Noah’s Animal Foundation and serves on the advisory board for First Friday Foundation.

— Danielle Birkin

Chris White

Senior Vice President — Las Vegas

Brooklyn Bowl

■ Age: 38

Chris White

Chris White

Chris White has always been a man with a plan.

“I worked incredibly hard in school and my early career to set myself up to make as much money as I possibly could,” he said, “and I was on track to give myself that chance becoming an analyst for a hedge fund at 23.”

After a few years he realized that his mindset was “completely misguided and naïve, and I moved to Las Vegas in search of career change and in the process took a large step back.”

Eventually, the hard work and training he’d received in New York came in handy in positioning himself in roles that he found meaningful. “This, combined with the entrepreneurial opportunities Las Vegas provides, has allowed me to be involved in a variety of truly unique and exciting projects over the past decade.”

White calls 2015 a year of “tremendous growth” for the Brooklyn Bowl. “Being an independent venue and operating on the scale we do provided significant challenges entering a market without brand awareness or the resources of a large company.”

His aims for 2016 include further solidifying Brooklyn Bowl’s leadership in his company’s two core business areas. “First off, to expand our presence as the premier venue in Las Vegas for group and corporate events ranging from five to 3,000 people. Second, to continue to increase quality and frequency of the live music content we provide to further establish Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas as one of the best music venues of our size in the country and the world.”

White maintains at all times a strong sense of perspective. “Luckily, I do not deal with life or death regularly, as such. I try to not take myself or what I am doing too seriously, but I do strive to meet lofty goals and aim to surround myself with people of a similar mindset, both personally and professionally.”

— Howard Riell

Matt Wilson

Senior Vice President of Global Gaming Operations

Aristocrat Technologies

■ Age: 34

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson

Thirteen years ago, after graduating college with a marketing degree, Matt Wilson had two job offers. One was with a major Australian newspaper enterprise, the other a gaming company named Aristocrat Technologies. His father advised him that people would always read newspapers, so, naturally, the newspaper job was the safer bet. Wilson enjoyed doing exactly the opposite of what his father expected, so the gaming gig was his clear choice.

That 20-something rebel is now a 30-something gaming executive force.

Wilson quickly established himself as a leader in the industry. He was in Macau from 2007 to 2012, helping Aristocrat capture a 70 percent market share. He did that by learning from other gaming technology companies’ mistakes.

“A lot of the strategy was to force feed North American product to the Asian player, but we chose to localize instead,” he said. “Asian culture is rooted in destiny and fate with religions like Taoism and Confusionism. … So our focus was to be very Asian-centric instead, tailoring solutions to that specific market.”

Game development requires an executive who is sensitive to a client or market need, but who also knows when to go full force with an idea or pull back on another.

“There’s a lot of nuance. You’re not just slapping machines together,” he added. “You need to garner feedback, make sure you’re solving the business challenge. … The next generation coming up are millennials and we have to learn how to adapt and be profitable for that emerging category.”

On a charity note, Wilson is a big supporter of Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year’s “February Fast” initiative that his team leads is on track to raise $40,000 for a childhood cancer patient’s trip to Australia.

— Brian Sodoma

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to correct information about Nehme Abouzeid.

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