By Linnea Sheldon, Annette Cinelli, Michael Shivick, Christine R. Walsh, Shelly Schweizer, Alex Kantarelis, Courtney Bisceglia
It goes without saying that any community is only as good as the people who live and work in it. So it’s our pleasure to introduce 27 men and women ~ local artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, students, athletes, and more ~ under the age of 40 who are contributing to making Worcester County the great community that it is ~ diverse, socially conscious, financially viable, artistically vibrant, politically strong, and educationally outstanding. Some names or faces you might recognize, some you might not. But we’re giving you the chance to meet these up and comers, find out what they’ve accomplished so far, and get a sneak preview of what they have planned for the future. Then keep your eyes and ears open ~ we’re sure you’ll be hearing their names a lot more in the coming year…and beyond!
And just to give you an idea of the kind of dynamic individuals we’ve highlighted in the past, help us congratulate two of our 26 to Watch in 2006 ~ Rich Domaleski, CEO of the Worcester-based World Energy Solutions, Inc., announced in November that his company would be going public! World Energy’s common shares now trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange. And Worcester Mayor Tim Murray was elected as Massachusetts’ new Lieutenant Governor, making him only the second Worcester mayor in 60 years to serve in that post. Congratulations to them both!
Allie Bomba, 27, Worcester: Musician and filmmaker
By Linnea Sheldon
Born Allan P. Grigg, Allie Bomba can be called many things, but inactive certainly isn’t one of them. He is the Creative Director of AliBomba Productions, KOJAKTRAX, and Triple Decka Films LLC. He is currently working on a variety of projects including Cuban hiphop project Urban Legend, which just released the LP “Tranquilidad Cubano.” “We are receiving airplay around the country, especially in L.A. The music [composed with partner J Radical] will be featured in several film and TV spots.” Bomba is also directing a film about Worcester, Kelley Square, and the Hotel Vernon, where he currently resides. “Kelly Square Yacht Club: Nautical But Nice” will include appearances by Spaceman Bill Lee, Babe Ruth, Cornelius Kelley, Bob Largess, Burl Ives, Captain Joe Miron, and Lil’ Abner. After graduating from Worcester Public Schools, Bomba attended the New School in Manhattan and also studied music with Archie Shepp. A performer in Brazil, he made frequent TV appearances, and his band, which performed before 250,000 people at Rock in Rio 3, sold over 1 million copies. He’s shared a bill with Jimmy Page, Cypress Hill, Sepultura, and House of Pain, just to name a few. He recently co-produced a track on the forthcoming NASA (North America South America), which also featured Bid Daddy Kane, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Fat Lip, and others. Bomba is also a graffiti artist and has painted murals around the globe, including one right here on Leitrim’s on Park Ave. His future plans include finishing his Afro-Brazilian beat record in Brazil, his Urban Legend record in Cuba, L.A. and New York City, and releasing several short films about demolition derbies, alcoholics, and the Williamsburg Bridge. He is also featured on several Welsh hiphop releases, and is currently completing a musical with the New York Times best-selling author Alexander Kaletski.
Allison Kennedy, 30, Worcester: Organizing Director, Neighbor to Neighbor
By Linnea Sheldon
Allison Kennedy is the organizing director at Neighbor to Neighbor, a group that works to build strength in low-income and working class communities by tackling economic justice issues. Kennedy received her Bachelor of the Arts from Providence College in 1998 and a certificate of completion from the Training Institute for Careers in Organizing (TICO) in New York that same year. During her time at TICO, she learned that “…that the most effective model for bringing about change was by empowering marginalized communities to get involved in the political process through voting and influencing legislation.” The Neighbor to Neighbor community-organizing model includes voter registration and education, candidate endorsements, public policy advocacy, coalition building, and the development of sustainable grassroots leadership. Their working family agenda program focuses on good jobs, education and training, affordable child care, health care, and housing, a welfare safety net, and progressive taxation. What continues to inspire Kennedy? “I am inspired each time a member shares testimony about how they are personally affected by pending legislation with their legislator. I am inspired by the dedication and commitment of our diverse membership despite struggling to make ends meet. I am inspired by our statewide victories, including raising the minimum wage and restoring MassHealth dental and vision benefits.” Kennedy plans to continue working for economic justice with Neighbor to Neighbor and to work with the other chapters to ensure that all of the momentum from this year’s electoral and legislative victories continues.
Paul Belsito, 28, Worcester
District Director, The Office of State Senator Edward Augustus
By Michael Shivick
You can tell that Paul Belsito loves his job from the way his eyes light up when discussing how he helps people on a daily basis. As the District Director for State Senator Ed Augustus, Paul engages a diverse population with a variety of “Ötough and pressing issues.î His work has great intrinsic value, or, in his own words, “…to know you have helped people or helped to make the community a better place is very rewarding. Other than that, the people you meet in this job are fantastic and I work with a great staff and for a great senator.” Over the years, Paul has had the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Board at the Oak Hill CDC, which works to empower residents and youth in the Vernon Hill section of Worcester. Currently, Paul serves on the Board of the Emerald Club of Worcester County, which benefits the Mercy Center School in Worcester, and is also a member of the Worcester Parks and Recreation Commission. Paul grew up on Grafton Hill and graduated from St. Peter Marian and Assumption College. His parents both come from family-owned small businesses that have been in our community for a combined 190 years. “That is why Worcester is more than just a hometown for me.”
Brendan Melican, 30, Worcester: Cultural Ambassador
By Linnea Sheldon
You won’t hear Brendan Melican complaining about much. He’s too busy working to make positive changes in the community. Melican, known to many as Buck Paxton, attended Worcester public schools, as he expects his two-year old son to do. His responsibility to his community was something that he never questioned. “I grew up in Worcester following three generations for whom civic responsibility was never a question,” he said. “For me, the light bulb moment came while I was heavily involved with Worcester’s music scene. I was astounded by the talent that existed under the radar of the city. A convincing argument can be made for the cultural community being the catalyst for long term sustained growth in a community, but it’s a new direction for Worcester and many people have yet to be shown the light. I enjoy being a part of redefining our city along those terms.” His involvement in the community takes many forms. He is a co-founder of the Volcano Boy Media Network and is also a member of the Worcester Cultural Commission. As for the future, Melican plans on continuing his service to the community. He is keeping his options open, but he is always willing to do whatever it takes to make Worcester the best city it can be. “For the foreseeable future I’ll continue building relationships and connecting interested parties within the cultural, political and business communities, who in my opinion hold the keys to redefining what it means to be from Worcester,” he promises.
Brian Killelea, 29, Paxton
Web Developer for Worcester County Memorial Park
By Christine R. Walsh
Brian Killelea spends his time helping people remember their departed loved ones through Worcester County Memorial Park’s unique website. Killelea has been working at the cemetery since he was ten years old when he assisted in the weeding of the gardens. Then, after attending St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, he obtained a degree in small business management from the University of Vermont and returned to the cemetery. He envisioned an interactive website where people could share memories and pictures of relatives who have passed on. He called upon the services of his web developer, David Lapierre, and together the two of them created www.wcmp.org. Visitors to the site can write about the departed, post pictures and view condolences written by others ~ all free of charge. They can also order flowers through the site. Killelea says the response has been incredible and he is especially touched by one family who posted a 15 minute audio clip to the site in which a departed grandfather can be heard playing with his grandchild. He hopes to continue his work at the cemetery but would love to settle down and have a family within the next few years. Killelea enjoys hitting the golf course when he does have some spare time. And as he stares down the barrel of 2007, Killelea is committed to traveling and to hitting the gym more often.
Christina Andreoli, 29, Worcester: Public Relations, Fallon Community Healthplan
By Christine R. Walsh
As people around Worcester are suffering from the flu or promising to lead healthier lifestyles in 2007, Christina Andreoli is putting in the extra hours at Fallon Community Healthplan to make certain those folks can get what they need. Andreoli is the beauty and the brains behind Fallon’s public relations department. She spends her days informing people about the health insurance benefits packages available at Fallon, along with the innovative wellness programs that keep Fallon’s members at the peak of health. When she’s not at Fallon, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Fund, an organization that focuses on adoption and provides a number of services to children and families. Andreoli is also a grief facilitator for the Children’s Fund and assists children ages 5 – 12 who have lost a parent. Along with serving other organizations such as United Way and the Boys and Girls Clubs, Andreoli is also on the Board of Worcester’s First Night. She’s clearly a busy bee. But what’s in store for her in 10 year’s time? She just got married in August and would love to see herself with a happy, healthy family. And Andreoli is going to use her great sense of work ethic and determination when tackling her next upcoming project: her New Year’s resolutions. She will focus on being even kinder to her fellow man and becoming even more involved in the community (if that’s possible!).
Colleen Hilferty, 34, Worcester: Co-Executive Director of Dismas House
By Annette Cinelli
Working at the Dismas House in the Main South part of Worcester, Co-Executive Director Colleen Hilferty doesn’t deal with “…scary ex cons like you see on TV.” She helps reintegrate men and women just out of jail back into society in what she describes as a “…vibrant community.” In her position, she does a bit of everything from public relations to fundraising to day-to-day tasks like unclogging toilets. She also interviews people for the House, which also includes college students looking for an “eye opening” experience. In other words, for her there is no “typical” day. In 2006 she helped design a project proposal for Almost Home, an extensive first step treatment/rehabilitation program for men out of Worcester County’s House of Corrections. Watch for more from Colleen in 2007, as she hopes to buy a permanent housing project to provide community living for residents after they leave the Dismas House. One of her favorite times at work is the holidays: “Every year I work on Thanksgiving, that’s one of the best parts of my job…seeing all the people we bring together around for the holidays, the residents, their kids, and former residents.” As for her free time, Colleen has a 3 and a half year old daughter and 1 and a half year old son, so “They are my free time!”
Don Mancini, 30, Worcester: Vice President, Kelleher & Sadowsky
By Shelly Schweizer
Mancini is the consummate power broker. He’s a major player in Worcester’s commercial and industrial real estate business, selling and leasing high profile properties. “I’m the guy on the front lines, doing the deals, bringing them in and making it happen.” He’s brokered multi-million dollar real estate deals with corporate giants like Shaw’s Supermarkets, Morgan Construction and New York Life. “It’s rewarding to drive around the city and point out to my kids, ‘Daddy sold that building.’ It’s a lot of fun,” says the father of three. He grew up in Paxton, graduated with a degree in English from St. Anselm’s College, and came to Worcester to start a career in sales. “I knew the market since I spent my life here. I thought Worcester had the potential and it still has the potential.” Mancini was elected President of Worcester’s Young Businessmen’s Association last September and previously served on the board of Children’s Friend. Mancini calls himself “an advocate for Worcester and Worcester’s commercial success.” He’s a driven guy with a soft touch ~ just look at the pile of Christmas gifts that he and his wife brought to Sherry’s House to make the holidays a little bit better for a family with four kids who have fallen on hard times.
Edwin Rodriguez, 21, Worcester: #1 Ranked Middleweight Boxer in America/Olympic hopeful
By Michael Shivick
Edwin Rodriguez and his trainer, Carlos Garcia, frequent the Boys and Girls Club on Ionic Avenue in downtown Worcester. Their passports have also been stamped in Canada, China, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and England. So goes the life of the number one ranked middle weight (165 pound) boxer in the US and the first MA resident to win the USA Nationals since 1973. After settling for a bronze medal in the 2006 USA Nationals, Edwin put his nose to the proverbial grindstone and brought home the gold medal at this year’s National Golden Gloves tournament, etching his name in history alongside past winners Mike Tyson, Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali), and Roy Jones, Jr, to name but a few. Tough in body but tender at heart, Edwin claims that spending a majority of his time on the road and away from his family ~ especially his newborn twins, Serena and Edwin, Jr.~ is absolutely as tough as any training he’s been through. When asked about any New Year’s resolutions, the gold medalist replies, “To try and walk around closer to my fighting weight of 165 [and] to work as hard as I can not only to make the Olympic Team but to also prepare myself physically and mentally to bring home a Olympic gold medal next year in 2008.”
Erica Getto, 20, Worcester (by way of Hollis, NH): Clark University Sophomore and Political Activist/Volunteer
By Alex Kantarelis
Erica Getto is completely dedicated to bettering communities locally and abroad. While only 20, she has already left her mark on more countries than most people do in a lifetime. “The world had problems and I needed to learn about them. Also…you cannot fully understand your own culture until you’ve been in other ones. ” Not shy about taking action, the International Development and Social Change major kicked things off freshman year by attending the School of Americas Watch in Fort Bedding, Georgia. While there, she was involved in the rallies, vigils and protests supporting the fight against Latin American human rights violations. From there, she hopped in a car to take part for two weeks in Katrina relief efforts in the town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. This led to her joining Peaceworks, a club on Clark’s campus. “We’ve been doing a lot of things with Israel and Lebanon lately, and [also] doing fun things to bridge together people at Clark,” she said. From Nicaragua with Bridges to Community (that works with sustainable agriculture) to Guanajuato, Mexico for an internship with the Center for Global Justice to independent research on the Zapatista movement to working right here in Worcester with Florence House to aid homeless children and teenage mothers, Erica has no plans to slow down. “I’m interested in exploring non-violence training workshops, organizing workshops, networking with the group Cous-Cous [part of the Worcester Consortium], and giving students the tools to be involved in any way they want to be involved.”
Jen Carter, 36, Worcester: Radio Personality
By Christine R. Walsh
You may recognize her as the bright and sparkling voice who prompts you to get out of bed and get moving on those cold mornings. She’s Jen Carter from the Jen and Zito Morning Show on WXLO and this angel of the airwaves somehow finds time in her packed schedule to give back…a lot…to the community. Carter, the proud mom of two boys, was frustrated when she couldn’t find a job after earning her undergraduate degree so she packed her bags and went to Boston, where she received her graduate degree from Emerson College. She did radio in Las Vegas for four years before moving to Worcester and joining the WXLO team. Now she’s involved in many volunteer projects, both on her own and through the radio station. Until recently, she was involved with a volunteer baby-cuddling program at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Carter would relieve frazzled moms of their crying newborns simply by cradling the little bundles of joy until they calmed down. Through the station, she has helped raise money for breast cancer awareness, hosted a benefit luncheon for Multiple Sclerosis research, and is involved in the Toys for Tots program. Carter would love someday to use her variety of talents and have her own business, but as she considers New Year’s resolutions, she is happy with concentrating on living a healthier lifestyle and helping other do the same.
George & Jim Voyiatzis, 34/33, Worcester/Framingham: Owners, Coral Seafood Restaurant
By Shelly Schweizer
When these Worcester natives tore down the ugly blue aluminum siding on the former Lawless Cadillac dealership on Shrewsbury Street, people drove by, honked, and gave them the thumbs up. “One guy yelled, ‘Don’t put it back up!’” laughs Jim Voyiatzis. By purchasing and renovating a decaying building left vacant for years, he and his brother George removed one of the city’s ugliest eyesores and created one of Worcester’s largest and most beautiful dining spaces. It took over a year ~ and boatloads of cash ~ but their investment is already paying off for their neighbors, who’ve seen an upswing in business since the restaurant relocated there. In addition to giving locals another great dining option and reason to visit Shrewsbury Street, the Voyiatzis brothers built an adjacent plaza whose tenants include Starbucks, Gentle Dental, and Digital Credit Union. That created 110 new jobs, added an important retail component to the street that generates substantial foot traffic in the area, and, bottom line, increases everyone’s business. And by planting 40 trees on their property, they added much needed green space and curb appeal. “What they did for this street is phenomenal. God love them,” says Mike Carrigan, President of the Shrewsbury Street Merchants Association.
James B. Leary, 30, Worcester: Chief of Staff and Legal Council to the Lieutenant Governor
By Shelly Schweizer
Leary’s new gig with Tim Murray wasn’t supposed to start until after the Lieutenant Governor was sworn in. But “In reality, it started as soon as the election results came in.” The former three term State Representative joked that he’s made 1,000 new friends since the election and the phone is ringing off the hook. “It’s like morning, noon and night but so far, I’m enjoying it.” He’s honestly intrigued with every aspect of his new job. “It’s a position that will allow me to capitalize on all the experience I’ve had a legislator, as someone who has represented Central Massachusetts, and as a lawyer.” One reason he’s psyched is that it bodes well for Worcester. “It’s the first time Central Massachusetts has had a strong presence in the corner office for half a century. I see this administration as having an impact. There will be a strong focus on Central Massachusetts in general and on Worcester in particular. It’s exciting to be a part of that.” He’s made it to the big time in Boston but Leary is emphatic that he’s here to stay. I have strong neighborhood ties and I have no intention on leaving. I’m a Worcester guy.”
Jonathan Koop, 24, Worcester: Co-owner, S&K Valet
By Shelly Schweizer
Since he was sixteen, people have handed their car keys to Koop. The Dallas native worked as valet through high school and college. After graduating from college, he came to Worcester, taking a job managing the valet parking service at St. Vincent’s Hospital. He met co-worker Danielle Spring and last year, they decided to strike out on their own. “We thought, we can do this, we know enough people in the city,” says Koop. They own Worcester’s only valet parking company in a city where parking spaces are at a premium. They manage 40 employees and have the hottest names in the Worcester restaurant scene as clients. “It’s creating a better dining experience,” says Koop. By easing the parking crunch in tight spots like Shrewsbury Street and the Canal District and the worries of those reluctant to venture out on a snowy night or to an unfamiliar neighborhood, Koop’s creating jobs and peace of mind. “With valets out front, there no worry about parking around a dark corner. You can have the valet take care of your car and you know you’re going to be safe.” In 2007, S & K plans to add more Worcester restaurants to its client list and take on restaurants in neighboring cities and towns as well. Also in the works is branching out to offer their valet services to hospitals and hotels.
Jon Short, 30, Worcester via NYC: Blues Musician and Teacher
By Michael Shivick
Sunday nights at Vincent’s right here in Worcester you can catch national blues act “Mississipi” Jon Short. A fixture at festivals including Wachusett Blues Festival and clubs like Terra Blues in NYC, as well as at numerous spots in Memphis and the Mississippi Delta (the home of the blues), Jon is constantly expanding his “gigging” radius. Having recently cut “Backporch Blues,î his full-length CD, at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Studio, Jon is looking forward to a continuation of his bi-annual tour schedule ~ in addition to upcoming dates in Mississippi, the Carolinas, and the illustrious Italian boot. Jon Short’s ties to Worcester far exceed “just” playing out here once a week. As a grade-school teacher in Worcester’s Public Schools, Jon has championed an awesome program called “Blues in Schools.” This project’s aim is to educate children about the origin of American music. BIS also teaches the lil’ tikes about the resourcefulness and creativity of early U.S. rural south folk and about how instruments developed from a string on a side of a house to the electric guitars and turntables of today. The most challenging part of Jon’s career is the amount of time that is consumed by being a 100% independent operation ~ in that contacts, booking, promotion, CD orders, distributing, et cetera are all managed by Jon and Jon alone ~ in addition to his 9-5 day job. Jon says it’s worth it, though, since he gets to meet and perform for so many individuals who have a deep appreciation for this part of Americana. So what does this musical whirlwind resolve for the new year? “To continue working with legend Paul Rishell, become more precise, and expand [my] musical vocabulary.”
Jon Weaver, 22, Worcester: Developmental Specialist
By Michael Shivick
It is the modest man who asks why he was chosen. Well, one needn’t look too closely at Jon Weaver’s career to figure out why he’s so valuable to our community. As a Developmental Specialist for the non-profit South Worcester Neighborhood Center, Jon coordinates projects for the development branch of SWNC. Many projects overseen by SWNC are taking flight and will further the continuing rejuvenation of the City of Worcester. For example, Jon is currently managing the marketing and sales of a 12-unit affordable housing condominium complex as well as working with neighborhood residents on developing a neighborhood “master plan.î He is also piecing together the Neighborhood Leadership Academy, which will “Öprepare our neighbors for local leadership roles.î Although balancing so many projects can be quite demanding, Jon says it’s all worth it to be part of such important steps forward for our communities. And as if those projects weren’t already enough to land Jon on our list, he’s also quite active with the Worcester Intercollegiate Government. The WIG was formed with Patrick Murray and the College of the Holy Cross and is a student-driven organization whose aim is to provide students the outlet to voice their political, cultural, and economic development concerns. The organization also “Öseeks to better integrate students into the Worcester social scene.î When asked about resolutions for the upcoming year, Jon jests, “Hit the treadmill. Adjusting to a desk job is tough.”
Kellie Shea,, “It’s a secret, but way under 40!”, Worcester: Founder and Director, Central Mass Dance Academy
By Annette Cinelli
If you had asked Kellie Shea five years ago if she would open a dance studio on Water Street in Worcester, she would have said, “There’s no way!” Today, it’s a different story. “There’s no way I wouldn’t have, it’s really the best location.” Kellie started out in Worcester and has been dancing for about 24 years. She went to Umass Amherst, receiving two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in Dance and one in Communications. 2005 was Kellie’s first year as Founder and Director of the Central Mass Dance Academy, which offers a variety of children’s and adults’ classes including ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, acrobatic, modern, and hip hop. Kellie’s is not your average dance studio, as it also offers acting classes and vocal lessons. Plus, the studio shares space with that of Kellie’s mother’s business, the always buzzing Karon Shea Model Management Inc. Back in ’05 Kellie taught every class herself, by’ 06 she had hired other instructors, and this year Kellie has big plans to expand the studio and start a kids’ show choir. She has an amazing teacher lined up to teach young children how to sing show tunes. As Director, Kellie does everything, from choreography and costumes to bookkeeping and ordering ~ and of course teaching! Add to all that the fact that she’s also a dance consultant for Burncoat High School, and we don’t blame Kellie for wanting to enjoy every minute of down time she can get watching football games, going to shows, and spending quality time with her husband.
Kevin Woo, 23, Worcester: Associate Director of Alumni Affairs, Becker College
By Alex Kantarelis
Opportunity came knocking for Kevin Woo in the form of Dr. Ken Zirkle, President of Becker College. It was May 2005 and Woo had just graduated from Becker when Zirkle offered him a job as the Associate Director of Alumni Affairs for the college. It was a brand new position, and Woo was the first to take on the challenge. Over the past few years, Becker had been having a hard time raising funds. When Zirkle came on as President in the Fall of 2004, he began making drastic changes to improve the situation. One of those changes was hiring people who were passionate about helping the school. Kevin Woo was the perfect candidate. He stepped in with total dedication to and love for his alma mater, and began working non-stop to secure monies for the school, at the same time fostering relationships with its alumni. He is driving force of the Becker College Phone-a-Thon, which has current students calling the alumni directly in efforts to raise money. He has also been traveling the nation, meeting one-on-one with alums all over the country to update them on what their alma mater is up to and of course, raise more money. Kevin Woo truly wants to see his program succeed because, quite simply, he is enthusiastic about his job and will not settle for anything less than seeing his efforts come to fruition. And indeed, those efforts already have inspired others involved with the college ~ and have helped Becker start back on the path to financial security.
Mike Carrigan, 29, Leominster: Co-owner, Caffe Dolce
By Shelly Schweizer
Mike Carrigan has big plans for 2007. After seven years as general manager of Caffe Dolce, he’s taking an ownership stake in the business this January. The Worcester native also serves as the President of the Shrewsbury Street Merchants Association, a nonprofit group whose mission is to serve as an advocate for the 100 businesses in their membership and to coordinate marketing efforts to make Shrewsbury Street a destination in its own right. They host the annual Taste of Shrewsbury Street, one of the city’s most beloved and well attended events. “To make the city great, it takes more than one street. It takes a whole city.” Last year, the Taste donated over $6,200 tolocal charities. As the association’s president, Carrigan hopes to create new events that generate good will and increase business on Shrewsbury Street. He’s off to a good start, having hosted Shrewsbury’s Street’s first Holiday Stroll, which benefited Toys for Tots, in December. “That’s going to be my pet project. There’s nothing better than that to see people get stuff who need it.” He’s also planning to network and join forces with other Worcester business and neighborhood groups and to open a second Caffe Dolce in Holden.
Mike Covino, 36, Worcester: Co-Owner/Operator, Block 5 and Bocado
By Shelly Schweizer
In just over a year, this ambitious restaurateur has helped put the Canal District on the map. Block 5, his wildly popular urban outpost of chic has become a destination for foodies and scenesters. And with the wildly successful opening of Bocado, his “hip, modern and sexy” new Spanish tapas restaurant and champagne lounge a few blocks away, Covino and his partners hope to score once again with their holy trinity of food, service and atmosphere. “We’re on the forefront of changing the dining scene in Worcester,” Covino says. “We want to be a part of the evolution of the city.” Some thought it risky for Covino and company to open restaurants in the nascent Canal District but the gamble has more than paid off. “I feel a real sense of pride in being a pioneer in this area, and in being a spark in having other businesses come down here.” His two hotspots have raised the bar and the quality of dining out in the area. “Competition in the city is growing and restaurants in Worcester are stepping up.” He hopes to join forces with other area dining establishments to make Worcester a major dining destination.
Rob Riggieri, 32, Rutland: President & Co-Founder of Athletes Ink
By Michael Shivick
Rob Riggieri grew up on Grafton Hill with a deep love for and appreciation of sports. Today, he flexes 10 years of experience marketing such players as sure-fire Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, current Red Sox staples like John Lester and Manny Delcarmen, and future stars like Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. Rob, whose office is plastered with autographed pictures from many of sports’ all-time greatest moments, is not only concerned with making his business, Athletes Ink, uber-successful, he also wants to give something back to the community. Having played an integral role in helping the Worcester Boys’ and Girls’ Club raise$13,000 ~at no cost to them ~ Rob capitalizes on his position amongst the sporting elite to help communities within Worcester. While remaining community-minded, continuing to represent players and conduct charity auctions, Rob and his Athletes Ink team have set their sights on the retail industry. Having secured exclusive rights to sell both Worcester Tornadoes and Worcester Sharks memorabilia, Athletes Ink has opened a retail store in the Auburn Mall. With 3 to 5 more Worcester-area retail spots expected by this time next year, Rob and Athletes Ink are certainly on the move. When asked about his New Year’s resolutions, Rob laughed and said without missing a beat, “My new year’s resolution is to go with my gut and close, close, close [more deals]!”
Scott Erb, 36, Worcester: Photographer
By Christine R. Walsh
Scott Erb, founder of Worcester Photography Center, inherited his love for photography from him grandfather and father; when his parents handed him his very own little camera, Scott’s destiny was sealed. After snapping photos for his school yearbooks and newspapers and studying photography in college, he became a professional photographer, using commercial photography to pay the bills and support his true love, fine art photography. Still, Erb longed for the chance to “talk shop” with some fellow photography enthusiasts. An active participant in Start on the Street and the Festival of Lights, he started a photography meet-up group online in the hopes that 4 or 5 people could meet once a month and discuss their art, but Erb underestimated himself and over 90 people are presently involved with Worcester Photography Center. The group creates a healthy and inspirational artistic environment and organizes shows around the Worcester area so that beginners and professionals alike may showcase their works to the public. As part of his day job, Scott helps create modeling portfolios for many aspiring young models. He plans to one day bring the Photography Center to the next level and see it become a full-fledged non-profit organization. Erb is excited for 2007 because he feels that Worcester’s artistic community is about to experience exponential growth. And as far as New Year’s resolutions? Scott vows to eat better and exercise more often.
Tianna Ta, 25, Worcester: Model and Actress
By Courtney Bisceglia
“Where did this girl come from?” That’s the question lots of people are asking when they see this striking 26 year old beauty, and “Worcester” is the answer. You might remember Tianna as a finalist for Maxim’s Hometown Hotties, from MTV as part of Nick Cannon’s Dime Piece Search, and ~ closest to our hearts ~ from Pulse’s July swimsuit issue, where she graced our cover. This exotic model’s career has been on the fast track since summer and it shows no signs of stopping. Her unique and sexy look is getting attention across the country and they, along with her sweet, unspoiled-by-the-attention disposition, have led to appearances on Spike TV’s “Late Night” strip, and in Import Tuner Magazine. As if those credits wouldn’t be exciting enough, Tianna also has a role in The Rock’s new movie, The Game Plan, and is a model for Serenity, a company that produces sleepwear. And even though our hometown hottie is destination for Hollywood and beyond, we’re glad to report that her heart will always be here. “Worcester will always be home for me. I love that people know each other and I have so many friends here.” Gentleman, this gorgeous lady has a boyfriend, so for now you’ll have to join the rest of us and watch her rise to stardom on magazine covers, TV shows, and major motion pictures.
Tim McGourthy, 35, Roxbury (moving to Worcester soon!): Director of Economic Development, City of Worcester
By Shelly Schweizer
If Worcester is the little engine that could, “I’m the conductor taking the tickets for all those interested in going on the ride.” And what a trip it will be, when major projects like the Worcester Blackstone Visitors’ Center, City Square, Gateway Park and the Grand Palace Theatre come to fruition. McGourthy’s job is to attract investment in Worcester, “…getting people involved, keeping them moving forward and getting the project done.” McGourthy may play a central role in the city’s reinvention but he’s very much a team player. “A lot of what we do is collegial, bring people together from various issues.” He left his job as policy director for the Boston Redevelopment Association because he was impressed with what he saw here. “There’s a great team in place working hard to make Worcester happen.” McGourthy wants to preserve the character of the city’s neighborhoods and “…bring some of their vibrancy into the downtown area, helping Worcester to recognize the attractiveness of a strong urban environment.” He’s trying to selling his Roxbury home and is looking forward to moving to Worcester. His New Year’s Resolution? “To find more balance.”
Wilfred Labiosa, 36, Medford: Director, Somos Latinos LGBT Coalition of MA
By Shelly Schweizer
Labiosa plans and promotes monthly social events across the state to bring together the Latin lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community in a safe and positive environment. He heads a six year old non-profit that provides outreach and information to an often overlooked and marginalized community. For the past two years, Labiosa’s Worcester and Blackstone area events have filled a void by bringing two cultures together and has provided opportunities for Latin LGBTs to safely meet and explore their identities and sexuality in a positive way. “People are usually one or the other. There weren’t events that brought those two cultures together.” Until Somos Latinos came on the scene, the only groups for Worcester’s Latino LGBT community primarily focused on HIV/AIDS. “We’re not about that.” This coming year, the group will hold Latino Pride events for the first time in Worcester. Labiosa serves as catalyst for the community and as source of information for those seeking to explore themselves as Latino LGBT’s. “Everybody needs the same respect. Unfortunately sometimes they don’t receive it. They look to people like to me to search for the service they might need.”
Steve Sewell, 39, Upton, President and CEO of Westboro Mitsubishi, CEO of Midstate Auto Group, and Executive Vice President and COO of Dan’s Jeep
By Linnea Sheldon
Steve Sewell has been in the car sales business for over 20 years. He began selling cars at 18, and now at 39, after years of hard work, he is the President and CEO of Westboro Mitsubishi, CEO of Midstate Auto Group, and Executive Vice President and COO of Dan’s Jeep. He currently oversees about 70 employees with total sales of $35 million annually. Sewell, who graduated from Framingham North High and attended Becker College, resides in Upton. Before he bought Westboro Mitsubishi about 3 years ago, he worked at Herb Chambers of Auburn as the General Manager from 1992 to 2000 and at Ragsdale Motor Group as the Executive VP and COO from ‘00 to ‘03. Under the leadership of Sewell, Westboro Mitsubishi has become the highest volume dealer in New England. Sewell said he owes this to his business philosophy, putting customers and employees first. “This positive atmosphere is the fuel for our success,” he said. What does he anticipate for the new year? “With 3 top dealerships in the local market, and other acquisitions in progress, you can’t help but watch,” he said. And in the future, Sewell, who is already involved with many community charitable organizations including the 200 Foundation, the Jimmy Fund, and the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce, plans to start a charitable foundation that will allow him to share his success with others and give back to the community even more.
John LaHair, 36, Worcester: Director of Marketing for the DCU Center
By Michael Shivick
As Director of Marketing for the SMG managed DCU Center, Worcester-born John LaHair gets to do what many of us dream of doing ~ he gets to hobnob with celebrities and be part of the fast-paced behind-the-scenes world of major concerts, sporting events, shows, national political rallies and the like. But for John, it’s not about the rock star element. In his own words, it’s about providing “…the best possible experience for the patron, promoter and performer while he or she is at the DCU Center” and knowing that “… on a daily basis I’m helping to create memories ~ think of going to your first live concert, basketball game or family show ~ for thousands upon thousands of people who live in and come to Worcester.” John’s job is all about establishing and fostering relationships with everyone from Madonna to monster trucks, Boston Pops to bullriders, headbangers to hockey players, press to politicians, all in the name of continuing to keep the DCU Center and Worcester positive examples of a passion for growth, community involvement, and first-rate entertainment. So what’s in store for the man who always has a smile for anyone passing through the doors of the DCU Center, in addition to always trying to anticipate and deliver on what the fans want to see on the DCU Center’s upcoming events schedule? “In 2007, the Arena celebrates its 25th anniversary and the Convention Center celebrates its 10th; these are definitely milestones for the City as well as for my career.” Oh, and John is also working on his throwing arm in preparation for the New England Surge, Worcester’s new professional indoor football team, taking to the field in April.