Article

People to Watch

Photography by Barbara Banks By Forest Balderson, David Ball, Susan Burns, Graham Clark, Kay Kipling, Molly McCartney and Hannah Wallace August 31, 2011

Seth Cripes“We want to promote mullet as a healthy and sustainable seafood.”

Seth Cripes

Seth Cripes has struck culinary gold in the humble mullet. Cripes, 32, owns Cortez Mullet Company and produces the dried mullet roe known as bottarga. The salty-sweet delicacy is wildly popular in Europe and Asia, where mullet has been overfished and prices have skyrocketed. Cripes has become the first bottarga producer in the U.S. by teaming up with lifelong friends who fish Sarasota Bay. Cripes, also a Napa Valley winemaker, has perfected a method of drying and curing the roe that is now featured at restaurants like The French Laundry in Napa. “We want to promote mullet as a healthy and sustainable seafood,” Cripes says. He wants to keep producing bottarga locally so he can control catch numbers and pay fishermen better wages. Cripes produced about 200 pounds of bottarga his first season in 2009. This year he expects 4,000 pounds of bottarga, 14,000 pounds of mullet meat and $80,000 in revenue. He hopes to export to Asia next year.

“From a publisher standpoint, I want to grow my distribution and just be a positive influence for Sarasota.”

Megan WallinMegan Wallin

In 2009, professional volleyball player and third-generation Sarasotan Megan Wallin founded a beach volleyball newsletter called SpikeKey Beach. Three years later, SpikeKey is a multifaceted multimedia company poised to fulfill Sarasota’s potential as a beach volleyball mecca. Wallin, 28, oversees all facets of SpikeKey’s operations: the annual printed publication distributed at AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) tour events, the online magazine (spikekey.com) and five digital issues a year distributed to more than 10,000 subscribers. She also handles sports management services for professional athletes who need sponsors. SpikeKey also co-hosts major events, clinics and training camps in Sarasota, including an upcoming Nov. 10-13 tournament on Siesta Key Beach. Plus, Wallin and her teammate, Chara Harris, recently broke into the top 10 beach volleyball teams in the U.S. “From a publisher standpoint, I want to grow my distribution and just be a positive influence for Sarasota,” she says.

 

Dr. Michael Mullan“We are partnered with Star Scientific, which will sell this compound as a dietary supplement.”

Dr. Michael Mullan

For 25 years, Dr. Michael Mullan has been a pioneer in Alzheimer’s research. He is also the director of the nonprofit Roskamp Institute, devoted to finding causes and cures for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders and addictions. More recently, he’s the CEO of Archer Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a for-profit company built on Roskamp research. One of Archer’s products, Nilvadipine, an Alzheimer’s drug developed at Roskamp, has just received $8.4 million for a Phase III clinical trial­—a significant achievement. The drug may act on the cause and not just the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And this fall, Archer will help launch a new anti-inflammatory compound called ANATABLOC that could help in a range of diseases, including Alzheimer’s. “We are partnered with Star Scientific, which will sell this compound as a dietary supplement,” says Mullan, 54.

Troy Roberts“I always wanted to make something tangible.

Troy Roberts

Troy Roberts stuck the cork in his very first bottle of Siesta Key Rum in March 2010. One year later, Siesta Key Rum bested 120 competitors to win “Best in Class” at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival—the largest rum competition in the Western Hemisphere. A Riverview High School grad, Roberts, 46, managed successful automotive websites, but “always wanted to make something tangible,” he says. In 2007, he sold his websites, purchased a still and, aided by his 70-year-old father, created Drum Circle Distilling. Roberts and his “best friend since sophomore year,” Tom Clarke, do everything from mixing the ingredients to applying the bottle labels. Roberts hopes to grow his market share in Florida and possibly expand beyond the state, but making a quality product remains his No. 1 priority. He says that at tastings Siesta Key Rum speaks for itself. “If they know rum,” he says, “they’re going to love it.”

Avinash and Kanak Bal“I love the open spaces, the sense of well-being and the people I’ve met here.”

Avinash and Kanak Bal

Indian-born Avinash Bal, 52, and his family began visiting Sarasota 10 years ago from their home in Canada. Now Bal has bought a home in Lakewood Ranch, and he and his daughter, Kanak Bal, 26, are launching the North American headquarters of his Dubai-based multinational food franchise business, Hot Brands International, in Sarasota. Hot Brands operates 70 restaurants, serving Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese and fresh deli cuisine, with 800 employees in six countries in the Middle East and India. Sarasota will be the site of their first North American store—a casual Chinese restaurant opening in early 2012. Americans are eager for authentic, fresh ethnic cuisine, says Avinash, and Sarasota is a hot restaurant market. “I’ve traveled all over the U.S.,” Avinash says. “When I land here, I breathe slow and easy. I love the open spaces, the sense of well-being and the people I’ve met.”

Rochelle Dudley“I like knowing I’m helping someone else achieve their dream.”

Rochelle Dudley

Rochelle Dudley, 31, discovered politics when the success of her Tampa pottery studio was jeopardized by a proposed change in traffic flow. Dudley was so enthused when she got a positive response after protesting to the City Council that she “immediately got involved with the Young Republicans,” she says. Four years ago, Dudley sold her business and moved to Sarasota; and, within four days of her arrival, landed a job as Manatee County field director for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Focused, organized and ambitious, she now owns OnMessage Strategic Communications, which does consulting, public relations and fund raising for political candidates. “I like knowing I’m helping someone else achieve their dream,” says Dudley. Is running for office in her future? “Maybe,” she says.

Roxie Jerde“The region has a real opportunity to be a model for how to vibrantly age, and how to pass philanthropic values on to kids and grandkids.”

Roxie Jerde

As the new president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Roxie Jerde, 58, has spent the past six months meeting hundreds of nonprofit leaders and forging an important collaboration with Gulf Coast Community Foundation counterpart Teri Hansen on a project called DonorEdge—an online site designed to match nonprofits with donors. Slated to go live in 2012, the site will inform donors about the goals, strategies and financial stability of up to 500 nonprofits in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, making giving easier and more effective. Jerde launched a similar program when she worked at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. She thinks the region has a “real opportunity to be a model for how to vibrantly age, and how to pass philanthropic values on to kids and grandkids.”

 

 

Dr. Catherine Cooper“We hope [medical] residents will fall in love with the area and set up shop here.”

Dr. Catherine Cooper

If Dr. Catherine Cooper has her way, the region’s residents will have an easier time finding a primary care physician five years from now. Cooper, 43, part of a family medical practice with her husband, Dr. Chris Cooper, is heading up Manatee Memorial Hospital’s new medical residency program in primary care and internal medicine. Florida and the nation are facing a shortage of primary care physicians, and most doctors tend to live and practice where they do residencies, she explains. Manatee Memorial just welcomed its first six residents—all graduates from LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lakewood Ranch)—in July. The hope, says Cooper, is that the residents will “fall in love with the area and set up shop here. The goal is to train them on the type of population we have, so they can hit the ground running.”

 

“The goal is to go national.”

Sam ShakeSam Shake

Biolife president and CEO Sam Shake, 62, doesn’t use Band-Aids anymore. Instead he applies his company’s product WoundSeal, a powder that mixes with blood to immediately form a scab. “You pour on the powder, apply light pressure for a few seconds while the powder mixes with your blood to form a seal,” Shake says. “The bleeding stops. Then you dust off the excess powder, and it looks like a regular scab.” WoundSeal was discovered by accident about 10 years ago in a Sarasota lab. The founders created Biolife in 1999 to sell the product to hospitals and in clinical settings. It’s now available to consumers for the first time—a package of four applications sells for about $6.99—at hundreds of Walgreens throughout the state. The goal is to go national. WoundSeal has special value for anyone on blood thinners or whose blood is slow to clot. “It’s phenomenal,” Shake says.

 

Randy Welker“Making downtown Sarasota the greatest downtown in America. Those are my marching orders.

Randy Welker

As the first economic development coordinator for downtown Sarasota, Randy Welker, 60, brings decades of similar experience in other Florida towns. Talkative and easygoing, he’s been walking the streets and meeting with downtown groups since he was hired last spring, figuring out what makes the city tick. He lists some of downtown’s assets: the beautiful bayfront, the arts, nearby colleges and universities, closeness to the airport, and a compact size that’s packed with character. And despite the city’s reputation for contentiousness, he says, “You do believe in teamwork. You have so many smart people who want to make this place better.” On his to-do list: bringing a pharmacy downtown, a better variety of retail, enhanced WiFi and streamlined regulations that make it easier to do business. He recharges on Siesta Beach, but making downtown Sarasota “the greatest downtown in America” is always on his mind. “Those are my marching orders,” he says.

Jonathan Fleece“Our healthcare system is in drastic need of some kind of change.”

Jonathan Fleece

Blalock Walters attorney Jonathan Fleece, a longtime civic activist who sits on multiple boards and committees, is one of a handful of board-certified healthcare attorneys in Florida. He leads his firm’s Health Care Practice Group and is the founding chairman of the new nonprofit, the Manatee Health Care Alliance, which brings together industry leaders to work on how to improve healthcare in the region. Fleece, 43, also has partnered with futurist David Houle to co-author a book on healthcare, The New Health Age: The Future of Healthcare and Medicine in America, which will be available in October. “It was time to really take the fear, the uncertainty, and the confusion out of the debate surrounding healthcare,” Fleece says. “Our healthcare system is in drastic need of some kind of change. We’re losing our competitive advantage as a country.”

Mark Huey“My biggest surprise has been the vitality of business activity here.”

Mark Huey

Mark Huey, the brand-new CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota, is a CPA armed with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. As Tampa’s chief economic development officer, he helped relocate or expand businesses such as IKEA and Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation and create the public-private $500-million, mixed-use project, The Heights. Huey, 53, may have been disappointed that the Jackson Lab deal fell apart, but the experience convinced him of the “quality of thought and ideas” in Sarasota and how willing “the community is to do some big things.” His biggest surprise has been the vitality of business activity here. Most of his days have been spent meeting with board members, investors, businesses, elected officials, and city and county staff. His biggest challenge? “I am not sure I know enough yet to answer that question. Call me in a few months,” he says.

 

Kevan Main“We need large volumes of seafood to meet the protein requirements to feed the world.”

Kevan Main

As the next president of the prestigious 3,000-member World Aquaculture Society, Mote Marine scientist Kevan Main feels the urgency of farming aquatic animals and plants in a sustainable way. Overfishing, pollution and habitat loss have greatly reduced the amount of wild-caught fish; at the same time, global demand for fish is rising. “We need large volumes of seafood to meet the protein requirements to feed the world,” Main says. “The only way we can do that is through aquaculture.” For 10 years, Main, 58, has been directing Mote’s Center for Aquaculture Research and Development, which annually produces tons of sturgeon meat and roe for restaurants around the country and is researching ways to improve aquaculture. “We are shifting from the simple approach, where you have animals in ponds, to land-based recirculating systems with filtration that help you produce food while limiting environmental impact,” she says.

Dave Gustafson“Every morning I look into the mirror and say to myself, ‘OK, Dave—prove yourself.’"

Dave Gustafson

Downtowns always need champions, and Dave Gustafson, 48, stepped up to the plate last June as the new executive director for the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority. His timing is good. Bradenton has $6.2 million in the bank to construct Bradenton Riverwalk and begin a rowing initiative on the Manatee River that will attract college teams from all over the country. After pitching this initiative for years, Gustafson foresees a potential $100 million-$200 million in economic impact. Gustafson’s career began as an intern with the Manatee County planning department, and he spent nearly a decade as the director of planning for Benderson Development. “I’m a frugal person, and I was well trained,” says Gustafson. “I plan to make sure the public gets what they pay for.” He admits he thrives on pressure. “Every morning I look into the mirror and say to myself, 'OK, Dave—prove yourself.'"

Dr. Brian Kimbrell“I believe that most important is giving great care to your community.”

Dr. Brian Kimbrell

Dr. Brian Kimbrell remembers the first time he saved someone’s life. It was a man who had pierced his own heart with a pair of scissors and had no pulse. The experience convinced Kimbrell to become a trauma surgeon. Now, as the director of trauma and surgical care at Blake Medical Center, Kimbrell—recruited from California—is heading up the creation of the hospital’s Level II trauma center, the first in the region. Expected to receive approval this fall, the center has been battling competing hospitals, unhappy nearby residents and opposition from Blake’s own nurses. But Kimbrell is keeping his focus, saying that 500 severely injured patients a year from Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto are flown to hospitals outside the region. Another 500 cases are treated in local hospitals where there is no trauma center. “I believe that most important is giving great care to your community,” Kimbrell says. “Great care, fast.”

 

Raymonda Burgman“When our students graduate, they are going to walk out into the full gamut of diversity.”

Raymonda Burgman

Armed with a Ph.D. in economics and more than a decade of experience in teaching college students—most recently as an associate professor at DePauw University in Indiana—Raymonda Burgman, 38, is the new associate provost at New College of Florida. As an African-American woman whose own beginnings were humble, Burgman says she is driven “to speak up where there is no voice.” At New College (her alma mater) she will focus on increasing diversity in the school’s student body, faculty and curriculum. She hopes the message of encouraging tolerance, inclusion and equality will filter out into the wider Sarasota and Manatee communities. The world is changing, she says, and a diverse education boosts professional and personal success. “When our students graduate, they are going to walk out into the full gamut of diversity, from sexual orientation to [diverse] socio-economic backgrounds,” she says.

Frank Maggio“I’m definitely an extrovert, and community service was ingrained in my mind from very early on.”

Frank Maggio

Frank Maggio calls himself “a connector.” That talent will serve him well as the incoming chair of the Young Professionals Group in Sarasota. His skills stem from growing up in an Italian family in Naples, Fla., with a community-activist mother. “I’m definitely an extrovert, and community service was ingrained in my mind from very early on,” says Maggio, 36, who has worked in banking in Sarasota for the past decade, currently at Insignia Bank. He volunteers for many organizations, including the local Risk Management Association chapter and Sarasota Seminole Club (boosters of his alma mater, Florida State University), both of which he helped to revitalize. YPG is his next project. Membership is on the upswing after the toll taken by the recession, he says, and the recent YPG/SUM+ annual conference he helped spearhead has energized the group. “We want to make our voices heard,” says Maggio.

Edward F. Ogiba“Businesses are not communicating with one out of six customers.”  

Edward F. Ogiba

Edward F. Ogiba, 64, president both of Group EFO, a Sarasota marketing company, and the Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota, was almost deaf before he had a cochlear implant. Now he’s campaigning to get local businesses to incorporate a hearing loop system (a permanent thin cable along the periphery of a room or a portable device that “talks” directly to hearing aids) and make Sarasota a national showcase for how to accommodate the hearing impaired. Ogiba recently convinced restaurants Caragiulos and Owen’s Fish Camp and Whole Foods in Sarasota to incorporate portable loop systems—which have been used in Europe for 40 years—and he’s applied for a grant to have the system installed in 11 theaters in Sarasota. Manatee and Sarasota have 110,000 people with hearing loss. “That’s 16 percent of our population,” he says. “Businesses are not communicating with one out of six customers.”

 

Garrick Newman“I’m just bursting at the seams trying to get this thing going.

Garrick Newman

Every community needs dreamers, especially those with staying power. About a decade ago, Garrick Newman, now 43 and a Keller Williams real estate agent, had the idea of developing a water park in Manatee County. At first land was too pricey, and these days getting the financing—$10 million-$13 million—is tricky. But Newman remains undaunted. A feasibility study concluded 250,000 people annually would visit his proposed Jungle Falls Water Adventure Park (think wave pool, water chute and other rides), and it would create 100 part- and full-time jobs, he says, attracting visitors from the local region and Tampa Bay. He’s considering three sites in north Manatee, all along I-75. The development team is in place and so are the plans for the park. He just needs a few good investors. “I’m just bursting at the seams trying to get this thing going. We need more local, regional, affordable recreation destinations,” he says.

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