Leadership Northwest Indiana LNI 34
Leadership Northwest Indiana
LNI 34 - Class of 2013
George Baranowski - Schererville is President of the Lake Central School Board of Trustees.
George is the current Director of Region 1 for the Ind. School Board Association and is the
Managing Principal and Owner of the Baranowski Insurance and Financial Agency in Dyer. George
was instrumental in the passage of the LC Building Referendum in 2010 for $160 million and was
the recipient of the 2008 Polish American Meritorious Service award for the State of Indiana and
was recognized by US Congressman Pete Visclosky during the 110th Congress.
Nicole Barker - La Porte is Executive Director of Save the Dunes in Michigan City. She is a former
Program Director for the City of Chicago Department of Environment. She has a B.A. in Journalism
and a minor in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a M.A. in
Geography and Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She served
as a founding board member of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association and serves on the
Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Advisory Board.
Jena Bellezza - Crown Point is the Marketing & Community Relations Director for Indiana
Parenting Institute in Gary. Prior to this, she was a professional actress for 15 years. She attended
Dartmouth College and is looking to complete undergraduate studies in Biblical Counseling at
Crossroads Bible College. She is active in the African American Student Achievement Council,
Lake County Substance Abuse Council, Northwest Indiana Literacy Coalition, Community
Organizations for Families and Youth, Communities that Care and the Continuum Care Network of
Sharon Bennett - Gary is a 36-year veteran with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department as a
Commander. Sharon is the former Security/House Manager for the Star Plaza Theatre in
Merrillville with over 20 years of service. She is on the developmental boards for St. Jude House
and NWI Community Action, a member of the F.O.P., N.O.B.L.E. (National Organization of Black
Law Enforcement Executives), The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force. She expects
to receive her B.S. in Public Safety Management this year. Sharon has one son and two
Julie Boettger - Crown Point is Director of Food and Nutrition Services, School City of Hammond.
Julie owns a consulting company providing school nutrition program expertise to organizations and
is co-authoring a book for school nutrition professionals. She serves on executive boards and
committees for state and national School Nutrition Association and is running for an office with the
Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and
Kelechukwu Brnfre - Gary is an Educational Opportunity Specialist for the Trio ProgramEducational Talent Search at Purdue University Calumet. Kelechukwu is President of Beautiful Soul
Media Group, an urban activist group that educates through entertainment. Kelechukwu holds a
B.A. in Political Science and an Associate Degree in Organizational Communication from IUN with
a Minor in French and is extremely active in the Youth Culture of urban Gary. He is an author and
a performing poet.
Margaret Byrne - Griffith is the Grant Specialist with the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program. Maggie is a former Conservation Coordinator with The
Nature Conservancy where she was also the Coordinator of the Indiana Coastal Cooperative Weed
Management Area. She is an active member of the Board of Directors for the Northwest Indiana
Paddling Association and co-chairs the Education Committee. Maggie is a Kayaking Instructor and
enjoys teaching people of all ages how to kayak on the waters of Northwest Indiana.
Lisa Carpenter - St. John is sales manager for JAK'S Warehouse in Schererville. Lisa has also
served as sales manager for Fuel Fitness and Lifetime Fitness. She has served as President of Alpha
Chi Omega and volunteered for Boys and Girls Clubs of NWI. She volunteers for St. Jude House in
Crown Point and has facilitated numerous fundraisers and events to improve the quality of life for
children and families throughout our area. Lisa has worked for Special Olympics and raised
awareness and financial aid to these athletes.
Tom Cath - Valparaiso is the Director of the Career Center at Valparaiso University. Tom
formerly was the Director of the Career Center at DePauw University, Greencastle, IN, where he
also served as the men's tennis coach for 25 years. Previously, he was a commercial banker in
Chicago for five years. Tom is on the board of the Porter County Low Vision Support Group and is
a graduate of the Valpo Chamber Leadership Academy. He earned his B. A. in Economics from
DePauw University and a Master of International Management. Tom is married to Allison and they
have three sons.
Monica Conrad - Chesterton is a partner with the law firm of Hodges & Davis. Monica was an
administrator and special education teacher which gives her a unique perspective and solid
knowledge base to deal with school or employment issues. Monica is currently president of the
Duneland Education Foundation. She has served as a church elder and on committees with the
presbytery. She is an avid gardener and enjoys cooking. Good outcomes start with quality
ingredients from the garden to dinner table. She and her husband are proud parents of three active
and healthy children.
Carl Cuttone - Chicago is currently the Director of Enrollment Management for Calumet College
of Saint Joseph. He is also the Director of Marketing for the Tour Cup Series—a national roller
hockey tournament. Carl graduated from Saint Ambrose University in 1998 and received a BA in
Business with a concentration in Marketing. In 2010, Carl received his MBA from Westwood
College concentrating in Marketing Management.
Nichole DeMario - Crown Point is currently the Director of Communications for the Greater
Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS®. Nichole is a freelance writer for multiple local and
national publications. She is VP of Habitat for Humanity of NWI Board of Directors. Her past
experience includes time with various media outlets throughout Chicagoland and NWI in different
capacities. She holds a B.A. from Columbia College in broadcast journalism. Nichole hopes to
further her education, develop new relationships, and author her first book.
Elena Dwyre - Crown Point became Campagna Academy's CEO fall 2011 after serving as CEO
since spring 2010. Campagna Academy Board of Directors cited her combination of business
acumen, clinical services, and new program development as unique and critical skills she brings to
the agency. Elena was previously a regional VP with experience overseeing operations in children's
mental health services and therapeutic foster care programs. Elena earned her Bachelor's Degree in
Psychology from Purdue University and a Master's Degree in Social Work from Indiana University.
Jack Eskin - Chicago is a regional planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning
Commission and provides research and technical assistance to different stakeholder groups on
freight, economic development, and environmental planning issues within the region. May 2012 he
received a master's degree in Urban Planning and Policy from University of Illinois-Chicago. While
in the program, he served as secretary for the Urban Planning and Policy Student Association and
helped organize 2011 Urban Innovation Symposium. He is an avid cyclist, concert-goer, and loves
Robert Farmer - Gary is Executive Director of Webb House, Inc., a center for homeless female
veterans in Gary. He previously worked at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and provided Psych
assessments for the troops returning from Iraq/Afghanistan. He previously was on the Board of
Directors for Brothers Keeper (Men's Homeless Shelter). Robert received his B.S. in Social Work
from Tennessee State University, and his MSW from the University of Illinois, Champaign. He is
also a State of Indiana Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Maria Galka - Hobart is Vice President of Fund Development and Public Relations for the Visiting
Nurse Association of Porter County. She is a former councilman of the City of Hobart, served as
president of the Hobart Plan Commission and as a member of the Hobart Park Board. She is also a
member of Alturas International of the Indiana Dunes, American Legion Auxiliary Unit #207, NWI
Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Hobart City Improvement Committee. Maria
loves to play with her eight grandchildren and ballroom dance in her spare time.
Amy Gross - Cedar Lake is the Clerk-Treasurer for the Town of Cedar Lake and serving her second
term. She worked full-time in the Clerk-Treasurer's office for over nine years and served as Chief
Deputy prior to being elected. Amy is attending classes through Ball State University Bowen
Center for Public Affairs to obtain certification as a public manager. She is an active member of the
Indiana league of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers, and the International Institute of Municipal
Clerks. Recently married, Amy enjoys making travel plans with husband Mark as schedules permit.
Patricia Hawrot - Dyer is the Town of Dyer Clerk-Treasurer currently in her second term. Pat
earned her Ind. Accredited Municipal Clerk designation in June 2008 from the Ind. League of
Municipal Clerks and Treasurers. In April 2010 Pat received the title of Certified Municipal Clerk
from the Int’l Institute of Municipal Clerks and is currently pursuing her Master Municipal Clerk
designation. Pat has served on the Ind. League of Municipal Clerks & Treasurers Education
Committee and has been a licensed Real Estate Professional with McColly for the past twenty
Christina Herrera - Hobart is the Marketing Operations Manager at Horseshoe Casino in
Hammond. Christine has worked for Caesars Entertainment since 1997 in a number of roles
including Regional Management. Christina has been involved in the company's HERO team for the
past ten years and enjoys volunteering her time. Christine is the wife of a stay- at- home father for
their three children.
T.J. Holsen - Chesterton is Senior Relationship Manager for Lake Area United Way. T.J. holds a
Masters Degree in Adult Education from National Louis University in Chicago. Having worked
most of his career in the non-profit sector, T.J. was formerly Director of Development for Early
Learning Partnership of NWI and taught language arts at The Bowman Leadership Academy in
Gary. He is a member of Association of Fundraising Professionals and serves on the board of the
Anika Johnson - Gary is the Director of the Office of Constituent Services for Mayor Karen
Freeman-Wilson. She co-owns a company which specializes in conference/event planning for
several colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations. Anika is a content writer/editor for a
boutique graphic design company. She received her B.A. in History and Spanish from Spellman
College in Atlanta, GA and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. In addition to traveling, music,
and cooking, she enjoys reading historically based books and spending time with her daughter
Nicole Keith - Portage was born and raised in NWI and graduated from Portage High School as the
2002 valedictorian. At University of Wisconsin-Madison, Nicole held various executive positions in
her sorority, KAΘ, and coached gymnastics while she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in
Biology and Political Science. Nicole attended law school at VU School of Law where she
participated in the Sports Law Clinic and defended eligibility disputes and anti-doping arbitrations.
She is a 3 year associate attorney at Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer & Polen, a law firm in Dyer,
Ryan Kelly - South Bend is Vice President of Planning & Design for commercial real estate
developer, Holladay Properties. He has an extensive background in land planning and building
design/construction. With a focus on sustainable design, Ryan is a certified LEED (Leadership in
Energy & Environmental Design) professional and is a proud member of the US Green Building
Council and the Indiana Wildlife Federation. As a father of 3 young daughters, Ryan’s “free” time
consists of providing support (and transport) to a plethora of evening and weekend activities.
Marisa Kwiatkowski - Crown Point is an investigative reporter with The Times Media Center of
Northwest Indiana. She earned a B.A. from Grand Valley State University in 2005 and has worked
for various newspapers. Marisa has won numerous state and regional awards for her work. She
currently is board chair of Girls on the Run, a board member with Junior Achievement and a
coordinator and volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
Suzy LaBarge - Griffith is Bank Manager of Citizens Financial Bank and 2nd Vice President of the
Bank. Suzy is former President of Dyer Chamber of Commerce serving 2 consecutive terms 2011 &
2012. She is active in working with the Dyer community in organizing food drives for the local
food pantries. Suzy enjoys volunteering for local events within her community. She received her
MBA in 2003 from Purdue University Calumet as well as a BS in Management in 1987.
Danny Lackey - Griffith is the Coordinator of Diversity Programming for the Merrillville School
Corporation. He was a guidance counselor in the Merrillville school system for nine years before
accepting his current position. He is an active member of the Race Relations Council of NWI and is
best known for his work with the Merrillville School’s STAND, (Socially Together and Naturally
Diverse) club. Danny holds a B.S.W. degree from IU and M.S. degree from Purdue University
Calumet and is completing requirements for an administrative license from Ind. Wesleyan
Brandi Lewis - Michigan City is the Home Visitation Services Director for Dunebrook, Inc. Brandi
received a B.A. in Communications from PNC in 2005 and is pursuing an M.B.A. She is on the
board for Barker Woods Enrichment Center and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Brandi is a married parent of two daughters and one son.
Lauren May - Merrillville/Chicago holds a M.A. in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon
University and a B.A. in English from Virginia Tech. After working for a consulting firm in the
homebuilding industry for nearly six years, she joined NiSource in early 2011 as a member of the
Corporation Communications team.
In mid-2012, Lauren stepped into a new role as
Communications Manager based in Merrillville at NiSource's headquarters relocating from
Pittsburgh, PA, where she lived for 8 1/2 years. She now calls Chicago home.
Ralph Miller - Cedar Lake is Vice President of the Cedar Lake Town Council. Ralph received a BS
in psychology from Governor State University. He also attended graduate classes at Valparaiso
University. Ralph is very active in the Cedar Lake community earning him the 2006 Distinguished
Hoosier award from Governor Mitch Daniels, Jr.
Angela Moore - Chesterton is a Master’s-prepared leader with more than 20 years of experience in
public relations, marketing, and journalism. Strong track record for meeting productivity standards
and service line goals for local hospitals as well as obtaining media coverage that enhances the
overall image of an organization. Recognized for superior interpersonal skills, outstanding team
leadership and developing strong creative initiatives.
Angela Nelson - Michigan City is the Public Affairs Manager for NIPSCO covering La Porte, St, Joe,
Elkhart, Starke, Kosciusko, and Marshall Counties. Angie is a former At-large City Councilwoman
for Michigan City. She has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Florida A&M University and
M.P.A. from Indiana University Northwest. She is currently pursuing a law degree in the part-time
program at John Marshall Law School. Angie enjoys and is very passionate about volunteering in the
community with two her daughters and serves on several boards in La Porte, Starke and St. Joseph
Mary Ann Nowak - Valparaiso is the Corporate Affairs Specialist for NiSource in Merrillville.
Prior to her current position, she was the program manager for NIPSCO’s energy efficiency
programs: AC Cycling and Appliance Recycling, and planned energy efficiency outreach events.
She is active at Trinity Memorial (Merrillville), has been cake decorating since 1978 and enjoys
spending the summer visiting theme parks to ride roller coasters. Her approach to life is based on
an excerpt from a Walt Disney quote, “Who Says You Have to Grow Up?”!
Dimitri Olympidis - Valparaiso is a Field Consultant with Family Express Corporation. Dimitri is
active in the Valparaiso YMCA including volunteering with the children's group "Kids for a Cause”
which was founded by his wife Crystal in 2009. Dimitri had a 10-year career with DirectBuy and
prior to returning to NWI was owner of DirectBuy of Puget Sound in Olympia, WA. He has served
on various sales and marketing task forces. He moved back home in 2012 to be reunited with the
family business as he prepares for a leadership position within the company.
Janet Reed - Lowell is the County Extension Director for the Purdue Extension Service in Lake
County. She has spent 29 years working for Purdue Extension in Newton, Benton, Jasper and Lake
Counties. Her extension work has helped her to appreciate the importance of volunteer leadership.
Janet is an active member of St. Mary’s Church in Crown Point acting as co-leader of their food
pantry ministry. She enjoys gardening, camping, and being with her husband and their three teenaged children.
Cynthia Roberts - Chesterton is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Leadership, Interim
Dean of the College of Business, and Director of the Saturday MBA program at PNC. She received
a PhD in Organization Development from Benedictine University and MS degrees in Training and
Organization Development from Loyola University Chicago.
She is also a Registered
Organizational Development Professional (RODP) and has worked with numerous clients in a
variety of industries, most recently facilitating leadership development.
Kimberly Robinson - Gary is a life-long resident of the City of Gary. Kimberly is the Chief of Staff
for the Lake County Treasurer, John Petalas and a member of the Gary Common Council
representing the 5th District in the City of Gary. She believes the BALANCE of work and family
will keep you sane. Public Service is a life-long commitment. Kimberly lives by this quote from
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of
comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Regan Robinson - Hammond is the Associate Pastor of St. Timothy Community Church in Gary.
Previously, Regan served as the Ass’t Pastor of the Messiah Church in Indianapolis, Chaplain for
the Indianapolis Police Dept. and Program Specialist for Covance Pharmaceuticals. Regan is an
Army Veteran, a 2001 graduate of Indiana University with a B.A. in Sociology & Philosophy and a
2003 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University with his MBA. He enjoys volunteer work and
community service projects that are focused on the youth and elderly
Janet Seabrook - Crown Point is the Executive Director of Community HealthNet with 4 locations
in NWI. Dr. Seabrook completed her residency in Family Medicine and worked for 10 years as an
urgent care physician. She is active in her church and is a Girl Scout leader. Dr. Seabrook serves
on the Regional Board of Directors at Ivy Tech Community College and the Board of Directors of
the Indiana Primary Care Association. Dr. Seabrook has an MBA from Purdue University Calumet.
She is married and has two children.
Mary Shanks - Munster is the Director of Business Managers, Purdue University Calumet,
Hammond, IN. Mary received her MBA and BSC from DePaul University, Chicago, IL. She is an
active member of the Illinois CPA Society South Chapter and served a two-year term on the Board
of Directors for the Illinois CPA Society. Mary is married and has one son.
Charles Smith - Munster is the Advertising Sales Manager in Porter County for The Times of
Northwest Indiana. Previously, Chuck held a role as National Account Executive for The Times of
Northwest Indiana for 6 years prior to his current role. He received his Bachelors degree in
Advertising from Purdue University along with earning his M.B.A. from Purdue University in 2005.
Chuck currently resides in Munster, Indiana is expecting his first child in February.
Jennifer Smith - Griffith is the Public Affairs Advisor for Enbridge Energy. She has a M.B.A. from
Saint Xavier University and a B.S. in Organizational Management from the University of St. Francis.
Prior to coming to Enbridge in 2012, Jennifer was the Energy Director at the Community and
Economic Development Association of Cook County managing energy affordability and efficiency
programs throughout Cook County, Illinois including the City of Chicago. Jennifer is a member of
the Public Relations Society of America and volunteers with local youth sports organizations.
Sandra Hall Smith - Merrillville is Assistant Director of the Center for Urban and Regional
Excellence at IUN. After raising her children she returned to school to complete her B.A. in
Sociology. Encouraged to continue with her education, she completed a Graduate Certificate in
Nonprofit Management and a Master of Public Affairs from IUN. She is active and life member of
IUN Alumni Association. Sandra is always ready to share a positive word or thought with others.
She enjoys volunteering, writing skits, singing, baking and spending time with her family.
Rick Soria - Valparaiso is the Vice Chancellor of the Michigan City campus at Ivy Tech
Community College Northwest. He earned his bachelor degree in Business from Calumet College of
St. Joseph (1994), associate degree from Worsham College of Mortuary Science (1995), and his law
degree from Valparaiso University School of Law (2007). He serves on several boards in Porter and
La Porte counties. He enjoys traveling, wine, and food. He and his partner, Scott, are animal lovers.
They have two cats, Henry and Lily.
Dawn Thostesen - Chesterton is an integral part of the Ivy Tech Administrative team changing
lives here in Northwest Indiana. In her capacity as Executive Director of Finance she is responsible
for all Financial Management at the East Chicago, Michigan City, Valparaiso and Gary Campuses.
She received her master's and undergraduate degrees from The College of New Jersey. Dawn has a
love for music and theater. She is co-founder of Duneland Christian Living, a ministry she shares
with her husband of 33 years. She is the proud mother of 2 sons.
Ty Warner - Michigan City is the Executive Director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional
Planning Commission. He formerly helped launch the Flint Hills Regional Council in Kansas. Prior
to this, he worked for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning/Northeastern Illinois
Planning Commission, and served as the Planning Director for Will County, Illinois. He holds a
Masters of Urban Planning & Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of
Arts in Philosophy from Wheaton.
Sandi Weindling - Ogden Dunes is Director of Marketing & Development at Dunes Learning
Center in Chesterton and owner of Push Communications, a creative marketing firm that she
launched in 1997. Formerly Director of Marketing at Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan
City, she possesses a unique blend of creative skills and non-profit marketing expertise. Sandi is on
the board of directors of the NWI Paddling Association and splits her spare time between arts and
Trevor Wells - Valparaiso co-founded a Kentucky-based law firm, Miller Wells PLLC, which now
employs approximately fifteen attorneys in two cities. After moving to Valparaiso with his family
last summer, he spends a couple of days a month in Lexington or Louisville, but otherwise works
remotely from a home office where we practices primarily appellate litigation. After his anticipated
spring-2013 lateral admission to the Indiana Bar, he looks to open a satellite office in Valparaiso.
Trevor enjoys his children, writing and Cajun cooking.
Rachael Wright - Merrillville received her B.A in Political Science with a minor in Economics from
the University of Pittsburgh. She received a MBA in Finance and International Business from
Pennsylvania State Univ. and went on to work for Owens Corning. After that she worked for
PepsiCo, Danville IL Quaker Plant as the Manager of Financial Analysis. Rachael then worked as
Director of Administration for Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign, IL. Currently, she is
the Dir. of Program Services responsible for all of the operations of the Boys & Girls Clubs of NWI.