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Mashantucket - Some of the names were familiar - Rodney Butler, 35-year-old chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council and Andrew Howell, 29-year-old music director of the Chorus of Westerly - while others have flown under the radar, but all of the award winners Friday in the region's first "40 Under Forty" event got their chance in the spotlight.
The evening at Foxwoods Resort Casino's MGM Grand, sponsored by chambers of commerce in Mystic, Norwich and Westerly-Pawcatuck as well as The Day, highlighted the accomplishment of professionals in southeastern Connecticut who have yet to reach their 40th birthday. More than 400 people attended the event, which featured sparkling dresses, a buffet dinner, awards ceremony and dancing.
"It's an honor," said Cody Loughlean of Stonington, the 33-year-old North American sales manager for the video conferencing company easymeeting.net who was one of the award winners. "There are a lot of great business professionals, so to be named one of them ... was a surprise."
Lisa Konicki, executive director of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce, said she helped coordinate a similar event in Rhode Island last year and suggested to Tricia Cunningham, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, that "40 Under Forty" should come to southeastern Connecticut as well. They coordinated the event with the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, headed by Benjamin Lathrop, the former city mayor.
Konicki said a wide range of professionals around the region were nominated for the award, and a committee made up of two people from each chamber made the final decision, trying to identify a cross-section of people in many different fields from a broad geographic area.
"These are unique people doing amazing things," she said in an interview before the ceremony.
"There was no politics at all. I only knew five (of the winners)."
Winners received an engraved memento and a bottle of wine from Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington and walked down a red carpet to pose for pictures.
"I would say this collaboration was a very good idea," Cunningham, who is leaving as Mystic chamber president in a couple weeks, said as she looked around the packed house
The youngest winner, Frank Colmenares, only 22, was described as a New London musician who came up the hard way. Long an advocate of the city’s youth, Colmenares is best known for arranging a Youth Talent Show at the Garde Arts Center in response to the stabbing death of resident Matthew Chew.
Other winners ranged from self-confessed “Scrabble junkie” Stephen J. Clemente, 39-year-old owner of Extra Virgin Oil Store at Olde Mistick Village; to C.J. Knudsen, 38, vice president and general manager of the Norwich-based Connecticut Tigers baseball team; to Lori Christman, 39, known to radio listeners on Jammin 107.7 as “Miss L.”
Others honored Friday were Michael C. Aliano, president and chief executive of American Ambulance Service in Norwich; Ross Anderson, director of strategic initiatives for Norwich Public Schools; Rebecca K. Atkins, assistant director of admissions at Mitchell College; Christopher Boots, a branch manager for People's United Bank in Norwich; and Rosario Cacciatore, owner of PizzaPlace in Westerly.
Also, Todd Cambrio, owner of Precision Fitness in Pawcatuck; Christina Caplet, a branch manager in Norwich for Chelsea Groton Bank; Sergio Cherenzia, a civil engineer from Pawcatuck; Dawn DeChristofaro, a vice president at Chelsea Groton Bank; Greg Drab, owner of Advantage Personal Training in Mystic; and Tanner J. Evak, strategic initiatives director for Ocean Community YMCA.
And, Suzanne Giorno of Westerly, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch in New London; Jacob Hanley, a Merrill Lynch adviser in Mystic; Meghan Horan, a social media specialist with The Arc New London County; Chris Jewell, principal of Collins & Jewell in Norwich; Stacey Jiminez, owner of Bucacci Business Solutions; and Sarah Larson, a web designer for Norwich-based Miranda Creative.
Also, Alyssa Dynon Lathrop Pendleton, a teacher at Norwich Free Academy; Constantine Macris, president of Coastal Environmental Services in Mystic; Sherri Mancini, director of business development at the Mystic Marriott; Kelly Matis, vice president of education and conservation at Sea Research Foundation; Lauren Miner, a marketing specialist at U.S. Foods; David Preka, owner of Advanced Improvements in Mystic.
And, Kathryn Rampellini, general manager of Steamboat Inn in Mystic; Rita Rivera, owner of Little Print Communications; Michelle Royce Williams, manager of social media marketing at Mohegan Sun; Jane Simmons Meiser, executive director of the La Grua Center in Stonington; Joanne Smart, chief financial officer of United Community and Family Services; Chris Soto, founding director of New London's College Access Program.
Also, Nicholas Spera, principal of New London's Marine Science Magnet School; Mike Valentine, manager at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich; Jason Vincent, a planner for the Norwich Community Development Corp., and April Heavens-Woodcock, managing partner of Touching Clients, a Voluntown ad agency.