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An array of business professionals, nonprofit leaders, construction industry representatives and multi-generational company leaders round out our 2023 QCBJ Forty Under 40 honorees. In the coming weeks, we will spotlight our newest Forty Under 40 class, in alphabetical order, on our website. Each honoree was asked to complete a survey. The following eight profiles are excerpts from their surveys, in some cases, edited for space. We congratulate our second Forty Under 40 class and are hopeful for the future that these Quad Citizens will lead us to and help to mold.
Susana AguilarCo-chair | Floreciente Association AGE: 39 Home: Moline Education: College Family: Partner and four children Hometown (childhood): Moline First job? Bishop’s Buffet in Bettendorf How long at your current job? 6 years Who do you consider your local mentors? Mary Chappell, Land Bank program manager, Quad Cities Land Bank Authority. Mary is my friend and a board member of Floreciente Association; Stella Schneekloth, retired from Project Now. Stella is a family friend and a board member of Floreciente Association; Maryann Garcia, retired nurse. She is my mother and has been a community advocate for many years. Also a Floreciente Association board member. Best advice ever received? My father told me to approach every opportunity as a career growth no matter how big or little the task. Your biggest break so far? On a personal level, I believe … increasing knowledge or skill sets through learning is an everyday occurrence. I consider each set goal and accomplishment a big break. What would most people be surprised to learn about you? That I speak two languages (English and Spanish); that I own my own food catering business (Don Chuys); that I am a mother of four; that I am co-chair of a 501c3 (Floreciente Association); and that I am a community advocate and mentor. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? Catching up with diversity and inclusion. Getting people to come to the QC for careers and job opportunities. In most places I have worked as an accountant or administrative support (white-collar areas), I have been the only Hispanic. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? Community development and small business economic development. Passions outside the workplace? Being with family. Singing, dancing, traveling. What do you want to accomplish by age 50? Continue to be humble and enjoy life, watch my children grow to successful adults.
Ashley AllenDirector, Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity | Augustana College AGE: 35 Home: Bettendorf Education: B.A, University of Iowa; Master of Public Administration, Upper Iowa University Family: Parents, Toi and Terry Allen; sisters Alicia Esho, Arika Glass, Adrienne Allen; niece Winter Glass Hometown (childhood): Davenport First job? Finish Line How long at your current job? 3 years Who do you consider your local mentors? My family; Bettina McWilliams, instructional coach, Rock Island-Milan School District, my former Sunday school teacher/advisor/sorority sister; and Monica Smith, former inaugural vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Augustana. Best advice ever received? My grandfather was a Pastor for 35 years. He used to always have our family and congregation recite Proverbs 3:4-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." These verses have been foundational in all that I do. What would most people be surprised to learn about you? I am an introvert through and through. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? Retaining recent college graduates and young professionals, especially those who are people of color. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? Creating scholarships and/or programs to help students with the financial burden so they can pursue higher education with the freedom to enjoy their college experience to the fullest. Passions outside the workplace? I am always working on a DIY project, crafting or creating video content for social media. Something people should know about your generation in the workplace? My generation thrives in a workplace setting that allows them to be their authentic self. What do you want to accomplish by age 50? Write a book (or multiple e-books), earn a Ph.D or Ed.D, and enjoy a healthy life where I continue to find joy in living and walking out my purpose.
Robert AstlefordValuation Actuary | Royal Neighbors of America AGE: 34 Home: Moline Education: B.S. in Actuarial Science and Applied Statistics, Purdue University; MBA, Illinois State University Family: Wife Christy; children Claire, Owen and Lucas Hometown (childhood): Martinsville, Indiana First job? Soccer referee How long at your current job? 4 years Best advice ever received? I received feedback early in my career that I was being too negative at work. It was affecting my co-workers. I noticed that when I started to be more positive that my co-workers did the same. Biggest break so far? The opportunity to work at Royal Neighbors of America. … My current job has given me the opportunity to work on so many different types of projects and to take on more responsibilities to advance my career. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? The biggest issue facing all of the cities in the Quad Cities, except for Bettendorf, is population stagnation/decline. … without more people moving in, it's hard to afford the new infrastructure that will be needed in the future. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? I would give half of it to organizations such as Partners in Health, Against Malaria, and wells4wellness that help improve healthcare and living conditions for those in less developed countries. I would give the other half to charities that do work locally such as River Bend Food Bank and Winnie’s Place. Passions outside the workplace? I am passionate about soccer … I enjoy watching my favorite team, Real Madrid. I also coach my sons’ soccer teams. I enjoy that we can connect together over the sport I love. Something people should know about your generation in the workplace? My generation wants to make a difference. We want to find new and creative ways to solve problems and help make our organizations better.
Aubrey BarnesExecutive Director | Young Lions Roar AGE: 31 Home: Rock Island Education: B.A. in Educational Studies Family: Linda Barnes, Aubrey Lee Barnes, Benjamin Barnes, Brieanna Barnes Hometown (childhood): Rock Island First job? Whitewater Junction concessions How long at your current job? 7 years Who do you consider your local mentors? Dave Terronez, teacher and coach at Longfellow/former high school coach. Biggest break so far? Being able to teach literary arts through poetry in Haiti in 2019 was an experience that changed my whole perspective on my role as a creative and educator. What would most people be surprised to learn about you? I was a collegiate athlete from 2010-14 in cross country and track, and won a National Championship with my team in 2011 for the half marathon. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? The Quad Cities … with a population that has more older folks than young, a lot of individuals don't give space for entities to exist that are different from what they have experienced. Me being an artist within the realm of Spoken Word poetry, an art that is still very foreign to this part of the Midwest, noticed this struggle early on when trying to find a said "home" to be able to grow as an artist in this field. … While members in the community hold a disdain for progressive, new ideas, the more likely individuals who look for that will find home in states and cities that invite that innovation. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? The cause of mental health, funding counselors and mental health specialists who are from different walks of life ethnically, as well as fund more after-school arts programs for youth. What do you want to accomplish by age 50? I want to own land, provide jobs for my people, mentor educators to be unconventional and creative in their educational practices, and still write books.
Chris BeasonPresident | Ruhl&Ruhl REALTORS AGE: 38 Home: Bettendorf Education: University of St. Thomas Family: Wife Stefanie; children Ella, Caroline, Charlie and Teddy. Dogs Nelli and Beau Hometown (childhood): Davenport First job? Mowing lawns How long at your current job? 5 years as president; 14 years with Ruhl&Ruhl Who do you consider your local mentors? I’ve been blessed with numerous mentors, but my grandfather, Chuck Ruhl Sr., stands out as the most influential. His exceptional guidance played a pivotal role in shaping my career and personal growth, making me who I am today. Best advice ever received? Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This means listening to and caring about others before expressing your own thoughts and opinions. Following this advice leads to better communication and creates stronger connections in all aspects of life. Biggest break so far? One of the most significant breaks in my career was when I stepped into my first management role in my mid-20s. Despite initial apprehension as one of the youngest team members, my colleagues embraced the change and provided unwavering support. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? I’d support the River Bend Food Bank and charities focused on Early Childhood Development like JA, United Way and YMCA. Passions outside the workplace? Beyond work, my passions are my family and the outdoors, and I strive to blend these two as often as I can. Something people should know about your generation in the workplace? Although I don’t agree with all the stereotypes about my generation, I do believe that with a meaningful purpose, collaboration, and good coffee, we can conquer almost anything.
Brock BiggerstaffSVP, Chief Digital Officer | American Bank & Trust AGE: 38 Home: Bettendorf Education: Graduate School of Banking, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Accounting and Finance Degree at AIB College of Business Family: Wife Alicia; sons Brayden and Connor Hometown (childhood): Davenport First job? Paper boy How long at your current job? 4.5 years Who do you consider your local mentors? Jeff Rose, CEO/President, American Bank & Trust – Boss; John Timmer, Timmer and Associates – chairman of American Bank & Trust; Monica Kruse, Meridian Title – friend/fellow Rotarian/business partner/community advocate. Biggest break so far? My current position at American Bank & Trust was due to an executive team wanting to bring in new eyes for some new perspectives. … This opportunity allowed me to accelerate my executive management and leadership experience while starting over in a new community that has accepted our family graciously. What would most people be surprised to learn about you? My father passed away due to heart disease before my seventh birthday. This left my mother with four children under seven years old in Dallas, Texas. Ultimately, we ended up back in Iowa and I graduated from the same high school as my mother. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? Heart disease and youth. What are your passions outside of the workplace? I’m a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the Quad Cities Heart Walk. I’m also an active Bettendorf Rotarian … I’d be remiss, though, if my young family didn’t top out this list. My two boys are 10 and 8. Watching and being a part of their growing up is my favorite thing. What do you want to accomplish by the time you are 50? My father never reached age 50, so I try not to dwell on the age itself. I want to make sure I leave behind memories for my children they will never forget.
Micaela BoothDirector, Birdies for Charity | John Deere Classic AGE: 32 Home: Moline Education: Bachelor’s degree, Western Illinois University Family: Husband Drew Hometown (childhood): Rural Milan First job? The Milkhouse, an ice cream shop in Viola, Illinois How long at your current job? 5½ years Who do you consider your local mentors? Clair Peterson, retired executive director of the John Deere Classic; Kristy Ketcham-Jackson, retired Birdies for Charity director; and Catherine Rodgers-Ingles, retired executive director of the Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District. Best advice ever received? “Instead of dwelling on how far you have left to go, turn around and look at how far you’ve come.” What would most people be surprised to learn about you? I love to thrift and find unique treasures that have been left behind or forgotten about. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? Attracting and retaining the next generation and inspiring them to start their professional adult lives here in the QC. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? I get to learn about almost 500 charities in our communities doing such good work, and they are all incredibly worthy! … I would leverage those funds to give our local youth opportunities and experiences they might not have otherwise. Passions outside the workplace? I am most at peace out in nature. My husband and I spend a lot of time doing outdoor activities. Hike with our two dogs, (Drake & Cincy), kayaking, trail running, traveling to National Parks, etc. Something people should know about your generation in the workplace? We have an incredible amount of passion and are driven by the desire to make a difference in the world. What do you want to accomplish by age 50? Ultimately, I just want to be able to say that I’ve lived every day to the fullest up to that point … and after.
Kevin Bradley Director of Investor Relations | ISA Ventures AGE: 33 Home: Coal Valley Education: Graduate of Moline High School and Luther College Family: Wife Andrea Bradley; sons Bowen and Tate; dad John “Omar” Bradley and mom Sheri Bradley Hometown (childhood): Moline First job? Working in the warehouse at Serv-a-lite How long at your current job? 2 years Who do you consider your local mentors? I owe Tom Trone (SCORE/friend) a huge debt of gratitude. I would not be doing what I am doing now without him … I also want to thank Dan Bush (Bummer City/friend) for being a tremendous sounding board. Best advice ever received? Less is more. I try to apply it professionally, socially, and on the dance floor. Biggest break so far? Reconnecting with my friend John Peters (Blackhawk Bank & Trust/ Bush Turf) at DePaepe's Gym in Rock Island one random, summer morning in 2014. It kicked off a wave of serendipity for which I will forever be grateful. He should be the one recognized. Biggest issue facing the Quad Cities, why? After moving back to the area, the comment I hate hearing friends who grew up here say is "that can't happen in the QC." … Addressing how to fix that mindset would lead to a lot of good. If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? I would allocate $750k to Moline sports, the majority of it going to all levels of Moline baseball programs. The remaining $250k I would love to give to SCORE or the local Small Business Development Center to provide 0% interest loans to local small businesses. Passions outside the workplace? Spending time with my family, learning, and staying active. Something people should know about your generation in the workplace? I understand why these data points and generalizations exist, but I truly dislike them. What do you want to accomplish by age 50? Clearly identify my purpose.