September 22, 2019 Supporting Manhattan-area entrepreneurs, businesses, events

Getting to Know the 2019 Leadership Manhattan Class

Matt Parra

Retail Market Manager & AVP,  Sunflower Bank

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: I think the encouragement of more diverse young leaders in Manhattan is always a positive move. This university attracts many different individuals from different walks of life, and we need to find ways to get those individuals involved with Manhattan leadership. The more we can do this, the more we give Manhattan a “different and new” view on community issues.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I have always felt like an outsider when it comes to being a leader. My father is not from the U.S., and my family raised us by doing factory work, so growing up I didn’t have programs like Leadership Manhattan. I was never exposed to any type of community leadership until my later college years. Even then I felt like an outsider. So, my goal as a leader is to encourage people who may not have had many opportunities growing up to take a risk and try to become a leader either in their career or community. Even if it makes them uncomfortable because it makes our cities better to have different perspectives.

Sarah Duggan

Community Relations Director, Meadowlark

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: From the Leadership Manhattan experience, I hope to use the genuine relationships I have developed within the program and the knowledge I gained to invest my time and effort in community issues I am passionate about. I am especially interested in attracting people to stay in our area once they are here. Building a community and a region where people want to live is a great place to start.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A:  Watching leaders in my organization and being one myself, I have come to deeply appreciate the art of a compromise. Our team is better when everyone has a voice and we work together to build and execute a vision. It takes all of us to make something great.

Diane Hinrichs

Development Manager, Pawnee Mental Health

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: I think Manhattan offers a lot of opportunities.  Manhattan has a long history of electing young leadership in our city, school  and county governing bodies, as well as supporting a significant number of businesses run by young entrepreneurs.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I can best describe myself as a supportive leader. I am at my best when I can support, encourage and help others, by making their job easier whether it be by finding funding for new equipment or program enhancement and sustainability.

Melissa Gamino

Vice President and Cash Management Officer, KS StateBank

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: Challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan include both experience and exposure. Becoming involved in the community and communicating with past and present leaders allows us to become informed of events and challenges we face in Manhattan. Young leaders can then align interests and skills to match that to the growth of the community to help guide its future.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: Being a leader is leading by example, which can sometimes make you feel vulnerable. It is important to listen to others, always be present in the work that you do and capitalize on not only your own strengths, but those of which you lead.

Stephen Bridenstine

Curator of Education, Flint Hills Discovery Center

Q: What opportunities does Manhattan offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: Manhattan is a great city if you’re living the classic American dream: married, homeowner, 2.5 kids, stable employment with opportunities to advance internally. The problem is that young people do not see this path as necessarily their own. Renting vs. home ownership, student debt, healthcare costs, stagnant wages, sustainability, delayed marriage all affect how young people see themselves and their community. Manhattan needs to be a vibrant, attractive city that also directly addresses some of these real concerns.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A:  Leadership can be lonely. That was a hard lesson to learn as I became a manager, especially as an introvert.  Having peers who can relate to your situation is critical. So, as a leader, I try to find that balance between trusting my gut and getting a second opinion.

Gerit Garman

Principal, Orazem & Scalora Engineering

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: The recent and expected future population increase of the city and region provides the opportunity for young leaders to help shape an exciting growth period in a place where they have roots.

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: I’m hopeful the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will connect me to like-minded influencers with whom I can help shape the growth of our city and region.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: The “lead by example” characterization fits me best.  I like to set a tone of consistent, hard work with the goal of continuous improvement.

Sara Crouch

Assistant Unit Director, Department of Housing and Dining Services, Kansas State University

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: I have an interest to blend my professional background in food with my new leadership skills to help the youth of our community. I hope that I can get involved in programs that help the youth of our community get a warm and balanced meal.  I know there are some children who struggle to have food daily.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I feel my leadership style can be described as empowerment of others and honesty. I think it is very important to provide others an opportunity to gain a new skill in their job or volunteer role.  I had a mentor who worked very hard to make others successful. She would make sure that we were given every opportunity to gain more experiences to better our skills. She would put herself last and allow us the opportunity to learn.  

Kate Ryan

Commercial Leasing & Engagement Manager, KSU Foundation

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: One challenge facing young leaders in Manhattan is knowing what steps to take to become a leader in the eyes of established business people. In today’s global economy, a person can become a thought leader in his or her industry long before breaking into the local scene. Knowing how to balance the virtual aspect of business with the grassroots can be difficult.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: Leading by example is very important to me and I strive to live that daily. Whether it is picking up a piece of trash in the lobby or hosting an event for legislative leaders, I am committed to accomplishing what is needed to further our mission.

Mike Solida

Customer Solutions Manager, Westar Energy/Evergy

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourage them to remain in the area?

A: Manhattan cannot retain all young professionals in the area, but there are opportunities for young leaders through a variety of organizations.  However, as a young leader you must realize that you’re not always going to start at the top. Sometimes you have to get your foot in the door and prove yourself to the organization that you have the leadership qualities to make your organization better through hard work and dedication.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I use three words to describe my leadership:  humble, honest, and hungry. One thing I see other leaders do today is talk about everything they are going to do but have little to no follow up.  Following up with action is a huge component of leadership, which builds trust and shows others you stand by what you say.

Katie Stone

General Manager, Bourbon & Baker

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: The knowledge and resources I’ve gained are invaluable. I have already put some of these resources into action with how I lead my own team and use new approaches—for example, being aware of my own strengths and knowing those of my team, I have been able to be more thoughtful in how I delegate tasks. The outcome of what I have delegated has been more in line with what my expectations are, and more importantly, the people I’m assigning them to feel good to be working on something they enjoy!

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I am in the hospitality industry, so, naturally, I believe that how we treat people throughout our organization is paramount in being a good leader. This includes being a great listener, having empathy, and leading by example.

Heather Peterson, AIA

Project Manager, Architect One

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: I think the biggest challenge facing young leaders is time. As a generation and a society, we are expected to be everything to everyone all of the time. I read a quote recently, and I am paraphrasing, “When did priority become a plural word.” That hit me like a sack of bricks! We are all pulled in so many directions it’s hard to truly focus on one priority and make it great.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: Pending the situation I can be the quiet leader that sits back and watches a project develop or when the time arises, I can be the driver to keep a group on task and moving forward. I take pride in assessing the situation and adapting to what the needs of the project and group are.

Levi Schneider

Vice President/Project Manager, BHS Construction

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?    

A: I feel Manhattan offers an economic environment that allows and challenges young professions to grow and develop to their full potential, often encouraging them to exceed their personal expectations. Manhattan also provides a small-town environment to raise their families and enjoy their friends in.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: As a leader I prefer to be hands-on and involved with the day to day of my team and co-workers. I never ask someone to complete a task that I could not or would not do myself. Being involved allows me to assist my team as needed but also allows me to step back and let them proceed how they feel the situation warrants.

Gwen Fuqua

Director of Human Resources, Frontier Property Management

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: The perception of leadership dictates participation. Most young leaders don’t feel that they are “enough,” meaning they feel that they lack experience, ability, a network, money or time. Mentorship and leadership starts from the top down. It is up to us as leaders to recognize ability and encourage the next generation of leaders to become involved. Each person’s ability can potentially change the face of Manhattan.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I am a servant leader. I heard of this concept about ten years ago, and it really shaped my leadership style. Servant leaders take care of people. I genuinely care about the health and happiness of my team. I hire with intent; I do things differently on purpose, as my number one goal is to staff Frontier with people who are set up for success, happy to come to work and truly mesh well with their team.

Jared Loomis

Associate Engineer, Olsson

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: I’d really like to get involved with a talent retention program. We have such a valuable resource with the university, and anything I can do to help tap into that resource will be a priority of mine. Additionally, learning about all the other ways to get involved will be very beneficial.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I feel it’s easier to lead someone after getting to know them. I like to try and make a personal connection before any leadership even happens. The mutual respect that is gained from doing so can go a long way when working towards a common goal.

Brett Louk

Project Engineer, SMH Consultants

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: The small town feel and close knit community. Manhattan is also a growing community that has a bright future ahead of it.

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: I believe the MHK Leadership Class will help me gain a better understanding of some of the larger issues facing Manhattan and how to get involved to try and help find solutions to those issues.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I try to lead by example and with integrity.  

Melissa Brinkman

Realtor, Rockhill Real Estate Group

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: For Manhattan, it not only offers incredible opportunities to grow your business but also has the feel that your neighbors can end up being your best of friends!  The family type appeal just can’t be duplicated in larger communities. Manhattan has made the effort to be forward thinking to offer some of the best opportunities for education, business, entertainment, and social living.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: Although I was previously at a successful firm, when the opportunity was presented to join an upcoming, energetic, talented group of young professionals, I eagerly jumped at the chance.  It would have been easier and more of a comfort zone to stay where I was as I had grown close to my co-workers, but I knew that if I was going to move forward in my career and become the leader I had envisioned, I needed to make the important step!

Edie Doane

Director, Young Farmers & Ranchers and Collegiate Programs, Kansas Farm Bureau

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing young leaders in Manhattan?

A: I think the biggest challenge is taking the first step to get involved. There are so many well-respected and connected leaders who are pillars in our community that it can be intimidating to jump in, but I think that’s exactly why we need to now. There’s a wealth of wisdom and experience in our community now that won’t always be here, and we need to take advantage of our opportunity to learn from and alongside today’s elected officials, business owners, educational leaders and nonprofit champions.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I will always observe before I speak up or engage because I want to make sure I understand the situation and various perspectives, people and motivations before I make a move. You probably don’t want me to be in charge of generating excitement around an idea or solution, but the way I process information and people means you might want me to help form a team, generate the best path forward and put the plan into motion.

DJ Rezac

Director of Business Development and Principal Scientist, Veterinary & Biomedical Research Center, Inc.

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: Retention, a.k.a. “Brain Drain,” is a real issue, especially given the fact that so much of our population is here specifically for either learning or teaching. I do not think there’s any great solution or silver bullet to the issue since it’s based on who we inherently are as a population. I actually believe that the most effective and positive thing to do is to actively market the fact that we as a community have such a talent for developing young leaders, which are then exported around the globe. It’s usually more rewarding to be a net exporter rather than an importer.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: My personal leadership is probably best described by my top strengths: command, competition, ideation, futuristic, strategic.

Jennifer Clements

Executive Administrator & Founder, Creche Day Schools

Q: How do you hope the MHK Leadership Class of 2019 will help you better-impact the community?

A: Leadership Manhattan has provided me with valuable knowledge and resources that I have already begun utilizing to better serve my team at Creche. Not only am I working to be a better guide and support for my team, but also to share my experience and encourage others to get more involved in Manhattan. My goal is to provide a ripple effect on the community, to help others feel connected and want to remain part of our wonderful community.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: My personal philosophy for leadership involves working on improving myself daily, so I can be the best possible supporter and mentor for my team. Every challenge or struggle we face provides us with opportunities to learn and make ourselves better. I’ve experienced my fair share of “learning moments,” and they’ve often come in the form of failure. It is what we take away from those tough lessons that make all the difference in later successes.

Jeremy Crist

Assistant County Attorney, Riley County Attorney’s Office

Q: What opportunities does MHK offer young leaders that encourages them to remain in the area?

A: I am hopeful with this experience to learn more about what businesses and the community are doing in this regard, but I believe some are already doing things to foster this attraction and retention.  Examples might include more flexible work schedules, benefits tailored to the specific needs of an employee and/or his/her family, promoting diversity, and offering more creative perks. As a community, perhaps improved or increased social opportunities/social environments such as more unique/fine dining, cultural programs, and affordable housing.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

A: I have always appreciated the quote I believe attributed to Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  I am very attuned to people as individuals. I enjoy getting to know individuals well and then working with them collectively to achieve a goal. I believe it is extremely important to listen and communicate with integrity to establish trust so to minimize and resolve conflict quickly.

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