2012-10-11 / Top News

Power Women 2012


WHETHER SHE’S strategizing a corporate initiative, mobilizing volunteers for a nonprofit, raising money for a charity or responding to her constituents, a power woman’s work is never done. Just ask any of the CEOs, executive directors, philanthropists and public servants who’ve been selected as Florida Weekly’s 2012 Power Women.

They come from a variety of backgrounds and fill myriad positions of importance. And they pour equal energy, expertise and commitment into whatever task is at hand, whether it’s for the betterment of their colleagues, their families or their communities.

At the end of every busy day, they’ve helped make a difference for everyone who lives and works in Southwest Florida. And lucky for us, they’re not done yet. ¦

LIZ ALLBRITTEN IS the sixth of seven children and the first born in the United States to her Honduran parents. She learned early in life how differences in socioeconomic status can impact people but also how, as she says, the true measure of one’s worth is in the depth of her character.

So, it’s no surprisesurp i to find her serving as executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, a position she’s held since March 2010 after 23 years of working in higher education as well as education programs and nonprofits.

“The thing that struck me the first time I went to Immokalee was there is a hunger and a desire for something better, a willingness to work and an appreciation for the support,” she says. “It’s a community stricken with poverty but very rich in culture and family.”

Ms. Allbritten says one of the most rewarding parts of her job is selecting students to receive college scholarships. “We hear the kids and their parents tell their stories of how much this opportunity means to them to get them out of poverty.” And when students graduate, it’s even more heartwarming. “They’re in the workforce and their life has been significantly altered because of what we do. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Ms. Allbritten moved to Naples in 2004 and volunteered at the PACE Center for Girls, United Arts Council and the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. She received the Neapolitan Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association “Women in History Award” and was named among the “Women of Achievement” by the Greater Naples American Association of University Women. She was also part of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Collier Committee that won a Volunteer of the Year Award.

She enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

—Robin DeMattia

KAREN CONLEY LOVES MAKING A difference in children’s lives. As founder and CEO of Charity for Change, her brainstorming and collaboration with area teachers and principals brings a unique program to Collier County that connects children to charities for which they raise money.

Founded in 2008, the nonprofit group’s School Giver program is growing as quickly as the 3,500-plus elementary school students who have learned about character development and community awareness at schools including Calusa Park, Golden Gate, Lake Park and Lely Elementary, as well as Royal Palm Academy and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria.

The 30-week interactive program is based on the school district’s goals and integrated into the students’ curriculum, free of charge. Using the organization’s website, charityforchange.org, the children vote on which charity they wish to learn more about. A representative from that charity visits the classroom.

To help raise funds for their chosen charity, the students answer questions on the website that relate to what they are learning in class. Each correct answer results in area sponsors donating $1 to the “community bank.” Online challenges include math games and how to help others in their community; the site reinforces the 19 state and district character traits taught within the school system. Children have the opportunity to perform plays or can include their lessons learned as part of the school news. Of the 72 participating charities, two-thirds are local organizations. Last year, 194 classrooms were visited by these charities.

“We wanted to design a program that works for everyone as a whole,” Ms. Conley says.

The group’s funding originates from local events, individuals and corporate sponsors such as Arthrex. “Our goal is to offer this program to every school in our community, in Florida and nationwide.”

Ms. Conley’s motivation comes from the children and those who passionately believe in dedicating their lives to an environment for all students to achieve their full potential.

“We see this program developing into an at-home program with endless possibilities,” she says.

— Sandy Reed

SHE’S EASILY RECOGNIZED AS THE face of NBC-2’s early morning and noon broadcasts, but Stacey Deffenbaugh’s megawatt smile and inspirational personality also garners recognition from participants in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Relay for Life as well as foster children helped out by The Children’s Network of Southwest Florida. Young female high schoolers refer to her as their favorite Junior AchievementA speaker. The March of Dimes even knows her name because of her donated time instead of her airtime.

In fact, it’s fair to say this Fremont, Ohio, native-turned-Southwest Floridian is constantly at nonprofit functions.

“I get involved. I love people and giving my time,” says Ms. Deffenbaugh, whose schedule of rising in the dead of night to anchor the 4:30 a.m. news is enough to make most people decide not to volunteer nights and weekends. Caffeine helps, she says, as does an understanding boss who lets her leave work to attend board meetings for the American Cancer Society and those of other organizations in which she’s involved.

The daughter of Penny and Paul Deffenbaugh of Estero, Ms. Deffenbaugh gives her parents full credit for instilling the give-back-to-your-community spirit. “We did a lot of outreach with our church growing up, and as a young girl I remember being at events and seeing in the participants’ faces how much it meant to them — and then going home and feeling good.”

She acknowledges some local media personalities get less involved and stay in the market a shorter time. The 37-year-old has been here just shy of a decade and has no plans to move. But even if she did, she’d volunteer — just like she did when she was working at KVLY in Fargo, N.D., another station owned by Waterman Broadcasting, which owns NBC-2.

What’s she most proud of? In 2009, she won a statewide award given by the Florida Coalition for Children called One Person Can Make a Difference. You’d think that would be it. But for Ms. Deffenbaugh, it’s really just doing something for someone every day. “It’s part of who I am.”

— Betsy Clayton

AS VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL operations for John Craig Clothiers, Blair DeLongy has the power to decide what the bestdressed men wear. And, she confesses, it’s a lot of fun.

“Some men feel lost and don’t know how to select clothes that mix well together,” she shares. “It’s nice to guide them and see how awesome they can feel.”

The biggest fashion mistake men make, she says, is wearing clothes that are too big, seeking comfort over style. She also tries to push men out of their comfort zone of blacks, blues and grays. “Women love it when men wear color,” she says. She also notes that, “A good pair of shoes completes the look.”

Ms. DeLongy grew up in Winter Park and Orlando, moving to Naples in May 2007 after she graduated from Rollins College with a degree in international business. Her father, H. Craig DeLongy, wanted a family member in Naples to oversee his two newer stores here.

The dutiful daughter was happy to oblige but admits that, “It took some getting used to the older demographic” here.

She got involved with the Naples Junior Woman’s Club and has been president for four years.

“The organization is a great way to get involved with your peers,” she says. The group supports Providence House and Youth Haven, and hosts the annual Derby Dash to support its college scholarship fund. Membership has grown from 10 to 60 during Ms. DeLongy’s presidency.

While she would like to get involved in other philanthropic efforts, she is comfortable with the Juniors for now. “It’s a little intimidating seeing women in this community where fundraising is their full-time job and they have friends who have the funds to easily support these events,” she says.

The Juniors are learning the foundations of charitable giving, including approaching sponsors, as their activities and impact increase.

— Robin DeMattia ¦ ¦ ¦

SHE WORKED WITH Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale to plan President Ronald Reagan’s 70th birthday party. She’s on a firstname basis with President Bill Clinton. And she’ll be at presidential inaugural parties in January, no matter who wins.

Having a catering business in Alexandria, VVa., sincei 1985 has put Carol Dinardo in some powerful social circles.

Ms. Dinardo and her husband, Henry, own Windows Catering Company and work for The National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, National Air and Space Museum and the State Department, among other prominent venues. Prior to opening their Windows restaurant, which they sold in 1989 to focus on catering, Ms. Dinardo was a public relations executive at The Watergate Hotel.

Coming eight years ago to live part-time in Naples, where there is no shortage of parties and galas, made Ms. Dinardo feel right at home — and also put her in demand for her expertise.

She is chairing the 2013 Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon for The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, where she is a trustee. She joined the committee that plans the Home, Hope, Healing luncheon for Youth Haven. And she and Henry lent their expertise as the caterers for the Conservancy’s Magic Under the Mangroves gala this past year, which they will do again for 2013.

“I thought when I came down here I wouldn’t have to do anything,” Ms. Dinardo laughs. “But, I like everything. There is such an interesting group of people here — plus great golf and tennis.”

Ms. Dinardo does say, surprisingly, that planning parties in Naples is more challenging than in the nation’s capital.

“When I do parties at The National Gallery,” she explains, “I work with one person, the head of the gallery. There aren’t 30 women having input about the décor and food.” While she calls the committee structure “exciting, challenging and frustrating,” she says it’s all worth it to make a difference in her new home.

— Robin DeMattia

JUDY GREEN COULD BE TAKING strolls on the beach. Morning, noon and evening. She could be relaxing at a Siesta Key beachfront condo near Sarasota, gazing at another vibrant Gulf of Mexico sunset.

She made her mark in real estate and could haveave relaxedl and become a fulltime grandmother. She could have been a woman of leisure. She did retire in 2008 and tried that Siesta Key siesta-like lifestyle. But she didn’t cotton to all that relaxing.

Ms. Green did not become a Power Woman in real estate by walking on the beach. Such honors are not new to the CEO and president of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. In 2004, Real Estate magazine named her one of the 500 Most Powerful Women in Real Estate. And BIZ 941 magazine pegged her recently as the largest real estate magnate in Southwest Florida.

Her work ethic and drive could explain her success over more than 30 years as a real estate professional. Ms. Green is clearly not one of rest on past success.

In 2008, after that retirement thing, she founded Signature Sotheby’s International Realty in Sarasota. Then, in 2010, she merged that with Premier International Realty of Naples.

The firm has 18 offices up and down Florida’s west coast, all the way from Marco Island in the south to Clearwater in the north. Among its listings are Naples properties offered for upwards of $15 million.

The first word of the company’s name, after all, is Premier.

— Glenn Miller

DOROTHEA HUNTER SÖNNE STILL vividly recalls her first trip to Naples from New York City, where she and husband, Erick, resided until two years ago.

“Paradise,” she says of Naples.

“The bluest sky. Beautiful, pristine beaches. Definitely more quiet than I was used to.”

At the time, Ms. Hunter

Sönne was an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine and lived in midtown Manhattan. Erick was working at a hedge fund and was approached about a job in Naples. He asked Dorothea if he could apply.

She said yes. He got the job. They moved to Naples two years ago, and just this past summer, she was named editor of Naples Illustrated.

What a change. From one of America’s largest magazines, one that sells nearly 2.5 million copies an issue, to a regional magazine, albeit a very slick one with an upscale audience. From the hustle and bustle of New York City to a small city, albeit one that is far from some hick, provincial backwater burg that doesn’t know Schubert from sherbet.

“It’s a cosmopolitan city,” Ms. Hunter Sönne says of Naples.

She learned that quickly and it’s something Naples Illustrated demonstrates with each issue.

Ms. Hunter Sönne emphasizes she’s taking over a magazine that already was first-rate. “I plan to build upon and strengthen an already great publication,” she says. “Naples Illustrated is known for covering the finest things the area has to offer, and I want to provide the most up-to-date news in the luxury lifestyle market, profile even more community leaders and put a greater focus on beautiful design.”

One of her first orders of business after moving to Naples, Ms. Hunter Sönne recalls, was visiting Barnes & Noble to learn about local magazines. That’s where the magazine junkie since childhood learned about Naples Illustrated.

She worked as a freelance writer for various publications for a couple of years before the magazine editor’s job opened. “A really fortuitous opportunity,” says Ms. Hunter Sönne.

The kid who grew up reading Vogue, Allure and Harper’s Bazaar and who earned a master’s degree in magazine publishing at Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism was in the right place at the right time. And with the right credentials.

— Glenn Miller

CANDICE JOLLY WAS getting a manicure as she spoke on her cell phone about driving monster trucks.

A chair in a nail parlor is a long way from the cab of Monster Mutt Dalmatian, the name of her 1,500-horsepower behemoth. Talk about power. No wonder she’s one of Florida Weekly’s Power WWomen. Nothing screams power like a 10,000-pound monster truck.

The Naples native has competed in front of more than 75,000 fans in stadiums around the world. Her skill and her big truck have taken her to Sweden, Spain, Mexico and a dozen other countries.

Nope, driving her monster truck on the Advanced Auto Parts Monster Jam circuit is not like a manicure. Not even close.

“It’s the biggest rush in the world,” Ms. Jolly says.

A graduate of Lely High School, she grew up around motorsports. She started racing go-karts as a child. Her 7-year-old son, Chase, now does that. Ms. Jolly’s mom, her stepfather and her dad all race. Her sister, Courtney, once raced monster trucks.

“Racing is in our blood,” she says.

Although it’s in her genes, driving racecars and monster trucks is traditionally a male-dominated sport. As a youngster, Ms. Jolly followed the careers of pioneering women drivers such as Lyn St. James.

Now, she says, young girls follow her.

She says numerous fathers have contacted her and told a similar story about how they took their young daughters to a monster truck show as part of a family outing.

And, she adds, she’s had fathers say this: “You’ve changed my daughter’s life.”

Still, though, there are only five women on the professional circuit.

Although she grew up around motorsports, she didn’t step foot in a monster truck cab until she was 25 years old. She’s a former beauty queen who used to attend races in a different role.

“I was the trophy girl,” she says.

Now, Candice Jolly wins the trophies.

— Glenn Miller

KAREN KLUKIEWICZ SPENT 25 YEARS climbing the corporate ladder in technology jobs with the likes of HP and Motorola. When she got laid off in 2003, she moved to Naples to be near her aging parents. “I realized I could be just as unemployed walking the beach as shoveling snow,” she jokes.

But she did receive six months of outplacement training and spent a year workingng withi search firms, which added to her already impressive skill set. She now uses all of this expertise in both career and volunteer work in Naples.

She serves as chief of operations for her husband’s law practice, Patrick Neale & Associates. She formed a strategic technology consulting business in 2009 to help companies optimize their IT investments. And she acts as a job coach for individuals.

Many people in the community know her as the facilitator of the Naples Job Search Support Group for the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, where she is a member of the Leadership Collier Class of 2009. The group meets Monday mornings to provide job search and transition assistance, working on resume writing, interviewing skills and networking. Since its inception in 2009, the group has helped with at least 170 job placements, though Ms. Klukiewicz thinks the number is higher.

“Unemployment hits people really hard,” she says. “A lot of your identify and self-esteem are tied up in your job. People feel isolated and as if they have no purpose in life.” Having the support group meetings on Monday mornings is a deliberate strategy for people to get up and start their week focused on work.

Because she went through the same experience, Ms. Klukiewicz feels good about providing this type of support. “I love to help people, and this helps me feel like I’m connected and contributing to the community.”

— Robin DeMattia


Since founding Trifecta Construction Solutions in Fort Myers in 2003, Dr. Jennifer Languell has led the way for building more energyefficient homes and businesses, ones with cleaner indoor air quality, a lower carbon footprint and a proven cost-benefit analysis.

To achieve these results, she often finds herself holding the hands of contractors and subcontractors who are prone to the ways of the North, which don’t translate to Southwest Florida’s hot, humid, stormprone environment. The award-winning environmental consultant and national lecturer practices what she orders. Her own home energy bill ranges up to the low $50s in the thick of summer.

For a decade, Ms. Languell has been writing the local prescription for green design and construction —better, high-performance design. She teaches continuing education courses to local designers and builders, develops curriculum for engineering students seeking certification in sustainability and gives presentations at dozens of conferences each year.

“I’m completely thrilled with my professional career and the reputation I have in the industry,” says Ms. Languell, 40, who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering and sustainable construction. “I don’t represent products. I represent education and easily digestible, accurate information.”

Recent projects have run the gamut from the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples to an “Extreme Home Makeover” in Tallahassee to the first certified green affordable high-rise in Florida, the Progresso Point apartment complex in Fort Lauderdale. At its grand opening, one tenant sang the praises of his $26 electric bill. “It’s kind of like being Santa,” says Ms. Languell.

Between development projects, Ms. Languell is at work on two books. She is the secondary author of “Closing the Loops,” which will take a hard look at material design and development. She is the primary author of “The Path to Zero Energy,” exploring energy consumption, diversity and conservation. “The burden is on us,” she says. “Let’s be smart about it.”

— Cathy Chestnut ¦ ¦ ¦

CLEANING HOMES and offices led Michelle Reed-Spitzer, mother of three, to a powerful position: owner and CEO of MaidPro of Southwest Florida, and the 2012 recipient of Hodges University’s Founders Award.

During the 1990s, Ms. Reed-

Spitzer started Michelle’s Classy

Cleaning, dispatching service providers from a grocerygroc store parking lot while earning her bachelor’s degree at Hodges University. Her professor and mentor, Gene Landrum, assigned class homework to write a business plan. Mr. Landrum, local resident and founder of Chuck E. Cheese franchise, was impressed with Ms. Reed- Spitzer’s plan.

In 1999, she decided to take that plan and convert her successful cleaning business into the Southwest Florida branch of MaidPro, a national franchise headquartered in Boston. MaidPro was just starting, and she became the company’s ninth franchise owner. Today there are more than 160 franchise owners in Canada and nationwide.

MaidPro’s vice president was so impressed with Ms. Reed-Spitzer’s business model that he traveled to Naples to observe and implement her business’s best practices as a standard template for the entire franchise.

Along with Mr. Landrum, Ms. Reed-Spitzer credits her parents for instilling in her as a young girl an exemplary work ethic. She has always helped with her parents’ construction and real estates businesses, handling accounting tasks and running open houses. Now, she passes her lifelong lessons and her own business savvy to her teenaged daughter.

Today, Ms. Reed-Spitzer oversees about 80 staff members who serve an area from Bradenton to the Everglades. MaidPro of Southwest Florida just expanded to Marco Island, and another office is scheduled to open soon in Sarasota.

Hard work is only part of being successful, she says, adding she believes strongly in teamwork. Most of her service providers have been with the company between five and 10 years.

“You’ve got to have the right people on your team,” she says. “We are ‘partners in grime.’ It’s not just about cleaning homes and offices. I enjoy helping people in a way that makes their lives easier.”

AIMEE SCHLEHR KNOWS ART CAN’T always be about balance or perspective or composition.

As the new executive director of the Naples Art Association, she’s aware that running an arts organizations comes down at times to things more elementary, more basic even than primary colors.

“If we don’t keep our doors open, we don’t do anybody any good,” she says.

That’s her primary mission at the Naples Art Association: keeping the place financially secure. Others can focus on painting or sculpture.

Sure, it’s a nonprofit organization, but she views her responsibility as “ to run a nonprofit like a for-profit,” Mrs. Schlerh says.

Although she’s worked for the Naples Art Association since 2009, it was only in early September that she was elevated from her previous position as both the chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

Her duties are wide-ranging, from being a spokeswoman for the organization to its primary representative. She also manages the finances of The von Liebig Art Center, home of the art association.

But she doesn’t want to lose sight of what makes the place go — art and The von Liebig right in the middle of downtown on a prime corner of Cambier Park.

Mrs. Schlerh, a fifth-generation Floridian, says she sometimes encounters visitors new to the center. “I love people coming here and saying, ‘We didn’t know you were here. What a gem!’”

The Naples Art Association, though, has been a part of the community for nearly 60 years. The organization was founded in 1954, and The von Liebig opened in 1998.

Although her roots are on the business side of the arts world, she enjoys working in a gallery in a beautiful community park.

“I’m so lucky to not be working in a cubbyhole,” she says. On nice days, she likes to walk out of her office to pick up lunch and enjoy the serenity of Cambier Park or the wonders displayed in the center.

Her job doesn’t require painting or sculpting skills, but her skills are necessary ones. “I have to continue to assure our financial sustainability,” she says.

And to make sure those doors can stay open.

— Glenn Miller ¦ ¦ ¦

THERESA SHAW, PRESIDENT AND CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, has lived in Naples for only one year. But, she is not new to the organization.

A former teacher, Ms. Shaw spent the last eight years working with Boys & Girls ClubsCl of America, most recently in Rocky Mount, N.C., where she oversaw five clubs.

“I have always been an advocate for children, since I was in elementary school,” she says. “I always found myself supporting those kids who I thought nobody else wanted to play with or who didn’t have the same things as everyone else. I always thought it was my duty in life to help them have what they needed.”

Ms. Shaw says the Naples community has been very welcoming, and she enjoys having a supportive board of directors and being surrounded by people who have a passion for education and children.

“I always look at working with children as a holistic approach. Whatever you do in a community, it should always start with our children, because they will be the leaders after we move on. It’s important to invest in our children more so than anything.

“We all start the same, and the direction we go in life is based on the resources and support we have.”

Ms. Shaw sees the long-term benefits of her efforts.

“A lot of the children I started with years ago are in their 30s now and still contact me to say how they’re doing. It inspires me to continue this work.”

When she’s not working, she enjoys singing (she has performed at weddings and events for family and friends) and being at the beach in her new hometown.

— Robin DeMattia ¦ ¦ ¦

SGT. KRISTIN SHINER OF THE COLLIER County Sheriff’s Office was sitting on the porch of her Cape Coral home on July 25, enjoying her day off, reading a Jude Devereaux romance novel.

Then she heard two bangs.

Her training told the 44-year-old mother of four that it was not a car backfiring. She also heard a scream.

Never before in her career had she drawn her weapon in the line of duty. But she did that day.

Sgt. Shiner put down the novel and picked up her department-issued Glock 17 9 mm. She opened the door and went to the sound of gunfire. It was not time to hide under a bed.

Nicholas Rainey, a door-to-door salesman, had been shot and was facedown in a nearby driveway, bleeding and dying. Sgt. Shiner checked on him; there was nothing she could do.

A neighbor, 52-year-old Kenneth Railey Roop, was the alleged shooter. She heard the sliding sound of Roop reloading.

Glock in hand, she told Mr. Roop to drop his weapon. He did, and officers from the Cape Coral Police Department were soon on hand to take over.

For her actions that day, Sgt. Shiner was awarded the CCSO’s highest honor, its medal of valor.

The 1987 graduate of Cypress Lake High School normally leads a quiet life. But not since July 25. The shooting and a medal award ceremony with Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and Cape Coral Police Chief Jay Murphy kept her in the local media spotlight. And nearly three months later, she’s still asked about the day of the incident and whether she was scared.

“I don’t know,” she says. “Your training just takes over. It’s just a reaction.”

No fear?

“It’s more of an adrenalin rush,” she says.

She remains thankful how the day ended.

“I mean, there are a lot of different things that could have happened,” she says.

— Glenn Miller ¦ ¦ ¦

OWNING JOHNSONville Sausage with her husband Ralph keeps Shelly Stayer very busy. So busy that she hesitated moving from Wisconsin to Naples for more than 10 years, fearing she wouldn’t have enough to do here. But meeting two of the area’s most philanthropic women helped her feel right at home.

She attendeded a party hosted by Shirlene Elkins and met Simone Lutgert, who she credits for getting her on the boards of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and The Shelter for Abused Women & Children (for which she chaired the Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon this year).

“I say it’s really the women of Naples who take your hand, babysit you, introduce you and get you involved,” Ms. Stayer says. “Nobody comes at you heavyhanded. You get invited to many things.”

She realized how philanthropic the community is after attending the Naples Winter Wine Festival. “I couldn’t talk for two hours,” she says of witnessing people’s generosity. “I had my own nonprofit children’s theater in Wisconsin and knew what it was like to raise money. I was blown away.”

Ms. Stayer experienced a third “wow” moment in Naples the first time she walked into the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. “I said to my husband ‘This is it. I’m in love. This is the third thing I want to dedicate my time and energy to,’” she recalls. This year, she is chairing the organization’s Festival of Trees and Lights Gala.

Ms. Stayer says she and her husband make decisions together regarding their charitable efforts and contributions. “My husband says God usually speaks to him and says we should help here or help there,” she shares. They like to support organizations working with women and children of poverty.

Having lived here three years, Ms. Stayer now says that, “Naples is the finest city in the United States to move to.”

— Robin DeMattia

AS THE DIRECTOR OF COLLIER County Domestic Animal Services, Amanda Townsend is responsible for the health and safety of Collier’s domestic animals and those who come in contact with them. With an estimated 175,000 dogs and cats living in Collier County, she is quite busy.

She oversees office staff plus

10 animal control officers who handle complaints regarding sanitation, crueltyy aandd rabies exposure. As a strong advocate of better treatment for animals, she takes great pride in enforcing animal control laws. An animal control ordinance is scheduled for review with county commissioners by the end of 2012.

In December, Ms. Townsend will mark her fifth year as the director of DAS. She’s pleased to report a decrease in animal intake at local shelters during her tenure, and she credits proactive measurements throughout the community.

“Local animal rescue groups have helped enormously with pet adoption,” she says. “Social media has created great networking opportunities,” she adds, “Plus, local veterinarians offer lowcost care that is easily accessible through the county.”

Prior to DAS, Ms. Townsend’s sharp skills benefitted Collier County government agencies for 12 years while she served an analyst for public services, strategic planning, land acquisition and grant writing. The largest grant she wrote was for $9.9 million in 2007, initiating the state’s reimbursement to the county for land acquisition around The Naples Zoo. She also is treasurer of the Florida Board of Animal Control Association.

A true Neapolitan, Ms. Townsend was raised in Naples and earned her bachelor’s degree at New College in Sarasota. She also holds a master’s degree in American studies from the University of Alabama.

— Sandy Reed

A YEAR AGO, KATHLEEN VAN Bergen was a new Naples resident, one who had followed millions before her in the past century or so. She moved from someplace cold, in her case Minnesota, to a sunny, warm new life in Florida.

Now, the CEO and president of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts considers herself not only a Floridian but also a Neapolitan. She has purchased a home near the Phil, as it’s informally known, and has come to learn on her beach walks how the Gulf of Mexico appears to change color depending on the weather and sunlight.

And she doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon, having recently signed a fiveyear contract to stick around.

“I do truly call this home now,” she says.

She replaced the Phil’s founding CEO and president — and Southwest Florida legend — Myra Daniels. Simply by taking on that role, Ms. Van Bergen immediately became a high-profile figure in the local arts community. Now, she is indisputably one of the Power Women, the leader of Southwest Florida’s premier cultural institution.

She recalls her first meeting of the full Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Then, she was trying to keep everybody’s name and instrument right. Now?

“It’s updates on weddings and babies,” she says.

Then, says the former violinist, there were no nerves, just excitement on meeting the orchestra.

Her work is constant. The summer was spent doing what folks up north call spring cleaning. “You’re getting ready for custumers,” she says.

Now, season is nearly here and much work remains, including filling two big Phil positions — conductor/music director and museum curator.

She says she expects to announce a new curator sometime soon. Not so for the other job.

“That timeline is much longer,” she says.

Ms. Van Bergen adds that the Phil will review the performance of guest conductors during the season.

Now, a little more than a year after taking over the job, Kathleen van Bergen is no guest. She’s one of us — a Floridian.

And a Power Woman.

— Glenn Miller ¦ ¦ ¦

MARINA ZELNER ALWAYS HAD A passion for fashion. But, she says, being a full-figured woman made it difficult for her to find beautiful clothing because the fashion industry didn’t cater to a plussize consumer. So, without any background in retail, in 2010 she started her own fashion company — Queen Grace.

“I took a leap of faith,” she says. “I wanted to bring something new to the industry.”

Her line’s day-to-evening looks in sizes 12 to 26 include trends and classics in high-quality fabrics. The collection debuted at the 2011 Full Figure Fashion Week and is sold in select boutiques nationwide (though not currently in Naples).

The Marco Island resident draws inspiration for her designs from having lived in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vienna, Rome and New York City.

“The majority of designers start with a size 0 or 2, but we start at 16 to 18 and take into consideration the curves of a woman’s body,” she explains. “We want people to feel wonderful in their clothes, not just covered up.”

She uses her business degrees — a bachelor of applied science from CUNYBrooklyn College, and both a master of arts and an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University — to manage the business. She also keeps busy with her three teenage children and volunteer work; she serves on the board of directors for Temple Shalom and was recently invited to join the PACE Center for Girls-Immokalee board.

She chose the name Queen Grace because it exudes the elegance she thinks of when designing. “I want each woman to know she is sophisticated, graceful and a queen in her own right and universe,” she enthuses. “There is a sense of power and independence that comes from that feeling.”

— Robin DeMattia

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