Google, LinkedIn and AI were still distant fantasies when this year's City & State Pennsylvania 50 Over 50 honorees were starting their professional lives. Yet as the accomplishments of these commonwealth change-makers show, the fundamentals of a career with enduring impact haven't changed: relationship-building, professionalism, civic responsibility and vision.
The names on this year's list all illustrate those qualities in spades. They are politicians and lobbyists, entrepreneurs and community organizers – many with remarkable longevity. Collectively, their accomplishments show the value and the impact of effort over decades – and the Keystone State is incalculably richer for their contributions.
The following profiles were written by Hilary Danailova.
To the clients of Triad Strategies, partner Mike Acker brings a half-century of perspective on everything from foreign affairs to local infrastructure.
Acker got a first-hand view of public service during the Vietnam War when he served in the U.S. Air Force. He began his political career as a Philadelphia aide to then-U.S. Sen. John Heinz, having earned a political science degree at Temple University; he also holds a master’s of government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
Acker’s deep knowledge of Harrisburg comes from nearly two decades at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. He held a number of roles in the administrations of Govs. Dick Thornburgh, Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, including as executive deputy secretary. He also served on the boards of the State Employees Retirement System and the State Ethics Commission.
Acker has private sector experience, having worked at several architectural and engineering firms in Central Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Philadelphia Shipyard Development Corporation.
In 2002, Acker joined Harrisburg-based Triad Strategies, where he draws on his experience and deep well of contacts in Pennsylvania’s executive and legislative branches.
There are a lot of new faces in the General Assembly these days, but state Sen. Dave Argall, who has been there since 1984, isn't one of them. Argall became a senator for 102 municipalities in northeast Pennsylvania after a 2009 special election; he’d previously served in the state House of Representatives, where he was Republican whip.
A third-generation Pennsylvania educator, Argall holds a Ph.D. in public policy and has taught the subject for more than 30 years at Penn State, Lycoming College and Lehigh Carbon Community College. He currently chairs the Senate Education Committee and serves on the board of governors for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as well as the Basic Education Funding Commission.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Argall, who also chairs the Majority Policy Committee, held a series of school safety roundtables around the state, leading to major safety upgrades in Pennsylvania schools.
Argall’s top recent priority has been the revitalization of Pennsylvania’s aging downtowns and industrial neighborhoods. As chair of the Statewide Blight Task Force, Argall has championed several new anti-blight laws, including a 2022 measure funding the demolition of decrepit buildings.
Victoria Bastecki-Perez’s passion for academic access, opportunity and inclusion comes from her own background.
When she earned an education degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Bastecki-Perez was the first in her family to graduate from college (she later added master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pittsburgh).
Upon her 2020 inauguration as the president of Montgomery County Community College, her family established the Bastecki-Perez Scholarship Fund through the Montgomery County Community College Foundation; its 11 endowments now total $340,000 to support first-generation students.
Bastecki-Perez’s effectiveness was evident when MCCC recently scored the national Achieving the Dream’s Leader College of Distinction designation, awarded for improving student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps. Under her leadership, the college was also named among the “Most Promising Places to Work” by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development and “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.”
Bastecki-Perez has left her mark on the campus, guiding $98 million in capital projects. These include a $1 million wellness center, renovations of the science center and campus theater, and the expansion of MCCC’s hospitality institute.
Bastecki-Perez currently serves on the boards for MontcoWorks, the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.
A veteran of Harrisburg government as well as Pennsylvania top-lobbyist lists, John Bear is the senior managing director at GSL Public Strategies Group, the public affairs and strategic communications firm he co-founded. As a principal in The Stevens & Lee Companies, GSL’s parent outfit, he oversees the group’s government consulting practice.
Bear is also a longtime force in Pennsylvania Republican politics. He served three terms as a state representative from Lancaster County and has also been a council member for Lititz Borough. Currently, Bear serves on the Republican State Committee, the Manheim Township Board of Commissioners and as executive director of the Lititz Regional Community Development Corporation.
A lifelong student of politics, Bear earned a political science degree from Temple University and a master’s in governmental administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. He began his career as a management consultant for BearingPoint and KPMG. At GSL, Bear brings nearly three decades of experience in both private and public sectors to his consultancy, which specializes in facilitating complex public-sector deals involving private-sector parties.
Bob Brady has led Philadelphia’s Democrats since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. He’s been a carpenter even longer – 54 years and counting as a proud union member. And he started teaching at the University of Pennsylvania 22 years ago, around the time many of his management and political science graduate students were learning to talk.
Along the way, Brady served 10 terms representing Philadelphia in Congress. Dubbed the “Mayor of Capitol Hill” for his gregarious style, Brady was the long-time chair and ranking member of the Committee on House Administration.
Brady has plenty of other roles to his credit – including Pennsylvania Turnpike commissioner, deputy mayor of Philadelphia, and Sergeant-at-Arms of the Philadelphia City Council. Generations of West Philly voters have known Brady as their ward leader, a post he has held since the early ’80s.
With the Working Families party threatening Democratic hegemony in Philadelphia, Brady worked to mobilize turnout this fall among Democrats, who dominate city voter rolls. Despite WFP gains, he and his party delivered in the general election.
Now Brady is focused on 2024 – galvanizing his fellow Philadelphians to vote, once again, for the man he calls “my friend Joe Biden” and the rest of the Democratic slate.
If you’ve been in politics or business long enough, you’ve got connections. Charles Breslin has roots in both realms, which is why he’s effective both with Rittenhouse Consulting Group, his government relations advisory firm, and Maintenance Matrix, his equipment cost control company.
Breslin’s political experience spans three decades, beginning with campaign and staff roles for the late Philadelphia City Councilmember and Member of Congress Lucien Blackwell. More recently, Breslin has been a longtime senior adviser to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and he served on the transition team for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
At Rittenhouse Consulting, Breslin specializes in working with governors throughout the U.S. and is involved with the Democratic Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association and the National Governors Association. While based in Philadelphia, he also works closely with federal agencies and manages consultants in Washington, D.C.
Breslin’s entrepreneurial side found its outlet in Maintenance Matrix, which he founded in 2010. Building on his experience advising municipalities on maintenance spending, Breslin built and heads a firm that manages cost savings programs for Senate and House members. The company – designated a service-disabled veteran-owned small business by the U.S. Department of Defense – specializes in cost-saving solutions for electronic equipment maintenance.
In 2005, when Shariah Brown launched Personal Touch Professional Cleaning Service with her sister, she had no idea that the move would not only make her a highly successful entrepreneur – but also a prominent civic figure in the commonwealth.
Under Brown’s leadership, Harrisburg-based Personal Touch has managed more than $1 billion worth of construction cleaning projects, including post-construction work, disinfection and sterilization. The company has serviced 6.4 million square feet of buildings as well as hundreds of retail locations, businesses, hospitals, universities and warehouses throughout Central Pennsylvania.
Among her clients: the King of Prussia Mall, which hired Brown for its 50-store luxury wing expansion. Turner Construction and Penn State have also turned to Personal Touch, as has Harrisburg University – for both its $100 million School of Science and Technology building and its new UPMC Health Sciences Tower.
A graduate of the MLK Leadership Institute, Brown knows her success makes her a role model. In 2017, then-Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Brown as an inaugural member of his Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion. Brown also chairs the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Pennsylvania, representing 1,000 minority entrepreneurs and corporate partners.
At the LM Brown Management Group, her Philadelphia-based strategic consultancy firm, Lynette M. Brown-Sow employs what she calls “the 3 Vs approach” – uplifting the vision, values and voices of her clients.
Brown-Sow’s career is a testament to her own vision, values and voice, which have endured across a half-century of public- and private-sector positions in marketing, communications, government relations and municipal governance.
She currently presides over the boards of two of Philadelphia’s most consequential agencies. As chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Brown-Sow has championed new affordable housing and developed the first homeownership program for residents.
In 2021, Brown-Sow became the first Democrat in 20 years to serve on the board of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. As its chair, she has prioritized quality-of-life and safety issues like community parking, the removal of abandoned cars, speeding and traffic control, and disabled road access. She also spearheaded new policies around hiring and personnel, as well as measuring performance.
Brown-Sow was a first-generation college student, earning a degree from Bryn Mawr. Her father, a onetime professional baseball player, set an example of public service by becoming a police officer; her political mentor was Hardy Williams, the late Philadelphia state legislator.
Long before she was old enough to be an AARP member herself, Grace Calvelo-Rustia threw her efforts into engaging the commonwealth’s over-50 population as associate Pennsylvania director at AARP, the national 50-plus advocacy organization. Her perspective – as both a Filipino American and a community organizer – has become increasingly valuable in a state that is both aging and becoming more ethnically diverse.
Calvelo-Rustia has focused on multicultural development and outreach since joining AARP 13 years ago. Through community education and events as well as volunteer recruitment, Calvelo-Rustia has worked to broaden the organization’s visibility among the commonwealth’s growing immigrant and minority populations.
A longtime advocate for Pennsylvania’s Asian American Pacific Islander communities, Calvelo-Rustia also serves as deputy commissioner for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s Commission on Asian American Affairs; in addition, she is a member of the Mayor’s Commission for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Prior to joining AARP, Calvelo-Rustia worked as a newscaster for an international television network. She earned a following among viewers of The Filipino Channel for “Grace@50,” a weekly telemagazine spotlighting Filipino American stories and news.
Calvelo-Rustia currently sits on the boards of the Philippine Community of Southern New Jersey, 6abc and Montero Medical Missions.
Over nearly 30 years in Harrisburg, Mark Compton has helped keep Pennsylvania’s infrastructure up to date.
Compton recently celebrated a decade at the helm of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Under his purview are the commonwealth’s 552 miles of toll roads, 68 fare-collection facilities, 17 service plazas and 27 maintenance facilities.
A graduate of Penn State, Compton began his career working in the office of then-Gov. Tom Ridge. His next role was as a special assistant to the deputy secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – an agency to which he returned more than a dozen years later, in 2011, this time as the deputy secretary for administration.
In between, Compton held a leadership position at the state Department of Community and Economic Development before detouring into the private sector. He worked as director of corporate incentive services at the Delta Development Group and headed government affairs for Allan Myers, a Pennsylvania construction firm.
All of that prepared Compton to take over the turnpike known as "America’s First Superhighway." With toll revenue now closing in on a billion dollars annually, Compton is ensuring the circa-1940 route has a smooth road ahead.
With a background that bridges law, government and finance, Lisa Detwiler brings prudence and strategic expertise to her civic and professional roles.
Detwiler serves as managing director at FS Investments, a Philadelphia-based global alternative asset manager handling more than $75 billion in assets. She is also the firm’s chief compliance officer, chairs its ESG committee, serves on its executive committee and is general counsel for FS Investment Solutions.
Detwiler studied economics at Mount Holyoke and received a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was executive editor of the law review. She was a law firm partner before joining the global finance outfit BNY Mellon, where she was senior managing counsel as well as general counsel for its subsidiary, Lockwood Advisors. Detwiler has also brought her legal insights to the public sector, serving as chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and working for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Long active with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Detwiler was honored with its Anne X. Alpern Award in 2020. She is also a past president of the Forum of Executive Women and, as of this year, is an appointee to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Pennsylvania Commission on Women.
As Erie County Community College celebrated its first commencement in June 2023, perhaps nobody was more elated than the chair of its board of trustees, Cheryl Rush Dix. The longtime Erie educator had long advocated for a community college in her corner of the Keystone State – Pennsylvania’s 15th and newest such institution.
Dix is also a co-founder of the STEM Equity Alliance, a commonwealth nonprofit that coordinates strategic partnerships to promote equitable access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics opportunities. Next June, the alliance will culminate its state-funding RAMP to STEM mathematics acceleration project in Delaware County.
Growing up in Erie, Dix learned the importance of learning and community service early from her own parents. A passionate promoter of STEM education, she studied chemistry before embarking on a quarter-century with Erie’s public schools, most recently as coordinator of science education and the district’s STEM initiatives. Along the way, Dix was a Fulbright researcher and earned a master’s in organizational leadership.
The entrepreneurial Dix is now principal at Pathlight Associates, a company she co-founded. A member of Erie’s Racial Justice Policy Initiative, she is also the co-founder of the Burleigh Legacy Alliance, an organization celebrating Erie native son Harry T. Burleigh, a musician known as “a father of the spirituals.”
Michael Driscoll is the longest-serving president in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education – and without a doubt among the commonwealth’s most accomplished academic leaders.
Since taking the helm of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012, Driscoll has unveiled the school’s first new academic building in 20 years, developed two strategic plans and led the university to an R2 designation as a high research activity institution. That last was a particularly resonant milestone for Driscoll, who won his academic society’s highest honor in 2020 – the SIGMICRO Test of Time Award – recognizing the enduring influence of research that Driscoll, an electrical engineering Ph.D., published while on the faculty at Portland State University.
More recently, Driscoll made a long-term impact at IUP through a series of fundraising and capital projects. He oversaw a recent campaign that yielded $81 million, exceeding both the original goal and the target deadline, thanks to several record gifts. Driscoll’s tenure has seen the opening of a $90 million science building, a $30 million humanities center and a $37 million dining program.
Under Driscoll’s leadership, IUP has also prioritized diversity and outreach – establishing a National Achievement Scholarship Office in 2019 and cultivating an international student population that is now the largest within the state system.
G. Warren Elliott is proof that midlife can yield myriad and impactful new chapters.
At the age of 52, ready for a new challenge, Elliott retired from a long career as a Franklin County commissioner – most recently, as board chair – to start two real estate companies and a government consulting firm.
Today, Elliott chairs the board of F&M Trust, a Central Pennsylvania community bank, where he has presided over the doubling of asset size and expansions into the Harrisburg and Hagerstown, Maryland markets. He is also president of Cardinal Crossings, a consulting and real estate firm.
Elliott’s passion for regional water resources led him to head the successful effort to establish the 39,000-square-mile Senator Frank Lautenberg Coral Preserve off the Atlantic coast. Currently the Pennsylvania citizen representative for the Chesapeake Bay Commission, he has also held leadership roles with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.
Elliott earned multiple degrees in public administration from Shippensburg University, where he was granted an honorary doctorate, and has been recognized as one of 100 centennial alumni from Penn State Mont Alto.
Over 25 years in Philadelphia, Jason Evans has built a reputation for minority advocacy and grassroots action.
A few years ago, he launched J D Evans Solutions, his consulting and government relations business. He is particularly focused on bolstering minority businesses and communities, and helping clients develop strategies for diversity and inclusivity. It’s a skill he already practices at TD Bank, where he is a manager of supplier diversity.
The Bucks County native spent 14 years working at the University of Pennsylvania, including a half-dozen in supplier diversity and procurement. Eventually, he decided to go to school himself – earning his GED at 39, working his way through a bachelor’s at Penn and, last spring, graduating with a master’s in public administration from Penn’s Fels Institute of Government.
As a part-time bartender, Evans spotted a pandemic opportunity for voter engagement. His voter registration initiative allowed restaurant patrons to register while they ordered by using the QR codes on menus.
While Mayor Jim Kenney recognized the effort with a citation, his Penn classmates nominated Evans to receive the Fels Public Service Award. Now Evans is back in the classroom as a teaching assistant, mentoring the next generation as each starts a new chapter.
Jay Feldstein took the helm of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2014 – and built what was then a local physician-training institution into a three-campus, multi-state health organization with annual revenue approaching $180 million.
Feldstein is himself a PCOM alum, having graduated in 1981. A decade later, he was already president and medical director of Newark-based Doctors for Emergency Services. Over the next two decades, Feldstein held leadership positions with several health organizations, including as senior medical director for Aetna’s mid-Atlantic region and chief medical officer for AmeriHealth Caritas.
Over a decade at PCOM, Feldstein has grown enrollment to 3,000 students, added campuses in Georgia and guided the school’s accreditation process. He established himself as a vocal proponent of initiatives that address health inequities – establishing a community wellness initiative and opening community health centers.
Feldstein recently orchestrated several recent partnerships that will expand PCOM’s clinical training programs. These include joining the regional consortium supporting St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and acquiring Chestnut Hill Hospital – a move that, in partnership with Temple Health and Redeemer Health, will open up residency opportunities.
Earlier this year, Feldstein advised Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition advisory committee on Health and Human Services.
After a quarter-century in the public and nonprofit sectors, Cynthia F. Figueroa last year became CEO of JEVS Human Services, a Philadelphia organization with a $69 million budget. She has since led an expansion of programs at the nonprofit – which serves 25,000 people annually – adding services for individuals with disabilities and justice-involved adults, as well as workforce development for refugees.
For her commitment to Pennsylvania communities, the Puerto Rico-born Figueroa was named a PA Distinguished Daughter last year by then-Gov. Tom Wolf. She also served on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition advisory committee.
Figueroa brings policy skills to her nonprofit position from her previous role as deputy mayor for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Children and Families. Under her purview were the city’s departments of Parks and Recreation as well as Human Services; the Free Library of Philadelphia; and citywide initiatives like PHLpreK and community schools.
She also co-led a mayoral anti-racism initiative and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinated virtual learning hubs, food distribution and children’s summer programming. Figueroa currently serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Zoo, Spring Garden Lending and The Redevelopment Fund.
One of Pennsylvania’s top government affairs strategists, Vincent Galko has over 25 years of experience with national, state and local political and issue-based campaigns.
With Harrisburg-based Mercury Public Affairs, where he is senior vice president, Galko recently helped score state legislation that dramatically expands the commonwealth’s autonomous vehicle industry. He also successfully lobbied for refinements to the state’s remote work rules in the financial industry and for millions in state funding for clients, including Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.
On the campaign side, Galko recently helped engineer election wins in Berks, Chester and Lehigh counties – where judicial candidates won both GOP and Democratic primary nominations – as well as races for Lackawanna County Commissioner and numerous local council and supervisor posts.
Galko previously served as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Education and as executive director of the Pennsylvania GOP. He has worked for multiple U.S. senators, members of Congress and Pennsylvania governors.
He is a commissioner for America250PA, the commonwealth’s organizing effort for the United States’ 250th-anniversary celebration. Galko is also currently president of the University of Scranton alumni board and is a board member of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
When Valerie Gaydos was elected to the state legislature in 2018, she brought a perspective shaped by a two-decade entrepreneurial and technology career. Now in her third term representing Allegheny County, Gaydos, a Republican, founded the House Cybersecurity Caucus and co-chairs the Life Science Caucus.
Gaydos began her career in politics by interning for then-Sen. H. John Heinz III. But for some 20 years, she was an entrepreneur in the private sector, launching numerous ventures, including Capital Growth, the angel investment and business development firm she founded in 1994 – and where she remains a principal.
The first woman to head the Pennsylvania Angel Investor Network, Gaydos in 2012 launched the Angel Venture Forum, a coalition of several dozen angel investors throughout the mid-Atlantic, and at one point owned and ran a political consultancy specializing in associations. She remains active with Hivers and Strivers Capital, an outfit that funds and advises veteran-owned startup companies.
In office, Gaydos leverages her business expertise as a prominent voice for lower taxes, small businesses and affordable health care. She has passed legislation concerning prescription price transparency and fighting human trafficking, and pushed for educational reforms that help students prepare for and enter various high-demand trades.
An inveterate Philadelphia booster, Bonnie Grant has led efforts to promote the city as a life sciences meeting destination since 2008. She oversees that industry’s division at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, luring gatherings of life science power players in medicine, pharmaceuticals, biotech, nursing and related fields.
Thanks to Grant’s efforts, life sciences typically make up 40% of the meeting business that comes into the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Center City hotels – with an economic impact in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
Poised to take office in 2024, Grant is president-elect of the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Convention Meeting Association, which advocates for the convention and hospitality industries. She has helped Philadelphia secure the annual Bio International Convention – a 20,000-attendee event – four times, including in 2027 and 2034.
Grant previously served as deputy city representative under two Philadelphia mayors. She has also held public relations leadership roles with the Urban Affairs Coalition, the Philadelphia Eagles and Chestnut Hill College. Grant’s efforts led to her induction into the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
Last May, when Sue Greene earned her Ph.D. from Penn State in workforce education and development, her research focused on the shortage of women in executive leadership. But she herself is an example of how those ranks have grown – and thrived.
Greene is state director of the Pennsylvania Society of Human Resource Management, the national organization’s commonwealth affiliate, which has 24 local chapters representing 12,000 HR professionals. Over two decades of involvement with the state council, Greene has worked on workforce readiness and managed local and district-level affairs for the organization.
Until she retired in 2020, Greene served as Penn State University’s director of corporate learning. In that role, she oversaw workforce development education for local partners in business and industry.
Greene is also the longtime chief clerk administrator for Union County, where she is proud of having steered the municipal team through a pandemic remote work transition that kept county services running.
Greene is currently a member of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which gave her insight for her doctoral dissertation exploring the motivations and success profiles of women commissioners in Pennsylvania.
Thirty years ago, Pat Halpin-Murphy was a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor on a mission to find a cure.
So she founded the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, leading advocacy and services on behalf of patients across the commonwealth. As president, she has overseen fundraising that has yielded $5 million for Pennsylvania breast cancer research.
This year, Halpin-Murphy is celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary with a major win: a first-in-the-nation law mandating cost-free screening, genetic testing and counseling for high-risk insured patients. (The bipartisan measure passed unanimously and was Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first piece of signed legislation.)
Halpin-Murphy, a Philadelphia native, was no stranger to policy and influence. She studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government before serving as an adviser to then-Gov. Robert P. Casey, U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford and U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.
Currently, Halpin-Murphy is a gubernatorial appointee to the Pennsylvania Cancer Advisory Board and serves as a patient advocate and board member for several national breast cancer groups. She has been widely honored for her advocacy over the years, including with the White House Champion of Change Award.
It’s been a big year for Kirsten Heine. Following a 23-year career as a prosecutor, this past January, Heine stepped into the role of deputy chief of staff for the state Attorney General’s office; she also serves as the AG’s representative on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Last May, Heine graduated with a master’s in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, where her capstone project explored a diversion deflection program for people suffering from substance use disorder.
Nowadays, Heine is more likely to be parsing finance than sentencing guidelines. She works on the office budget, securing funding for the attorney general’s priority initiatives, including the Joint Gun Violence Task Force, for which Heine recently persuaded legislators to increase funding by $6 million to facilitate an expansion plan in Philadelphia and a new task force in Allegheny County.
Previously, Heine served as chief of the Criminal Prosecution Section, where she led investigations and prosecutions of hundreds of cases across the commonwealth. Under her leadership, the section released a grand jury report on abuses in the Roman Catholic Church and prosecuted a $21 million wage theft case.
Under the leadership of Executive Vice President Christian Herr, PennAg Industries Association has become a national leader in advocating for farm animal welfare and progressive agricultural production.
Herr represents the interests of more than 450 agribusiness and production agriculture operations across the commonwealth. In recent years, he guided his membership through the twin challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating avian flu outbreak.
Together with his team, Herr worked closely with Pennsylvania’s executive and legislative branches – including Govs. Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro – to secure the nation’s only loss recovery program for farmers impacted by livestock losses.
Herr has also earned a reputation for positioning PennAg at the forefront of today’s key agricultural and environmental debates. Under his guidance, the organization is a leader in advocating for higher standards for both animal welfare and environmental practices in farming.
Prior to joining PennAg, Herr spent 18 years under six administrations with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, eight of those years as deputy secretary for regulatory programs. A Penn State graduate, Herr is also a past president of the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation and a committed advocate for agricultural education.
When Daniel Hilferty passionately cheers for the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s both business and pleasure. A civic and corporate leader with deep local roots, Hilferty recently assumed the helm of Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns teams including the Flyers, as well as the Wells Fargo Center and Spectacor Gaming. He also serves as the Governor of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Hilferty joined Comcast Spectacor after leading Philadelphia’s successful bid to be a host city for the FIFA World Cup 2026. He continues to chair the board of directors of Philadelphia Soccer 2026, the nonprofit governing body for the city’s host committee.
Hilferty is widely known as a health executive, having served as CEO of two Philadelphia-area companies: Independence Blue Cross – which he grew into one of the nation’s leading Blue insurers – and, before that, AmeriHealth Caritas. Last year, he founded Dune View Strategies, an advisory firm specializing in health care.
The Jersey Shore native, a former chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, has also long played an important role in the city’s defining events. In 2015, he led efforts to bring Pope Francis to Philadelphia; he was also involved with the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Attorney and Democratic mahoff Ken Jarin is the founder and longtime leader of the government relations practice at Ballard Spahr, where he is a partner. His advocacy spans the corporate, organizational and institutional worlds and every level of government. Jarin also provides legal and strategic advice on elections, campaign finance, government investigations and the political process.
In Democratic politics, Jarin has wielded power locally and nationally. He co-chaired the 2023 inaugural committee for Gov. Josh Shapiro and has been nominated by President Joe Biden to chair the board of U.S. Agency for Global Media, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. He has also served as treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association and deputy finance chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Jarin currently chairs the board of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and serves on the advisory board of the Anti-Defamation League, Philadelphia Region. He was the longtime chief labor negotiator for the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and has also headed the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
After a distinguished career that took him to the heights of the judiciary and a spot on the 2006 TIME 100 – Time Magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people – John Jones III landed back where he started, at Dickinson College.
Since 2021, Jones has served as president of his alma mater. In his first two years back on campus, the former judge, who earned his juris doctor from Penn State Dickinson Law, has raised $50 million for scholarships and presided over graduate acceptance rates of over 90% to medical, law and other professional schools.
Earlier in his career, Jones served as chair of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration. President George W. Bush appointed Jones in 2002 to be the U.S. district judge of the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, a role Jones held for nearly two decades.
As a judge, he handled numerous high-profile cases, including striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. But even as he focuses on academia, Jones remains active in legal circles. Via appointment by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, he currently serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Judicial Independence Commission and is also a member of the Pennsylvania Continuing Judicial Education Board of Judges.
Last year, veteran Republican political heavyweight Robert Jubelirer raised eyebrows when he joined GOP colleagues in supporting Josh Shapiro, the popular Democratic attorney general, for the state’s top job, over GOP candidate Doug Mastriano.
But for many, it was evidence of the former lieutenant governor’s integrity – and, perhaps, the bipartisan instincts of a more genteel era.
A county judge’s son, Jubelirer began his political career in the 1970s as a young lawyer elected to the state Senate from Altoona. The Senate, where he rose to become the Republican leader, was his political home for decades; Jubelirer served a nearly uninterrupted streak as president pro tempore from 1984 to 2006, earning a reputation for his hardworking style. He also served as the state’s lieutenant governor under former Gov. Mark Schweiker. Following a primary defeat, he created a new government relations practice at the Philadelphia-based global law firm of Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell and Hippel. He has also been a prominent presence with the Board of Trustees of Penn State, the university where Jubelirer earned both undergraduate and law degrees. He is also a partner at Next Generation Partners.
Connectivity is the future – and at AT&T, David Kerr connects the telecommunications company to lawmakers, civic leaders and other stakeholders in Pennsylvania’s wireless evolution.
As Pennsylvania president, Kerr leads AT&T’s public policy, community and philanthropic initiatives throughout the commonwealth. His recent successes in Harrisburg include policy victories around wireless infrastructure investment and the commonwealth’s opt-in to First Net, a public safety initiative.
Kerr is currently guiding a partnership that will bring enhanced fiber investment and a competitive alternative for communities in Northeast Pennsylvania. It’s a commitment that’s personal for the lifelong Pennsylvanian, who grew up in Crawford County and has now logged two decades in Harrisburg.
Kerr holds an MBA from Lebanon Valley College, but his policy savvy comes from a series of senior roles in the administrations of Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker – including positions in the Department of Community and Economic Development and as director of policy in the governor’s office.
He is currently a board member of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the PA Chamber Education Foundation, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation and Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania.
Chuck Kolling is a lobbyist with a sense of mission. Over four decades in government relations, Kolling has devoted his efforts to legislation improving the quality of life for Pennsylvanians, with a special focus on the most vulnerable: children, disabled workers, and low-income and homeless people.
Based in Pittsburgh, Kolling is a senior principal in the government relations practice at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. His recent accomplishments include a measure helping improve the state’s organ donation system and the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities legislation, which allows people with disabilities to work without losing their health care.
Kolling also helped pass an act promoting the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages, and a measure funding legal services for low-income residents. He is especially proud of legislation he championed that provides early intervention tracking and services for homeless infants and toddlers – a critical need in a state with 6,000 homeless children under 3 years old.
Every year, Kolling travels to Harrisburg with 60 participants in Leadership Pittsburgh, a nonprofit training and networking program. There, he introduces the next generation of Pennsylvania changemakers to the legislative process and connects them with policymakers – ensuring that his legacy of advocacy will carry on.
Lauren Lambrugo is the architect of many firsts. In 2011, she led the successful campaign that toppled GOP control of Montgomery County for the first time in nearly 150 years. A year later, she became the county’s first female chief operating officer, managing a $409 million operating budget, a $552 million capital program and nearly 3,000 employees.
Since 2018, Lambrugo’s strategic talents have been employed at Public Health Management Corporation, the 70-site Philadelphia nonprofit where, as COO, she supervises everything from government relations to communications and outreach around its 350 programs. Lambrugo also leads PHMC’s Public Health Campus on Cedar, a comprehensive public health campus in West Philadelphia, and is guiding the development of 4601 Market, a state-of-the-art, multi-service West Philadelphia facility.
In addition to her work with PHMC, she also recently served on the transition team for Gov. Josh Shapiro, whose career is intertwined with hers: She was his chief of staff and political director during his time in the state House of Representatives, then masterminded his 2011 Montgomery County commissioner campaign. The seasoned political operative has also overseen external affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA.
And 30 years after launching her career, Lambrugo celebrated another milestone last year: She graduated with an MBA from Thomas Jefferson University.
Born and raised in a working-class Erie family, Dan Laughlin never thought he’d be a politician. He started working right out of high school and went on to join his brother’s successful construction company, Laughlin Builders. The duo later expanded their portfolio to include a trash disposal company, an insulating firm and a rental agency.
But at a certain point, as a small businessman, Laughlin grew frustrated with the red tape of state government.
In 2016, he ran for the state Senate – and won. He brings to the Senate the firsthand experience of a rural small business owner, championing policies that ease tax and regulatory burdens and minimize the role of government in both personal and professional spheres.
Reelected in 2020, Laughlin currently chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee. Highlights of his tenure include restoring Sunday hunting after a 300-year ban, modernizing hunting license sales and extending the hunting season. After a fire in his district killed five children, he led the charge for stronger fire safety requirements at day care centers.
Laughlin, a Republican state committee member, is also active with the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home, where he serves as the Senate representative.
As the attorney for the region’s airports and chair of Pittsburgh Regional Transit, Jeffrey Letwin has a measurable impact on how Western Pennsylvanians navigate their region.
Letwin has served as solicitor for the Allegheny County Airport Authority since 1999, when it was established. He represented the authority during its acquisition of the assets of Allegheny County Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport; for the latter, he also handled negotiations surrounding gas drilling rights.
An attorney in the Allegheny region for 43 years, Letwin is special counsel at the Pittsburgh office of Saul Ewing, where his practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, franchising, real estate finance and development, and corporate finance.
Many of the region’s entrepreneurs and developers turn to Letwin for guidance as they expand their businesses. These include startup franchisers seeking to build national brands and tech clients interested in becoming part of Pittsburgh’s vibrant startup scene.
A member of the Shapiro transition team earlier this year, Letwin has held leadership roles with myriad Pittsburgh area civic and, in particular, Jewish organizations. He serves on the interim governance committee for the Tree of Life Synagogue and, until recently, served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Back when most in his profession were scrambling to figure out online education, veteran educator Thomas Longenecker was creating a proprietary learning management system for Commonwealth Charter Academy, a Harrisburg-based public cyber charter school.
Longenecker joined CCA in 2012 as COO and was appointed president and CEO in 2020; he has developed more than 400 courses for its K-12 student body. Under his leadership, CCA has grown its online enrollment to nearly 25,000 students across the commonwealth, making it the state’s second-largest public school.
Longenecker also expanded CCA’s team to more than 2,000 professionals and led CCA to be recognized as One of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for 2022 and 2023.
He earned a degree in business and economics from Shippensburg University, where he later taught school finance, and a master’s in education and school business leadership from Wilkes University, where he has taught school finance and school law for over a decade. After working in business and finance roles for several school districts, he joined CCA.
Longenecker is a two-time recipient of the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. For his success in shaping the new online educational model, he was also a Smart 50 honoree from Smart Business Pittsburgh for 2022 and 2023.
One of Pennsylvania’s top environmental lawyers, David Mandelbaum regularly advises clients on matters from energy projects to water pollution and water rights. Mandelbaum, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, has a reputation for effectively litigating the allocation of costs among multiple parties responsible for a cleanup or for natural resource damages.
In addition to his busy practice, Mandelbaum teaches superfund litigation and oil and gas law at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law. He is also a course planner for the Pennsylvania Environmental Law Forum and writes a monthly environmental practice column for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly.
For his work, The Pennsylvania Bar Association recognized Mandelbaum last year with the Lifetime Achievement Award from its Environmental and Energy Law Section. He has consistently ranked on lists of top environmental lawyers in Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America, which has named him Philadelphia-area lawyer of the year four times in the environmental litigation and environmental law categories.
Mandelbaum earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Harvard University. He is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers, where he co-chairs the education committee.
Over a three-decade career in the health care business, Joanne McFall has guided the evolution of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid managed care landscape.
As market president for Keystone First, the largest Medicaid managed care organization in Southeastern Pennsylvania, McFall supervises day-to-day operations and strategy, including financial performance. Under her decade of leadership, the plan has grown rapidly and now counts more than 545,000 members.
McFall is also responsible for coordinating operational support with AmeriHealth Caritas, Keystone First’s parent organization, where, prior to her current role, she was vice president and chief of staff.
To serve a rapidly expanding member base across a five-county region, McFall has guided the implementation of Keystone First’s community wellness strategy. She presided over the 2020 opening of a Wellness and Opportunity Center in Chester and, earlier this year, she celebrated the opening of a Mobile Wellness and Opportunity Center. Together, the new facilities provide health screenings, clinical care and other resources right in patients’ communities.
McFall, who holds an MBA from Widener University, currently chairs the board of the Pennsylvania Medicaid Managed Care Coalition. She is also vice chair of the Urban Affairs Coalition board and a committee member for the Philadelphia Regional Executive Advisory Council.
Victoria Miller got a late start – but has made a career with more impact than most. She’d been a stay-at-home mother for 13 years when she took a job in a hospital lab, then started law school – and ended up becoming a partner at a large Philadelphia firm.
When Miller retired from law, she started a wine-tasting event company that thrived until the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown (she currently teaches wine classes). Meanwhile, in 2017, she started Indivisible Philadelphia, which has since grown to over 11,000 members as a local chapter of the national progressive organization.
As part of her work with Indivisible Philadelphia, Miller started 35 Doors, an initiative in which volunteers canvass 35 of their neighbors’ homes – discussing upcoming elections, answering questions and reminding voters about things like polling places. She’s also involved with the Indivisible national team, researching voting trends and organizing voter-writing campaigns.
Miller says she’s inspired by her mother, a late-in-life volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, who showed her it’s never too late for a new chapter. And she’s motivated by her six grandchildren, for whom she hopes to leave a better world – one door-knock at a time.
Eddie Morán likes to compare Reading, Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest municipality, with his hometown of Hatillo, Puerto Rico. The comparison resonated four years ago, when Morán made history as the first Latino elected mayor of Reading.
Morán, who moved to Brooklyn as a child, learned the political ropes as a special assistant to a New York State Assembly member. Having settled in Reading, he served on the city’s recreation commission and as vice president of its school board.
He also mentored with Compadres, a men’s non-violence program, and coached with the Reading American Little League Association, a team for children with special needs.
At some point, running for mayor was the logical next step – bringing together Morán’s political savvy and passion for the community.
Morán spearheaded a citywide playground overhaul that unveiled the city’s inaugural adult exercise playground, as well as the first park dedicated to children of all abilities.
Economic development is a priority for Morán, who guided the local allocation of $2 million in federal small business grants during the pandemic. He also created the Summer Youth Initiative Employment Program, giving young people – like the ambitious youngster he once was – a chance at better opportunity.
When she joined Novak Strategic Advisors as a senior associate in 2019, Carrie Nace brought the kind of insight younger colleagues couldn’t match. That’s because she has more than two decades of experience at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, including a stint in constituent services for then-Speaker Sam Smith and serving as district office manager for Rep. Kate Klunk.
It’s a contrast from the worldly way Nace’s career started: with an international relations degree at Juniata College, followed by a stint with the British Embassy in Hong Kong. She is also a 2008 graduate of the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series.
Now deeply rooted in Adams County, Nace is also the legislative director for the Pennsylvania State Grange, the commonwealth’s largest rural advocacy organization, and is vice chair of the county’s Economic Alliance board.
Expanding broadband access to rural Pennsylvania is a priority for both organizations and for Nace, who serves as the Grange representative on the Pennsylvania Broadband Authority’s Education and Outreach subcommittee.
With Novak, she recently worked to restore state funding for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Nace is known for helping retired commonwealth employees access services in and around Harrisburg.
Lobbyist John Nikoloff has been a Harrisburg fixture since the late 1960s. He currently heads ERG Partners/Pennsylvania Energy Resources Group, the consultancy he founded to counsel energy companies on funding, logistics and regulatory solutions.
Over the past 10 years, Nikoloff has secured more than $100 million in funds for clients in energy, economic development and transportation matters. His advocacy has also yielded changes modernizing the state’s antiquated liquor system with innovations – like to-go cocktails and Sunday sales – that helped businesses weather COVID-19.
Nikoloff is the director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Physicians Services, where his advocacy helped primary care physicians win the 2022 passage of a major reform around health insurers’ prior authorization processes.
It was his father, a local candidate, who first inspired Nikoloff to go into politics. By age 8, he was knocking on doors; by 16, he was a page in the state House.
Nikoloff then spent two decades in communications and legislative jobs at the General Assembly and held executive positions under three governors. He has also directed five statewide associations and, over a five-decade career, has represented more than 50 corporations, from startup businesses to Fortune 100 companies.
Mary Oliveira is a business and community leader with her finger on the local pulse.
This fall, she took over leadership of the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, a linchpin of central Pennsylvania’s burgeoning cultural presence. She now leads a quarter-century-old Harrisburg organization offering cinema, science, performing arts and children’s programming.
Previously, Oliveira was COO of Color & Culture, a multicultural marketing agency that helped clients engage an increasingly diverse (and, in particular, Latino) local population.
Oliveira acquired a global perspective studying international relations at American University in Washington, D.C. Back in Pennsylvania, she earned a master’s in organizational development and leadership from Shippensburg University. After a series of business roles, Oliveira honed her economic development skills at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, where she served as vice president for member growth and strategy.
An energetic community leader with a passion for women’s affairs, Oliveira was recently appointed to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission for Women. She is also a longtime volunteer with Capital Area Girls on the Run and a member of the United Way of the Capital Region’s Women’s Leadership Network Advisory Council.
In Luzerne County, Eddie Day Pashinski’s neighbors know their state representative as a reliable and forceful voice for their rural corner of the commonwealth.
But generations of children in the Greater Nanticoke Area School District know Pashinski as their music teacher and choral director – positions he held for nearly 40 years before entering politics.
The Wilkes University graduate was stirred to political action by state education funding cuts. To fight back, Pashinski got involved with his local and state education associations, then ran and won election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2006. In office, he has been a champion of education as well as health care reform, sponsoring legislation to increase access and lower medical costs.
Pashinski is the longtime Democratic chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and helped pass the 2019 Farm Bill – a historic package in which he specifically included a measure to promote veteran farmers. He also serves on the boards of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the state's Hardwoods Development Council.
A grandfather of seven who delights in entertaining family and neighbors with his own music, Pashinski currently chairs Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, an organization devoted to supporting the 80,000 Pennsylvania grandparents raising their children’s offspring.
With decades of experience managing clinical practice at Pennsylvania health organizations, Garry Pezzano was the logical candidate to head LeadingAge PA, the trade association representing more than 400 aging services providers across the commonwealth.
Since assuming the role of president and CEO last year, Pezzano has led advocacy on behalf of the association’s members, who collectively provide care for 75,000 older Pennsylvanians. He established the LeadingAge PA CEO Forum, giving health care leaders from around the state the opportunity to share insights and challenges.
Pezzano started his career as a speech language pathologist before earning an MBA from Rutgers. In a series of clinical managerial roles – including 21 years with Genesis Rehab Services, where he was a vice president for clinical operations – he boosted profits and productivity, streamlined operations and improved staff retention.
Just prior to joining LeadingAge PA, Pezzano served as senior vice president of clinical practice for Genesis, overseeing rehabilitation services for a half-million patients at 300 sites in 24 states.
With such extensive knowledge of the needs of both vulnerable patients and caregivers, Pezzano is an effective advocate for his industry’s critical priorities – including safe nursing home staffing levels and workforce development to alleviate an ongoing labor shortage.
Drawing on over 40 years as a campaign operative, political consultant and health care lobbyist, Bill Ryan serves as vice president for government relations and public affairs at Jefferson Einstein Health. He worked in the same capacity for the Einstein Health Network before its recent merger with Jefferson.
As the lead for the health system’s community affairs efforts, Ryan steers collaborations with North Philadelphia organizations such as the Logan Community Development Corporation. In 2018, Ryan toured Puerto Rico with then-Gov. Tom Wolf and served as the liaison between Einstein and UnidosPA’PR, an initiative that connected storm-displaced Puerto Ricans with local health services.
Ryan was also the driving force behind the creation of the North Philadelphia Health Enterprise Zone. That collaboration, designed to address health disparities, partnered the Pennsylvania Departments of Human Services and Education with Philadelphia-area hospitals.
Ryan began his political career as a staffer for then-U.S. Rep. Peter Kostmayer, and has worked on numerous campaigns for candidates, including Sen. Bob Casey and former Gov. Ed Rendell. Ryan brought that energy to Einstein, where he helped secure over $500 million of hospital funding, as well as monies for capital projects.
Annette Silva knows the difference one person can make. Early in her nursing career, she was mentored by a doctor-nurse team that cemented her love for patient care. Now, as a community nurse liaison at Puentes de Salud, Silva is a guiding presence for both the patients she serves in two languages – English and Spanish – and her fellow health care workers, including Puentes’ myriad volunteers.
The needs and challenges of Pennsylvania’s Latino community have always been a priority for Silva. Since 1992, she has worked as a clinical nurse in immigrant community health and outreach – using not only her language skills but also her bicultural background to care for Southeastern Pennsylvania’s booming Hispanic population.
After years of observing rising diabetes rates among the Latinos she served, Silva launched Puentes de Salud’s diabetes prevention campaign, with educational workshops on nutrition, managing blood sugar and weight loss. She also noticed her uninsured patients were putting off vital preventive care – and partnered Puentes de Salud with a nearby hospital to provide free mammograms.
Silva is a board member of the Center for Surgical Health, an organization that facilitates surgeries for underserved and marginalized patients who might otherwise go without health care.
Robin Slater’s life has been defined by health care, by people and by the struggle for equity and justice.
Slater is the longtime administrator organizer at SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s largest health care union. She has organized more than 20,000 home care workers and helped negotiate a wage increase of nearly 50% – to $12 an hour, among the region’s highest for that industry.
Slater grew up in Philadelphia, one of four children of a single mother who instilled in her the value of community service. After training as a medical assistant, Slater took a job in New York – and soon became aware of unfair practices in her workplace.
From that realization, a labor activist was born. Slater helped organize her fellow workers – more than 100 shops in all – into one of SEIU’s largest unions and successfully bargained for their first contract.
Back in Philadelphia, Slater was further motivated by her mother’s early death from breast cancer. She has worked on recruitment, launched the union’s African American Caucus and organized toy and book drives for members’ children. Slater also currently sits on the boards of the Labor for Black Lives Coalitions of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
It was 1972; Richard Nixon was president, the Vietnam War was still raging, and Samuel Staten Jr. was a young field laborer with LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Now Staten is the business manager for LIUNA Local 332, a role once held by his own father, Samuel Staten Sr. The younger Staten, who worked his way up through various positions at the local, has also served since 2016 as vice president of LIUNA’s international organization and has also served as secretary-treasurer and delegate of the Laborers’ District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
In 2021, Local 332 inaugurated its new Laborers Training Center, which it named the Samuel Staten Jr. Building for its longtime leader. During Staten’s tenure, the local has expanded not only training for its novice members but also community services for its workers.
In addition to his work with LIUNA, Staten has chaired the Laborers’ Plasterer Tenders Health & Welfare Fund and served as a delegate and vice president for the AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. He has also been active with African American Labor Leaders, the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry has flourished in recent decades, thanks to its longtime president and CEO, David Taylor. In his 27th year at the helm, Taylor is celebrating the fruits of his decades of advocacy – including, last year, a historic reform of the state’s business tax structure.
A familiar face in Harrisburg, where he has worked since the 1990s, Taylor is also a familiar visage on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the television station where he hosts the show, “PMA Perspective,” to share insights from his constituency. In addition, he hosts “Capitol Watch,” a radio show focusing on policy and legislative updates.
Taylor, who grew up in Central Pennsylvania, studied dramatic arts and history at Dickinson College. Attracted to politics, he worked out of college as a field researcher for the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., returning to Harrisburg for a series of legislative jobs at the state Senate.
In addition to his role at the PMA, Taylor also currently chairs the Pennsylvania Leadership Council – where, in the 1990s, he once served as director of communications.
When Barbara VanKirk started her software firm, IQ Inc., in 1994, Pittsburgh was a long way from its current status as a technology hub – and female entrepreneurs of any kind, let alone heads of tech startups, were still rare.
In fact, the internet wasn’t even a thing when VanKirk earned her bachelor’s from Point Park University as a software and computers major. After several technical and software engineering roles, including with Westinghouse, VanKirk decided there was room for new ideas – and started a software consulting company in her bedroom.
VanKirk now heads a Monroeville-based outfit that has frequently been named one of the city’s best places to work by the Pittsburgh Business Times. In 2020, VanKirk saw her vision validated when the Pittsburgh Technology Council recognized her with its Tech50 CEO of the Year award.
Along with technology and the IT industry, VanKirk’s company has evolved and expanded over the years, with services that now include software testing, development, consulting and data analytics. Always ahead of the proverbial curve, VanKirk has also been a workplace innovator. Long before the pandemic, she earned accolades for a flexible office culture, encouraging recruitment – and making IQ one of Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing companies.
Nearly a year after he left office after two terms as Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Wolf has seen his legacy reverberate across the commonwealth.
His 2014 election – when he defeated incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett by winning previously solidly Republican areas of the state – is widely viewed as a galvanizing moment for the Keystone State’s Democrats. Wolf’s popularity and competence over two terms – including his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – played a significant role in setting up his attorney general, Josh Shapiro, to succeed him as governor, continuing a Democratic presence in the governor’s mansion.
A native of Mount Wolf, the future commonwealth chief executive earned a government degree from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, with a dissertation lauded as the best of 1981 by the American Political Science Association. After brief stints in the Peace Corps and in business, Wolf joined the administration of then-Gov. Ed Rendell.
As governor, Wolf expanded health insurance access under the Affordable Care Act and signed measures legalizing medical marijuana and mail-in ballot voting. In his last year, Wolf directed nearly $250 million in pandemic federal funding to bolster the state’s small businesses.
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