Power List

The 2024 Pennsylvania Forty Under 40

Meet some of the state’s most influential millennials

April Ashe and Jondavid Longo

April Ashe and Jondavid Longo Eric Forberger

To be not only settled into a career, but to have already made an impact at 38, 28, even 18 – requires a felicitous synergy of serendipity, energy and inspiration. The young people on this year’s City & State Pennsylvania 40 Under 40 list all possess these qualities in spades, bringing millennial (and even Gen Z!) energy and notable focus to enhance myriad sectors across the commonwealth.

They include Slippery Rock’s youngest-ever mayor, a French transplant who paves the way for other newcomers and a State College high school student who has the governor’s ear – and the state Board of Education’s attention. They’re bringing neighborhood-level focus to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, crunching the numbers that help people and organizations run smoothly and advocating for health care, literacy and clean energy.

Here, a look at 40 Pennsylvanians under 40 who are making an impact in 2024. We can’t wait to read their next chapter.

This list was written by Hilary Danailova.

J.J. Abbott

Executive Director, Commonwealth Communications
J.J. Abbott / Amanda Berg

When J.J. Abbott first entered political communications, his goal was to be the governor’s press secretary. “I figured maybe I’d get there by my 40s or 50s,” recalls Abbott. Instead, he landed the role by age 30.

Still, it left him with the question: What now? His answer was to launch Commonwealth Communications, a progressive, center-left nonprofit that cultivates partnerships to organize political power around Democratic causes.

Since 2020, Abbott has built a 12-person staff and a coalition that includes public-interest stalwarts like Planned Parenthood, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, The New Pennsylvania Project and various labor unions. “I love working with people on the frontlines of trying to make their communities better,” says Abbott. “They’re not just doing political work; they’re making a social impact.”

The Narberth native was drawn to politics by the novel communications of the 2008 Obama campaign. By the time he graduated into the Great Recession, Abbott’s direction was sealed: “Politics is kind of recession-proof,” he explains.

Communications roles followed with the state attorney general and the Allegheny County controller, but the high point was without a doubt becoming senior aide and press secretary to then-Gov. Tom Wolf – especially, Abbott says, serving as spokesperson during Wolf's high-stakes 2018 reelection campaign. 

Today, he is gratified to be carrying on the work he started with Wolf: “Protecting democracy, expanding access to the ballot, making sure leaders deliver on their promises,” Abbott enumerates. “Basically, the things most urgently needed by Pennsylvanians.”

April Ashe

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus
April Ashe / Provided

For April Ashe, politics is inextricably intertwined with social justice and well-being. Her career reflects these priorities: By day, Ashe, 39, is executive director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, but she is also a yoga teacher and Reiki master.

The relationship between health, policy and equity became especially clear after her 2016 diagnosis of sarcoidosis, a disease that disproportionately affects Black Americans. “Black women, in particular, do not have equal access to proper health care or the support they need,” Ashe notes.

The Harrisburg native first worked for the caucus as an intern while studying at Clarion University (now PennWest Clarion). Her postgraduate job, with an organization for the intellectually disabled, cemented Ashe’s desire to right disparities – and set her on a career in the state House of Representatives.

Among her proudest achievements are helping House Democrats launch a college internship program and working alongside then-Gov. Tom Wolf to establish the Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program (a cause dear to her heart: Ashe also has a side business selling handmade soaps and body butters).

This year, along with championing cannabis legislation in the House, Ashe is highlighting health and racial issues as the first Black woman in nearly a century to serve as class president for the Council of State Government East. “Some communities see wellness as a priority, while underserved communities see it as a luxury,” she observes. “I want to make sure our communities are well-versed and view it as a necessity.”

Oliver Beasley

Senior Director, Inclusive Economic Growth, The Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Oliver Beasley / Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Oliver Beasley thought he would work on Wall Street. Instead, after graduating into the 2008 recession, he took a job directing a nonprofit run by his Pittsburgh youth pastor.

The pastor gave Beasley what turned out to be transformative advice: Gain experience in all three sectors – public, private and nonprofit. “The private sector has the money, but in government, you can make the most impact, through policy that actually affects people,” explains Beasley. “I’m fortunate I had someone to tell me that.”

Now 38, Beasley is making an impact as senior director for inclusive economic growth at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Since joining in 2022, he has helped secure $6.5 million for projects and organizations throughout Southwest Pennsylvania.

Fulfilling his pastor’s vision, he initially worked in business sales for AT&T, then served as a policy analyst for then-Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. The latter episode powerfully shaped Beasley’s perspective, “seeing close-up how economics plays a major role in shaping regions and communities – why some areas have more crime, for instance,” he observes. 

At the mayor’s office, Beasley launched Pittsburgh’s housing assistance resource portal and contributed to a basic-income pilot program. “I’ve always been interested in what economic mobility can do for people and cities,” says Beasley, whose current job capitalizes on those interests. “Traveling to places like Charlotte, Nashville and Detroit, I’m constantly looking at other regions, what they’ve been able to do – and how we can make it work here.”

Andrew Bergman

Chief Advancement Officer, OIC Philadelphia
Andrew Bergman / Andre Frewellen

Since surviving two adolescent suicide attempts, Andrew Bergman has devoted his energies to improving the world he opted to stay in. “Every day, I wake up with intention, for both myself and to help other people realize why they are alive,” says Bergman, 30.

The South Jersey native is currently chief advancement officer for OIC Philadelphia, part of a global network of workforce development organizations. In his first year, Bergman oversaw a rebranding campaign, launched an annual alumni event, orchestrated a 60th anniversary gala featuring Mayor Cherelle Parker – and raised $300,000.

He has also helped expand OIC’s scope to meet soaring community need – doubling both services and clientele over the past year, to 1,000 people in 14 programs.

“I’ve been deeply embedded in North Philly since high school,” reflects Bergman, who earned a degree nearby at Temple University. “For me, it’s always been this idea of service, of giving back.”

While attending a Jesuit boys’ high school, Bergman was recruited to be a national advocate for youth mental health with the organization Minding Your Mind. He returned to that nonprofit after college, inaugurating an annual gala that has raised over a half-million dollars – and launching a development career that has raised significant funds for Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History and the Family Service Association of Bucks County.

“I love helping people to realize the possibilities within themselves,” says Bergman. “Helping provide the pathway so they can be part of this equation – the American dream – is transformative.”

Charles Boruchowitz

Government Relations Manager, Bentley Systems
Charles Boruchowitz / Provided

Charles Boruchowitz spent years running campaigns and fundraising for Democratic candidates. Over time, however, he was drawn to advocacy that’s “not so divisive and partisan, more collaborative,” he explains.

Boruchowitz found that sweet spot managing government relations for Bentley Systems, an infrastructure software company headquartered in Chester County. Brought on board in 2020 as the firm was going public, Boruchowitz leveraged his Pennsylvania political connections to help build Bentley’s government relations team.

Most recently, he helped craft federal legislation around FAA funding – authorizing airports to use federal grant money for software upgrades – and organized a Pennsylvania infrastructure panel that included PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. Boruchowitz, 32, also chairs the government affairs committee for the Chester County Chamber of Commerce.

The New York native studied history at SUNY Oswego and was originally drawn to the thrum of campaigns, a highlight of which was serving as finance director and campaign manager for Chrissy Houlahan, who in 2018 was part of Pennsylvania’s Democratic female wave. 

“Sometimes you lose, and I had lost a lot of races,” reflects Boruchowitz. “But Chrissy was the best candidate at the perfect time, and I’m very proud to have been part of that team.”

Building on that early political victory, Boruchowitz ran his own fundraising consultancy. Now he’s happy to focus on the long term as he works to build bipartisan support for transportation policy. “I’m bringing a message that’s not necessarily one side versus the other,” he says, “but more like, ‘Everyone’s in office – so let’s find ways to get things done.”

Vanessa Caracoza

Deputy Executive Director, Philadelphia Office of the City Commissioners
Vanessa Caracoza / Chike Onuchukwu

When Vanessa Caracoza leads initiatives to make voting easier, she thinks about “reaching all of our communities – including the most vulnerable.” 

Caracoza, 31, serves as deputy executive director in Philadelphia’s Office of the City Commissioners. But her social consciousness was shaped during a childhood in Bucks County, where her immigrant parents traveled back and forth to their native Mexico. That awareness – of people at society’s margins – “is at the forefront of everything that I do,” she says.

To make voting easier for underserved communities, her current project is establishing permanent, multilingual satellite election offices across the city, with 10 such locations slated to open by November’s election.

It’s an extension of the community engagement Caracoza specialized in with Philly Counts, the city agency created to ensure 2020 census participation. During her years as director of partnerships, Philly Counts broadened its mission to include voting and health access (she helped the city reach its 75% COVID-19 vaccination threshold).

Caracoza first got into politics after studying philosophy at Arizona State University, where her immigrant advocacy led to a series of political and campaign jobs – including at the Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement. Back in Pennsylvania, she currently serves as the Philadelphia chapter president of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, partnering with local businesses on DEI initiatives. 

“Philly has always felt like the city that I was going to end up in,” reflects Caracoza. “I’m so proud to be an advocate for my community – and for greater representation.”

Claire Chi

Student Representative to the State Board of Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Claire Chi / Nabil Mark, State College Area School District

Claire Chi exemplifies the activist spirit of a new generation. Still in high school, she has already founded a nonprofit, given a TEDx talk and has the governor’s ear as one of two statewide student representatives to the Pennsylvania Board of Education.

“In the beginning, I felt intimidated, because government isn’t that accessible to young people,” admits Chi, an 18-year-old senior from State College. But she quickly got over that – serving as a U.S. Senate youth delegate and, currently, on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission for Next Generation Engagement.

Chi’s role model for the initiative is her father, who rose from a Chinese village to become an international scholar of sociology. Having grown up listening to tales of poverty, Chi noticed when her classmates skipped lunch after a pandemic-era meal program was discontinued. 

Her response was to found Dancing Against Hunger, an organization that draws on her lifelong love of ballet to raise $8,000 for both nutrition programs and performing arts education. Chi became a vocal advocate for free school meals and the youngest-ever TEDx speaker at Penn State with her presentation, “How Kids Can Lead the Fight Against Hunger.”

And she’s no longer intimidated by government. The Stanford-bound senior represents nearly 2 million K-12 students at the BOE, helping expand outreach to elementary- and middle-schoolers.

Visiting classrooms statewide, she emphasizes that you're never too young to take initiative. “The communities we live in have shaped us into who we are,” she says, “and as today’s leaders, we have the responsibility to cultivate tomorrow’s.”

Amanda Colón-Smith

Director of Community Engagement, Rebuild, City of Philadelphia
Amanda Colón-Smith / Veracity

As far back as her childhood in Queens, New York, Amanda Colón-Smith was bothered by the disparities between white and minority neighborhoods, and she resolved to be an advocate for communities left behind. 

However, as a teacher, she quickly became frustrated by the needs right outside her classroom: the crumbling sidewalks, lack of affordable housing and decrepit infrastructure. “That realization pushed me out of the classroom and into the neighborhood,” Colón-Smith recalls.

Now 37, she is the community engagement director for Rebuild, Philadelphia’s capital investment program, a $500 million citywide portfolio of 72 projects at parks, recreation centers and libraries.

Always the educator, Colón-Smith takes a grassroots approach to reinvestment, buttonholing locals at after-school programs, summer camps and playgrounds. "We ask the kids at every site, ‘Do you want to jump, swing, spin?’” she says. Her development team partners with more than a dozen nonprofits, as well as city departments like Parks and Recreation, the Free Library and the municipal bike share program. 

Colón-Smith previously led a community development corporation in St. Louis. Redeveloping more than 70 parcels of vacant land “was a learning process,” she says. “It primed me for coming into Rebuild and understanding why it takes $22 million to renovate a historic building.”

In Philadelphia, watching what she calls “these beautiful third spaces” regenerate, Smith is impressed by the rootedness of Black neighborhoods. “People have invested their time and generational energy into their communities,” she reflects. “I have a lot of respect for that.”

Lauren Craig

Senior Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability, Northeast Region, The Coca-Cola Company
Lauren Craig / Marc Andrew Stephens

When Lauren Craig interviewed with Big Brothers Big Sisters after graduating from LaSalle University, she was honest with her potential boss about her lack of experience. “But I told him, ‘I can learn,’” recalls Craig, a New Jersey native who studied business and public relations.

Learning became the theme of Craig’s career, motivating her through a series of government and external outreach roles. At 37, she’s still soaking in new information – this time, from a global team – as senior director of public affairs and sustainability for Coca-Cola’s Northeast region, which spans nine states from Maine to Pennsylvania.

Craig joined the company a decade ago, seeking novelty in the corporate world. “At a nonprofit, you wear a lot of different hats,” explains Craig, who’d managed government and external affairs for five years at BBBS. Her on-the-job training spanned government affairs, fundraising and grant writing; Craig was especially passionate about a mentorship program for children of incarcerated mothers.

Having managed public affairs and communications for several U.S. regions at Coca-Cola, Craig was excited to add sustainability to her portfolio. Working on the company’s World Without Waste initiative “makes me proud to be part of a company that takes this seriously,” she says.

One of her favorite parts of a multinational company is leading learning tours of Coca-Cola’s facilities, in places as varied as Oregon and Mexico. Through conversations about local markets, technology and sustainability initiatives, “you get to meet amazing people,” Craig says, “and learn from them.”

Jamilah Ducar

Assistant Vice Chancellor of The Engaged Campus, University of Pittsburgh
Jamilah Ducar / Jen Worley Photography

Jamilah Ducar can often be seen strolling alongside professors and students in the streets around the University of Pittsburgh. “Because that’s how you really learn a community,” says Ducar, Pitt’s longtime community relations specialist. “Not by driving through. You have to get into it to see the full context of people’s lives.”

Ducar, 38, is assistant vice chancellor of The Engaged Campus, a university team dedicated to bringing college and community together through projects like trash cleanups, gardening and, yes, those neighborhood strolls. “For me, community-building is at the heart of taking action,” she explains. Her team partners with local nonprofits and organizations, supporting the economic and social fabric that, in turn, supports Pitt.

For her efforts, Ducar was honored as the 2024 Campus Compact Nadinne Cruz Community Engagement Professional Impact awardee. She also chairs the Place-Based Justice Network and is an adviser for Weave: The Social Fabric Project of The Aspen Institute.

Before joining the university, Ducar had a 10-year career in human services and nonprofits. Rooted in Western Pennsylvania, she holds degrees in organizational leadership from Duquesne and public management from Carnegie Mellon, along with a doctorate in urban education from Pitt. 

These days, she shows up at community events alongside her children, who know the local elders and sing carols alongside neighbors at Christmas. “I love that this neighborhood is part of our own family traditions,” reflects Ducar. “As you build community and engage with it, along the way, you become more rooted in it yourself.”

Sydney Etheredge

President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania
Sydney Etheredge / Nicole Hinkle

Just months into Sydney Etheredge’s tenure as CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, Roe v. Wade was struck down – making her job both more complicated and more urgent.

“We were coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” recalls Etheredge, now 36. “We saw attrition not just of patients, but also of staff who were burnt out.”

Still, Etheredge felt revitalized after a dozen years in Washington, D.C. She’d earned her master’s of public health at George Washington University, then logged a decade at Planned Parenthood Federation of America headquarters.

The Pittsburgh native was always drawn to health care. “But when you’re young, the clinical side is all you see,” she explains. Later, she realized “that policy is the best way to create a more equitable and accessible system.” Etheredge did that in Washington, helping local clinics implement Affordable Care Act policy and directing a health care investment program.

In her current role, Etheredge initiated a strategic planning process to respond to a shifting policy landscape, as neighboring states imposed abortion restrictions. She has also prioritized Planned Parenthood’s visibility, promoting its myriad health services and positioning the organization as a vital community partner.

“It’s exciting to get reacquainted with the city,” reflects Etheredge. She draws particular inspiration from Pittsburgh’s African American arts heritage. “Our office is across from the August Wilson Center, which reminds you that the city is a lot bigger than the work that we do – and that we have a lot of partners in different spaces.”

David Gonzalez Jr.

Director of Economic Initiatives, York County Economic Alliance
David Gonzalez Jr. / York County Economic Alliance

At 31, David Gonzalez Jr. is a seasoned director of economic initiatives for the York County Economic Alliance – a field he hadn’t even heard of when he enrolled at York College a dozen years ago. But as president of the student Senate, Gonzalez served as campus ambassador for visiting college-presidential candidates, and the topic kept coming up. 

“We looked at the town-gown relationship, and noticed there was sort of a disconnect,” Gonzalez recalls. His resulting meetings with local business leaders, the mayor and community stakeholders gave him both a close-up perspective on local government and an introduction to his current boss, then a city development director.

Having joined the Economic Alliance in 2016, Gonzalez enjoys the variety of issues he handles. “One day, we’ll be touring a manufacturing plant, the next day, a rail trail, or assessing sidewalk repairs,” he says. 

Housing has consumed a lot of his recent energy; Gonzalez recently convened 2,000 locals to brainstorm an agenda prioritizing access and affordability. His work on the county’s 10-year economic plan also includes expanding broadband access and rolling out the Trail Towns program, which leverages recreation to enhance tourism.

Gonzalez finds it gratifying that even small-scale projects can have a big impact. He cites a warehouse-turned-event space that, for just $2 million, is being transformed into a community hub.

“When you see those investments go into the community, the ripple effect is immense,” he says. “It plants the seeds for others to invest as well.”

Mor Greenberg

Director of Public Affairs, ColdSpark; Citadel
Mor Greenberg / Chris Johnston, ColdSpark

Mor Greenberg’s unusual trajectory propelled her into a public relations career – and the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks further sharpened her focus, making the 35-year-old one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent advocates for Israel. 

Greenberg directs public affairs for ColdSpark, a political communications firm that works with GOP clients, including Dave McCormick. She was integral to the founding of Citadel, ColdSpark’s nonpartisan public relations branch, and is largely responsible for the outfit’s fast-growing Jewish advocacy business – including a campaign delivering 180,000 letters to President Joe Biden to mark Israeli hostages’ 180th day of captivity.

Such advocacy “is what I spend most of my time working on,” says Greenberg, whose clients include organizations that support Israeli soldiers as well as American Jewish college students. As antisemitism surged last fall, she mounted Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh’s #HereToStay campaign, which surpassed its fundraising goal by raising $665,000. 

The Israel-born Greenberg was a youth figure skater in Australia before embracing Orthodox Judaism, marrying a Brooklynite and settling in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Now she gets texts at all hours from contacts in Israel and Australia. “My kids joke about how every picture of me has a coffee cup in it,” laughs Greenberg, the mother of five. 

But caffeine isn't her only secret weapon. “A lot of it comes down to faith that God is going to help me get my job done,” she says. “Whether it’s landing a client or getting the message through, you just need to trust that it's going to happen.”

Molly Hartman

Senior Policy Director, Office of Philadelphia City Councilmember Rue Landau
Molly Hartman / Chris Mansfield

Over 15 years in socially conscious policy jobs, Molly Hartman has developed a knack for being where she’s most useful. 

As of January, Hartman is senior policy director for one of Philadelphia City Council’s most buzzed-about new members – Rue Landau, a civil rights and housing attorney credited with bringing unique energy to City Hall. “It’s a big responsibility, and a really exciting one,” says Hartman, 38.

Before settling in Philadelphia six years ago, she worked for another groundbreaking politician – then-New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio. As his senior adviser for food policy, Hartman worked on the administration’s free school lunch rollout; she also directed a New York City Economic Development Corporation initiative that brought supermarkets and local food entrepreneurs to underserved areas.

“I’ve always been interested in urban issues specifically – the challenges around inequities and disparities in our cities,” says Hartman. That interest was kindled in her native Los Angeles; she earned a master’s in public policy from the University of Southern California before heading east to focus on food policy. 

Most recently, Hartman managed a $200 million portfolio for nutrition programs at Philadelphia’s nonprofit Reinvestment Fund. She also launched the Philadelphia Food Justice Initiative, which reinvests public monies in community-led farm projects.

Her latest role is a pivot from food policy, but Hartman says she’s ready for broader challenges. “I love the energy that’s in City Hall right now, with so many new councilmembers,” she says. “I think there’s a real opportunity to move forward.”

Rachael Heisler

Pittsburgh City Controller
Rachael Heisler / City Channel Pittsburgh

By her own admission, Pittsburgh’s first female controller isn’t even a numbers person. “I used to be a Spanish teacher. I’ve obviously deviated significantly,” laughs Rachael Heisler, who, in 2023, also became the youngest person to assume the city’s top financial post.

But don’t underestimate Heisler: She’s a serious politician with a deep knowledge of budgets and an ironclad belief in the power of local government. “The local level is where you can instill trust more broadly,” explains the 39-year-old. “You see your roads paved, your trash picked up, and you’re more likely to have confidence in government. It’s an awesome responsibility.”

As an undergraduate, Heisler was drawn into politics, protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. She interned with presidential candidate John Kerry during his 2004 campaign, then held a series of communications and fundraising roles in Washington, D.C. – including a deep dive into public finance during 2012’s government shutdown drama. 

Seven years at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget made Heisler “a budget nerd,” she laughs. But Trump-era Washington became less attractive for the Democrat, so in 2017 she headed home to earn her MPA from Penn State. 

The controller’s office also feels like home: Heisler served as deputy controller from 2021-23, issuing checks during the pandemic and putting schools’ financial data online to increase transparency. 

For Heisler, those balance sheets reflect a profound commitment to the public good. “Numbers intersect with literally every aspect of public policy,” she observes.

Amy Hopkins

External Relations Manager, CNX Resources
Amy Hopkins / Katie Ridout Photography

In the Greene County community where she grew up, Amy Hopkins coaches her children’s soccer teams and serves on their school’s PTA. Hopkins’s hyperlocal identity – she is a lifelong Waynesburg resident – is a big part of her effectiveness as external relations manager for CNX Resources.

“We always say, we live here and we work here,” said Hopkins, whose role centers around the gas company’s community and municipal outreach. “Having an idea of how small towns work definitely helps.”

Hopkins also knows how local government works, thanks to a five-year stint working for state Rep. Pam Snyder. Having previously lent her talents to her family’s restaurant business and a local water company, Hopkins took a few years off to have children – then called Snyder, an acquaintance, to ask for a reference. Instead, she was offered a job.

Since joining CNX in 2022, Hopkins has relied on skills she honed alongside Snyder to advance the company’s growth into rural areas. Meanwhile, employee volunteer hours have tripled, thanks to partnerships Hopkins has spearheaded with area organizations. She also supports those organizations through the CNX Foundation, which gets initiatives off the ground by providing office space and a built-in volunteer force.

Hopkins also helped launch CNX Impact, an annual holiday charity initiative, and makes sure the company is represented at Greene County festivals and food banks. “There’s a lot of great people here, and they all have hearts of gold,” Hopkins reflects. “And when I need help for the community, they never tell me ‘no.’”

Noah Karn

Vice President, Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania
Noah Karn / Provided

A passionate golfer, Noah Karn turns to golf legend Arnold Palmer for wisdom. “He has a quote about golf that I think is equally true about insurance – that it’s deceptively simple and endlessly complicated,” says Karn, who is vice president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania. Policies and claims may seem straightforward, but “working on the issues substantively requires a certain mental dexterity.”

Karn, 34, represents an industry with the nation’s fifth-largest insurance market, ranging from auto and life to medical malpractice and property coverage. “We have a big portfolio of issues, and a lot of those are front-burner,” he notes.

The Pittsburgh native was inspired to enter politics by the stories he grew up hearing about his late grandfather, who’d served in the state legislature and the Commonwealth Court. After earning a political science degree at Penn State, Karn similarly set his sights on Harrisburg (he also holds a master’s from Northwestern). 

Economic policy was a highlight of his time in the General Assembly, where Karn gained experience in both chambers, including as executive director of the House Labor and Industry Committee. Along the way, he worked on public pension reform, unemployment and workers compensation.

Those issues were excellent preparation for the Insurance Federation, where Karn helps navigate the balance between regulation and competition. State-level work is gratifying, he explains, because of its tangible impact. “And Pennsylvania politics in general, it’s an exciting atmosphere, a lot of action,” Karn adds. “It’s a fun place to be.”

Allie Kutz

Manager of Government Affairs, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
Allie Kutz / PA Chamber

Just 28, Allie Kutz has a résumé that would inspire envy in people a decade her senior. 

A rising figure in Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, she chairs the Cumberland County Young Republicans, serves on the GOP State Committee and represents the state party as a national committeewoman. By day, Kutz manages government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.  

Kutz fell in love with politics while studying education at Elizabethtown College. A chance meeting with her local state representative led to an internship with the House Education Committee – and by the time she joined the College Republicans, Kutz knew she’d be forgoing the classroom for the campaign trail. “It was a way to make a difference in the areas that I cared about,” says Kutz. 

She did just that as a legislative director in the state House, working on legislation affecting youth social service agencies. Next up was her first government relations role, with the State Association of Community Bankers.

“It’s one thing to talk broadly about policy on the campaign,” explains Kutz of her political niche. “But to be able to execute it, the devil really is in the details. And I’m a detail-oriented person.”

Married to state Rep. Thomas Kutz, she is currently in high gear for the 2024 elections in the commonwealth. “We have in Pennsylvania one of the largest coalitions of young Republican legislators,” says Kutz. “And we’re very proud of that.”

Jondavid Longo

Mayor, Slippery Rock Borough
Jondavid Longo / Nicolina Longo

After six years in the Marines, including an Afghanistan deployment, Jondavid Longo confronted a common conundrum for veterans: “‘What am I going to do?’ It’s difficult to find a sense of purpose after you’ve been acting on the world stage,” he says.

The answer, he concluded, was sharing his knowledge as a teacher. While earning his master’s in education, another thought occurred to Longo: He could run for office.

And that’s how Longo, then 27, became the youngest mayor in Slippery Rock Borough’s history. He also teaches history, political science and economics at Butler County Community College. 

Both roles appeal to his inclination to public service (Longo donates his mayoral salary to local charities). “I saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between townspeople and the university community,” he explains. He also wanted to cultivate business and increase borough revenue to reduce the local tax burden. 

Now 33, Longo is proud of attracting 28 new businesses and balancing the budget without increasing taxes. He has also cultivated community through Independence Day and Oktoberfest celebrations and banners featuring local veterans. Something’s clearly working: Slippery Rock had the largest population increase of any commonwealth township in the last census.

The mayor’s patriotism comes partly from his immigrant father’s “gratefulness for what this country has afforded my family,” Longo says, and partly from the wartorn destitution he saw overseas. That’s why, although the Butler County GOP committeeman may well eye higher office, Longo insists he’s committed to Slippery Rock: “It’s where I’m most needed here and now.”

Mark Lynch

Business Manager and Financial Secretary, IBEW LOCAL 98
Mark Lynch / Provided

In 2021, when he took over leadership of Philadelphia’s influential IBEW Local 98, Mark Lynch faced the difficult task of restoring trust broken by his predecessor, John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, who has been on trial for extortion. Lynch's low-key, diversity-forward approach has been validated in record-breaking application and diversity numbers for the union's apprenticeship program.

“I’m not a politician,” says Lynch, 38. “I’m a construction worker. I don’t back down from a challenge.” The work ethic he inherited from his electrician father, he says, “helped me prevail through this.”

The Northeast Philadelphia native joined the union at 18 and became a safety coordinator. In his first month as business manager and financial secretary, Lynch launched the union’s first-ever Women's Committee, hired a full-time women’s recruiter and spearheaded a high school certificate program. 

Under his leadership, Local 98 was among the nation’s first unions to participate in Rosie’s Girls, a women’s initiative, and hosted the region’s inaugural chapter of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. Minority and women enrollment has doubled since 2021, totaling about a third of new apprenticeships. 

“These are some of my proudest accomplishments,” says Lynch. He also recruits veterans through the Helmets to Hard Hats program and partnered with Rowan University to apply apprenticeship credits toward a college degree. 

Lynch is especially pleased that his union attracts all walks of life – “Yale to jail,” as he puts it. “I provide a 30-year career with the best health care, retirement and compensation. You earn while you learn.”

Anthony Marshall

Recruiter, Steamfitters Local 449
Anthony Marshall / Michela Hall

Anthony Marshall is used to getting skeptical looks when he tells Black youth about the union trades. 

“They’re like, ‘How come people don’t tell us about it? There aren’t any Black people doing this,” relates Marshall, a recruiter for Steamfitters Local 449. His own presence naturally rebuts that argument, “conveying that it’s real and possible for them,” he explains. “They start to believe you.”

Marshall, 38, learned about trades in a roundabout fashion. A lifelong McKeesport resident, he tried several other paths – studying education and working at a nursing home – before joining a construction union, where he realized that “the more you show up, the more you learn.”

He next applied to a Steamfitters welding course, which led to recruiting – and his passion for diversifying historically white trades. Under Marshall’s leadership, union minority representation has soared from 3% to 20% in two years. He has also helped launch free 10-week courses in HVAC and welding for high schoolers, minorities and veterans.

As Marshall travels across the state – visiting after-school programs, vocational schools and organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs – he overcomes doubts by talking about paid internships and six-figure salaries. Marshall says his audience looks a lot like him: people who didn’t grow up with union chatter at the family dinner table. 

“I want to give them the same life-changing skill set that allows me to provide for my own family,” explains Marshall. “It’s a skill set you can do anywhere in the world. It’s beautiful, and it’s for everyone.”

Jenna Meehan

Chief of Staff, Montgomery County Community College
Jenna Meehan / Joslyn Yates, Montgomery County Community College

Jenna Meehan’s parents didn't go to college, but they nevertheless instilled a reverence for education in their daughter. The Delaware County native grew up to not only become a first-generation graduate, but earn a Ph.D. in educational leadership and devote her career to helping other students thrive.

“I love the behind-the-scenes aspect – helping drive the success, rather than being in the classroom,” explains Meehan. At 38, she has devoted much of her career to Montgomery County Community College, where, over 15 years, she has held a variety of leadership roles – including her current one as chief of staff.

Meehan’s work is driven by a commitment to the many students who, like her, needed guidance and support. Responsible for policy and compliance, she helps update procedures like the student code of conduct. Meehan also launched the campus food pantry and currently supervises the Montco Cultural Center.

With a master’s in pastoral care and counseling, Meehan brings a social-service orientation to her work. “In all my roles, I’ve applied that counseling component and (leaned) heavily on those skills,” she notes. 

Now that Meehan has two children, her role as academic shepherd has taken on a new resonance. From the time they were in strollers, the younger Meehans attended football games and ribbon-cuttings alongside their mother. “To have my children grow up from birth experiencing a college campus, thinking of it as something they can achieve,” says Meehan, “that’s absolutely one of my favorite things.”

Meredith Millard

Executive Deputy Chief Counsel, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
Meredith Millard / Commonwealth Media Services

When Meredith Millard was 11, her older siblings were in a car accident that killed her brother on his 16th birthday – and sent her sister to jail for drunk driving. Paralyzed by grief and with four younger children to raise, Millard’s parents were overwhelmed by a legal system they didn’t understand.

“We were thrust into a world of attorneys and judges,” recalls the Northeast Pennsylvania native. “From that moment, I said, ‘I’m going to be an attorney.’”

Nobody in her family had gone to college. But Millard, now 35, made good on that vow, building a high-profile career as a lawyer specializing in labor and employment. She is currently executive deputy chief counsel with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board – an agency that, she points out, provides thousands of stable jobs in underprivileged areas of the commonwealth.

Her career has included handling discrimination cases as chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and working for the state teachers’ union. Millard describes that job as a tribute to her father, a factory worker who revered education, pushing her to excel and serving on the local school board. (He died by suicide a year after his son; Millard’s regret is that he never saw her achievements.)

Now a mom herself, Millard is driven by a desire “to leave places better than how I found them,” she says. “Public service is my thing. Despite everything I’ve gone through, I still feel really lucky for what I have.”

Adrienne Muller

Government Affairs Consultant, One+ Strategies
Adrienne Muller / Lauren Orazi

Observing her leisure time can reveal a lot about lobbyist Adrienne Muller. Muller’s CrossFit discipline feeds the competitive streak that has propelled her to the forefront of Harrisburg politics. But she’s also passionate about engaging with a variety of people and making them happy.

That’s evident from Muller’s volunteer gig at Harrisburg International Airport, where, as part of the Embark program, her trained Wheaten terrier, Mully, eases travelers’ nerves through petting and smiles. “It just brings a lot of happiness,” Muller noted.

At 34, the Harrisburg veteran is already responsible for, if not precisely joy, then certainly a good deal of satisfaction in her professional life. Before joining One+ Strategies last November, Muller worked alongside Gov. Josh Shapiro for five years, most of those as a legislative deputy when Shapiro was Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

Much of her work involved public safety; Safe to Say, an anonymous school-safety reporting initiative, has since become a national model. Muller also worked on one of Shapiro’s signature accomplishments – reforms in response to a Catholic Church abuse scandal – and helped expand the state’s property tax rebate program. 

At One+, she draws on these varied experiences to assist clients across sectors from health care to technology and nonprofits. “You learn so much by interacting with different kinds of people,” observes Muller, who might well be talking about her weekends at the airport. “There’s a lot more common ground we can find, even living in such a polarized world.”

Ashley DeMauro Mullins

Managing Director, Advocacy, ExcelinEd
Ashley DeMauro Mullins / Provided

Ashley DeMauro Mullins knows that nothing is more important than learning. “Education is where every job starts,” says Mullins, 38. “That’s why it’s meaningful not just for the individual, but for society as a whole.” 

That principle guides her work at ExcelinEd, the nonprofit education think tank where Mullins is the managing director for advocacy; she also heads legislative affairs for the organization’s policy-reform affiliate, ExcelinEd in Action.

From her Harrisburg office, Mullins promotes educational tax credits, career pathway funding and measures to bolster the teacher pipeline. She’s currently promoting bills in the Pennsylvania legislature that promote evidence-based literacy instruction, a hot-button cause she has championed nationally.

Mullins almost became a teacher herself. But at Juniata College, a professor encouraged her to apply for the Pennsylvania House fellowship program. During that Harrisburg semester with the House Education Committee, “I got bitten by the policy bug,” she recalls with a laugh. 

After earning a master’s in education, Mullins returned to that committee as a policy analyst, then headed government relations for the state Department of Education. She brings those years of insights to ExcelinEd in Action’s Statehouse Spotlights podcast, parsing trends and highlighting upcoming bills. 

With Mullins’ 5-year-old son about to enter school, debates over literacy education have become less, well, academic. Parenthood “intensified my feeling that every child only has a certain amount of time, so policy is really important,” she says. “We don’t have generations to wait for change. We have to get it right.”

Bryanna Pardoe

Executive Director, CODE PA
Bryanna Pardoe / Commonwealth Media Services

Few people are as ideally equipped as Bryanna Pardoe to make technology user-friendly.

At 31, she’s a digital native, of course. She also grew up, as she puts it, “a nerd, building computers with my brothers in the basement.” By the time she was in school, she was helping local nonprofits build websites. “I realized how much I loved it – that it literally could be a career for me,” she says.

So when Gov. Josh Shapiro was looking for somebody to run his new Commonwealth Office of Digital Experience – CODE PA for short – Pardoe was a natural fit. She quickly built a 23-person team and spearheaded projects like Payback, an online tool that tracks wait times for licenses and permits.

“Did I ever think I was going to be excited about permits? No, but here we are,” she reports. “In 13 weeks, we had a clean, simple product that made it easy for residents to find that information.”

Pardoe is similarly proud of a streamlined form that facilitates patients’ medical prior authorization. Health care was familiar territory for Pardoe, who previously directed digital engagement for Geisinger and Main Line Health.

The sheer volume and impact of state-level work, though, leaves Pardoe in awe. “When you think about the pervasive impact on folks’ lives – everything from driver’s licenses to Medicaid – that drives me to make this program as successful as possible,” she reflects. “All that time setting up LAN networks to play video games in our basement as a kid ... it all paid off.”

Johnny J. Patterson II

Vice President of Government Relations, Genesis HealthCare
Johnny J. Patterson II / Daniel Jackson, Embassy International

The roster of politicians Johnny J. Patterson II has worked for is impressive: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But perhaps the most consequential name is U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, who was chair of the state House Appropriations Committee when he met his then high-school-aged constituent.

 Introduced by Patterson’s teacher, Evans invited the youngster to be his intern and showed him around the state Capitol. “He got me interested in politics,” recalls Patterson, now 36.

 That experience led to a political science degree and a series of policy roles in New York City, Mount Vernon and Baltimore. After years of campaign work, Patterson settled back in Philadelphia, using his insights to lead government and community relations for home health companies.

 For the past three years, Patterson has managed legislative outreach for Genesis HealthCare. “What I like about health care,” he explains, “is seeing the gamut, young and old – and the technology that helps people live happy and productive lives.”

 At Genesis, Patterson has secured increased Medicaid reimbursement rates and lobbied to ease regulations around health training programs. A current priority is immigration reform, which could boost the industry's workforce development efforts.

 On weekends, he blows off steam with Work to Ride, the nation's first African American polo team. But Patterson's mind is always on the next bill in session. “I love being able to write policy,” he enthuses. “I see policy as an open-ended conversation to help better people's lives.”

Zachary Peters

Lead Director, State Government Affairs, CVS Health
Zachary Peters / Maximilian Franz Photography

Zachary Peters is fond of the word “exciting,” and his enthusiasm for directing state government affairs at CVS Health is palpable. 

“Issues change on a daily basis,” says the 30-year-old, who joined the fast-growing health outfit in 2022. “We have so many different lines of business – all of which, in some capacity, touch the government. It's very rewarding.”

Peters first got interested in politics at Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a political science degree. After graduation, he held a series of state government jobs in Annapolis, including as an insurance regulator with the Maryland Insurance Administration. 

That industry knowledge comes in handy at CVS, where Peters smooths coordination across CVS Health business units – most recently, the Pennsylvania expansion of Oak Street Health, a newly acquired Medicare provider services company. Along with educating policymakers about that brand, he routinely takes them on tours of CVS Health’s mail-order pharmacies and retail distribution centers. 

Peters had his own learning curve in the commonwealth, with its year-round legislative session and split representation. “To get anything done requires a lot of bipartisan work,” Peters noted.  “I came in with a fresh look at the issues, developing those relationships from scratch.”

One place he doesn’t network is on the links, where he enjoys unwinding on weekends. “A lot of elected folks also like to play golf. I don’t typically golf for business because I’m not that great,” Peters admits. But there’s still time: After all, he’s only 30.

Jasmine Rivera

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Jasmine Rivera / Jose Mazariegos

Growing up in a Chicago family of Mexican immigrants, Jasmine Rivera was never shy about confronting adults who made racist comments. “I always had a strong sense of what was wrong and what was right, what was fair and unfair,” she recalls.

Now 37 and the leader of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Rivera is still guided by that sense. “But now I have the data that backs up what I knew instinctively at a very young age,” she notes.

Rivera uses that data to inform a career focused on grassroots organizing, community empowerment and justice for the commonwealth’s vulnerable newcomers. As the lead organizer of Juntos and Action United, she worked to secure sanctuary-city policies and led the marathon effort to pass Philadelphia’s first paid sick-leave law.

She also co-founded the Shut Down Berks Coalition in 2015. It took eight years of lobbying, but Rivera saw victory last year with the closure of the Berks County Detention Center, an incarceration facility for immigrant families. As a Free Migration Project board member, Rivera recently championed a first-in-the-nation Philadelphia law outlawing private medical deportations.

Rivera now heads a coalition of 50 commonwealth organizations – and initiatives ranging from political advocacy to immigration services. She’s also working on a book on the Shut Down Berks experience, and raising a daughter to be as proactive as she always was. Her outraged younger self, she reflects, “would be really proud.”

Jamison Rogers

Director of Investigations, Philadelphia Citizens Police Oversight Commission
Jamison Rogers / TML Communications

Many kids dream of growing up to be a police officer. “I just never grew out of it,” jokes Jamison Rogers, 38. Growing up in Chester County, he says, “I saw firsthand the impact that police work can have in a community.”

Little did a young Rogers imagine his future impact: In 2023, he became Philadelphia’s inaugural director of investigations for the Citizens Police Oversight Commission. In a city with the country’s fourth-largest police department, Rogers knows the import of his appointment: “I’m grateful to have this role bridging communications between the police and the community.”

In many ways, Rogers is the ideal person to do that. The son of an attorney and a corrections officer, he spent a dozen years with the Chester Police Department, including as a major crimes and homicide detective. Over the past year, Rogers has used that experience to build an oversight team that includes civilian investigators and cultivate relationships with police and community. Crucially, Rogers set a precedent of responding personally and immediately to officer-involved shootings.

That kind of personal investment, Rogers says, is essential for building credibility – and fighting the perception that oversight is somehow anti-police. When an officer shoots, “he literally takes the most serious action he can,” explains Rogers. “You want transparency. I’m that extra set of eyes.”

He’s also a Black law enforcement officer, which, he says, helps him be “that person who can vouch for when the police do things right – and not be afraid to step up when things happen.”

Olivia Edwards Rindfuss

Senior Associate, Triad Strategies
Olivia Edwards Rindfuss / Philter Photography

Olivia Edwards Rindfuss traces her affinity for nonprofits to a childhood in North Carolina, where such organizations were lifelines – both after tragedies like hurricanes, and to meet the myriad needs of a region left behind by redlining, segregation and poor government.

“Nonprofits serve the workforce and they serve people,” explains Rindfuss, now a senior associate at Triad Strategies.

Since joining the Harrisburg firm in 2017, she has specialized in championing nonprofit clients in health care, education, labor and tourism. Rindfuss recently helped pass a bill that loosens interstate employment regulations to ease a critical nursing shortage, and has lobbied policymakers about the critical need for first responders’ benefits. She also helped launch the commonwealth’s first professional horticulture coalition on behalf of 35 clients. 

The 30-year-old’s passion for policy was shaped by her experience growing up a minority in historically disadvantaged public schools, where “my teachers were politically inclined to call for reforms and equity.” So was she, studying politics at Lebanon Valley College and learning the ropes as a legislative staffer at both the state and U.S. houses of representatives. 

Today, Rindfuss is active with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Harrisburg Young Professionals. And at Triad, she has found a professional home for her idealism. “From a young age, I was not only allowed but encouraged to lead here,” she says, “and to find holes in public policy and create client opportunities. They’ve given me a platform to become what I wanted to become.”

Cameron Runyeon

Manager, Health and Government Solutions, KPMG
Cameron Runyeon / Cameron Runyeon

Cameron Runyeon grew up tinkering with computers alongside his grandfather. But as much as he loved technology, “I realized I didn't want to sit behind a computer all day,” said Runyeon. “I wanted to be out there meeting people.”

Having switched his Penn State major to information science – with a minor in security and risk analysis – Runyeon was a natural recruiting target for KPMG, the global consultancy. The Hershey native is now an advisory consultant at the firm’s health and government solutions practice, helping public-sector clients manage large-scale technological and logistical projects.

Runyeon has used his IT knowledge to help numerous state departments of Health and Human Services with projects like implementing population health-management systems or modernizing eligibility processes. He also works closely with transportation agencies – to upgrade vehicle fleets, for instance, or incorporate sensor data that improves operations.

“We often think of government as this big conglomerate,” reflects Runyeon. “We don’t necessarily think of all the things that have to happen on the back end to keep our roads operational, or keep the systems up and running that provide services.”

To promote awareness of these fields, Runyeon chairs the innovation committee for NextGen IT, an organization that connects Pennsylvanians with technology careers. He also volunteers with nonprofits through a KPMG pro bono initiative; recently, Runyeon worked with the Audubon Society on ways to reduce bird-building collisions. 

“The work that we do has real impact,” notes Runyeon, “on people, and on society.”

Ben Rush-Goebel

Director of Programs, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
Ben Rush-Goebel / Provided

Sometimes it takes an immigrant to appreciate what locals take for granted. “I feel sad when I see that 12% of people voted in an election,” says France-born Philadelphian Ben Rush-Goebel, an enthusiastic poll-goer since becoming a naturalized citizen in 2022. “I’m really in love with this country – and being able to say, ‘My voice matters.’”

Rush-Goebel shares his newfound patriotism at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia – where, as director of programs, he shows off his adopted hometown at fireside chats with visiting diplomats, international quiz nights and Model U.N. events at area public schools.

It’s the fulfillment of an American dream stemming from Rush-Goebel’s Lyon childhood, fueled by TV shows like “The West Wing” and “Friends.” “This energy, so much positivity,” he recalls of his first visit to the U.S. “It was the opposite of France.”

Rush-Goebel’s opportunity came when the Montreal pharmaceutical sales office where he worked transferred him to Philadelphia – a city he unexpectedly fell in love with because the local passions for food and sports remind him of his French hometown.

The next metamorphosis was from the corporate to the nonprofit world. “I wanted to be in the business of helping people,” Rush-Goebel said, and that’s what he did – helping fellow immigrants find jobs through Philadelphia’s Welcoming Center, where he grew a workforce development program for skilled newcomers.

The 35-year-old’s own story inspires his peers, illustrating what America can promise and why it matters. “What I love,” says Rush-Goebel, “is opening doors between Philadelphia and the world.”

Eric Seidman

Partner, Wouch Maloney
Eric Seidman / Jared Gruenwald, Left Eyed Studios

Construction, manufacturing and real estate are the bulk of Eric Seidman’s accounting practice at the Philadelphia firm of Wouch Maloney. But without a doubt, the most glamorous part of his career is calculating taxes for highly paid athletes – a practice area he spearheaded a decade ago.

Seidman, 38, now works with more than 40 active and retired sports stars – advising on potential tax liabilities that, in some cases, have helped them decide between eye-popping deals. 

“I had a recent free agent with three different offers, and when he saw the potential taxes on similarly structured deals, it was a big reason why he signed with one team,” recalls Seidman. He also cultivates agents, whose careers have decades more longevity – and who have found that teaming with a reliable accountant can be attractive to a highly paid athlete.

Seidman’s father was a TV sports producer, so he grew up in Northeast Philadelphia around professional athletes, as well as the statistics that sowed a love of numbers. (He knows a little about the adrenaline, too, having been a high school baseball star.) With a communications degree from Penn State and an MBA from LaSalle, Seidman brings an unusual perspective to a field requiring creative strategies.

“So much of what keeps this fun and fresh is that every day you get calls with different problems to solve,” says Seidman, who also handles estate cases. “Our core tenet is being proactive – answering the questions our clients didn’t even know they should be asking.”

Kevin Sunday

Policy Adviser, Strategic Solutions Group, McNees Wallace & Nurick
Kevin Sunday / Scott Halfond, McNees Wallace & Nurick

From the Delaware River to the Marcellus Shale and the forests and pipelines in between, Kevin Sunday has an enviable knowledge of the state’s energy, environmental and utility landscape. 

Last year, Sunday brought his expertise to the McNees Strategic Solutions Group, where he is a policy adviser. “I enjoy learning complicated subject matter, like arcane regulatory issues,” he says, “and finding a way to explain it.” 

The York County native mastered that art over 15 years in statewide roles – as a press secretary with the state Department of Environmental Protection and, most recently, heading government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. 

In the latter position, Sunday was thrilled to testify before Congress on energy and tax policy: “Bringing what’s going on in Pennsylvania into the high-profile debates in D.C. was memorable.” Sure, a wall of senators is nerve-wracking, he said – “but you just trust that you’ve done your homework.”

For Sunday, that education began on the family farm, where he grew up enamored with English and science. Those interests deepened during an exploration of Chesapeake Bay at Towson University, where he studied communications, and converged in his state government role. 

At 38, Sunday feels reinvigorated by new clients like Project Interspace, a geothermal nonprofit that leverages oil and gas technologies to meet the state’s power needs – with zero emissions. 

“We’re trying to build the ecosystem between universities, drillers and big industrial energy users,” he explains. “It’s going to take time, but I’m blessed to have such meaningful work.”

Andrew Walker

Vice President, Accounting and Financial Reporting, WellSpan Health
Andrew Walker / Provided

Accountants are best known for dealing with numbers – but for Andrew Walker, finances are all about people. 

Walker, 37, brings a humanistic lens to his role overseeing accounting and financial reporting at WellSpan Health in York. “Accounting is one of the few remaining apprenticeship models,” he explains. “You work underneath a senior leader who has done it for 25 years. I take that culture with me, because you’re nothing without your people.”

Walker himself was first mentored by an uncle who worked at PriceWaterhouse Coopers; his father and stepmother are also accountants (as is his wife). After earning a master’s in accounting at the University of Kentucky, he found his niche in health care, managing mergers and acquisitions with Bonsecour Mercy Health before moving into operations at WellSpan. 

After years of conserving resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker is relishing health care’s new era of loosened purse strings. He recently supervised WellSpan’s major investment in Oracle database software, which “touches every facet of our business,” he enthuses, from payroll and supply chain to capital accounting and upskilling. “It’s going to open up a ton of opportunity for us.”

Now, Walker is working on the company’s merger with Evangelical, ensuring the flow of capital while easing the cultural adjustments inevitable in such transitions. 

“You’re not just merging hospitals, you’re also merging teams – bringing different skill sets and backgrounds together,” he explains. “What makes me really excited is putting people in the right place to succeed.”

Anna Warheit

Director of Regulatory Affairs, LeadingAge PA
Anna Warheit / James T. Giffen Photography

Anna Warheit’s first post-college job – working at a nursing home dementia unit – taught her two things. One, “that I loved it – I really loved it,” she recalls. And two, “that counterintuitive regulations really frustrated me, taking time away from my ability to provide residents what they needed.”

Those twin conclusions set Warheit on the path to a master’s in social gerontology and a JD in health care law, a joint program at the University of Nebraska. Now director of regulatory affairs at LeadingAge PA – the state chapter of a national organization representing the aging care industry – Warheit can finally help change policies she knows firsthand to be onerous, and lobby for the funding her 400 member organizations need. 

Recently, the Western Pennsylvania native successfully lobbied Harrisburg for greater flexibility in state-mandated staffing ratios, accommodating smaller or differently structured facilities with diverse clientele. Warheit also advocated to recoup $2 million in nursing home funding.

At LeadingAge, she recently drew on her own experiences to spearhead an initiative to, in her words, “re-center” the long-term care ecosystem – convening an advisory group around core priorities like workforce development, recruitment and reducing the document burden. 

“At this stage in my career, what I enjoy most is being a conduit between government and industry, because I do see both sides,” reflects Warheit, 34. “It ties back to why I went to school – helping the providers who are in it for the right reasons to have the support they need to do things right.”

Mary Yoder

Executive Director, Local Government Committee, Pennsylvania Senate
Mary Yoder / Julie Neal, Senate Republican Communications Office

As executive director of the state Senate Local Government Committee, Mary Yoder feels her life has come full circle.

“I fell in love with local government thanks to a high school assignment – to attend a municipal meeting,” recalls the Lehigh Valley native. Then in college, Yoder took a communications internship with the Senate Republicans: “I fell in love with Harrisburg, working in the Capitol building every day.”

The process of lawmaking most compelled her, which is why Yoder overcame her doubts and, as a political science graduate student at Lehigh University, ran for commissioner of the Township of Salisbury. (Unopposed, she stood outside the polls handing out instructions for spelling her name.)

She resigned when she moved after graduation – and after stints working for an affordable housing developer and leading government affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. “It’s great to be back in the Senate, working on local issues,” says Yoder.

These include, recently, consolidating the county code and passing legislation around EMS and fire companies. Having dealt personally with mental health issues, Yoder was gratified to help launch the Senate Mental Health Caucus. And, having worked on 14 bills signed into law, she’s especially proud that each bill this session has passed with bipartisan support.

“Local government impacts absolutely everything – the road you take to get to work, the trash, basic services you rely on,” affirms Yoder. “My whole goal is to do what I can to make local government more efficient and effective.”

Ashley Zimmerman

Executive Director, Northern Central Railway
Ashley Zimmerman / Natalie Sharp

Four years ago, Ashley Zimmerman left a costume apparel business for York’s Northern Central Railway, a tourist excursion outfit. “Tutus to trains,” jokes Zimmerman, now the railway’s executive director.

In truth, the magic of escapism has been Zimmerman’s calling since her childhood as a serious ballet dancer. “Dance made me who I am,” reflects the York County native. “It has taught me discipline and leadership skills – to have thick skin and push through.”

After studying marketing at York College of Pennsylvania, Zimmerman worked for Perform Group, one of the country’s largest costume manufacturers. There, she developed a new relationship management team, becoming the company’s youngest-ever director of business development.

In 2020, ready for a change, Zimmerman joined Northern Central Railway. She relished the challenge of fundraising during a pandemic, and has succeeded: In just a year, the new executive has increased ridership by 25% and brought in $3 million for the railroad. 

Less quantifiable, but no less important, is the satisfaction Zimmerman derives from cultivating jobs, tourism and joy for a community she has long called home. “You see little boys’ and girls’ eyes light up as the train comes through, watching the princess or Santa Claus on the train,” Zimmerman says. “Grandparents remember how they worked on the railroad; now they’re building memories with their grandchildren. Every day is like a Hallmark movie.”

Shea Zwerver

Workforce Relations and Public Affairs Manager, Flagger Force
Shea Zwerver / Flagger Force

From her roots as an environmentalist to her work with incarcerated people, Shea Zwerver views herself as an advocate for justice.

“Social equity and environmental​ justice are very interconnected,” explains Zwerver, 36. “For instance, neighborhoods that were redlined have less tree canopy and more environmental health issues.”

For the past two years, the Greene County native has brought that social consciousness to Flagger Force, a traffic safety company where she manages workforce relations and public affairs. Her job involves managing workforce development, including fair chance hiring – recruiting the formerly incarcerated – as well as government relations  (she has lobbied for the expansion of state-level clean slate legislation).

Zwerver traces her love of nature and nurturing instincts to a childhood on the family farm. “We stewarded the land and cared for generations of rescue animals,” she recalls. After studying psychology and landscape design at Smith College, she earned a master’s in environmental studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

While working for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Zwerver created the Correctional Conservation Collaborative – a program that has trained hundreds of state prisoners for forestry jobs after release. She currently chairs the Barrier Remediation Committee, a committee of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board dedicated to removing obstacles to post-incarceration employment, and is part of an ad-hoc national coalition promoting nature-based prison interventions. “What I enjoy the most is seeing systems change come to fruition,” she affirms, “and seeing those impacts for the better.”