40 Under 40
They're smart. They're successful. And they're taking over Baltimore.
By Max Weiss, Ken Iglehart, and Jess Blumberg, with Shawn Bean and Christine Stutz
–Illustration by Christian Northeast
Meet Baltimore's Future
"What's Howard County going to look like in 20 or 40 years?" muses Ken Ulman. Good question, Ken. As Howard County Executive, he's going to be playing an active role in determining that future. Ask the same question about the future of Baltimore City or Baltimore County, and look no further than the names on this list for your answers. Our selections for 40 Under 40 are the people we think will be shaping the future of this region. Whether in the field of politics, medicine, art, or business, these are the young folks with the big ideas, the big jobs, and the big where-with-all to realize their visions. Okay, no one has a crystal ball, so we can't say for sure that these young movers and shakers will be the architects of Baltimore in the decades to come. But we sure wouldn't bet against them.
*The 40 Under 40 are not ranked in any particular order.
1. Denise Choiniere, 39
RN, Hospital Green Crusader
When Denise Choiniere, a cardiac care unit staff nurse, moved here from Vermont 11 years ago, she was surprised by how little recycling was going on at area hospitals. At the Burlington hospital where she had worked, conservation was the norm.
So she set about to gain administrative support from her employer, University of Maryland Medical Center, for green initiatives. She started with battery recycling, then moved on to encouraging the purchase of more recyclable materials, incinerating less waste, and providing healthier food to patients and staff. She obtained a grant to form employee "green teams," and she is working to bring a weekly farmers' market to the downtown hospital campus.
"I've always been an environmentalist, and it just seemed natural to bring it into my work setting," Choiniere says. She now works parttime in the newly created position of environmental health coordinator at UMMC, working with hospitals all over the state to implement green practices. She's also nursing outreach coordinator for Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
On the nursing units, she encourages simple changes—such as noise reduction and the use of less harsh cleaning products—that can help patients recover more quickly. "Even Florence Nightingale knew that the patient's environment matters," she says.
2. Dalliah Mashon Black, M.D., 35
Breast Cancer Surgeon
Dalliah Mashon Black discovered a passion for surgery while attending the University
of North Carolina, where she received her medical degree in 1998.
"I was excited about being able to take something out of the body to make a patient almost instantly better," she says.
She became fascinated by cancer, she says, and found that breast cancer offered some of the most interesting challenges—as well as some of the most promising treatments.
"Breast cancers are not all the same," she explains, so the treatment approach must match the individual patient.
While Black, who recently joined the staff of Mercy Medical Center's Hoffberger Breast Center, treats all patients, she is especially interested in helping young women and African-American women with breast cancer. These patients, she says, often have more aggressive cancers, and many current treatments are less effective. For her dedicated research into cancer treatment, Black was recently awarded the "Profiles in Philanthropy Award" from the Associated Black Charities.
Black came to Mercy earlier this year from the Yale University School of Medicine, where she was an assistant professor of surgery.
The good news for local patients? She likes Baltimore, and finds it "a nice mix" between Southern hospitality and big-city vibrancy.
3. Julian Marucci, 25
Executive Chef, Cinghiale
"I could make chocolate soufflé when I was 13," says Julian Marucci.
Even without that tidbit on his resume, the Baltimore International College graduate and Cindy Wolf protégé was handpicked to be executive chef at Cinghiale. Since taking the helm last fall, the osteria has become a foodie favorite (Baltimore wrote Cinghiale "is far and away the best upscale Italian in Baltimore").
For Marucci, the road to Cinghiale began in Hatfield, PA, where he watched cooking shows on the Discovery Channel. "I remember being especially impressed by the chef at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing," he says.
Recently, he's been busy making dishes like rabbit confit with butternut squash, not to mention honing his knack for authentic Tuscan and Umbrian cuisine. "To have Italian winemakers come in from northern Italy and say that Cinghiale is better than the places back home is amazing," says Marucci as he hovers over 30 pieces of squab. So he's come a long way since making chocolate soufflé in his kitchen, right? "Don't be fooled," he says. "Chocolate soufflé is tough to make."
4. Rick Abbruzzese, 31
Director of Communications, Office of the Governor
Moving is tough for most people. But for Rick Abbruzzese, the move from 100 N. Holliday Street in Baltimore to 100 State Circle in Annapolis "was the most intense professional experience of my life." In 2006, Abbruzzese was press secretary for then-Mayor Martin O'Malley during the heated gubernatorial race with Robert Ehrlich. After the election, Abbruzzese, who started in the mayor's office when he was just 26, was named the governor's director of communications. Along with fielding countless BlackBerry messages from O'Malley, he manages a staff of speechwriters, event planners, photographers, and deputy press secretaries.
"I grew up with this administration," says Abbruzzese. "I've learned how Martin O'Malley views his role and the role of government. He has a comfort level with me. I think that's why I was given this opportunity."
Despite his relative youth, Abbruzzese also came to the job with extensive media experience: He worked at Widmeyer Communications and Porter Novelli in Washington, D.C., and helped develop the anti-smoking "Truth" campaign at advertising giant Arnold Worldwide. But he says Governor O'Malley has taught him the most. Like what? "A lot about history and Irish music."
5. Natasha Cross, 24
Founder, EYE for Change
While taking marketing classes at Morgan State University, Natasha Cross had a revelation: If she continued on her current path, she would always be working for someone else. She didn't like that reality. So she decided to do something about it. In 2005, she founded EYE (Engaging Youth Entrepreneurs) for Change, a nonprofit that teaches entrepreneurial skills to students (ages 9-25).
"I worked in city schools [while in college] and saw all the potential," she says. "They just needed someone to believe in them."
EYE for Change runs entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and leadership programs at more than 15 schools and recreation centers throughout Baltimore. Cross has entrepreneurs speak, uses games to teach students about personal finances, and has them create business and life plans. Every April, EYE for Change has a conference where students are awarded for successful business plans (this year, first place went to 20-year-old Marlin Barton for a company that would place digital maps on subways) and a six-week summer camp. Cross eventually wants to teach students about real estate investment and hopes that her organization gets replicated in other cities.
"I just want kids to walk away with an entrepreneurial mindset," she says. "So they think outside of the box, go beyond their corner, and realize there's a world out there."
6. Ken Ulman, 33
Howard County Executive
"I know I was incredibly fortunate to be born and raised here in Howard County," says Ken Ulman. "And I don't want to miss one opportunity to make it better."
Ulman takes great pride in the fact that, as county executive, he can make a significant impact on the quality of life there. He was elected to the post in 2006 at age 32, becoming the youngest county executive in the state. After 18 months in office, he has been lauded for making key hires, launching innovative programs, and making good on promises to make health care and environmental sustainability top priorities.
Ulman's parents moved to Columbia from Baltimore City in 1971 and raised their children there. "They really bought into the values of diversity and opportunity that Columbia represented," he says. "And growing up, I adopted those values."
Now, he says, he's working hard to make sure those values can still thrive. "What really drives me is the future," Ulman says. "What's Howard County going to look like in 20 or 40 years?"
7. Robert Carpenter, 35
Founder, Inside Lacrosse
Robert Carpenter has come a long way since 1997, when he started Inside Lacrosse magazine in a spare bedroom in his Towson apartment.
Last fall, he sold the media company that Inside Lacrosse had become to Advanced Publishing, the huge parent company of the Baltimore Business Journal, Sporting News, and other sports magazines, for an undisclosed sum.
Carpenter's passion for the sport helped him make Inside Lacrosse a must-read for more than just fans. The magazine and its entrepreneurial offshoots have helped build an enthusiastic audience for the game and given it greater national prominence.
But Carpenter (think of him as a preppie Don King) still sees tremendous untapped potential for the sport. "In the past two years, we've done a one-hour special on ESPN," he says. "I want to have a weekly half-hour show." He also wants to see more major pre-season double-headers like the Face-off Classic, held the past two years at Raven's M&T Bank Stadium, in four or five pro football stadiums nationally.
"The vision has been in place for a while," Carpenter says. But since the sale to a media giant, he adds, "the speed will be accelerated."
8. Nicole Sherry, 30
Head Groundskeeper, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
As one of just two women to hold such a position in the major leagues, Nicole Sherry is more like a groundbreaker than a groundskeeper.
She first became interested in turf management while studying agriculture at the University of Delaware, which led to a stint as assistant groundskeeper at Camden Yards and, in 2004, a job as head groundskeeper for the minor league Trenton Thunder. After two years of proving herself in the minors, Sherry returned to the big leagues, this time as boss.
"I love the science of grass," Sherry says. "But I'm athletic so it's great to be outside instead of working in a lab." On a typical game day, Sherry and her team (26 staff members including a 17-member tarp crew) get to the park at 9 a.m. to mow the grass, rake the base paths, and mold the pitcher's mound. They repeat that after batting practice and again after the game, working 14 to 16 hours a day. The New Castle, DE, native says she loves living in Baltimore because of all its energy and history. And she says being around the 2008 Orioles has been "contagious."
"These young guys have so much heart," she enthuses.
9. Ian Cheong, Ph.D., 33
Research Fellow, Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
Just because you developed a groundbreaking method for curing cancer doesn't mean you don't know how to have fun. Ian Cheong's laboratory at Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins features a pool table and a ping-pong table. The postgraduate student vacations at The Lab, the Ocean City beach house he shares with his colleagues. So it's no joke when Cheong says, "Science is my playground."
Luckily, his brand of fun is helping save lives. Last November, at the Collegiate Inventors Competition, Cheong won the grand prize for his new approach to beating cancer: Deliver cancer-killing chemicals directly to the tumor, and thereby avoid hurting healthy cells as chemotherapy does. He was chosen from more than 100 competitors by a panel of judges that included inventor Ted Hoff and won $25,000. All this from a guy who was previously an attorney in a Singapore law firm.
When asked about the drastic career change, Cheong says, "I thought science was too much fun to be left to the scientists."
10. Father Erik Arnold, 37
Pastor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Erik Arnold is on YouTube. It's December 2007 and the season of Advent is under way in the Catholic Church. In an effort to keep his congregation focused on the spiritual side of Christmas and not the almighty quest for a Nintendo Wii, Father Arnold shot and edited daily Advent reflections and posted them on the video sharing website. The pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a popular Catholic parish in Howard County, was using 21st-century means to communicate a first-century message.
"The challenge is taking a message that's 2,000 years old and making it meaningful in our current culture," says Arnold. While growing up in Catonsville, there were no signs this path lay ahead for him. "When I told my parents [I wanted to be a pastor], they were quite surprised," he recalls. After attending St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park, Cardinal William Keeler, then the Archbishop of Baltimore, invited Arnold to study theology in Rome. Arnold now oversees a church that welcomes 2,000 congregants for Sunday Mass, and they never fail to notice his youth.
"I get people who jokingly say they confuse me with the altar boy," Arnold says with a chuckle. "I wouldn't mind having a few more gray hairs."
11. Sean Mosley, 19
Despite I-95, the road from Baltimore to College Park isn't always a clear path in the basketball world. That's why we were happy when St. Frances Academy senior and shooting guard Sean Mosley decided to keep it instate and become a Terrapin. It is easy to see why University of Maryland would want him: Mosley propelled his team to victory in this year's Catholic Invitational tournament and is in second place on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,879 points. While other local hoops stars have hightailed it to such schools as Connecticut and Syracuse, Mosley insists the Terps were always his first priority. "Other schools would shy away if I had a bad game," he says. "But Maryland seems very committed to student athletes."
The 6-foot-4-inch West Baltimore native is excited to play as a Terp, and also plans on majoring in business management and would love to start his own dot-com venture someday. (One potential glitch? As of press time, Mosley was academically ineligible to join the team because of sub-par SAT scores. His father, Rick, assures us that he'll get the scores up in time to be eligible.) For now, Mosley is confident everything will work out and is soaking up his rep as the next big Terp: "I'm just proud of myself and grateful that my coaches and father have pushed me each and every day," he says.
12. David Wassell, 33
VP, Associate Creative Director, MGH Advertising
When David Wassell was in the second grade, he won a contest designing an ad for a bank (who owned that grade school: Malcolm Forbes?).
"Foreshadowing, I guess," he says.
But advertising wasn't exactly his dream. The Pennsylvania native studied fine arts at Towson University. It was an internship at Cornerstone Advertising that really sealed his career choice.
"I learned more in six months at Cornerstone than I did in four years at Towson," Wassell says.
In 2001, after a good stint at Cornerstone, he started working for MGH, one of the largest agencies in town. Since then, he's risen steadily up the company ranks, from senior art director to his current position as VP and associate creative director. His biggest claim to fame? Masterminding those clever (and undeniably effective) Smyth Jewelers billboards you see all over Baltimore. (A recent one features a giant talking ring: "Your girlfriend wants me.")
"I really think we've given Smyth a voice," says Wassell, who claims that the key to good billboard advertising is not dumbing down the joke. "People want to be entertained."
The ad world agrees: "We cleaned house at the ADDYs [the industry awards] this year," says Wassell, who equates the launching of a billboard to opening night of a play.
"That's your showtime."
13. Eric Lee Bryant, 37
Attorney and Lobbyist
As a partner with the Annapolis law firm of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, Eric L. Bryant gets to pursue his twin passions: political activism and litigation.
A lobbyist representing clients as diverse as Wal-Mart, the Maryland Jockey Club, the SEED School, and Dominion Energy, Bryant uses his skills as an analyst and a communicator to get things done in the legislative arena.
"What's rewarding about the work is the ability to participate in the process," says Bryant. "I believe in our government in the same way that I believe in the jury system."
After receiving his degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1995, he was hired as an associate at Venable. But after five years, he left the prestigious law firm to work for the NAACP as deputy director of national field operations.
"If I had not done that, my career would have stayed humdrum," he says. "It was all about billable hours and my paycheck, and I wanted to be able to have more of an impact on my community."
14. Randal Mills, Ph.D., 36
President & CEO , Osiris Therapeutics
Randal Mills became interested in medicine as an adolescent suffering from a non life-threatening kidney disease. While studying microbiology at the University of Florida, he worked part-time as an emergency-room technician, where he saw suffering—and the occasional medical miracle—on a much larger scale. He chose drug development as his career, he says, because he felt it was the best way to help the greatest number of sick people.
As CEO and president of Columbia-based Osiris Therapeutics, Mills is shepherding the first stem-cell drug to market. That drug, Prochymal, helps recipients of bone-marrow transplants whose bodies reject the new tissue—about half of the 7,000 to 8,000 Americans who receive such transplants annually.
"In the next 10 years, stem-cell therapy is going to have the same kind of impact on the practice of medicine that the introduction of antibiotics had in 1929," Mills says. "And the fact that Osiris is leading that is incredibly exciting."
What he finds most rewarding, though, is seeing startling recoveries in pediatric patients who receive the drug. (Though Prochymal is still in clinical trials, the FDA recently allowed Osiris to offer it to severely ill children.) "These children are in incredible pain and would die a horrible death," he says. "To save a child's life is just unbelievable."
15. Anthony Barksdale, 36
Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Baltimore Police Department
Anthony Barksdale was a student waiting at a bus stop on North Avenue for a ride to Coppin State. That's when he saw the foot chase: a perp a few steps ahead of two boys in blue. They were out of sight within seconds, but "it really captivated me." Shortly thereafter, he dropped out of school and went to the police academy. Once he became an officer, Barksdale went on to help transform the department's Violent Crime Impact Division, which monitors the city's toughest drug sectors. His work didn't go unnoticed: Last summer, he became the youngest deputy commissioner of operations in the department's history. But it wasn't all confetti and well wishes. "It was rough when I first got promoted," says Barksdale. "I took a lot of shots from people saying, 'He doesn't have 20 years on the job. He's too young.' But I just ignore the naysayers and stay focused."
Why endure all the abuse? "The job makes me happy," says Barksdale. Huh? "When you come through for a victim, when you catch the bad guy, that makes me happy."
16. Jason Ambrose, 36
Co-owner and Executive Chef, Salt
"I have this vivid memory of eating with my grandfather when I was four," Jason Ambrose recalls. "He was putting salt on his honeydew. I tasted it and thought, "Aha!' That's my first food memory. I learned what salt could do to food."
Not only did that momentous melon meal set off Ambrose's culinary career, it inspired the name of his hugely successful restaurant in Butchers Hill. In 2006, the Connecticut native opened Salt, a 45-seat eatery, in what had been a drug-infested stretch on E. Pratt Street. The rave reviews were instant: Elizabeth Large, the notoriously tough food critic for The Sun, gave it four stars, breathlessly reporting, "Explosive flavor is Ambrose's trademark." The timing couldn't have been better: He was $20,000 in debt and had $150 in his bank account.
"I wish I could say I knew we'd be flooded from the get-go," says the affable Ambrose. "The truth is, you open the doors and hold your breath." But Ambrose isn't sure he'll be masterminding cutting-edge eateries forever.
"Years from now, I might be cooking clams on the side of the road in New England." What, no crabs? "Crab picking is hard work. No thanks."
17. Christopher Janian, 24
Development Manager, H&S Properties Development Corp.
It's tough to find many 24-year-olds who have a major hand in both securing the financing for and managing the construction of projects worth billions of dollars (yes, that's with a "b"). But that's what Chris Janian does all day long as development manager for H&S Properties Development Corp.
The University of Maryland economics major was only a sophomore when he snagged his first internship in the development and construction industry, spending his summer break as an assistant project manager for Armada Hoffler Construction Co., a force in the creation of Inner Harbor East under the guidance of mega-baker and developer John Paterakis.
When Janian got his degree in 2006, H&S Properties president Michael Beatty, one of the most powerful development captains in the region, knew that he'd better move fast to snag the rising star for his own staff. The ink was barely dry on Janian's sheepskin when Beatty offered him a job as his No. 2 guy, responsible for everything from finance and leasing to marketing and design for the Paterakis empire.
So when he's meeting industry big shots for the first time, does his age merit a double take? Janian prefers a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on that: "I usually don't tell people how old I am unless they ask," he admits. "But, yes, once I tell them, some of them are taken aback."
18. Otis Rolley III, 33
President & CEO, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
In 2006, after turning around the Baltimore City Department of Planning and developing the first comprehensive plan for the city in 39 years, Otis Rolley was ready for a new challenge. And, as he worked closely with then-interim Mayor Sheila Dixon, he found it.
The more he learned about Dixon's vision for Baltimore, he says, the more involved he wanted to be. He helped lead her transition team, then served as her chief of staff for 11 months.
Last November, Rolley was named president and CEO of the new Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, an organization charged with radically improving the region's anemic mass transit system.
Rolley took the job because he likes challenges others might find daunting. "I get excited by walking into scenarios where there are so many problems that the average Joe or Jane would throw their hands up," he says.
And he's confident he can make a difference. While the proposed Red Line extension to Baltimore's rail system has a price tag in the billions, Rolley says there are other, less costly plans that can be very effective. "There are improvements we can make in our current transit system that would cost millions," Rolley says, "but that would move us light years ahead."
19. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, 38
Baltimore City Health Commissioner
It's safe to say that Dr. Joshua Sharfstein has one of the most important jobs in Baltimore—keeping the city healthy. Before becoming city Health Commissioner in 2005, he was an aide to U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, working on issues like substance abuse and environmental health hazards. While completing residency training in pediatrics, the Harvard-educated Sharfstein helped write a report linking poor housing conditions to children's health. He says his background prepared him for his current post.
"Pediatrics really emphasizes prevention and anticipation, and that concept is the same in public health," he says. Since he took office, Sharfstein helped launch Project Health, which mobilizes college students to volunteer and provide resources to families in need. He pushed forward the recent smoking ban, educated the medical community about buprenorphine (treatment for heroine dependence), and encouraged pediatricians to give out books along with shots. However, Sharfstein says that there is still much to be done for the city's other major health problems: HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, and cardiovascular disease.
"It's easy to fall into despair over how much needs to be done and I definitely do sometimes," he says. "But seeing progress is incredibly gratifying." One good perk of the job? Getting the inside scoop on restaurant conditions around the city.
20. Andrea Shelby, 38 & Justin Shelby, 38
Co-owners, Federal Hill Fitness & MV Health; Owner, UrbanEx Development (Justin)
In 2001, Andrea Shelby was vacationing with friends at the beach when she got a call from her husband. "Honey, I just bought a building," Justin Shelby told her.
"Okay," said Andrea, not skipping a beat. "Let's turn it into an upscale health club."
Her reasons were, as she puts it, strictly selfish. "We had just moved to Federal Hill and everything was so walkable," she says. "But we felt the neighborhood was missing a health club."
Although they had no experience, the couple was able to launch a successful club. Meanwhile, Justin turned his attention to more development, eventually starting his own business, UrbanEx.
"UrbanEx focuses on contemporary urban in-fill development," he explains. "It reuses existing buildings."
Ten million dollars worth of development projects are underway, including urban lofts and commercial space.
Never ones to rest on their laurels, the couple, who have two young sons, recently opened a second health club, MV Fitness, in Mt. Vernon. This one was set up pretty exclusively by Andrea. "We collaborate on things like marketing and the general philosophy," she says. "But we stay out of each other's way. We couldn't stay married if we didn't!"
21. David Warschawski, 37
He was a 26-year-old media wunderkind, a senior executive at Edelman in New York City—the largest independent public relations firm in the world—handling UPS, the company's largest global account. But David Warschawski thought he could do better.
In 1996, he began dividing his time between New York and Baltimore and ultimately founded his namesake public relations and marketing firm here. "I opened my own shop for two reasons," says Warschawski from his corner office in Mount Washington. "I wanted to create a place where the client was thrilled with the level of service, and where doing great work and having a great time were not mutually exclusive."
After years of beating the street and building his Rolodex, Warschawski landed the national account for Adidas. Since then, the 17-employee firm off Falls Road has been working with some of the world's biggest brands including Gore-Tex, Black & Decker, Century 21, and Under Armour. For its work, Warschawski was named Small Agency of the Year for the U.S. in 2006 and 2007. Apparently, Warschawski's reach has no boundaries: The company was recently hired by Norway to promote it as a tourism destination.
22. Matt Porterfield, 30
Matt Porterfield is interested, as he puts it, in "human beings." That's what compelled the Baltimore native to become a psych major at NYU.
But there was one problem: "I kept falling asleep in my lecture classes." What did excite young Porterfield? The highly personal, avant-garde films of directors like Stan Brakhage and Robert Bresson that his friend Jordan Mintzer (later his producing partner) showed him on a "war time projector" in his dorm room.
Porterfield promptly switched majors. After living in New York for several years after leaving NYU—among other odd jobs, he worked as a kindergarten teacher—Porterfield was compelled to move back home.
"Baltimore inspires me," he says simply. The product of that inspiration? Hamilton, a critically acclaimed film (The New York Times said that it "builds an ineffable sadness") about a group of bored Hamilton teens, that is as much about the lazy rhythms of his hometown as it is about the slightly blunted people who populate it.
"There are three dominant images of Baltimore—all excellent," says Porterfield, referring to David Simon, John Waters, and Barry Levinson. "I think there's room for many more." Up next for Porterfield, who is also teaching an "Intro to Film Production" class at Hopkins, is a movie called Metal Gods.
"It's a bit more ambitious," says Porterfield, and slightly "less personal" than his debut. But still very much about Baltimore. "As an artist, where you grew up is what you know. And I grew up in Hamilton."
23. Christine Espenshade, 33
VP, MuniMae; Vice Chair, "Pratt Contemporaries"
The New York Public Library has the "Young Lions," The Museum of Modern Art has "The Junior Associates," and now the Enoch Pratt Free Library has the "Pratt Contemporaries." Modeled after its New York City predecessors, the "Pratt Contemporaries" is a group of young Baltimoreans interested in promoting cultural life through the library.
The group's vice-chair, Christine Espenshade, explains, "It's an opportunity to show younger people why institutions like the Pratt are important." Started in late 2007, the group currently has 25 active members and has hosted events (like a screening at The Senator and a cocktail party with actor Hill Harper) to raise money for youth programs at the library.
Espenshade, who moved to Baltimore from Dallas five years ago, got involved in The Pratt through her work at MuniMae, the national real estate and alternative energy financier based here. She was asked to help with the library's "Borrowers' Bash" and, with help from Pratt staff, came up with the idea to form a young, philanthropic group.
Espenshade says their first-year goal is to reach 100 members and they plan to host events at the library, as well as restaurants and museums around Baltimore. "The library isn't just a building," she says. "It's a living, breathing organization that makes the city what it is."
24. Kevin Plank, 36
President, CEO , and Chairman of the Board, Under Armour
When Thomas Edison called success a product of inspiration and perspiration, he could have been predicting the founding of Under Armour.
By now everyone knows the story of how Kevin Plank, playing football at the University of Maryland, sought a drier alternative to the cotton shirts that became soaked with sweat just moments into the first quarter. What many might not know is that Plank helped fund the 1996 launch of Under Armour with $20,000 he earned from an earlier business, selling Valentine's Day roses on campus.
Now Plank has his eye on the Run for the Roses. Last year, he bought Sagamore Farms in Glyndon and is breeding thoroughbred race horses. He says he wants to help keep the racing industry alive in Maryland, and, hopefully, win a Triple Crown.
Today, Under Armour's annual sales exceed $600 million, and Plank's company employs 1,400. As the company expands its women's line and moves into footwear—including a multimillion-dollar cross-trainer shoe launch during the 2008 Super Bowl—stockholders and analysts have been skittish. Plank is so focused on investor relations right now that he declined our request for an interview. He even tried to discourage his inclusion on this list, but, like Plank, we're not easily deterred.
25. Jonathan "Jack" Thayer, 37
VP, Constellation Energy
As energy prices continue to soar, Jonathan "Jack" Thayer says the impetus is on getting consumers more engaged in conservation and providing incentives "for being more thoughtful about how we use power."
As Constellation Energy's vice president and managing director for corporate strategy and development, Thayer heads up mergers and acquisitions for the energy giant, works with government officials on regulatory matters, and recently oversaw the company's divestiture of power plants.
"It's a pretty important challenge, providing such a necessary commodity for people and working with the constraints of the global supply chain," he says. Thayer, 37, has an MBA from Harvard and worked for Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown before joining Constellation in 2003. Prior to business school, he worked overseas as operations manager for the Ugandan AIDS Project. He has also chaired Constellation's United Way campaigns for the past two years.
"I enjoy business, but it's also important to raise nice children, be a good husband, and try to be a decent person," he says.
Right on, Jack. Your next mission: Lower our BGE bills a tad.
26. Scott Ferber, 39 & John Ferber, 34
Venture capitalists, Web innovators
On Thanksgiving 1997, John Ferber led big brother Scott into the basement to check out a new idea on his computer. What Scott saw was a beta version of Advertising.com, a hub that could organize and disseminate online advertising for its clients.
"I said to myself, 'This is a turning point and I'm going to try something and not let anything get in my way,'" John told the Baltimore Business Journal. Six years later, America Online purchased the brothers' site for $435 million—each Ferber boy went home with a cool $72 million. Typically, this is the part of the movie where the brothers are seen floating on a 100-foot Ferretti with umbrella drinks in the Caribbean. Instead, John and Scott, named Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2000 and Businesspersons of the Year by the BBJ in 2004, are preparing the sequel.
John recently launched four new websites, and thanks to $15 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates in Chevy Chase and Valhalla Partners in Vienna, VA, Scott has launched TidalTV, an online video platform that mirrors the look and functionality of digital cable.
It's safe to say that the Caribbean was never really an option.
27. Eric DeCosta, 37
Director of College Scouting, Baltimore Ravens
There's a lot of pressure to succeed at work when your office address is One Winning Drive.
Eric DeCosta, the Baltimore Ravens director of college scouting, knows this all too well. In this year of transition, DeCosta is charged with bringing in the Ravens' next batch of defensive stalwarts and offensive juggernauts. As a result, the 2008 NFL Draft loomed as the most critical 14 hours of his career.
"Last year was such a disappointment," says DeCosta. "So we wanted to bring in as many great players as possible. Looking back five years from now, this class will hopefully be the impetus that got us on the right track." As the man who scouted Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Mark Clayton, DeCosta's eye for pro talent is proven. The Boston native has been with the franchise since its inception in 1996 (he started as a grunt, taking then-coach Ted Marchibroda's car to get oil changes). In 1998, he became the team's Midwest area scout, making him the youngest scout in the NFL. Ten years later, he's sitting beside Ozzie Newsome in the NFL Draft war room.
"I spend nine months preparing for one weekend," sighs DeCosta.
With any luck, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and the other eight draft picks will do him proud.
28. Quincey Gamble, 32
Executive Director, Maryland Democratic Party
"I want to reclaim the moveon.org generation and bring them back into mainstream party politics," says Quincey Gamble.
As political director for the Maryland-Washington, D.C., division of Service Employees International Union 1199, Gamble made that union one of the most influential political voices in the region. In his new job, as executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, Gamble's mission is to make the party open and accessible to all.
Grassroots organizing seems to be Gamble's métier. As a lead organizer for America Coming Together in Minneapolis, he helped bring about an 18 percent increase in voter turnout. He also was South Carolina regional director for Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
A former star power forward for Florida International University, Gamble stands 6-foot-7-inches tall. He works long hours, but he always finds time for working out and worshipping at Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore.
"I think my faith plays a critical role in what I do, in terms of expanding opportunities to more folks rather than fewer," he says.
29. Mike Mitchell, 37
Executive Director, Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity
When Mike Mitchell came to West Baltimore in 1996 to volunteer with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, he saw the potential the city had. "I saw the devastation and disinvestment in the community," he says. "But I think Baltimore's tradition of diversity allows for change to happen."
In 2003, Mitchell became Executive Director for Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity (CHFH), which has rehabbed vacant homes in Waverly, Pen-Lucy, Washington Village/Pigtown, and Patterson Park, among others. Families that make at least $18,000 a year move in and pay no-interest mortgage payments back to CHFH. Mitchell helps his group get funded through TeamBuilds, where companies pay for team-building exercises while constructing houses, and CHFH opened home improvement retailer ReStore in April.
But Mitchell says the key to revitalizing neighborhoods is not just building houses, but also making more people stakeholders and increasing the tax base, which was his main platform when he ran for state delegate in Maryland's 46th District in 2006. Though he didn't win the election, he continues to strive to make a difference: CHFH has completed 130 houses with eight under construction, has a current housing project near McElderry Park, and is partnering with Arundel Habitat for Humanity to expand that agency's reach.
30. Ron Samuelson, 35
When Ron Samuelson took over the 72-year-old family pawn business in the mid-1990s, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to explore new opportunities for the operation. In 1997, after studying the jewelry business, he launched the website samuelsonsdiamonds.com to drum up interest in the store.
The site brings diamond buyers and sellers to the downtown location from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and has been a major driver of sales traffic—especially from young men looking for engagement rings, Samuelson says. Now he's a developer, too: As part of the Westside renaissance, the Samuelson family—which includes his father and brother-in-law, also in the jewelry business—is redeveloping the 400 block of W. Baltimore Street in partnership with David S. Brown and A&R developers. Samuelson says he is proud that he has been able to maintain the business his grandfather started, and at the same time move it in a new direction.
"I love diamonds," he says. "I love selling jewelry, and I've seen how the Internet drives everything that we do here."
31. Marci DeVries, 36
New media whiz kid
When the digital revolution began, many marketers struggled to keep up with new technologies. Marci DeVries sped off early, and her competitors choked on her dust.
For the past 10 years, she has been the go-to person in Baltimore when it comes to using the Internet and new media to spread a message.
She cannily built her brand by teaching classes and workshops all over town.
DeVries says she embraced online marketing early because she had become frustrated with the inability to track results of traditional marketing techniques. In the online world, "You can measure everything that you do," she says.
Last year, longtime business partner Imre Communications acquired her firm, MDV Communications, and she became vice president of digital communications at the Sparks-based marketing firm. That move instantly elevated her business to a new level of success, she says.
"What we were able to do was take a quantum leap from being a geographic-based provider to being in the top tier of a national client base," she says.
On track to meet her goal of retiring at 40, DeVries says she expects to continue working as long as she's energized by it. She's currently enamored with mobile marketing, the industry's Next Big Thing.
Competitors, take note.
32. Duff Goldman, 33
Owner, Charm City Cakes
If you need a cake shaped like a penguin playing tennis (and why wouldn't you?), then Charm City Cakes owner Duff Goldman is most certainly your man. But the star of Food Network's Ace of Cakes stresses that "70 percent of our business is traditional cakes," he says. "The off-the-wall stuff just makes good television."
Long before Food Network, Goldman was a graffiti artist and philosophy and history student at UMBC. After graduating, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California, and, at 23, he became executive pastry chef at Colorado's Vail Cascade hotel, where he perfected the art of wedding cakes. After working at Todd
English's restaurant Olives in D.C., Goldman returned to Baltimore, bought a 6,000-square-foot space in Remington, and Ace of Cakes was born. Since 2006, Goldman and his staff of 11 have shown a hipper side of baking with their quirky creations: Hogwarts Castle, a Crayola box, an armadillo in an EMT uniform, and various tributes to Baltimore. Goldman recently lectured on entrepreneurship at UMBC.
"Somebody once asked me about my business plan," he says. "I said I never knew what that was, I just knew that I wanted to make cakes."
33. Luisa Bieri de Rios, 29
Community Programs Coordinator, Creative Alliance
When she first moved to Baltimore in 2005, Luisa Bieri de Rios had two jobs: working with Latino children after school at Highlandtown Elementary No. 215 and taking tickets at Creative Alliance. The two posts were five blocks apart and, as she walked them everyday, she began to notice the different immigrant communities.
"I was really inspired by the internationalism within the neighborhood," says the Ohio native. "I wanted to connect those communities through culture, language, and the arts." So in 2006, through a fellowship with Open Society Institute, she developed Por la Avenida/On the Avenue at Creative Alliance, which is an art series for neighbors of Highlandtown, including new immigrants and refugees.
Central to her project is Belongings, a play she directed, based on the stories of 25 residents (some of whom perform). She also helped organize the annual SalsaPolkaLooza, an international block party with dancing, music, and food. This month, Bieri de Rios presents Songs on the Wind, a collaborative performance by
Native Americans from Mexico and Maryland. "It's about getting to know our neighbors, whether they are from here or far away," she says. "We all have a desire to express ourselves and the arts are perfect for that."
34. Brian Cornblatt, Ph.D., 34
Scientific Director, Catholic Health Initiatives Center for Translational Research
When Brian Cornblatt was in high school, his close friend, a college student and lacrosse player, was diagnosed with cancer. After six months of failed chemotherapy, his friend died. That's when Cornblatt decided to dedicate his life to finding a new way to eradicate the disease. While still in high school, he began spending spring breaks and summer vacations in laboratories at the University of Maryland and UMBC. Today, he has an astonishing two decades of lab experience under his belt, and was just named the director of the Catholic Health Initiatives Center for Translational Research, aimed at finding genetic solutions to fighting cancer.
"Traditional therapy doesn't work in a large minority of people," states Cornblatt. "We're trying to individualize the patient's care, to have their molecular signatures tell us about their illnesses." Along with his executive duties, Cornblatt is designing a 5,000-square-foot molecular research laboratory that will accommodate research, a biorepository, and administration.
As it turns out, he's married to the cause as well. "My wife is a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins," Cornblatt says. "But we do manage to talk about other things."
35. David Giroux, 33
Portfolio Manager, T. Rowe Price
As portfolio manager of the T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation Fund and co-manager of several other funds, David Giroux spends much of his time "looking under a lot of rocks," he says.
"We're searching for needles in haystacks," says Giroux. The needles, he explains, are those companies that are not fully appreciated by the market. "There's not a large number of those," he says. "To be a successful investment analyst or portfolio manager," he explains, "you have to be a contrarian, willing to go against the crowd.
And you have to be willing to work long hours and do a lot of traveling."
(To prove his point, Giroux admits that he hasn't taken a vacation in five years.)
Giroux joined T. Rowe Price 10 years ago and spent most of that time as an analyst for the firm's investments in the industrials and auto industries. He took over management of the Capital Appreciation fund in 2006. The fund has an unmatched industry streak of 17 consecutive calendar years of positive returns, through 2007.
So what would he like to be doing 20 years from now? "Exactly the same thing," he says. "This is my last job."
36. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, 38
President, Baltimore City Council
"I grew up wanting to make a difference, so politics and public service are very important to me," says Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
As the youngest person ever elected to the Baltimore City Council, Rawlings-Blake knows how important it can be to seek guidance from the more experienced.
"I was blessed to have several meaningful mentors, starting with my parents," she says. (Her late father is famed delegate Howard "Pete" Rawlings.) Now that she is president of the City Council, Rawlings-Blake is using what she learned during her 13 years on the council to move the city forward. Perhaps one of her most important roles is as chair of the city's Board of Estimates, which oversees the city's financial policies.
While some have mistaken her quiet determination for complacency, she remains focused on the challenges before her.
"If people are looking for theatrics, they're not going to find them with me. I get the work done," she told a reporter during her 2007 campaign. "What motivates me is knowing that the greatness that is Baltimore's potential hasn't been reached yet," Rawlings-Blake says. "There's a really positive energy in city government, and a willingness to work in partnership with business, with our neighborhoods, to really charge forward."
37. Dan Deacon, 26
Electronic Music Composer
Musician Dan Deacon, with his thrift-store looks and animated performances, doesn't seem like your typical classically trained composer. But the Long Island native attended the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College and got his master's in electro-acoustic composition. After that, Deacon and four of his Purchase classmates moved to Baltimore to establish a live-in artists' collective and music venue called Wham City.
"We wanted a smaller city so we could really establish a community," he says. After relentlessly touring and releasing nine albums (including 2007's well-received Spiderman of the Rings), Deacon has established himself as a pioneer of electronic music. His own music—which he performs with a Casio keyboard, laptop, and various other electronic soundmaking devices—fuses dance anthems and classic compositions. Deacon is currently planning Whartscape (shows performed around the city July 17-20, coinciding with Artscape) and enhancing the current Wham City location in the Station North Arts District. He is also recording a new CD, slated for September. This all explains why Deacon was credited when Rolling Stone voted Baltimore "Best Scene" in April. "It used to be a battle to get bands to play in Baltimore," he says. "But now our nontraditional venues are putting us on the map."
38. Peter Collier, 38
Deputy Director, Baltimore City Parking Authority
When Peter Collier had a stroke five years ago, his doctor recommended that he get a job less stressful than corporate sales. Jeff Sparrow, a family friend and then-parking authority director, asked him to come on board and eventually hired Collier to be his No. 2. The job's no less stressful, but he's realized how important parking is in Baltimore.
"Parking is transportation," he says. "We are a congestion mitigation tool and an incredibly important piece of the city." Collier has introduced 487 solar powered EZ Park meters around the city, which increase the number of available spaces. Collier's other initiatives include car-sharing programs (renting cars by the hour), benefits for hybrid drivers, and a mobile parking program where drivers can call a number to find the closest available spot. Collier also works on parking for special events and educates the public on environmentally friendly driving decisions. With the price of gas on the rise in a city with minimal alternative transportation, Collier knows his job is essential. "We've been told the city's three biggest problems are crime, grime, and parking," he says. No pressure.
39. Sterling Clifford, 30
Public Affairs Director, Baltimore Police Department; Acting Spokesman, Office of the Mayor
As if being spokesman for Mayor Sheila Dixon wasn't enough, Sterling Clifford is also public affairs director for the Baltimore Police Department.
Still in his 20's when he accepted both positions, the workload was almost unbearable.
"I wasn't prepared for the emotional investment in the police department," says Clifford. "I was immersed in some pretty unhappy scenes right out of the gate. Seeing and hearing terrible things is a part of the job I'm still adjusting to."
Certainly Clifford wasn't seeing and hearing such things in his previous life as a prep school sportswriter in Salt Lake City. When his wife, a Coast Guard officer, was transferred to Charm City, he thought he'd try something new. "Politics has always been interesting to me," notes Clifford. He began as a speechwriter for County Executive Jim Smith in 2003. Last February, Mayor Dixon hired him; the vacancy at the police department came up four months later. Looking ahead, don't expect to see Clifford's name on any campaign signs. "I don't have to do any of the heavy lifting," states Clifford. "I just have to talk about the heavy lifting."
40. Don Kennedy, 36
Senior VP, Advertising.com
As senior vice president of national sales for Advertising.com, Don Kennedy has the massive task of integrating multiple sales organizations—and several hundred salespeople—under the umbrella of a gargantuan division called Platform-A. It's a new organization, created earlier this year, that comprises the $1.5 billion sales teams of several Time-Warner-acquired firms including Advertising.com, AOL, Tacoda,
ThirdScreenMedia, and Quigo. Kennedy, 36, joined Advertising.com eight years ago, when it was a small, independent Baltimore-based company, and liked it right away. "Culturally, the place is a very unique atmosphere," he says, "with some of the smartest people I've ever met."
He has held numerous leadership positions within the firm—which was acquired by AOL in 2004 for $435 million—and is credited with contributing significantly to its phenomenal growth.
"It's a dynamic space," says Kennedy, describing what attracts him to the dot-com world. "It doesn't just change year to year, or even quarter to quarter. It's not a good industry for people who don't deal with change or ambiguity very well."