Best of Our Valley Issue 2019: People

By Melissa Larsen 

Best Female Public Relations Pro: Diane Smith

Diane Smith is the public relations and communications manager at Pima Medical Institute and has 13-plus years of experience under her belt. She cites storytelling as the most rewarding part of her career. “I love the opportunity, especially in my current position, to learn about and share stories that make a difference in people’s lives,” says Smith. “In PR, you hear “no” a lot. It’s when you hear the “yes” that makes it all worth it.” Next year, the respected PR pro is excited to take over a as president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. “I’m always up for a challenge and am excited for what the future holds for me.” @prprodiane

Diane Smith

Best Male Public Relations Pro: John Glynn

After 10 years in the PR profession, John Glynn recently took over as director of public relations at the much-adored Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which garnered several Best of Our Valley nods. Joining the team in 2018 has been of highlight of this dad-of-two’s successful career thus far. “I can truly say that I work with some very smart and talented people,” he says. “I love my career and job, and I really like getting to hang out with fun and interesting people, work in a fun and rewarding environment and get to tell fun stories.” Glynn is currently keeping busy working on the resort’s action-packed summer programming—and “eating more veggies,” he jokes—but what a way to fuel his busy, bustling day-to-day. Also a 2018 winner! @glynnmania

Best Marketing Professional: Anthony Sarandrea

Anthony Sarandrea is the founder and CEO at SiteFlood. His team is highly engaged and proactive, coupling strategic expertise with high-quality execution. The most rewarding aspects of Sarandrea’s career is helping to resolve more than a billion dollars of debt for Americans and generating more than one million customers in 2019. “We are able to look at consumers holistically and help them with a number of different monthly expenses, with the main focus being on credit card debt,” he says. “We only make a small percentage of whatever money we are able to save you.” @anthonysarandrea

Anthony Sarandrea

AFM Fave! Best Matchmaker: Simona Fusco

At the age of 8, a prominent modeling agency discovered Simona Fusco in Vienna, Austria, and she quickly became their top international model for their two biggest clients, Benetton and Lacoste. At that moment, a spark was ignited in Fusco, which has made her the self-made, award-winning entrepreneur that she is today. Fusco’s mother quickly realized that Austria was limited in what it had to offer her daughter so shortly thereafter, at 14, Fusco and her mother relocated to Los Angeles, where the entertainment world quickly discovered her beauty, talent and natural-born charisma. In a span of less than 10 years, Fusco starred in more than 30 television shows and movies. During her time as a Hollywood actress, Fusco noticed that many people she came in contact with were missing the most vital part of life: love. And she set out to do something about it. About 10 years ago, the business-savvy Fusco launched Perfect 12 Introductions. “We started as a boutique agency and grew it to a worldwide company and have been responsible for over 100 marriages,” says Fusco. “I’m proud to have a client list that reads like the Forbes 100.” She conducts custom-tailored matches for her clients by taking the time to get to know each and every one of them. She has a mind-blowing 90-perfect success rate and has been recognized internationally for her work, including on CNN, CBS, GQ, US Weekly, Esquire and numerous other publications. Fusco was even presented by the mayor of Los Angeles with a Global Excellence and Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “Over the years, I’ve had so many moments of when I was so proud to be the one responsible for creating happiness and love with people who started out as clients and then became like family.” She is also the founder of nonprofit The Maria Gruber Foundation, dedicated to her mother who passed away from cancer in 2014 and created to provide educational tools to help parents, children and loved ones affected by terminal illness. This year, Fusco hopes to create a mobile version of Perfect 12. perfect12.com.

Simona Fusco

Best Worship Leader: Travis Hearn

Travis Hearn is the senior pastor of Impact Church, a church in North Scottsdale that has experienced explosive growth and was named one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation. Hearn also serves as the team chaplain to the Phoenix Suns and has served as chaplain for Major League Baseball for over a decade. The father and husband is the author of three books, “Game Changer,” “Your But’s Too Big” and “30 Day Journey with God.” Also a 2018 winner! @ImpactChurchAZ

Travis Hearn

Favorite ASU It Girl: Samantha Lewter

Samantha Lewter is a senior at Arizona State University, studying sociology with a minor in women’s studies—not surprising as she is definitely all about girl power. “I think that really anything can make a woman an ‘it girl.’ Each of us has our own uniqueness and do things a little differently, and I think those [differences are] what make each woman their own version of an ‘it girl.’ I personally feel as though all of the women I know are ‘it girls’ because they each have a wide variety of characteristics that I admire and want to emulate.” Lewter, who is a FORD/Robert Black Agency model and actress, is looking forward to graduation in May. @samanthalewter

Samantha Lewter 

Favorite Couple in the Valley: Matt Jacobi and Nick Caprio

When Mat Jacobi and Nick Caprio wed in May 2019, they will be the first same-sex couple to marry at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. “We have always supported each other to accomplish our own individual goals and our goals as a couple. Our house is filled with so much love, fun and gratitude.” The couple—Jacobi is a COO and Caprio is a human resources and technology manager—has been together for 11 years, after meeting during a chance encounter at an Irish pub in Chicago. The twosome recently made international news for creating a custom “Barbie Same Sex Wedding Set” for their 8-year-old niece (and flower girl), which landed them a meeting at Mattel Headquarters and being welcomed into the Barbie family. @MattJacobi 

Matt Jacobi and Nick Caprio

Favorite Local Lifestyle Blogger: McKenna Wesley

After realized that the typical 9-to-5 grind wasn’t for her, McKenna Wesley tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit and dove into the world of blogging, starting TheBubblyBlonde.Life in 2014. She shares the message of “live your best life” to her 465,000 Instagram followers, who Wesley shares trips, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle goodness with. (She says her favorite travels have been to Napa Valley and Playa del Carmen.) @thebubblyblonde

McKenna Wesley

Favorite Valley Dad: Johnjay Van Es

Dad-of-three Johnjay Van Es is an adored Valley personality thanks to his work on the Johnjay & Rich Morning Show on 104.7 KISS. Longtime listeners may even feel like they’ve even been witness to his sons growing up and entering teenagehood (Jake is 16, Kemp is 15 and Dutch is 12). Though Van Es has fond memories of each stage with his kiddos, a few recent accomplishments definitely stick out in this mind: “My oldest, Jake, is about to become an Eagle Scout and is on the Arcadia High Track Team. My middle son, Kemp, plays basketball for Powerhouse Hoops Under Armor Elite Team. My youngest son, Dutch, has the biggest heart and always loves on our dogs and rescue dogs—it will make you melt. Seeing them accomplish these goals blows my mind. When I was their age, all I did was play video games and watch TV.” Also a 2018 winner! @johnjayvanes

Favorite Valley Mom: Brianna Traynor

More than 27,000 subscribers tune into Brianna Traynor’s YouTube channel to watch her vlogs on style, beauty, fitness, health and, of course, life with her precious 19-month-old Jaxin. “Seeing my son realize and learn new things is the best,” says Traynor. “It’s amazing to see that lightbulb go off and to see everything through his eyes.” And with her philosophy of “don’t compare yourself to others,” it’s safe to say that Traynor is inspiring mamas to be their own woman. “Everyone is so different when it comes to motherhood. I think you’ll always question if you’re doing a good enough job, but just trust in your judgment and, more importantly, in yourself. This also goes hand-in-hand with not comparing your children to others. Every child is different!” @briannatraynor

Brianna Traynor 

Most Fashionable Valley Man: Javier Soto

3TV anchor/reporter Javier Soto’s style is just as news-worthy as the day’s biggest events. Soto describes his style as “ballin’ on a budget” and counts on Nick’s Menswear, SuitSupply, Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth for his go-to look: suit, tie and pocket square. @JavierSotoTV

Javier Soto

AFM Fave! Most Fashionable Valley Man: Patrick Hickey

“Dress to impress!” Patrick Hickey’s style motto is simple and straightforward, but definitely makes an impact via his dependable and debonair combo of suit and tie with pocket square. Hickey is the managing partner of Peoria Ford and Surprise Ford and, though he hits up Nordstrom and Biltmore Fashion Park for fashion finds, “many pieces in [his] wardrobe are custom made from all over the globe.” @hickeynum1

Most Fashionable Valley Woman: Camerone Parker McCulloch

Model. Motivational speaker. Film personality. Camerone Parker McCulloch wears many hats (catch her at New York and Milan Fashion Weeks this fall!) and proves with every turn that “style is indeed ageless,” she says. “I am definitely your edgy, avant-garde girl. Always statement-making and memorable.” She heads to Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Fashion by Robert Black for her “effortless chic” looks. Also a 2018 winner! @CameroneEParker, @cameroneparkermcculloch 

Camerone-Parker-McCulloch 

AFM Fave! Most Fashionable Valley Woman: Kristen Hancock

Kristen Hancock is an interior designer with Guided Home Design, with a “side hustle” as a fashion influencer. “I favor a high-end look that still feels laidback and somewhat casual,” she says, noting that statement high-top sneakers currently round out her go-to look. “As an interior designer, being on construction sites and on my feet a lot has me really into a bold high-top tennis shoe, jeans and a top. I am a sucker for a fun bomber jacket and other items for layering.” Hancock’s favorite shop in town in Amy Inc., while InflowStyle and Revolve are her top online retailers. Also, Hancock has launched an online home interiors shop and will be opening a retail store within Guided Home Design’s new studio space in Old Town. @kwilms

Kristen Hancock

 Most Influential in Valley Business: Harrison Rogers

Since being named the Most Influential in Valley Business last year, Harrison Rogers, CEO and founder of HJR Global, continued his successful career—and helped others to reach his level of success—by releasing a new book, “Falling Forward: Secrets to Successful Leadership.” “[The book] is a series that seeks to inspire individuals to take action now and move forward with their passions without the fear of failure,” he says. “I am a high school dropout, but I am an expert in the field of starting now. I teach audiences nationwide that anyone is qualified to harness their passions and pursue their dream ventures right away without waiting for endorsement or permission.” This year, Rogers says he will be investing in local distressed businesses and aiding in turning those businesses around, helping create or recover a healthy company culture that is always damaged during distressed times. “Having been through that myself, it will always be the most rewarding getting other businesses through these times.” Also a 2018 winner! @HarrisonJRogers 

Harrison Rogers

Most Influential in Valley Food: Christina Barrueta

Christina Barrueta, an award-winning food writer and the talent behind the popular site writeonrubee.com, got her start in her home state of Massachusetts in the 1990’s and continued her passion after moving to Arizona 12 years ago. “I was excited to find such a fantastic food scene here and, over the years, it’s been so exciting to see the Valley of the Sun become a true culinary destination,” she says. “I’m not a critic; I’m all about positivity and supporting Arizona’s talent.” Barrueta is currently finishing up a highly anticipated book on the history of Arizona wine, which is planned for publication this summer. In addition to encouraging locals to check out a new-to-them cuisine or venturing outside of their usual neighborhood haunts, Barrueta hopes “to see more restaurants, and diners, support the award-winning winemakers we have here.” @WriteOnRubee

Christina Barrueta

Most Influential in Valley Nonprofit: Wendy Brooks

Wendy Brooks grew up with a mom who was a “doer.” “She was heavily involved in school and community activities, and she impressed upon us that we must give back,” she says. Brooks started volunteering in high school and has continued to do so as an adult. Today, Brooks is the president of the Junior League of Phoenix. “I was inspired to join the Junior League of Phoenix by my mom and to give back to the community. My leadership experiences, the training and development I have achieved by being a member have transformed my life and the lives of so many outstanding members of our community.” The organization of women is committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through effective leadership of trained volunteers, Brooks says. “[The group’s] focus is Building a Healthy Arizona with programs addressing food insecurity/food access and nutrition and obesity.” This year, Brooks hopes to strengthen the Junior League of Phoenix’s training curriculum and to continue to move the needle on food insecurity in Metro Phoenix. Junior League of Phoenix’s Sixth Annual White Party will be held on April 27 at Young’s Market Company. To learn more, visit jlp.org. @juniorleaguephx

Most Influential Man in the Valley: Alan “AP” Powell

Alan “AP” Powell is the chairman and CEO of AP & Associates LLC Strategic Alliances as well as the co-founder of the HeroZona Foundation. The Gulf War veteran formed the HeroZona Foundation in 2011, with a mission to honor those who have served our country, their family members and students. “Seeing the community members we serve succeed and knowing that we make our best effort to play a small role in affecting their lives for the better [is the most rewarding part of my job],” he says. The foundation now has a number of programs “to make the lives better for those that need assistance in the Valley the most,” including President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Christmas in May, Phoenix Tools 4 School, The Bridge Forum, Veterans Reach to Teach and HeroPreneur. “We want to continually expand our programs to create more awareness and engagement within our Arizona community,” Powell says. “Our goal for 2019 is to help as many veterans and students as possible. I’m also collaborating on an annual experience that celebrates Arizona’s statehood and the community called Celebrate Arizona. It will kick off Feb. 14 to Feb. 16, 2020 in Downtown Phoenix and showcase Arizona’s historic culture and vibrant and sustainable future through music, food, innovation and more.”

Alan Powell

Most Influential Woman in the Valley: Jamie Hormel

As the owner of the widely adored historic landmark Wrigley Mansion, Jamie Hormel has given locals and their guests the perfect spot for making memories for years—with some seriously good eats and drinks, to boot. “In 2019, my goal is to continue to be involved in this amazing state we have the privilege to live in,” says Hormel. “I never want to take it for granted. Also, we have a lot of exciting projects to unveil at The Wrigley Mansion in both 2019 and 2020.” But even above her work with The Wrigley Mansion, Hormel believes her influence locally is to, simply put, spread kindness. “We are all in this life together, and it is important to be generous with kindness and patience. Give back to the world in any way you can. Your time is more valuable than your money! Volunteer! Smile!”

Jamie Hormel

Top Dog: Emmi the Shorkie

The adorable Emmi is an 8-year-old Shorkie (shihtzu/yorkie) with an Instagram following of more than 8,000. The golden-haired girl is calm, cuddly and quiet but also very playful and loves to make people happy. Emmi is instinctively in tune with people who are injured, sick or sad and in need of comfort; she’s a natural healer and very empathetic to people. @emmi_the_shorkie

Emmi

AFM Fave! Best Matchmaker: Jill Kelleher

Jill Kelleher has been one of the most trusted names in matchmaking since 1986. She is the successful founder and co-CEO of Kelleher International, which serves those looking for love across the globe—from London to Toronto to right here in Scottsdale. She says the highlight of her career thus far is her annual leadership gatherings, “Success to Significance,” on Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson. “We’ve raised awareness and millions of dollars for his philanthropic division, Virgin Unite, through our clients and other team members,” she says. “It’s always four days of amazing speakers, a lot of outdoor activities, nightly dinners and entertainment.” Kelleher says she is constantly rewarded with news and photos of engagements, marriages and babies from her happy clients and her goal for 2019 is to continue “making love happen.” @kellehermatch

Fast Faves

Most Influential in Valley: Education Sister Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, Sister Joanie Nuckols, BVM, and Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM, Xavier College Preparatory @XCPGators1

Most Influential in Valley Politics: Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona @dougducey

Most Influential in Valley Tourism: Debbie Johnson, Director of Arizona Office of Tourism @DebJohnsonAz

Most Influential Valley Fitness Personality: Ryan Read, Thrive Specialized Training @ryanreadthrive

Most Philanthropic Country Club Community: The Country Club at DC Ranch, @thecountryclubatdcranch

 

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