Photography by Toshi Tasaki | Shot on location at The Opus Westchester, Kanopi, BLT in White Plains
From boardrooms and supermarket chains to museums and hospitals, this year’s honorees have made an immense impact in the county by creating a legacy of leadership, guiding their businesses and nonprofits forward through good and challenging times.
By Paul Adler, Nick Brandi, Cristiana Caruso, Jessica Jafet, Gale Ritterhoff, and Tom Schreck
21 Westchester Women Lead the Way
Meghann Hongach • Tania Dempsey, MD • Denise Mananas
Masha Turchinsky • Deborah Novick • Luisa DeCicco
Miriam Risko • Tania Weiss • Dina Hamerman
Chia-Chia Yeh • Mary Spengler • Lindsay Farrell
Judy Melillo • Tatiana Diaz • Nancy Patota
Gabrielle Fox • Diane Woolley • Jan Fisher
Dr. Xenia Frisby • Amanda Bayley • Deborah Milone
Retail executives coping with the pandemic must be smart, creative, and resilient. Meghann Hongach, general manager of the Ridge Hill shopping center, in Yonkers, is all of those things.
Hongach has been involved with Ridge Hill since the very start, taking a job with the mall’s developer, Forest City Ratner, in 2006. “This was an amazing opportunity to see a project through, from planning to construction,” Hongach says. Eventually transitioning to operations, she says she “wore many different hats, and as Ridge Hill grew, so did I.”
And grow it did. Opening in 2011, the outdoor mall, designed to resemble a small-town Main Street, sits on an 82-acre hillside site overlooking the NY Thruway and offers some 1.3 million square feet of retail and office space. But in 2020, COVID-19 changed almost everything.
“Many retail properties experienced vacancies. Ridge Hill was no different,” Hongach says. To adapt, Ridge Hill embraced its outdoor environment by offering a community garden, farmer’s market, concerts, open-air movies, and additional seating. “We’ve closed our streets, allowing for space to spread out,” Hongach explains. “These efforts have brought traffic back to prepandemic levels, which is a really positive sign and a key step to filling what vacancies remain.”
Brick-and-mortar retail will never go away, “but customers need new reasons to visit stores,” Hongach adds. “We want people to come to Ridge Hill to enjoy themselves. We want to present them with a beautiful place where there is always something going on.”
TANIA DEMPSEY, MD
AIM Center for Personalized Medicine
Dr. Tania Dempsey is a 1996 graduate of The Johns Hopkins Medical School and was practicing medicine in a busy and successful practice when something began to nag at her.
“I became frustrated with traditional medicine. I couldn’t spend the time I wanted with my patients,” she says. “You could never get to the root of their symptoms, so instead we just put Band-Aids on things.” At a time when doctors sought out big practices and mergers to combat the demands of managed care, Dempsey did the opposite, by launching her own small, fee-for-service practice. She admits it was scary at first but that she was committed and believed in what she was doing.
“I ran into someone whom I worked with at my old practice, and he said that I would not succeed on my own,” she recalls.
Not only did Dempsey succeed, she actually outgrew that modest Armonk practice and moved to a larger facility in Purchase. Her practice has grown from just a handful of patients ten years ago to more than 5,000 today. But Dempsey wasn’t done just yet. She moved into the realm of entrepreneur when she launched her own line of nutraceutical supplements, AIM for Optimum Health, which is sold in her office and in her online store (aimstore.net). She currently has more than 100 products in her product line, along with roughly 600 other products, including herbs, specialty vitamins, and food.
“I love my job, and the work I do to help my patients. My office is like a second home. I spend so much time there, it’s really more like my first home.”
Senior Director of External Affairs
St. John’s Riverside Hospital
Overseeing marketing, communications, and business development for Yonkers’ St. John’s Riverside Hospital and its community network for almost 30 years has been very gratifying for Denise Mananas, senior director of external affairs.
The Yonkers native says she sees “a real purpose in servicing and serving a community that I grew up in and that I’m very fond of,” noting that her duties have grown along with the organization, one which now encompasses three hospital locations, off-site physician’s offices, a detox-and-rehab facility, four outpatient rehab sites, one nursing school, and two medical residencies.
Having opened its doors back in 1869, the hospital has a long history in Westchester. Mananas coordinated its successful rebranding campaign 12 years ago, with the tagline “St. John’s Riverside Hospital is Community Strong.” During the COVID surge last year, that sentiment was unmistakably apparent, with “an outpouring of love from people who came to support the hospital,” Mananas recounts, “as well as from the community of employees who were here for them… it was something to marvel at.” Many locals showed up with food and PPE donations, while police, fire department, ambulance corps, and even schoolchildren stepped up to help the effort — something that resonated deeply with Mananas, who has a deep commitment to the hospital network and its place in the community.
“I’ve always chosen to work for a non-for-profit,” she says, “because I really feel very connected to the mission of the organization. I see such value in the services we provide.”
Director & CEO
Hudson River Museum
Long before Masha Turchinsky took the reins as director and CEO of the Hudson River Museum (HRM), the Yonkers institution was already close to her heart. “The Hudson River Museum is one of the first museums I visited,” recalls Turchinsky. “My parents and I have been going there my entire life, and I credit the HRM with giving me the tools to have the confidence to explore the world at large.”
Prior to her work at the HRM, Turchinsky spent 19 years advancing at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At HRM, Turchinsky led a complete rebranding of the institution, pioneered a unique diversity initiative, forged new partnerships with organizations such as Art Bridges and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and managed to retain all HRM staff while creating a lively roster of virtual programming during the pandemic. In addition, Turchinsky also broke ground on the museum’s new $12.3 million wing.
In 2017, Turchinsky became one of only 111 female museum directors in North America to have been inducted into the Association of Art Museum Directors and was honored the following year with a Women of Distinction Award by the Yonkers City Council and elected to the National Board of Trustees of Art Table.
For Turchinsky, inclusion lies at the heart of all these efforts. “Museums really are at their best when people feel welcome and reflected in some way during their visits,” she explains. “This can be a warm greeting when you walk in, seeing a work of art that depicts someone who looks like you, or a speaker or program you can relate to. No one should have to step inside the door without feeling embraced.”
Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Westchester County
As director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Westchester County, Deborah Novick hasn’t let the grass grow under her feet. Appointed to her new post right as the coronavirus slammed Westchester in March of 2020, Novick hit the ground running, having initiated multiple programs designed to help both startups and established businesses pivot and even grow. She was also instrumental in launching the third cohort of the county’s highly successful business incubator program, Element 46, in addition to creating and overseeing Launch1000, which is providing 1,000 Westchesterites the opportunity to start their own businesses.
One of Novick’s most impressive accomplishments, however, was launching the Westchester County Biosciences Accelerator program. Now in its third year, the Biosciences Accelerator readies academic and corporate spinouts, inventors, and first-time founders to be successful entrepreneurs in the biotech industry. As Westchester continues to emerge as a cynosure of biotech in New York State and beyond, it’s a virtual certainty that Novick will be at the heart of it.
Prior to her current role, Novick made a name for herself as the director of New York Medical College’s BioInc, which specifically designs turnkey wet labs, dry labs, offices, and more to support early-stage companies and high-potential entrepreneurs within the biotech and medtech sectors.
“Deborah is highly respected across the county for her depth of expertise in business strategy development and execution,” says Bridget Gibbons, director of economic development for Westchester County. “She has had a profound impact across the business community with her seemingly limitless capacity to create and execute impactful programs that result in success for startups and mature businesses alike.”
Director of Human Resources & Events and Cuisine
Luisa DeCicco did not shy away from the challenges that the pandemic presented to DeCicco Supermarkets and her workers. Before information about the virus was widespread, DeCicco had devised ways to keep her employees safe and protected while continuing to serve the community. She not only secured PPE for her employees, a scarcity at the time, but also set up a mobile testing unit that was free to employees. Hot meals were provided every single day and are still free for staff. “The most important thing was keeping our employees safe,” says DeCicco. “They are the company. We want them to feel like family.”
DeCicco has become accustomed to adapting and problem-solving. Having earned a PhD from Columbia University in engineering just a few years after emigrating from Italy (where she also holds a high engineering degree), DeCicco uses that experience and training in her new role. “A team is like a puzzle: Everyone has a strength that they add, and when put in the right places, they fit perfectly,” she says. When she created the HR department for the supermarket chain, she was a staff of one, overseeing the two stores at the time. Since then, DeCicco has been integral in growing the business to nine locations and 1,100 employees. For DeCicco, every success and setback are learning moments. “Every time you get up, you get up stronger.”
Founder, Voice Teacher
Mike Risko Music School
Miriam Risko was singing before she could talk. She always knew the important role music played in the world and that she wanted to share her gifts with others. “If you have a voice, use it. And I happen to be a singer,” says Miriam. “Music is what makes the world a better place.”
When the Mike Risko Music School was founded in 1995, she was integral in its growth and development. With Miriam at the helm, what started out as a small studio that could only support a few lessons at a time has evolved into a 3,000-square-foot building that houses the music school on top and their retail store below it.
When the pandemic began, the arts sector took a huge hit. For Miriam, shutting the doors on her students was never an option. She created an entirely virtual division of every part of their business, in addition to running a fully virtual music-theater program. Giving back during this time was very important to her, so she organized free outdoor music classes, singing telegrams to benefit healthcare workers, and provided free music entertainment during fundraisers. “It’s all about the ability to give back to the community that supports us,” Miriam says.
Mike Risko Music has been named one of the top music retailers in the world by the National Association of Music Merchants for the past eight years, and Miriam has been invited to speak at their convention on her expertise in implementing hybrid music programs. Yet, through all her success, Miriam is still looking to the future. “It’s never been about ‘making it’; it’s always been about affecting people.”
Cancer Support Team
Tania Weiss believes her background as an Emmy-winning TV producer was the ideal training ground for her position as executive director of Purchase’s Cancer Support Team.
“I really learned, in a very unique way, how powerful storytelling is in reaching people,” says Weiss. The agency supports cancer patients and their families in many ways, from grants for transportation to emotional support to navigating the complex healthcare system. Her commitment to help the community brought her to the agency’s board of directors, who wound up turning to her when the executive director position became vacant. It wasn’t long before both Weiss and everyone else realized it was a perfect fit.
“I knew it was now or never,” says Weiss of the move, acknowledging her small-business career as the foundation of her success with the Cancer Support Team. “The ability to forecast the environment, set goals, and manage and nurture a staff were and are central to the position,” she says. All of that was put to the test in the last 18 months, when the agency was challenged to reach people, despite all of the pandemic-related restrictions.
“We met with people electronically, visited them on their porches, on park benches, and in cars parked side-by-side. We did whatever it took,” she says.
Weiss cites her attention to detail and patience as central to her ability to lead — along with a more philosophical outlook. “Try to love what you do, never stop learning, and do things that really make you feel like you’re making a difference.”
Executive Director, Partner
Dina Hamerman graduated from Columbia Law School in 2002, serving as senior editor at the Columbia Law Review. Upon graduation, she earned two prestigious federal clerkships. She then joined a private NYC firm, participating in a high-profile Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case. While Hamerman’s résumé is extremely impressive, her balanced approach to life and career is equally remarkable. She had her first child during law school, with two more following soon after. Hamerman managed to have it all and is now dedicated to helping other women in the legal profession do the same.
“Different skillsets make a good litigator,” Hamerman explains. “There’s the oral advocacy part, arguing a case in front of a judge. But what I enjoy even more is crafting a really persuasive piece of legal writing.” Hamerman was able to focus on this skill, joining Yankwitt LLP in White Plains in 2010 to write briefs for the firm. “It seemed like a dream come true back then,” she reflects. Now executive director and partner at the red-hot law firm, Hamerman credits her success to supportive mentors. “It’s my turn to pay it forward,” she adds.
“I was young when I had kids; now I feel I have something to give back to those going through the same thing,” Hamerman says. “I hope that I can be a resource for the women at my firm, to help them achieve a feeling of balance and peace of mind… success in all aspects of their lives.”
Director of Food & Beverage
Empire City Casino
Chia-Chia Yeh has been betting on herself for years. A 10-year veteran of MGM Resorts, she has overseen thousands of employees and dozens of restaurants simultaneously. In 2017, she was sent to Bellagio Shanghai for its grand opening, to manage the daily operations of the restaurant LAGO by Julian Serrano. The P&L budget she was tasked with managing was prodigious, and that allowed her leadership skills and initiative to shine.
When Yeh came to Empire City in 2019, she navigated the business through a tough transitional period, going from a family-owned establishment to an MGM-acquired casino. She implemented new standard operation procedures, created innovative training for all food-service employees, and stratified the best practices for the business. When the pandemic shut down operations for six months, Yeh was responsible for all COVID-related reopening procedures and processes for Empire City’s dining establishments.
Even with these monumental accomplishments under her belt, Yeh still takes the biggest joy in celebrating these achievements with her team members and creating connections. “I like working closely with my team, especially my bosses,” says Yeh. “When I can mentor someone, specifically someone whose place I’ve been in, I feel like I’m giving back to my colleagues.”
Hospice of Westchester
Guiding patients and families through the most difficult time of their lives takes a team effort. At Hospice of Westchester (HOW), in White Plains, CEO Mary Spengler leads a group of professionals who lend support to individuals in need of end-of-life care while offering comfort to their loved ones.
With a master’s in nursing, Spengler spent 32 of her 40 years in healthcare working at White Plains Hospital in nursing and administrative roles before taking the helm at HOW in 2011. “Though many don’t like to say it, we are here for those who are dying in our community, both adults and children,” she says, “and my role is to see that those who deliver that care are supported and are able to achieve our mission.”
That mission is to address the needs of those facing a life-limiting illness with dignity and compassion, by offering a medical director, nurses, home health aides, spiritual care, pain management, emotional support, and bereavement services. And “thanks to a very generous donor,” says Spengler, “massage, reflexology, art therapy, and music therapy.”
Despite the pandemic, Spengler was able to keep HOW’s staff employed and the organization running, accommodating patients, where they reside (private homes, nursing, or assisted-living facilities), just as it always has. “The most common message we hear is that families wish they had learned about us sooner,” she says. “To some, hospice is a taboo concept, and I want to get the message out that hospice helps patients and families achieve their end-of-life goals; people should explore the hospice concept and not be afraid of it.”
President & CEO
Open Door Medical Center and Foundation
Lindsay Farrell has dedicated her professional life to championing those who face tremendous barriers in accessing the healthcare system. She began her time at Open Door Family Medical Center as a volunteer before becoming an official employee in 1986. She was promoted to her current position as president and CEO in 1998.
Open Door’s budget has greatly expanded during Farrell’s tenure. Having grown from $10.7 million to its current $59 million, the number of patients served annually has also dramatically increased, from 16,000 to 60,000. Farrell’s aptitude for using cutting-edge systems to bring accessible healthcare into the 21st century has led to Open Door receiving the prestigious Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Davies Award, for its innovative work in health information technology.
In addition to Farrell growing the number of patients treated nearly fourfold, Open Door has under her leadership grown from two health centers to seven, including a mobile dental van and seven school-based health centers. For Farrell, that’s some of her most fulfilling work. “Building new healthcare facilities that are beautiful and convey high-quality care delivery is some of the most rewarding work I do,” says Farrell. “I love seeing the look on our patients’ faces when they come into a brand-new facility for the first time.”
A driving force in local healthcare transformation, Farrell has built her estimable career with a laser-like focus on population health, to be sure no patient, no matter what barriers they face, is left behind.
Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary
FUJIFILM Holdings America Corporation, Valhalla
As the first woman corporate officer for FUJIFILM in the United States, Judy Melillo is helping to change the face of legal counsel in the county and the country. In fact, in September, Melillo was named to Profiles in Diversity Journal’s 2021 list of “Women Worth Watching,” and, considering her array of accomplishments, this is likely sage advice.
Leading a talented team of more than 40 compliance, safety, internal audit, and environmental health professionals, Melillo is tasked with managing the legal affairs of FUJIFILM Holdings America Corporation, as well as its 23 subsidiaries in North America and Latin America. Melillo has also spearheaded many mergers and acquisitions, including that of Kalon Biotherapeutics and the integration of FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, which today crafts vaccine products to fight COVID.
Giving back is also vitally important to Melillo who, in 2019, served as chair of the American Heart Association’s Westchester “Go Red for Women” campaign, leading fundraising and community outreach to help raise awareness and money to fight heart disease.
For Melillo, this effort is all part of her mission to elevate the next generation of change makers. “It’s really important to focus on defining what success means for you and not letting others define that,” shares Melillo. “You have to keep redefining that, because you are not going to be the same person you are now through your whole career. Take the risk to say no to opportunities but also take the risk to say yes to them.”
Resident Experience Manager
Ginsburg Development Companies
Tatiana Diaz, resident experience manager with the Ginsburg Development Companies (GDC), is very good at her job. She works to enhance the lives of residents in the company’s nine luxury rental properties in Westchester, building community along the way. That sense of community has even spilled over into romance. “At least six couples met at our events, got married, and started families,” Diaz says.
Since joining GDC in 2018, Diaz has planned happy hours, barbecues, book clubs, paint-and-sips, mommy-and-me classes, and more. When the pandemic hit last year, Diaz worked harder, holding many events virtually. She also staged concerts that residents could view from their private balconies. “It was great to see people out there dancing, sipping cocktails, and having fun, safely,” Diaz says. She helped local businesses and the needy during the pandemic, as well, arranging online cooking classes with Westchester chefs and Takeout Tuesdays, in which nearby restaurants made special menus for GDC residents. GDC management matched 10% of sales from this promotion, donating nearly $3,000 to Feeding Westchester, Diaz says.
Giving back to residents and the community is simply good business, adds Diaz, noting that a majority of the activities are free, paid for through her department’s budget. Leasing agents tell her these perks seal deals. “My goal was to make us really stand out from other developments,” Diaz says. “Yes, you pay a premium for some of these rental units, but it comes with so much.”
The Arc Westchester Foundation
The Arc Westchester provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, including education, career training, and recreation. Some 2,000 individuals a day make use of these programs, and 240 individuals live in 45 The Arc Westchester residences throughout the county.
The money needed to provide this support is largely provided through government funding but not completely. This is where The Arc Westchester Foundation comes in, says its executive director, Nancy Patota. “In order for The Arc Westchester to continue to be a leader in our field, we have to innovate and enhance programs,” she explains. “We close the gap between state funding and what it really costs to ensure the best outcomes for our individuals.”
Patota is passionate about fundraising, and it shows. She joined The Arc Westchester Foundation in 2014, and under her leadership, the foundation has raised well over $14 million. When the pandemic hit, she quickly raised $400,000 for a Covid Emergency Relief Fund. Her foundation also manages investments for the long-term financial health of the organization.
“Anyone who says a nonprofit doesn’t have to apply business acumen is clueless about what it takes to run a foundation,” says Patota, who has the credentials to back up her claim. Armed with an MBA from Iona College, she is now an adjunct professor with the MBA program there.
That said, successful fundraising often comes down to maintaining strong personal relationships, as Patota explains. “We really get to know our families and our donors. We form deep connections. That’s how we change lives.”
Founder & Artistic Director
Gabrielle Fox has spent her life adjacent to the stage. With an actress-singer for a mother, she was always exposed to the arts. Having since become an accomplished playwright and recipient of the Outstanding Playwriting Award and Overall Production from the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, Fox has created a platform that empowers local theater companies and artists, called Theatre Revolution, which she founded in 2016. She also teaches playwriting at Westchester Community College and serves as an advisor to local performing companies on the topics of marketing, video editing, and social media.
In June, Fox reached out to a few theater companies about doing a performance outside. She was able to stage a show titled Liberty Speaks — a com bination of her work and that of African American artists — at the Philipstown Depot Theater in Garrison. It was a resounding success. “People were so joyous to be in each other’s company,” says Fox, whose play The Second Coming was selected for inclusion in The Best New 10-Minute Plays of 2021. “Arts have such an impact on our everyday lives. To have people coming together after really tough times, with the common theme of reaching people through the arts, was so special.”
On top of her dedication to the local arts community, Fox founded Glass Ceiling Breakers, the first women’s playwright festival in the Hudson Valley. As a producer of the festival, Fox looks to highlight underrepresented groups. “It’s important to me to make sure that we’re inclusive, moving forward.”
Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer
White Plains Hospital
If you were to ask Diane Woolley’s two adult children to state their mother’s mantra for success, they would respond with one phrase: Hard work pays off. So says Woolley, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at White Plains Hospital since 2015, who heard the simple directive from her parents and passed it along to her own kids.
A member of the hospital’s leadership team, Woolley helps establish its strategic vision for human resources: recruiting and retaining talent; maintaining fair benefits and compensation programs; managing labor relations; and supporting growth opportunities for the workforce.
“We pay a lot of money toward education and development, including paying universities up front, because many people would like to go to school but are challenged with making that initial investment,” Woolley says, adding that under her supervision, the hospital initiated an “earn while you learn” program for staffers to train for tough-to-fill jobs.
Dedication and determination are in Woolley’s DNA, having earned a bachelor’s degree in business management, then a master’s in human resource management, followed by an MBA while working full-time with two young children at home. Her career began at United Technologies and Waterbury Hospital — always advocating for the success and well-being of employees, something that she continues to do today.
“What I love most is being part of such a thriving organization,” Woolley says. “I am particularly proud of my own team, some of whom I’ve encouraged to go back to school and watched grow into leadership positions themselves.”
Human services left an indelible mark on Jan Fisher, the director of Nonprofit Westchester, very early in her career. “In Brooklyn, in the ’80s, there was so much going on that demonstrated the need to address social justice and civil rights,” says Fisher. “Living and attending school in a diverse community really started me on an incredible journey in the nonprofit sector.”
That journey included a position helping Holocaust survivors, which helped her discover her passion for advocacy and community education. She believes that after 37 years in the nonprofit sector, she is exactly where she belongs.
Nonprofit Westchester builds the capacity of the nonprofit sector and supports member agencies to advance their individual missions. In less than two years with the agency, Jan has used her business and finance acumen to nearly double the organization’s revenue, implemented financial best practices to better fortify the agency, quadrupled business sponsorship, and brought in the first-ever government funding, all while increasing the institution’s membership by 20%.
“The biggest challenge in my career has been managing my own patience,” she admits. “There’s so much that needs to be accomplished, but I’ve learned to slow down, listen, and set realistic goals while holding on to my audacious dreams.”
Her voice for the county’s nonprofits centers not only on the good they all do but also their force in the community.
“Nonprofits represent 18 percent of the state’s workforce,” says Fisher. “We are an economic engine.”
DR. XENIA FRISBY
Associate Chief Quality Officer & Hospitalist Director
NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital
Dr. Xenia Frisby is first a clinician who diagnoses and treats individual patients — but she has always been interested in the bigger picture, as well. Assessing the quality of a hospital’s systems and its overall culture has provided her a chance to make an even greater impact on patient outcomes. “It brings me back to why I originally got into medicine as a first-generation physician,” Frisby says, “which was to help as many people as possible.”
As associate chief quality officer and hospitalist director at Bronxville’s NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, Frisby monitors quality metrics and patient safety, with the goal of improving processes, ensuring high-quality care, and lowering costs. “I am particularly proud of our work on the enterprise-wide mortality goal,” she says, “where we look at the rate in the hospital and see how we can make it better, from bedside care to improving documentation.”
Frisby’s organizational oversight became especially important after the hospital began treating so-called “patient zero,” identified as Westchester’s first confirmed COVID-19 case. She began working 16-to-18-hour days, became the hospital’s liaison with the New York State Department of Health and, with 185 staffers quarantined, had to develop a risk-management system to assess and support them.
“We were able to get ready, set up a unit, and convert or retrofit things to prepare for what we knew was coming,” says the doctor. “It was very clear to us that widespread community transmission was going on.”
The busy mother of four children describes the challenge as being “like the house was on fire, and we just had to deal with it, and when things get a little crazy, that is something I am good at.”
President & CEO
Plan It Wild
Amanda Bayley has always had an “ecopreneurian” spirit. She began her career with a cutting-edge environmental engineering firm, installing rain gardens and bioswales in New York City sidewalks. From there, she worked as a project manager for the NYC Parks Department, managing the funding for green infrastructure and creating the first green infrastructure maintenance protocol for the city. With a multitude of successfully completed projects under her belt and a deep understanding of the importance of green spaces, Bayley founded Plan It Wild.
The company has a very simple mission with a global impact: to transform residential and commercial landscapes into better environments by putting biodiversity back into the ecosystem, expanding the population of pollinators, and creating homes for wildlife. “We can help restore nature in our own private yards,” explains Bayley. “The monarch butterfly can only land on milkweed. If we don’t have that plant, we don’t have butterflies. So not only is it beautiful, it’s also functional.”
The landscaping sector is a $105 billion industry that is overwhelmingly male-dominated. “You’ve got so few women running these businesses, and it’s not a very environmentally sound industry,” says Bayley. “It’s already an uphill battle.” But Bayley shows no signs of balking at the speed bumps and has plans to (literally) expand her grassroots environmental crusade with, for example, a mindful maintenance division, which will mow your lawn with an electric machine.
For Bayley, creating “the now” also means building a better future for county wildlife, even if it’s one yard at a time. “I love seeing a planting years after it’s been completed,” she says, “because it’s functioning as it’s supposed to.”
Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce
When she left the grind of a first career in television, then another in publishing, Deborah Milone craved more stability in her life. It brought her to the presidency of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, in Peekskill.
“I made a quality-of-life decision and decided to do something I love,” she says.
She also loves that no two days are the same at the chamber and says it is a position that demands strategizing, multitasking, and creating clear priorities. In her 11 years there, she has grown the chamber by nearly 50%, from just more than 300 members to more than 500. She’s most proud of not only that growth but also her development of a chamber foundation, her government action committee, and her strong focus on legislative advocacy for her members. The growth of the chamber continued during the pandemic, and Milone believes that it became a vital resource that helped clear the way for struggling businesses. Her leadership and personal style during the last 18 months were consistent with how she’s mapped out her professional life.
“I’ve always followed a path, trusted my instincts, and didn’t let negativity affect me. I’ve persevered and listened to my inner voice.”