Networking — April 2019


• Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Pasco School District’s Susana Reyes to the State Board of Education. Reyes is Pasco’s assistant superintendent of operations and human resources. She has dedicated her more than 20-year career to serving students and families across all areas of the education system.
Reyes joined Pasco School District in September 2017, and has held previous educational leadership positions in Mead, Pullman, and Wapato school districts.  She is a member of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Pasco and a governor appointee to the Washington Student Achievement Council. She will serve on the 16-member state board through January 2022.

• Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Deborah Ruegsegger of Kennewick to the
Affordable Housing Advisory Board in March. The term runs through 2023.


•  At the Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels Breakfast Fundraiser on March 5, McCurley Integrity Subaru presented the nonprofit with a check of more than $27,000 raised during Subaru of America’s annual Share the Love Event. Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels was selected as McCurley’s hometown charity. This fundraiser event raised more than $32,000, which will fully fund more than 4,300 meals.

•  A group of Spectrum employee volunteers supported Charter Communications Inc.’s first national philanthropic initiative, Spectrum Housing Assist. Spectrum worked with the American Red Cross to canvas the Lakeview Mobile Home Park neighborhood in Pasco, offering free smoke alarm installations and homeowner education March 30.

Franklin PUD donated $1,000 toward the purchase of trees for the city of Pasco’s ceremonial tree planting event in observance of Arbor Day on April 12 and 12 years of being designated as Tree City USA, a program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. The city planted eight trees, with the Kentucky coffeetree as the featured tree. Officials also handed out 200 tree saplings to community members to plant at home.


•  Junior Achievement of Washington, Southeastern Region lassoed the efforts of supporters to raise money for local classroom programs at its 2019 Western Rodeo Bowl. Organizers estimate $287,000 was raised at the annual event, which ran Feb. 26 to March 8. The top individual fundraiser was Jamei Perez of Bechtel National Inc. Best overall costume award went to Danielle Smith of Gesa Credit Union.  There were 313 teams from 90 local companies who bowled to support the organization which provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and fiscal choices.

New Hires

Gesa Credit Union commercial loan officer Michelle Potts is now serving the Tri-Cities and surrounding area. She has 17 years of experience in agricultural and commercial lending and has been with Gesa for four years.

  • Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard of Benton City has hired Executive Chef Jim Vande Berg, who has seven years of experience in fine dining at hotels and 13 years in waterfront Italian restaurants. Vande Berg of Richland and his team have crafted a culinary program that can accommodate private events, such as weddings, as well as overseeing the winery’s Vineyard Grill, which offers wood-fired pizzas, salads and more.

 • AHBL, which offers civil and structural engineering, landscape architecture and land surveying services, has three new employees at its Pasco office:

Mason Mendel, a professional engineer, brings 13 years of experience in civil engineering consulting. He has worked on projects spanning a broad range of civil engineering disciplines, clients and geographic areas in Washington.

Ryan Sternfeld is a survey crew chief. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and comes to the company having spent the past two years as a survey technician in Kennewick.

Ryan Krieg is a survey technician who graduated from Washington State University in 2016.

Rosa Torres is the new finance director at Elite Construction & Development in Pasco. As a member of the management team, Torres provides strategic vision and leadership as Elite continues to grow into new sectors of the construction industry. She brings more than 20 years of experience managing finances. Most recently, she worked with Microsoft as a financial controller and senior financial manager. Before that, she served as a senior financial analyst at Starbucks, working on its supply chain.

 • Sage Design Group PLLC of Kennewick will add Zochil Castro toits team in May. She will be leading the residential division of the landscape architectural “design-only” firm. She is a recent graduate of the landscape architectural bachelor program at Washington State University in Pullman.

Dena Putnam-Gilchrist has joined Trios Health and as the new chief nursing officer and Chad Pew as the chief operating officer.Putnam-Gilchrist joined Trios in February and has more than 29 years of experience as a nurse. Most recently, she worked as an interim CNO and assistant CNO at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon. Pew joined Trios in March. Originally from Nebraska, Pew has worked for 20 years in medical facilities and was most recently interim CEO at a facility in Nebraska. Pew completed his undergraduate degree in biology at Chadron State College in Nebraska, as well as a medical tech degree from Hayes Pathology in Kansas and a master’s in business administration from the University of Nebraska.

Kylie Hirai joined the Franklin Conservation District as a classroom-based educator. She will provide hands-on science lessons to students in kindergarten through grade six.

Awards & Honors

Solar Spirits Distillery of Richland won several awards at the 2019 American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft Spirits. Its Eclipse Vodka won Best of Class, Best of Category and a gold medal. Silver medals went to its London Dry Gin in the contemporary gin category and Grappa Brandy in the grappa/pomace/marc brandy category.

Judy Hicks, Baker Boyer’s consumer loan supervisor, received the Patriot Award from the Washington Committee for Employer Support of the Guardand Reserve. Hicks was nominated by David Keeley, a Baker Boyer consumer loan advisor who serves as a first lieutenant in the Air National Guard, for her outward recognition and support for his service in the Guard.

• Two Columbia Basin College employees received National Institute of Staff Organizational Development Excellence Awards: Kim Tucker, director for CBC’s nursing program, and Su-Hyun Kim, physics instructor. The awards recognize men and women each year who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues. Recipients will be celebrated during NISOD’s annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence on May 25-28, in Austin, Texas.

• The Auction of Washington Wines, a nonprofit wine event that has been around for 32 years, recognized Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery in Woodinville as its 2019 Honorary Vintner, and Scott Williams of Kiona Vineyards outside Benton City as its 2019 Honorary Grower. He is a supplier to some of the most esteemed wineries on the West Coast, including Betz Family Winery, Long Shadows and Gorman Winery. He owns and farms more than 260 estate-grown acres on the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area and works with his father and sons to run the operation. The men were selected because they exemplify leadership in the industry and have made significant contributions to the Washington wine community. These honorary positions are peer-nominated and reserved for leaders who invest in and positively affect the Washington state wine community.

Matthew Riesenweber of Cornerstone Wealth Strategies in Kennewick was recently recognized among the best in the state and in the country, appearing in Barron’s 2019 Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in America ranking. Barron’s annual list highlights financial advisors based on data provided by more than 4,000 advisors nationwide.

Jason E. Johnson, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial with offices in Kennewick, was named to the “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors” list published by Forbes magazine. The list recognizes financial advisors who have demonstrated high levels of ethical standards, professionalism and success. He was chosen based on assets under management, industry experience, regulatory and compliance record and revenue produced over a three-year period. 

 • The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys has recognized the exceptional performance of Washington’s Family Law Attorney Katherine Sierra-Kelly of Gravis Law as one of the 10 Best Family Law Attorney for Client Satisfaction in 2019.

• Mathew Purcell of Purcell Law in Kennewick has been ranked by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys as among the 10 best in the state for client satisfaction for the third year.

Allan Felsot, academic director for math and science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington State University Tri-Cities and professor of entomology, is the recipient of the Pacific branch of the Entomological Society of America’s award for excellence in teaching. The award honors educators who have excelled through innovations in developing new courses, programs and teaching methods in the field of entomology and the sciences. In his 26 years at WSU, Felsot has mentored more than 50 master’s and doctoral students. He also has been instrumental in developing new courses at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as several for the WSU Global campus. His research at WSU has focused on environmental toxicology and risk assessment of pesticides. The regional award was presented during an April 2 awards luncheon in San Diego.

Petersen Hastings, a registered investment advisory firm in Kennewick, has been named one of InvestmentNews’ 2019 Top 50 Best Places to Work for Financial Advisors in the nation for the second consecutive year. This program is dedicated to identifying and recognizing advisory firms across the United States that empower, encourage, and inspire employees to provide their clients with the best possible investment and financial planning advice. The firm, established in 1962, was named a Top 50 Employer in March 2018 by InvestmentNews in the inaugural year of the recognition.

• The Central Washington Fair Association board of directors recently recognized longtime board member and chairman Sid Morrison, who retired from the board. Morrison spent two terms on the board and has been a lifelong volunteer at the fair. The board also recognized longtime president/general manager Greg Stewart for 45 years of service to the association. 

 • Grant Blake, based at the Richland Framatome fuel unit, received an Engineer of the Year award. Framatome honors employees in North America who have achieved engineering excellence through notable achievements in their profession and the company’s engineering activities. Winners were nominated by their peers.

 • The Tri-City Association of Realtors has announced the winners of its 2018 annual awards. They include Realtor of the Year, Mary Harris, Smart Realtors; Rookie of the Year, Shana Brown, Keller Williams Tri-Cities; Citizen of the Year, Larry Haler, former legislator;  Larry E. Miller Award for Excellence in Real Estate, Louise Olsen, Smart Realtors; Affiliate of the Year, Jonas Rosenberg, Summit Lending; Realtor Community Service Award, Mike Alvarez, Vision Mortgage; and Sunrise Award, Jerry Rhoads, KC Help.

• Columbia Basin College celebrated its 10th year as a designated a Tree Campus USA by planting 12 trees on campus April 10 as part of Arbor Day. New this year, the campus community planted a noble fir tree in honor of the accomplishments and campus work of the late Karen Grant, a CBC professor emerita who helped build the Pasco college’s chemistry program. Grant died in November.


• Fines paid for water quality violations in Washington in the last few years will pay for $331,000 in projects designed to restore local ecosystems. Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group in Benton County received $22,585 to increase the cool water influence of a disconnected oxbow on the lower Yakima River, north of Benton City. The state Department of Ecology awarded up to $45,000 for 12 projects that will improve water quality through environmental enhancements via its Terry Husseman Account. Husseman was a longtime Ecology deputy director who died in 1998. This year, Ecology considered 32 grant requests. The grants support work starting in May.

Columbia Basin College was one of 48 colleges and universities receive a grant from Truth Initiative to adopt a 100 percent tobacco or smoke-free campus policy. The Pasco college received $19,980. The effort is part of a national movement among students, faculty and administrators to address smoking and tobacco use at college campuses throughout the U.S. Over the next 16 months, CBC will form a campus task force to assess tobacco use behaviors and attitudes, identify a treatment plan for smokers and develop a smoke- or tobacco-free policy. Two student leaders will develop and lead educational efforts to build a movement to become a tobacco-free campus.


• The Tri-City Association of Realtors’ 2019 Board of Directors include President Dave Shinabarger, Smart Realtor, and the board of directors: John Keltch, Windermere Group One; Cindy House, Keller Williams Tri-Cities; Cari McGee, Keller Williams Tri-Cities; Jeff Smart, Smart Realtors; Ron Almberg, Keller Williams Tri-Cities; Barry Long, Everstar Realty; Jerritt Wiser, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson; John Mower, Retter & Co., Sotheby’s International Realty; Nate Biehl, ReMax Northwest Realtors;
Chad Markel, Markel Properties; Gayle Stack, Everstar Realty; and Melissa Montgomery, Re/Max Northwest Realtors.

• Members of the Central Washington Fair Association recently elected a slate of officers and re-elected three members to its board of directors.New officers are: Local insurance professional Dave Hargreaves, chairman; Tom Stokes, a community volunteer and recently retired as CEO/president of Tree Top Inc., vice chairman; Lower Valley dairy owner
LaVonne Boogerd, secretary; and Sunnyside hop rancher Halley Newhouse, treasurer. Stokes, Ignacio Marquez and Don Whitehouse were re-elected to the board for another term. The Central Washington Fair Association and its board of directors operate the Central Washington State Fair and State Fair Park under a long-term lease with Yakima County.

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