Best of Springfield®

Best People

Best People
Kori Green – Grab-A-Java


Kori Green
1702 S. Sixth St., 523-5282

If you’ve pulled up to the Sixth Street Grab-A-Java on your way to work in the morning anytime in the past seven years, it is more likely than not that Kori Green was there to greet you with a smiling face, kind words and a tasty beverage. Green has worked as a barista for 13 years, with 10 spent at Grab-A-Java. As the manager of the Sixth Street location, Kori has a strong commitment to excellence and getting things done the right way, including getting to know the people she serves. Her coworker Lisa Kording states, “Kori knows the names, drinks and life stories of a good portion of Springfield’s residents. She genuinely cares about the orders that come in and the people who are served through the drive-through.” When asked what she loves most about working at Grab-A-Java, Green replied, “Everything! The customers, the owners, my coworkers, the coffee … all of these things combined make Grab-A-Java the best.”
Finalists: Kendra Boesdorfer, Custom Cup Coffee; Anna Holliday, Wm. Van’s Coffee House; Ian Winterbauer, The Bean Counter; Sarah Gilbert, Café Andiamo

Dr. Paul Venturini
The Advanced Center for Pain and Rehab
2060 W. Washington St., 787-8200

With more than 27 years of chiropractic practice in central Illinois, including 20+ years dedicated to his current full-service health and wellness clinic The Advanced Center for Pain and Rehab, Dr. Paul Venturini has built up a successful chiropractic clinic based on connecting with and understanding his patients. Dr. Venturini’s bedside manner is held in the highest regard, frequently described by his clients as “friendly yet professional,” often making his clients feel more like family or close friends than patients. Ultimately, Dr. Venturini is everything a good chiropractor should be. He is eager to listen to his patients and understand their pain; realistic in approaching treatment and pain management, and willing to communicate and explain concepts to his patients so that they come away with a better understanding of their bodies and what they are going through.
Finalists: Dr. Christopher Reid; Dr. Sean Valenti; Dr. Mike Jones; Dr. Rodney Holzmacher; Dr. Rob Calcaterra

Dr. Daniel Lanzotti – Springfield Clinic
2200 Wabash Ave., 528-7541

Dr. Daniel Lanzotti at Springfield Clinic used to be a high school biology teacher, until he was asked to host the school’s career day. That’s when he decided to become a doctor. He says he has worked with the same nurse practitioner since the day he started, and that was 35 years ago. That says a lot about his temperament, but he doesn’t take credit for being voted Best Doctor. Instead, he credits his coworkers. “I have a great staff, a great nurse practitioner, great partners, and the Clinic is a strong provider,” he says. “I don’t think it’s me. It’s that whole team of people.” Lanzotti says one of the best parts of his job is getting to know his patients. “I like the fact that I feel like I’m reading two thousand books slowly,” he says, “one page at a time.”
Finalists: Dr. Scott Morton - Springfield Clinic; Dr. Valerie Thompson, HSHS Medical Group; Dr. Terry Jones - Springfield Clinic; Dr. Bryan Albracht - Springfield Clinic

Dr. Tanya DeSanto
Prairie Dental Group
2900 Greenbriar Dr., 546-0142

While we were a little surprised to hear that some people genuinely enjoy going to the dentist, it appears to be the consensus among the patients of Dr. Tanya DeSanto, who receives the majority of her new clients as referrals from satisfied customers. Her practice helps elevate Springfield’s status in Illinois’ dental health, as Dr. DeSanto routinely draws patients from St. Louis and Chicago, and once even a client-referral patient from 700 miles away. With more than 20 years of dental experience under her belt, Dr. DeSanto takes dentistry seriously, going above and beyond for her patients by completing more than five times the required hours of continued education training each year. As a rising star in the field of cosmetic dentistry, she is one of 20 Illinois dentists licensed for IV sedation, and is on track to become the first licensed cosmetic dentist in Springfield.
Finalists: Dr. Keith Cummins, Magna Dental; Dr. Timothy Lonergan, Chatham Dental; Dr. Albert Capati, Capati Dental; Dr. Raj Dhamrait

Derek Leonard
Head Coach, Rochester High School Football

Coaching football runs in Derek Leonard’s blood. His father, fellow “best coach” nominee Ken Leonard, has 32 years of experience and counting as head football coach of Sacred Heart-Griffin high school (1984 through the present), and Derek seems to be following in his footsteps with a 12-year-plus career as head football coach at Rochester High School. In the 12 years under Leonard’s direction, the Rochester Rockets have won five straight state football titles spanning from 2010-2015, and as of our deadline on Oct. 17, a 7-1 record for 2016, with their only loss occurring in the aptly nicknamed “Leonard Bowl VII” on Oct. 7, where Ken Leonard lead the SHG Cyclones in a nail-biting game against the Rochester Rockets to a 33-28 win. Coach Derek’s humility and passion go a long way towards bringing out the best in his players. He is quick to credit his players when due, is quick to accept responsibility when needed, and serves as a great role model for his high school players. His respect for the athletes helps him connect with his 98 players and bring out the best in them, building champions one step at a time.
Finalists: Ken Leonard, Sacred Heart-Griffin High School football; Aaron Kunz, head coach, Williamsville High School football; Susan Liss, Illinois Valley Figure Skating Club; Tim Hahn, coach, CrossFit Instinct

Best People
Graham Nicholson – Floyd’s Thirst Parlor

Graham Nicholson
Floyd’s Thirst Parlor
210 S. Fifth St., 522-2020

In a farcical campaign video informing the public of the dangers associated with voting for fellow “best bartender” nominee/co-worker Andrew Denton, longtime Floyd’s Thirst Parlor bartender Graham Nicholson proudly proclaims that he is on a mission to “make cocktails great again.” One could argue that Nicholson’s mission actually began a decade ago, as he has 10 years of bartending experience, with nine of those years behind the bar at Floyd’s. In 2016, Nicholson, Denton and Jeremy Bredemeyer took over ownership and operations of the downtown bar, and celebrated by revamping Floyd’s craft beer list with an impressive draft selection and creating a hip new cocktail menu that introduces libations from the minds of Nicholson, Denton and Bredemeyer; pays homage to established drinks; and showcases outstanding cocktails from notable bars and lounges across the United States. When Graham isn’t scheming up ways to making cocktails great again, you can find him serving them up at Floyd’s, which is, he says, what makes his work worthwhile. According to Nicholson, “Everybody enjoys good food or a good drink … it’s something very basic that we all have in common, and this job gives me the opportunity to connect with people on that level and often to introduce them to something they’ve never tried before, but turns out to be their favorite drink.”
Finalists: Whitney Elders, Weebles Bar and Grill; Jamie Richardson, Sunset Inn; Andrew Denton, Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Crystal Gregc, The Burger Bar; Joel Roush, Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery; Michelle Graham, The Dublin Pub.

Caitlin McCarthy - FitClub South
3631 S. Sixth Street Road, 787-8348

If your goal is to get in shape, you’ll be in good hands with Caitlin McCarthy. When she’s not designing a custom workout for a client in her job as a personal trainer at FitClub South, McCarthy is checking up on another client to make sure they’re drinking enough water and sticking to their eating plan. McCarthy has been a personal trainer for about six years, with clients ranging from age 11 to age 83. She understands that getting fit takes time, and she encourages her clients to be patient and take things one day at a time. “It’s rewarding to see people get their lives back, whether they’re losing inches or just finally being able to tie their shoes,” she says. “It’s really rewarding to see people happy.”
Finalists: T.C. Roesch – Roesch’s Gym; Brian Chandler - Capital City CrossFit; Lex Bitner - In 2 Fitness Personal Training; Leah Kirk – FITT

Fr. Jeff Grant, Pastor
Blessed Sacrament Parish

Father Jeff Grant is a people person. He loves his life’s work for the opportunity to connect on a spiritual level with his parishioners and those in need of guidance. While you can generally find Father John at Blessed Sacrament Parish, you won’t be seeing him in Springfield for the next sixth months. In September, he embarked on a six-month trip to Kenya where he is volunteering his talents as a parish priest at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, located approximately 600 miles north of Nairobi. He will be performing much of he same soul-invigorating work performed here in Springfield, but with less paperwork and administrative duties. Father Jeff Grant will return to Blessed Sacrament Parish in March.
Finalists: Eddie Lowen “Lead Guy” at West Side Christian Church; Rev. Mike Whitaker, associate pastor, Springfield First United Methodist Church; Jeff Nelson, lead pastor, Cherry Hills Baptist Church; Rev. Paul Hemenway, Trinity Lutheran Church; Rev. Martin Woulfe, Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Brian Mills, senior pastor, Hope Church; Clint Cook, lead pastor, Real Life Church

Mayor Jim Langfelder

Being in the news business, we’re loathe to trust anyone too much – especially politicians. But we have to hand it to Springfield mayor Jim Langfelder – he’s never intentionally steered us wrong. You may criticize his priorities or say he should have handled such-and-such differently, but it seems he says what he means and means what he says. On returning phone calls, he does better than most. If he hasn’t followed through on some promise, he’ll at least give you the courtesy of explaining why, and in terms you can understand. Even though you may not like the explanation he gives, it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes. In this day and age, and especially in this dysfunctional state, that’s a rare quality.
Finalists: Sen. Dick Durbin, Alderman Cory Jobe, County Board member Tony DelGiorno

Best People
David Ellis – Texas Roadhouse

David Ellis – Texas Roadhouse
2540 W. Iles Ave., 698-5700

David Ellis doesn’t mind the occasional difficult customer in his job as a server at Texas Roadhouse. He says he just handles them with a big smile. “The difficult ones make the good ones even better,” he says. Ellis has been a server for about two and a half years, and he loves the great conversations and what he describes as a fun, energetic atmosphere. “It’s like a big family,” he says, referring to his regular customers. “When people come to see you every week, you must be doing something right.”
Finalists: Matt Pfeifer - American Harvest Eatery; Lauren McClure - Burger Bar; Marcy Mathew - The Corner Pub; Angie Bryson - Dublin Pub

O’Shea Builders
3401 Constitution Drive, 522-2826

When we came up with this category, we assumed voters would pick their favorite home builder. O’Shea Builders doesn’t do residential work, so it appears that voters love O’Shea’s work on commercial buildings. It’s easy to see why: O’Shea built or renovated several high-profile buildings in Springfield, like Springfield Clinic’s main campus on Sixth Street, the new Memorial Center for Innovation and Learning, the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception renovations and many more. O’Shea has been around since 1902, employs 160 people and maintains relationships with clients over many years. They even have a separate website to share their “bookshelf” – books that have influenced the company’s development and leadership. Yeah, O’Shea may not build houses, but they’ve certainly helped build this community.
Finalists: Buraski Builders, Michael von Behren Builder, Schneider Construction, Jones-Blythe Construction

Stacey Skrysak – WICS Newschannel 20

 Stacey Skrysak doesn’t let life’s trials slow her down. When she and her husband, Ryan, lost two of their newborn triplets, Skrysak blogged about the grief and the joy of raising Peyton, their daughter who survived. Skrysak’s strength was tested again earlier this month, when a viewer left a crude comment calling Skrysak and her fellow female reporters at Channel 20 fat. Skrysak turned it into a teaching moment, publicly standing up for women everywhere and reacting with the kind of poise she hopes sets a good example for her daughter. She even wound up writing an article about it for NBC’s “Today Show.” Skrysak jokes that a younger her would have cried, but that she’s “old and jaded” now. The incident highlighted one of the things she loves most about her job: the community. “For every one negative comment, there are thousands of positive ones,” she says.
Finalists: Adam Rife – WICS; Kelsey Gibbs – WCIA; Jordan Abudayyeh – WICS; Maggie Poteau – WICS; Ed Cross – WAND

Best People
Ryan Held

Ryan Held

Springfield loves its hometown gold medal Olympian Ryan Held, and Held loves Springfield back. The 21-year-old freestyle swimmer won a gold medal for Team USA in August during the 2016 Rio Olympics as a participant on the United States’ 4x100-meter relay team. During a “welcome home” ceremony held in Ryan’s honor at the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA in September, he revealed to approximately 500 well-wishers that the pride and enthusiasm that Springfield displayed for Held this past summer encouraged him to swim that much harder at the international level. Ryan began his swimming career in Springfield when he joined the YMCA Typhoons swim team at the age of 7. As a Central State 8 swimmer for Sacred Heart-Griffin in high school, Ryan honed his skills and became a powerhouse athlete who set and broke numerous state records and was named Illinois State Swimmer of the Year in 2014. Held is currently a junior in college and a Division I swimmer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, majoring in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology.
Finalists: Andre Iguodala; Kelsey Card; Emily Jones; Jake Erickson; Gavin Webb

Jim Leach –WMAY News Talk 970

He may be an institution in the Springfield radio news scene, but Jim Leach is as energetic as ever. When he’s not grilling politicians at press conferences, Leach is hosting his radio show on WMAY, where he manages to interact with listeners both on-air and on social media. Leach went to college to become a radio DJ, but a professor steered him toward reporting, and he landed a TV gig in Springfield at News Channel 20 before finding his way back to radio. He’s going on 21 years with a daily radio show. What keeps him going? Leach says he enjoys informing the public about important things like severe weather, and he gets to talk to people from all walks of life. “It beats working for a living,” he jokes with his ever-present sense of humor. “It’s an incredibly fascinating and richly rewarding line of work.”
Finalists: DJ Blake - WDBR 103.7 FM; John Spaulding - WFMB 104.5; Shawn Balint - Neuhoff Media Group; Amanda Vinicky - WUIS NPR Illinois 91.9 FM; Rachel Otwell, WUIS NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Jason Lee - New Age Tattoos
2915 S. MacArthur Blvd., 546-5006

Springfield has a lot of very talented tattoo artists, and Jason Lee is the first person to say it. So the fact that he’s a frequent winner in this category says a lot. Lee has the chops to pull off many styles, from old-school to photorealistic; people even come from out of town to get inked by him and the other artists under his supervision. Unlike the typical tattoo shop depicted in the movies, Lee’s shop is whistle-clean, and his staff is knowledgeable and friendly. If you’re looking to get your first tattoo or your 50th, New Age should be on your radar.
Finalists: Kevin Veara – Black Moon Tattoos; Rachel DeVault – Spiral Out Tattoos & Body Piercings; Lorin Devine – New Age Tattoos; Justin Sidener – Spiral Out Tattoos and Body Piercings

Ric Kearbey –

Ric Kearbey’s has taken Springfield by storm. When Kearbey’s contract with Channel 20 in Springfield ended, his loyal fans didn’t want to see him go, so he started up his weather site. Now, Kearbey works for KSDK in St. Louis, but he still delivers instant weather updates directly to fans on his website, his Facebook page and his Twitter page. It’s fun to check Kearbey’s social media pages now and then to see what pretty pictures he’s taking or what adventures he’s having. You can also get your Ric Kearbey weather fix on several local radio stations.
Finalists: Joe Crain, Cheryl Lemke, Thomas Patrick, all of WICS-TV, JC Fultz, WAND TV

Kari Bedford – Kari Bedford Photography
314 E. Monroe St., 836-5623
Kate Spencer – Kate Spencer Photography
2121 West White Oaks Dr., 931-650-006
There was a tie this year for best photographer, and it’s easy to see why. Both winners have a gorgeous, almost dreamlike style. Kari Bedford says that as a child, she was inspired by her photographer uncle and fascinated by the storytelling and photojournalism in Life and similar magazines. She began shooting in 1999 and started her business, Kari Bedford Photography, in 2010. Bedford says her clients appreciate that she’s fearless. “I’ll go outside my comfort zone to get a great shot,” she says, adding that she’s stood in a boat on a lake and even been chased by cattle in pursuit of the perfect photo. “I consistently try to create interesting work,” she says. “Hopefully, people appreciate that effort.” Kate Spencer of Kate Spencer Photography says she picked up photography while working on the yearbook staff at Chatham Glenwood High School. Spencer worked in Nashville for a few years before starting her business in Springfield in 2013, and she says it’s a dream come true. “I love that my clients become my friends,” she says, explaining that she likes to get to know people before photographing them. “When my clients trust me and feel comfortable with me, they’re much more comfortable in front of the camera,” she says. “They’re more relaxed and have more fun.”
Finalists: Jill Gum Photography, Scott Hammann - Clear Focus Photography, William Richards Photography, Aura Images Photography

Tim Timoney - Timoney and Page Law Offices
808 S. Second St., 522-1944

Tim Timoney cites his time bartending at DH Brown’s in Springfield as the reason he became a lawyer. Timoney describes it as being a “courthouse bar” at the time – full of lawyers, judges, court reporters and the like. He says he was always interested in the law, and being around those folks pushed him to become a lawyer himself. Since then, Timoney has served as an assistant state’s attorney, a public defender and an attorney in private practice, handling criminal defense, DUI and traffic cases, driver’s license reinstatement, family law and divorce. Even though he jokes about his profession eventually driving him crazy, Timoney admits that he still finds the law fascinating. “I just try to do the best I can,” he says. “I try to put myself in the position of someone else and hold their hand through the process.”
Finalists: Greg Sgro, Ryan Cadigan, John Hanlon, Bruce Beeman

Kevin Timoney - Troxell Insurance
214 South Grand Ave. West, 528-7533

Selling insurance may not sound very exciting, but for Kevin Timoney, it’s about the satisfaction of meeting peoples’ needs with good customer service. Timoney was selling food products in 1998 when Mike Coffey at Saputo’s Italian Restaurant told him he ought to try his hand at selling insurance instead. Timoney apparently took to it well, and he now handles commercial, personal and health insurance. Asked why he thinks voters chose him as the best, Timoney has a simple answer: he cares about what he does. “I return calls and take a concern about their insurance requirements,” he said. “Some guys, they sell it and you don’t see them again.”
Finalists: Steve Bedford - State Farm Insurance; Missy Haley - United Community Bank; Zach Rambach - AAA Insurance; Jared Zueck - Country Financial.


John Shafer
Finalists: Jeff Sommers; Tim Smith; Chuck Pell; Paul Wheeler;

Kirsten Holler, United Community Bank
Finalists: Jay Cook, Marine Bank; Mark Donovan, Illinois National Bank; Brenda Poston, Bank of Springfield; Lauren Rooney, United Community Bank

Gayle Johnson, Apple Barn
Finalist: Todd Wise, United Community Bank; Betsy Dollar, Springfield Art Association; Joe Rupnik, The Dublin Pub; Greg Floyd, Illinois National Bank

Marc Passoni, Green Hyundai
Finalist: Brian Wilbern, Robert’s Automotive; Ed Selinger, Honda of Illinois; Ray Voyda, Freedom Chevrolet; Mike Bossman, Green Kia


Kate Leuken, Willow&  Birch Salon
Finalists: Sarah Green, Cutting Edge Hair; Sarah Moore, Dalliance Spa and Salon; Allie Bylerline, Face & Fringe; Gabi Randolph, Jennarations Salon and Spa

Paula Ryan
Finalists: Jim Wilson; Cindi Jones; Lois Moore; Kris Salter, KSID Interiors

Tripp Landscaping
Finalists: Copper Tree Landscaping & Fencing; Scooter’s Lawn Care; Rob Salefski, Landscapes, Unlimited; Massie Massie&  Assoc.


Gabrielle Thomas, BJ Grand Salon
Finalists: Emily Handley; Krystal McDonald; Cynda Wrightsman; Jae Morelli

Easterday Plumbing
Finalists: Mike Williams; Steve Ray; Rick Ray; Jim Wilson

Jeff Lightfoot, Springfield High School
Finalists: Sarah Littrell, Rochester High School; David DeMuro, Glenwood High School; Dr. Jason Dockter, Lincoln Land Community College; Katrina St. Aubin, Vachel Lindsay School

Comments (0)
Add a Comment
  • Sanctuary Tours

    @ First Presbyterian Church

    Thursdays, 1:30-3 p.m. Continues through June 27