Best of Springfield®


Best of Springfield 2017

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Paul Schafer

Eck, Schafer & Punke, LLP
227 S. Seventh St., 525-1111

Eck, Schafer & Punke, LLP, provides income tax and estate planning for closely held businesses and their shareholders, as well as individuals. Paul Schafer describes their clients as ranging from “mom and pop” small businesses to corporations doing business in multiple states. When asked why he thinks he was nominated as this year’s best accountant, Schafer said he hopes it’s because he is approachable and easy to talk to. “In order for your accountant to be any good to you, you have to want to meet with him or her and talk. The appeal of my approach, and I think the personality of our firm, is that we are accessible and laid back, pretty down to earth.”

Finalists: Dave Coonrod - Coonrod Financial Group; Mario Perrino – Eck, Schafer & Punke, LLP; Christopher Parks – INB Wealth Strategies

Photo by Carol Weems
John Shafer
John Shafer

John Shafer & Associates
1230 S. Sixth St., 744-9036

“Founded in 1992,” this year’s best architect says at, “our mission is to design buildings that contribute to the built environment and enhance our quality of life. We strive to add value through creativity and innovation. Aligning ourselves with our clients’ goals, we deliver services that meet their time, budget and quality objectives.”
The firm’s services include conceptual and building design, site analysis, building code review, life-safety planning, remodeling and renovation, sustainable and LEED design, construction drawings and contract administration. See examples of their projects from master planning through interior design, institutional, commercial, retail, automotive, healthcare, and residential at

Finalists: Jeff Sommers – Square Root Architecture + Design; Paul Wheeler - FWAI Architects; Charles Pell – CJP Architects

Ryan Held

Swimmer Ryan Held is not only an Olympic gold medalist with many national and international career appearances but, according to those we spoke to, a really nice guy. His successes are widely covered throughout internet sources and social media, including pictures of Held, teammates, medals and that beautiful, winning smile. From, “Ryan Held is a sprint freestyle and butterfly specialist from Springfield, Illinois. He qualified for his first Olympic Games at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials in a close-fought 100-meter freestyle. Held attended Sacred Heart-Griffin High School where he was a multiple-time state champion and record breaker. In his senior year in 2014 he was named Illinois State Swimmer of the Year.”
Ryan’s fans in the area have cheered for him through his career so far, and again voted him Best Athlete in Springfield. Congratulations, and best wishes Ryan!

Finalists: Andre Iguodala; Emily Jones; Tyler Pence

Kirsten Holler

3200 Iles Ave., 787-5111

“I am all about customer service,” says UCB’s assistant vice president of retail services, Kirsten Holler. “I am here to please the customers and give them the types of products that suit them best. I explain checking accounts, savings, certificates of depost and our fees, and try to go above and beyond for them.”
Instead of “rattling off regulations and disclosures,” she says, Holler tries to “simplify banking and relate my products and services to the customers – who they are, what they do in their lives, and their families. Then I can help them understand exactly what they’re getting,” and also, she continues, how easy it is to use online banking services and how they can simplify their lives.

Finalists: Janice Schramm – Hickory Point Bank; Shaye Easton – UCB; Jim Lauwerens – UCB; David Bray – UCB

Photo by Carol Weems
Lynsey Dunham
Lynsey Dunham

1702 S. Sixth St., 523-5282

“Drink quality and consistency, and great customer service go hand in hand,” says this year’s best barista. “Ninety-five percent of our customers are repeat customers. We know each person’s name, their favorite drinks, their kids’ names, dog’s name. It makes for a good experience for repeat customers. And, we make the best cup of coffee in Springfield. Every single cup has the right amount of coffee grounds, is brewed at the right temperature, and only kept for the correct peak life of the coffee – not one minute past.”
One of Lynsey’s favorite drinks is the Queen Bee, made with honey, vanilla syrup, cinnamon, steamed milk and espresso. She also bakes some of the store’s cookies and her own recipes for the blueberry lemon cheesecake bar, pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing, and more.
“We get people’s day going and they do the same for us.”

Finalists: Kendra Boesdorfer – Custom Cup; Ian Winterbauer – Bean Counter; Janet Skinner – Bean Counter; Lucas Peterson – Custom Cup & Free Press Coffee House

Graham Nicholson

Floyd’s Thirst Parlor
210 S. Fifth St., 522-2020
Why Nicholson? “I’ve been doing what I’ve done for so long, more than 10 years,” says Nicholson, part owner of Floyd’s, “that I’ve had enough time to make relationships. I do my best day to day, week to week to know people – what their tastes are, what they like and, more importantly, what they don’t like in beer, spirits and cocktails – to offer something I feel confident they’ll like.
“I’m probably best known for my knowledge and ability to talk about beers,” says Nicholson, who buys all the beer. “I have 22 tap handles at any given time. We have some of the more desirable, rarer, harder-to-come-by beers than a lot of people can offer.
“I’m also responsible for half the cocktails that go on the menu. People find their favorites.”

Finalists: Alex Owens – The Gin Mill; Andrew Denton – Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Kristin McLaughlin - Westside Bar & Grill; Sara Bowen – Indigo

Dale Ferguson

Green Certified West
2541 W. Iles Ave., 241-7888

“I’m a really big people person,” says Ferguson, who sells pre-owned cars. “My number one goal is to see people leave with a smile on their face. I make sure customers are also taken care of after the sale, and make sure their friends and family are taken care of when they send them my way.”
It can be emotional. “I had an older lady come in who had [an expensive] medical issue and needed to lower her car payments.” After the trade, “she sat in my office and hugged me and cried for 45 minutes. We saved her money on her loan and got greater gas mileage.”
Ferguson periodically donates a percentage of his sales to charity, and occasionally brings in some special help to close a deal. “My three-year-old son, Benton, is popular with the customers.”

Brad Voyda
Freedom Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram
625 S. Springfield St., Virden, 965-3327

“I’ve been around the business forever with my dad and learned how to take care of customers,” says Brad Voyda who, with Freedom owner Ray Voyda, says, “At Freedom, we prefer a loss to an unjust gain.”
“I’m a good listener. I see not only what customers need, but what they want, so I can find the right vehicle for them. I always have a smile on my face, and there’s no pressure at all. I think people appreciate that in this day and age. I greet them and treat them like they’re a part of the family.
“I always strive to be the best. I don’t take too many breaks. I was born to do it”

Finalists: Chris Young – Landmark Chrysler Jeep; Justin Liss – Green Mazda; Bart Yeske – S&K GMC

Photo by Blake Detherage
Dr. Paul Venturini
Dr. Paul Venturini

Advanced Center for Pain and Rehab
2060 W. Washington St., 787-8200

“I have been in practice for 28 years,” says Venturini. “I have a strong passion for helping people achieve better health and wellness without the use of drugs or surgery. I connect with patients on a personal, human level so I can get to know them and create long, lasting relationships to better understand their health goals. My fantastic staff is of the same mindset, caring, empathic, friendly and professional. We strive for a positive overall patient experience. No pressure, no hard sales, honest, open communication and to do what’s best for our patients.”

Finalists: Dr. Chris Reid – Reid Family Wellness; Dr. Michael Jones – Jones Chiropractic; Dr. Tana Frisina – Frisina Family Chiropractic; Dr. Bryne Willey – AlignLife Chiropractic

Deon Dukett

Dukett’s Barber Shop
2640 S. Sixth St., 553-7793

It’s history, hair and rock ’n’ roll at Dukett’s. “My great grandfather, Lloyd Dukett, was a barber in Springfield, working out of his house. It skipped a generation and then I picked up the tradition,” says Dukett.
Ninety-nine percent of Dukett’s customers are men and boys, little kids to senior citizens, who want everything from the classic side part and taper, “like your dad had,” to the pompadour that’s big right now, “like Elvis in his younger years, very short on the sides like a buzz, and longer on top with product in it to shape it the way you like it.” At $10, haircuts are “pretty cheap compared to others. In 1997, I charged $6. In 20 years, the price has only gone up $4.”
Dukett’s shop is decorated with record albums and posters on the wall, and customers know they can ask for their favorite music. “Early in the morning, some of the senior citizens like blues and jazz. As the day goes on, the crowd gets younger and I put on some rock ’n’ roll. I play to my crowd, and take requests.”

Finalists: Jeremy Bredemeyer – Hair of the Dog; Craig Jones – Jones Chop Shop; Dave Beggs – Beggs Barber Shop; Ryan Rischer – Precision Barbers

Jessica Kocurek

Willow & Birch
3063 Hamlin Parkway, 726-7050

 “I really try to give my clients a great experience by being positive, educating [them] how to maintain their hairstyle at home, and making sure I’m giving the best technical services,” says the happy, upbeat Kocurek.
“My specialty is probably gray coverage and short hair, shoulder length or shorter. I really like to cut it off,” she says with obvious delight. “It’s instant gratification. There’s nothing better than hearing the scissors go chop.”
When it comes to advice for the low-maintenance hair wearer, Kocurek suggests enhancing what you already have. “The more drastically you change, the more you have to maintain. And no straight-across cut bangs. They have a two-week shelf life.”

Finalists: Ashley Reilly – Salon ten31; Tristyn Underwood – MasterCuts; Jacqueline Cuffle – Meraki Salon & Spa; Cari Perce – Trends Terra Bella

Dr. Nicole Florence

Memorial Physician Services
3132 Old Jacksonville Road, 862-0800

Listed by Memorial Medical Center as an internal medicine physician and pediatrician, Dr. Nicole Florence serves patients at Memorial Physician Services in the Old Jacksonville Road facility. “Dr. Florence completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, where she completed a residency in internal medicine and pediatrics. Dr. Florence is board-certified in internal medicine, pediatrics and obesity medicine.” Congratulations from the hundreds of fans who nominated you!

Finalists: Dr. Scott Morton – Springfield Clinic; Dr. Terry Jones – Springfield Clinic; Dr. Brian Albracht – Springfield Clinic; Dr. Christina Ventress – Memorial Physician Services

Eddie Lowen

West Side Christian Church
2850 Cider Mill Lane, 793-2800

 “The term ‘best’ applies only because I’ve had the best possible support and the best teammates imaginable for 17 years. I hope the reason people respond to me is because I thoroughly believe in what we do. Westsiders appreciate that we don’t adopt political movements or social causes – even good ones. Why? We exist to connect people to Jesus, which demands full focus.
“We try to love boldly – public school remodels, a special needs prom, collecting books for our partner in Nairobi that feeds and educates kids from the slums. My favorite initiative was asking worshippers to donate the shoes on their feet to the needy – and to go home barefoot. They did. And local shoe stores thanked us for the business that followed!”

Finalists: Margaret Ann Jessup – Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church; Father John Nolan – St. Joseph the Worker; Mary Keldermans – Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Church; Martin Woulfe – Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Church

Derek Lenard

Derek Leonard

Rochester High School

Perennial favorite high school football coach Derek Leonard took top honors this year by 150 percent over the category thanks to the combination of his winning talent, players, coaching team and record. Print coverage online, video interviews, and sheer statistics tell part of the story, but there’s always more to a consummate coach who brings out the best in a team year after year. That drive, commitment, and ability to relate and motivate players and fans alike can be summed in two words: Derek Leonard. Congratulations Coach, again!

Finalists: Aaron Kunz; Marcus Bates; Tim Hahn; Jordan Barney

Dr. Tanya DeSanto

Prairie Dental Group
2900 Greenbriar Road, 546-0412

“When you change someone’s smile, you’re changing someone’s entire life,” says returning favorite cosmetic dentist DeSanto. “People don’t realize how powerful that is. It affects your confidence, your life, your livelihood.”
One of DeSanto’s patients was so happy with her new smile and ability to eat properly again that she lost weight and become a model. “When you have a nice smile, you take it for granted. When you don’t have a functioning smile, it can be devastating on so many levels.”
This was a big change, but there are many small changes in patients every day, such as lightening teeth, smoothing small chips and fractures, balancing the bite, and treating grinding issues – issues which DeSanto treats not only in her office, but on mission trips and in community service. “It’s not a job at all. It’s a passion. I feel like it’s a gift from God that I try to give back every day.”

Finalists: Dr. Keith Cummins – Magna Dental; Dr. Tim Lonergan – Chatham Dental Center; Dr. Andrew Boyer – Boyer Dentistry; Dr. Timothy Jones – Timothy Jones Dental

John Ruby

Ruby Electric
341 Meadowbrook Road, 787-4949

“Ruby Electric Inc. of Springfield, was established in 1978 to service the surrounding area and provide residents with all their standby electric power solutions. Our staff of knowledgeable, dedicated professionals takes pride in providing outstanding, personalized service to our customers and our community,” says
This category was a close contest but the love on Ruby’s Facebook page tells a lot of this fan favorite’s story. “Any time an electrician talks about electrical fires, I’m glad I called. Big thanks for finding the flaw in the wiring the previous owners installed, and getting us a short-term safe fix around it.” And, “Best service hands down! You won’t find a better company for anything electric. All employees are top-notch and trustworthy.”
Well done! Here’s to another 40 years.

Finalists: Jake Von Behren - Von Behren Electric; Jim Watts – Jim Watts Electric; Brennon Kershaw – B&B Electric; Matt Giacomini – Senergy Electric

Jim Langfelder

Relentlessly optimistic and almost always smiling, Mayor Jim Langfelder, midway through his first term running the city, won top honors from readers. Clearly, he loves the job – where else can you get paid for appearing on stage with Kiss, or singing classic rock ’n’ roll tunes while delivering a speech at a Downtown Springfield, Inc. banquet? One year into his tenure, he was already talking about a second term. While the city has fallen on tight times under Langfelder, it’s hard to blame the mayor, particularly given the effect of a two-year state budget impasse on city coffers, plus the threat of a state worker strike or lockout. He’s the sort of politician who isn’t afraid to propose some tax increases to make ends meet while categorically ruling out any increase in the city’s property tax rate. While the Sierra Club has scored points in arguing for shutting down, or at least drastically reducing, power generation by City Water, Light and Power, the mayor has put the utility on firmer financial ground than he found it. We just wish he’d get over Hunter Lake.

Finalists: Ward 6 Ald. Kristen DiCenso; Treasurer Misty Buscher; Public Works Director Mark Mahoney; Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin

Photo by Blake Detherage
Laurie McWilliams
Laurie McWilliams

Copper Tree
3550 Mayflower Drive, 793-0900

Illinois Certified Nurseryman, landscape and outdoor room designer Laurie McWilliams and her husband, Mark McWilliams, own CopperTree Outdoor Lifestyles. Laurie describes herself as having a functional, practical perspective when helping clients determine their needs. She says she builds trust through honest communication in order to guarantee happy clients, successful installations and long-term relationships.
The McWilliams, Elaine Peoples and the construction artisans work closely as a team when creating landscape design as an architectural expression of the home and its owner, and build relationships that serve their clients before, during and after the home investment. Laurie says of working with husband Mark, “I like to think of myself as the glue to Mark’s glitter. I don’t tend to stand out.”

Finalists: Bill Standish – Knob Hill Landscape Company; Chelly Gerber – Evergreen Landscape

Tim Timoney

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

Readers just keep sending Tim Timoney to the top of this category. His law offices are in business to “offer individuals and families throughout Springfield and Lincoln  professional and reliable legal representation. We provide aggressive and personal attention to all our clients. No matter what issues our clients are facing, we give our clients the personal attention they deserve.”
For last year’s Best of Springfield win, Timoney said, “I just try to do the best I can. I try to put myself in the position of someone else and hold their hand through the process.” With another year of practice, Timoney must be getting it right.

Finalists: Greg Sgro – Sgro, Hanrahan, Durr, Rabin & Bruce LLP; Bruce Beeman – Wolter, Beeman, Lynch & Londrigan; Emmet Fairfield – Brown, Hay & Stephens LLP; Mike Durr – Sgro, Hanrahan Durr, Rabin & Bruce LLP

Sheriff Wes Barr

Whether it’s Maricopa County in Arizona or Clark County in Nevada, the last thing, really, that anyone wants is a sheriff stuck in the limelight. A sheriff who’s always on television or the front page is a sure sign of trouble, and by that measure, Sheriff Wes Barr has succeeded magnificently since taking office two years ago. The biggest scandal under Barr’s watch has been a deputy busted for buying steroids through the mail. The cop kept his job, but that’s not necessarily the sheriff’s fault, given collective bargaining agreements that don’t preclude convicted criminals from carrying badges and guns. Aside from the suicide of a mentally ill inmate earlier this year, there have been no issues in the jail, nor have there been any incidents of deaths or serious injuries at the hands of deputies. With a talent for putting talented people in top positions and a reputation for letting them do their jobs, Barr, who has announced that he won’t run for re-election next year, has quietly learned a record of quiet success. And in his line of work, that’s the best kind of record to have.

Finalists: Recorder Josh Langfelder, Circuit Clerk Paul Palazzolo, County Clerk Don Gray, Auditor Andy Goleman

Tate Jones

United Community Bank Financial Services
3200 W. Iles, 787-5111

“As a financial adviser, Tate directs customers to investment products such as stocks, bonds, IRAs and 401Ks. He is very knowledgeable and very fair. Every customer I’ve seen leaving his office seems to be pretty pleased when they come out,” says Personal Banker and coworker Derek Overman. “Having him here in the transition from Illini Bank to UCB has been very helpful. He’s helped make the transition very smooth and seamless.”

Finalists: Ed Lex – Edward Jones; Drew Davis – Davis Financial; Mark Kluemke – M.A. Kluemke & Associates; Sam Hamra – Prudential Financial

Paula Ryan

Paula Ryan Design

Paula Ryan describes her style as fresh, clean and classic. “Your space or home should make you happy … It should be beautiful, comfortable and functional for your lifestyle.”
She describes herself as a down-to-earth designer who will tell clients “what they need to hear, not what they want to hear,” and help them update with choices that fit each other and fit the rest of the house.
Ryan is available for two-hour DIY consults as well as whole projects. “Don’t be nervous to call,” she says. Recently a happy client told her she was afraid Ryan would make her change the whole house. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. “I’m practical,” Ryan says. “I work with what people have and create new looks that fit.”

Finalists: Lois Moore – Periwinkles; Jim Wilson – Jim Wilson Interiors; Tamara Burris; Kristy Cameron – Kristy’s Audacious Interiors

Photo by Blake Detherage
Lauren McClure

Lauren McClure

Burger Bar
2765 S. Sixth St, 528-9030

“Lauren is very personable,” Burger Bar’s assistant manager Jacob Manning told Illinois Times. “She’s got a nice, fun, bubbly personality and she’s on top of her service.
“She definitely has a following,” at the sit-down sports bar and grill, Manning continued. “A lot of people really appreciate her personality and great service, and they ask for her. She is a very big asset to us.”
McClure works six or seven days a week, says Manning. “She’s a worker.”

Finalists: David Ellis – Texas Roadhouse; Sara Bowen – Indigo; Ayla Zueck – Long Bridge

Starcrest Cleaners

2701 W. White Oaks Drive, 726-6564
4349 Conestoga Drive, 787-5580
1825 W. Jefferson St., 670-0663
2025 S. MacArthur Blvd., 679-0339

We have been through the mill. We’ve felt the pain of trousers laundered when they should have been drycleaned, and we know the rage that rises when your favorite sport coat comes back mis-pressed into a bizarre version of a Nehru jacket. We’ve never had these disappointments at Starcrest, which works hard to make things as easy and convenient as possible. There are no faster places in town – clothes dropped off by 9 a.m. will be ready for pickup by supper time. They send texts when they’re finished, and they’re open on Sundays. Their plastic protective bags are biodegradable, so you don’t have to feel guilty about guarding against pet hair and dust. Headquartered in Bloomington, Starcrest has shown a commitment to Springfield, where the company’s fourth location opened this year on MacArthur Boulevard, just one block away from Hy-Vee, where you can also drop off clothes to be cleaned by Starcrest. Fast, reliable service, with stores, it seems, on just about every street corner in town. You can’t beat it.

Finalists: Paris Cleaners; Village Cleaners

Jake Pembrook

State Farm Insurance
2121 W. White Oaks Drive Suite A, 679-1151

Jake Pembrook has been an insurance agent for about five years. “I love it. I get to help clients, watch their kids grow up, help their families protect their loved ones and their assets.
“There are hundreds of agents, but what sets us apart is customer service after the sale. A real person will answer the phone when you call 24 hours a day, and I give my cell phone number out to all of my clients.
“In so many aspects of our lives, somebody says they’ll call you back and provide you service,” he continues, “but often they’re not around when you need them. l want to be that first person you think of whenever devastation happens.”

Finalists: Missy Haley –United Community Bank; Todd Hembrough – Farmers Insurance; Mark Bailey – Bailey Family Insurance; Mark Cortesi – State Farm Insurance

Dr. Gary Minder

Grace Veterinary Clinic
204 N. Main St.,Chatham, 697-8231

Gary Minder’s profile on the Grace Veterinary Clinic website opens, “Greetings! Pardon the cliché, but I feel like I am living my dream. I was born and raised on a farm, and I graduated from the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine in 1989. I worked in three different emergency clinics and three other practices before opening Grace Veterinary Clinic in November 2008. I thoroughly enjoy seeing and getting to know all of the individual pets and helping people and their families.
”There are two parts to what we want to do here,” he continues in his video. “The obvious is keeping healthy pets healthy and making sick or injured pets well. The second part is to do that in a way that we really do care. Yes, it’s helping pets, but it’s really helping people, and they’re intertwined. We want anybody who enters this building to feel a sense of peace and a sense of compassion, to know they’re getting treated the way they should be treated.”

Runner-up: Dr. Frank Coble
Coble Animal Hospital
2828 S. MacArthur Blvd., 789-4200

Frank Coble’s clients have loved and respected him for generations. They entrust some of their very dearest companions to this doctor who calls them by name and makes them feel better. Thank you Dr. Coble for your great care again this year.

Finalists: Dr. Jane Morris – Laketown Animal Hospital; Dr. Brianne McLaughlin – White Oaks West Animal Hospital; Dr. Heidi Sherrock – Hope Veterinarian Care

Dick Durbin

You can say a lot about Dick Durbin, and, given he’s spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate, Durbin surely has heard a lot of things said about him. But he’s not known as a liar. If you go back far enough in any politician’s career, you’re probably going to find some fibs, and Durbin is no different. Three years ago, for example, he claimed that 10 million Americans who previously had no health insurance gained insurance via the Affordable Care Act, a claim that called “exaggerated.” The website that truth squads politicians also dings Durbin for being less than accurate when talking about the cost of shutting down the government and inflating the amount of U.S. debt held by China. But all in all, Durbin’s been pretty good over the years. You can’t operate effectively in Washington unless you’re trusted, and even Durbin’s enemies don’t doubt that he’s a man of his word. It would be nice to get more folks of his ilk in public office.

Finalists: Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder; Gov. Bruce Rauner; State Sen. Andy Manar; Sangamon County Auditor Andy Goleman

Jim Leach

Jim Leach

Anyone who thinks that radio is easy should try it sometime. Keeping a train of thought while speaking with passion, but not excitement, and making things both thought-provoking and simple enough to engage an audience that may or may not agree with you is not easy. Unless you’re Jim Leach, who really does make it look simple. Part of it is familiarity and longevity. Leach is from around here, and he knows the Springfield area perhaps more deeply than any other working journalist, having been a mainstay on WMAY radio since 1996. We’ve seen a lot of press conferences in our time, and Leach never asks a dumb question. He always comes prepared. He’s respectful, with a knack for drawing folks out, but he also understands that his first obligation is to listeners, and so he doesn’t let interview subjects off the hook with platitudes that make no sense. He’s everything you want from someone paid for keeping folks informed and entertained.

Finalists: John Spaulding, WFMB; Ray Lytle, WMAY; Johnny Molson, WMAY; Joey McLaughlin, WTAX

Joe Crain

Meteorologist, NewsChannel 20
Joe Crain’s broadcast style is friendly. He comes through as genuine, and genuinely glad to be a part of this community with a pleasant demeanor and weather descriptions that celebrate or at least look forward to sunny days.
Crain’s longevity has built a broad fan base. “The more you’re in a given place and station, the more people are familiar with you. They come to trust you, depend on you and consider you a friend,” Crain says.
“It’s really an honor when people invite you into their homes each morning as they’re getting ready for work and getting their kids ready for school, and they choose you among all the other choices out there to give them the information they need to start their day.”
The WICS website says, “Joe helps you plan for the day at work and school with the Storm Team forecast every weekday from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. during ‘Sunrise.’”
Thanks for 13 years through all kinds of weather together, Joe. Congratulations!

Finalists: Stacy Shrysak - WICS; Cheryl Lemke - WICS; Jenn Sullivan - WICS; Dee Dee Gatton - WICS

Heather Fowler

Moxie Massage
107 S. Seventh St., 725-6597

 “Heather is a licensed and certified massage therapist. She has [more than] 1,500 hours of intense training in various therapeutic techniques and has regular clients in Saint Louis, Chicago and Springfield,” says the Moxie web page. “Heather is trained in Swedish, Reflexology, Shiatsu, pregnancy/infant massage, Deep Tissue, Thai massage, Tui Na, Acupressure, among other specializations … She also is trained in providing the Moxie Facelift, something that you will not find elsewhere in Springfield.”
Fowler describes her salon as “tranquil, serene, quiet, relaxing, cozy, a hidden gem. Part of the appeal is that we are not a mega-salon. It is the perfect place for you to bring your body, for healing and relaxation.”

Finalists: Gabrielle Thomas, Sheila Beebe, Becky Ishmael, Lynde Greenwald

Chris Schaller

Diamond Residential Mortgage
2921 Greenbriar Road, 726-6864

“Let’s bring you home,” opens the Diamond Residential Mortgage web page. “Becoming a homeowner is important, and we are here to make the process of securing a mortgage simple and straightforward.”
“Illinois Mortgage Man” Chris Schaller takes that seriously seven days a week. “I’m always available to answer any questions my clients may have.”
As an Army veteran, Schaller appreciates the opportunity to help other veterans achieve the dream of home ownership and wants to put them, and all of his clients, in a better financial situation now and in the future. He wants to be a resource for them, their kids, friends and coworkers in, as he says, “this community I care so much about.”
“I speak to and treat people as I would want to be treated,” says Schaller, who sends out newsletters, emails clients on birthdays and housing anniversaries, and shows clients how to pay off their mortgages more quickly. “We want them to get out of debt as quickly as possible.”

Finalists: Cindy West – UCB; Matt Seman – UCB; James Lauwerens – UCB; Jenna Rosentreter – UCB

Photo by Blake Detherage
Angie Rinaberger
Angie Rinaberger

Springfield Clinic
2532 Farragut, 528-7541

Pediatric Nurse Angie Rinaberger puts her heart into her work. “I take the parents’ concerns for their children as if they were my own children. I love having a positive relationship with family members, especially parents, who need that positivity when their child is going through a struggle.
“And I love building trust and friendships with the children and watching them grow. I take care of newborns through high school, and in just six years I’ve already seen some who were in middle school go off to college.”
Rinaberger describes herself as very personable, and it’s this quality that won her the category this year. Congratulations Angie!

Finalists: Tiffany Perkins; Shelby Brown; Lauren Howerter; Rachel Lusk

Tara Long

Tara Long Photography
773 Durkin Drive, Suite A, 494-0405

Tara Long’s enthusiasm for her work translates easily into a passion for life her clients want to share. In fact, many of her clients do – through her Facebook group of moms who have dinner out together and work on charitable projects.
“I normally shoot newborn children and families. My style is more non-posed, either in the studio or an area park, with families interacting in the moment. We do the posed ‘grandma shot,’ too, but then I capture the moments when people are looking at each other, playing games, having fun and being silly with genuine expressions of laughter and smiles.” As for the finished look, “A lot of my editing style features rich, deep colors with a few shadows.”
The combination of Long’s style and personality brings back nearly 90 percent of her clients for return shoots and community projects. Long’s Facebook group has supported such organizations as the Red Cross, Matthew Project, James Project and more. See her work at and on Facebook at

Finalists: Kate Spencer; Kari Bedford; Kristi Mitchell; Lauren Westrich

Jami Winchester

The Real Estate Group
3701 Wabash Ave., 306-1000
“I’ve been doing this for 19 years and I just treat people the way I want to be treated,” says Springfield native Jami Winchester, “with kindness, and compassion. I respond quickly, and I understand what they’re going through. [Buying a home] is one of the biggest financial decisions of people’s lives and it can be very emotional. I understand that.”
Winchester does mostly residential buying and selling, and takes a “24/7” approach to her work. “You can’t just close the door on Friday and say ‘I’ll be back on Monday.’” The phone rings and she answers it, not only because it’s good for business, but because she appreciates her hometown. “I grew up in Springfield, and know a lot of people here. I’ve supported the St. John’s Children’s Hospital and other organizations, I network, and I serve on various boards. This community has been so generous to me and I am trying to give back.”

Finalists: Ashley Coker – The Real Estate Group; Jane Hay – The Real Estate Group; Michael Castleman – ReMax Professionals; Deb Sarsany – The Real Estate Group

Photo by Blake Detherage
Sally Schwartz
Sally Schwartz

Rochester EC-1 and 2/3 Building
West Main St., Rochester, 498-9778

“I have art in my name!” says this year’s happy, winning teacher, Sally Schwartz, and she has art in her spirit. Every morning’s routine with the children includes a call-and-response “I’m an artist!” vow because Schwartz’s mission is to help all the children in her pre-kindergarten through third grade classes see themselves as creative thinkers. “When they believe that and believe in themselves, I’ve done part of my job right,” says Schwartz.
Schwartz, who has been teaching for 26 years, including a little more than a year in her new role as an art teacher, says there are many things that bring her joy as a teacher, especially her students’ energy. “The energy the kids have is contagious.”
Schwartz is also glad to work with the other teachers. “There are some really nice people around Rochester, and I get to work with some of the best people in the world!”

Finalists: Mary Kate Smith – PORTA Elementary; John Barrett – Pleasant Plains Middle School; Elizabeth Birch – New Berlin Elementary; Megan Sponsler – TRI-City

Easterday Plumbing

1601 N. 32nd St., 527-8000

Some days, Easterday Plumbing is in the improvements business. Other days they’re in the rescue business. Either way, their service is reliable, courteous and prompt. “We have been providing Springfield and the surrounding areas with dependable, affordable and high-quality plumbing solutions since 1991,” Easterday’s website says, and those have been 26 trustworthy years. Thanks Easterday. Well done!

Finalists: Ridings Plumbing; Rick Ray Plumbing; Flentje’s Plumbing; K & K Plumbing

Created with flickr slideshow.

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