LYPA's Rising Stars project is sponsored by Dean, Dorton and Ford; Ace Weekly; APS Communications; and Malone's.


The Lexington Young Professionals Association’s (LYPA) Rising Stars program is designed to honor individuals under the age of 40 who are emerging leaders in the Lexington Community.

Those profiled in last year’s class characterized Public Safety (and losing police officers and firefighters to other communities) as one of Lexington’s greatest challenges.

This year, they talk about issues ranging from the ongoing (never ending?) Water Company debate to suburban sprawl.

They see our assets as horse country and the academic college-town atmosphere that Lexington gains from being surrounded by nearly 20 colleges/universities in close proximity.

LYPA’s nomination process was open throughout January, and nominees were evaluated on criteria including professional achievement and civic commitment to Lexington as well as community involvement. Individuals were rated on the promise they had demonstrated in their commitment to impacting the community in a positive manner through professional and non-professional service and achievement.

Profiles of those selected to be honored by LYPA this year follow.

Misty Ball
Marketing Coordinator,
Lexington Clinic

Currently reading: Southern Cross by Patricia Cornwell

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Retaining Lexington’s young, educated population has always been a problem because of limited career opportunities for growth and movement with many companies and some industries in general. However, with LYPA’s active community involvement, more young professionals are able to network and learn about the “hidden” career opportunities that exist.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Lexington has been able to retain the small town feel while having many opportunities for involvement in community, charitable, and arts organizations that a larger town can offer.

The colleague who nominated Misty says "Since she started with the company, Misty Ball has always participated in organizations and activities in the local community. In addition to her commitment to the community activities…she volunteers as an organizer for the company's annual home build with Habitat For Humanity and she organizes our annual company Christmas giving to a family through the Salvation Army. At some point in life, we begin to think about who will assume the mantle of leadership in our community. Misty Ball represents all of the qualities of an effective community leader, including caring about other people, the innate ability to see problems from both sides, and the courage to explore solutions with community-wide interests in mind."

Elisa Bruce
Hispanic Initiative Leader,
Fifth Third Bank

Currently reading: Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge is a book I am currently reading to understand my role in this society.

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? The biggest challenge I see facing Lexington is the education needs of its population, specifically the Hispanic population. Many of them do not know what services are available to them or how to go about in obtaining those services. My role is to inform this group of what is available to them and help them learn how to achieve it. What will keep Lexington growing and evolving is its diverse population.

HOW will we choose to grow over the next decade (will we be a SMALL big-city, or a BIG small-town)? I see Lexington as a great small town with big town ideals. Over the next decade, I hope to see Lexington grow in its cultural and commercial attractions but maintain its “hometown” feel.

The colleague who nominated says her "work with the community is much deeper than just a server/client relationship. She has developed strong friendships and the people she has helped through her dedication to this program are extremely grateful. She's often attending functions and helping in ways that don't even involve her work at the bank. And she is not only educating the Hispanic community, but bringing together people of diverse backgrounds…She loves her community and gives to it every day."

Catherine Nunn Edelen
Marketing Consultant,

Currently in the middle of two books: Good to Great by Jim Collins (a re-read) and The Southern Belles of Honeysuckle Way by Linda Bruckheimer

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Current Challenge? Ensuring that every citizen in Fayette County has adequate opportunity to produce a high quality of life for themselves and their family.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Lexington’s largest assets are the numerous college graduates from the 19 area colleges and universities.

Growth? Lexington’s southern “feel” will keep it a big small town. Only when we accept and effectively form coalitions with our outlying counties in the metro area can we become a small big-city (i.e. resources, government relations, etc.)

According to the nomination form submitted for Catherine, she is "the youngest-ever President of The Lexington Forum, and only the third woman to serve as president….Not yet 30, Catherine has, I believe, set the standard for community involvement and civic leadership for our LYPA generation. The sheer volume of leadership roles she has already been entrusted with is staggering. Far more impressive, however, is the fact that Catherine has been so successful as a leader while breaking a number of 'typical Lexington' barriers, whether they be age, gender, lack of wealth or being a non-Lexington native. Raised by a single mother, Catherine attended Transy on a Merit scholarship, bringing to Lexington her faith, work ethic and commitment to making the world a better place."

Crissy Fiscus
Shareholder at Dean, Dorton
and Ford

Currently reading: The Coal Tattoo by Silas House. Silas House is an author from Eastern Kentucky and his stories are based in Appalachia. Being from Eastern Kentucky, I really enjoy his books. Business books: Next on my list is Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Lexington’s biggest issue is the condemnation of the water company, it is currently absorbing too much of the city’s resources.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? The horse farms, no question. The horse farms make Lexington different than every other mid-size town in America. Lexington is currently a big small-town and I think we will stay on that path.

HOW will we choose to grow over the next decade (will we be a SMALL big-city, or a BIG small-town)? Controlled growth is essential for Lexington, as we need to grow while maintaining the horse farms, which are so vital to our local economy. I hope to see our downtown continue to grow. It is very exciting to see the housing developments currently in progress in the downtown area.

The person who nominated Crissy Fiscus cited ""One example of Crissy's continued commitment to the community and desire to improve it is in her involvement in the Growth and Economic Development subcommittee from her Leadership Lexington group. This is an unofficial subcommittee that is working with various leaders of the community to provide input and insight into the growth of the city."

Juli Gaworski
Director of Marketing & Member Services, Kentucky World
Trade Center

Currently reading: Many, many textbooks and articles about international organizations, law and politics.

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? The biggest challenge that Lexington faces is balancing this growth with the demands of an ever-larger population. The beauty of the horse farms cannot be sacrificed for expansion. We must maximize existing resources and land space before cannibalizing the farms.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Lexington’s biggest asset is the people who live here. They truly care about this city and want to preserve what makes it special. They are very innovative and creative and use this knowledge for the betterment of Lexington. They recognize the uniqueness of our home and are working towards “smart” growth.

Growth? We can be a small, big city that has a lot to offer and still has all its charm.

Her nominator commented, "Juli Gaworsi's work with the Hispanic community brought much needed attention to this segment of the population and continues to advocate on their behalf. Her career is evidence of a person who is constantly seeking for personal improvement and development as well as expansion of their professional knowledge and experience. Lexington would be a better place if we could have many more people like Juli Gaworkski."

Renee Jackson
Executive Director,
Manchester Center

Currently reading: American Soldier by Tommy Franks and Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Managing growth—While growth is necessary we need to ensure that there is funding in place to keep up with the infrastructure and other needs that come with growth such as sewers, police/fire stations, and schools. Additionally, growing in a smart way in order to preserve the horse farms and to coordinate with the surrounding counties would be prudent.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Horse industry, UK, Transy, and their proximity to downtown.

Growth? I hope that we choose to grow as a small, big-city. I think there will be more opportunities to attract conventions and large tourist activities to the area if we have more of the big-city options with one example being adequate mass transit.

Renee Jackson's nominator informed the committee that "Renee intends to pursue either a Ph. D.. in Political Science or a law degree. She feels the knowledge gleaned from either one of these degrees will allow her to better serve in leadership positions with community organizations and professionally. It is her desire to be a valuable resource to whatever programs she is involved with whether they are professional or volunteer commitments. Renee has served on non-profit boards and committees for nearly a decade."

Rodney Jackson
Associate Director of Finance, Fayette County Public Schools

Currently reading: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? I see Lexington’s biggest challenge is providing quality entertainment venues for young professionals of all races and demographics.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? It is a great place to raise kids and have a family. The University of Kentucky is also a great asset.

Growth? I think we will be a Big small-town. With all the real estate developments on the outskirts of Lexington and push toward developing downtown to be more attractive. I strongly believe Lexington will continue to have a small-town feel to it, but have some big city characteristics downtown.

The person who nominated Rodney Jackson said that "One of the responsibilities of leader is to give back to the community and show true altruism (the unselfish concern for the welfare of others.) Someone paved the way for Rodney by teaching him the tools of leadership. He is still learning leadership on a day-to-day- basis. However, Rodney feels compelled o pass along the tools of leadership as well as life lessons learned to others that follow. In doing so, he remembers the community and strives to serve for the betterment of all mankind."

Tyler Mainous
Financial Advisor,
Morgan Keegan

Currently reading: I am currently reading War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History, by Dr. Avi Shlaim.

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Lexington's biggest challenge/current problem is that we are wasting our biggest asset (answer to question number 3), which is our farmland. I think more thought should have been given to real estate development rather than turning all of our available land into one-story strip malls. Our development is horizontal, not vertical. This horizontal growth prevents development into a larger city because businesses are gravitating away from the center of town. A 10-story shopping/movie/restaurant/entertainment/office complex downtown could offer all of the same services as destroying 50 acres of land, while simultaneously bringing more people downtown to give our city more of a "pulse," which it is sorely lacking, in my opinion.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Lexington's biggest asset is its farmland. Programs like the the LFUCG's Purchase of Development Rights help to protect against the urban sprawl. Without our farmland, we have no bluegrass and no real identity. With no farms we are nothing more than a small town with convenient, strip-mall style shopping.

Growth? It appears that our choice is to be a BIG small town. I would prefer a SMALL big city.

The co-worker who nominated Tyler mentions that he "proposed a Lifetime Achievement Award idea to the Mayor's office to recognize outstanding lifetime contributors to our community. He wants to recognize the people to take notice of their benevolence, but also to encourage others to act in such way in the future."

LaToi Mayo
Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP

Currently reading: Good to Great, which discusses the necessary qualities that a leader must possess to obtain greatness.

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? I see the need to balance healthy economic growth with resourceful preservation of our beautiful land as one of Lexington’s biggest challenges.While economic development is needed to sustain the current population growth of our city, the unique qualities of our farmlands make Lexington a beautiful and invaluable place to live.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? I see the citizens of Lexington as the city’s most valuable asset. As citizens of Lexington, we must strive to stay involved and well-informed with local government and various community organizations so that we can collectively make a difference within our city.

Growth? I believe that Lexington is an ideal place to raise a family and develop a professional career. The city’s unique adherence to traditional Christian principles, while growing as a “big city” makes Lexington a hidden treasure within the State of Kentucky.

According to the nomination submitted for LaToi, "she places a great deal of focus on the future of Fayette County—our children. Thus, she participates in the Lawyer's LARK program and consistently volunteers within the school system to speak, read, and mentor. It takes great effort, organization and time to maintain your career, stay actively involved in your community, and take care of your family; however, LaToi Mayo has done so and continues to maintain her commitment to all three activities…she refuses to say 'no' when called upon to work on behalf of her community."

Kristi Runyon

Currently reading: News Wires

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Keeping our best and brightest here, especially young professionals.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? The people.

Growth? Hopefully a SMALL big-city.

The individual who nominated Kristi Runyon states that "Kristi averages [participation in] 50-60 programs a year. The majority of these are volunteer work, unpaid, and done out of her strong desire to improve her community and reach out to the people in this area. The efforts that are contributed by the nominee are not diminished because recognition is not given to her individual effort. She works as an excellent behind-the-scenes person with many of her efforts unrecognized by the community."

Brant Welch
Communications and Marketing Specialist,
Fifth Third Bank

Currently reading: Recently completed The Da Vinci Code with a weekly dose of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Snitch and, of course, Ace Weekly. I’m a readaholic.

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? I don’t think downtown can be fully revitalized and overall growth can remain at its current pace without there being a strong look and plan for traffic issues in Lexington. There is no major roadway into downtown, which differentiates Lexington from cities such as Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. Without some tough choices and bold decision-making, you’ll have more businesses pushing to outlying areas as we’ve already witnessed. Though downtown has improved in many ways the past few years, more can be done. The College Town project should help. People need more of an incentive than just UK basketball games to come downtown.

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Solid schools in Lexington and the surrounding areas. Having the University of Kentucky and its resources is paramount to the success of the area. The horse racing industry, though in a transition, remains a major asset and calling card for Lexington. A very family friendly community and one that has become more diverse the past several years.

Growth? I would think Lexington would rather be known as a small city than a ‘town.’ Nothing wrong with being a town, but if the area is going to continue to grow and expand, Lexington needs to be known as a place that offers many of the same things that a Nashville, Cincinnati or Louisville does, but without some of the issues such as crime. We need to continue to do some of the things we already have in recent years: The renovated Lexington Convention Center is great. A major improvement. The Bluegrass Airport has also been thriving and continues to improve. There are more activities downtown than before. A new Fortune 500 company, through a partnership with UK, is on its way to Lexington this year. These are all wonderful things. We need to keep the momentum going in these, and other, areas.

The colleague who nominated Brant Welch describes him"as a solid professional in that he is responsible, hard-working, and willing to help others. Brant is a team player…" adding, "Prior to joining Fifth Third, he helped his previous employer, Centre College, secure world-wide media coverage. He helped the liberal arts college find its name in the likes of the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, and on CNN and NPR, just to name a few. He was recently awarded for a story her wrote and pitched about a Centre course. The story was picked up by dozens of media outlets and was read, seen, and heard by more than 100 million people in print and on radio and TV."

Mary Beth Wright
Business Development Manager, Messer Construction

Currently reading: You Can’t Teach A Kid To Ride a Bike At a Seminar by David Sandler

Lexington’s biggest challenge/current problem? Preservation of the downtown area and its commerce. With the recent development of outlying commerce areas such as Hamburg Pavilion, we must preserve our downtown area and be an attraction not only to those who live downtown but those people who live outside of downtown. If we do not attract the citizens of Lexington to shop, work, eat, etc. in the downtown area, those people will migrate towards other areas of commerce and downtown will become desolate. We must promote and support the businesses who are located in the downtown area and market them as a whole in order to preserve our wonderful downtown!

What do you see as Lexington's assets? Lexington is a wonderful city to live in for me for several reasons. One of those reasons is the “small town” feel that you get as a resident. Another asset to Lexington is the University of Kentucky. The students as well as the entrepreneurs bring a hugely diverse population to this city that really makes Lexington unique. The final asset that Lexington has is its downtown shops, restaurants, events, etc. that really bring life to the city.

Growth? I really think that what makes Lexington different from other places its size are the people. I think we will be a BIG small-town in the coming years because of the attitudes of the people that live and work here. By the numbers, we are a large city but when you meet people at events, meetings, at the gym, at the mall, at church, or anywhere, they are friendly, courteous and always willing to lend a hand. I think it is that attitude that will keep Lexington grounded with a small-town feel as it grows to become a big city.

According to her nomination "Mary Beth is actively involved in community service because of her personal commitment to a brighter future not only for the city of Lexington and its downtown but also for the children in this area. She is passionate about promoting and continuing the revitalization of downtown Lexington for the benefit of all who live, work and are entertained in this area. Through all of her non-profit work, she has seen those who are less fortunate in this city and has made a personal commitment to take part in making a difference in as many lives as possible." n