People to Watch

And they’re all under 40. From policy makers and pageant queens to architects and chainsaw artists, these young people are changing the state.


 Beau Biden
Attorney General Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III, 39, spent his first two years in office creating a family division to fight domestic violence and juvenile crime. He’s forged synergy between the Justice Department’s criminal and civil division through his nuisance abatement act, which undercuts crime at nuisance properties. And amid speculation that he has his sights set higher, Biden remains focused on his job. “I’ve been disciplined in my life that I focus on what’s in front of me,” he says, “and that is a future as attorney general that I’m very excited about.”
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,


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Kelly Leishear
Milton-based Bella’s Cookies sprung from the imagination of Mark and Kelly Leishear, both 34, with a little help from their daughter, Bella. Together the family is conquering sweet tooths with their all-natural treats. “I believe wholeheartedly that natural and organic is the way to go,” Mark Leishear says. “You can’t tell a little kid they can’t have candy or cookies. Just make sure it’s clean.”
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,


Ryan Grover
With degrees in art history from the University of Wisconsin and a specialty in 18th- and 19th-century interiors, Ryan Grover, 35, is the perfect curator for the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, and he realizes the impact his work has on the local culture. “It fuels me,” he says. “People are often surprised to see what is coming from Delaware. It’s kind of thrilling for me.” Grover is also instrumental in Delaware By Hand, a consortium of local artisans.
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,

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Vincenza Carrieri-Russo
Just try to peg Miss Delaware USA Vincenza Carrieri-Russo, 23, as the ditzy pageant girl. The Newark bombshell is trained in classical piano, interned with Governor Minner and won one of five national Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Awards for public service for her children’s literacy program. The future TV broadcaster already received offers from Comcast, WHYY and The News Journal. “If someone wants to put down pageantry, I’ll defend it,” she says. “It’s opened all these doors for me.”
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,



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Brian Eddy
It takes a lot to keep Dover Air Force Base running smoothly, especially in war time. Lieutenant Colonel Brian Eddy, 37, does more than his part. Eddy is a true fast-rising leader, heading morale-building programs and family services, and working as a liaison between DAFB and Kent County civilians. “Morale is key to our force staying motivated,” he says.
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,


Rick Deadwyler
Rick Deadwyler, 36, travels up and down the East Coast, keeping his employer, the DuPont Co., in the good graces of legislators and community members. The Wilmingtonian, a former UD hoops star,  is a rising force as government affairs manager (or lobbyist) who relishes the legacy of DuPont in his home state. “The tradition of my company is akin to values of the community in which we operate,” he says.
(photograph by  Luigi Ciuffetelli,


Tom Abel, 36, of Wilmington, a former MBNA executive, is a hot shot at Swift Financial, but perhaps more impressive is his life-impacting philanthropy. The Cliff Abel Holiday Shopping Fund takes families to local department stores to load up on household necessities. “They’re truly trying to get on their feet and just needed a little bit of hope and inspiration to get there,” Abel says. He raised almost $20,000 last year, which helped 50 families.


“We’re failing our people,” says Kelly Affannato, 28,  executive director for the non-profit Stand Up for What is Right and Just. Affannato, who lives in Philadelphia, is dedicated to reforming the justice system by, among other things, repealing mandatory minimum drug sentences. “We have one of the highest incarceration rates per capita in the country and we’re spending one out of every 13 tax dollars on imprisonment,” she says. “We’re failing them because we’re not giving them reentry treatment.”


When Pamela Bell, 38, moved to Wilmington in 2001, the JP Morgan Chase marketing guru did what she does best: network. Seven years later, Bell is one of the most plugged-in people in the city, with stakes in the Delaware Theatre Company, Junior League, Rotary Club, YWCA and many more. “Delaware is very insular,” says Bell, a transplant from Manhattan and a Smith College alumna. “The only way to get to know people is to be involved.”


Try going out to Trolley Square when you’re the daughter of a U.S. senator. Ashley Biden, 26, says she has been faced with scrutiny her whole life, but instead of retreating into a shell, she’s directed her energy toward helping people. Biden is a job developer with the Delaware Department of Children, Youth and their Families, where she lobbies businesses and corporations to find positions for kids on release from juvenile detention centers. “I believe it takes only one person to believe in you to get you where you need to be,” she says.


Kent County homebuyers are finding out how lively the real estate market is. Brad Bledsoe, (pictured) 20, of RE/MAX Horizons, with Matthew Harvath, 19, and Valerie Swiney, 19, both of Keller Williams Realty, are among the youngest licensed agents in the state (Swiney is the youngest) and are working to put buyers and renters into homes in booming Kent County. “Besides the enthusiasm and the fresh attitude they bring, they’re much more tech savvy and have more energy,” says Dee Hake DeMolen, past president of the Kent County Association of Realtors.


As chief of staff at Christina School District, Dan Cruce, 36, provides vital legal counsel and lobbying efforts for the district, which is rebuilding after a financial scandal that broke two years ago. “I serve as the mouthpiece, the information guy,” says Cruce, of Wilmington. “I can be places the superintendent can’t be every day. Plus, your worst day working with kids is a lot better than your worst day in a law firm.”


During a summer internship in West Africa, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, native Kathryn Cunningham, 22, was shocked by what she saw. The Sulayman Jungkung General Hospital where she was stationed had no reliable source of electricity. The 200-bed hospital went occasionally without running water. A doctor confided in her, “This place would be like heaven if we only had electricity.” Cunningham returned home and started Power Up Gambia, a non-profit that aims to raise $300,000 to install solar panels at Sulayman Jungkung. “It’s not Darfur. It’s not saving the world,” she says. “But 64 panels and we save lives.”


Few can claim to be making a bigger impact on Wilmington’s new look than Todd Danner, 30. As head of his own arQitecture firm, Danner is the go-to architect for The Buccini/Pollin Group, resulting in eye-popping and award-winning building spaces like the “Mommy Dearest”-inspired Rainbow Cleaners and brand new Thorobreads Café. “I really do think we’re making a difference,” he says. “Wilmington is going to be a very cool place. And being 30, I’m actually going to be around to enjoy it.”


Creative powerhouse Suki Deen, 25, heads the Delaware Writer’s Group, a blossoming collective of scribes and authors out of Newark. “I realized a lot of friends had forgotten about writing, and I think it’s always more fun when you have somebody to share it with.” The Nairobi, Kenya-born beauty is a screenwriting hopeful and a working model.



By now we’re fully inundated with the praise, hype and accolades for Ursuline Academy basketball phenom Elena DelleDonne, 18: Naismith National High School Basketball Player of the Year, Delaware’s all-time leading scorer, four-time state champ. But like every other high school senior in the country, the 6-foot-5 DelleDonne is just plain psyched for college to start. “I’m definitely excited for college,” says Elena, who’s bound for powerhouse school UConn. “It’s a real family feel there, like a group of sisters. They love hanging out with each other. I’d like to contribute right away.”



Regan Derrickson, 28, comes from a family of Delaware beach entrepreneurs. That lifetime of experience, he says, gives him the upper hand as he prepares to open four new hot spots this year near his home in Rehoboth Beach. Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar and Grille, Ponos Hawaiian Fine Dining, an Italian restaurant called Del Fini’s and a yet-unnamed wine bar will all debut in 2008. Can you say “instant empire?”



It’s not hard to picture Charles Drummer IV, 22, conducting some of the most important research in the world very soon. The award-winning biological science major is in his senior year at UD, where he applies his skills to prostate cancer research. “I not only want to understand the molecular level of cancer, but translate that directly into helping people,” he says. “Someday I want to be able to keep families together longer.”


Look out, Rich Gannon. After leading the Fightin’ Blue Hens to a national title game last season, former UD quarterback Joe Flacco, 23, is likely headed to the NFL. Venerable Sports Illustrated has covered him extensively, which is no small sign. And prognosticators tag Flacco, a nominee for the Walter Payton Award for the top offensive Division I-AA college player in the country, as a first-day draft pick, citing his arm strength and size—6-foot-6, 230-plus pounds—as major pluses.
(photograph by Mark Campbell)



Recipient of the 2005 American College of Physicians Young Physicians Award, 39-year-old Hockessin resident Allen Friedland, M.D., is a Christiana Care program director, leading the multi-faceted internal medicine-pediatrics program. His duties involve a whirlwind of advocacy, training, education and private practice. “Being a leader in this field means balancing a lot of things at one time,” Friedland says. “Luckily, I don’t sleep a lot.”


Jackie Ivy, 37, a vice president with The Buccini/Pollin Group, has the massive task of turning Wilmington’s Market Street into a hip commercial and residential corridor. Through interfacing with dozens of architects and designers, Ivy has tossed out cookie-cutter ideas and is focusing on Market Street’s existing structures to max out its charm. Eventually, she hopes the street will become known for live music, vibrant retailers and boutique hotels.



Election years are always exciting for Molly Jurusik, 28, executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party. The UD grad and Wilmington resident prefers to remain behind the scenes in party happenings, but says there’s a palpable buzz as elections approach. “People are just so excited, and a lot of it has to do with how 2000 ended in disappointment,” she says. “There’s definitely a feeling of momentum now.”



As vice president of the United States Junior Chamber of the Jaycees, Jeffrey Lank, 33, of Bear, is a pretty important guy. He helps coordinate junior chambers across the country (including his own Wilmington Jaycees) in leadership training, business management and community development. “In order to have a strong community, we need strong members,” he says. “If we teach our members to be stronger, they’ll be better in their job, and the community will be better impacted.”



Where to start with Randeep Kahlon, M.D., 39, of Hockessin? He’s one of the region’s top upper-extremity docs (one of two Delaware doctors who performs elbow replacement surgery). He’s former team surgeon for the Cleveland Indians baseball team and president of the New Castle County Medical Society. The main reason to watch him? He’s likely to become president of the American Medical Association in the near future.



Stepping out from the tutelage of local folk-blues legend David Bromberg is Johnny Duke Lippincott, 20, a blues guitar genius who might soon eclipse the master himself. Lippincott, who lives just outside Wilmington, opened for B.B. King, performed at the Bonaroo Festival and studies at venerable Berklee College of Music. “When I met David, I was like this little punk kid playing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks,” Lippincott says. “He taught me how to slow it down and really lay into the blues.”



On a whim, Wilmingtonian Amanda Lukoff, 28, entered the “Ryan’s Red Carpet Challenge” contest held by the E! network. Her whim might be what launches her Hollywood career. It landed the former Mount Pleasant class president on the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild awards, interviewing TV star Becki Newton for E! and opening a few more doors. “It’s definitely given me momentum,” she says.



This is the second 40 Under 40 recognition for Katie McCormick, 28, this year. The Wilmington litigator with Young, Conaway, Stargatt and Taylor appeared in the New York-based Irish Echo for her work with prestigious Irish firm Madden and Finucane in Belfast, ground zero for religious conflicts in Ireland. “Human rights work and litigation gets the blood boiling,” McCormick says. “It’s exciting and relevant and it doesn’t feel like desk work.”



Jennifer Mulveny, 34, serves as a senior director of trade and legislative affairs at DC-based Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg. It’s a job that makes good use of her experience influencing international trade during her time on Capitol Hill as a Bush Administration appointee. As deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for congressional affairs, she was a direct liaison between the White House and Congress, lobbying and advising on issues of foreign trade, labor laws and World Trade Organization affairs. Mulveny got her start here as a Dover High School grad and intern for the late U.S. Senator Bill Roth.



The impressive resume of UD grad Kristin Murray, 23, became even more impressive in January, when the Bear resident was hired as new executive director for the Republican State Committee. A leader and advocate in several college and Washington, D.C., groups, Murray says she’s focused on bettering her party. “My job here is to get Republicans elected,” she says.



This time next year, don’t be surprised if Ezra Temko, 22, has become the youngest elected official in Delaware. Temko, who is running to represent the fifth district on Newark City Council, has wowed registered voters with his impassioned and ambitious campaign. It’s worked—he’s raised more than $7,000 (trumping easily the previous high-water mark of $600). “People use the expression ‘new blood.’ They’re really excited to see somebody young getting involved,” he says.



Brian Selander, 31, had little trouble finding his way in the sometimes-murky world of talk radio. A former press secretary for U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the Brandywine Hundred resident served as progressive counterpoint to conservative stalwart Rick Jensen on WDEL’s “Rick and Brian” show. The two disagreed on almost every issue. Still, “What an amazing job,” he says. “It’s great to be able to hear the best of Delaware.”


Scott Sheridan, 36, spent his spring vacation stretching out a few million-dollar hamstrings. Sheridan, a Laurel native, is the head athletic trainer for the Philadelphia Phillies, which makes him responsible for the health and well being of some very important ballplayers. He’s even felt the sting of Philly’s famous boo-birds. “It was an honor when I got heckled for the first time,” he says.



As president of BPGS Construction, Wesley Schwandt, 40, gets close to the pulse of his hometown community. He handles every construction project for The Buccini/Pollin Group, leading massive projects on the Christina Riverfront, Market Street and Chester, Pennsylvania. These huge, redefining jobs take years of planning, he says, “and a lot of strategy goes into our days here.”



Wilmington native Bill Taylor, 36, is helping rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans, not with brick and mortar, but with music. Tipitina’s Foundation is bent on promoting and uplifting New Orleans’ music culture. As its creative director, Taylor guides its Instruments A Comin’ program, which has given instruments to 1,500 students in 39 public schools. “Music in New Orleans is a living, breathing thing,” he says. “The fact that, any time day or night, a brass band might come down the street makes this an endlessly fascinating place.”



State trooper Rick Torres, 34, uses his downtime to produce some of the most unique artwork around. Using a series of chainsaws, he crafts intricate sculptures out of tree trunks and stumps. Torres, from Felton, made a giant Blue Hen at the Buena Vista estate near Llangollen, and carved a 4-foot bubblegum machine for a local vending company. His works sell for thousands.



Don’t think Clarence Wright, 28, hasn’t heard the detractors. As director of Main Street Wilmington, Wright knows the city has a less-than-stellar reputation as a weekend destination, but he’s working to change perceptions through community engagement, some style improvements, and emphasis on arts and entertainment. “Honestly? I think the sky is the limit for Wilmington,” he says. “Our population doubles every day when people come to work. That’s a huge strength.”



The YWCA awarded Sarah Wyshock-Wolfe, 28, of Lincoln, its Genevieve Gore Young Woman’s Leadership Award for her devotion to issues of domestic violence, healthy parenting and anger management. Her non-profit, Delaware Families Inc., started in 2004. “It’s very important on a spiritual level to give back,” she says. “That’s what I’m supposed to do on this earth.”

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