WATERTOWN — The 2021 NNY Business 20 Under 40 class was celebrated Friday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn ballroom.
The room was filled with 20 tables each with eight chairs. Four televisions displayed rotating pictures of the 20 Under 40 award recipients.
“It’s a privilege to be able to do this,” said Holly C. Boname, editor and designer for NNY Magazines and public relations manager for the Johnson Newspaper Corp.
The keynote speaker was ABC 50’s Alex Hazard, who said he was a bit surprised when he got the call and said he wrote his speech on an elliptical using speech-to-text.
“I had been thinking about it a lot, and what leadership was and what it meant to me,” he said. “I had to decide what it meant to me, but then what it would mean to the recipients and I tried to combine the two.”
In his speech, Hazard, who is gay, said that having representation matters, and that he sees representation in the 20 Under 40 recipients. He added that he saw representation on television as a child and didn’t fully understand how important it was, but that he did understand that those people “represented something that I wanted.”
“In the same way, Chris Marshall, you represent to Bryson, your son, who I grew up to love, that dad can be boss and so can he,” he said. “In the same way, Mykel (Myrick), you showed kids in the north country that people of color can be in local media, something we rarely see, on a local scale, and even on a national scale. And I’m sure you all have your own stories of who you looked up to, to know that you could do exactly what you’re doing here today.”
Mr. Hazard spoke of events that have shaped his life — his mother forcing him to do the morning announcements for school and going to Brazil as a Rotary Club exchange student. But one instance really stood out to him.
“I was doing a spot about fish fries during Lent at a church and I was told I wasn’t welcome,” he said. “I was at a grocery store, and someone told me that I was a pedophile. I was at a country club, and had someone tell me they wanted me dead and that he wouldn’t be afraid to do it with his own hands as I walk to my car, so I better be careful. It was at that moment that I realized I was physically unfit to protect myself … As you probably guessed, these moments happened because I was gay, publicly, but what I left out of the story was that they happened during a brief year when I moved to Central Pennsylvania … that death threat was a life-changing moment for me.”
He said that after he received the death threat, he lost 85 pounds, started talking publicly about his sexuality, and moved back to the north country.
“Here in the north country, we don’t pick on people when they struggle, we encourage them,” Mr. Hazard said.
The 2021 20 Under 40 class includes Catherine Bennett, Milkweed Tussock Tubers; Jessica Blair, Watertown City School District; Andrew Boulter, Watertown Savings Bank; Nicole Caldwell, Better Farm/betterArts & Stacker; Corey Campbell, Jefferson Community College; Jason Hendricks, H3 Designs LLC; McKenzee Fisk-Kamide, GYMO Architecture Engineering & Land Surveying; Jordan Jones, CREDO Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions; and Dr. Asim Kichloo, Samaritan Medical Center.
Also recognized were Jeffrey Kimball, Northwestern Mutual; Josh Leviker, Barret Paving Materials Inc.; Christopher Marshall, Gouverneur High School; Mykel (Quince) Myrick, Tunes 92.5 and Holdown Upstate; Dr. Jennifer Nightingale, Countryside Veterinary Clinic; Suzanne Renzi-Falge, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library; Cheyenne Steria, Lewis County Economic Development/Naturally Lewis; Meredith Taylor, Hiring Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network; William Trithart, Big Spoon Kitchen; Matthew Turcotte, North Shore Solutions and U Store; and Lisa Virkler, Lewis County and Samaritan Medical Center.
Mr. Hazard said the recipients represent the best of the north country, and that they are showing to the next group of leaders that they too can become leaders of the community.
“Because representation matters, kindness matters, service to others matters, compassion matters, this is what leadership is, and if you’re doing these things, which anyone winning this award is doing, you are a leader of things that matter,” he said.
The 20 Under 40 awards are presented each year to people who exemplify what it means to be a young leader in the north country and has been an annual tradition of NNY Business magazine for more than a decade.
“It’s an honor for me to be able to present this award to people in the community who make a difference each and every day,” Ms. Boname said. “It’s astonishing to me the amount of talent that I’ve been able to witness in the last six years of putting this award on.”