Four women are first 4 Under 40 award winners

New Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce initiative recognizes younger people for contributions to community


Ozaukee Press staff

The Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce is honoring four women with its inaugural 4 Under 40 awards on Thursday, March 2.

The 4 Under 40 award winners are Jessica Wolff,  the Village of Grafton’s director of planning and development; Nicolette Birkholz, Grafton library director of youth services; Carissa Barnes, executive director of the Ozaukee Nonprofit Center; and Amanda Hansen, general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Grafton.

A breakfast to honor the winners will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. March 2 at the Ozaukee Nonprofit Center in Grafton.

The awards are the Chamber’s most recent way of acknowledging the impact young people are having not just in the business community but the community at large, Chamber Executive Director Pam King said.

“We want to encourage them to be the leaders of tomorrow, foster what they’re doing and acknowledge what they’ve done,” she said. “Young professionals are a vibrant part of building business in Grafton.

“We want to acknowledge the great work people are doing and encourage more people to step up.”

In creating the 4 Under 40 awards, King said, the Chamber accepted nominations from the community.

Those nominated were to be employed at a Chamber member business and to demonstrate integrity, possess outstanding commitment to their industry and demonstrate community involvement.

The Chamber received  a “decent number” of nominations, King said, adding they were reviewed by the Chamber’s Awards Committee, which then selected the winners.

“They’re all strong leaders who have done more than just their jobs. They have gone above and beyond,” King said. “They all have pretty strong resumes.”

Barnes was nominated by Timothy Schoonenberg and Mike Weber, members of the nonprofit Center’s Board of Directors.

Schoonenberg noted that she is “a relentless advocate” for the center and the agencies it supports.

“Her ability to engage and leverage volunteers, board members and the community to provide support and resources to nonprofits is unparalleled in my experience,” he said. “Her tireless commitment to fundraising and operations are well beyond the scope  of any job description given to her.”

When she came to the Nonprofit Center, Schoonenberg noted, Barnes “had a high bar to live up to, but she took things way beyond all expectations.”

Weber added, “Carissa is extremely energetic and committed to helping the nonprofits  collaborate for the success of the community. Everybody who is around her is energized by her enthusiasm and dedication.”

King added, “She certainly has come to know all the nonprofit groups in our county, and the work she does for some of the has been life-changing.”

Birkholz is a Grafton native who is active on a number of village committees as well as the Chamber, Village Trustee Dave Antoine, who nominated her for the award, said.

He noted that Birkholz is a member of the Holiday Events Committee and “always adds new ideas to all the segments as well as chairing her own.”

She is a valued member of the library staff who is well liked by the families who use the facility, he said, noting she “truly adds her special charm to all who know her and adds great customer service.”

Perhaps her biggest accomplishment, he said, is the Story Walk at Veterans Park.

“Nicolette felt this would be a great opportunity for families to share a story to read along the walk (along the Milwaukee River). It is a great addition to this beautiful area of the river,” Antoine said.

“Nicolette has been helping the community without seeking personal recognition — a true indication of her integrity. I would guess that few people in the community are aware of all the things she has done and continues to do,” he added.

King noted that Birkholz is active with the Chamber and the Grafton Historical Society, adding, “She steps up to do anything we need.”

Hansen was nominated by Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maggie Dobson, who said she “excels at community involvement.”

Hansen is a member of the Grafton Chamber’s Board of Directors and is a past member of the Ozaukee County Tourism Council. She came to Grafton as sales manager for the Hampton Inn & Suites and has risen to become general manager, and has provided guidance that puts Grafton in the tourism spotlight.

“Amanda’s guidance has helped keep our area on the map for visitors looking for a place to stay, whether friendly and relaxing or professional,” Dobson said. “She is a valued member of our collective Ozaukee County business community.”

King added “She’s done a lot of neat things at the hotel that connect with our nonprofits.”

Wolff was nominated by members of the Village of Grafton inspection department, who said that in her 10 years with the municipality “she has exemplified the (village’s) motto  Quality.Life.Naturally in pursuing development projects.”

She was instrumental in the redevelopment of the south commercial, downtown and east side commercial districts, they said, adding “She steps up to lead or quietly supports from behind the scenes when she sees a potential project beneficial to the community.”

In addition, they said, Wolff is a member of the Ozaukee Economic Development Board, mentors students at John Long Middle School and is a long time volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters who also volunteers for Chamber events.

“Jessica demonstrates outstanding leadership, leads by example and is a vital young professional who embodies the positive energy needed to support the community,” they added.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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