Readers pick the top CEOs and community leaders.
by Rick A. Richards
The best leadership is that done by example. That's what the five people selected as Northwest Indiana's top CEOs and Community Leaders have in common, according to the people with whom they work most closely.
These five provide a quiet example of doing things in such a way that it teachers and inspires others to follow the example.
Citizens Financial Bank, Munster
Daryl Pomranke joined Citizens in April 2007 with more than 16 years of banking experience, but it was his involvement in the community and the way he worked to build a team at the bank that led Dana Talaga, vice president of marketing, to nominate him.
She says he's a true community leader, having been involved as chairman of the Marquette High School Board of Trustees, serving on the board of Catholic Charities and Calumet College of St. Joseph.
Talaga says Pomranke also is a visionary. “He understands the art of communicating his vision to others to create and execute a strategy to implement the vision throughout the entire organization,” she says. “He is very motivating. He develops people he works with. All 260 people at the bank know their role in the strategic plan because of him.”
Talaga says Pomranke wants employees to understand the big picture at the bank. “But he wants us to have fun, too. He always is a couple of steps ahead of us, but he wants us to go with him.”
Talaga says she's impressed with Pomranke's open door policy, where he makes himself available to clients, shareholders and employees. “His actions speak louder than words. He motivates by example.”
Grubb & Ellis/Cressy & Everett, South Bend
George Cressy Jr. has led one of the region's largest real estate companies for a quarter of a century, but it's his ability to connect with others that led Leah Cooper to nominate him as a top CEO.
Cooper, director of marketing for Grubb & Ellis/Cressy & Everett, says, “He's not aloof to business or people. He'll stop in the hall and ask about your family. He cares about people.”
Cooper has worked with Cressy for just 18 months, but her observations were echoed by Diane Kazmierczak, his executive assistant for 25 years. “The industry has gone through a very tough period and he has kept people happy. He has guided us through difficult times. He works hard to let people know they work with him and not for him.”
After graduating from Notre Dame, he founded Cressy & Everett Management Corp., became a principal of Grubb & Ellis/Cressy & Everett and a partner of Cressy Land Planning Associates.
Cooper says that as a leader, Cressy has helped his employees understand and anticipate the market's peaks and valleys. Away from the business, he donates his time to organizations such as the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the Women's Care Center Inc., and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.
“He's very intelligent and good at what he does,” says Kazmierczak. “He does a lot himself, but he has confidence in his people to trust them to get the job done.”
Cooper describes Cressy as detailed with an ability to keep up on all the different projects going on among the company's different employees.
“He does this all so quietly. He's so humble. He's an inspiration,” says Cooper.
“I'm proud to work for him,” says Kazmierczak.
James B. Dworkin, Chancellor
Purdue University North Central, Westville
Purdue University North Central Chancellor James B. Dworkin seems to be involved in everything. He isn't, of course, but such is his dedication to the campus and its outreach that he has become a fixture in LaPorte, Chesterton, Portage, Valparaiso and Michigan City.
Steve Turner, the vice chancellor for administration, noticed that, which is why he nominated Dworkin as one of the region's top community leaders.
“What's not so evident is the way he's advanced the discourse between parties who wouldn't previously talk to each other,” says Turner. He says Dworkin's background as a mediator is responsible for that.
“He serves on the boards of the United Way and other non-profits and private businesses. He's gotten us involved directly with 46 high schools in the region and has helped more than 2,400 students get college credits,” says Turner. “He is a role model in the way he treats people. He's measured and considerate. He's always taking notes. He's a careful listener and he's tireless. He's like the Energizer Bunny.”
Turner says Dworkin has been a change agent for Purdue University North Central and Northwest Indiana. When he arrived in 2000 at PNC, the campus only offered six baccalaureate degrees and 14 associate's degrees. In 2012, PNC offers one master's degree program in business administration, 22 baccalaureate degree programs (including three in engineering or engineering technology) and six associate's degrees.
Dworkin also has been active in economic development. He has worked with various economic development stakeholders to promote collaboration and cooperation among communities and agencies.
Dworkin recently received the Luminary Award for Education from Northern Indiana Public Service Co. The award recognizes those who have acted with integrity, faith and confidence on behalf of the community, as well as being a catalyst for creation of positive leadership.
“There has been a palpable difference in PNC's reputation because of Jim,” says Turner.
Roberta Imborek, Owner
Baums Natural Foods Inc., Munster, Merrillville, St. John
Kerry Longo has known Roberta Imborek and her family nearly all her life. She says there aren't better people to be found anywhere.
Longo, the bookkeeper for Imborkek's three stores, says she leads by example. “She buys local and supports the region. She was born and raised in Northwest Indiana. She believes in this area,” says Longo.
Longo says Imborek is a hands-on employer and considers all her employees to be part of the family. “She donates a lot of money to organizations in the community, especially to high school music boosters and theater groups. She's also generous with animal shelters. She loves animals,” says Longo.
One of her favorite things in which to get involved is the Reality Store, an event hosted at area middle schools by the local chamber of commerce to give students a taste of real life. Students are given a career and pretend money and all day long they have to make decisions as if they were adults.
What makes Imborek successful, says Longo, is her willingness to listen. “She always listens and her family's integrity is recognized by customers,” says Longo.
Carl J. Lisek
South Shore Clean Cities Inc., Crown Point
Carl Lisek's passion is creating a greener Northwest Indiana through projects promoting alternative fuels, vehicles, technology and infrastructure that reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality.
Stephanie Smith, project and marketing coordinator at South Shore Clean Cities, says his dedication to cleaning up the region is what led her to nominate him as a community leader.
“He is one person in the region who gets everywhere. He works really hard to get people on board this kind of thinking,” says Smith.
Lisek has been preaching his gospel for 15 years. “He's tireless,” says Smith.
She says Lisek can be quiet in delivering his message, but he also can be “out there.” Whatever is needed to make a point, Lisek will try, she says. “It might not make an immediate impact, but it will in the future. His sense of humor helps, too.
“He's fun to work with. Being a happy person, a smile rubs off on people. It makes you want to work with them again. He motivates us,” says Smith.
Lisek has been recognized by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar as an Indiana Energy Patriot for South Shore Clean Cities' efforts to reduce gasoline consumption by 11 million gallons and greenhouse gas emissions by 87,123 tons in 2011.