Kristen Bartels

20 Under 40: Kristen Bartels

Business Development Manager and Founding Partner, Team Recycle

Community Engagement Coordinator, Relief Nursery

Age: 32

Kristen Bartels is a founding partner at Team Recycle, a local recycling consulting firm responsible for recovering hundreds of thousands of pounds of recyclable and toxic materials over the past five years. Kristen is also the community engagement coordinator at Relief Nursery, a local child abuse and neglect prevention agency that serves over 1,000 high-risk, low-income families in the community each year.

She is involved in a number of civic and professional service organizations: the Young Professional Summit Steering Committee for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and Springfield Rotary’s Youth Services Committee. She actively participates in United Way’s Emerging Leaders, Relief Nursery’s Leadership Board, and Relief Nursery’s Community Relations Committee. Kristen is currently participating in Leadership Eugene Springfield through the joint chambers of commerce, and volunteers for a number of civic service organizations, including FOOD for Lane County. She previously served as a 2018/19 District 5110 Rotaract Steering Committee member and communications chair for Lane County Rotaract, helping raise money for the Eugene Mission’s wing for mothers and babies. She attended the 2019 International Rotary Summit as a District 5110 representative and was a senior counselor at the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy.

Claire Barnum

20 Under 40: Claire Barnum

Executive Director, Downtown Eugene, Inc.

Age: 38

As the executive director of Downtown Eugene Inc, it’s been really exciting to work with downtown property owners these past two years. I’ve seen a strong spirit of collaboration emerge. When we advocate together and unite our voices, we are stronger. I see a lot of exciting things on the horizon for this community, and I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.

I’ve lived in Eugene/Springfield for most of my life, and I’ve had the privilege of cheering on many of my peers at previous 20Under40 award ceremonies. Watching their accomplishments and contributions to this community has been one of my greatest motivations. Being among such a strong group of high achievers is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.

This past year I had to shift my focus while I navigated a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and I am happy to say that I am now cancer free! Battling cancer was a challenge, but it changed my perspective on life. Now I want to do more to give back to humanity. It makes me so happy to be able to model to my children, Jacob and Anabelle, and two bonus children, Hayden and Jack, what perseverance and resiliency look like. Receiving this award is not so much about one’s past accomplishments but about this community’s belief in your ability to make long-lasting impacts. I’m proud to named to the class of 2019 20Under40 recipients, and I can’t wait to see what this group does in the next 30 years.

2019 Winners

2019 Winners

With 50 well-qualified nominations, the judges were challenged to select just 20 people this year. They continue the tradition of past winners through their careers and in the community. Learn more about them.

Craig Wiroll

20 Under 40: Craig Wiroll

Portfolio Manager – Gigabit Eugene/Community Leader Smart Gigabit Communities
Mozilla Foundation/US Ignite

Age: 31

“Craig created partnerships between educators, technologists, nonprofits, public officials, researchers, and entrepreneurs which helped Eugene fully realize the benefits of world-class gigabit internet access. His work enabled local teams of innovators to win over $200,000 in funding.”

Matt Sayre, Technology Association of Oregon


Craig Wiroll played an important role in getting Eugene-Springfield established as a “smart” community. He helped secure the title of US Ignite Smart Gigabit Community and created partnerships between educators, technologists, nonprofits and public officials, enabling the area to win more than $200,000 in funding. As the portfolio manager for Gigabit Eugene through the Mozilla Foundation, Wiroll managed a grant portfolio of 11 local and nationwide projects funded by the National Science Foundation and was a community leader for Smart Gigabit Communities with US Ignite.

Just a couple years ago, he was a Domestic Policy Council intern for the White House under President Barack Obama. He also presented at MozFest in London on digital equality and access in rural America. Wiroll’s community involvement has included volunteering at Spencer Butte Middle School, as well as serving on the board of directors for United Way of Lane County and on the Lane STEM Leadership Board.

Get to know them

Q: What would you like to say to future 20 under 40 award winners?

Although I am extremely honored to be recognized for a job well done – I think we should remain extremely humble. I don’t think we should let these awards (or any recognition) go to our heads. Especially awards for early-career success. There is not only a lot of work left to be done – but there is too much pressure on young people to figure out what they “should be” or “should do” at much too early of an age. The best way I’ve heard it put recently is that we are so pressured to choose our hats at a young age – that we don’t spend enough time trying on different hats and seeing which one fits best.

So, to anyone not recognized this year: don’t fret. Early-career success is nice – but life is a marathon, not a sprint – and there is no finish line. None of us know why we are here – all we can do is our best, treat people with respect, and extend a hand to those who haven’t been as lucky as we have.

To all future winners (and non-winners) of this award – don’t let recognition define your worth. Don’t stress about career uncertainty (there is, and will always be uncertainty). Just do your best to help those around you and live an authentically good life. The awards will come eventually if you do that.


Q: What advice do you have for those people out there who want to step up and help lead our community?

With a civic-minded community and near-record number of nonprofits per capita – there is no shortage of ways to get involved in Eugene. Even if you haven’t volunteered before, or since you were 6 when you were a brownie/cub scout – there’s no better time than today. And if today doesn’t work – the next best day is tomorrow. Don’t make excuses because every day you delay extending a hand is another day of someone waiting for your help. Ingrain service to others in your personal identity and habits. Cold-call organizations you admire, write them, or just show up. Bring applicable skills – are you a people-person who likes chatting with and meeting new people: serve food at FFLCs Dining Room. Are you an introvert who likes videography and computer programming? Offer to take promotional videos for a local animal adoption nonprofit or update a local recycling program’s website. Every bit matters.

The number one type of volunteering I would advise people who want to make a difference in their community and the world: mentor a young person. There are so many young people who don’t have a good role model and who feel alone in this world. I chose the 4J Lunchtime Mentor Program but there are many organizations looking to connect adult mentors and wonderful kids locally – check it out!


Q: How was your community involvement impacted your work and life?

I was a major dork in undergrad and didn’t enjoy drinking or partying – so I spent the majority of my free time volunteering with a variety of different nonprofits dedicated to environmental sustainability, youth inner-city mentoring, urban farming, and more. I enjoyed it so much, I made a conscious decision to dedicate my life and career to public service. In that last decade, I have completed two AmeriCorps terms (including assistant-teaching 4th grade, repairing waterfalls due to flood damage in Silver Falls State Park, and building homes for migrant farmworkers in the desert), completed my Master’s in Public Administration at University of Oregon (with capstone research conducted with the Oregon statewide education policy board – Higher Education Coordinating Commission), and served in the Domestic Policy Council at the Obama White House in Washington D.C.. All amazingly unbelievable experiences that have both shaped me as a person and defined my career.

So, public service and community involvement hasn’t just influenced my career – it has become my career. And it has been an honor to be lucky enough to be empowered over the last 18-months becoming ingrained in the local technology and education communities and helping to support local Eugene educators, innovators, schools, and nonprofits to creatively advance their missions.

Caitlin Vargas

20 Under 40: Caitlin Vargas

Leasing Manager, Obie Companies

Age: 35

“Working together in LES, I was truly impressed at her skills, knowledge, willingness to help others, and dedication to helping young professionals thrive in our community. Caitlin takes advocacy seriously – she knows that the only people who can make an impact are the ones who actually show up!”

  • Valerie Sharr, Imagination International


Caitlin Vargas works smarter – and in doing so helps more people, more quickly. During her time as development director for the Eugene Mission, Vargas helped the nonprofit reach its five-year plan of a $3M budget in only three years. She was involved in rebranding the organization in 2015 and starting the Eugene Food Truck Fest in 2016, which drew 13,000 people the first year. She has recently joined the team at Obie Companies where she can further develop her talents for community development as the Leasing Manager for the 5th St Market.

An outspoken advocate, Vargas brings together nonprofits to collaborate on the issue of homelessness. An active community volunteer, Vargas helps FOOD for Lane County, Volunteers in Medicine and volunteer to support the inaugural year of Market Fest. She serves on the YP Summit committee and Eugene Young Professionals Board – all while parenting four young children.

Get to know them

Q: What have you been most motivated by in your career?

According to the Strengths Finder Assessment, achievement is one of my top strengths. I don’t know whether I was wired that way from the beginning, or my propensity toward achievement came out of my upbringing. Nevertheless, I have been most motivated in my career by the drive for the achievement of not myself, but for those in my community.

I like to move things, drive progress, have an impact. I love to see others win but also am motivated by the journeys we enjoy together as a team, the experiences we make, the obstacles we overcome, the things we get done, the laughs we have, and the achievements we celebrate. I am motivated by the joy of being a team pursuing a purpose and the thrill to strive for a common goal – with success. As Cesar Chavez said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”


Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

To me, a leader is someone who is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, adaptable, and open. A leader wants to nurture others to their fullest potential, and it is something I have enjoyed since childhood. I love to be an example to follow and help guide others to bettering themselves and their careers. I’m also great at delegating and finding the strengths of other team members. I try to give each person a chance to do what they’re best at and create a team effort that delivers a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Overall I think my leadership style is very flexible because I focus more on facilitation than on leading from the front. I try to make sure every team member knows what he or she needs to know to make sure the piece fits. I also put the task and the results before doing things in my own particular way so everyone is comfortable presenting their ideas in their own style and I encourage people to discuss things until either a consensus emerges or a decision simply needs to be made.


Q; What would you like to say to future 20 under 40 award winners?

My first words to future 20 under 40 award winners would be Congratulations and keep striving! As one of many recognized young community leaders, it is crucial to keep up the momentum and passion for change. Capitalize on your energy and take this time to get invested in the progress of the community. One of the best things about being under 40 is that you still possess eternal optimism as a result of still being early into your career. Take that optimism and be the person in the room that believes in the creative solutions, the contemporary approach and the next-to-impossible method to move the needle.

Kaitlyn Tepe

20 Under 40: Kaitlyn Tepe

Director of Marketing and Communications, Cascade Health

Age: 31

“Kaitlyn sets high standards for herself and holds our organization equally accountable. She invests her time and energy in the creation of relationships, outputs, outcomes and interactions that help highlight the very best in Cascade and our community.”

Cheryl Boyum and Eric Van Houten, Cascade Health


Motivated by service to others, Kaitlyn Tepe works to ensure the community knows about the compassionate and high-quality health care provided by Cascade Health. A member of the senior leadership team and involved in the StrengthsFinder program, she provides coaching to employees to help them develop their strengths.

In the community, she is on the steering committee for the Leadership Eugene-Springfield program for 2018-19. She is a longtime volunteer with Trinity House and Festival of Trees and is an active member of First Baptist Church of Eugene.

Get to know them

Q: What motivates and inspires you? 

My motivation comes from my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. I feel called to use any gift or talent invested in me to the highest of my ability in order to serve the Lord and make a difference in the lives of those around me.  Essential to my beliefs is living with integrity while serving and empowering others to become their best.


Q: What do you hope to see for our community?

My hope is that we would exemplify the positive and unified spirit implied by the word community.  May we build diverse relationships, invest in our partnerships, and embrace a narrative that reflects the best we can be together.


Q: What would you like to say to future 20 under 40 award winners?

This award is certainly humbling, but I have discovered that this award does not mark a goal accomplished, rather a trajectory celebrated. Keep going! Leadership is not an event or a destination, so continue to bring your best each day. Your greatest impact lies ahead.

Maressa Surrett

20 Under 40: Maressa Surrett

Director of Technology and Digital Solutions
International Society for Technology in Education

Age: 38

“Maressa gives unceasingly of herself to her community. However, she is not one to take credit or to seek approval or gratitude for her work. Instead, she works quietly behind the scenes ensuring that every detail is managed, that the team’s needs are met, and that the goal is at the forefront of the organization’s collective mind. She seeks to bring people together for a common cause and does so with wit, intelligence, and compassion that results in improved outcomes for all she helps.”

Celeste Edman, Lunar Logic


As director of technology and digital solutions for the International Society for Technology in Education, Maressa  Surrett leads day-to-day management of the IT department and advises the executive team, while also leading web development, digital experience and data teams, and bridging visual design and programming. Surrett has a second identity in the music industry. She started a regionally-recognized record label and was a DJ mentor for young, female DJs. As a volunteer, she creates music for Eugene yoga studios. She also has volunteered for Friends of Trees and is a member of the Pacific and Asian Community Alliance, Oregon Asian Council board member and volunteers for the Oregon Asian Celebration.

Get to know them

Q: How has your community involvement impacted your work and life?

My community involvement and desire to take part in volunteer work began when I was 15 years old. I saw great value in what I could learn through volunteerism. It allowed me to begin exploring career opportunities early and taught me the importance of giving back to the communities I grew up in. I knew then, that community involvement would be a life-long venture.

Community involvement has given me a strong sense of purpose and appeals to my natural state of being a giver. It has allowed me to build incredible skills of collaboration, problem-solving, leadership, and leaves me with a feeling of happiness and humbleness. I have acquired life skills, and knowledge, which I can pass on to younger generations within the community. These all have contributed to who I am as a leader in the workplace, and in life.

Engaging with the community thrusts me into being an active community member. This has a long-term impact on knowing that I am a part of a positive movement within society. In early 2018, I joined a relief organization, As a group, we raised over $20,000 to be used for medical and school supplies in Nepal. We purchased the supplies in Nepal, and hand delivered them to a community in great need. This has forever changed the lives of some of the kindest, and humble individuals I’ve ever encountered. This incredible experience of giving back was a concrete reminder to embrace and appreciate the simplicities in life, and what can be accomplished through solid and organized teamwork, and collaboration.


Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I’m a focused and results-driven leader, highly motivated to reach the goal post. I want to continually improve the process and seek opportunities for enhancements and efficiencies. All of which may emerge during the lifecycle of a project. I’m passionate about technology, marketing, and digital experience. I’m genuine and possess a high level of integrity in aligning with organizational needs and strategies. The challenges these can solve for people and organizations is powerful. Take for example the use of automation for communications, the roll-out of a customer-relationship management system (CRM) for lead capture, and business intelligence applications for efficient enterprise decision making. All of which I have been involved in implementing and leading.

I am an advocate for regular professional development and consider myself a lifelong learner.  I advise and encourage those on my teams and working around me to take advantage of professional development opportunities. I believe strongly, especially working in the technology space that my success hinges on the frequent learning and training that I proactively engage in. Each year I set at least one new professional development goal, and I read about 20 books a year, in addition to webinars and classes.

I value input and feedback from team members, colleagues, stakeholders, and my mentors. And I will provide expertise and guidance in my areas of responsibility to be the best partner and leader to those around me. With that said, mentorship is a priority of mine. I encourage the team members which approach me and know what they want out of a project, or their career. I enjoy coaching and developing others, based on their strengths, experiences, and goals. Relationships are typically the key to the success of a goal or project, and for this reason, I place a lot of value on them.


Q; How do you hope to develop your career trajectory?

My career has been centered around technology and web development since 2000, and I spent 8 years of this time focused on these disciplines within Marketing teams. I often overlook the journey, favoring the destination or goal. I think it is important to pause and reflect while maintaining a forward momentum. Enjoying the ups and downs, on the path of travel towards the destination, has been one of my greatest lessons.

I think it should be a priority for everyone to look ahead, both in the short term, and long term. While it may be difficult to clearly visualize what we want, putting some definition on a vision has served me well. Having a solid plan, and mentors have given me the boost when I have needed it the most.

I am enthusiastic about technology, marketing, and a good cause. Technology brings about opportunities to solve problems in endlessly evolving ways while keeping me challenged. This is highly motivating for me. Marketing and its increasing synergies with technology is fascinating, and I can’t wait to see over the next handful of years how the ideation of MarTech continues to emerge. Marketing has provided a beautiful union with the creativity it brings, alongside my technology background. I see myself continuing down the path of technology, partnered with marketing, in increasingly challenging leadership roles.

Nicholas Strasser, MD

20 Under 40: Nicholas Strasser, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon; Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Age: 39

“Through all my years of medical school, residency, and fellowship, rarely have I come across a more outstanding individual who has made such a commitment to the growth of our organization and our community.”

Brian Jewett, MD, Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine


Dr. Nicholas Strasser is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle at At Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. He and his wife, Joy, are foster parents providing a safe place for children for the past two years. He is also Orthopedic Division Chief for Sacred Heart Medical Center. Strasser uses his skill to help others, including providing orthopedic coverage at high school football games and volunteering on the medical team for TrackTown USA and the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. He continues his work to help kids by volunteering for Safe Families for Children of Lane County.

Get to know them

Q: How has your community involvement impacted your work and life?

Our community work has made a dramatic impact on my life. I think being a foster parent is the most difficult thing I have ever done and has changed the way I parent, how I interact with my peers and partners and how I approach my patients. It has opened my eyes to more fully understand the challenges my patients face on a day-to-day basis. I think it has made me more empathic to factors that affect care with limited resources or limited support systems. It has changed my understanding of the negative effects trauma has on development.


Q: What motivates and inspires you?

“Becoming is better than being” is one of my favorite quotes from the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. I grew up with a natural internal drive to succeed with a heightened focus on the end goal. Authors like Dweck have made me appreciate the process of striving for something and recognizing it as a valuable phase of growth. As a result, my motivation has changed to seeking out the challenge as opposed to looking forward to the finished product.


Q: What mentors, colleagues, and partnerships have inspired you in your career development? 

I feel extremely fortunate to have had multiple mentors throughout my life. My wife Joy has taught me how to prepare and plan ahead which has really led to a great portion of my success.  She has taught me the importance of reading and research even outside my medical profession.  Her drive for learning and caring is contagious and there is no question my success is deeply rooted in her support and advice.

I feel that each one of my partners has been so critical in providing advice and feedback for questions that come up on a daily basis. This could be medical, business or personal advice. It’s been fun to look back at the last six years in Eugene and see how I have grown and what I have learned. I feel like I have been through multiple “mini-fellowships” which has expanded my knowledge of specific areas of orthopedic surgery, medical economics, and business governance.  I feel fortunate to be part of a group which takes pride in the career development of our younger partners. I hope to be able to continue to foster that with my younger and future partners.

Josh Smith

20 Under 40: Josh Smith

Partner/Attorney, Gleaves Swearingen

Age: 36

“I can say without reservation that Josh is one of the brightest, most honest and practical attorneys I have ever met. He has rightfully achieved the reputation as an empathetic, practical and skilled advisor.”

Cassie K. Jones, Gleaves Swearingen LLP


Josh Smith began clerking at Gleaves Swearingen during law school, becoming partner after only five years. He serves on the firm’s management committee, builds morale as manager of the coed softball team, and helps to bring in outstanding associates. Smith is president of the Greenhill Humane Society’s Board of Directors, where he steered the board during a $5.6 million capital campaign and helps oversee a building project that will greatly improve the care of stray animals.

Get to know them

Q: How has your community involvement impacted your work and life?

Becoming increasingly involved in our community has enriched both my career and my life generally. I got involved in the joint Chamber Leadership Program early in my career and that was valuable to learn about different facets of the community. Learning more about the community absolutely helped me in practicing law here, providing a more real world, practical perspective on local matters.

I subsequently joined the Greenhill Humane Society Board of Directors and now serve as the Board President. Greenhill does such wonderful and meaningful work, and to be affiliated with it and be a small part of its services and its growth in the community has been massively rewarding.  Working behind the scenes to support Greenhill’s $5.6 million capital campaign, it has been exhilarating to watch brand new kennels come up in the place of an old, worn-out kennel and know that animals in the community are about to get a brand new, cozy home while they await adoption. As we break ground on additional phases of the campaign, including various other improvements and the construction of an improved clinic space, there’s more work to do but it’s already been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in such a remarkable project. I think anyone that has an opportunity to get involved in the community, especially if it’s to support a mission that is close to their hearts, should not hesitate to take it. It’s so great to work on something you know will have a lasting impact and mean so much to so many, both of the four-legged and two-legged variety, here locally.


Q: What motivates and inspires you?

Three things motivate and inspire me: my colleagues, my clients, and my family.  First, I am fortunate to work with folks I consider friends who push and support me in my practice on a daily basis.  Second, my firm’s diverse client base motivates me to be thoughtful and practical, and to be willing to think outside the box to find solutions to their problems.  Lastly, my family, and specifically my 5-year-old son Wyatt, who inspires me to get up every day and grind so that I can show him the value of hard work. It motivates me to give back to the community so he can grow up in a place that provides him with the tools to be happy and successful.


Q: What mentors, colleagues, and partnerships have inspired you in your career development?

I think having good mentors to learn from and emulate is imperative to becoming a good lawyer.  I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the very best lawyers in the community. Many of the lawyers at Gleaves Swearingen have been here for decades, reinforcing and passing down the firm’s culture and single-minded focus on providing the highest quality legal work and always putting the client first. During law school, I was unsure if I wanted to remain in Eugene once I graduated. However, after clerking at Gleaves following my second year of law school, I knew I had found the firm that did things the right way and where I would be both supported and challenged. It was the team of lawyers that inspired me then and continue to inspire me today to push forward and to keep learning and keep growing.

Brandy Rodtsbrooks

20 Under 40: Brandy Rodtsbrooks

Director of Marketing & Communications, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce

Age: 39

“She has a passion for mentoring younger professionals and helping them navigate their career opportunities. Whether training interns, formally supervising staff members or providing guidance and advice, Brandy is always teaching and challenging others to be the best they can be.”

Brittany Quick-Warner, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce


Brandy Rodtsbrooks, director of marketing and communications for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, relaunched the OPEN for Business magazine, while also developing a digital-forward approach to communications that help the Chamber and its member businesses. She mentors emerging marketing professionals and volunteers for numerous organizations, including as board chair of MECCA, where she’s leading new development for the nonprofit. She has leveraged her skills to support committees such as the Downtown Marketing Partnership, the Community Health Improvement Plan, and the Financial Stability Partnership.

Get to know them

Q: What has winning a 20 under 40 award meant to you?

The 20 under 40 awards have been offering me inspiration for years. I would find myself waiting for the annual announcement to see who would be recognized for their impact on our community. Seeing those great leaders in the spotlight motivated me to work harder. It’s been interesting to feel a different sense of responsibility sweep over me now that I’m included alongside all the incredible people who have won this award. It’s an incredible honor that’s solidified my resolve to show up in new ways and support the growth of the projects and people building our community.


Q: What is it about working in Eugene that you find the most compelling?

Collaboration isn’t an idealistic value as I think it can be in other places; collaborative work actually happens here. It’s been inspiring to see so many projects and initiatives in which committed people in the private sector, nonprofit, and government organizations come together to tackle big problems because they care about making our community better. In this community, if you want to engage and build something even better, the opportunity to be involved and take action is there.

Our community is fortunate to be so open to taking different approaches, testing new ideas, or using creativity when tackling challenges. I think it’s interesting how embracing creativity and innovation has opened doors to new industries and created a strong culture for local makers, creatives and innovators. I think this is one of the key differences that separate Eugene from other cities and cultivates the potential for an incredible future.


Q: How was your community involvement impacted your work and life?

After seeing some inspiring community building work unfold, I absolutely believe that one person can make a difference and that even more can be done when we work together. Creating a great quality of life and a vibrant economy for a community is complex work. I feel fortunate to have seen the many ways that local leaders take simple and effective steps to cultivate that for our community. It’s built a sense of connection that I think has become a central theme for my career, and has helped me focus on building partnerships and leveraging opportunities that support others and benefit our whole community.