Who’s Next

Where are they now? Checking in with Who’s Nexters on The Incline’s 2nd birthday

Congratulations are in order.

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The incline illustration
MJ Slaby

While a lot of things have changed in the first two years of The Incline, one thing we’ve done from the start is honor young leaders in various fields through our Who’s Next series, presented by S&T Bank.

More than 360 under-40 Pittsburghers are paving the way in everything from politics to music, business, law, technology, and more.

And their accomplishments don’t stop after we honor them — so we asked for their latest updates, both personal and professional ahead of our birthday bash next week (get your tickets). Here’s what they shared:

Clockwise from top left: Adam Brandolph, Ben Butler, Meg Campbell and Willy James

Clockwise from top left: Adam Brandolph, Ben Butler, Meg Campbell and Willy James

Jasmine goldband / the incline

Communications, Nov. 2016

Adam Brandolph

Previously media relations and spokesperson for Allegheny County Port Authority, Brandolph is now the public relations manager and will soon unveil the authority’s new website. As part of his job, he led Port Authority’s Twitter account during a particularly challenging month, injecting a little “gallows humor” when appropriate.

Ben Butler

The founder of Top Hat IMC, a marketing communications agency, Butler and the Top Hat team moved their offices from Fox Chapel to North Avenue in Millvale in April and tripled their space.

Meg Campbell

When she made the list, Campbell was on staff at the University of Pittsburgh Community and Governmental Relations. She’s now the senior social media and corporate responsibility specialist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

Willy James

Since being honored, James, a publicist and freelance videographer, completed a six-month fellowship with WQED and was selected to be a “community champion” for Remake Learning Days. He’s also started regular meet-ups on the North Side and made a video about Gus & YiaYia’s that helped the famous ice ball cart stay open this summer. James is also launching a podcast called “Neighburgh” on Oct. 1 with Jim Emmerling of EM Media.


Jamie Ducar and Johnnie Geathers

Jamie Ducar and Johnnie Geathers

JASMINE GOLDBAND / THE INCLINE

Community Leaders, Feb. 2017

Jamie (Seabrook) Ducar

Ducar left her role as the community-based program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and is now the assistant director of community relations at University of Pittsburgh. She was named a Fab 40 recipient by the New Pittsburgh Courier in the spring. She and and her husband had their first child, Isaiah Joseph, on Sept. 3.

Johnnie Geathers

Geathers, a therapist at multiple locations in the region, was awarded the Centaur Award for my achievements and accomplishments as a member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. He also serves as the national coordinator for the fraternity’s initiative with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. called #MuchMoreThanAHashtag to educate people on “voter registration, home ownership, citizen review board, jury selection and property taxes.”


Jennie Dorris and Liss Victory

Jennie Dorris and Liss Victory

Rossilynne Culgan / the incline; COURTESY OF LISS VICTORY

Music, Oct. 2017

Jennie Dorris

Dorris, the founder of Musical Storytelling, continues to work with University of Pittsburgh’s BRiTE (Brain Exercise and Training Program) program to teach marimba to people with memory loss. And this fall, she’ll partner with Carnegie Mellon University to launch the Marimba Cognition Lab and study how the classes impact attendees’ cognition.

Liss Victory

Victory, a singer-songwriter, released a new album, “Quelque Chose” in April along with a release show at Mr. Smalls. She also did a four-month tour of crossing the U.S. with her  fiancé, Krish Mohan, a comedian. They performed in more than 60 shows and visited more than 30 states. Victory will perform at the Rochester Fringe Festival and is planning a fourth season of living room open mic sessions called Haus Mic starting Nov. 1. Victory and Mohan are getting married Oct. 20.


Clockwise from top left: Tom Baker, Sara Innamorato, Nikki Lu, Brandon Mendoza and Erika Strassburger

Clockwise from top left: Tom Baker, Sara Innamorato, Nikki Lu, Brandon Mendoza and Erika Strassburger

JASMINE GOLDBAND / THE INCLINE; LINDSAY DILL / LINDSAY DILL PHOTOGRAPHY; MIRANDA KNEE / ALLEGHENY CONFERENCE

Politics, Jan. 2017 and Nov. 2017

Tom Baker

In November 2017, Baker was re-elected as an Allegheny County Council member in a tight race where he won by less than one percent of the vote. Then in January, he won the the Mayor Richard Caliguiri Good Samaritan Award from Junior Achievement and became a dad to Lila June who was born Jan. 23.

Sara Innamorato

Innamorato won the Democratic primary election for District 21 state representative in May, defeating incumbent Dom Costa. Without a Republican challenger, she will likely be joining the General Assembly in January.

Nikki Lu

Previously at 32BJ SEIU, Lu is now the Pennsylvania director for the State Innovation Exchange, a national organization that serves as a legislative, political and strategy resource center for progressive state lawmakers in all 50 states. In Pennsylvania, Lu is working with lawmakers and stakeholders to “develop a unified agenda.” She also was elected as the vice chair for the Board of Directors for Emerge Pennsylvania.

Brandon Mendoza

When he was honored, Mendoza was the government affairs manager for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Now, he is the executive director of NAIOP Pittsburgh, a regional association of developers, owners, investors and professionals of commercial real estate. His second son Isaiah Simone Mendoza was born.

Erika Strassburger

When former city council member Dan Gilman became Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, Strassburger, then Gilman’s chief of staff, decided to run for Gilman’s seat. After a four-month special election campaign, she won the seat. Strassburger told The Incline that her office is working on a range of proposals on issues including “clean and affordable public water, immigration, gender equity, waste and recycling, and LGBTQ+ businesses.”


Shyloh Hadley, Jamie Hamilton and Meridith Kula

Shyloh Hadley, Jamie Hamilton and Meridith Kula

Rossilynne culgan / the incline

Style, April 2018

Shyloh Hadley

Hadley’s salon, Hair by Shyloh in East Liberty, now uses Pulp Riot hair products and she told The Incline that the salon will soon be 100 percent vegan and cruelty free.

Jamie Hamilton

In June, Hamilton, a “plus-size style aficionado and body-positive content creator,” started Yinz Bopo, a monthly body positive group. The group has had four swim meet-ups and is planning a clothing swap, photoshoots and a dance party.  Hamilton was featured in a  plus-size street style New York Fashion Week photo gallery on InStyle and will be a guest influencer at Curvy Fest in Mexico later this month.

Meridith Kula

When she was honored, Kula had had her work featured in stores and pop-up shops, but now the owner of Kula Industries is opening a boutique in Bloomfield in October. The store will feature vintage items and items made by Kula, and it will house a sewing and design studio, she told The Incline.


Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Van Dam, Nicole Trombley, Pam Eichenbaum, Robert Young and Sarah Buranskas

Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Van Dam, Nicole Trombley, Pam Eichenbaum, Robert Young and Sarah Buranskas

Rossilynne Culgan and Jasmine Goldband / the Incline; COURTESY OF SARAH A. BURANSKAS

More Who’s Next honorees

Sarah Buranskas (Food & Drink, June 2018)

In her role with Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Buranskas co-wrote an application for a USDA Farm to School grant with Grow Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools and they were awarded the $100,000 grant. She’s also working on the launch of the Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan.

Pam Eichenbaum (Philanthropy, Feb. 2018) and Jennifer Van Dam (Tech, March 2017)

Innovation Works co-workers Van Dam, the digital and community engagement manager and Pam Eichenbaum, a business development associate, launched a new podcast. In Caffeinated Innovationthe pair talk to Innovation Works staff as well leaders from their partner companies.

Nicole Trombley (Fitness, Jan. 2018)

Honored for her work as the owner of Pillar Fitness, Trombley said she’s been working mostly with professional women “who feel burned out or stuck in their current career and want to discover their soul purpose and reclaim their personal power.” She’s launched multiple programs including the Healing Circle, as an introduction to energy work. She also wrote a book, “Overwhelmed to Empowered: 25 Ways to Reclaim Your Power,” which published in August.

Robert Allen Young (Business & finance, March 2018)

Honored for his work at Simpson | McCrady and his volunteerism, Young is now also supporting the The Advanced Leadership Initiative at CMU. The program launched in May and works to make sure that African-Americans have leadership roles at corporations and nonprofits in the region.