4 Baltimoreans To Watch
By Linda L. Esterson
In today’s world of technology, it’s hustle and bustle with virtually round-the-clock availability. It means rushing the kids to activities, serving on boards of directors and maintaining the home while making sure the job gets done well. It takes a special person to manage it all and succeed at a high level at work, at home and in the community.
Learn about four up-and-coming leaders in our community who juggle home life with work responsibilities and continually excel.
At Northeastern University in Boston, Maria Dudzik sat in on a rape trial; that was enough to turn her away from criminal law.
Realizing her only “A” occurred in an elective television class, she withdrew to enroll in a trade school for broadcasting in New England. After graduating with a 4.0 average, she “broke into the business” at an Orlando radio station. She’s worked in news, jazz, rock and classic rock formats in Orlando, her hometown of Providence, R.I. and Boston before applying at MIX 106.5 in 1997 for a mid-day jockey position.
Her radio name in Boston was Maria Morgan — her radio instructors suggested a surname without a nationality with just one or two syllables. In Baltimore, a jock at a sister CBS station already claimed “Morgan,” so her program director gave her the name “Dennis.”
Thirteen years later, Maria Dennis is a fixture in Baltimore and beyond, with a show airing on Fresh FM in Washington, D.C., every Sunday afternoon as well. She’s also the female promotional voice for Maryland Public Television, and she filed a weekly entertainment report for WMAR-TV during better economic times.
Being in the public eye, on the air on a daily basis, you’d expect her to aspire for more — like New York or Los Angeles. But the 42-year-old mother of 6- and 4-year-old sons is grounded in Maryland, after falling in love, converting to Judaism and marrying Eddie Lichter 10 years ago. She’s in love with her new Pikesville roots and her adopted religion.
“Judaism is inspiring and enlightening for me,” she says. “You’re guaranteed that when you do the right thing, good things will happen. It’s so positive for me — that’s why I fell in love with it.”
She also loves the tight-knit Baltimore community and the feeling that people will “do anything for you.” It mirrors her personality and her goals to make her listeners’ lives easier and happier each and every day.
Today, she’s committed to cancer causes and she planned a bone marrow drive for cousin Harry Friner, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Seeing her cousin and other kids “go through things like cancer is cruel and unusual punishment,” and she realizes she has the opportunity to get the word out to help a cure be found.
“I can reach a lot of people,” she says. “I do what I can to get the word out or help find a cure which hopefully will happen in my lifetime.”
Gary Leibowitz Esq
These wavering economic times pose challenges for business owners and individuals alike.
Many are turning to Gary Leibowitz, a partner in the law firm of Cole Schotz in Baltimore, who specializes in bankruptcy and restructuring for businesses in the area.
Leibowitz, 39, has helped the likes of Ritz Camera Centers, Gemcraft Homes and Frank Parsons Inc., a paper products and industrial packaging distributor, to “navigate the waters, restructure debt and emerge as leaner and stronger companies.”
For his efforts, Leibowitz was selected for inclusion in the 2011 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.” He also was named to The Daily Record’s “VIP List: Successful by 40,” in 2010 and Maryland Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” in 2010 and 2011.
Bankruptcy filings are all over the news lately, leading to the demise of major retailers like Circuit City, The Sharper Image and Linens & Things. In Maryland in 2010, a combined 29,287 businesses and individuals filed for bankruptcy.
Along with a group of judges, bar associations and other agencies, Leibowitz led the creation of the Debtor Assistance Project (DAP), which provides assistance offices at the bankruptcy court in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Individuals not able to afford an attorney may gain free advice from attorneys volunteering their time. A waiting list exists for appointments at both locations.
“It demonstrates that individuals and businesses continue to suffer despite political pundits who declared the end of the recession months ago,” says Leibowitz, who serves as president of the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the Maryland District and sits on the board of directors of the Johns Hopkins Hillel. The husband and father of three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 19 months, is a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
How can businesses and individuals today avoid bankruptcy? “You’ve got to have a plan; you can’t run into things blindly. Plot a course, set goals and go after them,” he encourages. “You have to determine your core business and core values and that’s what you re-organize around.”
He recommends this philosophy for personal life as well.
“If you understand your core values and stick to them, you’re bound for success,” he says.
For 10 years, Jonathan Schwartz was a stay-at-home dad, serving as the primary caregiver for his two children, now 15 and 12. Wife Jennie Faber works long hours as an ob/gyn in a thriving local practice.
Two years ago, Schwartz dove back into the workforce. When he did, he did not return to his initial career as a banker, where he had been assistant vice president at branches in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Instead, he decided to serve the community. While home, Schwartz had been president of the Chatsworth School PTA and was involved in community groups including the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon coordinating council, of which now-Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-2) was president. He also spearheaded efforts to gain an Owings Mills middle school and served with Almond on the police community relations council at the Franklin precinct.
Upon returning to the workforce, he hoped to continue his advocacy work, and became an aide for Rep. Jon Cardin (D-11). In December, Schwartz joined Almond as her senior council assistant after serving as treasurer of her campaign.
At any moment, Schwartz, one of two full-time aides for Almond, can be found handling community events, constituent services, legislative priorities and community relations.
“I became involved in the first place for my kids,” says Schwartz, 42, a Reisterstown resident. “I want the community to be a good place for them.”
Schwartz is right at home when dealing with issues from constituents.
“I’m working what I’m living,” he says. “I’m living in the community. I know the neighborhoods. I know what I’m talking about.”
He says he expects to remain in the community service field for the long haul. A run for office is not out of the question, but at this point, he has no plans to do so.
“I’m enjoying solving the community’s problems,” he says. “Who knows what the future will hold?”
In 2005, Adam Marks was working in radio sales. Like many, he dreamed of owning his own business. In his mind, he batted around an idea about restaurant couponing and thought up a name for the endeavor. There was no business plan and no revenue model. His idea sat dormant in his brain.
After his last sales position concluded about 18 months ago, he worked for two different start-up companies. In June 2010, he was encouraged by friends and family to pursue his dream.
“My Dad said, ‘This is your chance. recalls Marks, 44, who lives in Reisterstown with his wife and two children. “‘You have one chance to do it. Go for it.’”
Daily deal online models like Groupon and Living Social had introduced the daily online couponing concept and Marks began compiling a subscriber list of his own.
But, Marks wanted his endeavor to be different from the national models, however. In December 2010, he launched “Chewpons,” focusing solely on couponing from establishments offering food and beverages. There’s no spa in Dundalk or auto detailing in Ellicott City.
Unlike other sites, he requires no minimum to be purchased and allows the merchant to limit the number offered, if desired. Each voucher has an identification number and the merchant can track usage online, so there is no repeat usage.
The primary difference, however, is Marks’ commitment to charity. For every deal, a portion of the purchase goes directly to a nonprofit organization, which the merchant can select; or they can give to the Chewpons “house” charity, the Maryland Food Bank.
For the first two months in operation, Chewpons donated $2,500 to charities through the hosting of 25 deals.
Marks works 16-18 hours a day from his Reisterstown home/office and every aspect of the operation goes through him. He has a part-time salesperson helping to secure offers and a neighborhood CFO friend provides advice.
This summer, he expects to expand Chewpons to the Ocean City, Fenwick, Dewey, Bethany and Rehoboth beaches, and he just announced the addition of coupons in three counties in South Florida. As Chewpons grows, so does his opportunity to make this a career.
“It’s better than I thought it would be and it’s definitely more work,” says Marks. “It’s everything I thought it would be and more.”