Maintaining Janesville ties
Occupation: Manager and account specialist at Tricor Insurance
Family: Married to Katie Beggs; two young children, Annabelle and Morgan
Favorite movie: "The Predator"
Favorite book: "The Book of Five Rings"
JANESVILLE Joni Bozart has seen enough of the young talent in Janesville to know that the community can't afford to let it slip away.
That's why she proposed establishing a group for young professionals last year while chairing a meeting of Forward Janesville's Small Business Council.
"We have this great resource in our young people, and they're so optimistic," said Bozart, who owns Carousel Consignments. "We have to keep them in town."
Nick Fitzgerald is young, optimistic and is back raising a family in his native city.
"When Joni brought up the idea, my first thought was that it would be nothing more than a meat market and a drunkfest," said Fitzgerald, manager of Tricor Insurance in Janesville.
But after more thought, Fitzgerald agreed with the idea.
Beyond being in agreement, Fitzgerald has led the young professionals group through a successful first year.
The group offers people younger than 35 networking and mentorship opportunities from business, civic and social perspectives.
"Forward Janesville realized the potential and opportunities of a group like this, and we recognized that being attached to that group would give us credibility and allow us to grow," Fitzgerald said.
Laurie Huml Eckert of Forward Janesville said Fitzgerald recognized right away that the group's demographics could make a difference in the community.
"Nick is such a cheerleader, so enthusiastic, and that's contagious," she said. "When he says his age group can make a difference, people stop and listen because he means it and follows through."
The group has a strong core, and new faces are always appearing at monthly events.
The first few get-togethers centered on surveying young people for their interests and concerns.
Now, Fitzgerald sees the group gaining momentum, particularly in the community service projects it tackles, such as homeless head counts and United Way fundraisers.
"These things are all coming from the interests of our members," he said. "We're starting to add value, and now I see people talking not just about business but about future projects and possibilities."
The group's success has exceeded the expectations of Bozart, Huml Eckert and even Fitzgerald.
"I've been getting several calls from people looking for young go-getters to sit on their boards," Fitzgerald said. "In many ways, we are evolving into a springboard for young professionals into the community."
That's important, Huml Eckert said, because today's young people are tomorrow's leaders.
"Nick and his group are so bright and so full of energy," Bozart said. "We just can't afford to let them get frustrated and leave."
Playing a rewarding role in the community, whether it's from a business, social or community service perspective, is important to the group, Fitzgerald said.
"My involvement has really helped me see the community from a broader perspective," he said. "That's why I'm so passionate about it.
"I'm living here with two young children, and I want to see this community succeed."