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20 Under 40: Checking back with the Class of 2007

The first 20 Under 40 awards were presented in 2007. We’ve checked in on five of the original winners from that year.

Bill Gronseth

City of residence: Duluth

Age: 47

Job title in 2007: Assistant principal, Duluth East High School.

Present job title: Superintendent, Duluth public schools.

Proudest accomplishment since 2007: A lot has happened between then and now. There are many things I am proud of over the past 10 years, and the credit goes to all of the incredible people I get to work with every day. The skills, talents and knowledge of an entire organization is what gets things done. As a leader, it’s my job to ensure the organization is moving in the same direction towards common goals. Bringing the community into the conversation through “Think Kids,” committees on specific topics, advisory groups and in other ways has been important to developing our direction as a district. I am proud of the way we all work together for the young people of our community.

What’s next? I am honored to be serving as superintendent of Duluth schools. I have had some opportunities presented along the way to serve other communities, and maybe some day it will feel like the right time, but Duluth is home.

Suzanne Kritzberg

City of residence: Washington, D.C.

Age: 46

Job title in 2007: Prima ballerina for the Minnesota Ballet, choreographer and teacher for local figure skating clubs and owner of Mrs. Fields Cookie Store in the Miller Hill Mall.

Present job title: Judicial law clerk and ballet teacher at Washington School of Ballet

Proudest accomplishment since 2007: Graduating from Georgetown Law in May 2015.

What’s next? I have one more year of my clerkship and then I plan to pursue a career in family law, ideally as a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children. I will also continue to teach at Washington Ballet on the weekends and possibly do some choreography for local dance groups.

Don Ness

City of residence: Duluth

Age: 42

Job title in 2007: Director of programming and policy at the Zeppa Family Foundation

Present job title: Executive director of workforce development at Lake Superior College

Proudest accomplishment since 2007: Being the dad to three great kids.

What’s next? I’m enjoying post-mayoral life and excited about new opportunities to contribute to Duluth’s recent progress.

Kristi Stokes

City of residence: Esko

Age: 47

Present job title: President, Greater Downtown Council (same as 2007)

Proudest accomplishment since 2007: Still feeling like I’m under 40! On the professional level, the GDC has played a key role in helping several entrepreneurs realize their dream of having a storefront in downtown Duluth. Through strong partnerships, we provided a program that garnered national attention.

What’s next? We’re facing an exciting future in our downtown as we prepare for the reconstruction of Superior Street. This also means some challenges for our businesses. Our local businesses will need our community’s support more than ever. We’ll continue to share that message and serve as an advocate to keep our downtown growing strong.

Zach Walters

City of residence: Chester Park neighborhood of Duluth

Age: 35

Job title in 2007: Professional boxer

Present job title: Insurance agent with Great Lakes Insurance Agency and boxing coach at Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.

Proudest accomplishment since 2007: Two big ones are that I got married in 2008 and I’m the proud father of two. I love my kids and if I’d have known being a dad would be so great I would have had them sooner. I love my life right now. 

I’m also involved in Miel Duluth LLC; A Taste of Duluth honey business that started as a hobby with my dad. We sell honey, lip balms and lotions, soaps … everything is made from the hive. It’s in some stores in Duluth and online sales are picking up (mielduluth.com).

What’s next? Raising my kids and keeping them in Duluth. I don’t plan on moving anywhere; I want to raise my kids to be proud Duluthians. I plan to work until retirement and stay in Duluth.

As a former high-level boxer, one of my dreams is to train a world champion. I have some real talented boxers at the gym — they’re young, but very good. It makes me proud to be the one training and teaching them and it would be awesome to someday be the coach of a world champion out of Duluth.

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