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Women of Distinction

Judy Kotsiopoulos (Joe Shuman)

In 2013, Shaw Media and Lake County Magazine began a tradition of honoring those women who have given their time and talents to make their communities better places to live and lead by example.We continue that tradition this month by honoring 10 of the county’s most remarkable women. They were nominated by community leaders, local business professionals and our own readership.We introduce our honorees here and, in each month that follows, tell the complete story of one of these outstanding residents.

DYLLIS BRAITHWAITE(Barrington, Community Volunteer) When it comes to fashion, Dyllis Braithwaite is the name to know in Barrington and beyond. The longtime owner of Finn’s Fabrics by Dyllis, she provided thousands of customers with the material for their creations. Braithwaite had a couturier dressmaker on staff and together they would assist clients in designing and creating custom dresses. An accomplished dressmaker, Braithwaite’s passion for fashion and her beautiful designs prompted her to author two books documenting her creations in which the octogenarian models her own pieces. Additionally Braithwaite is known for her community service and was a founding member of the team that developed Family Service of Lake County through the Barrington United Methodist Church.

GALE COHEN-DeMARCO(Lake Barrington, Sport Clips) Gale Cohen-DeMarco is an exceptional business leader and community advocate. She and her husband are franchise owners of four Sport Clips, combining their talents and strengths to build the businesses and making a point to give back to the community, supporting programs and events. Her energy and enthusiasm make her a valued member of the local organizations she serves. She is an active member of four area Chambers of Commerce and a current board of director for the Lake Zurich Chamber of Commerce. She has worked on behalf of the Caring Women’s Connection of Hawthorn Woods. She is a hard worker and dedicated member of the business community and beyond.

TARA DEVINE (Libertyville, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.) As a trial lawyer, Tara Devine spends her days fighting for justice for her clients, which includes families and children. She is the first female partner with her firm Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. in Waukegan. She has been recognized for her work in the courtroom and as a top attorney in the state. She makes a point to serve in several legal associations including the Lake County Bar Association’s Diversity committee. She grew up in Libertyville and has returned to the community to set down roots with her husband and their two young children.


(Waukegan, Waukegan Park District) In her role as superintendent of Cultural Arts for the Waukegan Park District Claudia Freeman ensures residents young and old are able to play, have fun and enjoy the beauty of art and culture at the same time. Her leadership has garnered awards for the park district, and provided new opportunities for residents of all ages. Programs like Summer H.E.A.T. drew crowds to neighborhood parks as families enjoyed topics on history, earth, arts and tales. In addition to actively promoting the arts Freeman volunteers in the community, serving as a liaison to the Waukegan Historical Society and the Waukegan Citizens’ Advisory Group.

KIMBER “KIM” KIESGEN(Fox Lake, Grant Township Highway) As a lifelong resident of Fox Lake, there’s no doubt Kimber “Kim” Kiesgen knows the community well. She’s a hard worker, spending more than 30 years with the Grant Township Highway Department. She is dedicated to maintaining high quality roads, and she ensures her department is ready to handle emergency situations. On most days she can be found out and about with her canine companion, Kanata, at her side. Always looking for a solution to help others, 12 years ago she was elected as a Grant Township Highway Commissioner.

JUDY KOTSIOPOULOS(Lake Forest, Community Volunteer) Judy Kotsiopoulos uses the power of her time as well as her talent and resources to serve all residents of Lake County. She is an active member of the United Way of Lake County, where she works with civic leaders and community partners. She is a dedicated member of the Women’s Leadership Council, which serves children throughout Lake County. She has coordinated Power of the Purse, the council’s signature fundraiser, aimed at supporting early childhood education and literacy programs. Whether she is helping support children in need, fundraising for Canine Companions for Independence or volunteering through PADS, Kotsiopoulos makes time to serve others and make her community stronger through her commitments.

NICOLE MARTIN(Libertyville, HRBoost, LLC) Nicole Martin is an author, speaker and a leader in the human resources field. She is the founder of HRBoost, LLC., working with a broad range of businesses to build a competitive advantage and understand the employee value proposition. She is an engaging speaker and author in her field. She has worked in the public, private and nonprofit companies, enabling her to understand business through different work environments. Additionally she provides training and retreats to help businesses strengthen their leadership and provide employee enrichment.

SUSAN McCONNELL(Barrington ,Susan McConnell Photography) In 2014 Susan McConnell established the nonprofit Let it Be Us, dedicated to the advocacy and adoption of children within the Illinois foster care system.  McConnell serves as executive director of the unique organization. She has four children, three of whom are adopted. There are more than 3,000 children in the state foster system awaiting adoption and Let it Be Us connects potential foster and adoptive parents with programming and educational opportunities. The organization also serves as a voice of the children and families. Outside of work she is a professional photographer, using her lens to capture outstanding images and volunteering with other organizations through exhibits and fundraisers.

CHRISSIE NEWTON MENA(Tower Lakes, Chrissie Newton Mena is the co-founder and president of Living, a website providing an online resource for what’s happening in the Barrington area. Launched in 2014 the hyper-local website quickly became a go-to resource for events, news and much more. The Barrington resident enjoys writing stories and producing content for the rapidly growing website. Newton Mena is also an active volunteer in the community. She is president of the Barrington Area United Way Board of Directors, a former president of Barrington Junior Women’s Club, is active with the Barrington Noon Rotary, and a part of the leadership board for WINGS.

MARY MISKE(Lake Zurich, Miske Communications, Inc.) Mary Miske is president of Miske Communications, Inc., an event marketing company that has worked with some of the top global companies. The Lake Zurich resident has built her business by providing outstanding service and proven results for her clients. Her work has provided opportunities to share her knowledge as a guest speaker and through published articles as well. In addition to her company she makes time to volunteer in the Lake County community and has served as a board member for Residents for an Engaged Community, the Make a Wish Foundation and as an instructor and career coach for the St. Francis Employment Ministry.

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