Meet Our Board

Missy Minnaert

Executive Director

Hi everyone. I love that I am a lifelong Rockford resident. My parents families immigrated to Rockford and I have a history of numerous relatives raising families and opening both businesses and restaurants in Rockford.  The stories I have been able to share with my three children as they have grown is something I am very proud of. My husband and I travel frequently when we are not working or attending one of our kids events or life achievements. I love to read ,host dinners & parties, golf with my husband and attend as many Cubs games as I can.

Growing up in a city like Rockford gave me the opportunity to get involved with multiple groups and organizations at a young age. My love to serve the community in any way I could grew from volunteering as a teen to eventually sitting on boards and chairing events.  Now, as the sitting Executive Director of the River District Association I am excited and dedicated in bringing as much positivity and growth to our downtown business owners as well as the city as a whole. There is so much to be proud of all over our town and the River District is a testament to how much people love their city and want to make it a destination for people everywhere. Hope to see you in the RDA!!!!

Sean Muserallo

President

Sean Muserallo is the Board President of the River District Association. He came to Rockford with his family in 2014. Sean is a longtime journalist who most recently accepted a position in the health care field at Mercyhealth.

For the first six months Sean and his family lived in Rockford, people asked him why they moved here. It bothered Sean because he enjoyed discovering all the city had to offer: the river, the children’s museum, the family-friendly activities. The list went on and on. Sean would always respond to people, ‘Why not move here?’

It wasn’t long after those experiences that Sean became a board member of the River District Association. His passion for making the community he covered on the news better resonated with the board members who asked him to join the group. Since then, Sean has taken his passion for making lives better to the next level as the Board President, by leading initiatives for business owners and residents who live downtown. Under his leadership. the group has rebranded itself, organized its tour offerings, moved Shop the Blocks to Saturdays, embarked on a security camera expansion program and launched a new fall festival.

Sean and his wife have a motto they live by:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

– Mahatma Gandhi
Their family actively engages their neighbors, church family and Rockford residents in philanthropic endeavors. It is Sean and his wife’s hope that their two young daughters not only find academic success in the Rockford Public Schools, but grow to do great things by joining their parents in serving the Rockford community.

Jared Clay

Vice President

Government Relations and Legal Affairs Chair

Jared is an attorney at Reno & Zahm LLP providing legal representation for businesses and individuals. Jared’s desire is to see the River District continue to grow as a vibrant community and destination. He enjoys spending time in the River District working, eating, shopping and connecting with friends and family.

Jared can be reached at legal@riverdistrict.com.

Glen Kirschman

Treasurer

Glen came to Rockford in 2004 as Vice President & Commercial Relationship Manager with U.S. Bank and has recently been appointed as U.S. Bank’s Market President for the area. He has served as the River District Association Treasurer since 2014 and his wish is to see the River District continue to grow and prosper.

I previously owned & managed a small business for four years which provides me with an appreciation for both the opportunities and challenges encountered by every business owner. I have also lived and worked in four different countries over the course of my career so as a relative “newcomer” to Rockford, I never take for granted this community’s kindness, generosity and constant desire to move forward. The River District Association plays an important role in the growth of the River District while showcasing all that Rockford has to offer and I am pleased to be a part of this team.

Bill Schmidt

Secretary

Commercial & Residential Design Chair

After working 22 years practicing landscape architecture in Chicago, I joined Fehr Graham in 2016 as a Sr. Landscape Architect providing landscape architecture services for ten regional offices in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. My prior experience includes working on such notable projects as the conversion of the former Montgomery Ward headquarters to a new mixed-use development, The Chicago River Development Plan, the Chicago Green Alleys Program, the Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan, Sears Centre and numerous commercial and residential developments, parks, streetscapes, schools and higher education institutions and healthcare service providers.

As a relatively new addition to the Rockford community, I am happy to put my skills to work for the River District as board Secretary and Chair of the Commercial and Residential Design workgroup.

I’m currently working on a project to create a database of commercial and residential property inventory in the River District. This would go on our website and listings would be emailed to prospective developers by members of our leadership team. If you have a desire to volunteer your time with me on this endeavour, shoot me an email at design@riverdistrict.com.

I look forward to seeing you around the River District.

Rebecca Nunes

Marketing Chair

“I’m a proud Rockford native who strongly believes that a vibrant and successful downtown is integral to attracting and retaining young people in our community. After graduating from Bradley University in 2013, I returned to Rockford to begin her career. I quickly discovered that the majority of my free time was spent in the River District, enjoying the many restaurants, retailers, and events. As a marketer, I’m passionate about establishing identifiable branding and messaging for the River District. If you’re interested in helping me promote some awesome downtown events, contact me at marketing@riverdistrict.com. The best is yet to come!”

Rebecca is the Marketing Coordinator at Stenstrom Companies and is also actively involved with the YMCA’s Youth Achievement Council, Next Rockford, and Winnebago County CASA

Gary Anderson

Downtown Business Development Chair

I was 14 when I got my first two summer jobs of cleaning the kitchen at Sandy Hollow Golf Club and being a caddy at Forest Hills Country Club. Having the job as a golf caddy eventually provided me a full scholarship at the University of Illinois. My first architectural job was Downtown on the top floor of the Gas and Electric building at 303 N. Main St. Those were the days of having elevator operators asking you for your floor destination. Boy, did they know everyone’s business.

Ironically, I was involved in renovating that same space 38 years later. The other irony was that every day I looked out over the Rock River at the then unsightly Prairie Street Brewhouse. My ultimate dream was to someday have a downtown office on the River. But who would have thought that my dream would be realized in the redevelopment of the Prairie Street Brewhouse 45 years later. Every day I now look at my very first place of employment in architecture from the other side of the River. Sometimes life comes full circle.

In my senior year at the University of Illinois, I chose my thesis as a creation of a plan to revitalize Downtown Rockford. Upon graduation, I chose to come back to Rockford to what I thought was an opportunity to be a change agent and bring that plan to life. I had no idea, nor the knowledge, that it would take decades and decades of commitment to fulfill just some of those dreams and aspirations.

I have been blessed to have so many mentors and friends that have always encouraged me to help fulfill those dreams. At times, the journey has been discouraging and full of disappointments. Resiliency and perseverance have somehow overcome those obstacles of indifference and uncaring attitudes. Change does not come easy.

I started our firm of Gary W. Anderson Architects in 1982 because I wanted to pursue my interest in preservation and renovation of older structures. It provided an opportunity to pursue redevelopment of endangered downtown properties as an owner. It also provided an opportunity to reinvent non-performing vacant structures into community assets. Throughout our firm’s history, we have made sustainability and energy efficiency a priority in any redevelopment and designing of new structures.

Our firm has been fortunate enough to be associated with so many clients that have inspired us to improve their business, impact and improving their communities, and respect the environment. Our talented staff that we have assembled has been awesome in fulfilling a lifelong dream of making a difference in the communities we serve. It takes a TEAM to fulfill a vision and inspire future generations to make change possible.

I was born and raised for most of my life in Rockford, except for a couple of years in Southern California. We were constantly on the move. I went to 11 different grade schools. When my wife Carol and I got married I didn’t want to have that nomadic lifestyle any longer. That’s why we have lived in our historic Queen Anne home for over 40 years in Haight Village.

While growing up, I had the opportunity to meet so many people that provided me life-long skills that helped me create friendships on the fly. My early teen years were spent growing up in Churchill Park, playing in Keith Creek, and utilizing the Rockford Park District’s then newly instituted summer programs. My brother and I had two close friends of the same age, and we would think nothing of traveling 40 miles a day on our bicycles exploring the world around us. It was a fantastic childhood that I will cherish forever. Some years ago I confided in my mother of all the things that we did when we were 11 and 12 years old. She knew of some our adventures, but she trusted our judgment and our friends that would keep us safe. The freedom that she entrusted to us impacted my life and in all the things that I do.

For all the times that I played in Keith Creek, I had no idea that some day it would invigorate a passion and vision to reinvent that drainage ditch into a seven mile linear parkway that could link our neighborhoods. It’s a visionary dream that I envisioned 10 years ago. Great things take a long time to percolate and find acceptance. I continue to pursue that dream because this cause will impact other children’s lives, their futures, and the livability of their neighborhoods.

These types of lifelong pursuits have impacted my participation and community activism in the River District. My participation and involvement has been extremely satisfying and fulfilling by helping lead the change that is critical to our long term success as a community. My passion for improving our community has never been as optimistic and hopeful as it is today. It is fueled by the hope and aspirations of so many more people that see that same vision of what this Rockford community can really be.

We have enjoyed living in Haight Village and being in the River District as residents. We have “walked the talk,” as they say. The friendships, the sense of place it provides, its character, walkability, and neighborliness have created a very homey and safe environment. It’s a community of committed believers and doers. We love patronizing our fabulous locally owned restaurants and shops that continue to grow in numbers and new experiences.

As an organization, the River District Association has the commitment and influence to change people’s lives and change the future of this community. It takes a TEAM of advocates to make a difference, but it also requires a lot of believers to constitute a visionary team of difference makers. Changes that we have seen in our Downtown River District over the last five years have been spectacular. What we have in store for us, if we keep the faith and continue to demand excellence, is incredibly exciting. The best is yet to come.

Make a difference and join the River District team that believes in transforming by doing.

Gary W. Anderson

Andy Rioniotis

Special Events Chair

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1974, I was destined to be a restaurant owner. It was in my blood, literally. I grew up helping my family run a restaurant called, The Paragon. That’s where I adopted my hard work ethic from an early age. In fact, my parents had me peeling potatoes at the age of four! I went on to master every position in the restaurant business from dishwasher, to busboy, to waiter, cook, host, then eventually manager of my parents’ family restaurant. The Paragon opened in 1973 and still operates today in Waukegan.

In 1987, I helped my family open the Paragon West. Just seven years later, I bought the restaurant from my father. It was the first restaurant I ever owned and did so until 2000 when the lease was up on the building. That was a big deal. Not just because I was continuing a family tradition, but because it gave me the confidence to make other business moves; and there were a lot after that.

While I owned the Paragon West, I opened and sold a very busy $5 hand car wash called, Scrubs. In 1999, I ventured all the way out to Hollywood for my next business move. I pursued my dreams of becoming a television producer and created a show called, “Four Play,” an extreme double dating series. The late 90s was the start of the reality TV craze. This blind date concept was like Fear Factor meets The Bachelor! Between 2000 and 2005, I went back and forth between Hollywood, New York and Waukegan to manage the original Paragon Restaurant.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2005 that Rockford was on my radar. My brother, George, asked me to come help him open RBI Restaurant Bar and Grill on 3870 N. Perryville Rd. I promised my brother that I would only give him a month to help because I had time off from working with Fog Light Entertainment out of Santa Monica and New York. That month has now turned into years. Once RBI was established, my brother George moved back to help the original family restaurant in Waukegan. Since then, I’ve partnered with Denny Trakas to open three new restaurants. Together, we started serving the community quality food at affordable prices at Onyx Bar and Grill in December 2011 and District Bar and Grill in June 2012. Denny and I are getting ready to open our fourth location in Rockford later this year, the Stockyard Rock Burger Bar.

My consulting business, Bella Rio, sparked my interest in event planning. Although, you could say it goes back to my family business again when I help a large concert outdoors at the Paragon. That passion for events includes many charitable causes, I am passionate about giving back to the community through my businesses. We’ve catered large charity events and have been the featured bar service for Club Blue. We choose a charity every month to support as well and host fundraisers for non-for profits and local athletes like Angel Martinez.

I joined the River District Association after falling in love with downtown while spending time at The District. I’m very passionate about bringing more entertainment downtown. It’s why being the Special Events Chair for the RDA is a natural fit for me. I’ve already worked closely with other downtown businesses putting together over 15 large festivals, including two more scheduled this summer. We’re constantly adding to the music scene by bringing well-known entertainment like, Hinder, Candlebox, Filter, Fuel, Black Stone Cherry, Old Dominion, Parmalee, Here Come the Mummies and my biggest country star yet coming up, Jared Neidman. I’ve also started to liven up the comedy scene with shows featuring Chris Katan, Pauly Shore and D.L. Hughley.

The best ticket in the house, though, is at home with my wife, Isabelle, and our three boys. Isabelle has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love her so much. She is truly a rock that keeps our family functioning on those crazy days and nights as a business owner. It’s why although I’m very honored to have received the Selfless Father of the Year award from the Fatherhood Encouragement Project this year, I know I couldn’t do that without the love and support of my wife.

Andrea Cook

Board Member

Andrea Cook is a Rockford area native dedicated to promoting her hometown as a destination that people are proud to say they are from and a place others can’t wait to visit. She is focused on continuing and building on the successes the River District has already accomplished with her strong background in marketing, advertising, public relations and branding. Her role as associate director for the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has given her the opportunity to help with event implementation, redevelopment and beautification projects throughout the entire region and specifically within the River District in downtown Rockford. She plans to use her skills to take the River District’s goals to a new level and exceed expectations for future growth.

It’s a very exciting time to be a part of the positive changes happening in the Rockford region. It takes hard work, vision and action and Andrea is honored to work alongside area leaders and patrons who want to see this community thrive to be the very best it can be.

Danielle Tumilowicz

Board Member

Danielle Tumilowicz was born and raised in the River District. As a Rockford native, serving her community has always been an important priority. She is a morning news anchor for 23 WIFR and takes pride in being truly invested in the region she reports on.

After graduating from DePaul University with a degree in both Journalism & Public Relations in 2015, Danielle was quick to come back to her hometown to put her skills to work. As someone who lives, works and plays in the downtown area, she is passionate about making it a vibrant and exciting place to be!

Nathan Bevineau

Board Member

Nathan is the Branch Manger for U.S. Bank in downtown Rockford. He is a career banking manager by profession and works with both consumers and business owners on an individual basis to explore benefits of financial banking. “I get great joy out of working toward achieving personal financial goals and options for my clients,” says Bevineau. He has a strong background in customer relations development and possesses a broad range of counseling skills and financial education expertise. Bevineau has been praised for his commitment to drive his bank’s local community engagement and seeing the community in a positive light.  He is honored to have the opportunity to serve on the board and put his knowledge and skills to use for the betterment of the community.

Jen Ralston

Board Member

Bio coming soon…