People to Watch in 2024
Countless books and articles delve into the myriad
traits and characteristics essential for success in the
business world. A common thread has emerged
through our exploration of the most trailblazing
and forward-thinking business leaders within our
community. We have discerned a shared belief that
transcends conventional wisdom: “Success is not the
key to happiness.” Instead, they have illuminated that
“happiness is the key to success.” In simpler terms,
if you find genuine passion and love for what you
do, you possess the vital key to attaining authentic
success. As we look ahead to 2024, we aspire to have
these narratives serve as a wellspring of inspiration
for your endeavors in your chosen field.
President | Program Director | Founding Member
dba Creative Steps
Creating a community integration day program for adults with disabilities was a longtime dream of Lisa Szilagyi, whose daughter Emily was born in 1989 with tuberous sclerosis complex. Looking ahead to Emily’s future as an adult with a disability, Lisa’s vision was to create a day program that would meet her needs. Emily’s birth was a turning point in Lisa’s life, triggering a switch in careers from film distribution to working as a volunteer for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and then to pursuing a career working first with students and then adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Lisa began her teaching career in 1996 as a paraprofessional at Malibu High School. In 2001, she took over the life skills class and began to pursue her special education credential, which led her to teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities. Lisa was an advocate for including these students in general education classes and in activities and events on campus. She organized the first ever “Disability Awareness Day” at Malibu High School. Over time, Lisa earned an award from the Malibu Special Education Foundation, a Dolphin Award from The Malibu Times, and an award for Special Education Advisor from the Best Buddies Organization.
After a decade of teaching the life skills class at Malibu High, Lisa began having regular discussions with the parents of her students who were wondering what programs were available for their own kids once they “graduated.” After researching other day programs for adults with moderate to severe disabilities and significant support needs, the group found few good options. Most programs would not accept their young adults. The idea of creating a better program led to the formation of The Aurelia Foundation in 2012. In September 2013, their Creative Steps day program officially launched in Santa Monica, with nine young adults. In May of 2014, Creative Steps opened another location in Westlake Village. And in December of 2015, Creative Steps opened a third location in Torrance.
Today, Creative Steps supports 70 adults with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program is 100-percent community based, supporting lifelong learning and skills acquisition. Creative Steps works on daily living and communication and social skills, as well as job training, acquisition, and support. Creative Steps has long waitlists for each location as the number of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities aging out of their school programs continues to grow.
2708 Wilshire Blvd., #419
Saba Habis MD, MHA, CPE, FACP
Chief Executive Officer
West Hills Hospital & Medical Center
Saba Habis, MD, is the CEO at West Hills Hospital. He oversees a staff of more than 1000 people that bring outstanding service to every bedside. His main focus is on quality care, patient experience, and physician and employee engagement. He has held other HCA executive positions, including serving as the division chief medical officer for the HCA South Atlantic Division with oversight of 12 hospitals.
Dr. Habis has successfully led physician strategy aimed at
streamlining initiatives to improve patient outcomes and quality performance. He also served as the chief medical officer at Riverside Community Hospital, where he played a pivotal role in leading clinical quality initiatives to improve patient care. During his tenure at Riverside, the institution achieved Healthgrades Patient Safety Excellence awards, Level II Trauma Center designation by ACS, and Comprehensive Stroke Center accreditation by DNV and launched the kidney transplant program.
Dr. Habis received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Damascus University in Damascus, Syria, and completed his internal medicine, chief residency, and geriatric fellowship at the University of Illinois. He is a Certified Physician Executive from the American Association for Physicians Leadership and earned his Master’s of Health Administration from the University of La Verne in May 2021.
Dr. Habis also has several clinical research publications and was awarded the Trail Blazer Award for his community research by the Missouri Foundation for Health. As a perpetual student, he is fluent in three languages and is a licensed private pilot. He also enjoys the outdoors and a good game of chess.
Dr. Habis considers it an honor and privilege to oversee his team as well as the community at large. He is also proud to continue fulfilling the hospital’s mission of providing “quality care, close to home,” where expert physicians, clinicians, and all hospital employees strive each day to bring outstanding service to the bedsides of their patients.
West Hills Hospital is a full-service acute-care facility which has served the West San Fernando Valley for over 50 years. The hospital offers advanced technology, compassion, and responsive care for the improvement of human life. West Hills Hospital was the first accredited chest-pain center in Los Angeles County and provides specialized care in the emergency department, the intensive care unit, robotic surgery, outpatient services, cardiac catheterization labs, and The Grossman Burn Center.
7300 Medical Center Dr.
Dan Stepenosky, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Las Virgenes Unified School District
Dan received his teaching credential from the University of San Diego in 1995, his administrative credential and masters in educational leadership from CSUN in 1999, and his doctorate from UCLA in 2003. He wrote his doctoral dissertation, “Preventing School Shootings,” after conducting research at Columbine High School. In 2006, Dan joined the Las Virgenes Unified School District as assistant superintendent of personnel and was later appointed superintendent in 2012. In 2016, he was named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators, and in 2021, he was selected as the Los Angeles County Superintendent of the Year. Last year, LVUSD passed the largest school construction bond in its 60-year history—the $340 million Measure S bond. The funds from Measure S will provide significant upgrades to infrastructure, such as roofing, plumbing, HVAC systems, along with state-of-the-art classrooms and upgraded athletic facilities.
Dan has become a highly sought-after public speaker throughout the nation. He has delivered compelling presentations on various topics—such as “AI in Education’’ at the National Suburban School Superintendents’ Conference and the UCLA Women’s Leadership Academy. Additionally, Dan has shared insights on the “Power of Moments” and “Leading with Positivity” with aspiring educational leaders, and he has addressed “Best Practices in School Safety” at the National Superintendents’ Forum in San Antonio, Texas. He also dedicates his time towards instructing educators across the region through organizations such as USC and the LVUSD Center for Educational Excellence and Graduate School of Education, providing them with the skills and knowledge essential to become future administrators and leaders in education.
“It is an honor to serve as superintendent and work with such passionate and dedicated staff, whose number-one priority is the success and well-being of our students,” says Dan. Working to support our students’ growth and success in the classroom and in the community is an absolute honor and joy. Our board of education, a wonderful group of dedicated community leaders, sets the vision and direction for the district. Our focus areas this year have been student achievement, fiscal responsibility, and collaborative efforts.”
Some of the award-winning, innovative programs Las Virgenes offers are the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma, a Waldorf-inspired K-8 school, dual immersion, STEAM programs, GATE (Gifted and Talented Education), arts integration, district-wide counseling support for PreK-12, and career technical education pathways, such as sports medicine, broadcast engineering, and robotics. The excellence of Las Virgenes is a result of focused and supportive leaders, dedicated and passionate staff, amazing and hard-working students, unparalleled parent support, and strong community connections. To learn more about Las Virgenes, visit lvusd.org.
4111 Las Virgenes Rd.
Fran Kenton M.A., PPS, CHWC
Founder | Creator
Fran Kenton is the founder and creator of Autonome (pronounced like autonomy), a digital social emotional learning (SEL) program for teens and young adults. Her future was informed by her family’s values of compassion, acceptance, and the fundamental belief that every human being has the potential to lead a meaningful life.
Those values shaped Fran’s life choices and career. She developed a passion for working with young people in their journeys to reach potential, discover purpose, and achieve a sense of wellbeing.
As a student at UC Berkeley, Fran volunteered in an Oakland neighborhood youth project and continued volunteering throughout her extensive career as an educator and counselor in the Lawndale and Las Virgenes Unified school districts, where she worked in middle and high school in both traditional and alternative settings with diverse student populations.
Fran co-authored the Transition Partnership Project curriculum and, through its implementation, successfully guided high school students through their post high school transitions.
Recognizing a crucial need to integrate SEL into the educational landscape, Fran embarked on a mission to address a gap where students lacked essential skills to navigate life’s complexities. She earned her Health and Wellness Coaching Certification and coached high school and college students.
Fran then set out to create a digital interactive program designed to equip all young people with the knowledge, skills, and mindset to manage life’s inevitable challenges. Through her expertise as an educator, counselor, and health and wellness coach, Fran created Autonome.
Autonome reflects Fran’s passion and understanding that a well-rounded education, inclusive of SEL competencies, sets our young people up for success in the next stages of life. Autonome is the perfect partner for schools committed to investing in a foundation of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decisionmaking for their students. Those interested can contact their school about Autonome or reach out to Fran directly.
Fran and her husband, Victor, live in Calabasas. As involved grandparents to their grandchildren, Theo, Elizabeth, Jake, and Andrew, it is Fran’s heartfelt desire to empower all young people with the tools, strategies, and mindset to manage life today while navigating towards a positive future.
Owner | Founder
Rear View Mirror Holdings
Asset Management Consulting Services
Lexington Property Management
After graduating Taft High School at the age of 17, Doug left his native Los Angeles. Eighteen years later, he returned—a changed person—to start his real estate career. What changed him? Years at UC Irvine, UC Davis, and the U.S. Air Force tell only part of the story. In those years, nine of which were spent living overseas, Doug gained the world view that he credits for both his personal and professional success.
He has lived in 10 states and four countries, earned USAF F-111 “Top Gun” honors, experienced life behind the Berlin Wall, attended graduate school, taught economics at the USAF Academy, and cofounded the Colorado Ski School for the Blind.
While Doug credits his work ethic and attention to detail to his military service, he owes his real estate expertise to 10 years as EVP and COO of CNA Enterprises, with its $1 billion commercial portfolio. At CNA, Doug honed his asset management, finance, and leasing skills.
In this regard, all of Doug’s ventures are sticklers for 24/7 transparency, continuous risk assessment, preventative maintenance, and exhaustive tenant screening.
What Doug does is as unique as how he does it. While his asset management for charitable foundations has been widely praised, it is the returns he has achieved on “value added” real estate investments and his creation of new industries to serve emerging needs that have turned heads.
On the investment side, he has made an art form out of “turning sows’ ears into silk purses.” On the property management side, Doug and his wife, Denise, created both the “home management” and “fractional estate management” industries when they realized that everything they were doing to help take care of their parents’ properties was exactly what bi-coastal families, busy executives, and high-net-worth retirees need to properly care for their properties.
While it might seem unexpected that a former USAF “Top Gun” would find happiness settled into a life centered in Calabasas, Malibu, and Westlake Village, it makes perfect sense to Doug. His real estate investments keep him in touch with the nation’s pulse while his local businesses enable him to serve his community.
No two days are alike, and most importantly, being local keeps him close to his wife, children, and mother, who just celebrated her 92nd birthday!
Christine Tonoli, MBA
Executive Director, Adolescent Division
Leading transformative care for families and their struggling teens, Christine Tonoli, MBA, is executive director of the Adolescent Division at Centered Health, which includes Beachside Teen Treatment Center and Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, premier residential behavioral health facilities. In the realm of healthcare leadership and community empowerment, Christine has emerged as a prominent figure in Malibu, Calabasas, and beyond. Her journey helping those with mental health issues reflects resilience, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to transforming lives.
Christine’s impact extends beyond her executive role as she ardently advocates for mental health awareness, participating as a guest speaker and media personality. In an exclusive interview, Christine articulated to us her vision of “compassionate, clientcentered care,” emphasizing innovative crisis leadership and the progression of mental health support.
With a background in organizational leadership and an MBA in strategic management, Christine possesses the academic foundation to instigate change through research-based training programs and corporate initiatives. Through corporate initiatives, Christine extends her influence to the community, advocating for diversity and enhanced representation. This commitment is evident in her past leadership roles at Glendale Memorial Hospital and her diverse leadership background encompassing optometry, ophthalmology, and dentistry.
In addition to her distinguished role as a healthcare leader, Christine actively supports the LGBTQ+ community and champions personal causes, including advocating for women in crisis. Christine is dedicated to empowering women and minorities while raising awareness about mental health. Christine finds strength and affirmation in her daughter’s journey from being in the Marine Corps to being a police officer, reinforcing her belief in the resilience and capability of women.
Christine shows us that confident female leaders don’t seek credit for others’ success. They embody self-respect and celebrate achievements, finding satisfaction in assisting on the journey. They prioritize support over competition, fostering a collaborative environment with other women leaders.
Christine’s journey serves as a reminder that individuals can ignite hope, embody compassion, drive innovation, and empower the next generation of leaders. Beachside Teen Treatment Center and Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, subsidiaries of Centered Health, can be found at centeredhealth.com.
Beachside Teen Treatment Center: Malibu
Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center: Agoura Hills
Rhonda Kalasho, DDS
TruGLO Modern Dental of Calabasas
Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, a distinguished dentist renowned for her exceptional dental aesthetic craftsmanship, is the visionary creator of TruGLO Modern Dental, a highly acclaimed, five-star dental office offering a wide range of specialized treatments, all delivered with the utmost care and affordability. With offices in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and now Calabasas, Dr. Kalasho is on a mission to redefine dental care in Southern California, focusing on patient-centered excellence, clinical expertise, and the integration of cutting-edge technology.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Dr. Kalasho immigrated to the United States in 1992, a year after experiencing the devasting impact of the Iraq Gulf War. As a child, she endured excruciating pain from a toothache, rendering her unable to eat. A visit to a local pediatric dentist changed her life. The compassion and care the dentist showed left an indelible mark, inspiring her to dedicate her life to providing personalized care to others.
Dr. Kalasho attended the UCLA School of Dentistry, where she was recognized for her outstanding restorative and clinical skills. She further honed her skills through a general practice residency at the UCSD/VA San Diego, where she received specialized training in oral surgery and endodontics.
The mark of Dr. Kalasho’s dedication to excellence and innovation can be seen in every aspect of TruGLO Modern Dental. The offices are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including 5D scanners, CT scans, artificial intelligence, robotic assistants, and cutting-edge digital equipment, setting new standards for dental practices in Southern California.
Beyond her clinical skills and innovative dentistry, Dr. Kalasho was hailed by Forbes as “Hollywood’s Most Stylish Dentist,” emphasizing her ability to create a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere, complete with upbeat music and chill vibes that put patients at ease. And with TruGLO Modern Dental now expanding into Calabasas, the community can experience her top-tier dental brand firsthand.
Dr. Rhonda Kalasho’s journey, from humble beginnings in Iraq to thriving dental practices throughout Southern California, exemplifies the power of dedication, compassion, and a commitment to excellence. Her determination and genuine desire to make a difference is evidence of how one can achieve their dreams and bring positive change to the lives of those we serve.
23622 Calabasas Rd., #148
Managing Partner, Information Technology
In the fast-paced world of IT consulting, Mikey Sodetani is a highly sought-after expert, known for his exceptional dedication and innovative approach to solving problems. As a managing partner at Castellan, a leading IT services firm in Calabasas, Sodetani has become a standout figure in the Los Angeles area.
He is celebrated for his work at Castellan, significantly improving the computer systems and technology strategies of small and midsize businesses, always with a clear focus on producing real, noticeable improvements. Sodetani’s ability to understand and meet the needs of his clients has made him a key player in enhancing the effectiveness of business technology throughout the city.
Born in Hollywood and raised in Moorpark, Mikey Sodetani’s life story is a rich tapestry of leadership roles. Mentored by Hormazd Dalal, founder of Castellan, Sodetani has dynamically crafted his expertise, channeling it towards developing impactful and client-focused IT solutions.
In his role, Sodetani has been instrumental in steering Castellan through major technological evolutions, from the early days of smartphones to the current complexities of cybersecurity and cloud computing.
His strategy extends beyond technical acumen; it centers on deeply understanding client needs and crafting solutions that not only resolve current issues but also drive future growth and efficiency. This results-driven approach has been key in building enduring, value-based client relationships.
Sodetani’s varied interests, including his dedication to Krav Maga, reflect a personality that thrives on diversity yet remains focused on achieving concrete results.
His discipline as a 2nd degree black belt and global martial arts instructor mirrors his professional ethos: targeted, disciplined, and constantly aiming for excellence. A devoted family man, Sodetani’s personal life, including his role as a father, and soon-tobe father again, adds depth to his professional drive, infusing his technological endeavors with a sense of balance and humanity.
Sodetani’s exceptional leadership at Castellan is marked by his unwavering commitment to delivering outstanding results for clients. His innovative approach to each project continues to redefine the landscape of IT consulting, further cementing his status as a trailblazing leader in the industry.
23923 Ventura Blvd.
Founder | Chief Executive Officer
In the dynamic world of strategic communications, Miri Rossitto stands out as a true navigator, charting new courses with remarkable flair. As the founder and CEO of Cowe Communications, she has skillfully steered her Calabasas-based company to international recognition in a mere eight years.
The key to her success? A blend of visionary leadership and a team of award-winning professionals, together shattering conventional boundaries and setting new standards in their industry.
Renowned for her ability to challenge the status quo, she employs what is best described as ‘intuitive disruption’—strategies that reshape conventional thinking.
This approach has made her the go-to brand expert for a diverse range of clients. From up-and-coming local startups to established multinational corporations, they all seek out Cowe Communications for what Miri uniquely offers: a perfect mix of unvarnished honesty and strategic insight.
Under Miri’s astute leadership, Cowe Communications has evolved beyond the norms of traditional business development. The firm offers a comprehensive suite of services—from public relations and social media management to graphic design, website development, copywriting, photography, and much more.
Each service is infused with Miri’s philosophy: to provide end-toend solutions that not only meet but exceed client expectations. This comprehensive, all-encompassing approach has positioned Cowe Communications as a frontrunner in the industry.
At the core of Miri’s success is her mastery of storytelling. She believes that at the heart of every brand is a narrative waiting to be told, a story that educates and inspires. Miri excels in bringing these stories to life, connecting brands with their audiences in profound and lasting ways.
Despite the high demand for her skills, Miri maintains a selective approach to client partnerships. This exclusivity ensures that each project receives her full focus and dedication, leading to outcomes that are not just successful but truly transformative.
Miri Rossitto is not just rising to the top—she’s redefining what it means to be at the forefront of brand and business development. Keep an eye on her as she rewrites the playbook of strategic communications, masterfully weaving a tapestry of success stories, one client at a time.
4500 Park Granada, #202
Information Systems Manager
Las Virgenes Municipal Water District
Ivo Nkwenji, information systems manager at Las Virgenes
Municipal Water District (LVMWD), is responsible for the
maintenance, protection, and functioning of the district’s
information and operational technology systems. From the
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA)—which provides automated operational control of the district’s tanks, piping, valves, and entire delivery system—to cybersecurity, information systems and management, and geographic information systems (GIS), Ivo’s responsibilities could not be more important to ensuring consistent and reliable water delivery to our homes and businesses.
From Bamenda, Cameroon, Ivo spent his formative years playing soccer, going to school, and doing chores that helped his family. In contrast to the convenience of tap water right at our fingertips, Ivo and his family would walk long distances every morning—even before school—to get clean water for the day’s needs. At an early age, Ivo understood the importance of water, which compelled him to focus his career on water resources, engineering, and the technology that helps get water to people.
After achieving his bachelor’s degree from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, Ivo moved to California and pursued another degree in computer science and a master’s degree in GIS. Before finding his home at LVMWD, he worked for the City of Santa Monica for 15 years as a systems analyst and a principal business process technology analyst.
Ivo has always been fascinated by how things are put together. This has compelled him to combine his passions for engineering and water and turn them into a career. While water delivery systems were once managed without computer interfacing, Ivo’s expertise in the digital infrastructure required to operate a water district is critical to our collective water’s reliability and safety and public health. Ivo doesn’t just see his career as a job; he understands that water is a human right that connects everyone.
Outside of work, Ivo is a Manchester United fan who spends his time hiking the Hollywood Hills; raising his two children, Kela and Kweenzi, with his wife Juliana; and working with the Cameroon Group USA and the Cameroon Humanitarian Relief Initiative to give back to the community that raised him.
If Ivo has one message to share, it is to not take what you have for granted, enjoy life, help each other, and give back however and wherever you can.
4232 Las Virgenes Rd.
Carie & Marc Hernandez
Sunrose California Eatery
Carie and Marc are co-founders of the new Sunrose California Eatery in Agoura Hills. Together, they have over 50 years of hospitality experience. Carie grew up in her family’s deli, Brent’s Deli, where she fell in love with the hustle and bustle of restaurant life. She learned the art of authentic hospitality, creating a warm atmosphere where customers felt valued and welcome.
Beginning his career at the iconic Statler Hotel at Cornell University, Marc discovered a natural talent for developing efficient systems and strong cultures around an employee-first business strategy.
After successfully launching the second location of Brent’s Deli, Carie and Marc sold their interest in the L.A. landmark. Rested and ready, they have now harnessed their passion and experience to redefine daytime eating with Sunrose.
Sunrose California Eatery is a stylish daytime eatery, bar, market, and anytime event space that celebrates classic California with a modern twist.
Spending a lifetime in the restaurant industry has allowed Carie and Marc to become experts, and they have brought an immense amount of knowledge and experience. Since the service industry tends to have tough hours, both Carie and Marc agreed that they wanted to foster a work environment that allows their employees to spend time with their families in the evening.
That said, Sunrose California Eatery primarily is open during the day before turning into a special event space that can be rented out in the evenings. Carie and Marc’s love of brunch also played a factor in the overall setting and menu. They aspire to fill the walls with memories, laughter, and happiness.
Sunrose aims to be the new favorite neighborhood spot hidden in the heart of Agoura Hills. Step into the warm and stylish atmosphere, perfect for everyday celebrations. Indulge in the daytime greatest hits menu featuring chef-inspired breakfast, brunch, and lunch options crafted with responsibly-sourced ingredients. The prime Agoura Hills location also allows for easy access from the freeway and Malibu.
A place to gather, escape, work, or play, Sunrose is there to help guests savor every day Relax in the open-air seating with a refreshing breeze and enjoy the signature boozy brunch to feel the weekend vibes all week long.
Whizin Market Square
5046 Cornell Rd.
Construction Project Manager
Vitoli Builders, Inc.
Oz Tzalalihin has served as an integral team member at Vitoli Builders for the past three years. Oz grew up in Woodland Hills and attended El Camino Real Charter High School, graduating at the young age of 16 years old. He furthered his education at Cornell University, graduating at 19 years old. While Oz excelled in a classroom environment, his true passion was to work in an industry where he could utilize his creative design capabilities while spending as much time working in an outdoor environment.
As a construction project manager at Vitoli, his overall goal is to bring his clients’ outdoor dreams to life with landscaping projects that become a masterpiece of innovation, beauty, and sustainability.
Renowned for his skill in project management and maintaining budgets, Oz envisions complex backyard remodels with Vitoli ’s inhouse teams that handle everything from design and engineering to execution and white-glove construction. His focus is not just on creating grand designs but also on ensuring that every detail comes to life seamlessly, reflecting his passion for transforming outdoor spaces into breathtaking havens.
Oz assumes a multifaceted role within Vitoli , overseeing engineers, architects, and landscape architects in his day-to-day operations. As the central point of contact, he meticulously manages all client communications, epitomizing a one-stop solution for a smooth construction process.
His can-do attitude and meticulous attention to detail ensure that every phase of the project, from conception to execution, is seamlessly orchestrated for an exceptional outcome. Oz also understands that nature can be a destructive force for homeowners and property managers. The recent heavy rains in Southern California have accelerated the problems of hillside erosion, leading to damage of structures, loss of vegetation, and even landslides.
Oz and his team of hillside specialists work diligently to find long-lasting solutions to control or prevent this problem, and he has become an authority in creating resilient walls capable of withstanding nature’s forces.
Oz’s expertise spans various localities, including Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, and North Ranch, where his work has left a lasting impression.
23586 Calabasas Rd., #209