Mark Choe is the embodiment of the American Dream come to life. An immigrant from South Korea, Mark arrived in the United States on his own in 1985 in search of a more open and relaxed society than his native country. He has since risen from these humble beginnings to his current position as one of the most prominent and successful business leaders and restaurateurs in the progressive area of Takoma Park.
Upon his arrival in the United States, Mark was employed in a carry out cafe owned by his cousin in the Florida Avenue neighborhood of Washington, DC. While there, he discovered he had a natural ability to develop interpersonal relationships with customers and individuals in the neighborhood, despite the community not being known for its friendliness at the time. After saving enough money, Mark was eager to open his own business in the food service industry and start building his future in the United States. Following his brief ownership of a small grocery store in Takoma Park, Mark became familiar with the area and it was clear to him that there was a hole in the market for a casual, full-service family restaurant. Seizing this opportunity, he opened Mark’s Kitchen in 1990, which provided an eclectic variety of vegetarian and meat dishes in American and Korean styles. Bringing little experience as a cook prior to opening Mark’s Kitchen, Mark relied on books, magazines, TV shows, and the friends and contacts he made within the Takoma Park neighborhood to develop recipes for the restaurant’s menu.
Fusing the culture of his birth with that of his adopted country, Mark’s Kitchen has achieved tremendous success over its more than two decades in business. Using only top quality ingredients and spanning a range of menu options, from straight diner fare to Korean delicacies and blending dishes in between, with all meals made from scratch, the restaurant has become known as a local institution, community meeting place, and ‘emotional heart’ of the area. As one of the oldest restaurants in the city, Mark’s Kitchen has built a loyal following from customers and staff alike. Mark’s commitment to excellence, his genuine friendliness, and his generosity to the many nonprofits in the neighborhood have all contributed to the continued growth of his restaurant in spite of the competition from the several new restaurants that have opened in the area in the past few years.
In addition to overseeing and actively driving the daily operations of Mark’s Kitchen, Mark is a dedicated philanthropist and pillar of the community. Over the past 10 years, Mark’s Kitchen has donated approximately $40,000 to area nonprofits with close ties to Takoma Park. The restaurant also holds monthly benefit events, from which a portion of the proceeds are donated as well.
Mark lives in Chevy Chase with his wife, Helen, and 13 year old son, Peter, who attends Westland Middle School.
Vice President, Fitzgerald Auto Mall
Dottie Fitzgerald, a native Washingtonian, has helped her brother, Jack Fitzgerald, build Fitzgerald Auto Mall over the last 40 years right here in Montgomery County. Dottie is best known for her passionate skills in building relationships to assist her associates grow both personally and in their careers.
After spending her first working year in the real estate business, she was recruited by her brother to join his new dealership, Colonial Dodge, on old Georgetown Road in Bethesda “temporarily” as a switchboard operator and cashier. Approximately 47 years later, that “temporary” position and single dealership location has evolved into her role as Vice President overseeing 39 locations, with 20 brands, and 1,400 employees throughout Maryland, in Pennsylvania, and Florida. In 2013, Fitzgerald retailed just over 24,000 vehicles and served over 200,000 customers in the service departments. Dottie credits her continued success and leadership to her many mentors, including her brother, who offered her opportunities and challenges to learn the business from the ground up.
Dottie is a champion for young people entering the automotive workforce. Her involvement and dedication to the Montgomery County School System and its Auto Trades Foundation, which teaches young people the value of an education through a hands-on approach modeled after a dealership operation, is legendary. For 8 years Dottie led the charge to pass legislation to improve Maryland law so students could be covered by workers compensation when they participate in education-based work experiences. Dottie has received several recognition awards for her achievements, including the Larry Shulman Automotive Trades Foundation Award, the Northwood University Dealer Education award, the Catholic Business Leader of the Year award and is a 1995 graduate of Leadership Montgomery. Dottie has also been a champion of improving auto manufacturer and dealer relationships through her service on the Maryland Auto Dealers Association Board of Directors and through committee work with the Washington Area New Automotive Association. She is active on the Montgomery County Compensation Task Force and proudly supports the annual Montgomery County ‘Teacher of the Year’ program by providing the free lease of a new car for each teacher during their year of service.
Dottie is as passionate about advocacy for animals as she is about developing great employees. She has personally adopted 4 German Shepherds from rescue organizations. In 2014 she was recognized by the Washington Animal Rescue League for her lifetime of advocacy on behalf of animals and many organizations. In all aspects of her professional and personal life, Dottie lives the Fitzgerald Family philosophy, to ‘treat people the way we want to be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect,’ and to do good work by first being good people.
Co-founding Partner, CohnReznick
David Reznick, CPA, is a well-respected leader and expert in the accounting and real estate industries. Also an accomplished speaker, Mr. Reznick is well known in the local business and philanthropic communities. As one of the founding partners of CohnReznick, and a key factor in helping the local accounting firm grow into a national player and one of the country’s Top 1 0 Public Accounting firms, with over 20% growth in the last year, David is a seasoned professional who has been involved in HUD cost certification compliance and operational audit compliance since 1968. For more than 30 years, he has guided developers through HUD TPA transactions. David has also been a featured speaker in numerous national real estate industry seminars and affordable housing conferences and lectures on subjects such as: Passive Losses and Debt Restructuring, Historic Preservation, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, New Market Tax Credits, HUD Cost Certification under sections 221D(4) and 232, Multifamily Housing, and other related matters. Reznick is also a member of the District of Columbia Business Hall of Fame.
For David, the accounting profession has always been more than the numbers. As a native of the Montgomery County area, who only left for a short stint in the Army, David has continued to count his local boyhood friends among his key business partners over the years. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1959, David and his grade-school friend, Stu Fedder, founded Reznick, Fedder and Silverman in 1977, which became The Reznick Group in 2004 when Fedder retired and Silverman agreed to change his name to “Group,” as Reznick recounts fondly. Reznick and his partners quickly carved out a niche in the market as a full-service accounting firm with an edge- their particular expertise in affordable housing. Reznick was one of the early supporters of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, created by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and has grown into the principle provider of new and rehabilitated affordable housing in the country. The Reznick team set to work to determine the ways around the often arcane government financing procedures and policies to maximize land usage and development, and provide affordable housing for individuals across the country. Due to this, Reznick has been honored by the National Association of Home Builders as well as the Affordable Housing Today for contributions to affordable housing.
In addition to his business achievements and leadership, David is also a well-respected community activist and philanthropic donor. He is a founding member of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes and has been named “Man of the Year” by YACHAD and AVODAH. Along with his team at The Reznick Group, he is also active in fundraising for research, treatment, and awareness efforts for a number of illnesses, including childhood cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and muscular dystrophy.
Ola Sage is an accomplished business leader with a life rich in accomplishments. Following in the footsteps of her successful entrepreneurial parents, Ola immigrated to the United States from West Africa as a student with a vision to someday start her own business. Following the completion of an M.S program in Technology Management from George Mason University she founded e-Management in 1999. The company delivers innovative IT and cybersecurity solutions that help clients drive business performance by maximizing efficiencies, and reducing risks to achieve business goals. Ola’s passion for technology, coupled with her intense curiosity in the world of information systems and how they merge with an enterprise’s business goals, formed the basis for her career and current role as Chief Executive Officer of e-Management. To-date, Sage has spearheaded more than $100 million in funded contracts for e-Management with several large U.S. federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation, Department of Treasury, Department of Health and Human Services and NASA.
Ola continues to strive for innovation to distinguish e-Management’s solutions from competitors; leveraging its enterprise risk management commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), eGov Risk Portfolio Manager™; and CyberRx™, its latest innovation in cybersecurity. CyberRx is a risk intelligence service that leverages industry best practices to measure an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities and provides small and medium-sized businesses with an approach for continuous cybersecurity risk management and a path to improve their overall cybersecurity readiness. As a small business CEO herself, Ola’s passion is to help her fellow small business owners increase their organization’s cybersecurity preparedness and resilience.
Ola has been recognized for her numerous achievements by receiving several prestigious awards, including the 2010 Women in Technology (WIT) leadership award in the Corporate Public Sector Small Business category, SmartCEO magazine’s 2012 Brava! Women Business Achievement award (Washington), and the Washington Business Journal 2013 Top 25 Minority Business Leader award. Sage, a Certified Project Management Professional® (PMP®), also holds professional certifications in risk management, government financial management, and the prestigious Chief Information Officers (CIO) certificate from the federal CIO University. Under her leadership, e-Management has ranked four times on the Washington Technology Fast 50 and Inc. top companies lists. Ola currently serves on the Executive Committee of the IT Sector Coordinating Council focused on National Critical Infrastructure Protection.
Ola is involved with various philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, such as A Wider Circle, where she currently sits on the board. She is a strong advocate of giving back to the community and encourages her employees who volunteer and give to causes such as Girls on the Run, The Literary Council of Montgomery County, the Frederick Giving Project, and the Department of Energy’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® “Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR” campaign, among others. Sage’s company, e-Management, has helped raise more than $50,000 to support local non-profit and charitable initiatives and has set up multiple-year scholarships for college students in IT through the University of Maryland and the Universities at Shady Grove.
Outside of her duties as CEO, Ola finds balance in life through a shared interest with her husband for social ballroom dancing, watching movies, and exploring the world through travel.
Founder & President, AST Partnership for Brighter Tomorrows
Annie Simonian Totah is a leading business woman, dedicated philanthropist, and recognized humanitarian leader in the American, Jewish and Armenian communities, passionately raising millions of dollars for all three. After immigrating to the United States from Lebanon in 1971 with little more than her personal belongings, Totah has established a reputation over the last four decades as a leading business woman who has raised and donated millions of dollars to support community and philanthropic causes across the globe. Known for her unique capacity to bring global issues into an intimate setting as well as her extensive international networking abilities, Totah has been instrumental in the development of committed relationships with domestic policy makers and worldwide charitable organizations. Totah is also passionate about real estate and interior design. Along with her husband, Sami, over the past 35 years Totah has also built a thriving real estate development business, The Oxbridge Group, in the Washington, D.C. area. Totah also ran a successful interior design business for over 20 years. Totah is known as a tireless and dedicated philanthropist and local activist, as well as a major donor within the nationwide Armenian and American communities. Her advocacy efforts over the past two decades have resulted in helping raise more than $1.5 billion in foreign aid, being secured for her ancestral homeland of Armenia, following the demise of the Soviet Republic.
In addition to her significant international and local real estate business achievements, Totah has gained recognition for her considerable talents in developing and executing successful fundraising events for democratic candidates and several charitable causes, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance their campaigns and their missions. A breast cancer survivor, Totah bequested $1 million to Sibley Hospital’s Executive Wing through her nonprofit, the Sami and Annie Totah Family Foundation. Annie also has chaired and serves on the Boards of many leading nonprofit organizations in the local area, including the Armenian Assembly of America, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Marshall Legacy Institute, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Washington Performing Arts Society, The Magen David Sephardic Congregation, the Washington Ballet, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Sibley Hospital, Georgetown Hipsotal, Best Buddies, PEN/Faulkner, CARE Humanitarian Organization, Young Concert Artists, Woodrow Wilson Council, Youth Orchestra of the Americas, Heifitz International Music Institute, Post Classical Ensemble, Hope of Light Foundation, the Phillips Collection, and the Strathmore Arts Center among others. Additionally, Totah designed and oversaw the construction of the first and only Sephardic Synagogue in the Nation’s Capital, named after her late father-in-law.
Totah has four grown children and five grandchildren and lives in Potomac, Maryland. Well-versed in several languages, including English, French, Armenian, Arabic and Turkish. She enjoys world affairs, international travel, dance, interior design, cooking, and entertaining.