Home / Opinion / Readers pick Wegman as top CEO

Readers pick Wegman as top CEO

In an RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s Daniel Wegman was selected by readers as the local business CEO of the decade.
 
Roughly 630 readers took part in the poll, conducted Dec. 21 and 22.

The top picks of respondents to the RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll on Rochester’s CEO of the decade were:

In your view, who is Rochester’s CEO of the decade?
Danny Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.: 23 percent
Anne Mulcahy, Xerox Corp.: 12 percent
Arunas Chesonis, Paetec Holding Corp.: 9 percent
Richard Sands, Constellation Brands Inc.: 6 percent
Joel Seligman, University of Rochester: 6 percent
Richard Kaplan, Pictometry International Corp.: 4 percent
John LiDestri, LiDestri Foods Inc.: 4 percenta
David Fiedler, ESL Federal Credit Union: 4 percent
Albert Simone, Rochester Institute of Technology: 4 percent
Kitty Van Bortel, Van Bortel Group: 4 percent
Thomas Bonadio, The Bonadio Group: 3 percent
George Hamlin, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co.: 3 percent
Laurence Glazer, Buckingham Properties LLC: 2 percent
Wayne LeChase, LeChase Construction Services LLC: 2 percent
Jonathan Judge, Paychex Inc. : 1 percent
James Hammer, Hammer Packaging Corp.: 1 percent
Robert Gross, Monro Muffler Brake Corp.: 1 percent
Richard Dorschel, The Dorschel Group: 1 percent
Chester Massari, Harris Corp.’s RF Communications: 1 percent
David Klein, Lifetime Healthcare Cos. Inc.: 1 percent
Antonio Perez, Eastman Kodak Co.: 1 percent
William Pollock, Optimation Technology Inc.: 1 percent
Barry Gilbert, IEC Electronics Corp.: less than 1 percent
Dilip Vellodi, Sutherland Global Services Inc.: less than 1 percent
George Hamlin, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co.: less than 1 percent
Other: 6 percent 

In a separate survey, 11 RBJ news staffers also cast votes for the CEO of the decade. Like RBJ Daily Report readers, they picked Wegman—but he was tied at the top with two other CEOs: Laurence Glazer of Buckingham Properties LLC and George Hamlin of Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co.

When RBJ news staff members were polled on their pick for Rochester’s CEO of the decade, the results were:

Laurence Glazer, Buckingham Properties LLC 18%
George Hamlin, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co. 18%
Danny Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. 18%
Arunas Chesonis, Paetec Holding Corp. 9%
Robert Gross, Monro Muffler Brake Corp. 9%
David Klein, Lifetime Healthcare Cos. Inc. 9%
Chester Massari, Harris Corp.’s RF Communications 9%
Anne Mulcahy, Xerox Corp. 9%

The total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

Here are comments from readers:

After looking at my copy of the 1999 Lists, I voted for Danny Wegman. Wegmans has increased local employment by 170 percent in that time. Second place would go to Joel Seligman at University of Rochester for 100 percent growth. In an era of declining local employment at Kodak and Xerox, these were the two companies with the largest growth in local employment.
—Dennis Ditch, Delta Square

Tom Golisano gets my vote! I think of his business accomplishments and philanthropy as my gauge. Danny Wegman rates right up there, as well. Many of the people on your list are worthy of honorable mention. There would have to be another category for Antonio Perez to make a list.
—Lou Romano

In the time where so many banks abused their powers and provided mortgages that were clearly risky, Canandaigua National Bank bucked the trend and did business the right way.
—Lauren Judson, Mitchell Pierson Jr. Inc.

Philip R. Wegman. owner, Wegman Companies Inc. Flying under the radar to lead a small-sized company that has competed successfully and grown against all the major competitors is only a small portion of why he should be considered. His philanthropic contributions as a leader have continually helped local organizations achieve and reach beyond goals. His philosophy is to give a lot and be noticed little. He truly has accomplished this.
—Jay Wegman, vice president, Wegman Companies Inc.

John (LiDestri) has lived the American dream. He came to the U.S. as a teenager and has built a dynamic business from the ground up, creating jobs and helping the Rochester economy. Now he is moving to East Avenue in the heart of center city. I knew him at B.K. in the ‘60s. Congrats, John.
—Rich Mileo, Bishop Kearney High School class of ’66

Arunas has grown Paetec this decade from a small startup to a national publicly held player in the competitive telecom industry, creating several thousand jobs and generating returns for many local investors. He has created a company with a caring culture and community focus, and has made significant commitments and contributions to improve the Rochester area. In an era when greed and fraud seem to characterize business leaders nationwide, Arunas is shining proof that it’s still possible to do well while doing good.
—John Messenger, Paetec

Arunas is a very caring, bright and generous CEO to both his employees and his customers. He’s a great leader!
—Marcia Benwitz, Paetec

My choice of Steven Sauer is based upon his being the CEO of Business Methods Inc., an approximately 50-year-old Rochester founded and homegrown business. In 2004, Steven (and his partners Tim O’Neil and John Jabbour) sold this business to Toshiba but since then has stayed on as leader. Steven has continued to grow the business and add more local employees to the payroll. Steven was awarded the Rochester Small Business Person of the Year in 2002 and under his leadership the business was awarded the 2006 Rochester Business Ethics Award. Steven has been a great asset to this company and the Rochester community during this decade.
—Terry Kirchoff, Toshiba Business Solutions, AV Solutions Division

Without a doubt it has to be Joel Seligman. President Seligman faced the worst economic climate in 70+ years and did so while continuing to grow Rochester’s largest employer and biggest asset. The UR treats their employees well, they aren’t Dixon Schwabl or Wegmans, but employees are treated well. There are thousands of opportunities to continuing learning about health and wellness and academics. He also has done so while embracing a city as his own.
—Daman Andrews, Victor

Arunas Chesonis runs a very successful business, but also believes in giving back to the community and encourages his employees to do so as well.
—Kathleen Reeves, Paetec

George W. Hamlin IV has built a banking powerhouse on our own turf and turns back a tremendous amount of time, energy and money into our community. The entire list is impressive, but Mr. Hamlin has my vote hands down.
—Daniel Mossien, Mossien Associates Architects, PC

We have many wonderful and successful CEOs in our area. Ray Hutch, the founder and CEO, is far less well-known, but worthy of recognition as a CEO and community leader. He built Synergy (Western NY Computing Systems) up from a small two- or three-person technology company that today employees more than 200 "employee owners" in Upstate New York. He has led our company for almost 40 years, and in 2004 started Synergy on the path to being owned by the employees, as an ESOP. Ray has often said who better to own our company then the employees who built and continue to grow Synergy. Ray and his family have been recognized for their philanthropy and support of the arts. He is one of the most physically and intellectually active people I know. He is also modest, and probably will not appreciate my recommendation of him as CEO of the decade.
—Jim Stefano, vice president, HR, Client Services & Quality Synergy Global Solutions

Through his vision and leadership, Chester Massari was able to acquire many government contracts that allowed the Harris Corp. to maintain its presence in the Rochester area during a prolonged period of economic retraction.
—Tom Meilutis, J. Fiorie & Co.

With all due respect to every amazing person on this list, Arunas is by far, most fitting for this award. Call it what you will, in my case it’s the "big picture," but Arunas does not drive just business. He drives life, family and friends. I have a great respect for what he has done in the industry, but a greater respect for what he has done for his people, including me. I wish I could speak with data, numbers and statistics, but how do you measure admiration.
—Shawn Nichols, Paetec

I believe that Danny Wegman deserves this honor based on the company’s record of excellent customer service and satisfaction, excellent employee satisfaction and loyalty that lands Wegmans in the top tier of the “Best 100 Companies to Work,” continually perfecting their craft and expanding, surrounding themselves with great talent and work to keep that talent working for them, and last but not least is their generosity in giving back to the community and those in need. God bless them.
—B. Moser

I have never been so proud to work for not only for a company, but for a person. John LiDestri puts his employees first, not sometimes but all the time. It’s the type of work environment that makes you enjoy getting up to go to work. Because they promote safety and health daily. He doesn’t sit high on some a pedestal; he comes in to work “with” his employees. And get this, he constantly lets his employees know that they we made the company what it is today. Example: This year after receiving the top award from Rochester Business Journal, he rewarded his employees for a job well done with a bonus. Yes, that’s right, a bonus check equal to the amount of our weekly check. Of course the employees were surprised, but not shocked because his generosity shows throughout the year in everything he does weather it’s for his community or employees.
—Kimberly McKinney

If this is about growing a business in tough times, personal and corporate work ethic, commitment to employees, creating jobs, and simply being an example to the rest of us, then there is no other choice I could make than John LiDestri.
—Jim Garnham, Penfield

Mr. John LiDestri strives to keep his company operating in the Rochester area and has never had a layoff. He gives back to his employees continuously throughout the year. He recently purchased Kodak building No. 642 to expand his business in Rochester, as well as utilizing existing real estate. He is here at the Fairport corporate plant as much as possible and is a very down-to-earth guy.
—Heidi Fregoe, LiDestri Foods Inc.

Danny Wegman clearly wins this competition since he has shown exceptional consistency to improve his stores, grow their number, fairly treating his employees, and provide excellent goods and services to his customers. Worst is Antonio Perez, who in a decade destroyed a great company, did not learn about its products, services, and customers, did not bother to support the most profitable products, mindlessly continued to try to compete with the big guys, and in the process eliminated thousands of jobs, and created misery for many families.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

As a person who worked for a couple of the businesses listed, I proudly vote for Arunas Chesonis. I currently work for Paetec, and out of some of the other local businesses I worked for, I have never experienced a CEO who was so employee and customer driven.
—Christopher Sienkiewycz, Paetec Holding Corp.

Arunas just ROCKS. He is straight-up passionate, realistic and understanding. He understands the home/work life and promotes a strong, caring culture throughout the company!
—Zayra Lespier

I love working for Arunas because he treats his employees with respect. He is so normal. He never acts like he is better than people. Because he is so respectful, his employees would do anything for him. He is a true leader. After working for a boss who was very shady, I consider myself very fortunate to be on Arunas’s team.
—Kelly Doran, Paetec

As a Sutherland employee for the past eight years, my vote goes to my CEO: Dilip Vellodi. Dilip’s steadfast commitment to the Rochester community and employee base has been inspiring. As we have grown our worldwide employee base to over 23,000, we are constantly adding new jobs in our headquarter market of Rochester. I’m proud to work for Sutherland Global Services under the leadership of Mr. Vellodi.
—Katie Franklin, Sutherland Global Services

Dave Fiedler has taken a good credit union (bank) to become a great bank with exceptional customer loyalty and services. While not as well-known he is a role model of self-less leadership
—Clay Osborne, ESL board member

I chose Anne Mulcahy, since she has brilliantly managed to bring Xerox back from a precipice, which could have doomed the company. Being thrust into the position very quickly, and unexpectedly, she has done a wonderful job of turning the company around, including naming Ursula Burns as a co-leader of the company. Anne’s efforts have effectively re-invented the company as a versatile, business services company, from a single-product-minded company. While Anne has done a great job for Xerox, I would put Antonio Perez in last place in the decade, in that, while pulling down ridiculous compensation, he pushed the company ever closer to the same precipice. I bet it falls off soon!
—Hutch Hutchison, In T’Hutch Ltd.

Arunas Chesonis, CEO of Paetec, has built a $1.6 billion enterprise over the last decade from scratch. One of the core values of the organization is "Caring Culture" based on treating each employee as they are part of a family with the understanding that the better his employees are treated will ultimately result in a loyal customer base. This belief is firmly promoted by the senior executive team and throughout the company.
—Jason Grover, Paetec, Hartford, Conn.

Mr. Vellodi chose Rochester to headquarter a business process outsourcing company that provides support to multiple Fortune 100 companies worldwide. Over the last 20+ years, he has grown the business from a handful of employees to over 23,000+ worldwide with approximately 1,500 in Rochester. He has remained faithful to the community by choosing to maintain the corporate headquarters in Rochester supporting the community with consistent growth each year providing jobs even during tough economic times. He also ensures the corporation gives back to the community via, “SGS Cares,” which plans special events for the employees in which they can contribute funds (e.g., “Jeans Day” $2, “Management Dunking Booth” for $1, etc.) to realize those in need.
—Colleen Prince, Sutherland Global Services, Inc.

Dixon Schwabl helps raise millions of dollars for non-profit organizations in the Greater Rochester Community thanks to Lauren Dixon’s hard work and philanthropic ideals.
—Nancy Sands

I have only been working for Paetec for a short time, but Arunas has done so much for the people that work for him. The core values of Paetec are truly followed out on a day-to-day basis where you can physically see the caring culture, open communication, unmatched service and personalized solutions. Arunas truly works for the people, whether it be his employees, customers or the community. This is the best working environment I have ever been a part of, and I am proud to say that Paetec is my new home.
—Karen L. Rector, Paetec

This is certainly an impressive list of CEOs, especially for a small city like Rochester. However, the CEO that stands out for me is John LiDestri, who after receiving his nomination into the Business Hall of Fame gave his response through his employees’ paycheck. That says it all!
—Nancy Pagano, The Little Theatre

I am voting for my daughter, who is quite pleased with the Van Bortel Group. Kitty Van Bortel is the CEO and to be commended for her leadership.
—Greg Clyde

The essence of what a CEO must do in leading his or her organization is establish and communicate a vision, put the required resources in place, take calculated risks, adjust to changes over time and let a properly staffed organization do the job. The calculated risks part is a bit like placing educated bets on a business future. Over the past decade, Joe Klein has made several substantial bets on Rochester and Western New York. His vision and actions have brought about tremendous growth for his company, created jobs and provided a shining example of what an entrepreneurial leader can do to benefit a community… our community. Our community is fortunate to have many successful, dedicated entrepreneurial leaders. Joe Klein’s courage and determination cause him to stand out.
—John Schmits, Vistage Group chairman

Arunas led Paetec from $23 million of revenue in 1999 to $1.57 billion in 2008.
—Mike Meath, Paetec Communications Inc.

Sam (Huston) and his team saved Rochester General Hospital from closing and helped make it the profitable hospital it is today. Since RGH consistently scores highest in this area in quality, the region needs it to stay financially healthy.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester

Dick Kaplan is one of the most gifted and humble people I have ever met. As a serial entrepreneur, Pictometry isn’t his first success in leading an organization, but what he’s done with this company is incredible. Yet, he still finds the time to treat everyone he encounters with his attention and respect. The people we celebrate in this community should include not only those who have made companies wealthy, but also those who have enriched the lives of others in big ways. Dick does both every day.
—Nanette Levin, BookConductors, LLC

I firmly believe Paetec Holding Corp’s Mr. Arunas Chesonis is an exemplary CEO. There are a multitude of reasons, too many to address, however following are just a few that highlight Mr. Chesonis’ outstanding business practices and character traits that catapult him head and shoulders above the rest. His genuine interest and concern for his employees is continuously demonstrated. Paetec sponsors many functions that reflects his appreciation for the work and sacrifices made by the Paetec team, weekly corporate Webinars are clockwork where pertinent company information is openly shared, small group meetings are often held with Mr. Chesonis that enables Paetec employees to address him directly regarding specific questions or concerns they may have, and most impressively, he takes the time to learn all Paetec employees’ names. His value in the importance of family is clearly reflected with the numerous Paetec sponsored functions that are held throughout the year specifically geared to children. Also, family issues take precedence. Paetec employees are free/encouraged to address them for however long is required- no questions asked. The Chesonis Family Foundation exemplifies his passion and commitment to ignite a global change to make the world a better place for future generations. He is an approachable individual that exudes great karma. I am a very proud member of the Paetec family. Thank you for your time and consideration.
—Pamela Allen, Customer Care Representative III

While there are very talented and successful CEOs on your list for which the community should be very grateful, to my knowledge, Richard Sands’ achievement in bringing Constellation Brands, Inc. to the position of the largest wine business in the world has not been duplicated by any other CEO on the list in any other industry. That is why I think Richard should be uniquely selected as CEO of the decade. I would also note, and I am sure Richard would agree, that we should be celebrating all CEOs over the last decade who have been or are successfully leading their companies facing various and difficult challenges all the time.
—Jim Locke, Nixon Peabody LLP

(c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.
 

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