Meet the 2023 class of Abilene Young Professionals’ 20 Under 40

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene Young Professionals (AYP), an Abilene Chamber of Commerce program dropped its 2023 list of Top 20 Under 40 this week, recognizing 20 young professionals who are making a difference in the Abilene community.

Criteria which must be met to make it on the 20 Under 40 list include:

  • Must work in Abilene
  • Must be under the age of 40 as of Jan. 1, 2023
  • Must not have been a previous 20 Under 40 honoree

Let’s meet this year’s honorees!

Number 1 – Jessica Ambrose

31-year-old Jessica Ambrose is a Senior Tax Manager with Eide Bailly, LLP.

AYP: Jessica Ambrose, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Ambrose what the next decade might hold for her, “In 10 years, I hope to still be helping business thrive and succeed in our community. My wish is that I see some that I have helped as start ups be strong pillars in their industry in our surrounding areas.”

Ambrose’s community involvement:

  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce (Leadership Abilene Class of 2020)
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Texas Society of CPAs, Abilene Chapter – Member
  • Texas Society of CPAs, Abilene Chapter – Board Member (since 2021)
  • Junior League of Abilene – Volunteer; Board Member (2019-2021) 

Tap here to learn more about Jessica Ambrose.

Outside of her many accomplishments and dedication to Abilene, Ambrose said she enjoys playing and spending time with her 2-year-old son and her husband, Clay, soaking up some sun whenever this family can. You can also find her with a good book and an even better glass of wine.

Number 2 – Samantha Baker

35-year-old Samantha Baker is a Regional Marketing Director for First Financial Bank in Abilene.

AYP: Samantha Baker, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Like many others, Baker made her way to Abilene through college and had plans to move on afterwards, but fell in love with the community, “Once I got involved in Abilene Young Professionals, I started seeing the potential for our young professionals on how we can retain them in Abilene with the increase in job opportunities, social events, and the food and entertainment industry. The growth downtown has helped tremendously, and Abilene is continuing to thrive in commercial development.

Baker’s community involvement:

  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
    • ​Steering Committee (Aug. 2014 – Dec. 2016)
    • Highlighted Member of the Month – May 2017
    • Leadership Summit Committee Member (Jan. – June 2019)
    • AYP Bash Committee Member (Jan. – Apr. 2020)
  • Big Country AHEC
    •  Board Member (Apr. 2017 – Feb. 2019)
  • Big Country SHRM
    • Marketing Chair (Apr. 2017 – Apr. 2018)
  • Hardin Simmons University
    • Board of Young Associates (Jan. 2019 – Feb. 2022)
  • Junior Achievement
    • Volunteer (since Dec. 2015)
    • Volunteer of the Year – May 2017
  • Kiwanis of Greater Texas
  • Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health
    • Board of Directors (Present)
  • Noah Project
    • Board of Directors (since Jan. 2020)
  • Taylor County Expo Center
    • Board of Directors (since Sept. 2021)
  • United Way of Abilene
    • Loan Executive (Jul. 2017 – Feb. 2018)
    • Employee Campaign Coordinator of the Year Award – March 2021

What a resumé! Tap here to learn more about Samantha Baker.

When she’s not working or volunteering, Baker can be found spending time with her husband, Wade and their 1-year-old, along side their three fur babies.

Number 3 – Holly Cox

37-year-old Holly Cox works as an Administrator of Programs and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist for Hendrick Home for Children.

AYP: Holly Cox, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Cox about her three daily habits that lead her to success. She replied:

  1. Prayer and focusing on the “doing” part of faith. I love the book Love Does. I try to make sure I’m not just thinking about what I want to do to help those around me and try to just go and do it. The author, Bob Goff, would say that no one was ever remembered for what they just planned on doing.
  2. I start each day with a clear purpose, whether that be spending time with my family, checking something off my to do list, or simply taking care of myself for the day. When you do that, you are less likely to be steered by impulses, and you feel more secure: you have a plan.
  3. I do something to continue learning, whether that be reading a book, listening to a podcast, or talking to someone wiser than me.

Cox’s community involvement:

  • Day Nursery of Abilene Board of Trustees (Secretary)
  • Abilene Young Professionals (Member)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Texas)
  • Licensed Child Care Administrator (Texas, Region 2)
  • Association of Christian Childcare Administrators (Member)
  • National Military Family Association (Member)

Tap here to learn more about Holly Cox.

After hours, Cox says her life is filled with so much love through her husband of 18 years, Steve, their two daughters, her parents, and her sisters.

Number 4 – Kimberly Eickholt

34-year-old Kimberly Eikholt is the Executive Director at Wisteria Place Retirement Living.

AYP: Kimberly Eikholt, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Eikholt told AYP the best advice she’s received is simply to value herself, “Putting others ahead of your needs is valuable, but if you are constantly pouring your cup to empty to help others you will eventually run out of energy to give others. Ensuring my health and attitude are maintained is crucial to my ability to positively impact and lead others.”

Eikholt’s community involvement:

  • Stratford Who’s Who – 2022
  • Chi Sigma Iota – Tarleton
    • 2019-2020 – Past-President
    • 2018-19 – President
  • W.O. and Flo Trogdon Individual Service (Tarleton 2019)
  • Graduate Student Leader Award (Tarleton 2018)
  • Chi Sigma Iota – Theta Sigma Upsilon / Tarleton State University
    • 2018-19 – President
    • 2019-20 – Past-President
  • Senior Advisor / Diplomats / Tarleton State University (2017-2019)
  • Treasurer / NAMI / Tarleton State University (2018-2019)
  • Applied Psychology Graduate Researcher/Editor / Tarleton State University (2017-2019)

To learn more about Kimberly Eikholt, tap here.

Out-of-office, you might find Eikholt dabbling in the kitchen, cooking or baking. When she can, though, she likes to travel and learn about different cultures and food.

Number 5 – Brent Hill

38-year-old Brent Hill is a Senior Vice President and Trust Officer for First Financial Trust.

AYP: Brent Hill, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Hill about a significant hurdle that’s made him the man he is today, to which he replied:

“I once moved to Houston for five years, and spent 4.5 of those years trying to move back to Abilene (and First Financial). As much of a derailer as it seemed at the time, I think I would do it again. I gained valuable perspective about how great the lifestyle in Abilene and working for First Financial can be. I learned that the metaphorical grass is not always greener (even if the grass is literally greener in Houston).”

Hill’s community involvement:

  • Global Samaritan Resources – Board Chair
  • Salvation Army Advisor Board Member – Board Treasurer
  • Frontier Texas Board Member – VP Finance

Tap here to learn more about Brent Hill.

A hardworking father to two little ones and husband to Hannah, Hill said he likes to get away on his dirt bike in the mountains of Colorado, or an Alabama beach when he can.

Number 6 – Kaden Kimberlin

38-year-old Kaden Kimberlin is the Vice President of Programming and Morning Show Host for 95.1 The Wolf.

AYP: Kaden Kimberlin, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

With enthusiasm and a calling for entertaining, Kimberlin told AYP it was one of the greats in radio – Kidd Kraddick – who most influenced him, “His love for the radio industry was second to none. Listening to Kidd every morning is what gave me the desire to be an on-air personality. But it wasn’t until I met him that I really understood his passion. He taught me that radio is more than just having fun and making people laugh, it is a platform to help others. We have an opportunity to impact lives every day!

Kimberlin’s community involvement:

  • Trinity Baptist Church – Member
  • Salvation Army – Executive Board Member
  • Honorary Commander for the 7th Bomb Wing’s Honorary Commander’s Program
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce (Leadership Abilene Class of 2020)
  • Abilene Police Academy – Class of 2022
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Military Affairs Committee – Member
  • Abilene Business Council (2019-2021)

Tap here to learn more about Kaden Kimberlin.

Off-air, Kimberlin is a husband of 14 years to wife, Marli, and has a 5-year-old daughter. As great as Abilene is, he said he enjoys getting away to Las Vegas.

Number 7 – Chris Mabry

39-year-old Chris Mabry is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Betty Hardwick Center.

AYP: Chris Mabry, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

In typical CFO fashion, Mabry told AYP he received his best advice from a book.

“I love the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. A line I think about often is, Making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse is insignificant in the moment. But over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be.’ Every choice we make is placing a vote for who you really are.”

Mabry’s community involvement:

  • Pioneer Drive Baptist Church – Member
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce – 2019 Leadership Abilene Graduate
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Citizens Police Academy – 2012 Graduate
  • United Way of Abilene – Loaned Executive (2008)
  • Big Country Soccer Association – Volunteer
  • Sting Soccer Club – Volunteer
  • Special Olympics of Texas – Unified Partner
  • Texas Council Risk Management Fund – Advisory Board Member (since 2018)

Tap here to learn more about Chris Mabry.

If you’re looking around and can’t find Mabry on a soccer pitch, you might try his backyard. He can be find there, cooking out with friends and family – his wife, Rachel and their three daughters.

Number 8 – Dr. Stuart Martin

36-year-old Dr. Stuart Martin is an Attending Physician of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hendrick Health.

AYP: Dr. Stuart Martin, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

To others considering the medical field, Dr. Martin advised, “To work in healthcare is both an honor and a privilege… people entrust you with their lives. It HAS to be a labor of love, but there is no more gratifying job you can pour your sweat and heart into.”

Dr. Martin’s community involvement:

  • Texas Tech Physician Assistant School – Clinical Preceptor
  • Hardin-Simmons Physician Assistant School – Clinical Preceptor
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Big Country Medical Society – Member
  • Texas Medical Association – Member
  • Hendrick Hospital – Maternal Medical Director (2019-2021)
  • Hendrick Hospital – Member, OR Robotics Sub-Committee (since 2021)
  • Hendrick Medical Center Foundation – Board Member

Tap here to learn more about Dr. Martin.

Describing himself as ‘charismatic,’ Dr. Martin can otherwise be found hanging out with his wife, Katie.

Number 9 – Heather Ray

39-year-old Heather Ray is the Assistant Vice President and Assistant Chief Nursing Officer for Hendrick Health.

AYP: Heather Ray, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

With passion for her field, Ray told AYP, “As a high school student, I developed an interest in science and was fascinated with the intricacies of the human body. I pursued a nursing degree to further explore this interest and to have a career in which I could positively impact the lives of others. I am in awe of the incredible advancements and continuous change transforming the Healthcare industry. No day is the same and that makes work exciting. As a nurse committed to serving others, it is a privilege and blessing to work for Hendrick Health, an organization deeply invested in high quality healthcare and our community.”

Ray’s community involvement:

  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • West Texas Organization Nurse Leaders – Member
  • Hendrick Patient & Family Advisory Council – Member
  • United Way of Abilene – Volunteer
  • Meals on Wheels – Volunteer
  • Big Country Soccer Association – Volunteer

Tap here to learn more about Heather Ray.

With a large support system throughout Abilene, Ray said she relies on her parents, her spouse, Jessica, their 4-year-old daughter, her siblings, and 9-year-old nephew.

Number 10 – Reagan Berry

36-year-old Reagan Berry is the principal of Wylie High School.

AYP: Reagan Berry, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Berry about her three daily habits that lead her to success. She replied:

  1. I start each morning with a devotional, prayer time with God, and a cup of coffee with whip cream on top.
  2. I pick my battles and choose not to sweat the small stuff.
  3. Approach each situation asking myself what is my role in improving the situation or how to bring a word of encouragement.

Berry’s community involvement:

  • Beltway Park Baptist Church
  • Wylie Bulldog Little Dribblers – Board Member
  • Community Foundation – Education CAWG

Tap here to learn more about Reagan Berry.

While not ‘Principal Berry,’ you can find this wife and mother of three at home, spending time with her family, or in the back yard reading a good book, weather permitting.

Number 11 – Luis A Alayón

36-year-old Luis A Alayón, a CPA, works as the Assistant Director of Human Resources for the City of Abilene.

AYP: Luis A Alayón, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked about Alayón’s best advice, to which he replied, “We always fall at some point, so you can learn how to get up and don’t fall with the same obstacle.

Alayón’s community involvement:

  • Society for Human Resource Management – Member
  • Big Country Society for Human Resource Management – Member
  • Puerto Rico State Society of Certified Public Accountants – Member
  • Siberian Husky Club of Puerto Rico – Board Member
  • Abilene Police Department, Citizen Police Academy – Graduate

Tap here to learn more about Luis A Alayón.

Coming from Puerto Rico, Alayón said he seeks out bodies of water and good food. Otherwise, you might catch him walking his two dogs, Rooster and Penny.

Number 12 – Ben Hudman

The youngest on the list, 23-year-old Ben Hudman is the CEO of Hudman Investment Group LLC, 325 Guys Construction, and Doc’s Bar & Grill.

AYP: Ben Hudman, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Hudman what advice he might give to other young entrepreneurs. His advice, “Always be learning, always search for the right deal, and be patient.”

Hudman’s community involvement:

  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Wylie Bulldog Alumni
  • McMurry Warhawk Alumni
  • Wylie Christian Church – Member

Tap here to learn mo about Ben Hudman.

When Hudman isn’t hard at work, he’s with his wife, Sadie and their three daughters.

Number 13 – Colden Rich

37-year-old Colden Rich is the Associate Vice President and Senior Project Manager for engineering consultant firm, Enprotec/ Hibbs & Todd, Inc.

AYP: Colden Rich, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

With a self description of ‘consistent,’ Rich told AYP his line of work is rewarding, “I enjoy working with communities to identify solutions to the issues they face.  Completing projects which benefit communities is rewarding.”

Rich’s community involvement:

  • Deacon at Oldham Lane Church of Christ
  • Youth Group and Church Volunteer
  • Christian Homes & Family Services Trustee
  • Volunteer coach for youth soccer
  • Cancer Services Network Volunteer
  • Hendrick Children’s Hospital Legend’s Dove Hunt Volunteer

Tap here to learn more about Colden Rich.

With two daughters, you might catch Rich and his wife, Danlee, out at a kids’ basketball game in their free time.

Number 14 – Melanie Unger

38-year-old Melanie Unger is the Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Diamondback Painting.

AYP: Melanie Unger, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Unger’s story origin story is one of love. She told AYP, “My husband, Scott, started painting houses in 2007, as a way to make ends meet for our young family. I spent 15 wonderful years as a stay-at-home mom (helping here or there as needed, with our multiple small businesses), until a position opened up in the Diamondback office in 2019 that was a perfect fit for me. I worked as Brand Ambassador for about six months before the Marketing position became available. It was not a job that I had ever considered for myself, but Scott told me he knew it was something that I could do well, so I decided to give it a go. I have absolutely loved the job, having my husband as my boss, and becoming more involved in the Abilene community.”

Unger’s community involvement:

  • Southern Hills Church of Christ – Member
  • Big Country Performing Arts/ Big Country Children’s Theatre – Board Member (since 2015), Board President (2019-2023)
  • Young Audiences of Abilene – Board Member
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce – Member
  • Abilene Chamber Redcoats – Member
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member

Tap here to learn more about Melanie Unger.

Beyond being wife to Scott and a mother of two, in her hard-earned time off, Unger likes to spend much of that team with musical theatre – either directing or performing. She also emphasizes the importance in exercise, encouraging others to give jazzercise a try!

Number 15 – John Willey

39-year-old John Willey is a Financial Planner at Edward Jones Investments.

AYP: John Willey, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Starting out as a sacker at a Winn-Dixie grocery store, Willey told AYP settling in Abilene was the right move because, of course, our people.

“I worked in corporate finance in Dallas for over a decade after graduating from UT-Austin, then I had the opportunity to take over an Edward Jones office in Abilene in 2018. I’ve noticed that I have a greater sense of purpose working with families and small businesses,” Willey detailed. “And I know I can add value by educating people and guiding them through their financial lives.”

Willey’s community involvement:

  • Texas Exes (University of Texas at Austin alumni group) – President
  • Big Country CASA – volunteer
  • Abilene Zoo – volunteer
  • Future Fund of Abilene – Steering Committee
  • Keep Abilene Beautiful – Secretary
  • OrangeTheory – member

Tap here to learn more about John Willey.

As the husband to Amy, father to two little ones and dog dad to two older ones, Willey said his happy places are either skiing in Colorado or lying on a beach.

Number 16 – Benjamin Young

37-year-old Benjamin Young is the Owner and Managing Partner at Brightway Insurance, The Young Agency/Young Tumbleweed, LLC.

AYP: Benjamin Young, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Describing himself as ‘loyal,’ Young told AYP with as much as Abilene’s given him, he wants to return the favor.

“I wanted to give back to my community and become a cornerstone to help those around us successfully navigate through the tough times they may face.”

Young’s community involvement:

  • Beltway Park Church – Member
  • Abilene Cattle Barons Ball benefitting American Cancer Society – Dude Crew (since 2018)
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce (Leadership Abilene Class of 2022)
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce – Business Council (Member 2017-2021, Chair 2020, 2021)
  • Jim Ned Little League – Coach (since 2021)
  • Jim Ned Volunteer Fire Department – Member/ Certified Firefighter, EMT (since 2022)
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Brightway Insurance Franchise Advisory Council – Board Member
  • Wylie Little League – Coach (2018-2021)

Tap here to learn more about Benjamin Young.

A true family man, Young said he loves to spend outdoor time with his family, coaching baseball, playing with the kids, or just sitting outside with a book. On these days, he’s joined by his wife of 10 years, Tara, their three kids, and two dogs.

Number 17 – Dr. Garrett Turner

37-year-old Dr. Garrett Turner is the Associate and Dental Director at Stan Turner, DDS, PC Cosmetic & Family Dentistry.

AYP: Dr. Garrett Turner, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Dr. Turner about a significant hurdle he’s had to overcome:

“I address this hurdle every day. I was born with transposition of the great vessels. A lot of the babies born in 1985 with that condition did not make it, but I lived through multiple surgeries when I was young. In 2011 I had to have two heart surgeries right as I was due to graduate dental school. It has been difficult to start my career while balancing raising my daughter and heart surgeries every few years. I only mention these personal details because if someone out there is going through something similar, I would merely want to inspire them to achieve their goals.”

Dr. Turner’s community involvement:

  • 17th District Dental Society – member at large (2020-2021), President (2021-22, 2022-23)
  • Holland School of Science – mentor
  • Dental Health Month (2011-2022)

Tap here to learn more about Dr. Turner.

A passion of Dr. Turner’s includes summiting Longs Peak and other mountains, but he said fly fishing with his 9-year-old daughter is something the duo get into more often these days.

Number 18 – Marcus Dunn

39-year-old Marcus Dunn is the General Manager of Abilene Christian Sports Properties – LEARFIELD.

AYP: Marcus Dunn, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

AYP asked Dunn why his industry was right for him, “I chose this industry because I truly enjoy learning about a wide range of businesses on a strategic level and assisting them in reaching their marketing objectives through the passion, excitement, and traditions of college athletics. In the long run, I am blessed with the opportunity to assist in ACU’s mission of educating students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.”

Dunn’s community involvement:

  • Beltway Park Baptist Church – Member
  • CFA Discretionary Grant Committee – Member
  • ACU Retention Mentor
  • Military Affairs Committee – Volunteer
  • Big Country CASA – Volunteer
  • Mission Thanksgiving – Volunteer

Tap here to learn more about Marcus Dunn.

Off the clock and in the little time not spent volunteering, Dunn said he just spends that time with his family; his wife of 17 years, Holly, and their three little ones.

Number 19 – Ethan Kunkel

31-year-old Ethan Kunkel is President of County Waste Service.

AYP: Ethan Kunkel, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Funny enough, Kunkel told AYP there are some misconceptions about his line of work, “This is the question everyone wonders about a garbage man. The truth is, I am very particular about smells and likely have the weakest stomach of anyone in the industry. I have been blessed to lead an amazing team that does its job well, and more importantly, does a great job of keeping things clean. So many tasks going on behind the scenes of a waste company initially intrigued me. Later in my career, I realize that it’s the people that I get to lead that keep me here. I am blessed to lead the team that we have.”

Kunkel’s community involvement:

  • Beltway Park Church – Member
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • West Texas Council of Government – Committee Member
  • Eula Livestock Association – Vice President
  • Abilene Cattle Barons Ball benefitting American Cancer Society – Donor
  • Better Business Bureau 2022 Torch Award Finalist
  • Abilene Chamber of Commerce – Member
  • Buffalo Gap Chamber of Commerce – Member
  • Anson Chamber of Commerce – Member
  • Brownwood Bass Club – Board Member
  • Houses for Healing – Donor
  • Boots on the Ground Ministry – Donor
  • West Texas Hooks – Donor
  • CAST for Kids – Donor
  • Ben Richey Boys Ranch – Donor
  • West Texas Rehab – Donor
  • Abilene Gives – Donor
  • Abilene Homebuilders Association – Member

What a list! Tap here to learn more about Ethan Kunkel.

The Kunkel family is made up of Ethan, his wife of five years, Justice and their two little girls.

Number 20 – Kyle Swearingen

Rounding out AYP’s 2023 class of 20 Under 40 list is 35-year-old Kyle Swearingen, Vice President of Development for Funeral Directors Life.

AYP: Kyle Swearingen, 2023 20 Under 40 honoree

Not originally looking to break into the funeral business, Swearingen told AYP it was the use of his Computer Science degree and its adherence to the industry that’s kept him locked in.

Some good advice from a pro like Swearingen:

“Fail fast and fail forward. Nothing great that I’ve achieved in my career has come from having all the answers or succeeding 100% of the time. My greatest achievements have always followed hundreds of failed attempts and learning from and iterating on those mistakes until it was perfected.”

Swearingen’s community involvement:

  • Fielder Road Baptist Church – Member
  • Abilene Young Professionals – Member
  • Aite-Novarica Group Research Council – Member
  • Meals on Wheels – Volunteer
  • Habitat for Humanity – Volunteer

Tap here to learn more about Kyle Swearingen.

In Swearingen’s free time, he said he loves to spend time with his family; his wife of 13 years, Kelsey, their three kids, and three dogs. When he can, he said he enjoys a good game of golf.

Congratulations, honorees! All 20 of these Abilene young professionals will be honored with a reception Thursday, alongside their families and close friends.


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