Frederick’s Top 50 CEOs: Dr. Christopher McLean, Gary Nabors, Kara Norman and Peter Oykman

The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED) received 146 nominations for lead executives, founders, entrepreneurs and company owners of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations for Frederick’s Top 50 CEOs. The final list included criteria based on the CEO’s individual responses on the following: Strategic leadership concepts; significant growth under his or her leadership; number of employees; tenure; company’s turnover rate; company’s median salary; number of times CEO was nominated; and the CEO’s involvement in the community.

Get to know four of the top 50 this month:

Dr. Christopher McLean is not one to step down from a challenge.  As the President and General Manager of Amphenol Piezo Technology Products, he oversees Wilcoxon Sensing Technologies in Frederick and Piezo Technologies in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through his strategic leadership, he has successfully created a culture of unity between the two different businesses he manages.

Balancing technical expertise, business savvy, strategic judgment, and people management skills, Dr. Gary Nabors has led DynPort Vaccine Company, a biopharma business in Frederick, to success. Since his beginning in 2012, Gary has brought stability and a sense of belonging to the organization, nurturing his employees to reach heights even they believed to be impossible.

Kara Norman is a knowledgeable, effective, and professional leader of the Downtown Frederick Partnership. She is well-respected in the area, and works on behalf of her employees, the downtown area, and the county alike. She has been very successful at maintaining positive cash balances, and provides a model of leadership for fellow Main Street Maryland organizations.

Known for his honesty, positivity, and encouragement, Peter Oykman has created an environment where his employees can thrive at CorePartners, Inc. Under his leadership, the business has made great strides in gaining more government contracts, and his devotion to collaboration and trust has inspired his team and encouraged success.

What brought you to Frederick County?

Christopher: 2018 business relocation. I orchestrated our business relocation from Montgomery County to Frederick County. Our business needed to expand, and Frederick offered the best infrastructure for our light manufacturing business.

Gary: DynPort was founded to develop medical products including vaccines for the US Department of Defense. Since we support the DoD at Fort Detrick, we choose to be located nearby our client.

Kara: I moved to Frederick to start working for the Partnership. I was lucky enough to have a chance meeting with Bernie Callan, a historic preservation leader from Frederick, while working in San Antonio. Bernie's advice and support was of great help in my hiring process. I am an urban planner by training and have always been passionate about downtowns.

Peter: I emigrated from Soviet Union in 1993 and came to work for a company located in Frederick and never left. Love the city and it is very conveniently located with access to three airports and train stations.

Please describe your personal values or your strategic leadership ideas for your company.

Christopher: Dynamic leader focused on building organizations with solid strategic thinking and strong execution skills. Leveraging a strong work ethic, a solid grasp of technology markets, a solid business background (operations, sales, finance, and engineering), and strong leadership skills to inspire and direct the highly functional teams required for growth.

Gary: DynPort is a science-based company that works on complex technical projects that take many years to complete. The values that I look for in people who can be successful in such an environment include perseverance, proactivity, the ability to work comfortably in an environment where there are multiple stakeholders (DoD, FDA, and internal senior management), integrity, and dedication to the mission. I would define my leadership style as participatory, because I work with a team of experts, whose opinions I value. I seek input from my team before making strategic decisions for my company.

Kara: I try to practice purposeful persistence.  My work with the Partnership is more focused on the long game which requires and benefits from work with many partners.  While partnering is key to our success, it is not easy and that is where purposeful persistence comes into play. In leading staff, my goal is to provide everyone a platform from which to grow and excel.  I am looking for opportunities for staff to stretch - but not so far that they feel overextended.  I think challenges help us achieve more and have a greater impact in Downtown Frederick.

Peter: The company is small, but growing fast in the last couple years. I enjoy working with smart capable people and love to give them opportunity to grow with the company.

Since you founded or started with your company, what innovative new ideas or concepts did you implement? What has your sales growth been like and is there a turnaround story?

Christopher: Rebuilt and expanded global sales and distribution channel to support growth initiatives. Lead expansion into new markets. Helped transition Wilcoxon into a “New Product Development Machine” by suggesting reorganizations, developing new processes, developing product and technology roadmaps, training in select areas, and reinforcing a strong execution culture. Improved the product development process. Rebuilt MARCOM department and supported numerous initiatives to increase customer awareness through social media, new web page, ecommerce, and tradeshows.

Gary: When I joined DVC the company was going through a crisis. All of these problems had to be worked simultaneously to restore client confidence in DVC, to improve the culture through more transparent communication, to eliminate infighting in certain areas of the company, and stabilize the workforce. Together with my management team, we worked all of these issues until they were resolved. Importantly, the project that was on hold was restored, the culture was markedly improved, and voluntary attrition dropped to 6-8%.

Kara: The Partnership's success can be measured by growth in staffing, the organizational budget and the projects completed to achieve greater vitality and livability in Downtown Frederick. Since I joined the Partnership, the organization has grown from one full time staff person to a total of four full time staff.The budget was about $73,000 in FY03.Our budget for FY19 will be $1,247,000, over a 1600% increase. Today, the Partnership produces more than 60 events each year.

Peter: Personal responsibility for the task you assigned to is the most important. People should feel that what they are doing is important and should enjoy results of their work.

Who is the leader you most admire and why?

Christopher: Jeff Bezos. Bezos is a visionary and doer. I admire him for sticking to his vision when others questioned him, and for having the courage to keep looking for new ways to grow his business. First building Amazon into the leader in online book sales, then reinventing Amazon to dominate the e-reader market, and then reinventing Amazon again to be a leader in online shopping and fulfillment.

Gary: Winston Churchill, because of his dogged perseverance, his ability to motivate and inspire people, and make difficult decisions under enormous pressure.

Kara: The most influential leader in my professional career was Kathy Kahoun. My first job out of college was a terrible fit and I moved back to Des Moines with no real plan and a sad little part-time job answering reader mail. After a bit of time, I ended up as an intern at the City of Des Moines Planning Department and Kathy was my supervisor. Her push set me on a path to a series of great adventures that eventually landed me in Frederick. I am in her debt for seeing more in me than I could at the time.

What do you love to do for fun in Frederick County? On any given weekend, where could you be found?

Christopher: I love the downtown Frederick district with all of it restaurants and pubs.

Gary: I like to shop and dine in downtown Frederick on weekends - the downtown area is very charming and original, not yet spoiled by chains or gentrification. I rode in the National Clustered Spires High Wheel Bike Race last year, and am riding again this coming August.

Kara: I am a fan of eating out (admittedly not reserved for weekends only), walking around to see the sites and enjoying the change of the seasons. I love how Downtown Frederick has something different to enjoy with each turn of the weather. I also love how I always see someone I know and am greeted with a friendly smile. The community spirit here is amazing and I can feel it most in Downtown Frederick.

Peter: I love to walk in the park and downtown.