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Local Businesswomen Honored by Portantino

Burbank businesswomen Jennifer Audette, Melanie Buttarazzi, Mary Cutone, Carol Flynn, Dr. Mary Frintner, Nadia Geller, Claudine Hager, Gloria Salas, Lusine Simonyan and Jamie Keyser Thomas were among the honorees at the annual Women in Business Legislative Update & Awards Luncheon hosted by state Sen. Anthony Portantino at Castaway on Dec. 6.

Portantino recognized 41 women from his state senate district “whose professional skills and commitment to their community have made them outstanding leaders and role models.” Honorees’ credentials and achievements spanned a broad spectrum of professions, including science and technology, environment and sustainability, and nonprofit organizations.

“It is my privilege to recognize the accomplished women of the great 25th Senate District,” Portantino said in a statement. “I look forward to honoring our deserving honorees for their successful service that touches all of us in such a positive way.”


Audette is a proud resident of Burbank who grew up attending Burbank schools. She has served as PTA president, GATE district president, booster president and Vocal Music Association president for the Burbank Unified School District.

Professionally, Audette has devoted her career to the nonprofit world of credit unions, serving as president and CEO of Polam FCU in Los Angeles while strongly advocating for the entire industry.


Buttarazzi’s career as a dancer has led her to work in television and film, with various artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Pharrell, Pitbull and Ne-Yo.

Her passion for dancing has been the driving force for her entire life. This passion has led her to share the gift of dance by starting a nonprofit organization for youth in underserved communities called Fostering Dreams Project. The organization partners with various nonprofits and school districts to bring a comprehensive curriculum designed to enrich the lives of foster youth both academically and socially.

Buttarazzi’s program has served more than 15,000 students, breaking down

cultural barriers and creating a stronger society through dance.


Cutone has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the health and wellness of young people and their families. Her professional experience includes careers in the arts and entertainment, business, education and the ministry — the perfect setup to lead the Burbank Community YMCA.

Cutone’s recent initiatives include bringing together community and business leaders to identify strategies for raising awareness of infant care shortages and to urge the city to find more effective ways to meet this critical need.

Most recently, Cutone took the lead serving another vulnerable population in LGBTQ youth. This bold and challenging effort has brought new resources and attention to the Burbank Y’s Social Impact Center, a safe and affirming space, where LGTBQ youth can be themselves unapologetically.


Flynn started her career in 1994 with California Pizza Kitchen as a marketing assistant and worked her way up through the ranks to marketing director. Under her leadership, CPK restaurants across the country have helped raise millions of dollars to support local schools and nonprofits.

Flynn is a great communicator and has built strong ties to the community service to others inspires her work ethic, family commitment and life philosophy. Flynn serv

es on the board of First Presbyterian Church and lives in Burbank.


Frintner is the owner of Burbank Audiology Center, primarily caring for the children of the greater Los Angeles area as a doctor of audiology. Her commitment to serving her community extends far beyond the exam room. She recently created Listen Through Literacy, a program that encourages families to read together by gifting books to children at no cost.

Frintner has served on the California Academy of Audiology board of directors and is an active business member of the Kiwanis Literacy Foundation, dedicating herself to uplifting our youth in all that she does.


Geller is an industry leading interior designer who has been shaping the way clients experience their homes, hotels, and offices for more than 20 years. She honed her skills in New York City as the tastemaker in charge of the visual design of the legendary store, ABC Carpet and Home.

In 2005, Geller came to Los Angeles and founded Nadia Geller Designs in Burbank, later opening an additional studio in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. The company set out to create unique and inviting spaces for clients through their work designing multifamily communities, residential homes and hotels across the country.


Hager is the current owner and CFO of Chili John’s of California, the oldest operating restaurant in Burbank. She has also worked as a procurement technical buyer for Princess Cruises and Whole Foods Market in Southern California.

Hager and her husband took over Chili John’s in 2017 devoting countless hours to restoring the restaurant’s financial and cultural strengths. Her goal is to provide customers with the most wholesome, healthy, nutritional food available while being environmentally responsible. Hager is currently working to expand the reach and brand of Chili John’s so that more people can enjoy their famous products in restaurants and at home.


Keyser Thomas became the CEO of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce in 2020. In her role, she focused on economic recovery for small business, including new branding and a renewed partnership with the city.

Previously, Keyser Thomas worked at the Walt Disney Company for 30 years and spent close to 20 years in the Corporate Social Responsibility space focused on Los Angeles Community Engagement and the Disney VoluntEARS.

Through her work at Disney, she had the privilege of building relationships with nonprofit organizations in Burbank. She currently serves on numerous boards supporting small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Burbank.

In addition to the awards portion of the program, Portantino gave a legislative update of the 25th district while keynote speaker Laurie Leshin shared about the unexpected career opportunities that led her to become the first female director at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Salas is involved in various organizations, which collectively promote human rights, nonviolence, justice, equality, inclusivity and diversity. She belongs to the Zonta Club of Burbank and currently serves as the lieutenant governor for Zonta International District 9.

Salas is a board member for the Burbank Human Relations Council and Burbank Armenian Association. Gloria is also a member of the Burbank Business & Professional Women, her church’s Peace & Justice Ministry, and the Burbank Domestic Violence Task Force. Gloria works to support women through various service projects and advocates on social justice issues affecting women, especially human trafficking and domestic violence.


Simonyan, an entrepreneur and senior accountant, seamlessly balances finance expertise and community leadership. In 2019, she launched Miray Collections, an online marketplace spotlighting more than 40 Armenian designers.

Simonyan’s love for numbers transformed into community roles as treasurer in the Burbank Armenian Association and Zonta Club of Burbank. In 2022, she co-founded Lusanet Collective retail store in Downtown Burbank. Through curated events, pop ups and exhibitions, Lusanet is a creative platform for small businesses.

First published in the December 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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