These are strange times we are in, and we wanted to take this opportunity and this web page to tell you a bit about us. This is intended to be a fun, light-hearted way to get to know a bit about who Highmark is made up of, and what makes us unique. We hope you enjoy. We will add a few employees each week, and will be kicking it off with one of our most recent hires.
Lissa Smirnova, Member Services (Rapid City)
Have you ever travel out of the country? – I was born in Russia and more recently took a family trip to South Korea.
Favorite Ice cream flavor – Baskin Robbins Pralines and cream! (but it changes often)
Favorite quote: "If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs".
Any pets? Yes, pet bunny named Barley
Andrew Koupal, The In-House "Insurance Guy" (Dakota Financial Services, Rapid City)
Your proudest atypical accomplishment: Going on a chicken sandwich run for a very “under the weather” Dave Chappelle at 1 in the morning. No picture, but I got a serious bro hug and $300.
The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: Farmer
What your last meal on Earth would be: A ribeye from my dad’s farm, fresh May asparagus, baked sweet potato with butter and ranch. To drink, a 2010 Brunello di Montalcino preferably from Biondi-Santi.
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: Ireland/ Scotland for a tour of distilleries.
Highlight of this past year: Didn’t run out of toilet paper, nor did I hoard any.
Amanda Millard, Teller (Rapid City)
- Your most prized collection: I like collecting fridge magnets from the places I've traveled to. And I like taking pictures because I enjoy the memories.
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: I wanted to be a Killer Whale Trainer at Sea World
- What your last meal on Earth would be: My last meal on Earth would be a Roasted Potato Pizza, Coconut Shrimp with Wasabi Sauce, a Salad with Ginger Dressing and Tiramisu for dessert.
- The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: I want to go to Egypt.
Kalli Charlson, Personal Financial Associate - New Accounts and Lending (Rapid City)
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Veterinarian because I loved all animals. As I grew older, I realized that I grew very attached to all animals and decided they were all my friends. Then my heart broke when they were injured or passed away, I so decided that was not a good profession to be in. (Editor's note: Kalli is the proud owner of an English Bulldog - one of my favorites. We will highlight him next week.)
I would love to travel to Greece someday for the beautiful blue waters and the culture fascinates me.
The most unusual pet that I had was a Crawfish named Dodger, I got to take him home from school when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and I remember one time that he pinched my little brother who was 1 at the time; Dodger was not the friendliest creature.
Highlight of this past year has been the many changes I have made both professionally and personally. There have been some very tough changes this last year, but I have learned a lot about myself and about other people that has helped me to grow. This year has opened my eyes to many opportunities I never realized I had.
Charity Bock-Goff, Personal Financial Associate (Digital)
- Highlight of my past year! Where to start?! I found out after a long struggle to get pregnant, that my family is expecting March 26, 2021. I started with Highmark October 26, 2020, got married on my birthday November 6! It’s been an amazing year, full of blessings!!
- The first job I wanted as a kid? I wanted to be a doctor from as far back as I remember! I made the paper in my hometown for doing CPR on the baby dolls in preschool. I was constantly doctoring my stuffed animals and now I get to doctor my children when they are hurt or sick.
- Favorite family vacation? My husband and 3 daughters packed up our SUV and went to Las Vegas for 10 days this summer! We made all made it alive after being stuck in the car that long together, lol! We all love hiking outdoors! Went to Mt. Charleston and stop at Zion National Park on the way back!
- Favorite hobbies? I love spending time with my family, doing anything outdoors! Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, etc. I love baking, my husband said it’s my goal to make him fat! I love laughing and joking around!
- Do you collect anything? I love moose, I collect moose anything!
Cynthia Johnson, Market Manager (Gillette)
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: I wanted to be a mortician when I was a child.
- What your last meal on Earth would be: southern pinto beans, fried potatoes, cornbread and garden vegetables
- The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet – Ireland
Ann Greco, Operations Specialist (Rapid City)
The first job you wanted when you were a little kid. Police Officer, I did become an emergency dispatcher for 14 years!!
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet. Switzerland
A contest you have won. A drill down contest (was in the Flag Corp, so band people would understand)
Your nickname, and why…. I’m also called Nonni because I have a beautiful granddaughter!!
Highlight of this past Summer - Moving to South Dakota
Jordan Taylor, IT Help Desk Associate (Rapid City)
- What your last meal on Earth would be. Steak/Velveeta Shells and Cheese
- The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet. Florida fishing
- Your most unusual pet. I used to have an iguana. Current pet photo here. Meet Gunner.
Laurna Boland, Universal Teller (Spearfish)
Most prized collection: I do collect clowns. I have a lot of Emmitt Kelly’s. They just make me happy. I also have a collection of stuff my son made when he was little. The one I am most attached to is a Christmas gift he made. It is a Christmas bell with the paper rings to count down to Christmas. He made it when he was 4 years old. He is now 37.
The first job I wanted when I was a little kid was to be a 3rd grade teacher.
My last meal on earth would be anything Mexican and a blizzard from Dairy queen.
Celebrity crush is Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton
A trip I would most want to take would be to Italy or Greece.
Gary Sortland, Collections Manager (and Volunteer Firefighter), Rapid City
- Something you are proud of: Being able to work hard and even giving back to the community has really been a big accomplishment for me. Being able to help those when they need assistance.
- Most prized collection. Have you seen my office with all the “Fire Collectibles” all given to me by my coworkers?
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid? Police officer. Guess that didn’t work out LOL.
- Last meal. Steak with Baked Potato and fresh veggie of any kind.
- Trip you'd like to take: I’ve been to several countries out of the US. I'd like to see Great Britain and other parts of Europe.
Tiffany Phelps, Operations Specialist (Rapid City)
- Your most prized collection: Thousands of books
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: Dancer
- A superstition you have. I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to put on my left sock/shoe first…
- Your biggest fear or phobia: Snakes
- Your most unusual pet. 3 crazy dogs
- A contest you have won. Multiple spelling contests.
Note: I can vouch for this. She is our in-house editor!
Mark Posthumus, Special Projects
- Your proudest atypical accomplishment: Designed and supervised building of the Rapid City branch and the Custer Branch.
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: To fly airplanes.
- The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: Panama Canal.
- Your favorite go-to quarantine adult beverage: Wyoming Whiskey (as seen on the Walt Longmire series on FX)
- A contest you have won: When I married my bride 44 years ago.
Tony Pannone, Chief Information Officer
- Your proudest atypical accomplishment. My Cooking skills
- The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: A Hockey Player
- The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: Italy
- Your biggest fear or phobia: Glitter
- A contest you have won: Name that song played backwards on a radio station when I was 13.
Pamela RedLeaf, Personal Financial Associate
Meet Pamela, one of our newest employees.
What your last meal on Earth would be: Carne Asada Tacos
A superstition you have: When your hands itch, it means you are going to receive money in the near future.
Your most unusual pet: My dog max. He is unusually obsessed with me.
Your biggest fear or phobia: I fear moths
Your favorite go-to quarantine adult beverage: Bud Light Seltzers
Jim Guptill, Commercial Loan Officer
Your most prized collection: Fishing boat and tackle.
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: Australia and New Zealand
Your most unusual pet. My cat – he used to play fetch with me…
Your biggest fear or phobia- Scared of heights
Cassie Pannone, Chief Financial Officer
The first job you wanted when you were a little kid. Circus performer
What your last meal on Earth would be. Popcorn
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet. Bora Bora
Your most unusual pet. Chinchilla
Your favorite go-to quarantine adult beverage All of the things
A contest you have won. Drinking a beer on my head
Crystal Boyce, Personal Financial Advisor (Gillette, WY)
Your proudest atypical accomplishment: I make some stellar homemade donuts
Your most prized collection: I have a amassed a collection of children. I’m up to 4 boys
A contest you have won: National Choir Competition in Dallas as a senior in high school
Your favorite go-to quarantine adult beverage: Orange beers
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet: Either Machu Picchu or The Valley of Kings.
Mindy Howard, VP Operations
What you didn't know about her: Handbell ringer for over 30 years
Collections: Angels (I collect figures, clocks, paintings, Christmas tree decorations whatever with angels on them)
What did she want to be when she grew up: Singer – I wanted to be a famous singer – not enough talent and huge stage fright issues changed that for me.
Best meal: Old fashioned canned meat and noodles, with cream peas and new potatoes. My grandma used to make that meal and it will always be one of my favorites.
Where will she travel when the craziness is over: Australia and New Zealand - hoping to go either there or Italy in the next 3 years.
Vonnie Wackel, Market Manager, Rapid City
Proud Accomplishment: Took the Magnum PI Extreme Helicopter Ride in Oahu Hawaii, no doors and flying all sorts of directions.
First Job I wanted as a kid: Journalist or Fake News Correspondent
Trip I want to take: Scotland and Ireland
Superstition I have: Walking under ladders
Phobia: Fear of Frogs or toads
Aaron Prochazka, Senior Accountant
The first job you wanted when you were a little kid. – As a kid I always knew I would be a Pilot, until about 3rd grade when I realized I was blind as a bat, and who would want a blind person flying their airplane?! Probably no one, so I became an accountant!
What your last meal on Earth would be – Being from the Midwest, I love steak, burgers & all types of BBQ. But then I visited my wife’s family in Rhode Island for the first time 5 years ago they introduced to this thing called a Baked Stuffed Lobster, and it is amazing to say the least! Maybe throw in an appetizer of Clam Cakes or stuffies too…
The trip you most want to take, but haven’t yet – I have always wanted to travel to Europe but haven’t made it that far yet, specifically I would like to go to Czechia, Germany, Poland, Italy, Ireland, France and Spain.
Your biggest fear or phobia) – My biggest fear is Mice! My family always called me a big elephant scared of a mouse.
Your favorite go-to quarantine adult beverage - My Go–to quarantine adult beverage is a nice cold Busch Latte, or If it is a Friday evening I will go for a nice whiskey on the rocks like Pendleton.
The first job you wanted when you were a little kid: Airline Stewardess (although she says she was 21 years old when she first flew in an airplane.
The trip she most wants to take, but hasn't yet: an all inclusive resort or to go someplace warm and stay on a houseboat.
Favorite go-to adult quaratine beverage: sweet wine or vanilla rum and coke.
Proudest atypical accomplishment: Her own NY cheesecake
Prized collection: Vintage pyrex dishes and crystal glassware