The 3-Minute Interview: Forty Under 40 founder Tonia Wellons

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People,Matt Connolly

Wellons founded Prince George's County's Forty Under 40 awards program, currently in its second year. The program recognizes 40 emerging county leaders who have made exceptional contributions in arts and humanities, business, education, health and fitness, public service and science.

How did you get the idea for Forty Under 40?

I worked for the World Bank Group for eight years, and I was on a professional development program in Georgia. I was struck by how the president was 43 years old and everyone on his Cabinet was between the ages of 25 and 35. These people were completely committed to making a difference in Georgia.

How are honorees selected?

This year we probably received 100 or so nominations. We looked for good character and integrity, we looked for expertise in their given field and then we looked for innovation. What are they doing to bring their work to a new level? And there was some balance between giving back to the Prince George's County community and giving back in general. We put together a selection panel that included the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation for Prince George's County, the Human Services Coalition, and representatives from Forty Under 40 2012 to look through all of the nominations and narrow it down to the 40. We really wanted the best of the best.

You turned 40 after the first year. Did you think about making it Forty-one Under 41 this year so you could be included?

No, no, no, no, no. I did have a big push to get Forty Under 40 launched before I turned 40. Now I'm comfortable with being above the cutoff age. ... One of the things I learned from my parents is that they always surrounded themselves with young people so that they can stay engaged and stay challenged. It's what we need to really further engage and propel people to a new level of success.

- Matt Connolly

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner