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Cover Story - Posted July 25, 2014 9:16 a.m.
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Photos by Davy Knapp; Makeup by Kim Wood using MAC Cosmetics; assisted by Rachel Gallegos; Hair by Samantha Miller and Audrey Kreusel, Uglypress; Location courtesy of Amarillo Museum of Art

Single in the City

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For the second year, we asked readers to nominate their family members, friends and coworkers in our hunt for Amarillo’s most eligible singles. Based on an energetic round of voting (more than 90,000 votes!), here are your Top 10 for 2014.

Darek Brown – Account representative, Brenntag

In a partner I most value: Honesty and a sense of humor.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: “40 Day Dream” and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: “Over the Rainbow.” These two songs remind me of some of my favorite times and favorite people.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My friends and my parents. My parents have taught me that hard work and integrity in your professional career lead to success. They have also been married for 35 years, providing me and my sister a great example of a healthy marriage. People always say that you are a reflection of the people that you surround yourself with and if that is true, I am doing just fine. I have shared the majority of my life with my close friends and they have had a strong influence in molding me into the man that I am today.
My favorite pastime: Spending time with friends and family. I like to play golf and fish in warmer months, and ski as much as possible and hunt when it’s colder.
What makes you laugh? Being around a group of people who can be themselves and laugh at each other.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? Achieving success in my professional career, meeting the right person, and eventually starting a family.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I pride myself in being a positive person. I typically can find the bright side in most situations.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? Overall I enjoy it. Some moments are not as enjoyable as others, but I can’t name something I really dislike.
What I’ve learned from dating: Compromise
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Trips to places I have never been before.
How would you like to impact the world? I simply want to constantly make it a point in my life to help when and where I can, improving the lives of those less fortunate, if only on a small scale.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Generous, hilarious, loyal.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Saved one of my best friends from drowning.
What excites you about Amarillo? The people.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Time travel.

Jordan Dunlap – Customer service representative, Happy State Bank

In a partner I most value: Kindness, a sense of humor, a relationship with God, family oriented, a good work ethic, and likes to have fun.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “One Headlight,” by The Wallflowers. This song helps clear my mind and puts me in a good mood.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My parents.
My favorite pastime: Hanging out with friends and family, going to local concerts, and having fun.
What makes you laugh? The littlest things in life.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? Finishing college and graduating with honors.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? How determined and strong-willed I am in all aspects of my life, with my friends, family and work. I always try to strive to achieve the greatest.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? The first time you’re in a one-on-one setting trying to make that initial connection.
What I’ve learned from dating: Don’t lower your standards or compromise your beliefs for anyone.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? With family. We are very close and enjoy having a good time together.
How would you like to impact the world? I would like to leave a positive impact on any person I meet or come in contact with.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Fun, caring, humorous.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? My family moved several times before I was 13 years old. Even though it was difficult to meet new people and try to make friends, I always tried to embrace every experience and new place with a positive attitude and make every relationship one to remember. I think that helped mold me into the outgoing and personable woman I am today.
What excites you about Amarillo? I love the small-town feeling that Amarillo’s city setting offers.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? I would like the ability to manipulate people’s feelings and emotions. I hate for people to suffer and feel pain or hurt, so I would like to have the power to change their feelings or the pain they’re enduring.

Zivorad (Z) Filipovic – Marketing manager, Amarillo Symphony

In a partner I most value: Someone who is not afraid to be themself, who knows what they want in life and they’re not afraid to go out and get it, who is positive and kind toward those around them.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. It is upbeat and has a great message. I tend to have a smile on my face, and my friends would say that I am a very happy guy. So when I listen to that song, it makes me feel good about myself, especially if I listen to it in the morning.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? I would have to say my mom. She has done so much for my siblings and me. My mom is my hero, and I am where I am today because of her hard work and sacrifices. She is the strongest person I know.
My favorite pastime: Spending time with my family and close friends, seeing my mom and sister on the weekends, baking and cooking; I can make some tasty desserts.
What makes you laugh? A good, funny story will always make me laugh to the point that I start crying.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? Earning my MBA from WTAMU and writing a book that I have been planning for a few years. I believe I have a unique story, and I’d like to tell others about the things my family has had to sacrifice.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I see the good in people and easily make new friends.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? Not knowing if the person is into you or not.
What I’ve learned from dating: Never rush, take things slow, and see how it goes.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Anywhere from the beach and mountains to European getaways. I love getting to experience different places and cultures and trying out new things.
How would you like to impact the world? With the kindness and positive attitude that I have been able to keep through the years.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Optimistic, thoughtful, energetic.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Overcoming the fear I had from experiencing the war in Serbia as a child, growing up in the United States, and not understanding what was going on around me while I was learning English in school.
What excites you about Amarillo? The growth that the city has seen since I moved here 15 years ago.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Time travel. It would be amazing to see historical events and also the things that await us in the future.

Ashley Higley – US History teacher, Palo Duro High School

In a partner I most value: His love for Jesus and others, honesty, integrity, a good sense of humor, and good cooking skills.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? Anything from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” to Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” to American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” to Hillsong’s “Oceans.” I enjoy songs that I can crank up and sing along!
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Without a doubt, my parents. I would not be the woman I am today without their constant presence in my life teaching and loving me, being there with advice, and most importantly, pointing me to Christ. They have been a great example of a loving and godly marriage.
My favorite pastime: Spending time with my friends, whether that is sitting around a fire pit making s’mores, going out to dinner, or taking road trips.
What makes you laugh? My niece and nephew are pretty funny; they always have me laughing. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake skits, Brian Williams’s raps, and people falling down.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? I am working on saving money to remodel my house.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I am the reigning, undefeated Indian Leg Wrestling Champion. I am an Oreo purist … original is best. I hope to someday visit every major league baseball stadium. I am not an expert marksman, but I can hold my own at the gun range. I love shoes … but I only wear them if I have to.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? The most difficult thing is just meeting people.
What I’ve learned from dating: Be yourself and don’t compromise your values and beliefs, because in the end you won’t end up with someone who shares the same values and beliefs. I like this quote by an unknown author: “Be weird. Be random. Be you. You never know who will love what you hide.”
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Weekend trips to Dallas to watch the Rangers play or go shopping, or to the mountains to relax or hit the slopes. I also love going to new places. Some of my favorites are Boston, New York and New Orleans. My dream vacation would be to tour Europe.
How would you like to impact the world? Through my students. I hope they can leave my classroom not only with some knowledge of history, but also equipped with the life skills they need to be successful and impact others.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Loyal, generous, fearless.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Taking the plunge and buying a house.
What excites you about Amarillo? Amarillo has the greatest people! They are genuine and kind and that makes living here that much better.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Being Chuck Norris … obviously.

Stacey Jodal – Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent, District Support Center, Canyon ISD

In a partner I most value: Spirituality, honesty, loyalty, thoughtfulness, caring and sincerity.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “Happy” by Pharrell Williams because it’s upbeat and you can’t help smiling and singing along.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My son. He has taught me so much about myself! Through him, I have learned that I am stronger than I thought possible, that I can love beyond belief, that patience and forgiveness are necessities in life, and that life happens in the present moment. Because of him, I have a greater desire to be a better Christian, mother, daughter, sister and friend.
My favorite pastime: Playing with my son, running, spending time with family and friends.
What makes you laugh? Having fun and being silly with friends and family. In particular, my nephew, who says and does some of the funniest things.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? To raise my son to be a Christian with good character, great morals, and a caring nature.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I get anxious when playing games.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? The initial awkwardness of getting to know someone.
What I’ve learned from dating: To trust my instincts and be honest with myself and others.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Anything on the beach. I’m not the type of person that has every minute of a vacation planned. I like to just relax and enjoy my surroundings.
How would you like to impact the world? By working with youth to empower the next generation. Over the past four years, I have been involved with the organization and planning of the program GiRL Power. This impactful event engages and educates preteen girls and their mothers in self-esteem, fitness, nutrition, Internet safety, bullying and how to communicate with each other.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Intelligent, caring, honest.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Being a single mom and trying to make the best decisions for my son’s future. As a parent, I have faced fears and danger without a second thought and would willfully endure any pain for his well-being.
What excites you about Amarillo? Most people in Amarillo are polite, kind and considerate and are willing to lend a hand when needed. These are qualities that are difficult to find in big cities.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? The ability to heal others.

Nick Murja – Special Education teacher, Palo Duro High School

In a partner I most value: Giving value to others’ beliefs regardless of how different, a love to learn, experience new things, and a joy for kids.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? To the general public I would say, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. When I’m in the car alone – make fun all you want – One Direction is catchy and pumps me up!
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My children. They have drastically altered how I see love because I experience a significantly different emotion for them than anyone else. I’m confident if I choose my direction based on those three kiddos I’ll never regret it.
My favorite pastime: Playing basketball. I run as my daily challenge. Reading to my kids, writing papers for school (odd I know), drinking good wine, eating delicious food, and binge-watching TV.
What makes you laugh? Stand-up comedy. I usually can be found with Dane Cook or Aziz Ansari playing on Pandora.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? On Jan. 6 I set four goals for myself: get fit, begin a career, straighten out my finances, and start having meaningful relationships. These are all of equal importance to me.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? Words are very meaningful to me. I think when people write well the sentence literally evolves around the circumstances in your life.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? I have a problem with not knowing. I hate waiting to see what happens.
What I’ve learned from dating: I’ve got to be “chill.” I think dating should be all about fun, at least for a while. If it is stressful, move on!
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Hanging out in a new city is always a blast. I’d like to see Europe sometime in the next year or so.
How would you like to impact the world? Mentoring and teaching kids. I want the chance to teach them all the things I didn’t listen to growing up. It’s also a dream of mine to have a business that cultivates men whose primary concern is being honorable husbands, fathers, brothers, and citizens. I am passionate about helping people find a life that is meaningful.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Passionate, bold, creative.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? The decision to be a daily part of my kids’ lives when it would have been easier to run away after getting a divorce. I think courage is feeling the pull of selfishness and self- preservation but doing what’s right instead.
What excites you about Amarillo? Local venues – shops, restaurants, bars – anything that someone came up with creatively and developed into fruition.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? I’d read minds; that would be so useful.

Martin Nejat – Resident physician, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

In a partner I most value: Honesty, intelligence and good communication.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “I Hold On” by Dierks Bentley, because it reminds me of the values that motivate and are important to me.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mom, who is incredibly smart, funny and intuitive. The example she set for me as a nurse instilled a desire within me to help people and make the world a better place through medicine. From her I learned to work hard to achieve my goals and never be discouraged.
My favorite pastime: Being outside and playing team sports.
What makes you laugh? The first couple of seasons of “The Office” and Conan O’Brien.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? To be a good Christian.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? One of my hobbies is buying and selling fine art.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? Ironing a shirt before going on a date.
What I’ve learned from dating: Have fun, not to talk with my mouth full, and no matter what crazy thing she says, just smile and tell her she’s right.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Adventurous vacations full of culture, natural beauty and relaxation.
How would you like to impact the world? By improving the quality of the lives of people in my community one patient at a time. For every patient, I strive to not only provide the best evidence-based management plan, but also to show compassion and empathy. In the ICU setting sometimes I can extend or improve the life of my patient for only a short period of time. Conversely, in the clinic setting I can sometimes extend and improve someone’s life by decades. By giving my all for each patient, every day, I hope to incrementally impact the world and make it a better place.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Funny, hardworking, honest.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? I resigned from a good job and essentially sacrificed many parts of my life to go to med school.
What excites you about Amarillo? The beauty and endlessness of the Amarillo sky; every day it gives me hope and makes me feel the possibilities here are limitless.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Either MRI vision (like Superman’s X-ray vision) or reading the minds of women.

Kristy Snell – Office manager, Dr. Wesley J. Anderson

In a partner I most value: Truth in love. Someone who respects me enough to respond truthfully and yet appropriately. Followed by wit … he has to have a sense of humor.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s all about rising up and taking your place! I have loved it since I was a kid.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My sister has been an example of a life unashamedly dedicated to Christ. At several turning points in my life, she has been a rock and a constant source of love.
My favorite pastime: Cranking the ice cream maker as a kid in the summer – always vanilla. I actually never ate store-bought ice cream until I was grown.
What makes you laugh? Anything with Melissa McCarthy! Cat memes, babies and funny cards.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? Organization and time management.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I appreciate correct grammar, and there are fewer things more attractive than the proper use of “there,” “their” and “they’re.”
What do you dislike most about the dating process? It either works or it doesn’t. Letting go of something that doesn’t work is tough. Communication that was constant can end abruptly, and someone that was once important to you is no longer a part of your life.
What I’ve learned from dating: It works best when there is a foundation of friendship. Jumping off the romantic deep end too soon can get tricky if you don’t know each other well.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? I find pleasure in anything from a road trip to a tropical vacation. I am up for adventures with friends and making memories, but it is a relaxing thought to be lost in a hammock on a beach somewhere.
How would you like to impact the world? My heart is for young women seeking their identity in an ever-changing world – for them to know the difference between what the world says they should be and who they’re called to be.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Sweet, smart, unpredictable.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? I worked at a family camp one summer in college, where I had to instruct families in things that were challenging and nerve-wracking to me. That summer I hiked a 14-er in Colorado with two friends, and I will never forget the view. It was totally worth it.
What excites you about Amarillo? It is growing and not dying. We are loyal to our own and help local restaurants and businesses thrive.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? To be invisible and be a fly on the wall listening to all the interesting conversations I’ve always wanted to hear.

Kylor Williams - Amarillo Fire Department; bartender/waiter at Outback Steakhouse

In a partner I most value: Her goals in life, personality and how she presents herself.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “ Runnin' Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser, because it's a great country song and it makes me want to go out on a country road with a woman under the moonlight and dance the night away.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mother, Christy Smith. She raised me as a single mother and has taught me everything I know. I owe it all to her.
My favorite pastime: Going to the lake and spending time with my family and friends while getting away from the city life.
What makes you laugh? I'm an easy-going person; I can laugh at a lot of things but my son has to be the person who makes me laugh the most.
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? Getting through my first year at AFD and raising my son.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I absolutely love my cowboy boots. I would wear them with everything if I could get away with it.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? Figuring out what the other person likes to eat and do.
What I’ve learned from dating: No relationship is ever going to be perfect; it's a team effort and you both have to compromise and counter each other's weaknesses.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? I'm not too picky. Lake trips, family trips, big town trips. Pretty much anything to get out of town.
How would you like to impact the world? Show kids that there are a lot of worthwhile things in this world, to never settle, and go for everything you want with everything you've got.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Outgoing, hardworking, loyal.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Being a firefighter.
What excites you about Amarillo? My friends and family and local restaurants.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Time travel, hands down!

Carissa Wingate – Student and family advocate, Caprock High School

In a partner I most value: A Christ-like heart, loves kids, passion, humor and sincerity.
Which song makes you feel energized and why? “Let It Go.” Being a mom of a little girl, this song gets played and sung quite often at home and in the car. We love to crank it up and sing it at the top of our lungs. Plus, every other day there is a new YouTube video mocking it that has me laughing.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My parents have been a great source of encouragement, support and inspiration over the years. They are small business owners and work hard at all they do. Together, they have shown me that you can survive a lot and still be best friends with your spouse.
My favorite pastime: Reading, photography, coffee and bargain hunting.
What makes you laugh? My daughter, family, friends, “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Office.”
What’s the most important goal in your life right now? I want to learn to slow down a little and enjoy life, loving the little things with my daughter, family and friends.
What should others know about you that they’d never think to ask? I was on a relay team for TRI to Make a Difference a few years ago. My goal is to one day complete the entire race, but the open water swim scares me a little … OK, a lot! I also secretly aspire to be an FBI agent.
What do you dislike most about the dating process? The awkwardness and uncertainty.
What I’ve learned from dating: Grace. We all need to make allowances for each other’s faults and remember we are all human. This is also something I hope to carry into marriage. Dating can be messy but life is messy, too.
What sort of vacations do you like to take? Going to the mountains. My family grew up camping every summer, and we have recently started going back and enjoying a week next to the stream.
How would you like to impact the world? My heart is currently for orphans. I want to see the number of orphans worldwide decrease significantly in my lifetime. I love to share my passion for adoption and help people get involved, whether it is through volunteering or supporting families going through the adoption process.
How would your friends describe you in three words? Funny, loyal, determined.
What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? Becoming a mom through adoption. Stepping out in faith and deciding to follow a call that is hard and exhausting but full of love and joy has been a huge step for me. Some days are easier than others, but when my daughter makes me giggle and love life, I know that it is so worth it.
What excites you about Amarillo? I love the people and the sunsets.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Flying. I could get more done, see the world and have fun!

-- the AM Team

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