Meet Our Team

Ira J. Brower

Chief Executive Officer

Ira founded Garden State Trust Company in 2008. He has over 40 years in the trust industry primarily providing trust, estate, and investment solutions for retired and soon-to-be retired individuals. As CEO of Garden State Trust, Ira has grown the company with the simple premise that caring for and thoughtfully guiding clients develops strong trusting relationships that span generations. In 1990, Ira co-founded Manchester Trust Bank that became the wealth management division for Sovereign Bank. Under Ira’s leadership, the wealth management division of Sovereign Bank grew to $2 billion in assets under administration. Ira stepped away from Sovereign as Managing Director of Wealth Management to form Garden State Trust Company. In 1981, Ira worked with the senior management of Berkeley Federal Savings, a Savings and Loan Association located in Millburn, NJ, to establish a Trust Department under the newly enacted Monetary Deregulation Act. Berkeley was granted the First Trust Charter by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board for the New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico District as a Division of a Savings and Loan Association. In his professional activities, Ira was a member of the Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice President’s Advisory Council; a former member of the Virtua Foundation Gift Planning Advisory Council and is a Trustee of the 21 Plus Foundation. Moreover, Ira is past president and a Paul Harris Fellow of Central Ocean Rotary, Toms River. He also served as past president of the Ocean County Estate Planning Council and the Ocean County Bankers Association.

Barbara Kannheiser

Chief Financial Officer

Barbara is a principal of Garden State Trust Company. She has over 30 years’ experience in fiduciary administration and operations. In her role as CFO, she is responsible for all financial reporting for Garden State Trust Company. Barbara also oversees all facets of fiduciary tax and operations activities. Additionally, the depth of Barbara’s experience and dedication to problem solving promotes a culture within the company for the delivery of quality and responsive service to clients. In 1990, Barbara joined Manchester Trust Bank and became the Chief Financial Officer. When Manchester Trust became the wealth management division for Sovereign Bank, Barbara served as senior manager on various management committees overseeing the daily administration and investment activities for the fiduciary accounts ensuring regulatory compliance and risk management for a multi-billion-dollar division serving a multi-state market. Barbara has a B.S. degree in accounting and an MBA from Georgian Court University.

Adam B. Brower, CTFA


Adam was appointed President of Garden State Trust Company in January 2023. He is focused on the overall delivery of wealth management services to our clients. Since joining the company in 2012, Adam has always taken pride in finding solutions for client’s needs while developing strong and lasting relationships. Adam earned a B. S. in Marketing from West Chester University. He is a member of the Estate and Financial Planning Council of Central New Jersey. Adam is a graduate of the Cannon Trust School and earned his Certified Trust & Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation. In addition, he has been invited to speak at multiple seminars for other trust professionals on the topic of special needs trusts. He worked for over 10 years in the field of commercial insurance and held a Life Insurance and Property & Casualty Insurance license through the State of New Jersey as well as the designation of CIC Certified Insurance Counselor and CRM Certified Risk Manager.

Siobhan M. Connolly, CTFA

Senior Vice President & Trust Officer
Director of Administration

Siobhan joined Garden State in January of 2009. As Senior Vice President and Trust Officer and Director of Administration her focus is on client relationships and day to day contact with our investment management, trust, and charitable foundation clients. Siobhan’s expertise over the last few years has grown in the area of Special Needs Trusts which often requires navigating the dilemmas faced by special needs clients and their families. Siobhan enjoys working with these families and takes pride in helping them provide the best life possible for their loved one. Prior to joining Garden State Trust Company, she owned her own business and worked in Corporate Communications in NYC. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Social Community Activities Network serving the large retiree population of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Siobhan graduated from Cannon Trust School and earned her Certified Trust & Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation. She also holds a Master’s in Education from Long Island University and a Bachelor of Science from University of Albany.

Sean M. Rice, CTFA

Senior Vice President & Trust Officer
Regional Manager South Jersey and Philadelphia

In January 2023 Sean was appointed Senior Vice President and Trust Officer. Sean also serves as Regional Manager for our South Jersey and Philadelphia markets. Since 2012, Sean has been a Wealth Management Advisor working diligently to expand our client relationships and professional network in his markets. Sean plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining clients by cultivating new relationships via professional associations, local community events, and a wide array of relationship-building activities. In his professional activities, Sean is a member of the following:

  • New Jersey State and Burlington County Bar Association
  • South Jersey Young Professionals
  • Estate and Financial Planning Council of Southern New Jersey
  • Moorestown Rotary Lunch Club

Sean graduated from Cannon Trust School and earned his Certified Trust & Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation. He earned his B.S. degree in Management and a Minor in Business Law at Smeal College of Business at the Pennsylvania State University.

Kurt Talke, CTFA

Senior Vice President & Trust Officer
Regional Manager Lebanon

Leveraging more than 26 years of helping clients reach their goals in connection with trust and investment management, Kurt plays a vital role in GSTC’s north/northwest New Jersey marketplace client development efforts. In addition to attracting and retaining clients by cultivating new business relationships via a wide range of legal, financial and other professional associations, Kurt builds strong relationships with long-time clients, spanning generations. In 1997, Kurt joined the Peapack-Gladstone Bank’s Trust Division located in Bedminster, NJ where he was instrumental in helping the division grow its assets under administration consistently each and every year. He was a senior managing director heading their trust and estate administration group, was the plan administrator for their savings & investment plan and a member of the Peapack-Gladstone Bank, Delaware Board of Directors. Kurt began his career in 1990 with United Trust located in Bridgewater, NJ where he was a vice president and trust officer responsible for administering personal and charitable trusts, estates, retirement funds and investment management accounts. Kurt obtained the designation of Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) from the American Bankers Association and is active in many local estate planning associations.

Michelle Black

Administrative Assistant

Michelle Black joined the GSTC team in August of 2019. As an Administrative Assistant working out of our Lebanon, NJ location Michelle handles internal office management including interoffice communications and operations as well as assisting trust officers with client relationship management. Prior to joining GSTC Michelle was an executive assistant to the CEO of a design company overseeing internal operations and marketing events as well as growing and maintaining relationships with top accounts. Her detail-oriented and client-centered approach has made her a welcome addition to our team. When not in the office Michelle loves spending time with her children and being involved in their school’s PTA.

John M. Bonk, CTFA

Senior Vice President & Trust Officer

John’s role is to expand our Investment and Fiduciary Service business. His approach has always been to provide trust, estate, investment and tax services in a coordinated manner to enhance the client experience. He is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CFTA) through the American Bankers Association and serves as Trustee of various foundations and associations within the community. He works from the Lebanon office.

Emily Brower

Compliance Officer

Emily joined Garden State in July 2018 as Compliance Officer. She brings with her over 12 years of extensive experience working in both the compliance and legal departments of a large national bank supporting the consumer lending department. As compliance officer, she will be responsible for ensuring that Garden State continues to adhere to the highest industry standards through diligent oversight of policies and procedures necessary to properly manage and safeguard our client’s accounts. Emily graduated with honors from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ with a B.A in History/Political Science. She also holds a J.D. from Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.

Mary Gonzalez

Assistant Trust Officer

Mary began her career with Garden State in 2010 as an Administrative Assistant supporting our trust and investment officers with administrative client requests and account maintenance. Since that time Mary’s responsibilities have grown to include working directly with clients in meeting their needs and account management. Mary takes pride in working with our clients and helping them reach their goals and addressing their needs.

Kerri Jablonski

Assistant Tax & Operations Officer

Kerri joined Garden State in March 2018 as a part time Administrative Assistant just before graduating from Kean University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She brought with her five years of experience in customer service and back-office operations at the largest home improvement retailer in the country. Now, Kerri manages clients’ bill pay and assists with various other operational procedures. She works directly with the company’s Chief Financial Officer to meet the tax needs for client accounts.

John P. Ritter

Senior Vice President & Trust Officer

John is a Senior Vice President and Trust Officer who has been working in the trust and wealth management industry for the past thirty years in the South Jersey marketplace. He joined Garden State in January of 2018. John’s career in the Trust Industry began at The Farmers and Merchants National Bank, Bridgeton, NJ in 1988. He was responsible for the administration of trust activities, including the development of new trust business and the implementation of department policies and procedures. John went on to establish a Trust Department for Newfield National Bank, Newfield, NJ. Most recently, he was a Senior Vice President & Trust Account Manager Senior at Fidelity National Information Services Inc. / Reliance Trust Company of Delaware. His extensive knowledge of trust administration, portfolio management and retirement planning has enabled John to provide guidance and maintain relationships with his clients for decades. He graduated from Rowan University with a B.S. in Business Administration, majoring in Accounting and the Central Atlantic School of Trust at Bucknell University. John will maintain an office at our Marlton location.

Elicia Salmons

Assistant Trust Officer

Elicia joined Garden State In January 2018 as a full time Administrative Assistant with six years of experience working with law firms providing administrative support to attorneys. At Garden State Trust in addition to working with the trust officers in meeting the needs of our clients, she is responsible for accounts payable and internal office management. Both Garden State and our clients benefit not only from Elicia’s professional experience but the warm & friendly attitude she brings to the office everyday.