Broker Check

Our Team

Chris Wayne, AIFA®


Chris balances a love of logic, numbers, and investment analytics with the desire to enjoy life and meet people. He helps LFA clients improve their financial lives by planning and becoming educated about money and finances.

Before joining the company in 2014, Chris was an Investment Representative with another local financial firm for 11 years. Today, he consults with Laraway Financial Advisors’ clients on a variety of financial topics, investments, and insurance products.

“There’s nothing better than sitting down with clients, showing them the potential results of a good plan over time, and seeing the contented look on their faces that says, ‘Yes. Now we’re prepared,’” says Chris.

Chris prepared for his career by earning a BS in Finance, with an emphasis on Micro Computer Studies, from St. Cloud State University. Years later when Chris met Steve Laraway at a Scouting event, he was impressed with the company’s financial values and stewardship objectives, so impressed that he signed on. Today, Chris combines these values with his community responsibilities. He is a member of the CentraCare Investment Committee.  He has been the Cubmaster and Den Leader, an Eagle Scout Review Board member and past Alumni Committee Chair, District Chair and serves on the Executive Board of Central Minnesota Boy Scouts.  He has served as a member of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation’s Investment Committee and has been involved with Greater St. Cloud Business Development Corps, and St. Cloud Opportunities.

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Another side of Chris:

Chris grew up in River Falls, Wisconsin, the son of an accountant father and early childhood educator mother. Not surprisingly, he followed natural math ability to a career in Finance. He applied an affinity for education to his service as treasurer at Children’s Day Montessori of St. Cloud and to his Scouting (“Lead by example.”) role with his own two boys. Chris is a Boy Scout, literally.

Chris has always been sports-minded–running the hurdles and competing in the long jump, playing football and golfing. As a “cheese head,” he cheers for the Badgers and Packers, but also roots for the Gophers when necessary. He’s teaching the boys to downhill ski and golf; golf is Chris' best individual game. When he saw Tiger Woods win the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland, it was a-once-in-a-lifetime thrill.

Chris loves nature, taking his wife Katie and the boys camping and fishing with family and friends in Luck, Wisconsin. “We love to be outdoors, sitting around the campfire on a cool fall night,” says Chris.

Something nobody knows about Chris . . . while attending St. Cloud State University, he was part of the Education Abroad program at Alnwick Castle in England. The “Harry Potter” movies were filmed at that castle.

James Schmitz


James collaborates with his team to set business objectives for LFA and to reinforce its stewardship mission. He greatly enjoys initiating good conversations with clients about their futures. James sees his advisor and insurance professional role as one of helping clients draft roadmaps for financial success and well-being. James splits his time between the local office and the newly opened office location in Alexandria.

James obtained a B.S. degree in Finance and Economics from Northern State University, located in his hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota. After working various jobs across the Midwest for a number of years, James returned to his first choice of careers – Finance. Prior to joining the company in 2012, James was an investment representative with ING Financial Partners.

James’ desire to help people reaches beyond his investment advisory role to his community and church. He is an active member of Lion’s Club International and he and his family participate in the life of the church at St. Francis Xavier Parish.They support/volunteer at Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and Area Youth Sports, as often as possible.

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Another side of James:

James focuses on family and fun when he’s away from the office. Three active kids contribute to the kinetic energy of Jim’s “downtime”. He’s busy driving to practices and watching his kids play hockey and soccer. Saturday mornings he’s got the crew in the kitchen, preparing pancakes. He enjoys cooking and Angela is happy to relinquish the stove to him, especially for Thanksgiving dinners.

The family has lived in the St. Cloud/Sartell area for over 20 years. Out in the yard, you’ll find a boat in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter, true Minnesotan behavior. When James and his family are not helping in their community, they like to go fishing, boating, snowmobiling and golfing together. James goes pheasant hunting as well and gets back to South Dakota at least annually for the pursuit. Playing cards (Buck Euchre) with the neighbors is a weekly pastime.

James Schmitz is a man with a ready smile and easy manner, intent on his career goals, his clients’ needs, and his family’s health and happiness.

Jennifer Lesmeister, AIF®


Jennifer recently achieved the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Designation from the Center for Fiduciary Studies in December 2021 for her knowledge of fiduciary responsibility and her ability to meet a defined standard of care in implementing policies and procedures.  "Not all advisors achieve certification, and Jennifer reached the gold standard of fiduciary certification, orienting her to her clients' best interests at an even higher level," LFA President and CEO Chris Wayne.

Jennifer Lesmeister, a University of Minnesota graduate, joined Laraway in 2018.  Jennifer is a licensed and registered financial advisor and is life and health insurance licensed.

Lesmeister majored in Spanish and Latin American Studies at University of Minnesota –Morris. Lesmeister’s career has leveraged her skills in interpretation, writing, and research and interests in estate and financial planning. When she was 16, Lesmeister began taking college level courses, and her advanced language skills in Spanish led her to a career as a bilingual legal assistant in Minneapolis. Continuing to expand her background and expertise, she went on to work at Gray Plant Mooty in the St. Cloud area.

Lesmeister has 8 years of experience in estate planning as a paralegal, which compliments her passion for financial planning. By working to achieve her clients’ goals, she broadens LFA’s resources and helps make their team approach to retirement and estate planning stronger.

“I find that in the financial services industry each day brings changes, and new information,” says Lesmeister. “Staying informed in this industry is critical.”

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Another side of Jennifer:

Outside of work, Jennifer listens to music, politics, comedy, enjoys bowling and swimming, and spending time with her nieces and nephews and miniature Doberman Pinscher/Chihuahua mix named Alice.

Steven A. Laraway, J.D., CPA®, CFP®, ChFC®


“Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Mark Twain

Retirement transition. The reins of the business passed on to the next generation January 1, 2020, my interest in Laraway Financial Advisors transitioned to Chris Wayne and James Schmitz, advisors and partners who have been with the company since 2014.

I remain involved, albeit less so, as secretary of the firm and as a member of the Investment Committee and still attend monthly meetings, some via teleconference. I still review financial plans and portfolios and assist with investment decisions. I also continue to mentor our staff and continue some direct client involvement as necessary.

One of the greatest privileges in my life has been to serve you, celebrating the good times––births, graduations, weddings, retirements––and giving guidance during difficult times––times of diminished health and death. It has been most rewarding to be a part of your life.

THANK YOU for the faith you have put in me and our firm throughout the years. Laraway Financial Advisors has always understood that the only reason we have been this successful is because you selected us to serve you.

My wife Peggy and I plan to remain active in Saint Cloud and winter somewhere warm (of course!). We look forward to travelling and spending more time with our children and grandkids.

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Another side of Steve:

As a young man in New Ulm, Steve mowed lawns. However, his dream job is general manager of a sports franchise–not surprisingly, the Twins or Vikings. A “sports junkie” of all sports, Steve’s attended nine Final Fours, two Ryder Cups, and five U.S. Opens. He’s also collected 30 autographed baseballs, including Harmon Killebrew and Ernie Banks, and a nearly complete 1965 Tops set of 598 (minus five) baseball cards.

Inspired by the bucket list he’d created at age 25, Steve took a Swirl wine class in 2010 from certified wine educator and sommelier Kent Benson, built a state-of-the-art wine cellar, and began amassing his 400-bottle wine collection. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are favorites.

Steve and his wife Peggy also enjoy “Up North” trips to outdoor rock concerts at Moondance Jam in Walker, and weekends at the lake near Remer are always memorable, especially when Steve concocts his signature BBQ ribs and brisket for family. The couple has four grown children and four grandchildren.

The couple loves to travel–when they can synchronize schedules; Peggy is a busy hospital nurse. One memorable trip to England, Scotland and Ireland prompted an interest in Steve’s English and Irish ancestry.

Something no one knows about Steve . . . when he was 27, Steve performed CPR on a woman who’d stopped breathing in a St. Paul restaurant near the bank where he worked. Steve had completed CPR training only one week prior to the emergency!

Kimberly Foster, ChFC®


Kim excels as a compliance officer and appreciates how her analytical, regulatory duties complement the client-centered advisory services she provides for the company. Kim helps LFA's clients make sound financial decisions that have impact on their financial wellbeing.

Kim has given over 25 years to the financial services industry, working her way up from the ground floor to where her career stands today, a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) designation through The American College of Financial Services. 

Positive experience with the GREAT Theatre, a nonprofit community theater for artists and audiences of all ages, led Kim to a volunteer board position since 2015 and board secretary since 2016. 

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Another side of Kim:

In her spare time, Kim enjoys travel, attending musical/drama theater performances, and family time.

Bill Bateman, CLU®, ChFC®


Bill brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to LFA, gained during over 50 years in insurance and financial consulting. Daily, he helps clients discover new financial possibilities for themselves and their families through plans for a secure retirement or the bequeathing of financial legacies.

In 2014, Bill became part of the LFA group, having owned Bateman, Dolan, and Westlund since 1979 and overseen its merger with Stearns Insurance in 1999. Over those years of developing professional contacts and making life-long friends, Bill was also focused on giving accurate, honest, and meaningful client advice.

“I become very involved in any activity I commit to, including helping my clients,” says Bill.

Many have benefited from Bill’s penchant for leadership and sense of responsibility. Bill is on the board of Granite Rotary and volunteers for Central Minnesota Youth for Christ and Calvary Community Church. He is a past-president of the YMCA and Central Minnesota Youth for Christ, and previously, was a board member of the United Way of Central Minnesota.

Bill earned a BA in Finance and Economics at Bemidji State University, Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) designation and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) designation from the American College of Financial Services.

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Another side of Bill:

Bill was raised in Osage, MN the son of a Ford dealership owner who hunted with his father and his sons, Bill and Lyle. The family continues this tradition, maintaining a deer camp in Two Inlet State Forest, north of Bill’s Straight Lake home. Bill’s son and grandsons routinely return from upper New York State for deer hunting. An avid hunter of deer, antelope, caribou, and elk, Bill has hunted in Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Alaska, and bagged grouse and pheasant in North Dakota. Another trip to Alaska may be on his bucket list.

Back in the day, Bill played football for Bemidji State; today he’s a staunch Vikings season-ticket holder and Gophers fan. He’s also a snowmobiler, and enjoys negotiating the powder on the White Earth Indian Nation’s groomed trails. Golf is not Bill’s forte, although he’s practiced every Wednesday for 20 years with his guy-friends. Their favorite course is Eagles Landing at Ft. Ripley, “a golfer-friendly course.”

Bill and his wife Elna enjoy their blended family of five daughters, one son, and nine grandchildren. They also love to see new places. They’ve traveled to Africa, Australia, Barbados, Canada, China, England, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, and Switzerland, giving new meaning to the concept of “well-traveled.”

Something not many know about Bill . . . he and his sister contracted polio before there was vaccine. Both went to the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis. After boiling hot packs and vigorous exercises were used on their affected back and leg muscles, brother and sister recovered with barely any reminders of the disease. Bill is especially happy that through the efforts of Rotary and others, polio has been eradicated in the world, with the exception of one or two countries.

Eileen Winter


Eileen is typically the initial cheerful face clients see upon entering the office, or the pleasant “Hello” they receive over the phone. Her responsibilities at LFA, in addition to “go-to” administrative tasks for the Advisors, are to keep clients’ data organized and respond to their requests. Her calm demeanor and efficient helpfulness put everyone immediately at ease.

In 2014, Eileen became part of the LFA team, bringing with her over 20 years of administrative experience, knowledge of financial services and employee benefits, and a small business owner’s perspective. Eileen and her husband Jason own and operate Happy Kooker’s Kettle Corn Company, which is a seasonal business they established in May of 2011. Eileen is a graduate of Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, MN.

Whether they’re Laraway clientele, colleagues, or her own customers, Eileen enjoys meeting and interacting with people. “I appreciate friendly and genuine people,” says Eileen. “They make every day of my job different than the day before.”

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Another side of Eileen:

Eileen and Jason are avid supporters and team sponsors of the Minnesota State High School Trap Shooting and are involved with the championship activities of the Minnesota High School Clay Target League. They have two nephews involved in this rapidly growing outdoor sport.

Combining family, friends, and fun with the great outdoors is a major leisure-time activity for Eileen and Jason. Boating (of all types), traveling the “blue highways” of Minnesota, exploring new venues, and relaxing in the North Country bring the couple peace and tranquility. (We also have it on good authority that Eileen enjoys a love affair with sunrises and sunsets on the lake!)

Of course, the couple’s Happy Kooker’s Kettle Corn Company keeps them extremely busy. In the summer, they take the concession trailer to trap shooting events in Alexandria, fine art shows, winery tours and tasting, and other festivals and events across Minnesota. This activity gives them wonderful opportunities to interact with the interesting folks they’ve met along the way at these events. During the “off” season, the concession trailer may be parked at home near Avon, but Eileen and Jason are busy popping up and packaging gourmet specialty kettle corn orders for corporate parties, weddings, graduation parties, and gifting.

Something nobody knows about Eileen . . . she loves shoe shopping!

Chris Hastings


Chris helps clients define their lifestyle goals and discover the financial steps necessary to realize them. He operates from the conviction that clients are real people, requiring his advice and mentoring to really understand and take control of their financial lives. Chris encourages his clients to look at the big picture first and then, develop specific plans for taxation, retirement, investing, education funding, and leaving a financial legacy.

Prior to joining Laraway Financial Advisors, Chris was a financial advisor with Cetera Investment Services for 13 years. However, he initially earned a B.A. degree in Biology from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and taught for three years before beginning his financial career. Today, Chris enjoys meeting with new clients in the Brainerd office, having good conversations, and developing relationships he hopes will last a lifetime.

“Financial planning is a great career. I get to work with people and help them every day,” says Chris, who knows what he wants from life. “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living” is his favorite quote, spoken by theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.

Chris is a past-president of Kiwanis and formerly, served on the Finance Board of the Brainerd Lakes YMCA. He is a member of Toastmasters and a parishioner at St. Francis Catholic Church.

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Another side of Chris:

When Chris is not wearing his advisor’s hat, he’s substitutes a helmet for mountain biking or a Columbia cap for hiking and camping. He, his wife Jessa, and their three kids enjoy family events in the outdoors. They’ve taken advantage of the Cuyuna Lakes mountain bike trails around the old mine pits in Crosby, Minnesota. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness has been a great place to hike and enjoy nature, remaining on the “To-Do Again List” for the future.

The family has also camped and backpacked the Badlands at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, and explored the Black Hills of Custer State Park in South Dakota.

“Home” offers Chris plenty of woodworking time, when he’s not running after or picking up after the kids. He actually picked up building skills on his own, skills he’ll probably pass on to his kids, once they’re old enough to handle the tools. Chris builds large furniture and has remodeled two homes, with Jessa’s input. Jessa is a physical therapist at the St. Cloud Hospital. So, between the jobs, family activities, and recreation, the couple keeps busy.

Something few know about Chris . . . He comes from a military family and lived in California, Arizona, Texas, and South Dakota prior to his move to Minnesota for college.

Pat Solyntjes


As a financial advisor, Pat assesses the financial needs of individuals, businesses, and families, making recommendations and assisting them with their investments. He especially enjoys the personal contact with LFA clientele as, together, they plan for short-term and long-term goals––kids’ education, retirement, and other life-changing events and/or major purchases such as a new home.

Pat has been with the company’s Alexandria office since 2010. He received his Series 7 general securities license in 1996 when he decided to pursue a career as an investment representative. Pat initially received his B.A. degree in Accounting from Alexandria Technical and Community College, and was a comptroller in the medical and plumbing, heating and air conditioning industries for 20 years. Before joining Laraway Financial Advisors, he was a financial advisor with Financial Network Investment Corp.

Pat is also a volunteer firefighter in Alexandria, actively serving the community for over 35 years.

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Another side of Pat:

Pat remembers that, as a kid growing up in Springfield, Minnesota, his dad would take him to the racetrack in Redwood Falls to watch the stock cars compete. Upon settling in Alexandria, he thought he’d died and gone to Heaven when discovering there was a racetrack located there. Well, Pat never raced cars himself, but when he was asked by the board of directors to contribute his accounting and financial expertise to the management of Viking Speedway in Alexandria, he jumped at the chance. His wife Cindy joined him in the later years, volunteering as manager of the souvenir stand. Eighteen years later, Pat (and Cindy) retired from the track at the end of 2013.

Since then, Pat has “slowed down” a bit, engaging in various home improvements, supervised (and assisted) by Cindy. They’re very proud of the results.

They’re also proud of the kids. The couple has two children–a married son Robb who lives in Alexandria with his wife and three children, and a daughter Amanda who’s an athletic trainer in Maple Grove. Robb serves alongside Pat in the Alexandria Fire Department and Amanda’s fiancé Kevin is a member of the Montrose Fire Department. Other family activities include spending time with the grandchildren, watching hockey games, and of course, going to the stock car races. Something few know about Pat . . . He and daughter Amanda went skydiving in 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it. An encore performance has been discussed!