Young Gamechangers 2012


Ben Andrews

9-1815Andrews 001-1Ben Andrews is a young professional working in community and economic development in South Georgia.  He is a 2011 Graduate from the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, and is currently working as the Community Development Coordinator for the City of Americus, Georgia.  Outside of work Ben is very active in his community.  He serves as the Vice President for the Board of Directors for the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, New Horizons, and is the program manager for the Americus Rotary Club.  He has also been involved with community projects such as the “Bridging Campus and Community” initiative, as well as working with groups such as the recreation department, and the Boy Scouts of America.  Ben is a Graduate of The Georgia Institute of Technology, with a degree in Business Management, and concentrations in Finance and Marketing, and he has a Masters of Business Administration from Georgia Southwestern State University.

Justin R. Arnold

Justin R. Arnold was born in Americus, Georgia. He attended Southland Academy and was an Eagle Scout in Troop 21. He graduated cum laude with honors in Political Science from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. Justin pursued his law degree at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where he received the Walker P. Johnson, Jr. Memorial Award which recognizes “a graduating senior who has demonstrated excellence in litigation skills and a keen sense of professionalism and ethics.”

Upon completing his legal education, Justin came back to Americus and joined a local law firm. He currently serves as an Assistant District Attorney for the Southwestern Judicial Circuit. At present, he is the president of Americus Literacy Action, Inc. and is also a member of the Americus Rotary Club, the Sumter Historic Trust, and First United Methodist Church.  Justin and his wife, Rachel, have one daughter.

Emily Boness
Emily Boness is originally from Anchorage, Alaska, but has lived in Georgia since 2004. She moved to Atlanta to work in operations management after graduating from Brown University with a degree in political science.  In 2010, Emily graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law and joined The Fanning Institute at UGA as a Public Service Assistant. She works in communities around Georgia, including Americus, to help move the community forward.  Emily also designed and implemented Athens Peer Court, a diversion program that trains local high school students to be the advocates, judges and jurors in disposition hearings for youth arrested of first time offenses.  In her free time, Emily likes to play soccer, tennis and do pottery.  She is a mentor and meets with her mentee to swim or review homework, and she is also a board member for Youth Leadership Athens and Children’s First.

Gregory Burbidge

Gregory Burbidge is a Senior Program Specialist at the Atlanta Regional Commission, working at building a program around the ARC board vision of coordinating a regional focus on arts and culture planning.  In 2012 the ARC absorbed the work of Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition in a planned strategic partnership.  Greg served as the Research & Operations Manager for MAACC, an organization dedicated to education, awareness and advocacy for arts and culture issues in the Metro Atlanta Region.  Born in the wilds of northern Canada, Gregory spent his early professional life working as a gold miner.

Gregory also spends time steering the ship for the Emerging Arts Leaders of Atlanta program. In the last two years the program has created over 100 mentor opportunities, facilitated monthly speaker events, and hosted successful annual Creative Conversations events.  In his free time, Greg found an artistic outlet as a textile artist, successfully weaving together interests in mathematics, sheepherding, and wearable art.

James Carter

A lifelong Georgian, James Carter is a recent graduate of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. With a specialty in public budgeting and finance, James has worked for the Panamanian government as an independent consultant for the Ministry of Social Development, and as a budget analyst for Georgia State Senator Jason Carter, where he had the opportunity to work on the recent HOPE Scholarship legislation for the Democratic Caucus. Currently, James is an independent political researcher whose work is frequently featured on popular news websites, and operates a highly-trafficked YouTube channel dedicated to current and archival political footage. This past March, he was the subject of an article for PBS’ Need to Know.

Janet Cummings, Ph.D.

Janet Cummings is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.  She received her Ph.D. in Health Services with a concentration in Economics from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.  Dr. Cummings’ work examines issues concerning access to and quality of mental health services, with a particular emphasis on socioeconomic, geographic, and racial/ethnic disparities among youth.  She has received numerous awards for her work including the Chancellor’s Service Award from UCLA and a national award for her doctoral dissertation from AcademyHealth.  Dr. Cummings recently received a five-year career development award (K01) from the National Institute of Mental Health to study children’s mental health services in the public safety net.

Jefferson Irwin Davis

Jefferson Irwin Davis IV graduated from Dublin High School in 1993 and from The University of Georgia in 1998. He began his career in Information Technology in 1998 with Columbia/HCA, and went on to found Alterra Networks in 2005. Based in Dublin with 15 full time employees, Alterra Networks competes statewide in the Low Voltage and Network Infrastructure arenas. When the home office was outgrown, Jeff acquired Downtown Dublin’s “Old” Post Office, built in 1912. Using original blueprints and 1,500 pages of documentation from the National Archives, Jeff and his team restored the building to its original grandeur. His other passions are forestry and cattle farming. Jeff is married to the former Jennifer Wynn of Rockledge. They have three children; sons Jeff (4), and Morgan (3), and daughter Mollie (8 months).

Nicole de Vries

Nicole de Vries, 31, currently serves as the manager of academic data at her alma mater, Columbus State University. Working in the university’s Office of Academic Affairs, Nicole oversees a myriad of technical applications and databases that are critical to the how the university operates and serves its students. Named as one of the “Top 5 Under 40” by Columbus and the Valley Magazine in 2011, Nicole is building her reputation as an emerging community leader on a record of superior scholastic achievement and extensive community service.

She has two degrees from Columbus State University, a bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems Management (2007) and a Masters of Business Administration that she earned in 2009. While an undergraduate at CSU, she served as president of the Student Government Association and, earned the Charles Eason Leadership Award and was awarded the 2007 Faculty Cup, the highest academic award the faculty can bestow on a student.

Chantee Earl, Ph.D.

Chantee Earl is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Middle/Secondary Education and Instructional Technology at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Earl’s research focus and instruction centers on urban social studies teacher education, historical thinking, culturally relevant pedagogy, multicultural education, and critical race studies in education. A former high school social studies teacher, Chantee Earl has over seven years of classroom teaching experience. She currently instructors and coordinates the social studies M.A.T. program at Georgia State. She has presented at national educational research conferences and has produced scholarly research articles related to social studies and urban education and is committed to improving the educational experiences for all students. Chantee Earl also serves the greater Atlanta community as coordinator of the Edgewood Court Apartments summer tutoring and enrichment program located in the Edgewood community and works as a church musician at Great Smith Chapel A.M.E. Church. Chantee Earl also competes professionally in the 800 meters and has represented the United States in various national and international track and field competitions.

Howard Franklin

Howard Franklin is one of the South’s most sought-after political strategists. He has distinguished himself by running successful campaigns for young candidates, including State Senator Jason Carter and Councilmember Kwanza Hall. Howard has played leading roles in major policy decisions, helping Atlanta City Council win approval of a pension reform and persuading Georgia’s largest counties to include foreclosures in property assessments. He founded Firehouse Phones in 2008, which quickly grew into the region’s “go-to” firm for democrats, leading 200+ telephone campaigns in 12 states. In 2011, he launched, delivering the top 10 political stories to 4000 lawmakers and lobbyists by 10 a.m. daily. Howard was elected first male president of the Georgia League of Women Voters and first chairman of the Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus. He earned degrees in English and sociology from Morehouse College.

Denise Grabowski

Denise R. Grabowski, AICP, LEED AP, is the founder of Symbioscity, an urban planning firm dedicated to fostering mutually beneficial relationships between people, place and planet.  Denise has worked as a senior-level planner for local governments and as a consultant for the public and private sectors.  A frequent public speaker, she has presented at national and regional conferences on quality growth and sustainable development, including the American Planning Association and the National League of Cities.  She is a founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council-Georgia, and co-founder of Designing4Health, a non-profit working to increase the understanding between community design and public health.  Denise has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Furman University, a Master of City Planning from Georgia Tech, and is a graduate of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership (IGEL). In 2009, she was named to Georgia Trend’s “Top 40 Under 40: Georgia’s Best and Brightest” list.

Hill Hardman

Hill is the Director of Corporate Strategy and Development at RouteMatch Software, Inc., which provides end to end fleet management technology to government agencies.  Prior to RouteMatch, he was as an associate at King & Spalding, worked with Synovus Financial Services, and taught elementary, middle and high school in the Dominican Republic. Hill is active in the Atlanta community and serves as Chair of the World Affairs Council Young Leaders, on the Georgia Forward Board of Directors, Metro Atlanta Chamber Board of Advisors and Transportation Policy Committee, the Woodruff Arts Center Global Firms Committee, the Atlanta Business School Alliance Board, the Bobby Dodd Institute Auxiliary Board, the Duke University Atlanta Alumni Development Council, and as President of the Southeast Region of USIAA.  Hill also served as a Carter Center delegate and short term observer during the 2008 historic Nepalese elections, is a member of the GA Bar, a LEAD Atlanta graduate and a 2013 Marshall Memorial Fellow. He received a B.A. in political science from Duke University, a J.D. degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served as President of the student body, and an international M.B.A. degree from INSEAD in France and Singapore.

Kris Hattaway

Kris Hattaway is proud to be from Macon, Georgia.  She is a 2008 graduate of the University of Georgia where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an advertising concentration and was a part of the LEAD program through the Terry College of Business’s Institute for Leadership Advancement.  After graduation, Kris moved back to her hometown with the intention of making a difference.  She has been serving as Director of Place at NewTown Macon, a nonprofit working to revitalize downtown Macon, for the past three and half years.  Kris is responsible for marketing and promotions for NewTown Macon and is involved in the organization’s overall economic development projects.  She is very active in several organizations in Macon including the Macon Rotary Club and the Junior League of Macon.  In her free time she enjoys traveling, going to country music concerts and entertaining friends and family.

Georgia Wood Hodges

Georgia Wood Hodges works as an assistant research scientist at the University of Georgia.  She attended public schools in the state of Georgia and committed her professional life to improving the educational system found in the US. After working in the public schools in Georgia, she returned to UGA where she ultimately completed her PhD to help further her commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students. Her current research focuses on rural science teacher retention, attrition, and migration as well as the development of novel instructional tools to teach students fundamental biological processes that affect type 2 diabetes and obesity, issues of utmost importance to Georgians.



Bardin Hooks

Bardin Hooks was born and raised in Americus, Georgia, where his family has lived for seven generations He attended The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and was a member of the varsity golf team, Kappa Alpha Order, and studied abroad at St. John’s College, Oxford University. In 2003, Bardin received a degree in History from Sewanee, with a minor in Political Science. He then spent a year clerking for the law firm of King & Spalding in Atlanta before enrolling at Mercer University’s Walter F. Georgia School of Law in Macon. After graduating and being admitted to the bar, Bardin was appointed as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia and primarily represented executive branch agencies in hearings before the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. In 2011, Bardin moved back home to Americus and joined the law firm of Gatewood, Skipper & Rambo as an associate attorney.

Tyler Mann

Tyler Mann grew up in Roswell and graduated from Roswell High School.  He left Georgia to attend Yale University, where he double majored in biomedical engineering and political science, and the University of Michigan Law School.  Tyler then returned to Atlanta and practiced for six years in the Regulatory Compliance and Governmental Litigation practice group at Troutman Sanders.  There, he specialized in policy litigation, legislative and municipal counsel, and land use and zoning.  In October 2012, Tyler joined the Georgia State Democratic Caucus as the Policy Director and Legal Counsel. Currently, Tyler serves as a Chief of Staff to State Senator Jason Carter. He and his wife, Lindsey, live in Atlanta with their eight-month-old twins.

Carmie McDonald

Carmie McDonald serves as Program Manager for the Fox Theatre Institute (FTI), an outreach division of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre.  FTI provides support for Georgia’s historic theatres through educational and professional development programs including Georgia Presenters, a statewide booking consortium that encourages collaboration among arts presenters.  Carmie’s most recent project for FTI is the development of The Georgia Historic Preservation Handbook. This forthcoming publication will provide an overview of the theory and practice of historic preservation in the state.

Prior to joining FTI, Carmie worked for Historic Savannah Foundation in Savannah, Georgia where she coordinated the publication of Historic Savannah: A Survey of Significant Buildings in the Historic Districts of Savannah, Georgia, Third EditionCarmie earned a B.A. in Art History from Georgia State University and Master’s degrees in Historic Preservation and Architectural History from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is an alumnus of the Attingham Summer School in England.

Ashley Meggit

Ashley Meggitt has been hired as the newest member of the team in the governmental relations associate position at the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). Ashley helps to develop and advocate for, environment and natural resources policies of vital interest to municipalities in Georgia.  By engaging members of the Georgia General Assembly and the Executive Branch Ashley helps to shape public policy.

Ashley worked for three years in the governmental relations office of ACCG both in the research department, and as a lobbyist handling a variety of policy issues, including health and human services, public safety and the courts, local government services, and revenue and finance. Prior to Ashley’s local government work with Georgia’s counties, she worked at the state capitol during Governor Sonny Perdue’s administration. Ashley attended Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia where she attained a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Policy Analysis and Evaluation. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs.

Catherine Muller

Catherine Muller is an architect and community designer with a background ranging from software/interface design to community development, project management and communications. Her passion lies in the intersection of psychology, behavior and design—addressing the role of the individual and the community. Her most recent work as a fellow and faculty member at Archeworks in Chicago focused on small and large-scale community-focused urban agriculture projects, including the Mobile Food Collective, whose mission was to foster connection through the medium of food (and which was exhibited at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale). She has been fortunate to travel—both observing, and formally studying, a diverse range of civic and community solutions in the US, Europe and Central America. Also a certified yoga instructor, she is a strong advocate for overall, holistic community health—at every scale. She is a Georgia native, recently returned after 15 years.

Mary Ann Portt

Mary Ann Portt is the Business Integration Manger for the Southeast, leading Bank of America’s business integration activities in Washington, DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.  In her role, she works closely with Bank of America’s Market Presidents, Market Integration Executives and line of business executives at the local market level to deliver the full capabilities of the firm to Bank of America’s clients. Mary Ann joined Bank of America in November 2006 after receiving her International M.B.A. from the University of Memphis. She earned her undergraduate degree from Auburn University and currently resides in Atlanta, GA.

Benjamin Reeves

Benjamin Reeves is an Associate Director at the international commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, where he is part of a team of commercial real estate consultants specializing in office tenant representation. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Georgia, is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and an Eagle Scout recipient. Currently Ben serves on the Board of Directors for the Piedmont Park Conservancy and is a member of the LEAD Atlanta 2013 class. Ben remains involved with the Urban Land Institute, Cushman & Wakefield’s Future Leaders, Georgia Conservancy and various other conservation advocacy groups.


Kyle Smith

Kyle Smith spent the early years of his life on Lake Blackshear before moving the short distance to Leesburg, GA, where he attended and graduated from Lee County High School.  Kyle obtained a B.S. degree from the University of Georgia and performed post-graduate work at the University of South Carolina with a focus on environmental health. He relocated to Tallahassee, FL and began work for an environmental engineering and remediation company that specialized in the management of petroleum contaminated sites.  The pursuit of happiness eventually brought him full circle back to Lake Blackshear where he now runs several businesses and is always open to the next big business idea. Kyle enjoys being outdoors, whether it is for work or play, and his hobbies include fishing, sailing, skiing, shooting, diving, driving, building, planting, growing and learning.

Heather Stanley

Heather L. Stanley is a graduate of Valdosta State University with a BFA in Theatre. She is currently the Managing Director of the historic Rylander Theatre in Americus, Ga. Heather also serves on the Georgia Arts Network Board of Directors and is an active member of the Georgia Presenters Network and Fox Theatre Institute. She has worked professionally with Peach State Summer Theatre: The Official Musical Theatre of Georgia and taught Theatre Arts at the elementary grade level for two years in Albany, GA public schools. As a lifelong resident, Heather is invested in Georgia and committed to seeing communities across the state reach their full potential of growth, economic development, and quality of life.


Mandy Young

Mandy Reeves Young was born and raised in Americus and was an Honor Graduate from Southland Academy in 1997. She attended the University of Georgia and graduated from UGA in 2001 Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications/Public Relations. She moved back to Americus after graduating from UGA, and began work at the City of Americus as the Downtown Development Director/Main Street Manager. From 2005-2009, Mandy worked for Sumter Regional Hospital as the Customer Service Director, Director of Physician Relations, Recovery Campaign Coordinator Liaison & Director of Medical Staff Affairs. Mandy assumed her current position as the Community & Economic Development Director for the City of Americus in 2009.
Mandy is actively involved in the community in a variety of aspects. Her affiliations, volunteer work, and civic participation include: Leadership Georgia Class of 2007, UGA Archway Partnership Executive Committee Member, Americus-Sumter Tourism Council Board Member, Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority Recruitment Reference Board Chairman, South Georgia Technical College Marketing Advisory Committee Member, Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Member, Georgia Academy for Economic Development Graduate, and many others.

©2017 GeorgiaForward