Fall 2016 Young Gamechangers

Congratulations to the Fall 2016 Young Gamechangers that will work in Augusta from August through December 2016.


Angela AllenAngela Allen, Columbia County

Data Scientist, Augusta University Medical Center

Angela Allen is a proud product of Garden City Augusta, GA. She obtained her Bachelors in Biology from Claflin University, and her Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Health Informatics from Augusta University. She currently works as a senior member of the clinical data analytics team at Augusta University Medical Center, with plans to begin her PhD training in August 2016.


Edkesha J. AndersonEdkesha Anderson, Augusta

Community Development Coordinator, City of Augusta

Edkesha currently works for The City of Augusta’s Housing and Community Development Department. She is an advocate for women, children and homeless individuals/families. She is a devoted member of the Riverwalk Toastmasters Club #7106. She is a proud mother, entrepreneur, and author. As a formerly homeless individual who is currently seeking her Ph.D in Public Policy Analysis, she strives to ensure that public policy regulations are followed to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Thus, protecting the City and its local partners. She shares her story at every opportunity in hopes of inspiring other homeless individuals and showing them that their current situation is not their destination, but rather a class in determination used to reach their life goals.


Sara BerneySara Berney, Atlanta

Executive Director, Wholesome Wave Georgia

In January 2014, Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG) hired Sara as Executive Director and their first full-time staff person. Under her leadership, Sara has expanded the organizational budget by 275%, increased personnel from one to five, grown the Healthy Food Incentive Program from 14 to 50 farmer’s markets, and connected healthcare providers, farmer’s markets and families with chronic illness through the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription® Program. Prior to joining WWG, Sara worked as a Public Health Consultant for Deloitte, supporting clients at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health nonprofits including the Flour Fortification Initiative. Sara also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, where she partnered with community leaders to design and lead training programs for community health promoters and youth health educators. Sara has lived in Atlanta since 2006 and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Farmers Market Association.


Bernadette BirchBernadette Birch, Lithonia

Subway Global Account Team Sales Manager, The Coca-Cola Company

Bernadette currently works as a Subway Global Account Team Sales Manager for the Coca-Cola Company. She negotiates long-term client contracts for customers to secure company financial investments, new store openings, generating innovative business ideas, and facilitates all in-store merchandising. Along with these responsibilities, she also executes various field visits ensuring that the customer is identifying all opportunity gaps along with implementing the appropriate product marketing procedures. In 2013, Bernadette was appointed to sit on the United Way Young Professional Leaders Advisory Board as a member of the Marketing and Communications Committee. She also played a significant role in the 1st Annual Black Tie Brunch where they raised $60K for Human and Sex Trafficking. Bernadette recently graduated May 2015 from the EMBA Program at Kennesaw State University where she participated in a Residency Program in Lima, Peru and received her Global Engagement Certification. Ms. Birch also sits on the 2016-2019 Board of Directors for Dress for Success Atlanta where she serves as the 2016 Marketing Chairman. 


Tonya BonitatibusTonya Bonitatibus, Augusta

Riverkeeper and Executive Director, Savannah Riverkeeper

Tonya Bonitatibus serves as the Riverkeeper/ Executive Director for Savannah Riverkeeper, watching over the health and vibrancy of the Savannah River. She has served the organization for over 10 years, helping guide it through many successful challenges to water quality including a recent Savannah Harbor Settlement bringing over $40 million in restoration, preservation, and scientific studies to the Savannah River basin. In 2014 she was elected to serve on the International Waterkeeper Alliance’s Waterkeeper Council. She currently serves as the Chairman of the Issues and Advocacy Committee, as a member of the International Committee, and Mentorship Program. She also serves on the Leadership Committee for Georgia Water Coalition, SC Basin Advisory Council and Lower Savannah River Alliance. Tonya recently received the JAG Young Leaders Alumni Award from Georgia Regents University where she received a BA in Business Marketing. She often voices the need for water advocates to understand and maneuver in the financial realm to enact significant changes in their watersheds.


Kristyn BootheKristyn Boothe, Macon

Director of Corporate Partnerships, Comcast

Kristyn Boothe is an accomplished, results-driven marketing professional with over 10 years of sales experience focused on television, print, digital video, mobile, niche products and radio broadcasts. After graduating from Georgia Southern University with a degree in English Literature, Kristyn began a career as a journalist for a local newspaper. After many years and lots of growth as a media professional, she made the switch to the advertising and marketing side of media – becoming a consultant for small businesses in Macon. Using that experience, she delved into the world of digital marketing and social media marketing where she used her knowledge to promote a hospice company before taking the next step in her career as a multi-media consultant by joining a marketing team that provides cable and digital solutions for businesses of all sizes. As a business professional in Macon, Kristyn has used her skills outside the workplace to promote non-profits and community events by volunteering her time to provide social media management.


IanBridgeforth_HeadshotIan Bridgeforth, Augusta

Founder, Executive Director, Georgia Shift

Raised in Augusta, Georgia, Ian’s interest in civic engagement was sparked at Georgia College & State University during an internship with his congressman. After graduating with a degree in Mass Communication, he went on to work with local and national nonprofits in New York City. In 2014, Ian founded his own nonprofit, Georgia Shift, a non-partisan organization dedicated to giving young people a seat at the table of democracy. A 2015 alumnus of the New Leaders Council (Augusta Chapter), Ian is in the 2016 GALEO Institute of Leadership class and currently pursuing his M.A. in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art & Design.


Jae S. BrownJae Brown, Ellenwood

Senior Consultant, VYD and Associates

Jae S. Brown is a senior consultant with VYD and Associates specializing in Healthcare and Federal Government Sector. Mr. Brown has over 15 years of industry and consulting experience. He has led public health and emergency management programs at the local, state and federal level. He has worked with over 500 clients and his programs have impacted billions around the globe.

Mr. Brown’s awards include Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Leaders Under 40, Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40 Leaders, Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s Rising Star Award, CDC Outstanding Citizen, and CDC Ambassadorship Award.

Mr. Brown is also a graduate of Leadership Atlanta’s LEAD Atlanta class of 2010. He has an MBA from Cornell University, a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Georgia and holds a dual Bachelor of Science in Urban Public Policy and Economic Development from Georgia State University.


Calia BrownCaila Brown, Savannah

Community Manager, ThincSavannah

A graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design, Caila has served in a variety of capacities at both non-profit and for profit institutions, including Likeable Media and Telfair Museums. Currently she is the Community Manager at ThincSavannah, in addition to working for MusicFile Productions, Georgia Bikes! and Coastal Empire News.

In addition to her work at ThincSavannah, Caila is board chair for the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. Founded in 2008, this organization helps to make Savannah better through and for bicycles. She has served on the board since 2012, and was named board chair in January 2016.


Kevin CainKevin Cain, Augusta

Assistant Professor of Management, Augusta University

Kevin Cain is an Assistant Professor of Management at Augusta University’s James M. Hull College of Business, guest lecturer in the Dental College of Georgia, and member of the Salvation Army Augusta Area Command Advisory Board. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in strategy and entrepreneurship, and his research focuses on organizational impression management, social approval assets, and the dental industry. Prior to entering academia, he was an entrepreneur in the tech and healthcare industries and worked in creative marketing in the video game industry. He earned a PhD in Strategic Management from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, an MBA from Wake Forest University, and an AB in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and holds a Certified Management Accountant designation.


Helen CaldwellHelen Caldwell, Augusta

Vice President & Relationship Manager, Cash Management, Georgia Bank & Trust

Born and raised in Augusta, GA, Helen Trotter Caldwell graduated from Augusta Preparatory Day School in 1998 and University of Mississippi in 2002. After college, Helen began her career in the Food & Beverage industry in Charleston, SC. After marrying Wade Caldwell in 2005, Helen changed careers to Banking with Bank of America. Helen & Wade moved home to Augusta in 2007 to join Georgia Bank & Trust and Helen has been with the company ever since. Over the past 9 years with Georgia Bank & Trust, Helen has developed and grown with the business development area of the bank. In 2012, Helen moved the Commercial Lending department where she has been creating and implementing the Cash Management program for the bank. Helen currently serves as Vice President & Relationship Manager specializing in Cash Management. Helen & Wade have 3 children, Brandt (7), Whit (5) and Eliza (8 months).


Elliott CaldwellElliott Caldwell, Athens

Complete Streets Coordinator, Georgia Bikes

Elliott is originally from Washington, DC and first moved to Georgia as an undergraduate at Emory University. He received a BA in Political Science in 1999 and spent the next 12 years in DC working for community-based nonprofits, policy-focused organizations, and bicycle-related businesses. He returned to the state in 2011 as a graduate student at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Elliott was an active Board member and Chair of Bike Athens while getting a Master of Social Work degree at UGA. After a brief detour in DC after graduating, he returned to Georgia as Georgia Bikes’ first Complete Streets Coordinator.

Elliott has a background both in bicycles (as a mechanic, courier, and racer) and grassroots community advocacy and his work with Georgia Bikes is focused on the middle and north parts of the state. Elliott is passionate about working with advocates and partners around Georgia to make it a safer and better place for all people on bikes.


John CatesJohn Cates, Augusta

Vice President of Development & General Counsel, Meybohm Real Estate

John Cates is Vice President of Development and General Counsel of Meybohm Real Estate. He has several years of experience in the funding, structuring and closing of complex real estate investments. Prior to joining Meybohm, John was an attorney at Morris, Manning & Martin in Atlanta where his practice focused on real estate development, funds and alternative investments. John began his career with the international law firm of Jones Day, where he was a member of the private equity and mergers & acquisition groups. John holds a bachelor’s degree, an MBA with a concentration in Finance and Operations and a law degree, all with honors from the University of Georgia. John also serves as managing member of Whistler Capital, which specializes in the ownership of commercial real estate and investing in distressed loans. He also currently serves on the board of the Augusta region of the Technology Association of Georgia.


Stacey ChavisStacey Chavis, Brookhaven

Public Policy, Research and Analysis Consultant, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta

Stacey Chavis is the Public Policy, Research and Analysis Consultant with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta where she assists the Foundation to pursue a robust public policy role to enhance support for the local non-profit sector and the Foundation’s philanthropic mission.

Previously, Stacey served as Southern Regional Director for the White House Project, Deputy Finance Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia and Finance Director for US Representative Hank Johnson.

In the community, Stacey serves on the United Way of Greater Atlanta Board of Directors as Chair of the Public Policy and Advocacy Committee and the Oglethorpe University National Alumni Association. Stacey served as Vice President of Advocacy & Initiatives on the Junior League of Atlanta Board of Directors.

Stacey is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project and the New Leaders Council.

A native of Mauldin, South Carolina, Stacey received a B.A. in Psychology with a Political Science minor from Oglethorpe University.


Cailin Copan-KellyCailin Copan-Kelly, Atlanta

Associate Development Officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

A native of Macon, GA and a graduate of Agnes Scott College, Cailin Copan-Kelly is thrilled to be back in her home state after extended stays in the Midwest and south Texas. She is an Associate Development Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she applies her strengths in research, writing and community outreach to raising money for families when they need it the most.

Prior to working in development, Cailin earned her Ph.D. in English at Washington University in St. Louis, where she won the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, the Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. Olin Fellowship and also served as a project manager for the National Endowment for the Humanities. As an English teacher in Texas, she facilitated service-learning projects for her students with San Antonio Meals on Wheels and the Corpus Christi Literacy Council. She and her husband Dan live in Atlanta.


Harry DixonHarry Dixon, Savannah

Attorney, Donnie Dixon, Attorney at Law, LLC

Harry Dixon is an attorney in Savannah, Georgia, where he does both civil and criminal defense, mainly in federal court. Harry is a graduate of both the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia School of Law.


Walt FarrellWalt Farrell, Atlanta

Senior Project Manager, Georgia Power

As a senior project manager with Georgia Power, Walt is responsible for facilitating the location, expansion or start-up of businesses wishing to invest in Georgia. He assists companies in identifying potential buildings or sites throughout the state; He also provides market evaluation, construction information, engineering assistance, and serves as a liaison between the businesses and governmental agencies in the site selection process.

Prior to joining Georgia Power in 2015, Walt served as a Director of the Advanced Manufacturing team at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). He was responsible for recruiting domestic and international companies to Georgia, leading tax incentive negotiations on Georgia’s behalf, and generating new industrial leads statewide. He was also responsible for the Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development (GRAD) Program, the state’s industrial site certification process, while working at the state agency.

Walt specializes in the automotive, aerospace and defense industries. Prior to his work with GDEcD, he spent four years on the Business Development team at Electric Cities of Georgia.


Sean FrantomSean Frantom, Augusta

Development Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Sean moved to the CSRA in 1984. He received a BA in Management from Georgia College. He grew up in the golf industry and worked many years at Jones Creek Golf Club. He left the golf industry for the staffing industry in 2003.

During his 8 years in staffing, he worked with many companies across the CSRA in clerical, professional and light industrial fields.
Sean is the Past President for the Young Professionals of Augusta. He was on the Citizens Advisory Board for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department for the 2014-2015 class. He was married in May 2015 to Jennifer Kresslein of Lexington, SC and they had their first child, a baby boy named Charles, on May 26th.

In April of 2015, Sean won a special election against the incumbent to become the District 7 Commissioner in Augusta-Richmond County. He was up for re-election on May 24th unopposed. He is the youngest sitting Commissioner by ten years.

Currently, Sean is the Development Director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta, a position he has held since January 2013.


Meg GreerMeg Greer, Dublin

Attorney, Scott B. Thompson, Sr. P.C.

Following graduation from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Meg Greer moved to Dublin in 2013 to pursue a career in her family’s real estate and estate planning law firm. A summa cum laude graduate from the Honors College at the University of Alabama, she was named Greek Woman of the Year in 2010. Since moving to Dublin, she has been a member of the Dublin-Laurens Leadership Class of 2014-2015 and served on the Dublin-Laurens St. Patrick’s Committee as the Vice President of the Order of the Blarney Stone. Meg served as the President of Dublin’s Junior League from 2014-2015. She has also served as a board member of the Dublin Laurens Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program since 2014 and has served as President of the Dublin Bar Association for the past two years. Meg is a founding member and the newly elected President of the Young Professionals of Dublin Laurens County.


Amanda HeathAmanda Heath, Augusta


Attorney Amanda N. Heath is a solo practitioner in private practice. Ms. Heath’s areas of practice include criminal law and family law. Before opening her law practice, Ms. Heath served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Augusta Judicial Circuit where she gained her trial experience by prosecuting felonies throughout Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties. Ms. Heath has argued successfully before the Georgia Supreme Court.

Attorney Heath is the recipient of the 2015 Shero Award for Law and Government for demonstrating a career committed to justice, liberty and fairness to all in the community throughout the CSRA. Ms. Heath is a graduate of Leadership Georgia and is an Executive Board Member for the Augusta Bar Association. In addition, Ms. Heath serves on the Board of Directors for the New Bethlehem Community Center, the Greater Augusta Partnership for Literacy and Child Enrichment, Inc.


Matt HellerMatt Heller, Macon

Senior Financial Planner, Day & Ennis

Matt Heller, a native of Conyers, GA, is a Senior Financial Planner at Day & Ennis. Matt moved to Macon 10 years ago to manage The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s retirement plan. He acted in that capacity for 8 years and then joined Day & Ennis three years ago.

Matt completed his undergraduate degree and MBA at Georgia Southern University. He then completed the Financial Planner Program at The University of Georgia. He has been a Certified Financial Planner since 2012. He is also a 2014 graduate of Leadership Macon and a member of the Macon Estate Planning Council.

Matt married a Maconite, the former Jennifer Stone. They have a 2 year old boy named Stone Edward Heller. He loves travel, the outdoors and is an avid golfer.


Kyle HoodKyle Hood, Peachtree City

Town Manager, Town of Tyrone

Kyle Hood has served as the Town Manager and Zoning Administrator for the Town of Tyrone since 2012. Prior to assuming this appointment, he served in a variety of capacities with Upson County Government, including being named County Manager at the age of 24, the youngest in the state at the time. Mr. Hood holds a Bachelor of Science (’06) degree in criminal justice and a Master of Public Administration (’08) from Georgia College and State University. In addition to his public service, Mr. Hood also serves his community through the Advisory Board of Herobox, United Way of Greater Atlanta, and in July 2016, begins his first term on the Georgia College Alumni Association Board. A representative on the Atlanta Region Commission’s Millennial Advisory Panel and Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Kyle was recently named the 2015 Young Professional of the Year in Fayette County.


Ashley-Grace JaberiAshley-Grace Jaberi, Brookwood

Manager, Marketing & Communications, Midtown Alliance

Ashley-Grace Jaberi joined Midtown Alliance in August 2012 and brings with her seven years of experience in new media, communications leadership, destination marketing and branded environments. Prior to joining Midtown Alliance, she worked in new media journalism and communications management at Rome News-Tribune and Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism.While at Sandy Springs, Ashley was designated a “30 under 30” Destination Marketing Professional in 2010–serving as the only representative from the state of Georgia in Destination Marketing Association International’s recognition program. Ashley earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with a minor in Journalism from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, where she developed a passion for storytelling and visual communication. She is currently working on her Masters at Northwestern University’s Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program.


Kaden JacobsKaden Jacobs, Augusta

Director of Communications, Richmond County School System

Kaden Jacobs is the Richmond County School System Director of Communications and Community Engagement. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville with a degree in Communication and a minor in Political Science. He has previously worked as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and was selected as a 2015 Top 10 in 10 Young Professional to Watch. Kaden was also formerly a member of the United States Navy, where he served as a Cryptologic Technician Second Class Petty Officer and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for exemplary job accomplishment from two Navy Commands.

Kaden lives in Downtown Augusta with his better half, Lindsay, and their son, Xavier.


Kristi JilsonKristi Jilson, Augusta

Executive Director, Augusta Westobou Festival, Inc.

Kristi Jilson joined the executive leadership team at Westobou in early 2014. She is responsible for overseeing all strategic and operational efforts, financial planning and fundraising, and the artistic direction of the organization’s multi-arts festival, year-round gallery space, and various other events and programs. Prior to Westobou, Kristi worked in various management roles for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Additionally, Kristi has a diverse arts administration background including co-founding an artist co-op and serving on multiple Boards and committees. She is an ambitious leader whose enthusiasm for projects is contagious. Kristi is a 2007 graduate of SCAD.


Raymond JohnsonRaymond Johnson, Grovetown

Senior Captains Career Course Instructor, USA Cybercom

Raymond Johnson graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science Cum Laude (Computer Science) in 2010 and was Commission as Second Lieutenant in the Army. He then reported to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 82nd ABN at Fort Bragg, NC where he served as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and a Battalion Assistant Operations Officer. During his tenure in the 82nd he deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was promoted to Captain in 2014, and attended the Maneuver Captain Career Course (MCCC) at Fort Benning. Upon Graduation from MCCC he was assigned to Command Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th IN Regiment. In 2016 he reported to Fort Gordon Georgia to instruct the Cyber Captains Career Course.


Dave LoeffelDavid Loeffel, Marietta

Principal – Affordable Housing Investments, Walton Communities

Dave Loeffel is currently a Principal at Walton Communities overseeing Affordable Housing Investments. Walton Communities is a developer, owner and manager of apartment communities throughout metro-Atlanta and Augusta. Since working with Walton Communities, Loeffel has worked in many aspects of the business starting with Property Management and Maintenance before working with the CFO on various financing activities and becoming the lead on all new tax credit developments and tax credit investment and syndication. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Good Samaritan Clinic of Cobb County and the Georgia Affordable Housing Coalition, and is involved in the mentor programs at Georgia Tech and Emory’s Goizueta Business School.

Dave received an MBA from Emory’s Goizueta Business School in 2011. He also received his BS in Industrial Engineering with from the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition, he holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.


Betsy McGriffBetsy McGriff, Tifton

Archway Professional, University of Georgia – Archway Partnership

Betsy McGriff currently works as an Archway Professional in Cairo, Georgia. In this position, Betsy works with community partners, state agencies, and UGA graduate students and faculty to develop stronger communities with a solid vision for their future. Prior to accepting the position in Cairo, Betsy served as the Professional in Metter, Georgia. Immediately before joining UGA, she worked with Georgia Power’s Key Accounts division, helping some of Georgia’s largest industries manage their utility costs and growth challenges. These positions have allowed Betsy to learn much about Georgia and how to create both economic and civic success for both existing and potential residents and businesses. 


Liz McLeanElizabeth McLean, McRae- Helena

City Manager, City of McRae-Helena

Liz McLean began her career with local government in 2007 as a Clerk for the former City of McRae, Georgia. While in college at the University of Georgia, she worked for the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County as a Public Relations Assistant. While there, Liz assisted with international economic development projects and performed a myriad of duties. Post-college, she briefly worked as editor-in-chief for the Telfair Enterprise. Liz returned to local government as City Clerk/Administrator for the new City of McRae-Helena in 2015. She was officially appointed City Manager in May 2016. In this position, Liz has had the opportunity to initiate new programs, reassess old ones, and provide an improved level of service to the citizens.


Kaitlin McShea MessichKaitlin Messich, Athens

Senior Designer, Carl Vinson Institute of Government

Kaitlin Messich joined the Institute of Government in 2013, where she completes community designs and recommendations for Georgia communities while specifically focusing on strategic visioning and implementation plans. A majority of her projects are part of the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a master-planning process for downtowns or city entities which features a three-phase community visioning and strategic planning process. Messich creates research-based, context sensitive designs, including strategic visioning illustrations, space programming, branding packages, and visual concepts for downtowns, county governments, rural, and coastal areas. Her background is in historic preservation, interior design, political science, and visual arts. 


Jade MoreyJade Morey, Peach County

Project Manager, Houston County Development Authority

Jade Morey is the Project Manager for the Houston County Development Authority, based in Warner Robins, Georgia. Jade is a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the Southern Economic Developers Council and the International Economic Developers Council. She is active with the Middle Georgia STEM Alliance, Warner Robins Convention and Visitors Bureau, Warner Robins Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Central Georgia’s Women United council.
Prior to economic development, she worked with the College of Business at Georgia College & State University focusing on major gift fundraising. Jade received her undergraduate degree from Georgia College in Political Science and her masters degree in Public Administration. She is on the Board of Directors for Republican Leadership for Georgia as well as the State Committee for the Georgia Republican Party. She lives in Byron, Georgia with her husband Maj. Jason McKeller and their two French Bulldogs Beau and Bella.


Chris NylundChris Nylund, Macon

Graduate Studies Librarian, Middle Georgia State University

Chris Nylund is the newly minted Graduate Studies Librarian at Middle Georgia State University. Before becoming a librarian, he spent over a decade as an educator in a variety of settings— at an independent preschool in Atlanta, high Schools in Macon and Griffin, at the college level in Macon, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He co-founded Field Note Stenographers, a group of Middle Georgians interested in how live music can benefit the community, in 2014. He is also a regular contributor to the Macon Telegraph, the 11th Hour, and GPB. He is also the co-chair of the Magnolia Street Soap Box Derby, a free community event that brings together a gloriously eclectic group of people from the community at large to celebrate feats of speed, science, creativity, and community the second Saturday in April every year.


Katie CoulbornKatie O’Connor, Woodstock

Senior City Planner, City of Woodstock

Katie holds a Master of Art degree in Design for Sustainability from SCAD.  Her interest in sustainability is what led her to pursue a career in Urban Planning.  She started at the City of Woodstock as an intern, and after several promotions, she is now the Senior City Planner. In her work for the City, she has been responsible for helping the City to receive many awards and accolades, including Gold Certification as a Green Community by the Atlanta Regional Commission, certification as a PlanFirst community by the Department of Community Affairs, and she wrote a winning grant proposal for a new mural as part of the Atlanta Regional Public Art Program.  Katie has a passion for public service outside of work as well, serving on the Board of Directors for the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village, along with several other volunteer commitments.


Abi OyegunAbi Oyegun, Sandy Springs

Attorney, Cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwody

Abi is an assistant solicitor for the cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.  Prior to this, she worked for the United States Attorney, Clerked for a federal judge in Puerto Rico, worked at a law firm in Hawaii and, most recently, served as Counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.   She currently serves the cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody as a solicitor and manages a private practice focused on helping small businesses with their legal needs.

Abi volunteers with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation (AVLF), the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, and serves on the Committee for Equality.   She is passionate about helping small businesses thrive, creating opportunities for the underprivileged, and building communities that foster diversity and innovation.


Scott PoagScott Poag, Augusta

Project Manager, Augusta Economic Development Authority

In his economic development career, he has announced over $700,000,000 in new capital investment and over 5,000 net new jobs in the communities he has served.

His strengths in developing relationships with people and communication skills vastly contribute to his ability to make a meaningful impact on others. Experience in both the public and private sector provides Scott a unique prospective which has allowed him to be successful in assisting existing companies and site location intelligence. His ability to develop rapport with senior leadership in the industrial community and skill in recognizing beneficial partnerships with other strategic internal and external stakeholders has resulted in providing relevant support to the industrial community through various mediums.

Scott currently serves as a board member with the Southern Economic Development Council, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and is an active member in other professional organizations such as the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

He is a member of the 2016 class of Leadership Augusta and was named one of the Top 10 Young Professionals to Watch by Augusta Magazine and the Augusta Chamber of Commerce.


Matt ReedMatt Reed, Albany

President & CEO, Georgia CEO

Matt Reed is the Owner/CEO of Georgia CEO, an online publisher focusing on business news in nine different communities across the state of Georgia. Matt attended Valdosta State University and graduated from the Langdale College of Business with a degree in Business Management.

Matt is passionate about spreading the positive news around the state and advocating for South Georgia. He serves on the board of directors for the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia, the Board of Governors for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the executive committee of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the University of Georgia Small Business Development State Advisory Committee. He is a graduate of Leadership Albany and was the recipient of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs “Rising Star Entrepreneur” in 2015.

Matt and his wife Kelsey, a nurse practitioner at Albany Internal Medicine, reside in Albany.


Paige RodriguezPaige Rodriguez, Augusta

Convention Sales Manager, Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Paige is a young professional from Savannah, Georgia currently working in Destination Marketing at the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. She specializes in recruiting conventions and meetings to the Augusta region. She has a passion for marketing, innovation, and creative thinking. Paige works to grow leisure, and group business in Augusta, Georgia and stimulate the local economy.


Tiffany SmithTiffany Smith, Douglasville

Controller, LowCountry Catering

Tiffany Smith is the Controller for LowCountry Catering in Smyrna, GA.  She has used her expertise with numbers and problem solving to implement procedures that have raised profitability 285% over the past 2 years.  Prior to working at LowCountry she has been Controller for the Janitorial Services as well as worked in the Insurance Industry. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and has a passion for literacy and serving in the community.   Tiffany is currently President Elect for the Junior League of Douglas County, serves as an Advisor on the United Way Board of Paulding County, and chairs the start-up committee for the Ferst Foundation in Paulding County.  Her latest endeavor is helping to open a home for women who were victims of human trafficking in Douglas County through the non-profit Refuge for Women.  She has a passion for learning and a passion for helping the community.


Carla Smith HeadshotCarla Smith, Scottdale

HR/Policy and Talent Manager, Signature HeathCARE

Carla C. Smith currently serves as the HR/Policy Director for Signature HealthCARE, leading recruitment, onboarding and policy for one of the largest healthcare providers in the USA.

Prior to this role, Carla served as Deputy Director of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus. Prior to her service with the State Senate, Carla served as a Policy Analyst for then Senator Hardie Davis.

Carla received the Legislative Health Policy award by the Georgia Health Policy Center at Georgia State University in 2013. Carla also completed the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University in 2014. Most recently, Georgia Trend Magazine named Carla a Top 40 Under 40 Georgian to Watch.

Actively engaged in her community, Carla serves as an Advisory Board Member for New Leaders Council Atlanta, a member of the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Atlanta and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for The Museum School.


Josh StephensJoshua Stephens, Brookhaven

Statewide Project Manager, Georgia Department of Economic Development

As a statewide project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), Josh works to recruit new business and capital investment to all areas of Georgia while focusing on Logistics, Energy, Agribusiness, Food Processing and Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing industries. He serves as a representative for the state of Georgia and point of contact for companies, consultants and the real estate community in facilitating the site/location selection process for new companies to Georgia.

His prior experiences include the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Georgia State Senate and business development with a construction company in Tampa, Florida. Joshua was born and raised in Gainesville, Georgia and is a graduate of The University of Georgia where he was a member of The University of Georgia Basketball team.


Maurice Stewart HeadshotMaurice Stewart, Marietta

Vice President of Business Development, Diamond Ventures Funds Management

In college, Maurice co-founded DigitalGuestList.com, one of the country’s first national electronic event marketing platforms. He also worked in corporate finance with General Motors and Philip Morris. Post MBA, he worked with JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse First Boston in investment banking, and with Deloitte Consulting providing strategy solutions to Fortune 100 companies.

In 2007, Maurice left corporate America after starting his own consulting firm and purchasing and investing in several small businesses. Building on consultative engagements with Wachovia, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, Constellation Energy, and Fannie Mae, he has since focused on socially responsible projects. He currently works with Diamond Ventures, a private equity firm that focuses on investing in minority, women, and veteran owned businesses, and Yardstick Learning in efforts to close the achievement gap in education. He is also currently working on a $350 million dollar engagement to build a broadband infrastructure for 32 municipalities in Alabama.


Tiffany Stewart StanleyTiffany Stewart-Stanley, Douglasville

Attorney, Stewart Law Group, LLC

Tiffany Stewart-Stanley is the Managing Partner of the Stewart Law Group, LLC and she also served as the Communications Director for Georgia State House Representative Roger Bruce of District 61 during the legislative session. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Douglas County/Douglasville Cultural Arts Council and is a member of the City of Douglasville’s Housing Committee. Tiffany is a member of the Junior League of Douglas County and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers.  She also serves as the Communications Chairperson for the Junior Leagues of Georgia State Public Affairs Committee. Tiffany is a graduate of the Leadership Douglas Class of 2016 and was recognized as one of the Top Ten Young Professionals of 2016 for Douglas County.


emily_taffEmily Taff, Atlanta

Preservation Assistant, The Georgia Trust

Emily holds an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design from the University of Georgia and a more recent Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. Currently she works most-time at the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation where she began as an intern in 2011. Through the Georgia Trust she has traveled widely in Georgia and seen first-hand the value of Historic Preservation in communities across the state. She is a strong, yet reasonable, advocate for preservation as a tool for economic growth.

She is continually trying to meld her design background with her passion for preservation and planning in communities. This has led her to work on some interesting freelance projects including work with the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance in DeKalb County and Central Atlanta Progress for the Sweet Auburn Historic District.


Peter TokarPeter Tokar, Canton

Economic Development Director, City of Alpharetta

Creativity and Innovation have always been a passion for Peter Tokar.  Earning his degree in advertising and graphic design, Peter planned on winning Addy awards for a big NY Ad firm.  However, his career path took a creative turn of its own during the great recession.  Working odd jobs in hospitality, sales and whatever freelance work he could find, Peter went back to school to get his Masters of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University who offered the degree with a specialization in Entrepreneurship.  After graduating, Peter found himself working of all places, in the economic development department of a local government.   Economic Development was different though.  If there is a creative sliver of government, it is economic development.  In the 10 years since, Peter has been crafting community outreach programs, business assistance programs for local businesses, launching innovation centers for start-up tech entrepreneurs, sponsored kids coding programs in the local community and help bring life and vibrancy to the cities he has been a servant to.  Peter is passionate about what he does and is always trying to find that innovative element that will bring positive change and growth to a community.


Kristyn TumblesonKristyn Tumbleson, Smyrna

Director, Education, Georgia Aquarium

Kristyn Tumbleson approaches all of her work with the posture of a lifelong learner and the heart of an educator. She currently serves as the Director of Education at Georgia Aquarium, where she is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of life circumstance, have access to community resources and support so that they may lead choice-filled lives. She loves working at the intersection of classroom and community. Prior to her work at Georgia Aquarium, Kristyn dedicated three years to developing and implementing a transdisciplinary curricular framework at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. She also served as a Teach for America corps member in the blues city of Memphis, Tennessee where she chaired the English as a Second Language Department. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of what learning should look like in the 21st century and is energized by exploring the art of the possible for raising the tide of education in Atlanta and beyond.


Alex_20Turbyfield_20HeadshotAlex Turbyfield, Athens

Digital Media Professional Principal, University of Georgia

Alex is an artist, programmer, and educator from Athens, GA. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia in 2013. Much of his work has been interdisciplinary, combining technical and art skills with scientific understanding. Alex has created large projection art for the Ultra Music Festival, animations for the United Mitochondrial Foundation, and has developed for several pieces of educational software with Cogent Education and the University of Georgia. He has also combined technical skills with theatre, exploring robotics in live performance. As an educator, he has lectured for classes in programming, animation, and performance.


Molly WilkinsMolly Wilkins, Macon

Executive Director, The Cannonball House

Molly McWilliams Wilkins has over 10 years of experience as a marketing, editorial, social media, and management professional. She is known as an early adopter of influencer practices.

Wilkins is a Macon native and a Mercer University graduate, having studied Political Science and History. She has also contributed to local and national publications such as Bourbon & Boots, Paste Magazine and the Knight Foundation blog.

Wilkins is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Macon, a sustaining member of The Junior League of Macon, and a member of the Mercer Athletic Foundation.

Wilkins has published an online magazine, Southern Bon Vivant, since 2011, reaching nearly 100,000+ impressions each month including social media channels. She has established herself as a fashion, food, music, and Southern lifestyle go-to person which fits perfectly with her position as Executive Director of The Cannonball House.


Katie WynnKatie Wynn, Augusta

Organizational Effectiveness Facilitator and Consultant, Contractor for Insights Learning and Development and SoDo Consulting

Katie Wynn, 33, of Augusta GA, is an organizational effectiveness consultant who works with individuals and teams within organizations to help team members better understand themselves, each other and then determine ways to work together more effectively. She has over eight years of professional training and experience in this field and has facilitated for companies across the globe, including Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn. While comfortable with many areas of organizational development, she is most proficient in delivering a tailored Insights Discovery Personal Effectiveness Program (www.insights.com) for teams of all sizes.

Prior to her current role, Katie designed and facilitated all virtual delivery of Insights Discovery for the US Western Region. Whether facilitating virtually or in-person, Katie’s positivity and enthusiasm motivates participants to further their journey of self awareness and embrace new communication and interpersonal skills. Her approachable facilitation style meets teams where they are in their development and encourages an environment of openness and authenticity.

Katie earned a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Performance Dance from Southern Methodist University. She has had the privilege of living in many different parts of the country and has traveled the world as a military spouse. Katie and her husband Rob are happy to have returned to their home state of Georgia and are enjoying raising their three children, Rob (5), George (4) and Elizabeth (1.5) amongst family and friends.

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