Congratulations to the Spring 2016 Young Gamechangers who will work in Douglasville/Douglas County from January through June of 2016 to make big idea recommendations to some of this community’s most persistent challenges.
Jessica Ainsworth, Assistant Director of Assessment, Douglas County School System
Jessica Ainsworth has a passion for equipping leaders to be path changers for students, so they are better prepared to take the road less traveled. She was recently named the 2015 Georgia and National Assistant Principal of the Year, received the 2015 Georgia Association of Educational Leaders Presidential Citation and named one of the Douglas County Chamber’s Top Ten Young Professionals. Jessica was born and raised in Douglas County and continues to make a commitment to the county through her career. Prior to moving into a role to support district improvement, she was an assistant principal, educational evaluator, and teacher. She focuses on using data to support interventions while meeting each student’s needs. Using this as her purpose, Jessica has presented at numerous conferences on topics including school improvement, assistant principal leadership and retaining effective teachers. Jessica is pursuing her doctorate degree in school improvement and will finish in May.
Keith Anthony, Division President-Forsyth, Persons Banking Company
Keith Anthony currently serves Persons Banking Company as the Division President of their Forsyth, GA Division. He has been with Persons Banking Company since 2006, and has over 15 years’ experience in the banking industry. Keith also currently serves as a Director of the Forsyth-Monroe Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the Leadership GBA Executive Committee, and is active in the Forsyth-Monroe Kiwanis club. Keith is also a recent graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at LSU.
Marisa Antolino,Principal, Ventrepid LLC
Marisa Antolino has been passionate about her Georgia community since relocating there in 2011. Living in Atlanta, Marisa initially ran a booming fitness instruction business as a way to both utilize an enterprising spirit and to serve others. Yet, surrounded by Atlanta’s growing real estate landscape, a love for commercial real estate soon grew. From this, Marisa worked to create what is today a budding real estate development career – combining passions for community, entrepreneurism and real estate. Marisa established Ventrepid, currently an acquisition and development advisory company, and is consulting full-time with Jacoby Group. Marisa has also been dedicated to her role as a big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta since 2011.
While relishing working in a deal-maker’s industry, a drive to contribute influences a goal to create beneficial assets for communities. Marisa is a member of the Urban Land Institute and the Congress for the New Urbanism – studying New Urbanism and attending CNU23. Marisa values global perspectives and has attended international property and investment conferences in Dubai, and will be visiting Cannes to attend MIPIM in March. She holds a BA from the College of Charleston and a Georgia real estate license.
Carrie Barnes, Community Development Consultant, Georgia EMC
Carrie Barnes serves as a Community Development Consultant with Georgia EMC. She provides economic and community development assistance to Georgia communities on behalf of the 41 Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs) that are part of the Georgia EMC membership. She is responsible for the facilitation of various projects, including strategic planning sessions, leadership programs, team building, and board retreats. She also co-facilitates the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. Prior to her time with Georgia EMC, Carrie began her career in with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission then went on to work with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in the Office of Downtown Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission. A native of Tampa, Florida, Carrie attended Mercer University and completed her Masters in City and Regional Planning (MCRP) with a focus on Economic Development at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Carrie lives in Cartersville, Georgia with her husband.
John Barron, Macon, InTown Lawn Care
John Barron grew up in Middle Georgia. This is where he started his first business, and later abandoned it to start his second business, which crashed and burned. After his failed second attempt, he returned to college at Middle Georgia College, now Middle Georgia State University, where he studied Aviation Management. At the end of his second year, he successfully transferred to The University of Georgia where he would go on to study Management Information Systems and ultimately learn that he doesn’t care anything for computer programming. After graduating from UGA, John returned to Crawford County in Middle Georgia where his first job (that was meant to be a part time job) led him to a role as the Safety Coordinator for a Commercial Truck Dealership. Through the connections he made while working with the dealership, John was recruited to a position in Regional Sales for a large automotive paint supplier based in Macon, Georgia. This prompted him to move into Bibb County where he currently lives. John Barron has since left the paint supplier and is stretching his entrepreneurial wings and building his own business once again. John was a member of the inaugural class of the Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions in 2015.
Jason Booi, Private Wealth EDD Manager, Regions Bank
Jason Booi is a Private Wealth Enhanced Due Diligence Manager with Regions Bank. He was recently transferred from Birmingham, Alabama to Douglasville, Georgia to lead a team tasked with reviewing High Risk Private Wealth and trust customers with the goal of spotting money laundering and similar trends that can adversely affect the bank.
Originally from Aruba, Jason is a dual citizen holding both Dutch and US citizenships. He is fluent in four languages, loves to travel and has visited 34 countries. He serves on numerous local boards and has learned that by giving back a community can truly succeed.
Will Burke, Regional Coordinator, United Way of Greater Atlanta
Will Burke serves as the Regional Coordinator for the United Way of Greater Atlanta for Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas, and Paulding counties. He is a graduate of Florida State and received his Masters of Divinity from Mercer University. During his free time he enjoys running on the Beltline, trying new places to eat with his wife, and keeping up with FSU football.
Chris Cannon, Assistant Director of Tourism Product Development, Georgia Department of Economic Development
Chris Cannon is the Assistant Director of Tourism Product Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In this role, he shares his passion for tourism and helps communities across Georgia uncover, compose and share their unique stories through innovative tourism concepts.
Prior to working across the state, Cannon served as the Tourism Project Manager for the Presidential Pathways Region of Georgia – 20 counties in Central West Georgia. Before joining GDEcD, he was the Director of Communications for the Greater Rome Convention & Visitor Bureau in Northwest Georgia.
Cannon, a native of the mountains of Abingdon, Va., is a graduate of Shorter College in Rome with a degree in Media Studies and Art. Outside of work, he’s nearly 60% complete on his quest to visit every historic courthouse in the 159 beautiful and unique counties of Georgia.
Mandi Cody, Director of Planning and Development, City of Statesboro
Mandi began her service to local government when her Mayor asked her to accept an appointment to fill an early vacancy on the Register Town Council while practicing law full time. Four years later, a new Mayor asked her to not seek re-election as a Council member, but to accept the position as the Town’s first Administrator. After a few years in this role, Mandi joined the team at the City of Statesboro, where she has served as Director of Planning & Development since 2011 working to implement the City’s economic development competiveness initiatives in customer service, project management, and retail recruitment .
Statesboro serves as a regional hub for retail, education, and medicine and is home to approximately 30,000 full time city residents and an additional 25,000 Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College, and Ogeechee Technical College students.
Kate Coffey, Account Executive, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Kate Coffey currently serves as an Account Executive at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a BBA in 2013. After college, she wanted to pursue a career where giving back to her community was an intrical part of her responsibilities. Currently, she works in the Investor Engagement division at the Georgia Chamber and leads the efforts to recruit new members and sponsors, retain current members, and engage members with events and programs that are statewide. Kate highly appreciates working for the state chamber because she is passionate about helping new and existing businesses grow and develop through their chamber memberships. Outside of work, Kate enjoys spending time with her little sister through the Metro Atlanta Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She is passionate about education and mentors several elementary school students through community programs in Atlanta. She is a member of the Junior League of Atlanta and is a Sunday school teacher at Buckhead Church.
Will Curry, Executive Vice President and Managing Broker, Curry Companies
Returning to Dublin in 2013, Will Curry is excited to be back in the community in which he was raised. Will is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where he earned BBA degrees in both Real Estate and Finance.
As part of the family business, Curry Companies, Will serves as Executive Vice President and Managing Broker of the company’s real estate division. Prior to joining Curry Companies, Will was employed as a Real Estate Representative for RaceTrac Petroleum, Inc. where his primary responsibilities were negotiating and acquiring strategic properties new convenience store development.
Will is the 2015 & 2016 President of the Dublin Board of Realtors, a 2015 graduate of Leadership Dublin-Laurens County, a member of the Dublin Rotary Club, and serves on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Carnegie. Will and his wife, Natalie, were recently married, and they have a small dog named Ellie.
Kyle Gable, Broker, Pioneer Land Group
A native of Douglasville, Kyle Gable serves as Broker for Pioneer Land Group. His role includes assisting clients in the sale or acquisitions of land for commercial, residential, and recreational uses in the south-east. Kyle also handles marketing and sales activity of an in-house 18,000-acre timber portfolio. Since 2008, he has sold over 5,000 developed lots and over 7,000 acres of land. In 2011, Kyle was selected by the National Association of Realtors as a “30 Under 30” member. Each year the National Association of Realtors, which is North America’s largest trade association and has over 1.2 million members, selects 30 realtors as that year’s “30 Under 30” class. He has also been a member of the 2012 Leadership Douglas class and was co-chair for the 2014 Leadership Douglas class.
Myesha Good, ATL311, CRM Business Analyst City of Atlanta/Office of the Mayor
Myesha Good, an 11 year resident of Douglas County, holds a B.A. in Political Science from Morris Brown College and a MPA from Strayer University. She serves as a CRM Business Analyst in ATL311, Office of the Mayor, in which she provides customer service leadership to City of Atlanta’s departments by continually improving customer service with an emphasis on accurate, efficient and effective handling of customer requests and inquiries. In this role, she develops policies, procedures and practices for departments to execute and initiatives to streamline business processes. Previously, Myesha was a project manager for the Innovation Delivery Team, Office of the Mayor, which uses Bloomberg Philanthropies’ innovation models to help solve obstinate problems and serve Atlanta citizens better. Myesha is also an active civic leader in Douglas County and throughout the 13th Congressional District. She is also a campaign strategist and trainer who is often sought after for her expertise. She has spearheaded successful campaigns for state, city and local elected officials. She is married to David, who also is a political and community leader.
Chad Griffin, Community and Therapeutics Coordinator, Douglas County Parks and Recreation
Chad Griffin currently serves as the Community and Therapeutics Program Coordinator for Douglas County Parks and Recreation. He and his wife Adrienne are residents of Carroll County and have a two year old daughter, Kerrrinton. Mr. Griffin has been employed by the Douglas County Parks and Recreation since 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Education with a Major in Recreation through Georgia Southwestern and State University. Mr. Griffin is an active member in the Douglas County Chamber where he completed Leadership Douglas in 2012 and is currently involved in the Mentorship Program for Young Professionals. He was named a Top 10 Young Professional in 2015 through the Chamber and in 2014 was named Distinguished Professional of the year for his district through Georgia Recreation and Park Association. Mr. Griffin is also a Community Coach at a local Middle School where he has coached for the last 7 years. With any free time, Mr. Griffin enjoys spending time with family and friends and is a huge supporter of UGA Football.
James Hammond, Media Production Specialist/Managing Partner, Atlanta Public Schools/Ikon Filmwork
Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, James Hammond currently serves as the Media Production Specialist for Atlanta Public Schools and Managing Partner for Ikon Filmworks LLC. In his capacity at APS he is responsible for leading the production, management and creation of original programming for APS-22. With Ikon Filmworks, James is responsible for leading the creative team and production teams and ensuring that clients visions become better realities. Ikon Filmworks was founded in 2006 on the principle of “helping good people tell great stories”. James has over 10 year’s experience in a variety of areas including broadcasting, media production, public relations, crisis communications, and local government. Mr. Hammond is passionate about technology, building communities, education, and music. James is an alumni of Georgia Southern University and the 1st Vice President of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Metro Atlanta Chapter. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and enjoys volunteering and improving communities through works of service with a number of community organizations.
Kenwin Hayes, Executive Director, City of Griffin/Downtown Development Authority
Kenwin M. Hayes, Sr. currently serves as the Executive Director of the City of Griffin Downtown Development Authority. In this capacity, he is responsible for the planning, development, and execution of business development policies for the community. Kenwin has over 15 year’s experience in a variety of areas including architecture, engineering, planning, and real estate development. Mr. Hayes is passionate about neighborhood revitalization and creating unique places that reflect the essence of the community. Mr. Hayes is one of 45 professionals in the nation that is a certified planner (AICP) and certified economic developer (CEcD). He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and enjoys volunteering and working for the betterment of others through various non-profits. He and his family are members of Victory World Church in Norcross. His wife, Charmaine, and their four children live in Stone Mountain and travel to visit their international family frequently.
Nicole Hilton, Douglasville, Cole Hil
Nicole Hilton, AIA, NOMA is one of the founding Partners and Design Architects for Cole Hil, a local emerging full service architecture design firm in Douglasville with a focus on education, aviation, commercial and high end residential project types. She received her professional architectural degree from Louisiana State University, and later became recognize by this flagship institution as the first African American female graduate of LSU School of Architecture to become a licensed architect. This historic recognition is highly valued by Nicole and contributes to her goals of being a catalyst in the field of Architecture. A visionary at heart, Nicole was recently selected out of over 400 applicants to be on the Atlanta Regional Commission Millennial leadership committee where she and her peers envisioned and presented solutions for future of Atlanta Region. Her leadership and commitment to design excellence does not go unnoticed and has afforded her an appointed position as a Director at Large for the prestigious American Institute of Architects (AIA) Georgia Board of Directors. Nicole would not have been blessed to achieve the immense success personally and in her career without the unwavering support of her husband and firm partner Tony Hilton, the business developer for Cole Hil. Together they continue to develop Cole Hil, which is passionate about designing architecture that transforms experiences and enhances the environments and communities we serve. When Nicole is not taking on the world to make a change, leading a firm and giving back, she simply enjoys her fun time with her husband and children, and continues to be inspired in her faith.
Alvin Huff, Economic Development Project Manager, City of Marietta
Alvin Huff works as the Economic Development Project Manager within the City of Marietta. He is responsible for the downtown and small business components of the City’s economic development plan. In this effort, Alvin collaborates with the Marietta Business Association and organizations around the Marietta Square for programs such as the City’s public art initiative and Small Business Week events . Prior to joining the City of Marietta, Alvin worked as the Citizen Engagement Specialist for the City of Griffin. In this role, he coordinated city communications with print and social media and hosted community outreach programs such as Citizens’ Government Academy and numerous town hall meetings. A native of Milledgeville, Alvin received his Bachelors degree from Mercer University.
Milton Johnson, Operations Analyst, Georgia Department of Human Services/Office of Legislative Affairs and Communication
Milton Johnson was born in Eastman, Georgia and raised in Palm Beach County, Florida. He attended Florida Atlantic University where he received his Bachelor’s in Public Management degree. In 2010, he returned to Eastman and looked to share his experiences and his passion for local governance and community development. This led Milton to be appointed to the Eastman-Dodge Economic Development Authority and inspired him to win the City of Eastman’s District 1 Councilperson seat. He is an alumni of Leadership Dodge and a graduate of the Georgia Academy of Economic Development. He has over ten years of program management experience. Milton currently serves as an Operations Analyst for the Georgia Department of Human Services, Office of Legislative Affairs and Communications. In this capacity, he is responsible for the research, reporting, and technical assistance for the department’s communications centers. Milton is passionate about downtown development and revitalizing these historic city centers to serve once again as the social and small business hubs for communities. He is a graduate of the Basic and Advanced Downtown Development Authority Courses with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. This training assisted Milton with leading the City of Eastman to activate the Eastman Downtown Development Authority.
Scott Jossey, Technology Advisor, Delta Air Lines
Scott Jossey is an analytics technology advisor at Delta Air Lines. Having started as a co-op in 2010, he has most notably worked to build TechOps’ use of reporting & analytics after which he developed a strategy for what technologies & business processes were needed to grow the use of analytics in all of the operating divisions. Upon approval of this strategy, he moved from Operations to IT to drive its implementation.
Outside of Delta, Scott works to help nonprofit and civic organizations in Atlanta apply the same technological and analytical mindset which has taken Delta to new heights. He is in the process of starting a nonprofit organization, Young Atlanta, to engage, educate (on civic issues) and involve young people in order to bring inspired & innovative thought to the table and build Atlanta’s next generation of civic leaders.
Scott lives in Downtown Atlanta with his partner Chase.
Katy Klein, Executive Director, Children’s Voice: CASA, Inc.
Katy is from Bristol, TN and grew up in Woodstock, GA. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a BA in Sociology and is a member of Kappa Alpha Delta, the International Sociology Honors Society.
After graduation, Katy became Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer with Alcovy CASA in Newton County. There, she fell in love with child advocacy. She acted as the Volunteer Coordinator with Rockdale CASA from 2009 to 2012. In April of 2012, she began as Executive Director of Children’s Voice: CASA, Inc. in Douglas County. Katy believes it is her privilege to work with volunteers and foster children. She says she does her best every day to ensure that all children have a safe, permanent home.
Katy also holds certificates in Nonprofit Organization Management, Nonprofit Human Resources Management & Nonprofit Leadership from the GA Center for Nonprofits.
She also is an active member of the Douglas County’s Child Abuse Protocol & Child Fatality Review, the Kiwanis Club, the Community Organizing Resources for Excellence (CORE) board and the Young Professionals Connection. She is Leadership Douglas graduate (Class of 2014 – Most Gifted Class ever!) and Douglas County Chamber of Commerce 2014 Top Ten Young Professionals award recipient.
In her free time, Katy enjoys seeing live music, traveling, roller-skating and spending time with friends and family.
Emily Lightner, Office Manager, Cultural Arts County of Douglasville
Emily Lightner’s roots run deep, being born and raised in Douglas County. Since she was young, she has been active in the arts attending her first art show at three weeks old. At five years old, Emily won her first award in the arts. After graduating from Lithia Springs High Schools, Emily moved to Alabama to attend Jacksonville State University where she received her Bachelors in Management and Human Resources. After receiving her degree, she moved back to Douglasville to help manage the family business, The Red Cockerill in Austell. Emily has over 10 years of arts education, gallery, and management experience. Most recently, she took on the job as Office Manager for the Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville/Douglas County where she looks to nurture, guide and stimulate the enjoyment of and participation in the arts among residents and visitors to Douglas County.
Emily is an active member of Dorsett Shoals Baptist Church where she teaches Sunday school. She is also involved in Young Professionals Connection, Girl Scouts, Colorguard Director for Lithia Springs High School Marching Band, and a past advisor for the Epsilon Pi Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. Emily is married to Andrew Lightner and they have one little girl, Anna Grace, and another baby on the way.
Emily Macheski-Preston, Attorney, Coleman Talley LLP
Emily Macheski-Preston is a litigation attorney with Coleman Talley LLP, practicing in zoning, local government law, and affordable housing. Emily has experience representing developers, management companies, and local governments in litigation across the State of Georgia, including the City of Valdosta, the City of Atlanta, and the City of Brookhaven.
Originally from Valdosta, Emily attended Oglethorpe University and Mercer Law School on full academic scholarships, graduating with honors. Prior to joining Coleman Talley, Emily was selected as an intern for the Governor’s Intern Program. In 2012, Emily was named the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional of the Year. She is a graduate of the 2013 Class of Leadership Lowndes. In 2014, Emily relocated to Brookhaven, Georgia to join the firm’s Atlanta office.
Angie Martin, President & CEO, Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce
Angie Dalrymple Martin was born in Atlanta and moved to Milledgeville in 1989. After graduating from Baldwin High School, Angie attended Furman University and then transferred to Georgia Southern University where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Arts and Minor in Music in 2003. She has over 10 years of on-site and executive multi-family property management experience. Most recently, she served as Area Director for The Worthing Companies, based out of Atlanta, where she managed a portfolio of over 1,400 units and 30 staff members throughout the Southeast. Her main focus was in property supervision and operations, financial preparation and marketing efforts.
Angie joined the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce as President & CEO in March of 2015. Her love of people, appreciation of locally owned businesses and pride in Milledgeville were the driving forces for bringing her back home.
Angie is an active member of Milledgeville First United Methodist Church, where she sings in the choir. She has also acted in several local productions with the Milledgeville Players and starred in “Oklahoma” at Macon Little Theater. She is a past Board Member and President-Elect for the Mid-Georgia Apartment Association and serves as PC Advisor for the Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha.
Angie serves on the Board of Directors for the Summit Communiversity and is an active Rotarian.
Angie is married to Philip Martin and has one step-son, Trent, and two furry children, Coco Chanel and Suzi Q.
Amanda Mateo, Scheduling Supervisor, American Red Cross
Amanda Mateo serves as Scheduling Supervisor for the American Red Cross and oversees the scheduling of all blood drives in the Southern and Alabama Central Gulf Coast regions. She graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and was a member of the NMU Dance Company for four years—specializing in Russian ballet technique and modern dance. She was active in the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, which focuses on engaging the community, and increasing appreciation for the performance arts. Shortly after graduation she moved to Anchorage Alaska hoping to explore the wild, and catch a lot of salmon! After realizing Alaska was far too chilly, she relocated to Montgomery Alabama where she became a volunteer with the American Red Cross. She quickly fell in love with the organization and decided to join as an employee, ultimately landing her the title of Scheduling Supervisor in Douglasville Georgia. Amanda has a passion for volunteer services, and enjoys hiking, home brewing, board games, and going to bed early.
April McKown, Main Street Manager, City of Douglasville
April McKown currently serves as the Main Street Manager for the City of Douglasville. She is married to Clinton McKown and they happily welcomed their first child, Allie Kate McKown, into the world on October 12th, 2015.
Native of Gwinnett County, she ‘went west’ to earn a BS degree in Geography with a concentration in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of West Georgia and has called Carrollton home since 2009.
Prior to serving the Douglasville community, April worked with cities such as the City of Suwanee and the City of Lawrenceville for approximately 5 years. While serving those communities she worked on multiple projects including special events, tourism opportunities and comprehensive plans.
McKown hopes to continue to pursue a career in making a difference and growing both
professionally and personally along the way. When she is not in downtown Douglasville, you can find her at Lake Wedowee, enjoying long weekends with her growing family!
Laurie Murrah-Hanson, Regional Coordinator, University of Georgia Great Promise Partnership
Laurie Murrah-Hanson is a regional coordinator for Great Promise Partnership with a joint appointment as a youth development specialist for the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service/Georgia 4-H. In her role with Great Promise Partnership, she implements public-private community partnerships to provide employment opportunities and life skill instruction for youth that are not on track to graduate from high school. At the University of Georgia, she has focused on increasing opportunities for 4-H participation for underserved youth populations and led efforts to develop and implement new standards-based curricula. Previously Ms. Murrah-Hanson coordinated outreach and education efforts for Georgia State University’s Neuroscience Institute and has worked with a variety of youth development and community outreach initiatives.
Ms. Murrah-Hanson is currently a doctoral student in adult education in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Masters of Public Administration with concentrations in public policy and nonprofit management also from the University of Georgia.
Amanda Peacock, Regional Project Manager, Georgia Department of Economic Development/Tourism Division
A native of Waycross, she received a BFA in Communication Arts from Valdosta State University and has called Valdosta home since 2003.
Prior to joining GDEcD, Peacock served as Planner at the Southern Georgia Regional Commission from 2007-2010 and Main Street Director for the City of Valdosta from 2010-2014.
She is active in the Valdosta community, serving as a member of the Valdosta State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, an alumnus of Leadership Lowndes, and various other community activities and organizations. Peacock has a passion for downtown redevelopment and Historic Preservation. In her free time, Amanda enjoys music, traveling, and spending time with her fiancé, Stacey and their friends and family.
Christopher Pike, Main Street Manager, City of Villa Rica
Christopher G. Pike serves as the Director of the Main Street Program for the City of Villa Rica. As the Main Street Director, Christopher is responsible for creating and managing programs and projects that meet the ever changing needs of the downtown area in one of Georgia’s fastest growing cities.
In addition to his duties as Main Street Director, Christopher serves on the Business Development Committee for the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Committee for the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to joining the City of Villa Rica, Christopher served in several capacities for the City of Albany, including one term on the Albany City Commission and as Mayor Pro Tem. In addition to serving in City Government, Christopher also served in several other capacities including the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, Tax Allocation District Board, Long Term Financial Planning Board, Georgia Municipal Association Legislative Policy Council, the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission and the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority.
Christopher is a 2001 graduate of Albany State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. He then went on to Troy State University (Troy University) where he received his Master of Science degree in Management with a concentration in Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness in 2003.
Cole Posey, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, Southern Regional Technical College
Cole Posey currently serves as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Southern Regional Technical College. He and his wife, Julie, are residents of Moultrie and have a two year-old son, Liam. Prior to joining SRTC Posey served as the Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Macon. Mr. Posey holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from Georgia College and State University and will complete his Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Strategic Leadership in 2016. He is active in the Moultrie, Tifton-Tift County, and Thomasville-Thomas County Chambers and is a member of the 2016 class of Leadership Thomasville. He is also an active participant in the Southern Regional Technical College Foundation. In his free time Mr. Posey enjoys cycling, golf, and spending time on the family farm in Turner County. He is an avid Georgia Bulldog fan and has attended every UGA home game for 19 consecutive years.
Sara Ray, Director of Communications & Community Affairs, Douglas County Chamber
A Communications Studies graduate from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Sara Ray is the Director of Communications and Community Affairs for the Douglas County Chamber working to create, market, and implement programs that cater to over 700 Chamber members. In leading the Youth Leadership and Young Professionals programs and coordinating 20+ professional development opportunities annually, she truly embodies their mission to promote and support businesses for the growth of the community. Sara gives back to the community she has lived in for over 25 years through the S.H.A.R.E. House Board, DCSS Diversity Committee, and the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance in which she was 2010 Volunteer of the Year. Sara is a graduate of the Leadership Douglas Class of 2011 and a 2015 graduate of the Institute of Organizational Management – a four year program focusing on nonprofit management of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in which she received her IOM designation.
Evan Robertson, Senior Project Associate, Market Street Services
Evan Robertson is a Senior Project Associate at Market Street Services, a national community, economic, and workforce development consulting firm. His day-to-day activities involve providing communities with in-depth, approachable analysis of their local demographic, economic, and workforce trends. Since starting at Market Street, Evan has worked in communities large and small across the country. Raised in Roswell, Georgia, Evan received his bachelor’s degree in Urban Policy at Georgia State University in 2009. Driven by a strong passion to strengthen Georgia communities, he pursed a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology which he obtained in 2011. During his graduate program, he won an honorable mention from the American Planning Association’s scholarship competition and developed a community master plan for Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit G along with his colleagues. Evan has retained a strong passion for classic music and still plays cello frequently.
Ashley Robinson, Caucus Director, Georgia House Democratic Caucus
A Birmingham, Alabama native, Ashley Robinson serves as Caucus Director for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Caucus and serves as the liaison between external groups and the Caucus while communicating the plan and message at the behest of the Leader. She is responsible for all administrative matters relating to the Caucus and each Member specifically. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of the National Conference of State Legislature’s Legislative Staff Management Institute and a 2015 participant in the Legislative Health Policy Certificate Program through Georgia State University. More notably, Ashley spearheaded a project called the B.L.U.E. (Building Leaders while Uplifting the Electorate) Institute aimed at training young political operatives of color in an effort to staff organizations and campaigns with qualified operatives of color that are reflective of the Rising American Electorate. Ashley earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Spelman College. She enjoys traveling, painting and playing her cello. Ashley resides in Fulton County in Atlanta, GA.
Will Stanford, Architect, BTBB Architects, Inc.
Will Stanford, AIA + LEED Green Associate is a Principal Architect with BTBB, Inc in Macon. After completing a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Mississippi State University in 2007, he became a Registered Architect in 2011. Will is able to appreciate the distinctive characteristics of communities, both large and small, having grown up in small town Mississippi and having lived in Jackson, MS and Montgomery, AL prior to relocating to Macon in 2012. He was recently was on the design team for the Macon Action Plan which sought to study the future of Macon’s Urban Core through a comprehensive, collaborative and multi-disciplined approach to revitalization through economic development, infrastructure development and rehabilitation of downtown Macon.
Will is active in several professional and civic organizations in Macon, including Middle Georgia Chapter of the AIA, USGBC – Central Georgia Chapter, Historic Macon Foundation, Kiwanis Club of Macon. He also serves on National AIA Young Architects Forum Advisory Committee and has been a past contributing journalist for their quarterly publication. Will also serves as a Deacon, Sunday school teacher and is on the Children’s Ministry Committee at North Macon Presbyterian Church.
Will and his wife Mary Frances reside in Macon with their 3 daughters: Anna Lyn, Gracie and Alie Parker.
Jordan Stone, Administrative Director of Human Resources, Coffee Regional Medical Center
Jordan Stone was born and raised in Coffee County and is the Administrative Director of Human Resources at Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas, Georgia. Since 2010 he has held various roles in both clinical and non-clinical areas at CRMC, including Imaging Service, Human Resources and Finance.
He graduated from South Georgia College with an AA, Political Science in 2009. Then in 2012 he graduated with a BBA, Management from Valdosta State University. Most recently he graduated with an MBA from VSU in May 2015. He is also a certified Lean/ Six Sigma Black Belt. During college, he was a Robert Byrd Scholar and also served as a Congressional Intern for US Congressman Jack Kingston. In 2012 he was named the Outstanding Senior Management Major at VSU.
In his free time he enjoys being with family and spending time outdoors. He is also a member of Carver Baptist Church in Douglas.
Breezy Straton, Project Manager, Douglas County Economic Development Authority
Breezy Straton is a Native of Georgia and a graduate of Mercer University (BLS) and the University of Georgia (MPA). She is married to Brenton Straton, also a native of Georgia, and has two girls, Layla and Charlotte. She currently serves on various committees in the community, is a graduate and former co-chair of the Leadership Douglas program, and is the chair-elect for the Douglas County Boys and Girls Club Board. Her role as Project Manager at the Douglas County EDA is to serve as a resource for existing industries and to assist new companies coming to Douglas County. Her career aspirations are to continue to work in an environment that supports personal and professional growth and allows her to make a difference in her community. In her free time she enjoys reading (so cliché), spending time at the beach, and enjoying the company of others.
Heath Tippens, Project Manager, Cherokee Office of Economic Development
Heath Tippens is a native of Canton, GA and a graduate of the University of Georgia. Tippens’ background includes working as an investor relations specialist at Wells Real Estate Funds. He currently serves as the Project Manager of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. Tippens is a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association as well as the International Economic Development Council. He is a graduate of The Basic Economic Developers Course at Georgia Tech, as well as the Georgia Academy of Economic Development. He is an alumni of Leadership Cherokee, and was recognized by his peers as the Cristal Stancil Leadership Award honoree. He currently serves as Vice Chair for “Leadership Cherokee,” and was also recently named as one of the “Top 10 in 10” Young Professionals to Watch within Cherokee County. Heath and his wife Whitney reside in northern Cherokee County with their son, Cole.
Madeline Toelke, Junior Designer, Marketing Alliance Group
A native Texan, Madeline Toelke is proud to call Georgia home once again. In 2008, she moved to Savannah to attend Savannah College of Art and Design where she earned a BFA in Advertising Design (2012). After a short stint in Houston following graduation, Madeline made the trek back out east to work for Marketing Alliance Group in Dalton, where she is currently a Junior Graphic Designer. Here, she has immersed herself in the local community by volunteering with various projects and organizations. Madeline is involved with the Creative Arts Guild, the Downtown Dalton Development Authority, 1000 Words- Dalton Public Art Project, and the Young Professionals of Northwest Georgia, where she is currently serving as the Marketing and IT Chair. Madeline loves all things beautiful, cutesy, and anything Gilmore Girls related.
Chris Tsavatewa, Director of the Office of Experiential Learning and Assistant Professor of Health Services, Middle Georgia State University
Christopher Tsavatewa is the Director of the Office of Experiential Learning and Assistant Professor of Health Services Administration at Middle Georgia State University. In this role he leads the institution in the execution of its quality enhancement plan focused on “exploration and application beyond the classroom” thru undergraduate research, service learning, and internships. His professional scholarship and expertise are in the area of public health, strategic management, health policy, self-determination, native health, service learning, and palliative medicine. An engaged citizen, Chris currently serves in leadership positions in a variety of community organizations including the Georgia Public Broadcasting Macon Advisory Board, the Star Choices Community Advisory Board, the Leadership Macon Advisory Board, the Magnolia Soapbox Derby, the Westside HS CTEA Advisory Board, the Macon Beer Festival, and Macon Roots. Past board membership includes the Center for Native Health, College Hill Corridor Commission, Moonlight Miles, Central Georgia Red Cross Minority Advisory Board, and the Middle Georgia Taskforce for Quality Palliative Care. Tsavatewa, A 2012 graduate of Leadership Macon and one of Macon Magazines 2014 “Five Under Forty”, was reappointed to the Macon-Bibb Board of Health for a 6 year term on the same day as the 2016 Young Gamechangers class was announced. Chris, also known as the Co-Founder/Craft Beer Evangelist of the Peach State Ale Trail, is married to Dallas Roper, JD and one son, Henry Wyatt (3) with another child due in May.
Haley Watson, Gray, Main Street Gray
Haley Watson is a native of Gray, GA and is a graduate of Middle Georgia State University. She currently works at Main Street Gray as the Executive Director. Haley is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, and currently serves on the board of the Gray / Jones County Chamber of Commerce. Along with her husband Blake, Haley enjoys exploring new cities, high school football games and playing with their 3 little boys.Haley’s responsibilities at Main Street Gray include all aspects of executive leadership, including strategic visioning, creating a sense of space, promoting local business, and raising funds to revitalize downtown Gray.
Rebecca West, Banker
Rebecca West, a fifth generation native of Madison, Georgia, serves as a Loan Processor for BankSouth, a top 20 community bank in the Nation. In her role, she works on the Loan Operations team and helps to ensure adherence to lending regulations.
Rebecca has extensive banking experience; completing a large regional bank’s prestigious Leadership Development Program and earning AVP status. This career has afforded her the opportunity to serve on Boards in the communities in which she’s worked and gain business and employee management experience.
She moved to Athens this summer, where she’s continued her ten year involvement with the Junior League; currently serving the 12 leagues in Georgia as Legislative Liaison for the State Public Affairs Committee.
Rebecca is a graduate of Queens University of Charlotte with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Business. She earned her Executive Master of Business Administration at Wesleyan College in Macon.
Rebecca is enjoying fashion design lessons and Athens’ walkability and spending time with her nephew.
Megan White, Marketing Projects Manager, Visit Savannah/Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce
Megan White is the Marketing Projects Manager and Media Buyer for Visit Savannah and the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. She earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations with a minor in Spanish from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Before beginning a career in tourism in 2010, Megan worked with Savannah Magazine and also served as the Marketing Director for a Savannah dental practice. Megan has held several roles at Visit Savannah and the Chamber of Commerce, with her current role promoting tourism to Savannah through media placements, budget management and the production of Visit Savannah and the Savannah Chamber’s publications and marketing projects. Megan also had a role in co-founding Launch Savannah, the young professional’s council of the Savannah Chamber. Originally from Albany, Georgia, Megan moved to Savannah in 2009, when she became a member of Savannah Christian church and several civic organizations, including the Junior League of Savannah. She also recently volunteered in a marketing and public relations role with the Next Generation Savannah, benefitting the Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center. She is married to Greg White, and they are enjoying every minute with their son, Cooper.
Sarah Wilgus, Senior Program Manager, Midtown Transportation, Midtown Alliance
Sarah Wilgus is Senior Program Manager in the transportation and sustainability department of the Midtown Alliance. Working toward increasing accessibility and easing mobility, Sarah works with companies in Midtown Atlanta to promote utilizing transit and cycling within the region. She is passionate about urban sustainability and frequently volunteers with Trees Atlanta and is a member of the US Green Building Council. Sarah is currently working on a marketing strategy to tie cycling and walkability into Midtown employee wellness benefit programs. Sarah enjoys hiking, rock climbing and community service. Sarah grew up in Atlanta and graduated cum laude from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public Policy in 2013.
Kenita Williams, Partnerships Manager, Atlanta Public Schools
Kenita Williams is the Partnerships Manager for the Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) Office of Partnerships and Development. As Partnerships Manager, Kenita works to secure vital resources, as well as community and corporate partners, to support APS’ goal of ensuring a better future for all students in every classroom, every school and every neighborhood. Additionally, Kenita helps to manage several of the district’s signature initiatives and other projects as request by APS’ Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent.
Prior to joining the Partnerships and Development team, Kenita served as the Senior Program Manager at the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF) where she led SECF’s government affairs and public policy work, managed the Hull Fellows Emerging Leaders Program and served as SECF’s liaison to the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance. Before SECF, Kenita worked as a consultant for JFM Consulting Group, Inc. in Detroit—doing strategic planning and program evaluation for both the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. She was also a Public Policy Fellow for two years with the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF). Prior to CMF, Kenita spent a year working on Capitol Hill for then-Senator Barack Obama. Kenita is also a Teach for America (TFA) alum and spent three years teaching third-grade in APS.
Academically, Kenita earned her B.A. from Yale University, her Master of Public Policy degree from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor and a teaching certificate from Georgia State University.
Kenita is originally from Oakland, California, and now lives in Tyrone, GA with her husband Adam and daughter, Kennedy.
James Wright, Vice President of Corporate Services, GreyStone Power Corporation
James Wright is the Vice President of Corporate Services at GreyStone Power Corporation, a member-owned electric cooperative located on the west side of Atlanta, serving portions of eight metropolitan Atlanta counties, including Douglas, Paulding, Fulton, Coweta, Cobb, Fayette, Carroll and Bartow. In his role as Vice President of Corporate Services, James oversees GreyStone’s Human Resources and Information Systems departments.
James is a 2006 magna cum laude graduate of the University of North Georgia. After graduation, James attended Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, graduating cum laude and earning his Juris Doctor in 2009. In 2015, James graduated from Mercer University’s Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics with his Executive Master of Business Administration.
Residents of Smyrna, Ga., James, his wife, Miranda, and their three sons, Jay, Hudson and Winston, enjoy spending time together and attend Buckhead Church.