Executive Circle & Premier Members

Executive Circle

Jill Allen
Urban Story Ventures

As Chief Operating Officer of Urban Story Ventures, Jill Allen oversees construction, leasing and property management. She is both passionate about organizational structure and inspired by company culture.

Her diverse background developing and implementing systems in the hospitality industry provides her the ability to work with a broad spectrum of entities and individuals. From owning a catering and events business to serving as Director of Operations for DJ Ent, she is well versed in many facets of business.

Allen’s inquisitive nature, resourcefulness and pragmatic approach to business breathe fresh air into commercial real estate and development.

Allen graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2004 with a degree in mass communication and sociology. She is also Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200), guiding and practicing at Yoga Landing. Allen currently lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

In her own words: “Chattanooga’s growth over the past decade is nothing short of amazing. By contributing to Urban Story Ventures’ vision, I’m thrilled to be involved at some level in shaping my city’s future.”

Michael Alston
Husch Blackwell

Michael K. Alston is the Managing Partner of Husch Blackwell LLP’s Chattanooga office and has been licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Alabama for nearly 30 years.  He is a litigator whose wide-ranging practice has included products liability, toxic torts, commercial and business, first-party insurance, construction, healthcare liability, and wrongful discharge, ERISA and other employment related matters.  He is also a certified Rule 31 mediator within the Tennessee judicial system.  He received his Bachelors of Business Administration in Management from Texas A&M University in 1986 and his Juris Doctor from Cumberland Law School at Samford University in 1989. 

In addition to being a regular attendee and supporter of Chamber events, Mike has been active in the Chattanooga Chapter of the American Heart Association as a Past Chairman, as well as a past member of the Tennessee state AHA board.  He currently serves on the AHA’s Executive Leadership Team for the 2018 Heart Ball.  Mike is also a past President of the Chattanooga Bar Association, a Fellow in the Chattanooga Bar Foundation, a past board member of the Federal Bar Association’s Chattanooga Chapter, and a charter member and current Master in the Brock and Cooper Inn of Court. 

Lastly, he is very active at First Presbyterian Church serving in numerous leadership roles including as the current Clerk of the church’s elder board.  Mike and his wife, Lynnette, have three children, Anna (22), John (20) and Abby (14).

Tim Andrews
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Dr. Steve Angle
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Val Armstrong
American Water

Valoria Armstrong is Vice President, National Government and Regulatory Affairs, for American Water, the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company, providing high-quality and reliable water services to more than 14 million people in 46 states and Ontario, Canada.

In her role, Mrs. Armstrong is responsible for leading government and regulatory affairs across American Water’s regulated and market-based businesses.

Mrs. Armstrong previously served as president of Tennessee American Water, where she was responsible for overall operating and financial performance, including leading a dynamic team of professionals who delivered on business targets related to safety and employee engagement, field customer service, distribution, water quality, environmental excellence, and growth. As the principal external contact for the company, she reinforced customer, regulatory, and governmental relationships.

Mrs. Armstrong joined American Water in 2011 as a human resources business partner, supporting Tennessee and Kentucky. In 2013, she was promoted to director of human resources for American Water’s Central Division, leading a team of human resources professionals in seven states. Her responsibilities included employee and labor relations, workforce planning and staffing, performance management, and organizational development.

Prior to joining American Water, Mrs. Armstrong was employed by Food Lion as human resources manager among several other key positions over 15 years.

Mrs. Armstrong was the first woman and youngest president elected to lead the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2005 to 2012. She currently serves as chair-elect of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Hamilton County Partnership Advisory Board. She is a committed board trustee of the Tennessee Aquarium, Benwood Foundation, River City Company, and Orange Grove Center. Mrs. Armstrong was elected as a director of the National Utility Diversity Council (NUDC) in 2019. Mrs. Armstrong is an alumna of Leadership Tennessee and a graduate of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce Diversity Initiative Fellows Program. She previously served as chair of the Chattanooga chapter of the American Cancer Society and was actively involved in the Chattanooga chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellors' Diversity Advisory Council, and the Volkswagen Diversity Council.

Mrs. Armstrong has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia Southern University and a master’s degree in human resource development from Villanova University. A top priority for Mrs. Armstrong is challenging the community and leaders to be intentional when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Motivating and encouraging young girls to know their value and to exceed any glass ceilings in their paths are also among her passions, reflected in much of her community involvement. Mrs. Armstrong resides with her husband Lawrence in Ooltewah, Tennessee.

With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,100 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to more than 14 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit amwater.com and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Dr. Rebecca Ashford
Chattanooga State

The Tennessee Board of Regents appointed Dr. Rebecca Ashford as the next president of Chattanooga State Community College.

Ashford has been vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville since July 2008. She began her career in higher education in 1997 as a student advisor at what was then Brevard Community College in Florida, and has held executive-level appointments at three community colleges since 2000.

The board met in a special called meeting, by telephone conference call, to receive and consider Chancellor Flora W. Tydings’ recommendation of Ashford for the presidency. Board members voted unanimously to accept the recommendation and appoint Ashford as the new president.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as the next president of Chattanooga State Community College,” Ashford said. “I look forward to working with the faculty and staff to build upon the college's successes in meeting the community's educational and workforce needs.”

The board also approved a new process for selecting nominees for faculty and student members of the Board of Regents – a change made necessary by the FOCUS (Focus on College and University Success) Act of 2016. Prior to the FOCUS Act, faculty and student regents rotated among the TBR system’s universities and community colleges.

The new law removed the six former TBR universities from the board’s governance, effective when each of the universities’ new boards of trustees convened for the first time in March and April. In addition, the state legislature this year approved a new law adding a non-voting faculty regent to the board, who will serve for a year before moving into the voting faculty regent role the second year. The 2017 law also made a minor administrative change in the process for selecting student regents.

The new policy provides that the faculty and student regents will come from the community colleges and colleges of applied technology, and sets out a process for how they rotate.

Ashford was one of four finalists for the Chattanooga State presidency selected by a search advisory committee out of 63 original candidates. The finalists spent a day on the campus last month, separately participating in meetings and open forums with faculty, staff, students, alumni and the public. Ashford’s campus visit was April 19; her curriculum vitae and the archived video of her open forum are available on the TBR website at: https://www.tbr.edu/hr/executivesearches/president-chattanooga-state-com...

Ashford holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership degree, a Master of Arts in Higher Education Student Personnel and a Bachelor of Science in English Education, all from the University of Central Florida, and an Associate in Arts degree from Brevard Community College, now Eastern Florida State College.

She was a student advisor at Brevard from 1997 to 1999 and student development specialist from 1999 to 2000. She held three separate deanships at Brevard: dean of educational services from 2000 to 2003, dean of student services from 2003 to 2005 and dean of enrollment management in 2005. She then served as vice president for student affairs at Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y., from 2006 through June 2008, when she was appointed vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State in Knoxville.

At Pellissippi, Ashford was the senior student affairs officer for the five-campus college with over 10,000 students enrolled in credit courses. Her responsibilities included enrollment management and student services, including admissions, records, financial aid, advising, new-student orientation, counseling, disability services, access and diversity, student support services, student life and recreation, placement, veterans services and judicial affairs.

Tydings interviewed all four finalists, then, after their campus visits, gathered feedback from search committee members and the forums and meetings to select one candidate for nomination to the board. A form on the TBR website allowed anyone to submit comments and views on the candidates.

“This search is especially close to me because the new president is my successor,” the chancellor told the board. Tydings served as president of Chattanooga State in from 2015 until she assumed her new role as chancellor of the Board of Regents system on Feb. 1 of this year. “During my tenure at Chattanooga State, I came to admire and appreciate the students, staff and faculty for their devotion to the institution.

“Chattanooga State contributes greatly to the economy and welfare in that community. I know the person being recommended today will continue the progress that has been made and will strive to keep the momentum going for student success. After careful review and consideration, I am pleased to recommend to you Dr. Rebecca Ashford as the next president of Chattanooga State Community College.”

The chancellor also recognized the members of the board who served on the search advisory committee: Regent Tom Griscom, who chaired the committee, Regents Danni Varlan and Thomas A.H. White, and former Regent Howard Roddy. She thanked the other 17 members of the search committee, which included representatives of faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community at large.

Regent Griscom, who made the motion to appoint Ashford, noted that she has an associate degree and began college as a student at a community college.  He also thanked Debbie Adams, the college’s vice president of student affairs and workforce development, for serving as interim president during the search and until Ashford’s arrival on campus in July.

The board approved the Chattanooga State search criteria and appointed members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee on Jan. 27. The committee's charge was to identify and interview candidates and then narrow the original pool of applicants to three to five finalists.

Christie Balogh
Arcade Beauty

Christie Balogh is the Plant Manager for Arcade Beauty, a global company with exclusive patents for sampling of beauty and wellness products, headquartered in New York, New York.  She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and holds a Geo-Environmental Engineering degree from Penn State, an MBA from Seton Hill, and an MS in Materials Science & Engineering from The University of Pittsburgh.  She has spent over 20 years in operational excellence and leadership roles in the manufacturing sector and moved to Chattanooga in 2018.

Warren Barnett
Barnett & Company

Warren Barnett is the founder of Barnett & Company. His early beginnings in Washington, D.C. were with the investment banking firm of Kidder, Peabody & Company, and the investment counseling firm of Davidge & Company. He returned to Chattanooga to accept a position in the trust department of a local bank. In 1983 he established Barnett & Company when he perceived the need locally for the same type of investment counseling that he had experienced in D.C. Warren’s generous heart for the community is appreciated by many local non-profits, thus bestowing the honor of the 2019 Ruth Holmberg Leadership Award. In 2015, the Professionals of Southeastern Tennessee named Warren as the Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year.

In addition to serving on several charitable and professional boards, he continues to build his legacy of community engagement, fostering relationships with non-profits. Warren is a CFA® charterholder since 1986. He is a Chattanooga native and graduated from The McCallie School. Warren received a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and a Master of Business Administration degree in Finance from the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Julie Baumgardner
First Things First

Julie Baumgardner is the President and CEO of First Things First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families.

As a passionate advocate for healthy marriage, Julie reaches hundreds of thousands each week through her family column and as host of JulieB TV. Julie serves on the Juvenile Court Commission, the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute board, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Chattanooga curriculum committee.

Julie currently chairs the board for the National Association for Relationship & Marriage Education. Because of Julie's marriage and family expertise, she is broadly utilized as a consultant by communities and agencies, sought-after speaker and retreat leader. Julie is a recipient of the Chattanooga Women of Distinction and Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year Award.

A native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Julie’s alma maters include Transylvania University and the University of Knoxville, where she received a B.A. in Psychology and an M.S. in Community Agency Counseling, respectively. Julie is a Certified Family Life Educator and Certified Crisis Intervener. Julie and her husband, Jay, have been married since 1989. They are the proud parents of a daughter, Ashley. In her free time, Julie enjoys gardening, horseback riding, cooking, working with children, mentoring couples and baking.

Mayor Andy Berke
City of Chattanooga with the Chattanooga City Council
Rick Bishop
Food City, LLC
Russ Blakely
Russ Blakely & Associates

After spending six years in the mass mutual agency, Russ left to form Russ Blakely & Associates in 1982 specializing in employee benefits. We work with about 300 area employers ranging in size from 2 employees to 3500 employees.

Russ Blakely & Associates began with two employees, and now has 20 employees with locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Russ Blakely graduated from UTC in 1976, and spent two years teaching prior to joining the insurance industry.

Married with three grown boys and two grand kids. Active in several organizations including United Way and Chambliss Children’s Center.

Hobbies include golf and watching too many Braves games!!

Jack Bowen
EMJ Corporation
Tom Boyd
ThyssenkruppAG

Tom Boyd comes to thyssenkrupp Automotive Systems of America, LLC. with 15 years in the automotive industry, with a wide range of experience in both operations and business management.

“I started with thyssenkrupp shortly after graduating from U of I with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, with hopes of developing my technical abilities. Not only was thyssenkrupp focused on automation and cutting edge manufacturing techniques, but they also focused on employee professional development. This is where I was able to grow my managerial expertise until I was able to earn a leadership position within the company. I am currently leading an Automotive Systems LLC here in the Southeast United States, supplying Volkswagen axle assemblies. I am enjoying developing my team to better serve our customers, be valued in the community and grow our sense of pride in being a thyssenkrupp company.”

George Bright
Fletcher Bright Company
Marissa Brower
Catoosa County Public Schools

Marissa Brower has been the Communications Specialist for Catoosa County Public Schools since 2005.  She began teaching special education at Graysville Elementary School in 2001 before becoming Communications Specialist for the county.  Prior to a second career in education, Mrs. Brower had a successful business career in sales and marketing.  She has a BSBA from Brenau University, a M.Ed in special education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and an Ed.S. in leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.

Mrs. Brower is currently working on The Catoosa County From HERE to CAREER! College and Career Academy project.  The Academy will form partnerships with businesses and industry to ensure that students are highly skilled to meet workforce demands in the region.

Darlene Brown
Real Estate Partners Chattanooga, LLC
Dusty Bunton-Vigil
North American Credit Services, Inc.

CEO of North American Credit Services, Inc. Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Skilled in Microsoft Word, Sales, Team Building, Management, and Leadership. Strong business development professional with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) focused in English Language and Literature & History from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Throughout my career, I have relied on the strong foundation on which our organization was built. Integrity, compassion and customer service are somewhat simplistic in nature, but at times the most difficult to achieve on a daily basis. Medical bills and debt can be overwhelming to consumers and often come during a time of crisis in their lives. Creating an atmosphere where the consumer is treated with integrity, compassion and respect fosters positive relationships between healthcare providers and patients. Our team of Revenue Cycle Management experts allow healthcare facilities and physicians to maintain patient health as their top priority while we navigate the revenue recovery cycle

Alan Burdine
Communication Resources, Inc. (CRI)

CRI started as a regional telecommunications company, being headquartered in Chattanooga for all of its 38 years of business. Over time, CRI has grown to support companies nationally, and even some globally. We help organizations apply technology to improve their business, maintain a competitive edge and maximize their bottom line.

Alan joined CRI in May of 1990 as an Account Executive. His passion for learning new technology helped him progress to Sales Manager, VP of Sales, COO and then on to lead the company as President in 2010. Alan and his wife Robin reside in Soddy Daisy end enjoy spending time with their family, including their new grandson.

Anthony Byrne
JK Group USA, Inc.
Kevin Christopher
Rockridge Venture Law

Kevin Christopher is the principal of Ridgeline Venture Law, founded as Tennessee's first B Corp® law firm and a 2018 Best for the World Honoree. Prior to founding Ridgeline, Kevin spent 10 years in the San Francisco Bay Area working within startups, and in the commercialization of biotech and energy technologies from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Kevin is a registered patent attorney, mountaineer, published poet, regularly smitten husband and father, and board member to various environmental and social impact nonprofits.

Benic M. Clark, lll
Lyndhurst Foundation
Sean Compton
Southern Spear Ironworks

A native of Milton, Florida, Sean graduated from Florida State with a bachelor’s degree in real estate finance. While at Florida State, he played football from 2004-2008. He went on to receive a master’s degree in construction management from the University of Florida.

Sean relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he has spent over a decade building a reputation for excellence in the construction industry. In 2016, he founded Southern Spear Ironworks with his home as ‘corporate

headquarters.’ In the four years since, Southern Spear has grown into one of largest and most respected structural steel builders in the southeast.

When he isn’t at the office, Sean enjoys spending time with his family, following Noles football, and enjoying life outdoors in Chattanooga.

Scott Cooper
Tennessee Valley Authority
Mayor Jim Coppinger
Hamilton County with the Hamilton County Commission
Jordan Cornelison
P&C Construction
Royce Cornelison
P&C Construction
Mark Cunningham
Chambliss Bahner & Stophel

Mark is president and managing shareholder of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. Recognized nationally for his legal services in health care and M&A, Mark keeps his clients on track, delivering strong results through his unique combination of drive, charisma, and niche experience in areas such as revenue cycle management, radiology, physician/hospital ventures, and complex transactions. While he advises on just about every area of health care, he primarily acts as outside general counsel to large physician and revenue cycle practices, with a specific focus on strategic, contracting, and regulatory issues.

In addition, Mark provides services to other businesses on general corporate issues. Before tailoring his advice, it’s important to Mark to understand his client’s personality and what the business needs at an operational level. With his recognized health care experience, he often shares his insights before professional groups at regional and national conferences.

Mark has worked his entire career at Chambliss and has served in many leadership roles. As president and managing shareholder, he works closely with the executive director to oversee the professional services and overall operations at the firm and to ensure that exceptional client service remains the firm's top objective.

Jay Dale
First Horizon Bank

Jay Dale has worked in the financial services industry since 1994. He is currently focused on leading a team of more than 200 employees across Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, and the Atlanta metro area in helping provide the best relationship experience possible for First Horizon bank’s customers and community.  He is a certified treasury professional, and on the Boards of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.  He is a graduate of the Leadership Chattanooga program.  Mr. Dale has a BS and MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Jon Paul Davis
HHM CPA's

As the lead partner in HHM’s Management Advisory Services department, Jon Paul Davis provides business owners with the knowledge and foresight they need to navigate complex financial decisions. He guides companies through business planning, including strategic growth decisions, forecasts and financial modeling. Jon Paul also assists clients with all stages of mergers and acquisitions from planning, to implementation, to the evaluation of tax consequences. Business owners rely on Jon Paul to guide them through complex methods of financing, tax and strategic planning, as well as operation support.

Additionally, Jon Paul works with high net-worth clients to provide individual tax and consulting services. Some of these services include year-end tax planning, succession planning, and estate and trust consulting.

Jon Paul is responsible for training and mentoring new staff, especially those heavily involved in advisory services. He is very active within the community and currently serves on the board of the H*Art Gallery. He is a member of Rotaract of Chattanooga, is a former adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga and is a member of the investment committee of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

Renee Ford
Elliott Davis

Renee serves as the Chattanooga Office Leader at Elliott Davis and has 29 years of experience in public accounting in both assurance and taxation. She leads the Chattanooga audit practice and the firm's Investment Company Specialty Practice Group and has served on the firm’s Executive Committee. She practices primarily in the area of financial statement audits under both U.S. and international audit and accounting standards.

Within the firm’s Investment Companies Practice, Renee serves domestic and international funds. She advises and assists many clients in successfully maintaining compliance with the complex rules and disclosure requirements of the fair-value accounting standards.

Renee has more than 15 years of experience serving clients in the healthcare industry. She works with one of the nation’s largest long-term care chains comprising more than 250 nursing, assisted and independent-living facilities, as well as a number of other independently owned facilities.

Ken DeFoor
DeFoor Brothers Development, LLC

Ken DeFoor, of DeFoor Brothers Development, LLC, was born in Dalton, Ga. and raised in the rural Murray County—North Ga. He graduated From Southern Adventist University with a B.A. in Journalism. In 1973 started a retail flooring store with his brother Byron and dad Kenneth.  In 1985 he entered into commercial real-estate development in Chattanooga.

In 1998 he started THE CORPORATE IMAGE. The Corporate Image is Chattanooga’s largest real-estate development for office ownership.  With sites at Gunbarrel, Northgate, Shallowford, and 3rd Street (directly across from Erlanger Medical Center), The CORPORATE IMAGE has also evolved into Chattanooga’s largest medical office space for ownership - 500,000 sq. ft.

He is currently co-developing with Byron DeFoor, “Waterside Life Style Center” a 40 acre property affording the retail and office sector to blend with residential.  This property is located directly across from Hamilton Place Mall at I-75 and Shallowford Road.

He also co-developed The Embassy Suites Hotel and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  Opened June 2013.  This hotel was rated the number one Embassy Suites in USA for 2014.

Co-developing The Westin Hotel and Citi/Park Garage Retail Center in down town Chattanooga.  Westin opens October 5, 2017

Ken is a member of the Board of Directors of Millennium Trust and Banking, Chattanooga, TN.

A former Member of the Board of Directors…. Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce; Member of the Board of Trustees and Member of School of Business Advisory Board of Southern Adventist University; and a member of Board of Trustees….Cohutta Springs Resort

He is Founder and Leader of weekly study group, (Collegedale Community Church).  A weekly discussion group dealing with spiritual issues and challenges in everyday life which has 160 members.

Ken is married to Judy and has four children – Kenny, Joel, Larson and Claire.

Jeff DeLoach
Chattanooga Times Free Press

Jeff DeLoach serves as the President of the Chattanooga Time Free Press, after being named to that role in June of 2017. Jeff’s return to his home state of Tennessee follows a lifelong career in the newspaper industry, beginning as a carrier in his hometown of Jackson.

Before taking the helm in Chattanooga, Jeff spent seven years as President of the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas – and in March 2014, he assumed the additional role of President for the Abilene Reporter News. From 2005 through 2009 Jeff served as the vice president of advertising and circulation for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.  

Prior to his time in Corpus Christi, Texas, Jeff held circulation responsibilities at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis from 1996 to 2005 and at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver from 1993 to 1996. He worked with the Audit Bureau of Circulations from 1984 to 1993, serving as an auditor and later a regional audit manager. During his college years, he worked in the mailroom and transportation departments of the Jackson Sun in Jackson, TN, and in the business office of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.    

Jeff has served on numerous newspaper industry boards during his career, including being a past president of the Southern Circulation Managers Association. In 2008, the Newspaper Association of America recognized Jeff as the "National Circulation Sales Executive of the Year." In 2011 The Texas Daily Newspaper Association recognized Jeff as the “Texas Newspaper Leader of the Year.”

Jeff has served on a number of community boards and looks forward to getting involved in Chattanooga. He earned bachelor’s degrees in accounting and in finance from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Jeff celebrated 26 years of marriage to Laurette May 25th. They have three children: Adam, Cara and Joey, all in their early 20’s.

David Denmark
The Maclellan Foundation, Inc.
Hiren Desai
3H Group

In 1991, Hiren Desai had just graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration when he was given an opportunity to work as a general manager of a Chattanooga hotel. Fast forward nearly 30 years later, and he is owner and CEO of a multi-million dollar real estate development company.  Formed in 2000, 3H Group has grown into one of the premiere real estate management and development companies in the industry. 

Currently, there are 14 hospitality projects across the Southeast under 3H’s management, with several more slated to open 2018-2019. In addition to the hospitality industry, 3H Group also specializes in co-working office space, retail, and residential development.  Desai contributes 3H’s success to the family culture established by the associates, partners, investors, and corporate staff.

Warren Dropkin
Dropkin Financial Group of Wells Fargo Advisors
Tom du Plessis
Volkswagen Chattanooga Operations
Cindy Dycus
American Medical Response
Todd Fortner
Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

Todd Fortner is the president and chief executive officer of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in southeast Tennessee with more than $1.8 billion in assets and more than 153,000 members. Fortner has served at the helm of the organization since Aug. 1, 2015. Under his leadership, TVFCU leads the way in innovation for community financial institutions nationally as exemplified by its deployment of first in market Interactive Teller Machines, first in market video banking and a 100% electronic consumer loan closing process. TVFCU also leads by example on Diversity & Inclusion as they are one of the only financial institutions their size nationally with a VP dedicated to D&I.

He is active in the community and previously served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults and on the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He graduated with a B.A. in accounting from Tennessee Technological University.

John Foy
Noon Management, LLC
Evann Freeman
EPB

Evann Freeman joined EPB as Director of Government Relations in December of 2019.  Evann leads EPB’s government relations and economic development efforts.

Evann has spent the past decade as a government relations professional, most recently for U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. At EPB, he works closely with local, state, and federal stakeholders, as well as local entrepreneurs and area businesses.

A proud Central High alum, Evann serves on several non-profit boards, and has dedicated his career to building stronger communities throughout Tennessee.  Evann sees his role at EPB as an opportunity to focus his public policy efforts on community benefit and coalition building for his hometown of Chattanooga.

Jason Freier
Chattanooga Lookouts
Eric Fuller
U.S. Xpress
Stuart Gaines
New Blue Construction
Gregg Gentry
Erlanger Health System

Gregg Gentry serves as the Chief of Staff to the President & CEO and Chief Administrative Officer for Erlanger Health System. In this capacity, he works closely with the President & CEO on strategy and governance and is responsible for administrative areas of the health system’s five hospitals.  He has been with Erlanger since 1989. 

Mr. Gentry received his undergraduate and Master of Business Administration degrees at the University of Alabama.  He is a member of several professional organizations including the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Society for Human Resource Management.  He is active in the community and currently serves as Chairperson of the Finance Committee at his church. He also serves on the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board of the City of Chattanooga (HEB), and previously served on the Boards of Goodwill and Plaza Surgery.

Carol George
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Carol is the Managing Director for the Tennessee Valley Merrill Lynch market, which is based in Chattanooga and is comprised of 8 offices in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama.  She leads over 150 associates who deliver comprehensive wealth management solutions to clients. 

In her 35 years with ML, she has held key leadership roles across the firm.  Carol served in various national management roles in the areas of service, risk and business management for Merrill Lynch.  Carol is a graduate of the Securities Industry Institute at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and earned a BS in Business Administration from the College of Charleston.

Tom Glenn
Elder's Ace Hardware

Tom is the President of Elder’s Ace Hardware, the company his father Elder Glenn started when he opened their first hardware store in 1969. Since then they have opened 20 stores throughout the North Georgia and East Tennessee region.  Tom is a Certified Public Accountant, has a BBA from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Duke University. 

Steve Goede
West Star Aviation
Michael Gorey
Propex Operating Company
Rusty Gray
Baker Donelson

Russell W. Gray, of Baker Donelson, represents local, regional and national clients on a full range of labor and employment matters, including wage and hour, drug testing, policy manuals, covenants not to compete, response to union activity, various employment forms, compliance advice and employment litigation. Russell W. Gray represents local, regional and national clients on a full range of labor and employment matters, including wage and hour, drug testing, policy manuals, covenants not to compete, response to union activity, various employment forms, compliance advice and employment litigation

Mr. Gray also has more than 15 years of experience in commercial and business litigation, including litigation involving contractual matters, trade secrets, stock valuation and real property. He has litigated matters before courts or government agencies in approximately 20 states

Mr. Gray is the managing shareholder in the Chattanooga office, and he also serves on Baker Donelson's Board of Directors.

Bill Groth
AECOM

Bill Groth is a Sr. Project Director for AECOM with over 35 years in the design, construction, and construction management of heavy civil works.   Bill graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelors of Science in Civil engineering and is a registered profession al engineer in multiple states. 

Over the course of his career Bill has lived and worked building dams and hydroelectric projects throughout the US and in the Philippines and Uganda. He is currently managing the $240 million construction of Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project for AECOM scheduled for completion in 2023. 

Rock Haines
Budweiser of Chattanooga
Jim M. Haley, IV
Miller & Martin, PLLC
Susan Harris
See Rock City, Inc

Susan Harris is an executive leader with full responsibility for operational, cultural and financial performance of a privately held, multi-site hospitality company. Susan joined the executive staff at See Rock City, Inc. as the Director of Human Resources & Organizational Development in June 2008 and was promoted to President, SRC Attractions in February 2013, with added responsibilities as COO in 2016. Since joining SRC, Susan has worked extensively in organizational culture and leadership development.  Previous professional positions include the Director of Human Resources for Express Financial Services and the Director of People Development for Chattanooga Group.

Susan is a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, and she also serves as a Board member of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Susan serves as a mentor with the 10 Project, and has also been an adjunct faculty member with the University of Phoenix, and a past Board member for the Chattanooga chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Susan is an HRCI certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and also holds designation as a SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). In September 2012, Susan was awarded the HR Professional Excellence Award by the Tennessee SHRM State Council.

Susan earned her Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2005 and her Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Berry College in 1990.

Susan is a native Chattanoogan, having graduated from Hixson High School in 1987. She left the city after graduation to attend college; after graduation, she worked in the Rome and North Atlanta area for several years before moving back to Chattanooga in 1998. She and her husband, Jaye currently reside in the city with their two sons, Jack (22) and Duncan (17). Jaye’s oldest son Riley and his wife live in Nashville with their 3 beautiful daughters.

Jaye and Susan are members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where Susan recently concluded service as the chairperson of the Rector Search Committee and currently serves as a member of the Altar Guild. Susan serves on the board of the Tennessee Academy of Gymnastics Booster Club as the Treasurer. She is a past board member at Hixson Youth Athletic Association.

Terry Hart
Chattanooga Airport Authority

Terry Hart’s aviation management experience includes over 39 years in aviation operations, strategic planning and administration.  Before moving to Chattanooga in 2007, Mr. Hart held regional management and vice president of field services positions with American Airlines and American Eagle, including responsibility for a $200 million budget and 1,500 employees. 

From November 2007 until October 2011, Mr. Hart oversaw general operations at the Chattanooga Airport before being named President and CEO, where he has overseen the growth in each piece of the Airport’s business.  Mr. Hart has earned the Airport Certified Employee Operations designation by the American Association of Airport Executives, and previously served as Chairman of the O’Hare Airline Managers Association.  Last June, Terry received the 2019 Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year Award.   

Mr. Hart lives in Chattanooga with his wife, Zita and they have two sons, Andrew and Stephen. Both sons are graduates of Loyola University in Chicago.

Harry Hawkins
Barge Design Solutions

Harry Hawkins is the Client Service Leader for Barge Design Solutions’ Chattanooga office. He has a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Harry has nearly 35 years’ experience in civil engineering and construction. Prior to moving to Chattanooga in 2007, Harry was CEO of DMS, Inc a project management and commercial construction corporation in Georgia. After moving to Chattanooga, Harry has held various leadership positions with Chattanooga State, Thompson Engineering, Terracon Consulting and now Barge Design Solutions.

He is active in the community and has been since moving to Chattanooga. He currently serves on the Chattanooga Area Chamber’s Enterprise Gateway Council board; chairs the HCDE Future Ready Institute of Architecture and Engineering Design Advisory Board at Ooltewah High School; chairs the Tennessee Building Construction Institute (TNBCI) Executive Committee; chairs the East Tennessee Safety Council; National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Master Trainer for the AGC of East Tennessee’s Workforce Initiative; Past-President of the Chattanooga Engineers’ Club; member of the Engineers’ Week (E Week) planning committee and other various community organizations.

Harry is passionate about workforce development and is committed to helping educate and prepare the next generation of architects, engineers and craft construction workers. Harry comes from a family of builders and his vision is to ensure that Chattanooga has a workforce capable of designing and constructing the infrastructure and facilities needed to house Chattanooga’s growth for generations to come…

In his spare time, Harry enjoys sailing, golf and spending time with family.

Scott Hibberts
Reagan Outdoor Advertising

Scott Hibberts serves as the General Manager of Reagan Outdoor Advertising of Chattanooga.  Scott has nearly 15 years of experience in out-of-home advertising sales, real estate and management, helping local and national clients tell their stories on Reagan’s 1600-plus billboard displays in the Chattanooga market.  He previously served as a Vice President with SunTrust Bank and in management at Unum before returning to the Out-of-Home industry in 2015.  Scott is a Chattanooga native, graduating from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1996 with a degree in Business Marketing.  He currently serves as a Director for the Outdoor Advertising Association of Tennessee.

Reagan is a family-owned business that has been serving advertising clients for over 50 years.  Reagan, who purchased the Chattanooga assets in 2019, ranks as the fourth largest Out-of-Home advertising company in the nation, operating over 9000 billboard displays.

Roy Hibbs
Sanofi

Roy is the Head of US Consumer Healthcare Industrial Affairs for Sanofi (previously Chattem) overseeing all operations in Chattanooga. He has led the industrial integration of the Chattanooga site into the larger Sanofi global network over the past two years. Before joining Chattem in 2010, Roy worked at Fujifilm Chemicals. Roy earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, and MBA at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

Dr. JD Hickey
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Craig Holley
Pinnacle Financial Partners

Craig Holley is Chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners in Chattanooga. Previously, he was Chairman, President and CEO of CapitalMark Bank & Trust which he founded in 2007 and merged with Pinnacle in 2015. He has served on numerous boards in Chattanooga, most recently serving as the Chairman of the Board for the Hunter Museum of American Art. 

In addition, he is a former member of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta. He was the 2012 Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year and is the 2021-2022 Rotary Club President-elect. Mr. Holley earned his BS degree in Economics at Auburn University in 1979 and is a 1987 graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University. 

Steve Hunt
Berry & Hunt
Skip Ireland
COS Business Products and Interiors
Dr. William L. Jackson
Erlanger Health System
Joseph Johnson
Johnson Group
Mike Kramer
Southeastern Trust Company

Mike Kramer is Chairman of the Board of Southeastern Trust Company, a Chattanooga headquartered, wealth management and trust services provider that works with high net worth individuals, families and foundations across the southeastern United States. Mike retired as President and COO of Altantic Capital Bank, NA and its parent company; Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: ACBI) in December of 2017. Mike joined ACBI through the merger of FSGBank, NA and its parent company; First Security Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSGI) into ACBI in October of 2015, where he served as President and CEO. At FSGI Mike and his team engineered a turn-around strategy recapitalizing the company by raising over $97 million in new capital, relieving the bank from all Regulatory Orders and returning the bank and company to profitability in a period of less than 30 months.

Mike is also a member of the Board of Directors of Midsouth Bancorp, a $2B community banking company (NYSE: MSL) with corporate offices in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana and Dallas and Houston, Texas. Mike serves as Chairman of the Corporate Governance, Nominating and Compensation Committees of the company.

Mike began his banking career with Star Bank (nka US Bank) and has served in various roles in Commercial Banking, Correspondent Banking, Merchant Banking, Banking Operations and Technology during his three decades in the Financial Services industry.

Mike and his wife Meg have a record of commitment to the communities in which they have lived; Mike has served on the Board of Directors of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, the UC Foundation, the Tennessee Bankers Association, the Public Committee for Bible in the Schools, and the Brock Fellows. Meg serves as President of the Board of the Chattanooga Ballet and the Chattanooga Young Life Committee.

Mike and Meg have three grown children; Sarah Kovack, Elizabeth Kramer and Thomas Kramer, along with two grandchildren; Levi Michael and Lucy Kate Kovack.

Jared Lane
Livability Media
Andy Lang
McKee Foods
Paul Leath
Chattanooga Gas
Michael Lebovitz
CBL & Associates Properties Inc.
Less Lee
Lee-Smith, Inc.

Less Lee is President and CEO of Lee-Smith, Inc., a 75-year old International, Ford, and Isuzu Truck Dealership.  Since joining the Company at an early age, Less has helped build Lee-Smith, Inc. into the largest truck dealership in the area.

Less is a native of Chattanooga and graduate of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.  Along with his wife, Cindy, they have three children, Taylor, Sarah Morgan, and Carver.

Lou Lentine
Echelon

Lou Lentine, of Echelon, believes that the frontier of innovation starts with an idea. Developing products that make sense or solve a common problem is one of his biggest passions. In his opinion, watching a product blossom from an idea to a reality, to ultimately landing in the hands of a happy customer is the biggest success any inventor can reach.

Although Lou Lentine enjoys inventing new products, he also supports those who inspire innovation! Unlike many companies that solicit new products, Lou Lentine accepts new product submissions from inventors around the world. If a product is not appropriate for Viatek’s channels of distribution, Lou provides adequate, positive, truthful evaluations. In all cases, Lou strives to give constructive criticism and often provides referrals to hopeful inventors.

This year alone, Lou encouraged long-lasting business relationships with third party inventors who developed new innovative products including: Broomy, Foldable Broom and Dust Pan, Plug Genie ®, International Power Strip and Adapter Set, and Cozy Cup, a wrap around heated sleeve for coffee cups-featuring technology developed by NASA.

Howard Levine
Miller & Martin, PLLC
Darde Long
Chattanooga Zoo
Hugh O. Maclellan, Jr.
The Maclellan Foundation, Inc.
Stephanie Mansueto
JP Morgan Chase

Stefanie Mansueto is a Market Executive with the Middle Market Banking & Specialized Industries group of JPMorgan Chase in Chattanooga, TN.

Stefanie has resided in Chattanooga for ten years, and most served as Development Director of Normal Park Museum Magnet School before rejoining Chase in August 2012.

Stefanie holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

Stefanie currently serves on the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, A Step Ahead Chattanooga, and Financial Executives International boards. She also serves on the United Way of Chattanooga’s Finance Committee.

Barbara Marter
Weldon Osborne Foundation
Michael Mathis
Regions Bank

Michael Mathis has been Executive Vice President at Regions Bank since 2007. Prior to joining Regions, he held multiple positions at Pioneer Bank. He graduated with a B.A. in accounting from Furman University and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Mr. Mathis has served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Foundation. He’s served on many Chattanooga-area boards, including Siskin Hospital, Venture Forward, Brainerd Baptist School, UTC Chancellor’s Roundtable, UTC Finance Advisory Board and the McCallie School Alumni and Athletic Councils. Most recently he was the 2018 United Way Campaign Chair.

Rick McKenney
Unum Group


 

Jim McKenzie
FirstBank

Jim McKenizie is a native Chattanoogan and graduate of The Baylor School and The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 15 Year Banker…Chattanooga President of FirstBank for 4 years…began banking career at the old American National Bank in Chattanooga. Jim was the former Executive at Kenco Logistics. He is a past board member of St. Peter’s Episcopal School, The Baylor School Parent Alumni Board & North River Soccer Club.

Jim is married to Katie Lonas McKenzie with 2 sons and 1 granddaughter. In his free time he enjoys running, golf and trips to Lower Alabama, aka the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach area. Jim coached youth/club soccer for 20 years

Benny Middleton
dcBLOX

Benny Middleton is the Tennessee Director of Business Development for dcBLOX Inc.  Since joining dcBLOX in 2016 he has driven sales and company direction for Chattanooga’s newest Data Center.  dcBLOX chose Chattanooga for its first build due to the robust technological advances the city has made in recent years. dcBLOX presently operates two Data Centers.  One in Atlanta, GA and its latest in Chattanooga, TN.  It has plans to add at least 5 more Data Centers across the Southeast.  Benny recently moved to dcBLOX from Windstream Communications where he enjoyed an 18-year career leading sales in GA and TN.

Benny resides in Dalton, GA.  He is a graduate of the University of West GA where he obtained a BBA in Marketing and was inducted into the Beta Gama Sigma Business Honor Society.  Along with his wife Regina they have 2 children.  Coley 12 and Bella 9.

Benny has served on several Chamber boards across Northwest, GA.  He is also the past president of the Murray County GA Rotary Club and past board president for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest GA.  He has also served on the Executive leadership team's for both the Hamilton Healthcare Foundation and the North GA Heartball benefiting the American Heart Association.

Jarrett Millsaps
Parkridge East Hospital
Melvin Moody
Pepsi
Russell Moorehead
Croy Engineering

Russell Moorehead, PE is a Vice President for Croy Engineering, LLC, a full-service consulting engineering firm with offices across Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. In this role, Russell also serves as the Office Manager for Croy’s Chattanooga office, which he opened for the firm in early 2019.

Russell has more than 33 years of experience as a civil engineer with extensive experience in municipal engineering and project management. He first worked in the Atlanta, Georgia area, moving his way up through career changes and promotions to become the Public Works Director for Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta. In 2003, he changed careers and zip codes, and moved his family to Chattanooga. Since that time, Russell has utilized his experience in public service to provide consulting services to municipal and public utility clients.

Russell graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Civil Engineering and is a registered professional engineer in four Southeastern states. He is an active volunteer, having served in leadership roles for the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Russell enjoys cooking barbeque, playing golf, going fishing, as well as spending time with his wife, Debbi, and their two children, Audrey and Nathan, and dog, Oscar.

Sarah Morgan
Benwood Foundation
Glenn Morris
M&M Industries, Inc.

Glenn Morris is the President and CEO at M&M Industries, a US based manufacturer which was established in 1986 by his father, Glenn Morris Sr.  M&M Industries has manufacturing plants in Tennessee and Arizona and employs several hundred people.

Glenn has held multiple positions within M&M Industries since 1986, such as Sales Manager, Product Development Manager, Plant Manager, and Operations Officer.  Under his leadership, M&M has manufactured and patented packaging containers, Life Latch®, Lite Latch®, Life Latch Square® and introduced the Revolutionary Pail.  These containers are used for biohazards, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, environmental, nutritional supplements, hazardous materials and much more.

He is a member of Tennessee Manufacturers Association and Society of Plastics Engineers. He is Past President of Plastic Shipping Container Institute and former Treasurer of Rotary Club of Chattanooga. Glenn participated in the 2009 Leadership Chattanooga Program.  He is currently serving on the Executive Leadership Team of the American Heart Association. Glenn is also involved with several local charities including Ronald McDonald House, On Point, First Things First, House of Refuge, and Church of the First Born.

He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee Knoxville with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.

Glenn resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee is married to Suzanne Morris and they have two daughters, Emma and Sydney.

Thomas Ozburn
Parkridge Medical Center
John Papas
Cherokee Distributing Company
Matt Partridge
HUTTON

As Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of HUTTON, Matt is responsible for leading all aspects of the company’s finance, accounting, information technology, acquisitions, dispositions, human resources, investor relations and property management activities, with a committed focus to value creation for HUTTON clients and team members.

Prior to joining HUTTON, Matt served as Chief Financial Officer at Agree Realty Corporation where he helped the company double in value over an 18-month period, and before that, Vice President of Finance at Pebblebrook Hotel Trust where he helped the company grow from a $400 million IPO to a $4.5 billion blue-chip lodging REIT.  Matt holds a BBA in Finance from Eastern Michigan University and an MBA from Xavier University. He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Mitch Patel
Vision Hospitality Group

Mitch Patel founded Vision Hospitality Group, Inc. in 1997 with the goal of creating a company dedicated to excellence with a focus on community and family. Today, Vision holds a growing portfolio of 37 hotels, including the company’s first boutique hotel, The Edwin, and a pipeline of 9 properties affiliated with premier brands such as Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International.

Mitch has led Vision to be the recipient of many awards, as well as industry media recognition in the fields of development, community service, design and achievement. Most recently, Vision received the Marriott International Development Partner of the Year Award- Full Service, Marriott International Partnership Circle Award, Marriott International Developer of the Year Award- Select Service, Marriott International Serve 360 Award, the Developer of the Year Award for the Hampton Brand by Hilton Worldwide, and the Multi-Brand Developer of the Year Award by Hilton Worldwide.

Mitch serves on the Marriott International Franchise Advisory Council and the Hilton Worldwide Owner’s Advisory Council. Mitch maintains his presence on boards of local organizations that support education and economic development in Vision’s hometown of Chattanooga, TN, and he is an advocate for ending human trafficking in the hospitality industry. His efforts have earned him nationwide recognition, which includes his most recent honor of receiving the NSDAR Americanism Award.

Mitch holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Tennessee.

Roger Pickett
MurMaid Mattress, Inc.

Roger is president of MurMaid Mattress, Inc, the company his step-father and mother, Elmer and Joy Murray started in 1979. Since joining the family business in 1989, MurMaid has grown from a single location factory direct mattress manufacturer on Lee Hwy to this area’s largest mattress retailer with 1 factory and 12 retail locations.

Roger received his degree in marketing from UT Knoxville. He currently serves on the Cleveland Associated Industries executive committee, is a board member of the non-profit Karis Dental, advisory board member of the Better Business Bureau, and board member of Southern Heritage Bank (a division of First Citizens National Bank), a past Board Chairman of the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce, and a former Advisory Board member for People for Care and Learning and United Way’s Center for Social Impact. 

Will Pitt
Puckett EMS
Amanda Plecas
Volkswagen Chattanooga Operations

Amanda Plecas, APR: Head of Communications at Volkswagen of America, Chattanooga Operations

Amanda Plecas, APR leads the communications team at Volkswagen of America, Chattanooga Operations. With more than a decade of public relations experience, she has developed award-winning communications programs in the areas of community relations, multimedia, reputation and brand management, video and media relations.

Her success in strategic communications was recognized by PR News in 2016where she was a top-five global finalist for Corporate PR Professional of the Year. She holds an Accreditation in Public Relations, is a certified Public Information Officer and certified in Organizational Compliance/Ethics.

Outside of Volkswagen, Amanda is a part-time faculty member at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, where she teaches public relations writing and crisis communication courses.

Prior to joining Volkswagen, Amanda held a leadership role at a global chemical company’s manufacturing facility where she developed startup strategic communications, government relations, crisis communications, media relations, internal communications and community relations programs. She is the former vice president of Waterhouse Public Relations. Amanda earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and composition and an undergraduate degree in writing from the University of Tennessee. She is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.

Denia Reece
Catoosa County Public Schools

Denia Reese has been Superintendent of Catoosa County Public Schools since 2005.  She was hired as a teacher at Graysville Elementary School in 1984.  She was in the classroom for four years, then served in school administration for 17 years prior to becoming superintendent.  Mrs. Reese graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with an undergraduate degree in elementary education.  She continued her education and earned a M.Ed. from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and an Ed.S. in administration and supervision from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Superintendent Reese is committed to providing a high quality public education, so she is leading the district to open The From HERE to CAREER! College and Career Academy in Catoosa County.  The Academy will form partnerships with businesses and industry to ensure that students are highly skilled to meet workforce demands in the region.��

Janelle Reilly
CHI Memorial

Ms. Reilly assumed the reins as the Market Chief Executive Officer for CHI Memorial in January 2019 after joining the organization as president and chief operating officer in July 2016.  

CHI Memorial is a not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to the healing ministry of the Church. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and strengthened as part of Catholic Health Initiatives, it offers a continuum of care including preventative, primary and acute hospital care, as well as cancer and cardiac care, orthopedic and rehabilitation services. CHI Memorial is a regional referral center of choice with 4,700 associates and more than 600 affiliated physicians providing health care throughout Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia and Northwest Alabama. 

Prior to joining CHI Memorial, Ms. Reilly served as the chief operating officer and chief strategy officer for Presence Health in Chicago, Illinois.    She earned a master’s degree in health administration at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., and a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry and mathematics from William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.

Todd Ricke
Sinclair Broadcast Group Chattanooga

Todd Ricke has been with Sinclair Broadcast Group since 1999.  He in the General Manager of the ABC, FOX, and CW stations in Chattanooga. Before he took on the role as GM at the station group in Chattanooga, he served as Director of Sales for the CBS and Telemundo television Stations in Austin, TX.  Before his sales career he was the IT Director for CBS Austin.  Todd also served in the Unites States Air Force.

Jay Robinson
Robinson Team of Keller Williams Realty

Jay Robinson has been a real estate professional since 1988 and he founded The Robinson Team in 1997--over 3000 families have trusted Jay Robinson to handle their real estate needs.

Jay has closed over $1 billion in real estate transactions and has been the top volume real estate agent in Chattanooga for twenty years running.

The Robinson Team sets itself apart from competitors by offering a unique combination of local knowledge, technological expertise, and industry-leading customer service. Jay and our team have immersed themselves in community involvement focusing on programs such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The Fuse Program and Habitat for Humanity.

Born and raised in the Chattanooga area, Jay and his wife Ali Robinson are now raising their own family here. He and his team put customer satisfaction first and foremost--in any neighborhood and at any price range.

Barry Ruffalo
Astec Industries

Since August of 2019, Barry Ruffalo has served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Astec Industries. Prior to joining Astec Industries, Mr. Ruffalo was employed by Valmont Industries, a global producer of highly-engineered fabricated metal products, where he had increasingly progressive roles in the areas of Operational Excellence, Energy & Mining and most recently as Group President of Global Engineered Support Structures. 

Preceding his career at Valmont Industries, Mr. Ruffalo served terms as President of the Irrigation and of the Infrastructure divisions of Lindsay Corporation, a global leader in proprietary water management and road infrastructure products and services.  Mr. Ruffalo received his Bachelor of Science in Biomechanics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1993 and his Master of Science in Industrial Engineering in 1995.

Keith Sanford
Tennessee Aquarium
Larry Schumacher
CHI Memorial
Ronelle Sellers
HHM CPA's
Aaron Smith
S & S Auto Repair

Aaron Smith has served many roles over the past 14 years while at S&S Auto Repair. Since 2013, he has directed the corporation as Operation Manager. Now as a third-generation business owner in the Chattanooga community, he is proud to continue his family’s legacy in the automotive industry.

He is an active and participating member of several national automotive organizations that concentrate on fostering the development of small, independently-owned automotive businesses. Smith has recently published opinion articles concerning business operations for national automotive magazines, such as Ratchet &Wrench. 

Mike St. Charles
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel Inc.

Shareholder and Past President and Managing Shareholder of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P. C.

Mike is a Chattanooga native and has been with the Chambliss firm since 1981. In addition to advising businesses on the myriad of issues confronting them, he served as the firm's president and managing shareholder for many years, overseeing the firm's professional services and overall operations.

Mike has been involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations, including serving as the Chamber's board chair. He is a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he earned three degrees - Bachelor of Science in Finance, Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor.

Shannon Stephenson
Cempa Community Care

Shannon Stephenson has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Cempa Community Care since February 1, 2016. As an innovative and strategic leader, she uses her visionary approach to move the agency forward by developing culture, enhancing communication, creating strong alliances, and building high performing teams in a desirable work environment.

A Chattanooga native, Stephenson holds a Master of Business Administration from Lincoln Memorial University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from the Tennessee Wesleyan University. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and recently completed the Health Care Executive Program at UCLA Anderson. 

Nationally, she serves as President of the Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access. Regionally, she serves as the Past-President for the Association of Governmental Accountants and serves on the TSCPA Nonprofit and Governmental Committee. Locally, she serves as a board member or committee member with several community-based organizations.

Mark Stewart
Bank of America

Mark Stewart is the Senior Relationship Manager in Commercial Banking for the Greater Chattanooga Market of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  Mark works closely with a professional team of experienced bankers to deliver customers comprehensive financial solutions including lending, treasury management, merchant and equipment financing. 

Mark is a 30+ year veteran commercial banker and has been working in the Chattanooga Market for the past 22 years.  In addition to working with the Chattanooga Chamber, Mark has been an active member of the United Way and other civic organizations.   Mark is an alum of the 1998 Class of Leadership Chattanooga.  Mark holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce and Business Administration (cum laude) from the University of Alabama.  Mark and his wife, Gloria, are residents of Signal Mountain and have two adult sons, John Michael and Justin.  Mark is an avid runner and frustrated golfer.      

Marshall Stout
b+m surface systems

Marshall Stout joined b+m surface systems America as part of the initial leadership team in 2015 and supported the North American market entry for the German-based company that designs and manufactures complete industrial robotic paint lines.  In June 2016, he was appointed to the position of CEO to continue the engineering base sales solution and service team. 

He has received bachelor degrees from UTC in Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration/Human Resource Management. This experience in engineering as well as previous foreign business experience has given him the tools to bridge cultural business differences and lead a technically-oriented team. 

Brett Varner
Mesa Associates, Inc.

Brett currently serves as Mesa's Associates Vice President of the Power Delivery Transmission and Distribution Business Unit. He is responsible for the profit and loss of this business unit as well as the overall management of transmission line design, distribution design, and associated support services. Brett’s prior experience includes leadership positions in Distribution Operations, Transmission Engineering, and Power Delivery Engineering for South Carolina Electric and Gas Company in Columbia, SC. He also served as an Officer in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A Chattanooga native, Brett holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University and a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of South Carolina. He is also a registered Professional Engineer. Brett has served as an Elder at Shandon Presbyterian Church, a member of the Partnership Committee at the United Way of the Midlands, and a member of the Fundraising Committee for the Fallen Linemen Foundation.   

Jim W. Vaughn
Mauldin & Jenkins
Roy D. Vaughn
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Jim Vaughn
SunTrust Now Truist

Jim currently serves as the Chattanooga Market President for Truist. Jim joined SunTrust in 2013 as the East TN Region President.  In this role, Jim leads the commercial team responsible for delivering the full suite of commercial bank products and services, as well as coordinating the delivery of investment banking and capital markets capabilities offered by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in a tailored way to meet the needs of the commercial banking clients of SunTrust.

Prior to joining SunTrust Jim served as East TN Region Banking Sales Executive at Regions Bank, where he leads the execution of strategy and delivering the full suite of commercial banking products and services. While at Regions he served as SBA Corporate Operations Manager from 2012-2013 and previously served as Business Banking Sales Executive. Jim started his banking career at Bank of America as a management trainee and advanced into multiple executive roles including Agriculture, Special Assets, Retail, Premier Banking and SBA. He served as Chattanooga Market President 2006-2009 as well as a Credit Solution Executive

Jim is a graduate from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN B.S. and M.S. Agriculture. He is a graduate of Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

Jim is active in the Chattanooga community, currently serving as Chairman of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and leading the 2040 Economic Development Campaign with a 15mm 5 year goal. He is presently serves on the boards of Hunter Museum, University of Chattanooga College of Engineering and Computer Science and United Way. In 2016 he served as Chairman of Hunter Museum Campaign executing a new concept in fundraising and raised an all-time amount of $350,000. In 2018 he served as the chairman of Cherokee Council Boy Scouts Campaign exceeding $500,000 campaign goal.

Taylor Vinson
Lync Logistics, LLC
Greg Vital
Morning Pointe Senior Living
David Wade
EPB
Barry Watson
SmartBank
Thomas White
Unum Group
Darlene Williams
TN American Water

Darlene Williams is president of Tennessee American Water, the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water services to nearly 400,000 people. In this role, Mrs. Williams is responsible for customer experience, operational excellence, environmental leadership, stakeholder relations and economic development. She leads a committed team of water professionals whose daily operations provide the most precious of life's critical needs - clean, safe water for families, public health, businesses, and fire protection to save lives.

Prior to her current role, Mrs. Williams managed field operations for New Jersey American Water’s Southwest district. She was responsible for large water and wastewater infrastructure replacement projects, transmission & distribution system maintenance, asset management, meter reading, and customer service.

Mrs. Williams is a results-oriented team leader with a strong business acumen. She previously served as chief-of-staff for the offices of the chief executive officer (CEO) and chief operating officer (COO) of American Water Corporate. In that role, she supported strategic initiatives to advance American Water’s organizational effectiveness and deliver positive business results. These included development and execution of operations training and organizational change management strategies for American Water’s workforce. Prior to joining American Water in 2008 in the Information Technology department,

Mrs.Williams worked in the home building industry for Pulte Homes and as a management consultant for Accenture.Mrs. Williams is committed to public service and community development. She previously served as president and is currently a Board of Trustee member for the American Water Charitable Foundation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. The charitable foundation provides a meaningful way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen, and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate.

She currently serves on Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Erlanger Health System Foundation and Chambliss Center for Children’s board of directors. Mrs. Williams is a member of the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute and The American Association of Blacks in Energy.

Mrs. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in business from Florida State University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Nova Southeastern University, as well as leadership certifications from Columbia Business School and MIT Executive Management program.

Mrs. Williams lives in the Chattanooga area and is married with one child.

Todd Womack
Bridge Public Affairs

Todd Womack is the president and CEO of Bridge Public Affairs, where he leads a team of senior level problem solvers with expertise in government relations, strategic and crisis communications, business development, coalition management, and political consulting, among other issues. At Bridge, Todd is focused on helping clients navigate the nexus of policy, politics and strategy in successfully achieving their state, national and international business objectives.

Prior to starting Bridge in January 2019, Todd built a distinguished reputation as a key advisor to Bob Corker, serving from 2001-2005 as communications director for the City of Chattanooga under then-Mayor Corker, and later serving for 12 years as chief of staff during Corker’s tenure in the Senate. He is Corker’s longest serving aide and remains a principal advisor.

Todd began his career as a public relations specialist at Erlanger before serving as director of public relations and employee communication at Unum Corporation. He is actively involved in the Chattanooga community, serving on the UC Foundation’s Board of Trustees, UTC’s Honor’s College Advisory Board, and as a member of the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club. He previously was selected to be a member of the inaugural class of Leadership Tennessee, a statewide leadership education program, and is a Visiting Fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute at the Antonin Scalia Law School.

A native of Chattanooga, Todd graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He and his wife Katie have four children, Laura Kate, Rebekah, John and Andrew.

Darlene Brown
Owner/Founder Managing Broker, Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC

Darlene, a Chattanooga native, opened the doors of her real estate company in 2007. It is the largest independent real estate company in Chattanooga with three branch offices and over 125 real estate professionals. Darlene has garnered many professional awards including Realtor of the Year. She has been a past President of Chattanooga Association of REALTORS, Tennessee Chapter of Women’s Council of REALTORS, Chattanooga Chapter of Women’s Council of REALTORS, Certified Residential Brokers, The Multiple Listing Service of Chattanooga, Parent’s Council for The McCallie School and is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the McCallie School. She has chaired REALTOR Political Action Committee, Education Committee, Public Relations Committee, Adopt-A-School Committee, Convention Committee and REALTOR National Task Force for the Homeless. Darlene was the first female member of the Chattanooga Downtown Civitan Club, Trustee for Tennessee Junior Miss Scholarship Program, Co-Founder of the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association and 10-year Chair for Benefit Golf Tournament with Family & Children’s Services and Community Kitchen. The year 2020 will mark her 40th year in the real estate industry.

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