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50 Most Influential People of 2017

Jan 15, 2018 11:12AM ● Published by Emily Stevenson

Columbia Business Monthly celebrates another year of honoring the region’s most influential people. The selection of our 50 individuals is a result of staff research and community nominations.

This is also our inaugural year of selecting entrants for our Hall of Fame. This year, six members are inducted who have continued to make a lasting impact on the Midlands.

Hall of Fame


Charles Beaman
Palmetto Health  | CEO
Charles D. “Chuck” Beaman Jr. is co-CEO of SC Health Company, a not-for-profit, locally governed health company partnership between Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System. Beaman had been Palmetto Health CEO since 2007. He has more than a 40-year legacy in health care, receiving numerous awards including an honorary doctoral degree from USC School of Medicine, and participating in many boards including the Columbia Community Advisory Board for HomeWorks of America, Inc., the South State Bank Advisory Board, and the Midlands Business Leaders Board. Beaman has been married for 40 years to Joni Lynn Rader and they have two adult children, William Blake and Ashley Lynn.


Steve Benjamin
City of Columbia | Mayor
Since being elected mayor in a record turnout election in April 2010, Mayor Steve Benjamin has made it his mission to create in Columbia the most talented, educated, and entrepreneurial city in America. In addition to serving as mayor, Mayor Benjamin also serves as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and as chairman for Municipal Bonds for America. Mayor Benjamin is married to the Honorable DeAndrea Gist Benjamin, Chief Administrative Judge (Common Pleas) for South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. The two are the proud parents of daughters Bethany (12) and Jordan Grace (10).


Mike Brenan
BB&T  | State President
Michael Brenan became state president of BB&T South Carolina in 2000 after working for the company since it acquired MainStreet Financial Corp. in 1998. Brenan is on the board of trustees/directors for a number of business and civic affiliations, including Midlands Business Leadership Group, TransformSC as co-chairman, Palmetto Business Forum, Central SC Alliance as chairman, Business and Industry Political Education Committee as treasurer, Central SC Alliance as chairman, and Palmetto Promise Institute. He is past chairman of United Way of the Midlands, Moore School of Business Partnership Foundation, and SC Chamber of Commerce and has received awards and honors from each.


Bobby Hitt
State of South Carolina | Secretary of Commerce
Robert “Bobby” M. Hitt III has served as South Carolina Secretary of Commerce since January 2011. Promoting a team-first approach to economic development, Hitt has positioned the S.C. Department of Commerce and its many partners and allies for industry recruitment success. Since 2011, South Carolina has recruited more than $30 billion in capital investment and approximately 115,000 new jobs to the state. This year, multiple world-class companies have made significant investments in South Carolina, including BMW, Samsung, and Volvo Cars. Before his time as Secretary of Commerce, Hitt served as manager of corporate affairs at the BMW Manufacturing Company in Spartanburg County after 17 years as managing editor of The State and Columbia Record newspapers.


Dr. Harris Pastides
University of South Carolina  | President
During the past decade, the University of South Carolina’s 28th president, Harris Pastides, has led USC’s flagship system of eight institutions in 19 geographic locations to higher achievements and unprecedented growth. Under his tenure, the university has seen the USC Honors College rise to the nation’s No.1 public honors college; celebrated top rankings in undergraduate and graduate international business, public health, engineering, nursing, and others; rapidly increased research funding; and surpassed a $1 billion capital campaign goal. A recipient of the Fulbright inaugural Global Changemaker Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Pastides received two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Yale University.


JoAnn Turnquist
Central Carolina Community Foundation | President and CEO
JoAnn Turnquist has led Central Carolina Community Foundation since 2009. Since then, she has worked closely with her board, donors, and staff to increase the Foundation’s assets from $75 million to more than $127 million and distribute more than $89 million in grants. Under her leadership, Midlands Gives, a 24-hour online giving day, was launched and has raised more than $5.5 million for more than 150 nonprofit organizations. Turnquist serves on the boards of the United Way of the Midlands and New Morning Foundation. She previously served as chair of the Richland Library. Turnquist is a 2013 Riley Diversity Fellow. She received the SC Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Community Diversity Award in 2014, the Engenuity SC Vision Award in 2016, and the Jefferson Award in 2017.



50 Most Influential People

Tim Arnold
Colonial Life | President and CEO
Tim Arnold leads one of the area’s largest, oldest and most respected companies. Since he became CEO in 2014, the company’s sales have grown 18 percent and total inforce business has increased 16 percent to $1.6 billion. He actively encourages company and employee giving of time, talent and resources, with a total impact of nearly $2.5 million last year. Arnold chairs the board of directors of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families and serves on the United Way of the Midlands board of directors, TransformSC Executive Committee, Midlands Business Leadership Group, Palmetto Business Forum, American Heart Association Executive Leadership Team.


 Dr. Roslyn Artis
Benedict College | President 
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis has earned for the second time the honor of serving as the first female president of a collegiate institution in the United States. On June 30, 2017, Artis was unanimously appointed by the Board of Trustees as the 14th president of Benedict College. She is the first female president in the 147-year history of the college, which was founded by a woman, Bathsheba Benedict, in 1870. Artis comes to Benedict College from Florida Memorial University in Miami, where she served for four years as the 13th president and the first female president. 



 Tod Augsburger
Lexington Medical Center  | President and CEO
Tod Augsburger is the president & CEO of Lexington Medical Center. In the past year, he has focused on the growth of the hospital and its network of care. Under Augsburger’s leadership, the hospital is building a new patient care tower that will open in 2019. This project is the largest hospital expansion in South Carolina history. Lexington Medical Center is also adding services at new physician practice locations around the Midlands to meet the health needs of the community. Augsburger is also the immediate past chairman of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Central Columbia Community Foundation.


Charlie Banks
VentureSouth | Managing Director
In 2017, the VentureSouth Team continued to expand one of the largest angel investment organizations in the country by increasing its footprint to 12 angel groups across the Carolinas, representing more than 225 investors. The firm set a record with more than $4 million invested in Southeastern startups, closed its second co-investment fund, and began partnering with other investor groups to provide fund services. The group’s nonprofit sister organization, Venture Carolina, secured a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide investor and entrepreneur education across the Upstate. 


The Honorable Donald Beatty
Supreme Court of South Carolina | Chief Justice
After serving 10 years as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, the General Assembly elected Donald Beatty to serve as the Chief Justice beginning Jan. 1, 2017.  In this position, Beatty leads the Judicial Branch of Government. Beatty continues to be influential in reforming all levels of our state’s court system. During 2017, he implemented new procedures in summary courts, improved the efficiency of terms of court, and actively sought sustainable funding for the Judicial Branch. 




Carl Blackstone
Columbia Chamber of Commerce | President and CEO
Carl Blackstone leads the Columbia Chamber in its mission of promoting an environment where businesses can flourish. In 2017, Blackstone and 100 regional stakeholders engaged in a strategic process to create a framework for the future of the Chamber. This process, called Forward, Together, starts by looking 20 years ahead and determining how the Chamber can best plan for the needs of the Midlands business community in 2040. Blackstone’s leadership has significantly strengthened the Chamber’s operations and enhanced capabilities for the future.  Blackstone currently serves on the board of Riverbanks Society and previously served on Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital board.


Dr. Peter Brews
USC Darla Moore School of Business | Dean 
Dr. Peter Brews has been dean of the Darla Moore School of Business for four years, and over this time a transformation of the undergraduate program has been initiated, every master’s program has been reviewed, faculty and staff have increased to match demand, and stellar research outputs have been maintained.  With more focused and rigorous academic programs, Moore School students are employed by leading organizations across the United States and elsewhere. Academic and other changes now being implemented will ensure all students have the opportunity to acquire the functional, data analytical, and professional skills needed for jobs that are coming.


Mike Briggs
Central SC Alliance | President and CEO
Under Mike Briggs’ leadership in 2017, Central SC Alliance has seen more than $768 million of capital investment, and the creation of more than 3,100 new jobs benefitting the economic development efforts of Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Richland, Newberry, and Orangeburg counties, and the City of Columbia. Briggs is a member of the Midlands Business Leadership Group, works with the Central Midlands Council of Governments, and sits on the Richland Two Institute of Innovation Advisory Board and the Congaree Land Trust Leadership Council.  He is a member of the South Carolina Economic Developers Association and the International Economic Development Council.


Broom
Schadel
 Tracie Broom
Flock & Rally | Co-Founding Partner
Debi Schadel
Flock & Rally | Co-Founding Partner
Tracie Broom and Debi Schadel spent much of 2017 managing integrated communications for Flock and Rally’s major campaigns, including the Columbia, S.C., region’s national eclipse tourism campaign, Total Eclipse Weekend Columbia, S.C., which drew hundreds of thousands of travelers to the region and contributed significantly to the state’s $279 million in estimated eclipse revenue. The team also collaborated with the S.C. African American Heritage Commission on the Green Book of S.C. mobile travel guide, which won a Palmetto Award of Excellence from IABC-SC and was covered in national press outlets ranging from NBC-BLK to Essence. Broom serves as marketing chair on the board of the Governor’s School for the Arts Foundation, while Schadel has served on multiple boards across the Midlands.


Kevin Bryant
State of South Carolina  | Lieutenant Governor
Kevin Bryant became the 92nd Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina on Jan. 25th, 2017. Bryant presides over the South Carolina Senate and oversees the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging (LGOA) that works with a network of regional and local organizations to develop and manage services that help seniors remain independent in their homes and in their communities. He initiated in 2017 the transfer of more than $100,000 from program administration to services for seniors. Bryant also began, through the LGOA, a grant program to distribute drug take back boxes to law enforcement in every South Carolina county. 


Chuck Garnett
NBSC | President and CEO
Chuck Garnett has been president and CEO of NBSC since 2003. In addition to his corporate activities, Garnett is active in the community. He is a board member for a number of organizations, including the Central Carolina Economic Development Alliance, the Midlands Business Leadership Group, the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Foundation, and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. He is also the vice chairman of the USC Business Partnership Foundation and chairman elect of Transition.



Scott Garvin
Garvin Design Group | President and CEO
Scott Garvin served as president of the Clemson Architectural Foundation, became a Liberty Fellowship Mentor, and joined the Courage Center Board, a group that provides resources and support for young people struggling with addictions. Garvin is president of Garvin Design Group, which recently completed Toby’s Place Women’s Center, the renovation of historic Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, expansion of the USC Baseball Stadium and USC Basketball facilities, and the restoration of the Palmetto Compress Warehouse.


Stephen Gilchrist
S.C. African American Chamber of Commerce | Chair
Stephen Gilchrist is the principal owner of GSL Distributors and chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce. He has led the Chamber to become an influential power broker, wielding influence and audience with state and national political leaders, as well as being a leading advocate for the state’s commerce, business climate, and its small business footprint. Gilchrist has advocated for, and championed over the years, issues of the state’s fragile educational system and strategies to engage and empower the unbanked and underbanked communities that are teetering on economic collapse in South Carolina, as well as focusing significant attention on road and infrastructure spending, regulatory reforms,  and advancing the causes of small and minority business development. 


Gary Goodman
S.C. State Fair | Retired Manager
Gary L. Goodman has been the South Carolina State Fair manager since 1984, overseeing planning and management of the annual fair and marketing and management of the fair’s facilities year-round. In 2017, the year of Goodman’s retirement, the fair completed a multi-year grounds improvement project that included a new parking lot, exhibit building, front entrance, and various security upgrades. The upgrades culminated with a partnership between the fair, The Richland County Transportation Program, the City of Columbia, and the University of South Carolina to widen Bluff Road between Rosewood Drive and George Rogers Boulevard with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. 


Christy Hall
State of South Carolina | Secretary of Transportation
In 2017, the key achievement for Secretary Christy Hall was providing information to the General Assembly during the debate of the Roads Bill. The passage of this bill entrusted SCDOT with the largest increase in state funding for highway infrastructure in S.C.’s history. Hall was among the top advocates of the Workzone Safety law which provides substantially stiffer penalties for violators. In addition, she also has championed the use of the Transportation Asset Management Planning system, which ties an investment level of taxpayer funds to a predicted outcome for the improvement of the highway system. Hall also placed a high priority on increasing transparency and communication efforts to provide public outreach.


Dr. Tim Hardee
S.C. Technical College System | President 
Dr. Tim Hardee is president of the S.C. Technical College System. Since taking over the system in November 2016, he has worked diligently to enhance partnerships with K-12 stakeholders, colleges and universities across the state and key economic development and workforce development partners. Recently, Hardee was recognized in Washington, D.C., by Gov. McMaster and U.S. Secretary of Labor Wilbur Ross for the impact readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina have on economic development and the attraction of foreign direct investment to South Carolina. Dr. Hardee is dedicated to the betterment of South Carolina. He believes that an educated population is one of the most important components of a vital, competitive state, and he works daily to make certain a higher education is affordable, accessible and relevant for all citizens of South Carolina.


Meghan Hickman
EngenuitySC | Executive Director
Sagacious Partners | Partner and COO
Meghan Hickman serves in dual leadership roles, both as partner and COO of Sagacious Partners, a South Carolina-based consulting firm, and as the executive director for their longest-standing client, EngenuitySC. As executive director, Hickman leads the organization’s efforts to make the Midlands more competitive and prosperous by managing regional collaborations. She is a board member of Girl Scouts of South Carolina - Mountains to Midlands; the 2017 Outstanding Young Alumna Award, USC Honors College; 2017 20 Under 40 Award, The State newspaper; and 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications.


Robert Hill
South State Corp. | CEO
Robert R. Hill, Jr. is the CEO of South State Corp., which serves customers throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. In 2017, South State completed two mergers creating one of the largest regional banks in the Southeast. South State merged with Southeastern Bank Financial Corp., expanding its presence in Georgia. The anticipated fourth quarter merger with Park Sterling Corp. will deepen its presence in Charlotte and provide entrance into Richmond, Va. The company was recognized as one of the 2017 Best Employers in S.C. and N.C. Hill also serves on the Federal Reserve Board of Richmond.  


Cheryl Holland
Abacus Planning Group | President and Founder
As president and founder of Abacus Planning Group, Cheryl Holland led the firm to $1,100,000 of assets under management and completed the acquisition and onboarding of a firm in Greenville, S.C., for a presence in the Upstate. As a volunteer, she assumed the chair of the investment committee for the American Bible Society and vice-chair of the investment committee for the Clemson University Foundation, and chair of the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle – Midlands area. Personally, she enjoys observing those in herlife thrive – husband, daughter, parents, and retired, but vibrant, in-laws.


Melanie Huggins
Richland County Library | Executive Director
Melanie Huggins is the executive director of Richland Library, which received the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. In 2017, Huggins has overseen the grand openings of five Richland Library locations and First Level of the Main location. In addition, a 12th library in the Edgewood community is in design; a partnership with the Columbia Housing Authority. From inception to implementation, Huggins also brought Do Good Columbia to life, a weekend-long, human-centered design and problem-solving initiative that encouraged diverse community members to work together to increase access, usage and enjoyment of our three local rivers.


Rev. Charles Jackson Sr.
Brookland Baptist Church | Senior Pastor 
Pastor Charles B. Jackson Sr. has pastored his home church, The Brookland Baptist Church, for 46 years. Under his leadership, Brookland has more than 8,000 members and employs 193 persons. Dedicating the remainder of his pastorate to the theme “Building the Next Generation of Believers” he believes we must embrace a multigenerational perspective, providing opportunities for those older and wiser in the faith to impart a spiritual legacy to the next generation. He is now tasked with building a Christian Learning Center for youth, teens and young adults; the expectation is for them to enjoy a safe and loving Christian environment. 


Lou Kennedy
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. | Owner and CEO
Nephron received a Global Facility of the Year Award, and launched a new division to assist hospitals with drug shortage needs in 2017. The development of future employees and leaders are a focus, so donations and board participation with Institutions including USC, Columbia College, Midlands Tech and SCICU are a priority. Lou Kennedy enjoys funding the development of products for patients with cardiopulmonary disease.  Respiratory medications were donated to hurricane victims in both TX and PR. Kennedy has also joined with area business leaders to advance the livability of the region, and participates with SCMA, SCBIO and the SC Chamber.


Matt Kennell
City Center Partnership | President and CEO
For the past 16 years, Matt Kennell has served as president and CEO of City Center Partnership, which provides public space management, economic development, retail recruitment, public advocacy, marketing, and planning for Columbia’s thriving Main Street District. Kennell is the immediate ULI SC vice chair for the Midlands and founding board member of the Midlands Housing Alliance. He serves on the boards of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Capital City Club, is on the advisory Council for the SC Philharmonic, and is the immediate past SC Public Alliance Chairman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.


Sid Kenyon
Colonial Life Arena | General Manager
Sid Kenyon is instrumental in creating memories for fans across South Carolina and beyond. This past season, national publication Venues Today ranked the arena as No. 1 in South Carolina for The Carolinas Top Stops. This honor is based upon concert and event grosses for arenas, as the venue attracted 176,773 patrons for 30 shows, grossing $8,589,693. Kenyon also played a role in securing the NCAA first and second rounds for the 2019 Men’s Basketball Championships. He helped lead the capital improvements projects including new state-of-the-art video scoreboard and ribbon boards, as well as the completion of Foundation Square beautification project.


Nick Kremydas
South Carolina Realtor’s Association | CEO 
Nick Kremydas began his 23rd year of service to the realtors in 2017, overseeing the continued growth of the state’s largest trade association.  He led the association, which surpassed 20,000 members for the first time in 10 years, advocating for consumer safety and protecting private property rights during the legislative session, ensuring realtors  are the “Voice of Real Estate.”  He  volunteers as the Webelos Den Leader for Scout Troop 476 and was the assistant coach for the Trinity Byrnes Collegiate School Girls Tennis Team that won the Class 2A State Tennis Championships this fall.


Pamela Lackey
AT&T South Carolina | President
In 2017, Pam Lackey oversaw the launch of the company’s Fixed Wireless service, helping address the challenge of expanding broadband connectivity for consumers and small businesses into more sparsely populated areas of the state, while continuing to invest in AT&T’s wired and wireless networks across South Carolina. She also became chairperson of the S.C. Ports Authority Board, where she has served as a member since 2011. And she continues to be actively engaged as co-chair of TransformSC, working to transform the public education system to insure that every student graduates career, college and citizenship ready.


John Lumpkin Jr.
Midlands Business Leadership Group | Consultant
John Lumpkin, Jr. chairs the Midlands Business Leadership Group, which has announced an effort to mobilize the private sector to increase the region’s competitiveness. Lumpkin also serves on the executive committee for EngenuitySC, the boards for New Carolina, the Central Carolina River Alliance and the Central Carolina Community Foundation, and the board of trustees for Columbia College. He has previously served as board chair for United Way of the Midlands, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and the South Carolina Division of the American Cancer Society, among others.


Steve MacDougall
City of Lexington | Mayor
In 2017, the Town of Lexington celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Icehouse Amphitheater, which was named the 2017 Municipal Association of South Carolina Achievement Award winner. Standard & Poor’s Corp gave an upgraded credit rating for the Town of Lexington Combined Waterworks and Sewer System Revenue Bonds from AA- to AA. In addition, Caractor Park became the recipient of a “Little Free Library” as part of Hewitt Foundation, and the long awaited construction for the SC-6 One-Way Pair Project started - the first traffic and tourism project funded by the 2 percent Hospitality Tax. Additionally, Mayor Steve MacDougall was named to the board of directors for the Municipal Association of SC and is president of its affiliate organization, the SC Association of Mayors.


Dan Mann
Columbia Metropolitan Airport | Executive Director
Dan Mann, AAE, has served as the executive director of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) since February 2010. Under Mann’s leadership, CAE partnered with SCE&G for the construction of a solar array farm on the airport’s airfield, generating enough electricity to power 225 homes. The airlines responded favorably to the improved business climate at CAE by adding four percent capacity. Annually, the airport makes a positive impact to the Midlands generating 1,900 jobs with a total economic impact of $534 million. Currently, Mann serves as chairman of the USO Advisory Committee and ex officio member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.


Frank Martin
University of South Carolina | Basketball Coach
Dawn Staley
University of South Carolina | Women’s Basketball Coach 
These two coaches have taken the University of South Carolina’s basketball programs to unprecedented heights. Dawn Staley’s team won the NCAA National Championship in 2017, after several years of being among the nation’s elite. Now in her 10th season as USC’s head coach, she has her team in the thick of things again this year, in a quest for a repeat. Frank Martin took the men’s team on an incredible ride in 2017, reaching the Final Four. The success generated plenty of positive publicity for the university, and for Martin. What will he do for an encore? Personnel losses will make the season challenging, but you can bet the team will be competitive.


 Henry McMaster
State of South Carolina | Governor
Governor Henry McMaster, a long-time statewide office holder, was sworn in as governor in January after his predecessor, Nikki Haley, became U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. McMaster had served as lieutenant governor for two years. He is seeking a full term in this fall’s election in a crowded field.






Heather Mitchell
The Boudreaux Group | President
As architect and president of Boudreaux, Heather Mitchell’s design leadership is energizing Columbia with the opening of USC’s School of Law, the transformation of Richland Library Main and of a vacant historic building for Boudreaux’s offices, along with the kick-off of USC’s Campus Village. She promotes Columbia and its public art collection as a One Columbia Board Member and now serves on Columbia Chamber’s Executive Committee. She is a member of Midlands Business Leadership Group working to advance regional competiveness. A Liberty Fellow, she is launching the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship to educate Mayors on community planning.


Dr. Carol Moore
Columbia College | Interim President
Dr. Carol Moore is a student-focused leader, instrumental in the increase of student recruitment and enrollment. She created a new strategic plan with input from faculty/staff, students, and trustees that has contributed to an increase in community partnerships with organizations and other colleges. She has championed the updating of policies to help improve the student experience. Moore holds regular faculty/staff and student forums to advocate for student-centered opportunities (e.g. renovations to lounges, creation of a commuter lounge, and addition of diversity and inclusion committee). She is also credited for the development of 12 new academic programs.


Sabrina Odom
North Columbia Business Association | Executive Director
As executive director of the North Columbia Business Association, Sabrina Odom balances several tough jobs: promoting the vast area’s longtime businesses; integrating newer businesses, particularly in the booming “trestle district;” and trying to attract businesses to the North Main Street corridor. She does all of this while balancing the economic and racial diversity of the area. Her latest project includes heading up a major effort to rebrand the area with a new identity (soon to be known as NOMA) and website for current businesses and residents to keep up with news and events while displaying area highlights and attractions to new potential business members.  


Hakan Ozmen
Prysmian Group | President and CEO
In 2017, Hakan Ozmen spearheaded several major investments throughout North America, specifically within South Carolina. Ozmen led a $300 million agreement with Verizon to facilitate the development of its 5G and broadband networks, completed a $15 million expansion to the company’s Lexington facility and a $14 million expansion to its Abbeville facility. He also led the charge to bring international talent to South Carolina by growing the company’s R&D Center in Lexington. In addition to these expansions leading to job growth and economic development across the state, Ozmen is a vocal advocate for Prysmian Group’s sustainability, diversity and recruitment programs.


David Pankau
Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina | President and CEO
David Pankau, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, was chosen as one of 11 national recipients of the Gold Leadership Award from Junior Achievement. Pankau was chosen from among 237,000 U.S. volunteers. Under Pankau’s leadership, BlueCross BlueShield received the first Shirley Scruggs Award in July of 2017, which rewards excellence in a range of categories, with a focus on member satisfaction, operational performance, benefit costs, and administrative costs. Pankau is chair of The Midlands Business Leadership Group, a coalition of more than 40 CEOs and executives from the Columbia region’s largest employers. 


Elise Partin
City of Cayce | Mayor 
Elise Partin, Mayor of the City of Cayce since November 2008, holds the distinction of being the first female to serve in the Cayce office. She is a member of the Association of South Carolina Mayors, and is a past president of the Lexington County Municipal Association. In the past two years, Partin has implemented the West Metro Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, a pedestrian safety plan on Knox Abbott Drive, and an unsafe structure demolition program; started the Waterline Replacement project to replace the city’s water lines; and launched the first annual Soiree on State. She has also implemented and supported art installations and recreational opportunities throughout Cayce.


 David Pascoe
Special Prosecutor
David Pascoe, Orangeburg-based 1st Circuit Solicitor, is the special prosecutor appointed to investigate corruption in the South Carolina General Assembly. The probe has resulted in indictments of several current and former legislators.







Bob Paulling
Mid Carolina Electric Coop | President and CEO 
Bob Paulling has spent his entire career in the electric cooperative arena, and he has served as president and CEO of Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative since 2013. He is an active board member of Central Electric Power Cooperative, South Carolina Power Team, Cooperative Electric Energy Utility Supply, and Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. He is a recipient of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award for his contributions to the community and serves on the executive committee for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Paulling was instrumental in the formation of CarolinaConnect Internet Cooperative providing high speed internet service to members of MCEC and to underserved rural areas of SC.


Brandolyn Thomas Pinkston 
South Carolina Ethics Commission | Commissioner
As a former administrator for the SCDCA1, Brandolyn Pinkston has distinguished herself as a people’s advocate, while advancing ongoing dialogue with businesses.  Now, a passionate arts advocate, she’s on the board of the Columbia Museum of Art. In addition, she was the inaugural president of FAAAC and a Dr. Leo Twiggs Art Scholar, a Riley Fellow, a member the Art of Community: Rural SC Advisory Committee. Pinkston is a member of One Hartsville, a refurbished teen center, and the Hartsville Boys and Girls Club which through  Columbia Links Inc. is developing  an exercise trail at Burton-Pack Elementary School. She is also serving her first term as a commissioner on the State Ethics Commission.


Ted Pitts
South Carolina Chamber of Commerce | President and CEO
The business community has pushed to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges for decades and, since taking over as president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Ted Pitts has been leading that charge. In May 2017, thanks both to the legislature and to Pitts and the business community’s efforts, a long-term, sustainable infrastructure funding solution became law. Pitts has championed workforce development initiatives in 2017, forming coalitions of support for ex-offender workforce re-entry legislation and pressing to close the “skills gap” through apprenticeships, technical education, and career readiness programs. Pitts also serves as a Major in the South Carolina Army National Guard.


Ronald Rhames
Midlands Technical College | President
Dr. Ronald L. Rhames is leading the strategic vision of growing the college, making lives better, and leveraging goodwill. He has overseen recent major facility expansions including the state-of-the-art Learning Resource Center and the new Veterans Success Center the Beltline Campus. As the first alumnus president of MTC and the first to graduate from a South Carolina technical college and later become its president, Rhames has dedicated himself to serving students. This year, MTC graduated nearly 2,400 students, the largest number in the college’s history. MTC also awarded 2,300 Corporate and Continuing Education certificates. Students received nearly $230,000 in scholarships and aid from the MTC Foundation.


Dr. Akil Ross
Chapin High School | Principal
Akil Ross, Sr., joined Chapin High School as an assistant principal in July 2005.  After five years as an assistant principal, he was named principal of the school in July of 2010. In July of 2012, Ross completed his doctorate degree in curriculum studies at the University of South Carolina. Chapin High School has received many awards and accolades under Ross’s leadership, including: a Palmetto’s Finest Schools Award, national rankings in academics, 12 state championships in athletics, and four state championships in marching band. Ross was named the 2017 South Carolina Secondary Principal of the Year and 2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year. 


Sue-Ann "Susie" Gerald Shannon
S.C. Council on Competitiveness | President and CEO

As president and CEO of S.C. Council on Competitiveness, Susie Shannon works to advance South Carolina’s long-term economic competitiveness. During her first six months at the helm, the Council added new schools to its TransformSC education initiative, launched an aerospace curriculum in select high schools, and pursued adding a new statewide cluster to promote continued economic growth. In 2018, the Council will lead an aggressive K-12 marketing campaign to promote careers in aerospace and open up new opportunities in the logistics industry. Her community involvement includes, among others, the Strategic Partnership Group for Department of Commerce Coordinating Council for Workforce Development, the EPSCoR State Committee, and the Central Carolina Community Foundation Board of Directors.


Andy Smith
Columbia Film Society | CEO
As CEO of the Columbia Film Society, Andy Smith has established the Nickelodeon as a cultural anchor on Columbia’s booming Main Street. This year saw the Nick celebrate its 5th anniversary in the new location and the launch of a new venture, Indie Grits Labs, which will grow the organization’s education and filmmaker outreach efforts. Several national funders like the Ford Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts supported the work of the Columbia Film Society this year. Smith was also one of 12 leaders in the media arts field nationwide selected as a 2017 Rockwood JustFilms Fellow by the Ford Foundation. 


Darrin Thomas
Black Pages South | President
Darrin Thomas is the owner of the Thomas Media Group LLC, with offices in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and  Jacksonville, Fla. The group has published its 26th edition of the SC Black Pages, hosted three Black Expos, and hosted four “taste” events focusing on minority business development in S.C. and Florida. Thomas was selected as the 2017 Legends Honoree by Claflin University. He serves on the Wells Fargo-Midlands Advisory Board, SCANA Advisory Board, Boy Scouts of America - Southern Region Board, Savannah Chapter-National Association of Guardsmen, Alpha Iota Boule-Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Francis Burns United Methodist Church.


Joey Von Nessen
USC Darla Moore School of Business | Research Economist 
Von Nessen should probably be given the title, “State Economist.” Unofficially, that’s what he has become in recent years. He’s the go-to guy when industry sectors, organizations and businesses look for an expert prognosticator on the economy. He’s also the star of the annual Darla Moore School Economic Outlook Conference, held in December. As for 2018, he says he’s cautiously optimistic.


Robert Wilcox
University of South Carolina School of Law | Dean
In addition to moving the law school into its new building in 2017, Robert Wilcox has worked to position the law school as a leader in addressing the impact of emerging technologies on law and the legal profession. Under his leadership, new programs aimed at helping South Carolinians with access-to-justice issues have been created, including a veterans clinic and a partnership with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Palmetto Health, Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, and South Carolina Legal Services to provide services to low-income families with children who are patients at Palmetto Health and Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group.


Ashleigh Wilson
Bowman and Brooke | Attorney 
In 2017, Ashleigh Wilson continues to balance a successful commercial litigation practice and her passion for community and civic engagement. Earlier this year, she was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to serve on the newly revamped State Ethics Commission, which is responsible for enforcement of the state’s new ethics laws and maintaining public trust in state and local government officials. After several years on the Board of the South Carolina Special Olympics, Wilson assumed the role as vice-chair of the Board of Directors in early 2017. She also continues her involvement with the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division and in summer 2017 was named president-elect of the Division. She rounds out this year by joining the Board of Directors for the Columbia Chamber and serving as chair of the Governance Committee.


Teresa Wilson 
City of Columbia | City Manager 
City Manager Teresa Wilson leads the executive team for South Carolina’s capital city. Wilson has implemented and overseen numerous initiatives that are focused on making the city more efficient and more effective for citizens and business owners. Wilson and the city’s executive leadership team have developed a work plan that will be implemented over the next two years that is connected to the Envision Columbia goals. The internal work plan will be re-evaluated and updated every two years. Wilson partners with Midlands area governments, colleges and universities, and local organizations including the Columbia Urban League, Building Industry Association, and the Chamber of Commerce. She is a Liberty Fellow and a Riley Fellow.
People, Enterprise