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Columbia Business Monthly

50 Most Influential People Of 2018

Jan 08, 2019 11:53AM ● By Kathleen Maris
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.

We are also celebrating our second year of selecting entrants for our Hall of Fame. This year, we’re adding six new members who have continued to make a lasting impact on the Midlands.

Hall of Fame:

Tim Arnold
Colonial Life
President & CEO

Over the past four years under the leadership of President and CEO Tim Arnold, Colonial Life has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing voluntary benefits providers. Now protecting more than 4 million of America’s workers and their families, Colonial Life provides entrepreneurial opportunities for more than 12,000 independent insurance agents and employs more than 1,200 full-time workers in Columbia and in 46 sales offices across the country.
Arnold joined Unum (then known as Provident) immediately after graduation from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After 26 years with Unum, in July 2011 Arnold joined the senior team of Colonial Life in Columbia
Arnold’s commitment to investing in others extends beyond the workplace. He currently serves as the board chair for the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families and the American Heart Association–Metro Board in Columbia. He is also co-chair of TransformSC and vice chair for the United Way of the Midlands.

Mike Briggs
Central SC Alliance
President & CEO

Mike Briggs is the president and CEO of the Central SC Alliance, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit regional economic development group focused on recruiting capital investment and job creation for the Midlands counties as well as the City of Columbia. He oversees project management, marketing, and research functions of the organization. 

In addition, Briggs is leading a new initiative called Synergy Central SC, which is aimed at promoting economic growth and vibrancy in the region by having regional stakeholders take a fresh look at opportunities and develop an action plan for the next five years.
During Briggs’ tenure, the region has realized more than $12 billion in capital investment and more than 58,000 jobs. Some of the world’s best-known corporate brands have locations in the Central SC region and continue to grow and prosper. Briggs is actively engaged in numerous business and civic organizations and is a frequent speaker on economic development topics.

James E. Clyburn
U.S. Representative for South Carolina
Sixth District

On November 28, 2018, James E. “Jim” Clyburn was unanimously elected by his colleagues to serve as Majority Whip in the 116th Congress of the U.S. House of Representatives.

When Clyburn came to Congress in 1993, he was elected co-president of his freshman class and quickly rose through the leadership ranks. In addition to serving as majority whip, he has served as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, vice chair and chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and assistant Democratic leader. 

As a national leader he has championed rural and economic development. His 10-20-30 federal funding formula was inserted into four sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The formula directs 10 percent of appropriated funds to communities where 20 percent or more of the population have lived at or below the poverty level for the past 30 years. The formula was subsequently inserted into 15 appropriation accounts by the Republican Speaker of the House.

Clyburn's initiatives have restored scores of historic buildings and sites on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities, and his legislation created the S.C. National Heritage Corridor and the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

Steve MacDougall
City of Lexington

Mayor Steve MacDougall knew when he was elected to Town Council in 2011 that his hometown of Lexington was about to explode with positive growth. He ran for mayor in 2013 and won and was reelected in 2018 with a promise to the citizens to have responsible growth in the town they all love.
MacDougall has been instrumental in road improvements, downtown economic development, water quality issues, and many citizen activities. He guided two updates of the Town’s Vision Plan that took the town to a level that exceeds even some bigger cities. He serves on various committees including Central Midlands Council of Governments and Lexington Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission while keeping Lexington in focus.
MacDougall is a family man who cherishes his wife, daughters, and grandson, and he wants them and the citizens of Lexington to continue to be proud of their hometown and what is has to offer today as well as what he sees for the future.

David Pankau
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

David Pankau is president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Pankau joined BlueCross’ Medicare division in 1993 as manager of DMERC Operations and was promoted in 1994 to director. In 1996, he moved to BlueCross’ HMO subsidiary, Companion Health Care (now BlueChoice HealthPlan), where he served as vice president before becoming senior vice president and chief operating officer in 2002. In 2004, Pankau became senior vice president for BlueCross’ Major Group division and, in 2007, president of the Private Business Division. In 2009, he was named chief operating officer before becoming president and CEO in 2010. 

Pankau serves on the board of directors of the Midlands Business Leadership Group and the Palmetto Business Forum. He chairs the board of directors for the National Institute for Health Care Management and is also a mentor for Liberty Fellowship.

Pankau has a bachelor’s degree in health administration from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in health administration from the University of South Carolina School of Public Health. 

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina comprises more than 20 companies involved in health and other insurance services, U.S. DoD health programs and Medicare contracts, and a philanthropic foundation.

Teresa Wilson
City of Columbia
City Manager

As a municipal trailblazer, City Manager Teresa Wilson leads the executive team for South Carolina’s capital city. Columbia is growing and developing on a daily basis, and Wilson is focused on taking the city’s operations to the next level. She works diligently to address the needs of residents in the community, while also focusing on public safety and economic development initiatives. Wilson is a proven leader and has hands-on experience working with the business community to develop projects that will be catalysts for future economic growth. 

Enhancing the quality of life in Columbia is a primary focus for Wilson, and her commitment was aptly displayed during the process to identify and select a strong leader to transform the Columbia Police Department. Public safety, which includes fire protection and emergency services, is at the core of not only the stability of neighborhoods, but also the continued success of the business community. Code enforcement operations have also been merged into the police department to solidify the process for maintaining clean, safe communities and hospitality districts.

In addition, Wilson hired the City of Columbia’s first official chief financial officer in order to assure that the fiscal foundation of the city remains strong and continues to sustain the multiple services that are critical to taxpayers. This important hire yielded a 2013 Government Finance Officers Association Award, which is an accomplishment that had not been bestowed on Columbia for almost a decade. Since then, the city has received the award for five consecutive years.

Wilson completed the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and is an active member of ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. She is a Liberty Fellow, Class of 2018, and a Riley Fellow through the Riley Institute at Furman University.

50 Most Influential of 2018:

Wayne Adams
Newberry County
County Administrator

Wayne Adams has served as Newberry County administrator since 2006. In January 2018, Samsung opened a home appliance manufacturing facility in Newberry County—its first non-semiconductor manufacturing plant in North America—after Adams’ heavy recruitment. The year prior, Adams was instrumental in helping land Newberry County’s first BMW supplier, the metal stamping firm MM Technics—a first North American facility for that company as well.
In 2018, Adams received the prestigious President’s Cup from the S.C. Association of Counties for his exemplary assistance to that organization’s president. He consistently gets high marks for financial management, keeping his county’s financial reserves high and its debt low. He has worked as a county administrator since 1995, and previously served as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Butler Derrick. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina. Wayne and his wife Meg reside in Prosperity.

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis
Benedict College

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis has earned, for the second time in history, the distinct honor of serving as the first female president of a collegiate institution in the United States. In June 2017, Dr. 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, Mrs. Bathsheba Benedict, in 1870.  

Dr. 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 in that university’s 138-year history. Among her many achievements were the significant technology enhancements on campus, new facility construction, and innovative partnerships, as well as increased national exposure and resource development for the institution in the areas of STEM, cybersecurity, and social justice. 

Dr. Artis is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she earned a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy. She also holds a juris doctorate from West Virginia University College of Law and a bachelor of arts degree in political science from sister HBCU, West Virginia State University. 

Tod Augsburger
Lexington Medical Center
President & CEO

Tod Augsburger has served as the president and CEO of Lexington Medical Center since 2015. Augsburger has extensive senior experience in health care leadership in the Midlands and around the country. Before serving as president and CEO of Lexington Medical Center, he was the hospital’s senior vice president and chief operating officer for 16 years. Previously, Augsburger worked at the Ohio Health System in Columbus, Ohio as corporate vice president of integration, vice president of clinical ancillary services, and vice president of operations.

Augsburger received a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan in 1989 and a bachelor of science in finance from Michigan State University in 1985. He is a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives and received the S.C. Healthcare Executive of the Year award in 2003 from the S.C. Hospital Association and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Charlie Banks
Managing Director 

Charlie Banks is the co-founder and managing director of VentureSouth, one of the country's largest early stage investment firms. 

In 2018, the organization continued to expand its footprint by adding investors from across the country, including Canada, and now is comprised of nearly 300 private investors. The firm also shattered their 2017 record of $4.5 million with a 2018 total of $7 million invested in Southeast-based companies. Perhaps most importantly, VentureSouth returned $6.5 million in profits to their investors after the successful acquisition of three portfolio companies.

Banks also serves as the executive director of Venture Carolina, a sister nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive investor and entrepreneur education. This year, Venture Carolina partnered with the S.C. Department of Commerce to build the Pitch Lab, a facility where entrepreneurs and investors can connect virtually using sophisticated live-streaming video technology. 

Kelly Barbrey
Experience Columbia  
Vice President of Marketing 
and Communications

Kelly Barbrey has worked for Experience Columbia SC for 15 years helping to grow the economic impact for Columbia through tourism. 

2018 marks the first full year promoting a refreshed tourism brand for the region. Since the brand launch, Barbrey has presented to more than 100 groups and organizations highlighting the attributes of Columbia and the benefit of positioning our region as a destination for visitors.
Barbrey serves on the Vista Guild Board of Directors, where she chairs the marketing committee, serves on the marketing committee for City Center Partnership, and is a member of the Midlands Business Leadership Group Livability Working Group and Regional Branding Committee. In her free time, she enjoys writing and is a monthly contributor for the Columbia SC Mom’s Blog and is on the devotion writing team for her church, Eastminster Presbyterian Church.

Milford Beagle, Jr.
Fort Jackson 
Brigadier General

Brigadier General Milford Beagle, Jr. assumed duties as the 51st commanding general for the U.S. Army Training Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, on 22 June 2018.

Beagle commissioned into the Infantry after graduating from South Carolina State University in 1990 as a distinguished military graduate. Beagle has led and commanded troops at every echelon from platoon to brigade. He has soldiered with five regiments and with five divisions.

His key staff assignments include service as a planner and operations officer at battalion and brigade level. On the Joint and Army Staff, he served as the joint strategic planner and later executive assistant to the director, J-7, as well as the division chief, J-5.

Beagle’s combat and operational experience include Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq; Operation Inherent Resolve, Iraq; and Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan.

Beagle has earned the Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab, Pathfinder Badge, and the Army Joint Staff Identification Badge.

Donald W. "Don" Beatty
S.C. Supreme Court
Chief Justice

Chief Justice Donald W. “Don” Beatty is a native of Spartanburg. He attended public schools in Spartanburg County and is a cum laude graduate of S.C. State University. After his active duty military service as a commissioned officer, Chief Justice Beatty continued his education and earned a juris doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Prior to his judicial career, Chief Justice Beatty served on the Spartanburg City Council and later in the S.C.House of Representatives. In 1995, he was elected to the Circuit Court of South Carolina, and served as a trial judge until he was elevated in 2003 to the S.C. Court of Appeals.
In 2007, he was elected as an associate justice for the state Supreme Court by the General Assembly, and as chief justice in May 2016. He began serving as chief justice on January 1, 2017.

Vanessa Bialobreski
F2T Productions, Management, and Catering–Your Farm To Table Event Company 
Founder and Managing Partner

Wanting to focus on highlighting local goodness, Vanessa Bialobreski created Farm to Table Productions, Management, and Catering, a partnership with the chef/owner of Bourbon, Kristian Niemi. 

Working with local chefs and farmers, Bialobreski helps orchestrate dinners and events that bring a community together over locally grown food, including Harvest Dinners, Annual Pig and Oyster Roast, Rose Festival, and Great American Whiskey Fair.
Bialobreski and her partners started a nonprofit arm of their company called the Charitable Plate. Its goal is to help the growth of sustainable chefs, farmers, students, and local artisans by providing scholarships and money in times of crisis. She also started Our Place at the Table, which provides female food leaders and aspiring female food leaders the opportunity to provide and receive education, career support, guidance, mentorship, and conversations on how to bridge the gap between each other and find success.

Timothy Biltz
Lumos Networks
President & CEO
Spirit Communications
President & CEO

Timothy G. Biltz currently serves as president and CEO of Lumos Networks and Spirit Communications, a role he assumed in April 2018 when Lumos and Spirit were brought under the same ownership group. Biltz was named president and CEO of Lumos Networks in April 2012 and was named a director in May 2012.

Previously, Biltz served as director for NTELOS Holdings Corp. from 2006 to May 1, 2014. He also served as a director for iPCS, Inc., a wireless service provider, from 2004 to 2009 and served as chairman of the iPCS Inc. Board starting in 2006. From 2007-2011, he served as chairman of Yap, a Charlotte-based technology company which developed next generation voice recognition technologies, which was acquired by Amazon in 2011 as part of their Alexia and Echo initiatives.lularOne Group, 1991-1999, which created the national CellularOne Brand and marketed it in over 300 markets in the U.S.

Carl Blackstone
Columbia Chamber
President and CEO 

Carl Blackstone leads the Columbia Chamber in fulfilling its mission of being the unified voice for the regional business community. In that role, the 1,200 partners of the Chamber look to Blackstone to advocate for business-friendly practices. 

Blackstone is tireless in his call for accountability and transparency in all business practices and of all elected officials. He was recently chosen to be one of eight leaders in the region to participate in a Bloomberg Foundation and Harvard Business School initiative to provide a world-class learning experience for a community’s senior leaders. The initiative is designed to equip them with the tools and expertise to effectively govern complex cities. 

Additionally, Blackstone continues to serve on the board of Riverbanks Society. 

Peter Brews
Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina  

Over Dean Peter Brews’ five-year tenure at the Darla Moore School of Business, the Undergraduate Program has been transformed, 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 join leading organizations across the United States and elsewhere. 

Further, academic and other changes now underway will ensure every student has the opportunity to acquire the functional, data analytical, and professional skills needed for jobs that are coming. Expecting excellence from all, the Moore School offers educational choices few match.

William Calloway
S.C. State Museum 
Executive Director

As executive director of the S.C. State Museum, William Calloway is responsible for a multi-disciplinary facility that includes four floors of gallery space, a 4D theater, a 55-foot digital dome planetarium, and a state-of-the-art observatory. The museum welcomes guests from all over the country and admits school children from across South Carolina for free all year. The S.C. State Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction only 4 percent of the nation's museums earn. 

Under Calloway’s leadership in the past year, the museum has developed a new long-term strategic plan, created expanded educational outreach opportunities to make museum resources more accessible for classrooms across the state, and celebrated its 30th anniversary, which culminated in a birthday weekend that attracted 8,800 guests.  

Raj Champaneri
Lexington Hospitality

Raj Champaneri serves as the COO of Lexington Hospitality. With more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, Champaneri is involved in acquisitions, development, and operations of properties. 

Currently, the company is developing a Holiday Inn at the corner of Washington and Main St. Lexington Hospitality opened its doors to Columbia’s first boutique hotel, Aloft, in 2017, located in the Vista. 

Champaneri also is changing the game over in Lexington: the company is planning a 90-100 room Marriott-branded hotel for the heart of Main Street in the small town’s emerging downtown district, just steps away from the popular Icehouse Amphitheater.

Fred Delk
Columbia Development Corporation 
Executive Director

For almost 25 years, Fred Delk, as the executive director of the Columbia Development Corporation (CDC), has been a catalyst for economic development and public-private partnerships, a champion of historic preservation, and a change agent for creative community ventures. 

Delk has been involved in dozens of high-impact community projects. A few years ago, a dilapidated, vacant Palmetto Compress and Warehouse building was widely considered a “tear down,” impossible-to-develop property; now, the character-filled building is home to hundreds of residents in 200 apartments. Just a few blocks away near the Congaree River is Stormwater Studios, phase one of a vibrant new artist community that will anchor a future riverfront park.
Delk and the CDC have set the stage for even more positive community and economic development in the coming years, including opportunities for improved pedestrian connectivity, sensitive, and sustainable recreational development of the Congaree River, and expansion of the Columbia Convention Center.

Tameika Isaac Devine
Columbia City Council

Tameika Isaac Devine is a wife, mother, attorney, elected official, entrepreneur, speaker, author, and certified personal and executive coach. First elected in 2002 at the age of 29, Devine is currently in her fifth term on council and currently in her second year serving as mayor pro tem.
Devine’s leadership has been recognized nationally. She was recognized in Governing Magazine as a Women in Government, and she serves as co-chair of the National League of Cities’ Youth Education and Families Council and as a board member of Women in Municipal Government.   
Devine is an advocate for women in leadership and just released her second book, “Think Like a CEO, Act Like a Mom: The Pursuit of Work Life Integration,” where she shares the perfect blend of sage advice and personal anecdotes to explain how working moms can truly have it all.

Chuck Garnett
S. C. Division CEO 

Chuck Garnett is S.C. Division CEO of Synovus Bank. He joined NBSC in 1993 as vice president, senior commercial lender. Following Synovus’ acquisition of NBSC in 1995, he was promoted to senior vice president, Upstate regional executive in 1996, and multi-region executive in 1997. In December 2003, Garnett was appointed president and CEO of NBSC, which continued to operate under its legacy name until June 2018, when the bank was rebranded as Synovus. Garnett’s prior banking experience includes various management positions with The C&S National Bank of South Carolina from 1984–1993.

Garnett was born in Columbia and raised in Charleston. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, University of Puget Sound, and the LouisianaState School of Banking. He is chairman of the board of Midlands Housing Alliance/Transitions, vice chairman of USC Business Partnership Foundation, and a member of the board of the Central Carolina Economic Development Alliance, Midlands Business Leadership Group, S.C. Economics, and S.C. Business and Industry Political Education Committee.

Scott Garvin
Garvin Design Group  

Scott Garvin has practiced architecture in the region for more than 27 years and established Garvin Design Group in 2003. He has been involved in the design and management of more than $500 million worth of projects and launched Garvin Design Group in order to provide client-driven design solutions, utilizing more strategic delivery models. 

Garvin is directly involved with every project, with a particular focus on the client’s objectives, schedule, and budget. He also spearheads the corporate business and marketing functions of the firm. Scott has been involved with significant projects around the state including the University of South Carolina Strom Thurmond Wellness Center, the revitalization of the Olympia and Granby Mills, and the expansion of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville. 

Born and raised in Aiken, Garvin graduated from Clemson University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in design. He received his masters in architecture in 1986 from Clemson and spent a semester in Italy for overseas study. He lives in Lexington with his wife, Mary, and their four daughters.

Mike Gula
Columbia Metropolitan Airport
Executive Director

Mike Gula is the new executive director at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Prior to being named the CAE executive director, Gula served as the director of operations, planning, and facilities from 2014 to March 2018. 

Gula has more than 15 years of experience in airport management and has worked at four commercial service airports, including Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, where he served as the director of operations, Blue Grass Airport as the operations manager, and Toledo Express Airport as the manager of operations and cargo development. He also has experience in the air cargo industry and has worked for Emirates SkyCargo, Globe Air Cargo, and LGSTX, a subsidiary of Air Transport Services.

Gula holds a bachelor degree from Bowling Green State University, where he majored in aviation management and operations. In 2010, he was accredited through the American Association of Airport Executives, only 10 percent of airport industry professionals have this designation. He was also recognized as a 40 under 40 candidate in 2016 by Airport Business.

Christy A. Hall
State of South Carolina
Secretary of Transportation

Christy Hall has the honor and privilege of serving as Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment for the Secretary of Transportation, the top leadership position for the S.C.  Department of Transportation. In her capacity as secretary, she is responsible for directing and guiding the agency’s planning, financial, legislative, maintenance, and operational efforts for the nation’s fourth largest state-owned highway system.  

Secretary Hall rose through the ranks of the agency and has served in a variety of roles in both headquarters and the field during her 20 career with SCDOT. She has just about done it all at the agency from design to construction to maintenance to serving in several different leadership positions on the finance and engineering sides of the agency. Hall’s unique and well-rounded experience has served the agency well so far and was on full display during the historic October 2015 floods.

Hall is a South Carolina native, a graduate of Clemson University, and a registered professional engineer.

Dr. Tim Hardee
S.C. Technical College System 

Dr. Tim Hardee has over 30 years of experience in education throughout South Carolina. Before taking the helm of the System, he served as president of Central Carolina Technical College. He has also served as a teacher, coach, counselor, and principal at the K-12 level. 

He graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Coastal Carolina University and earned his M.Ed. in Counselor Education and his Ed.D. in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina. 

Hardee also has served on numerous boards and councils dedicated to furthering South Carolina through education, workforce development, and economic development. He is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina and the S.C. Economic Developers Program and was presented the Coastal Carolina’s Outstanding Alumni award.

Richard “Dick” Harpootlian
State of South Carolina 
South Carolina Senator
Harpootlian Law Firm  
Managing Partner

Richard “Dick” Ara Harpootlian is one of South Carolina’s leading courtroom advocates with 30 years of trial experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and civil litigator. For the last 20 years, Harpootlian’s private practice has earned him state and national recognition for his efforts on behalf of civil litigants and criminal defendants, including a number of multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements.

In addition to his law practice, Harpootlian has been active in South Carolina politics. In November 2018, Harpootlian was elected to the S.C. Senate. One of his main goals is to address public corruption, including prison time for officials convicted of corruption.

Harpootlian’s views as a commentator on law and politics are regularly sought by national news programs. He is also frequently quoted in local, state, and national publications, and has been invited to lecture with bar colleges on various topics.

Robert R. Hill, Jr.
South State Corp. 

Robert R. Hill, Jr. serves as chief executive officer of South State Corporation. Having worked 23 years with South State, Robert has served in various positions since joining the bank in 1995, including chief executive officer and president of South State Bank. South State Corporation is a bank holding company founded in 1933 with more than $14 billion in assets, operating in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia. 

Additionally, Hill has held leadership positions as a board member and/or officer in numerous local and regional organizations. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the University of South Carolina Development Foundation. 

A graduate of The Citadel, Robert also earned an MBA from USC’s Moore School of Business. Robert has been honored with several awards including the Citadel School of Business Alvah H. Chapman, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Award and Distinguished Citadel Alumnus. He was also honored as a Distinguished Young Alumnus by the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. 

Melanie Huggins
Richland Library 
Executive Director

Melanie Huggins is the executive director of Richland Library in Columbia, which received the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor. 

Huggins was named a 2018 Woman of Influence by the Columbia Regional Business Report. She was also named a 2018 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of South Carolina-Mountains to Midlands for her lasting impact in the community. Recently, she was named as the recipient of the 2018 Stephen G. Morrison Visionary Award from One Columbia Arts and History. Her work is influenced by her belief that libraries are uniquely positioned to make communities more livable, resilient, and inclusive. 

Huggins is a recognized leader in the library profession, having held trustee positions with both the Urban Libraries Council and the Public Library Association. In 2012 she was named South Carolina Outstanding Librarian by the S.C. Library Association. 

She is a Liberty Fellow, member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network; a member of the Spring 2018 class of the Riley Diversity Leaders Institute; vice president of the Together SC Board; vice president of the University of South Carolina’s University Associates Board; City Center Partnership Board Member; and a harried, forgetful mom to Adeline, Lila, and Shepard and concert-going buddy to her super-smart husband J.C. 

John Katz
Columbia Fireflies 

The 2019 season will mark John Katz’s 27th year in professional sport marketing and management and his 21st as a team’s top executive. Katz has been part of Hardball Capital’s management and ownership team since 2006. He was the owner’s representative on the design, development and construction of the award-winning Spirit Communications Park.
Alongside his dynamic and talented leadership team, Katz oversees the day-to-day operations of the Fireflies and Spirit Communications Park. This summer, the Fireflies will welcome their one millionth Fireflies fan to the ballpark.
Katz is also an adjunct professor in the University of South Carolina’s Sport Management department. He serves as a board member for Experience Columbia SC, the Columbia Urban League, and Katrina’s Kids Foundation.  

Lou Kennedy
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. 
President, CEO, and Owner

Lou Kennedy is president, chief executive officer, and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Kennedy joined Nephron Pharmaceuticals in 2001, and accepted the position of president and chief executive officer in September 2007. 

Along with her husband, Bill, Kennedy helped establish the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center in conjunction with the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy. 

She serves on a variety of business and civic boards. A graduate of the USC’s College of Journalism with a bachelor of arts degree, Mrs. Kennedy never shies from the opportunity to cheer on the Gamecocks!

Robert Matthew "Matt" Kennell
City Center Partnership 
Founding President and CEO 

Matt Kennell has worked in urban development and management for over three decades. He has served in many roles, including city planner, Main Street manager, community development manager, and business improvement district (BID) management in Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina. 

Kennell is the founding president and CEO of City Center Partnership (CCP), which manages the BID in the 36-block of downtown Columbia, bounded by Gervais, Elmwood, Assembly, and Marion streets. CCP provides public space management, economic development, retail recruitment, homeless outreach, public advocacy, marketing, and planning to the BID. 

The Columbia BID was formed in 2002. Since then, three new office towers have been constructed, office and residential occupancy has increased to record levels, and three new hotels have been developed. Parking has been improved, a comprehensive homeless services facility has opened its doors, Richland Library and the Columbia Museum of Art have been remodeled, and both have received numerous awards and national recognition. An Historic Tax District was established, which contributed to a significant development boom, including the return of retailers to the Main Street District. 

Together, all of this has contributed to bringing almost $1 billion in private, taxable investment to the area.

Sid Kenyon
Colonial Life Arena 
General Manager 

Sid Kenyon serves as the general manager for Colonial Life Arena and is instrumental in creating memories for fans across the Midlands and providing a first-class experience for tours of all kinds. Colonial Life Arena remained ranked No. 1 in South Carolina this past season for the Carolinas Top Stops according to Venues Now, a nationally distributed magazine focusing on the sports and entertainment industry.

Kenyon also played a key role in securing the NCAA first and second rounds for the 2019 Men’s Basketball Championships which is expected to have a significant economic impact on the Columbia region. Kenyon and the staff at Colonial Life Arena also hosted Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s On The Run II Tour for a historic night at Williams-Brice Stadium in August 2018.

Nick Kremydas
S.C. Association of REALTORS®

Nick Kremydas began his 24th year of service to the REALTORS® in 2018, overseeing the fastest and longest period of continued growth of the state's largest trade association. He led the Association, which surpassed its highest level of membership ever this year with over 23,000 members, advocating for consumer safety and protecting private property rights during the legislative session, ensuring REALTORS® are the “Voice of Real Estate.”  

This year, S.C. REALTORS®  partnered with the Red Cross to help install smoke detectors in hundreds of at risk homes across the state. SCR also fully sponsored a Habitat for Humanity build to help a veteran's family achieve the American dream of homeownership in Sumter. 

Kremydas is a proud husband and father who volunteers as the Arrows of Light Den Leader for Scout Troop 476 and was the assistant coach for the Trinity Byrnes Collegiate School Girls Tennis Team that was the runner-up in the Class 3A State Tennis Championships this fall.

James K. "Jim" Lehman
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP
Managing Partner

James K. “Jim” Lehman has been the managing partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP since 2012. Before that, he has served the firm as operations partner and partner. Lehman has also served in senior executive management positions.
In 2001, he became senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Safety-Kleen, which, at the time, was undergoing one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S. history.
In the community, Lehman currently serves as chairman of the Claflin University Board of Trustees and sits on the board of the Columbia Urban League. He has previously served Best Lawyers, United Way of the Midlands, City Center Partnership, South Carolina Philharmonic, Midlands Housing Alliance, the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Foundation, and Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Good to Great Foundation.

Wes Lyles
Studio 2LR Architecture 
and Interior Design 

As a business owner and architect, Wes Lyles, along with Gretchen Lambert and Tripp Riley, has the privilege of leading a group of very talented employees and consultants solving complex problems that impact the built environment all around the Southeast. 

With projects this past year that include Vista Towers, Home Team BBQ Columbia, Richland Library Edgewood, and Savage Craft Brewing, Studio 2LR’s goals with each project are to positively impact the building owner, the people who will use the building, and the community.

Lyles loves Columbia; the city is growing and developing in great ways and he and his team are proud to be a small part of that change. Studio 2LR will always strive to be a positive influence and advocate for Columbia, the built environment, and the community.

Henry McMaster
State of South Carolina

Henry McMaster of Columbia became the 117th governor of South Carolina on January 24, 2017. He was elected to a full four-year term in 2018. McMaster is a lifelong servant of the State of South Carolina, having previously served two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as attorney general, and four years as United States attorney. 

McMaster was the first U.S. attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. His Operation Jackpot investigation into international drug smuggling produced over 100 convictions.

In 2003, McMaster issued a landmark opinion to protect our marsh islands from encroachment and later won the Life Sciences Act case in the S.C. Supreme Court, which enhanced the state’s economic potential through its universities for research, developmen,t and investment in the knowledge-based economy. 

As lieutenant governor, McMaster served as president of the S.C. State Senate and headed the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, which aids older adults with social, economic, and health needs. In that capacity, he added senior services to the 211 system, connecting callers with support groups and services in their areas. 

McMaster was chairman of the S.C. Republican Party from 1993-2002, winning reelection three times. As state GOP chairman, he led the party to Republican majorities in South Carolina’s House and Senate. 

In addition, he has served on the S.C. Ports Authority Board of Directors, the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the Palmetto Health Foundation Board and the S.C. Policy Council.

Jimmy Metts
Tidewater Boats LLC 
President and Founder

Jimmy Metts co-founded Tidewater Boats with Chris Martin in 2006. With decades of marine craftsmanship experience, the company set out to create the best boat value. Since then, the company has developed into one of the fastest-growing saltwater boats manufacturer in the industry. Started in the Midlands, the company has dealers throughout the United States, as well as two locations in Canada.

Recently, Tidewater Boats expanded its Lexington facility to accommodate its growth, streamline and expand its production, and create more options for its customers. The $8.3 million expansion is expected to create 100 jobs.

Dr. Carol Moore
Columbia College

Dr. Carol Moore is a student-focused leader, instrumental in helping create leadership and learning opportunities outside the classroom that promote the revitalization of North Main, building stronger partnerships that impact all of South Carolina. 

She is committed to improving the lives of female entrepreneurs with the establishment of Women’s Business Center of South Carolina at Columbia College, furthering an already vibrant focus at the college. 

Through her leadership, the student body continues to grow and diversify, reaching first-generation students and those who are seeking to enhance their education at different points in their careers.

Robert Mundy
Estates & Companies

Robert Mundy is the founder of Estates & Companies headquartered in Columbia. Estates is a commercial and residential real estate development, management, and investment firm dedicated to forging innovative real estate opportunities founded on reliable financial principles and to building long-term client relationships based on trust and performance. Estates has experienced phenomenal growth in its 30-year history.
Mundy is an active member in Urban Land Institute serving twice as the chair of the ULI Midlands and as a founding executive member for ULI South Carolina. He also maintains active memberships with the National Association of Homebuilders, National Multi-Housing Council, Nation Apartment Association, and the Institute of Real Estate Management. As an alumnus of Clemson University, he has served as a board member on the Clemson University Real Estate Foundation and the Masters of Real Estate Development. Mundy attends Shandon Baptist Church and serves on the church’s finance committee. 

Elise Partin
City of Cayce

Elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014, Elise Partin is Cayce's first female mayor. Mayor Partin prioritizes fiscal responsibility, community needs, and economic development, with a focus on empowering citizens, providing strong leadership, fostering open communication and enhancing quality of life in Cayce. Mayor Partin serves on several influential boards in the Midlands and works as an adjunct professor at her alma mater, the University of South Carolina

Partin is the past-president of the Municipal Association of South Carolina and has served on the executive committee of the Central Midlands Council of Government. She is on the advisory board for the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Livable Communities. She also serves on the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission of Lexington County, the Lexington County Development Corporation, and the River Alliance. She is a member of the Association of South Carolina Mayors and is a past president of the Lexington County Municipal Association. 

In 2015, to benefit her city, she was invited to participate in the prestigious and selective Mayors Institute for City Design, which is a collaboration of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Institute of Architects.

Ted Pitts
S.C. Chamber of Commerce
President and CEO

Ted Pitts took over as president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce in January of 2015. Pitts came to the Chamber after serving first as deputy chief of staff and then chief of staff for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during her first term in office. Prior to that, he served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 2003-2010 representing Lexington County. 

Pitts comes from the business community where he was a successful commercial real estate broker and partner with the South Carolina firm Wilson Kibler. He also serves as a major in the S.C. Army National Guard and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan.

Pitts is a graduate of Presbyterian College where he serves on the board of trustees. He and his wife Christina have three children and call Lexington home.

Dr. Ronald L. Rhames
Midlands Technical College 

Dr. Ronald L. Rhames is the first alumnus president of Midlands Technical College (MTC) and the first to graduate from a South Carolina technical college and later become its president. Rhames has dedicated himself to serving students and is leading the college’s strategic vision of ensuring student success and college sustainability. 

Known for his collaborative approach, Rhames has worked in partnership with every school district in Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield counties; other colleges and universities throughout the state; and many Midlands-area businesses. Through this collaboration, he has helped secure private funding for student scholarships, as well as bridge, transfer, and articulation agreements that make it less expensive for students to attend college. 

Under Rhames’ leadership, the Ritedose Corporation became the anchor tenant of the MTC Enterprise Campus, a 130-acre industrial park for new or existing industries that are looking for prime-development space and partnership with a technically focused academic institution. MTC’s partnership with Ritedose is a prime example of Rhames’ vision of merging education and economic development through direct relationships between the college and area businesses. 

Rhames is a member of the Richland One School District Hall of Fame and serves on the boards of Midlands Middle College High School, Midlands Education and Business Alliance, Columbia Urban League, EngenuitySC, Central SC Alliance, and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Bakari Sellers
Political Commentator
Strom Law Firm, LLC

Bakari Sellers made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he became the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. In 2014, he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in the state of South Carolina.
Having served on President Barack Obama's South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election, Sellers is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and leading voice for his generation. He has served as a featured speaker at events for the National Education Association, College Democrats of America National Convention, and the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Sellers practices law with the Strom Law Firm, LLC in Columbia and is a political commentator at CNN. Sellers is committed to addressing issues ranging from education and poverty to preventing domestic violence and childhood obesity.

Susie Shannon
S.C. Council on Competitiveness
President and CEO

Susie Shannon is president and CEO of the S.C. Council on Competitiveness, a business-led nonprofit organization that works to advance South Carolina's long-term economic competitiveness through industry clusters, actionable research, and education/workforce development initiatives. 

Under Shannon's leadership, the council has strengthened its network of partners and supporters and increased its engagement with the business community. In 2018, the council released several industry studies, including an aerospace economic impact study demonstrating the industry’s nearly $25 billion total economic impact on South Carolina and a logistics study showing Dillon as the top location for distribution/warehousing operations.  

Shannon also continues to help spearhead education initiatives with the council's signature education program, TransformSC, growing it to include 67 schools and seven entire school districts. Recently, she was one of 23 statewide education stakeholders tapped to participate in a field study of public schools in Finland.   

An active community member, Shannon is a member of the Strategic Partnership Group for the Department of Commerce Coordinating Council for Workforce Development, the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research State Committee, and Central Carolina Community Foundation Board of Directors. She is also a Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Initiative and Liberty fellow.

Nancy Smith
S.C. State Fair  

S.C. State Fair manager Nancy L. Smith has worked with the State Fair for more than 30 years. She began in the fair’s home and craft department in 1983 and eventually was named superintendent of that department. She assumed a full-time position in 2000 as director of entertainment and exhibits and continued in that position until being named assistant general manager in January 2007 and general manager in January 2018.

Smith is first vice chair of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE). The voluntary, not-for-profit corporation serves state, provincial, regional, and county agricultural fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions. It currently represents more than 1,100 fairs around the world and more than 900 members from related fields. She will serveas IAFE chair in 2020.

Smith graduated from Lexington High School and the Columbia Fashion Merchandising School. She is a graduate of the Institute of Fair Management and received an honorary degree from the National Future Farmers of America.

Lee Snelgrove
One Columbia for Arts and History 
Executive Director

Since taking the position of executive director of One Columbia for Arts and History in 2013, Lee Snelgrove has overseen the establishment of a process for commissioning public art and the installation of 35 new pieces, the establishment of the position of a city poet laureate, coordinated the development of a strategic plan for the Congaree Vista’s formal cultural district designation, and has been a leader of multi-organizational city-wide events including the Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia and the Total Solar Eclipse Weekend in August 2017.

He is currently facilitating more than 15 new public art projects, collaborating with partner organizations to identify innovative ways to enhance the city’s public spaces and developing a city-wide cultural plan to unify the arts community in a common vision.

Dawn Staley
University of South Carolina Women’s Basketball 
Head Coach

Catapulting South Carolina into the national spotlight, Dawn Staley has made the Gamecocks a mainstay in the battle for Southeastern Conference and national recognition. She capped her first decade in Garnet and Black by leading her team to its fourth-straight SEC Tournament title —the first four-peat champion in league history—and celebrating the program’s first National Player of the Year and No. 1 2018 WNBA Draft pick in A’ja Wilson. 

Staley’s decade at the helm of the Gamecocks includes: 2017 NCAA National Championship; 117 consecutive weeks ranked in the AP Top 25, including 63 weeks in the top five; seven straight 25-win seasons, including three 30-win campaigns led by a school-record 34 victories in 2014-15; four SEC regular-season championships (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017); four SEC Tournament titles (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018); and four NCAA Attendance titles, averaging over 12,000 fans each season

Under Staley’s 10 seasons of leadership, four Gamecocks have collected nine All-America selections, two have picked up five SEC Player of the Year honors, two have earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year recognition a total of three times, one has been the SEC Sixth Player of the Year and three were named SEC Freshman of the Year. She has coached 11 Gamecocks who earned All-SEC honors a combined 23 times, including 12 first-team selections, and six Gamecocks have been selected in the WNBA Draft in the last four seasons, including two who earned WNBA Rookie of the Year honors and two others who earned WNBA All-Rookie Team status.

Bill Stangler
Congaree Riverkeeper

Bill Stangler originally came to South Carolina to study ecology and river science at the University of South Carolina. He became the Congaree Riverkeeper in 2011 and currently serves on the boards of Friends of Congaree Swamp and Palmetto Paddlers.
After more than five years of litigation and multiple court cases, the organization was able to end an illegal discharge into the Lower Saluda River from a private sewer utility in February 2018. 

The organization has also expanded local water quality monitoring initiatives, including helping lead the Midlands Rivers Coalition; signed a comprehensive relicensing settlement agreement for the Parr and Fairfield hydropower dams on the Broad River; organized volunteer cleanups that removed approximately 10,000 pounds of trash from our rivers and streams; and testified regularly on important legislative and regulatory issues, including at the Statehouse, Public Service Commission, and Department of Health and Environmental Control Board.

Thomas Stringfellow
Riverbanks Zoo
President and CEO

With nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Thomas K. Stringfellow is only the third executive to oversee the zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at Riverbanks in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Stringfellow was named president and CEO in August 2017.
Stringfellow has been dedicated to ensuring Riverbanks’ continued growth, financial success, and leadership in the field of conservation. During his inaugural year as president, Riverbanks was named Best South Carolina Attraction by readers of USA Today and welcomed nearly 1.3 million guests.
An active member of the Association of Zoos  and Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Stringfellow also has served on the Columbia Metropolitan Conventions and Visitors Bureau and the board of directors for Palmetto Health’s Camp Kemo.

Jerry Sweetland
PurePower Technologies

Jerry Sweetland is CEO of PurePower Technologies. He has been with the company since 1999 and has served as operations and project manager, senior manager of engineering, and plant manager.

Covering continuous improvement, operational excellence, quality, business development, human relations, and purchasing, Sweetland has led many operations for PurePower Technologies, resulting in more than $250 million in annual revenue since 2002. Previously, he held leadership positions at Detroit Diesel, Siemens Automotive, and Continental Automotive.

Sweetland currently serves as a board member for Midlands Technical College Foundation and is a former board member for S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He earned an MBA from Wake Forest University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.

J. Warren Tompkins
First Tuesday Strategies  

J. Warren Tompkins, a native of Columbia, has been a leading advocate for Conservatives for Conservation and alternative clean energy sources. 

As a partner in First Tuesday Strategies, a political campaign and grassroots consulting company, and Tompkins, Thompson & Brown, a governmental and public affairs company, he and his partners have worked tirelessly to promote legislation to increase solar energy and other clean energy alternatives in our state that would provide more consumer choice in South Carolina.
Tompkins and his partners have also been working to help grow the South Carolina film industry by working alongside the Carolina Film Alliance to increase incentives for production companies, which would allow the industry to grow and prosper in South Carolina like it has in the neighboring state of Georgia.

Della Watkins
Columbia Museum of Art  
Executive Director

Della Watkins took the helm as executive director of the Columbia Museum of Art in October 2017. Her career includes 13 years in teaching arts education; 15 years in nonprofit management and statewide programming at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va.; and four years as the executive director of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va.
As a museum leader, Watkins is passionate about the role the visual arts play in building strong communities and culture. She currently uses her dynamism and leadership skills to manage a strong nonprofit, overseeing a major construction project, garnering support, cultivating relationships, and raising visibility for the museum, the Midlands region, and South Carolina.
Watkins earned her bachelor of art degree from James Madison University and master of education degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a graduate of leadership programs including Georgetown University, University of Virginia Darden School, and Getty Leadership Institute. 

Kim A. Wilkerson
Bank of America
South Carolina State President and Columbia Market President

In her role at Bank of America, Kim Wilkerson provides business, civic, and philanthropic leadership across the community. Wilkerson also serves as the South Carolina market executive for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. In this role, she leads the overall effort to serve the wealth management needs of high net worth individuals and families in South Carolina.
Wilkerson joined Bank of America’s predecessor bank, Bankers Trust, in 1980. She is a graduate of Clemson University, and is the first female successor member of the Clemson University Board of Trustees. She serves on the Palmetto Business Forum, Leadership SC Advisory Board, and the Federal Legislative Committee of the S.C. Bankers Association. 

Throughout her career, Wilkerson has served on numerous boards including the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Clemson University Foundation Board, the S.C. Bankers Association, and the Women’s Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Alan Wilson
State of South Carolina
S.C. Attorney General

Alan Wilson was recently re-elected to serve a third term as S.C.Attorney General. Wilson has served in the National Guard for 23 years, including a combat tour in Iraq, and is now a colonel serving as the senior army judge advocate for South Carolina. 

As attorney general, he has focused on fighting human trafficking. A new report ranks our state as the best in the nation for improving its human trafficking laws. 

Wilson has led on numerous national issues and has fought the federal government in order to keep South Carolina from becoming a plutonium dumping ground. He has stood against frivolous lawsuits that target manufacturers, as well as led the fight for full rate relief for utility ratepayers. 

The Attorney General’s Office is the state’s legal office where Wilson leads a staff of more than 300 with a total annual budget of approximately $78 million this year.

Ashleigh R. Wilson
Bowman and Brooke 

Ashleigh R. Wilson continues to balance a successful litigation practice and her passion for community and civic engagement. 

In 2018, Wilson added e-Discovery to her products liability litigation practice. In addition to defending the quality and utility of her client’s products in court, she now also helps clients carefully and cost effectively navigate the field of electronic discovery. In 2019, Ashleigh will take the helm as board chair of Special Olympics South Carolina. 

Wilson is a passionate advocate for our neighbors and friends with intellectual disabilities and is active with the Special Olympics’ tennis program. She will also continue to serve as president of the S.C. Bar Young Lawyers Division and on the executive committee of the Columbia Chamber. 

For 2019, Wilson predicts that Columbia will continue to be a great place to live and work.