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Columbia Business Monthly

The 50 Most Influential People in Columbia

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 third 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.

The Hall of Fame

Fred Delk 

Executive Director

Columbia Development Corporation  

For over two decades, 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.

Robert R. Hill, Jr. 

President & CEO

South State Corporation 

Robert R. Hill, Jr. serves as president and CEO of South State Corporation. Hill joined South State in 1995 as president of its subsidiary bank and was named CEO of the corporation in 2004. South State Corporation is a bank holding company with $15 billion in assets, serving 700,000 customers in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. South State Bank has been one of the best-performing banks in the country, with a total shareholder return of approximately 1,400% since 1995. 

In recent years, South State has been ranked in the top third of Forbes' 100 Best Banks in America (2019), named one of Forbes Best-in-State Banks (2018), Overall Winner of Bank Director's "RankingBanking" Study, chosen as one of the Best Places to Work in SC (2017-2019), and named to the Women's Choice Award®Best Companies for Women (2019). 

Hill has held leadership positions as a board member in numerous organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where he served as audit chair. Prior to that, he served on the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors of the University of S.C. Development Foundation, where he serves as chair of the Finance Committee. Additionally, Hill is a past chairman of the board of the S.C. Bankers Association. 

A graduate of The Citadel, Hill subsequently earned an MBA from the University of South Carolina 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 was named Distinguished Citadel Alumnus. He was also recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by the Moore School of Business and UofSC Alumni Association. 

A native of Columbia, Hill and his wife Carol have two grown children. 

Lou Kennedy 

President, CEO & Owner

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp.  

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 UofSC's College of Journalism with a bachelor of arts degree, Kennedy never shies from the opportunity to cheer on the Gamecocks!

Robert Matthew Kennell 

Founding President & CEO 

City Center Partnership 

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.

Ted Pitts 

President & CEO

S.C. Chamber of Commerce 

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

He comes from the business community where he was a successful commercial real estate broker and partner with Wilson Kibler. 

Pitts also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the S.C. Army National Guard and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Presbyterian College, where he now sits on the Board. He and his wife Christina have three children and call Lexington home.

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 or has served 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.

50 Most Influential

John Andoh

Executive Director & CEO


John Andoh has a strong passion for public transportation and has been working in the public transit industry since age 13, working as an intern at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, CA. He first became a transit manager at the Riverbank-Oakdale Transit Authority working for a Board of Directors and implementing an intercity transit service, and has run many systems since. He began leading The COMET in April of 2018. Andoh has overseen the preparation of short- and long-range transit plans and strategic plans for the transit systems he has managed. He has a robust understanding of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, funding programs, and compliance including obtaining direct recipient status from the FTA and preparation of compliance documents. He has started many small urban and rural transit systems, as well as implemented transformational processes to make them efficient and progressive.

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, Bathsheba Benedict, in 1870. Since Dr. Artis' arrival, she has led an unprecedented transformation of the institution that has resulted in national recognition, including the receipt of the 2019 ACE Fidelity Institutional Transformation Award and the 2019 HBCU of the Year Award. 

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.

A strong community activist, Dr. Artis currently serves as co-chair for the United Way of the Midlands Campaign and as a volunteer for multiple community boards and non-profit organizations.

Tod Augsburger

President & CEO

Lexington Medical Center

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.

Kenneth H. Bauknight

Founder & Shareholder

Bauknight Pietras & Stormer CPAs

Kenneth Bauknight, a Columbia native, got his start in the accounting field first as an agent with the Internal Revenue Service in Houston, Texas, and later with "Big Eight" public accounting firms Ernst & Whinney and PriceWaterhouse. In 1991, he and two other certified public accountants left their day jobs to start Bauknight Pietras & Stormer, P.A. (BPS). An expert in corporate and partnership taxation issues, Bauknight quickly attracted a strong clientele in real estate, hotel management, manufacturing, and closely held family businesses. During his nearly three decades of leadership - 28 years as managing shareholder - the firm has grown to nearly 60 CPAs and a total team of 80 professionals, placing BPS among the premier public accounting and consulting firms in the Southeast. In December 2019, BPS was recognized by global media company Forbes as being among the top-recommended tax and accounting firms in America. Of the 227 firms named to the Forbes list, BPS was the only South Carolina firm recognized for both tax and accounting services. Also in 2019, BPS relocated its corporate offices to a new, 20,000-square-foot space in the TD Bank Building at 1501 Main Street, the business hub of the state capital. The move accommodated the firm's meteoric growth, but also reflects BPS' commitment to the Columbia community and to improving work-life balance for its team members. 

Bauknight is a graduate of Towson State University and Leadership Columbia.

James A. Bennett

South Carolina Mid-South Area Executive Vice President

First Citizens Bank

As area executive, James A. Bennett is responsible for meeting the financial objectives for an established geographic area. In addition, he leads branch, business and commercial banking teams to meet sales goals, mitigate risks and provide outstanding client service. His area of responsibility is comprised of over $1 billion in deposits and $2 billion in loans.

He was previously executive vice president and director of public affairs, First Citizens Bank; president and CEO, South Carolina Community Bank; head of Community Banking Group division, First Citizens Bank; and president, Victory Savings Bank.

He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of the S.C. Carolina Bankers School.

Bennett was born in Washington, D.C., and moved to Cheraw, S.C., shortly thereafter. He has been a South Carolina resident for more than 50 years. He is a board member of Dominion Energy, Prisma Health and the UofSC Educational Foundation, and serves as vice chair of the S.C. Bankers Association and the Midlands Business Leadership Group. 

Bennett was the first African-American to receive the Outstanding Young Banker Award from the S.C. Bankers Association (1998). Bennett has been actively involved in the Columbia Urban League for more than 25 years and served as league chairman for two terms.

Carl Blackstone

President & CEO

Columbia Chamber of Commerce

Carl Blackstone leads the Columbia Chamber in furthering its mission of being the unified voice for the regional business community. Currently, he is leading the chamber in its headquarters relocation to the thriving Main Street District. The chamber's 1,200 partners and regional business leaders turn to Blackstone to advocate for business-friendly practices and continue the Columbia Chamber's promise to connect, engage, impact and transform, facilitating a prosperous business climate for all. He is diligent in his call for accountability and transparency in all business practices and of all elected officials. 

Blackstone also serves on the national board of directors for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. 

Rodney Blevins


Dominion Energy 

South Carolina

As president of Dominion Energy South Carolina, Rodney Blevins oversees Dominion Energy's regulated utility in the Palmetto State, where the company serves about 1.1 million electric and gas customers. He is focused on efficiently delivering safe, reliable and affordable energy to customers while ensuring that Dominion Energy is a good corporate citizen and neighbor. He leads a team of nearly 4,000 dedicated employees, inspiring them to live by Dominion Energy's core values and to fulfill the company's pledge to serve customers, revitalize communities and protect the planet.

Blevins joined the Dominion Energy South Carolina team in January 2019 after 32 years of service with the company in Virginia. Starting as an associate engineer and holding several positions across the electric distribution business, he was then named vice president of Electric Operations in 2006. He was appointed senior vice president and chief information officer in January 2014, the role he held until being named to the top leadership position in South Carolina. 

He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech and completed the advanced management program at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Sharon W. Bryant

South Carolina Regional 

Executive Vice President

First Citizens Bank

Sharon W. Bryant joined the First Citizens Bank in 1999 as executive vice president and director of human resources. She served as executive vice president and division executive from 2001-2010. In 2010, she assumed the dual roles of regional executive vice president for Central South Carolina and director of the bank's Wealth Advisory Group, while continuing to serve as president of First Citizens Securities. In 2012, she was named South Carolina banking executive prior to being named South Carolina regional executive vice president in 2014.

As regional executive vice president, Bryant is responsible for retail and business banking in the company's South Carolina metro markets, and retail business banking and commercial banking in its South Carolina community markets. From 2010 to 2013, Bryant served as director of the bank's Wealth Advisory Group, a division with more than $2.7 billion in assets under management.

Bryant earned a bachelor of arts from the University of the South at Sewanee and is currently board chair for the Central Carolina Community Foundation, as well as a board member for the Palmetto Business Forum, the Business Development Corporation, Riverbanks Society and the S.C. State Museum Commission, among others.

Bryant has more than 30 years of banking, fiduciary and investment services experience. She is licensed securities representative and principal, a 2004 recipient of the Women of Distinction award given by the Girl Scouts of America, a 1997 recipient of the YWCA's Tribute to Women in Industry award, a 1997 winner of the Athena award by the Chamber of Commerce, a 1995 graduate of Leadership Columbia, a founding member of Women in Philanthropy, and a Junior League sustainer. She is a 2017 recipient of First Citizens Chairman's Circle Award and earned a 2019 Junior League of the Midlands Lifetime Achievement award.

Mary Beth Sims Branham

Principal and Vice President


Principal and Vice President Mary Beth Sims Branham serves as Columbia office leader for the architecture, interiors and planning firm LS3P. With more than 35 years of experience in designs for office/commercial, educational, healthcare and civic clients around the state, Branham is highly involved in professional and community outreach activities and served as the 2004 president of the South Carolina American Institute of Architects. 

Branham opened LS3P's Columbia office in May 2004 to expand the firm's presence in the state capital. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2019, the office has become one of the premier architecture and interior design offices in the Midlands. Notable projects in the community include the Richland Two Institute of Innovation, the University of South Carolina Pastides Alumni Center, the Fireflies/Segra Stadium designed by LS3P in association with Populous, AllSouth Federal Credit Union Headquarters and the City of Columbia Cannon Parking Garage.

In addition to leading the office, Branham is highly involved in the initial stages of projects and has a passion for community engagement, programming and design.  A 1981 Graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor of arts in architectural design and a Columbia native, Branham considers her most important role by far to be raising her two wonderful sons, Daniel Branham and the late Wesley Brax.

C. Pierce Campbell

CEO & President

Turner, Padget, Graham & Laney PA

C. Pierce Campbell has served as the CEO of Turner Padget since November 2018, leading the firm's executive committee and guiding firm strategy and vision during its 90th anniversary year. During his tenure, the firm has grown and focused on providing unexcelled client service and building a fulfilling workplace for its lawyers and staff. Before being elected CEO, Campbell served as the firm's marketing officer and as leader of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. In addition to leading the firm, Campbell maintains his legal practice, where he represents both large and small businesses, as well as financial institutions.

Campbell received his bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Georgia and his juris doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Building better local communities to improve South Carolina is important to Campbell, so he encourages his firm to join him in engaging in community, civic and charitable activities. Campbell currently chairs a board overseeing redevelopment projects and serves on the board of trustees of the McLeod Health Foundation.

Robert L. Caslen


University of South Carolina 

Robert L. "Bob" Caslen Jr., a retired lieutenant general and the former superintendent and president of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was named the 29th president of the University of South Carolina in July. 

During his time at West Point, the academy was recognized as the nation's No. 1 public college by U.S. News and World Report and Forbes magazines. Through the establishment of Centers of Excellence at West Point, Caslen developed an integration between Army applied problem sets and West Point research and intellectual capital. He created the Army Cyber Institute to build skills and leaders, and he won the support of Army leadership and Congress to make more than $2 billion in capital improvements at the campus.

After a 43-year military career, Caslen retired from the Army in 2018. He then became the senior counsel to the president at the University of Central Florida with the task to drive organizational, regulatory and cultural change at UCF and served as interim chief financial officer.

He graduated from West Point in 1975 and played center for the Army Black Knights football team. He also earned a master's degree in business administration from Long Island University, and in 1989 he received a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Kansas State University. Caslen also received an honorary doctorate from Long Island University.

W.T. "Tobin" Cassels III


Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc.

Only 13% of all family-owned businesses are passed down to the third generation. Tobin Cassels became president of his family-owned company Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc., in 2001. He first began working at Southeastern as a trailer shop mechanic in 1973, when he was 13 years old. Cassels was paid $1.65/hour. He began working full time in 1983 after graduating with a degree in economics from Washington & Lee University. 

Cassels learned the business from the ground up by working in the shop, the warehouse and serving as both a pickup and delivery driver and an over-the-road driver. 

Southeastern Freight Lines is a non-union, regional, less-than-truckload carrier operating in 89 service centers located in 13 states and Puerto Rico. Southeastern has 8,600 employees and annual revenue of $1.2 billion. Currently, Southeastern is the 11th-largest LTL carrier in the United States. Since its founding in 1950, Southeastern has never had a layoff. The Cassels family's purpose in operating Southeastern is to try and "honor God in and through the business." 

Tobin Cassels married Pat Hook of West Columbia and together they have two children, a daughter Rustin and the late William "Toby" Tobin Cassels IV. He has served on a number of non-profit boards in Columbia and enjoys being involved in philanthropy. The Cassels worship and serve at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.

Michael N. Couick

President & CEO

The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina

Mike Couick believes his professional mission extends beyond the basics expected of typical state trade and service organizations like the one he works for. Those basics include government, public relations and legal services; employee safety and training programs; and publishing services, in this case South Carolina Living magazine, the state's largest circulation publication with 600,000 recipients. His organization's 22 independent member-cooperatives expect those services as they deliver power to 1.5 million people.

Couick, however, emphasizes the broader social imperative that pushed cooperatives to deliver electricity to unserved areas in the 1930s and 1940s: improving lives. "There's no other way to explain the creation of a program like Help My House," Couick said of a loan program that enables members to improve the energy efficiency of their homes without down payments, using low interest rates and payments conveniently included on their electric bills. The efficiency improvements often result in members actually using less of the product the cooperatives sell.

"Now, that's really improving lives, and it's a reflection of the different approach of a member-owned utility," Couick said. As they did with electricity, co-ops are also developing plans to take high-speed internet to underserved and unserved areas, and several have already begun extending the fiber optic cable. 

Couick is a native of Clover. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, where he serves as an adjunct professor. 

Mike Crapps

President & CEO

First Community Bank

Michael C. "Mike" Crapps is a lifelong resident of Lexington County and a 1976 graduate of Lexington High School. He received a bachelor of science degree in economics in 1980 from Clemson University and an MBA degree from the University of South Carolina in 1984; he is also a graduate of the Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking of the South. 

Crapps is a founder of First Community Bank and has served as its president and chief executive officer, as well as on its board of directors since opening the bank in 1995. First Community Bank focuses its efforts on local businesses and professionals, offering financial solutions in three primary lines of business: commercial banking, residential mortgage banking, and financial planning and investment advisory services. The bank has more than $1.1 billion in total assets with 21 banking offices.

Crapps serves the banking industry as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's Charlotte Branch Board of Directors. He has been involved with the S.C. Bankers Association (SCBA), having served as its chairman and on its Board of Directors. The SCBA selected Crapps as the 1997 Young Banker of the Year. He has served multiple organizations in his community and is currently serving on the Midlands Business Leadership Group as a co-chair of its coordinating council and a member of its executive committee. He also serves as a member of the Clemson University Foundation Board of Directors and the Clemson IPTAY Board of Directors.

Additionally, Crapps is past chair of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the Saluda Shoals Park Foundation, the Navigating from Good to Great (Ng2G) Foundation Board, and the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society.

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 third 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 on the board of the National League of Cities and as a member of the boards for Women in Municipal Government, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and South Carolina Women in Leadership.   

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.

John W. Folsom

President & CEO

Colliers International South Carolina

John W. Folsom is the president and CEO of Colliers International/South Carolina, the state's largest commercial real estate firm. Colliers has offices in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and Spartanburg. Its staff of over 160 brokers and associates provides sales and leasing services, property management, and project/construction management for office, industrial, retail, healthcare and investor clients.  The firm also has an affiliation with other Colliers firms worldwide which allows for a broad, global representation of its South Carolina clients.

Among numerous community activities, Folsom is the chairman of the Midlands Business Leadership Group, an organization of over 40 business leaders in the community who are focused on enhancing the economic well-being of the region. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and is a founding Board Member of Salute from the Shore which conducts an annual tribute to America's military. He is a former member of the Boards of Directors of the United Way, Providence Hospital, Hammond School, the S.C. Independent Schools Association and Transitions. 

Folsom holds an MBA degree from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University, where he served as a member of the Board of Trustees. He has been recognized by Washington and Lee as a Distinguished Alumnus, by the United Way of the Midlands as its Humanitarian of the Year and by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce as its Ambassador of the Year.  

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 Louisiana State University School of Banking. He is chairman of the board of Midlands Housing Alliance/Transitions, vice chairman of UofSC Business Partnership Foundation, and a member of the board of the Midlands Business Leadership Group, S.C. Economics.

Mike Gula

Executive Director

Columbia Metropolitan Airport

Mike Gula is the 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's 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.

Tim Hardee


S.C. Technical College System 

Dr. Tim Hardee has served as president of the South Carolina Technical College System for three years. Under his leadership, SCTCS has made great strides in ensuring that a quality higher education remains affordable, accessible and relevant to the citizens of South Carolina. The SCTCS educates and trains Over 175,000 South Carolinians each year. With increased tuition support through new programs like SCWINS (S.C. Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship), a technical college education is more affordable than ever. In addition, the technical colleges across the system have an average placement rate of 90 percent, making it a smart investment for future employment. 

Last year, Hardee combined his love of South Carolina and his commitment to education with his passion for cycling. He toured the state by bike, visiting each of our 16 colleges on a 12-day adventure with routes covering the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry. Tour de Tech spanned 800 miles and was designed to raise much-needed scholarship funds for our students while also increasing the visibility of the SCTCS' 16 technical colleges.

Hardee graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology from Coastal Carolina University and earned his master of education degree in counselor education and his doctor of education in educational administration from UofSC. He 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. 

Dick Harpootlian

South Carolina Senator

State of South Carolina

Managing Partner

Harpootlian Law Firm

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.

James Hodges

President & CEO

McGuireWoods Consulting LLC

Gov. Jim Hodges is president and CEO of McGuireWoods Consulting LLC and a partner with McGuireWoods LLP. He advises clients on energy, healthcare, education, economic development and other issues, dividing his time between Washington, D.C., and Columbia.

Gov. Hodges provides strategic and policy advice to a wide range of clients dealing with issues with the nation's governors and state-level cabinet agencies. He has assisted clients on matters in all 50 states, and regularly works with clients having matters at the National Governors Association, Democratic Governors Association, Democratic Attorneys General Association and National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Gov. Hodges served as a national co-chair of the Obama for President Campaign in 2008, and regularly advises political and business leaders on a wide range of state, regional and national policy issues.

As governor of South Carolina, he led efforts to improve the state's education system, including establishing the education lottery that is credited with providing more than 100,000 scholarships. He is also responsible for funding First Steps, a public-private preschool readiness program. Under his leadership, the S.C. Department of Commerce achieved record-breaking economic development results. Prior to joining McGuireWoods Consulting in 2009, he was the CEO of Hodges Consulting, a business, government relations and economic development consulting firm.

He received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina, S.C. State University, The Citadel, Winthrop University and Francis Marion University. While earning his law degree at the UofSC, he was a member of the mock trial team and received the Compleat Lawyer Silver Medallion. As an undergraduate, he was named Outstanding Senior in Economics.

Cheryl Holland

President & Founder

Abacus Planning Group

Founding Abacus in 1998 was the result of "following a passion that turned into a business model," says Cheryl Holland, who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1980 with a bachelor of arts in economics. She began her career in econometric research but realized that constantly looking at a computer screen wasn't fulfilling.

She earned her certified financial planner license in 1991 and later became a registered independent adviser. After transitioning out of econometric research, she took a job as a broker at a large firm.

As president of Abacus, Holland has garnered national recognition, both personally and for the firm. In 2017 and 2018, Barron's named her the top financial adviser in South Carolina. And in 2017, Abacus was named to the Financial Times 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers.

Today, the firm manages $1.2 billion in assets and employs 14 certified financial planners and chartered financial analysts. 

Mark Hood

President & CEO

Hood Construction

Mark Hood founded Hood Construction Company in 1986, with a focus on "Building things the Right Way." A civil engineering major at The Citadel, Hood's career has now broadened into a 40-year tenure in the commercial construction industry. His business philosophies are best displayed by his focus on strategic analysis of the methods and means of the construction and project management process. He exemplifies strong professional values and places client success and employee safety at the top of every list. He has excelled in creating long-term relationships by consistently working to build winning teams within the industry, remaining focused on optimized cost and total quality measures. A testament to these efforts, his firm recently celebrated the important safety milestone of 2,000,000 hours without a lost time incident. 

Hood is an active member of the Carolinas AGC. His leadership contributions to the CAGC have included serving as chairman of the Building Services Division, Executive Board senior vice chairman, Board treasurer, Mechanical Contractors Joint Cooperative Committee member, director-at-large board member, as well as chairman for the Carolinas AGC/AIA Joint Committee. 

He has a heart for community service, currently serving in leadership roles for Camp Cole, Hammond School, Citizens for Sound Conservation, the Oliver Gospel Mission, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Shandon Baptist Church and many others.

Sam Johnson


Nexsen Pruet

Over the past few years, Sam Johnson has developed a reputation for helping clients deliver beneficial economic development projects to the Columbia region and working to help fix tough issues for clients. Where he has not been engaged professionally, he has developed a reputation for being involved behind the scenes on key decisions impacting his native Columbia.

Johnson joined Nexsen Pruet immediately after law school and has worked as a consultant with both the firm and NP Strategy. Prior to law school, he helped run the Office of the Mayor under the leadership of Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Johnson is deeply committed to Columbia. He currently serves on the boards of Harvest Hope Food Bank, the Capital City Club Board of Governors' Executive Committee, the Nickelodeon Theatre, South Carolina PASOs, the Chair of the S.C. Afterschool Alliance, My Carolina (UofSC) Alumni Association Board of Governors, the Talented Tenth, and the S.C. State Museum Board.

Thornton N. Kirby

President & CEO

S.C. Hospital Association 

Thornton Kirby is president and CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association, a role he has held since 2005.

Under Kirby's leadership SCHA has been an advocate for patients, as well as hospitals, earning a national reputation for statewide improvements in quality and safety. South Carolina was the first state to establish Certified Zero Harm Awards, which are given annually to hospitals that can demonstrate at least 12 consecutive months without certain types of harm.

Thornton attended the University of Virginia, where he studied government and interned for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.

He studied law at the University of South Carolina and began his professional career as a healthcare attorney with the Nexsen Pruet law firm. After advising hospitals for several years, Kirby served as a hospital executive and later as a senior executive for Clemson University.

Mickey Layden

President & CEO


LCK is a certified, woman-owned business that serves as project manager/owner's representative for construction and renovation projects. She is also executive vice president of Colliers International | South Carolina. 

Layden currently serves on the Board of First Community Bank and is a member of the Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG). Previously she was secretary of the Board for the Columbia YMCA, chair of the Board of Transitions, chair of the Committee of 100 and a member of the Board of S.C. Independent Colleges and Universities. 

Previous awards include the 2013 Influential Women in Business CEO Award by the Columbia Regional Business Report, the 2010 Corporate TWIN Award by the Palmetto Center for Women, and the 2011 Girl Scouts of South Carolina-Mountains to Midlands Woman of Distinction Award. 

Layden enjoys free time shared with her husband Don and her horse Dee on their farm in Lexington County. She is very active in her church, teaches workplace bible studies and is involved in prison ministries. 

James Lehman

Managing Partner

Nelson Mullins

Jim Lehman is managing partner of the Nelson Mullins. In addition to his management responsibilities, he practices in the areas of business and securities litigation, white collar investigations, and professional liability.

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 addition to his firm responsibilities, he has also served as the outside general counsel for various private equity portfolio companies.

Leighton Lord


Nexsen Pruet, LLC

Leighton Lord is the chairman of Nexsen Pruet, LLC, one of the leading business law firms in the southeast. Leighton is also the founder and Managing Director of NP Strategy, LLC, Nexsen's Strategic Communications affiliate. He is the former chairman of Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Economic Development Corporation. 

Lord has served a host of community organizations and currently chairs the Heathwood Hall Foundation and is a director of the Belle Baruch Foundation. He is a Liberty Fellow, a Riley Diversity Fellow, and a member of and a moderator for the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Carter McEntire

President & CEO

McEntire Produce, Inc.

Under the leadership of president and CEO Carter McEntire for the last five years, McEntire Produce, Inc. has grown its business on a regional basis to become one of the largest independently owned fresh produce processors in the Southeast. McEntire is proud of what the team at McEntire Produce, Inc. has accomplished in 2019, which was capped by a Farm, Forest and Field award from South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

A native Columbian, McEntire is married with three children, a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and holds an MBA from the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business. He is a member of First Presbyterian Church and a board member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Columbia.

McEntire Produce, Inc. is a member of United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association. 

Henry McMaster


State of South Carolina

Henry Dargan McMaster of Columbia became the 117th Governor of South Carolina on January 24, 2017 and was elected to his first full term as governor on November 6, 2018.

Since becoming governor, Gov. McMaster has announced more than 30,000 new jobs and over $8.2 billion in capital investment. The state's unemployment rate is the lowest in recorded history and more people are working in South Carolina than ever before.

As lieutenant governor, McMaster served as president of the South Carolina 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 2-1-1 system, connecting callers with support groups and services in their areas.

Virgil R. Miller

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

Aflac U.S.


Aflac Group

Virgil Miller joined Aflac in 2004 in the Policy Service Department after working in leadership in the property and casualty industry. He was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility including second vice president of client services, policy service and the customer service center and vice president of client services, customer assurance and Aflac's Transformation Office. 

In 2015, Miller was promoted to senior vice president of internal operations and later named chief administrative officer, head of Aflac Group. He was promoted to his current position in January 2018 and is responsible for the strategic leadership and overall direction of operations at Aflac Group, as well as operations for Aflac U.S. 

Miller served as a U.S. Marine and is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Georgia College and a master's degree in business management from Wesleyan College. He serves on the board of trustees for Claflin University, the Palmetto Business Forum, the Palmetto Health Foundation Board of Trustees and the Columbia Urban League. He was recently selected to serve as the co-chair of the 2019 SEUS-Japan Association.

Carol A. Moore


Columbia College

Dr. Carol A. Moore is president of Columbia College in Columbia. Columbia College is a women's liberal arts college founded in 1854. At Columbia College, Dr. Moore has designed a sustainable financial model, fostered the development of 12 new academic programs, prioritized work with the community and partnerships with technical colleges through the Communiversity concept, and is developing programming for Columbia College to become more student-ready to enhance student retention and student success.  

Moore holds a doctorate in biology from Northeastern University and is the author of over a dozen publications and two dozen presentations. Professionally, Moore served on the ACE Network Executive Board from 1997-2006 and has been a member of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities since 1998.  

Duane Parrish


S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Duane Parrish is the director for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT). He has dedicated more than 40 years of his professional career to the hospitality industry, including extensive experience in hotel property management and development throughout South Carolina.

Parrish was re-appointed SCPRT Director by Gov. Henry McMaster in 2018.  He has led South Carolina's $22.6 billion tourism industry through six consecutive years of record growth (2013-2018.) Additionally, under his leadership, the State Park Service has become 100 percent operationally self-sufficient, and major films like "Halloween" and Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes" were filmed in the state. Parrish is also responsible for initiating upgrades for the state's Welcome Centers.

He is also recognized nationally as a champion for tourism. Parrish currently chairs both the National Council of State Tourism Directors and Travel South USA's board of directors, and he was selected by his peers at the U.S. Travel Association as the 2019 State Tourism Director of the Year.

Elise Partin


City of Cayce

Elise Partin builds consensus, activates innovations and accomplishes the unimaginable, for herself, her city and her audiences. Her clients find their voice and set and reach powerful goals including learning how - and succeeding at - running for elected office. Four-time elected mayor, TEDx presenter, keynote speaker and past president of the South Carolina Municipal Association, 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 South Carolina including the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities. Under her leadership, Cayce has been recognized as one of the top 10 most tax-friendly places to retire in South Carolina and as the No. 1 city in the state for recent graduates and millennials.  She is a faculty member at the Buckley School of Public Speaking and adjunct faculty at the No. 1 ranked University of South Carolina Honors College. 

For 30 years, Mayor Partin has inspired others to step out of their comfort zone, to find their confidence and see the next steps.

Thomas M. "Tom" Propps


Sysco Foodservices of Columbia

Tom Propps graduated from James Madison University with a business degree specializing in hotel/restaurant management.

After five years in the hotel business, Propps started at Sysco in Orlando, Fla., in 1993. After progressing through some sales roles there, he was promoted to regional sales manager for a new Sysco in Columbia in 2002. He was promoted to vice president of sales in 2007 and executive vice president in 2013. In 2014, Propps was promoted to president of Sysco Raleigh and stayed there for over three years. In 2017, there was an opportunity to come back to Columbia as president of Sysco Columbia, and he gratefully accepted.

Propps resides in Chapin with his wife of 25 years Cindy. They are both very proud of their daughter Lauren, who is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina studying biology.

Ben Rex



Ben Rex is the president of the Columbia-based digital strategy, design and development firm Cyberwoven in Columbia. While he was a student at the University of South Carolina, Rex started Cyberwoven, according to the Central Carolina Community Foundation. He is also a member of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce Board and has served as the chamber's Information Technology and Innovation Committee chair. In addition, he is a 2017 Liberty Fellow.

Torrey Rush


Osmium Development Group

Torrey Rush is the president of Osmium Development Group, a commercial real estate development and construction company. He is a knowledgeable, motivated and diligent commercial real estate professional. Rush has extensive experience in commercial real estate from the perspective of end-user marketing, investor relations, project facilitation and development. In addition to developing commercial and residential projects, he has vast experience in governmental relations, land acquisition, planning, permitting, engineering and architectural facilitation, project management, construction management and project financing.

Rush began his real estate career in 2003. He has worked for several commercial real estate investment, construction and consulting companies which have given him a broad depth of knowledge in the commercial real estate industry.  His industry success has been attributed to his responsiveness, firm negotiation, uncompromised integrity, diverse local market knowledge, superior marketing strategies and exceptional customer service commitment. Simply put, Rush and his team give their clients the leading edge in the current marketplace and always ensure their client's needs are met. 

Mike Satterfield


Great Southern Homes

Mike Satterfield is the CEO of Great Southern Homes, a position he accepted in 2013. Satterfield has over 30 years of experience in the home-building business. In 2018 the South Carolina Home Builders Association gave him their annual Thomas N. Bagnal Builder Member of the Year award. Satterfield is the immediate past president of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina.

Susie Shannon

President & CEO

S.C. Council on Competitiveness

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. Shannon continues to help spearhead education initiatives with the council's signature education program, TransformSC.

An active community member, Shannon has been 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 L. Smith

General Manager

S.C. State Fair 

Nancy L. Smith is general manager of the South Carolina State Fair and has more than 30 years of experience in the industry. She joined the fair full-time in 2000 as director of entertainment and exhibits, was promoted to assistant manager in February of 2008 and was named secretary/treasurer/general manager in January of 2018. 

Smith currently serves on the S.C. Association of Fairs' board of directors and completed two terms as president from 2013 to 2016. She recently was elected the 2020 chair of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.

She is a graduate of the Institute of Fair Management and earned her Certified Fair Executive designation from the IAFE in 2006.

Jane S. Sosebee


AT&T South Carolina

Jane S. Sosebee is currently president of AT&T South Carolina, where she works to help bring new technology and jobs to the state and improve the quality of life for South Carolinians.

A native of Laurens, S.C., she attended Clemson University, earning a bachelor's degree in English. Sosebee's numerous honors and awards include Clemson's Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Alumni Association can bestow. 

Sosebee is extensively engaged in community and civic affairs through leadership roles with numerous local and state organizations. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council and a member of the Palmetto Business Forum. 

Thomas K. Stringfellow

President & CEO

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

With more than 35 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Tommy Stringfellow is the third executive to oversee Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in its 43-year-history. He began his career at the zoo in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011.

Prior to joining Riverbanks, Stringfellow was the director of sales and marketing for Six Flags over Georgia Theme Park, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center. There he was responsible for generating more than 3 million annual visitors and $12 million in annual admissions and sponsorship revenue.

Earlier, Stringfellow was the director of sales and marketing for Six Flags Great Escape and Waterpark in upstate New York. In addition to his theme park responsibilities, he directed the sales and marketing efforts for three hotels and two restaurants that were owned and operated by the Six Flags Company.

Stringfellow laid the foundation for his career working for Paramount Parks, Inc., which owned and operated five major theme parks and several prototype themed attractions. He climbed through the ranks in park operations management positions to director of sales during his tenure with Paramount Parks.

Stingfellow is an active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and has recently served terms on the AZA's Marketing Advisory Committee and Nominations Committee. He also is a past member of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board. In addition, he serves on the Board of Advisors for Palmetto Health's Camp Kemo, the River Alliance and Midlands Business Leadership Group.

Stringfellow is an alumnus of Winthrop University and holds a bachelor's degree in business marketing. The native South Carolinian also is married with two sons and one daughter.

Joe E. Taylor, Jr.

President & CEO

Southland Capital Partners

Managing Member

Park and Washington, LLC

After a successful career building Southland Log Homes into the largest producer of precut log building in America and then selling the company in the private equity market in 2005, Joe Taylor was appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford to be the state's first full-time Secretary of Commerce. 

During his term, South Carolina was recognized as being one of the top business-friendly states in the nation by many national publications, and it led the Southeast in job recruitment in 2009 and 2010, setting new job recruiting records in spite of the economic recession. He led the team that recruited the largest economic development project in state history and the national economic development deal of the year for 2009, the Boeing Company in Charleston, and the national deal of the year for 2010 First Quality Tissue in Anderson. Commerce's 2010 efforts continue to rank as the top year in South Carolina history with the number of new jobs recruited by the state.  Taylor's term at Commerce ended in January 2011. 

He has held or holds ownership positions in the ready-mix concrete business, banks, outdoor advertising and various real estate entities. Today, he is primarily involved in private direct investments. He is currently on or has previously served many corporate and civic boards including Synovus Bank, Wofford College, the S.C. National Guard Foundation and the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank.     

Isaac Washington

President & Publisher

S.C. Black Media Group

Isaac Washington, Sr., the son of Oliver and Elizabeth S. Washington, was born in Columbia, in 1942. He is a graduate of C. A. Johnson High School and Benedict College. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the USMC Reserves. 

As a high school and college student, he participated in numerous Civil Rights marches, sit-ins and other activities in the Columbia and Orangeburg areas, and was arrested in March 1962, while protesting at the South Carolina State House. 

Washington worked at WIS-TV as an assistant program director and director of sales, traffic and operations. While at WIS, he pioneered the "Awareness Program" to create a viable link between the African American community and the media. He also established an on-the-job training program at WIS for African-American college students. 

After leaving WIS, he became co-founder of Black News, a weekly newspaper designed to provide a platform for more positive coverage of African Americans. Later, he became president/publisher of the S.C. Black Media Group, which earned several local and national awards including the A. Philip Randolph Messenger Award for journalistic excellence in the field of Civil Rights and the National Newspaper Publishers' Association Merit Awards in Civil Rights, advertising, sports and outstanding editorial content. He was also an NNPA Publisher of the Year. 

Washington is a member of Zion Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, usher board president, and member of the male choir. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, a chartered member of the Montford Point Marines Association and a life member of the NAACP. He received the Order of the Palmetto and the Key to the City, and August 14 has been designated as Isaac Washington Day in the City of Columbia. He is portrayed on the Columbia Housing Authority Wall Of Fame and served as a commissioner on the S.C. State Housing Authority Board. 

Isaac and his wife Clannie (Hart) are the parents of one son, Isaac, Jr. 

Della Watkins

Executive Director

Columbia Museum of Art

With a recent renovation under her belt, Della Watkins has moved eagerly into her third year as the executive director of the Columbia Museum of Art, a vibrant and popular statewide attraction with inspiring blockbuster shows, vital education and community programs, and fun social happenings. She and her dynamic team are dedicated to welcoming all to the CMA and collaborating with businesses, nonprofits, and communities to continue Columbia's renaissance.

Before coming to Columbia, Watkins served 21 years in key leadership roles at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Taubman Museum of Art.  Her early career included 13 years teaching arts education in public schools. She is an active member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and is a graduate of James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Kim Wilkerson

South Carolina President & Columbia Market President

Bank of America

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 the Bank of America Private Bank. 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 Board of Trustees. She has been recognized as the Business Leader of the Year by the S.C. Chamber, the Leader of Distinction Award by Leadership South Carolina, the Distinguished Service Award by the Clemson Alumni Association and as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts. 

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.

Mark Williams

Founder & President

Strategic Development Group, Inc.

Mark L. Williams founded Columbia-based Strategic Development Group, Inc. (SDG) over 20 years ago. SDG is a nationally renowned professional site selection and negotiation consulting firm dedicated to helping major global corporations identify optimum sites for manufacturing and headquarters. He is also an advisor to U.S. governors, mayors, legislators and directors of state development agencies. 

Prior to founding SDG, Williams served as chief development officer for the South Carolina Department of Commerce, where he directed South Carolina's domestic and global business recruitment activities, including the operation of Commerce's international offices in Frankfurt and Tokyo; he also served as president of the S.C. Economic Developers Association. 

Williams is currently an active member and past chairman of the Site Selector's Guild, a professional association comprised of the world's most respected site selection consultants and is a frequent speaker on site selection trends in the U.S and abroad. He is also a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto. 

Williams and his wife Sue make their home on Lake Murray and both work in historic downtown Columbia.

Alan Wilson

Attorney General

State of South Carolina

Alan Wilson was elected South Carolina's 51st Attorney General on November 2, 2010, re-elected to a second term on November 4, 2014, and re-elected to a third term on November 6, 2018. Since being elected, Wilson has focused on keeping South Carolina's families safe, defending their freedom and protecting their futures.

In 2012, Wilson worked tirelessly with local legislators to strengthen South Carolina's human trafficking laws. During that process, a Human Trafficking Task Force was established, which is chaired by the Attorney General's office. Because of these efforts, South Carolina has gone from having one of the worst statutes in the country, to one of the best.

In November 2013, Wilson was elected as Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).

Prior to his election, Wilson served as an assistant solicitor and as an assistant attorney general before entering private practice with the Columbia firm of Willoughby & Hoefer, P.A. He began his legal career working for the late Judge Marc H. Westbrook.

Wilson joined the National Guard immediately after graduating from college. He was called to serve in Iraq, where he earned the Combat Action Badge. Today, he continues his military service as a colonel in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

He is a graduate of Francis Marion University and the University of South Carolina School of Law. Wilson and his wife Jennifer have two young children, Michael and Anna Grace.

Ashleigh Wilson


Bowman and Brooke

In the competitive legal field, where efficiency and stellar client service are in high demand, Ashleigh R. Wilson has maintained a reputation for providing top-notch legal services.

Wilson has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Wofford College and a juris doctor from Wake Forest University Law School. Since returning to South Carolina after law school in 2011, she has clerked for a circuit court judge, worked as an assistant attorney general, and established a national products liability practice in Columbia. In the Columbia office of Bowman and Brooke, LLP, she represents product manufacturers from a variety of industries in complex product liability and commercial litigation matters in courthouses across the country. 

In addition to her law practice, Wilson is involved in a number of significant civic and philanthropic activities. In 2020, she will continue to serve on the State Ethics Commission after being appointed to the post by Gov. Henry McMaster in 2017. 

She also currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors for Special Olympics South Carolina. Wilson grew up playing competitive tennis and believes that the development of physical fitness, courage and friendship through competitive sports is key to character development. 

Wilson says, "Special Olympics South Carolina's work on behalf of our friends, family members and neighbors with intellectual disabilities is remarkable. I am so honored to be at the helm of an organization that stands for inclusion, provides health services to an underrepresented population in our communities, and services over 30,000 athletes across South Carolina." 

For 2020, Wilson predicts that Columbia will continue to be a great place to live and work. 

Jeremy Wilson

Broker-in-charge, Co-founder

Wilson Kibler

With 50 years of experience in commercial real estate, Jeremy Wilson currently serves as the broker-in-charge for Wilson Kibler, one of the largest CRE firms in South Carolina. He co-founded Wilson Kibler in 1987 after a successful career with the Keenan Company. He specializes in office and warehouse space and is licensed in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

Clients and customers include International Paper, Cummins Atlantic LLC, L'eggs, Radio Shack, Sherwin Williams and Derst Baking Company. Wilson's extensive roster of memberships and honors include: member of Greater Columbia, South Carolina and National Realtor associations; Richland County Planning Commission, past chairman; Mental Health America, past board director; Columbia Housing Authority, past board member. 

Wilson graduated from the University of South Carolina with a concentration in real estate. He also holds the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation and the Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation.