2021 Columbia Business Monthly's 50 Most Influential and Hall of FameJan 17, 2022 05:35PM ● By Lori Coon
Hall of Fame
Tameika Isaac Devine
Not simply for her lifelong love of the Columbia area is Tameika Isaac Devine a notable name in South Carolina’s capital.
In 2002, Devine made dual history when she became the first African American woman to be elected to serve on the Columbia City Council, and the first African American person to be elected as an at-large member.
She then turned the at-large into 18 years of planning and executing numerous projects to make a difference in the lives of many Columbia residents.
So far, Devine has served as mayor pro tem, using her experience as a coalition-builder and problem-solver to benefit community families. As a board member of the National League of Cities, she lobbied Congress for $25.93 million in pandemic relief money for the city of Columbia, and continues to serve NLC, the nation’s largest organization of municipal elected officials, as a consultant and adviser.
In 2021, Devine ran for city mayor and lost by a narrow margin. But more importantly, her effort built a diverse coalition across the city, bringing together people from many demographic backgrounds, who she is now working with to strengthen Columbia in her new role as a community advocate.
Her motivation stems from her childhood.
Growing up in a family dedicated to public service, Devine learned at an early age that everyone can contribute to making the lives of people in South Carolina better.
Wanting to make a difference, she dedicated her life to bettering the city.
On her way toward that endeavor, she graduated from Hampton University and the University of South Carolina School of Law. As an attorney, she practices in the areas of real estate and probate, including serving as a legal representative to those who are experiencing mental health issues.
She and her husband Jamie have three children, Tamia, Jade, and Jameson.
C.W. “Chuck” Garnett
The banking landscape in South Carolina bears the imprint of Chuck Garnett’s influence. Garnett is a South Carolina native who started his career in banking in 1984 with C&S National Bank of South Carolina.
He spent several years there, moving to what was then NBSC (now Synovus) in 1993. He began his tenure as Vice President, Senior Commercial Lender, and moved up through the ranks to become president and CEO in 2003.
In his work supervising Synovus’ commercial and industrial lending, Garnett has helped businesses and organizations in Columbia, and South Carolina as a whole, expand their footprints in the state.
The roster of Garnett’s community involvement is long and varied. He currently serves as chairman of the USC Business Partnership Foundation, as a board member and executive committee member of Midlands Business Leadership Group and South Carolina Economics, and is a member of Palmetto Business Forum.
His past involvement includes stints on the boards of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Heart Association of Hilton Head and Charleston, ETV Endowment of South Carolina, and United Way of Hilton Head Island.
Garnett is also a former member of the Presidential Advisory Council of Benedict College.
A military veteran who served four years in the United States Air Force, Garnett received his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from University of Puget Sound, and he is also a graduate of Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of Banking of the South.
State of South Carolina
Gov. Henry Dargan McMaster was born May 27, 1947, in Columbia, S.C. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of South Carolina in 1969 and as an undergraduate was a member of Kappa Alpha Order and the South Carolina Student Legislature.
In 1973, he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was on the editorial board of the South Carolina Law Review. Later that year, he was admitted to the Richland County Bar Association. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves, receiving an honorable discharge in 1975.
Upon graduation from law school, he was a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond in Washington, D.C., and joined the law firm of Tompkins and McMaster in 1974. He was later admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Gov. McMaster practiced law for over 40 years, as a federal and state prosecutor and in private practice in both state and federal courts.
McMaster was the first U.S. attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and his “Operation Jackpot” investigation into international drug smuggling resulted in more than 100 convictions.
In 1991, he was appointed to the state Commission on Higher Education and joined the Board of Directors of the nonprofit South Carolina Policy Council where he also served as chair. He chaired the state Republican Party from 1993 to 2002. He was elected attorney general of South Carolina in 2002 and reelected in 2006.
As attorney general, McMaster made prosecution of criminal domestic violence a priority and led a crackdown on child internet predators. He extended the South Carolina grand jury’s jurisdiction to environmental and gang crimes and broadened its authority to include securities crimes.
Following service on the South Carolina Ports Authority, he was elected lieutenant governor in 2014. As lieutenant governor, he led efforts to protect the state’s growing senior citizen population with social, economic, and health support services, which earned national recognition from AARP.
McMaster was sworn in as governor in January 2017 following then-Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment as United States Ambassador to the United Nations and was elected to a full term as governor in November 2018.
McMaster has led a strong and vibrant South Carolina economy, announcing more than 45,000 new jobs and over $13.5 billion in new capital investment in the state.
Under his leadership, the state has made transformative investments in the classroom by expanding full-day four-year-old kindergarten, raising K-12 teacher pay, and placing a school resource officer in every school.
Supporters say colleges and universities are becoming more accessible and affordable due to the governor’s tuition freeze and by his doubling of funding for needs-based financial aid for in-state students.
McMaster received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor awarded to citizens of South Carolina for lifetime service and achievements of national and statewide significance.
Women’s basketball coach
University of South Carolina
In February 2020, halfway through her 12th season as the head coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team, Dawn Staley’s 20-year coaching career already read like a top-three entry:
• First national championship in 2017, for both her and the school
• Only USC basketball coach – men’s or women’s – to amass 300 victories
• Four SEC Tournament titles (with more to come)
• National Coach of the Year in 2014 (with more to come)
• Nine straight seasons with 25 wins or more (with more to come)
Though the list went on and on, Staley had almost nothing new left to accomplish.
Except for the legend and the disease.
The legend was Gino Auriemma, 11-time national champion coach at the University of Connecticut. In the last 13 years, USC had lost to UCONN and their coach eight times. Staley had endured seven of those losses – three coming during UCONN’s national title runs.
When Staley finally beat Auriemma in February 2020, it looked like the only black mark of her coaching career had finally lifted – until the disease came along.
The disease was the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, known as Covid-19 – and after reaching South Carolina in March 2020, it forced the NCAA to cancel its season-ending tournament with No. 1 USC sporting a 32-1 mark, and the odds-on favorite to win it all again.
For 2021-’22, however, Staley has conquered both the legend and the disease – beating UCONN 73-57 this past November, reaching No. 1 again, and again looking every inch to win a second national title this coming April.
If it happens, it will simply add to Staley’s long list of honors. In 2013, she also received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, for service to the state.
Kim A. Wilkerson
South Carolina president
Bank of America
In her role as South Carolina president for Bank of America, Kim Wilkerson serves as the bank’s enterprise leader and provides business, civic, and philanthropic leadership across the state.
In her role as Columbia president, she works to deliver the resources and expertise of the entire company to customers and clients, while growing revenue in the Columbia market, and representing Bank of America in the community. Wilkerson also serves as managing director and South Carolina market executive for the Bank of America Private Bank. In this role, she leads the overall efforts 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 has held positions in Small Business Lending, the Commercial Bank and Local Market Delivery. Prior to assuming her current responsibilities, Wilkerson was the National Sales Performance executive for Business Banking.
Wilkerson graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in financial management. She received her Six Sigma Sales Greenbelt designation in December 2003 and is a NASD Registered Principal with Series 7, 24, 63, and 65 securities licenses.
Wilkerson is the first female successor member of the Clemson University Board of Trustees. She is currently chair of the board of trustees for Clemson University, chair for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Palmetto Business Forum. Wilkerson has previously served as chair for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
She has been recognized as the Business Leader of the Year by the South Carolina Chamber, and is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the Clemson Alumni Association and a Distinguished Alumna by the College of Business & Behavioral Science of Clemson University. She and husband Avery Wilkerson have two sons and three grandchildren.
S.C. Small Business Development Centers
Michele Abraham has served as the state director for the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) since 2010. She manages a statewide network of expert advisors and professional staff who provide business consulting and training to South Carolina entrepreneurs and small businesses.
From 2006-2009, Abraham worked for the Ohio Department of Development serving as state director of one of the five largest small business development centers in the nation. During her tenure there, the Ohio SBDC was recognized nationally by the U.S. Small Business Administration as one of the top programs in the country.
Prior to her time in Ohio, Abraham worked in the private sector, progressing through positions in sales management, business development, product management, marketing, and senior management.
Abraham, who serves on the board for America’s SBDC marketing and communications committee, also leads the South Carolina Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which seeks to increase government contract opportunities for small and large businesses.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University.
Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
Charlie Allen is board chairman of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, the statewide service and trade association for electric cooperatives in the state. He has served as CEO of Black River Electrical Cooperative since 2015 and has been with the Sumter cooperative since 2004.
Prior to joining Black River, Allen spent more than 20 years with Progress Energy, serving as operations manager. He oversees nearly 70 employees at Black River, which serves tens of thousands of customers in the rural areas of Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee, and Sumter counties.
Allen is founder and past chairman of Sumter’s Utility Coordination Committee. In addition, Allen is on the board of directors for the Salvation Army in Sumter and is past president of the Sumter Rotary Club. He is also on the board of The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce and the advisory board for McLeod Health Foundation Clarendon Hospital.
Allen earned a bachelor’s degree from The Citadel.
President and CEO
Ben Arnold leads the Arnold Family Corp. and has been in the real estate field for 30 years. The company owns, develops, leases, and manages office, warehouse, and retail space in South Carolina and North Carolina. In addition, Arnold owns and manages multifamily projects in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Arnold has more than 30 years of experience in all facets of commercial real estate, specializing in the acquisition, development, and management of office, warehouse, entertainment, and retail space in the Carolinas.
Throughout his professional career, he has developed and redeveloped many projects in the Columbia area, including The Palms on Main, The Depot Building, Vista Station Entertainment Complex, 700 Gervais Street Offices, Vista Lofts Apartments, and the Lady and Gadsden Street blocks,
Arnold’s civic involvement includes serving on the boards of the Cancer Center for Treatment and Research at Palmetto Health, the Palmetto Health Alliance, City Center Partnership, the Jewish Federation, and Beth Shalom Synagogue.
Arnold earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis
President and CEO
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis has led Benedict College since 2017. She is the first female president in the 151-year history of the school and has led an unprecedented transformation of the institution. Benedict received the 2019 HBCU of the Year Award, the same year it launched its first graduate-level program, in Business Administration.
In 2018, she was named Female HBCU President of the Year by HBCU Digest. Also, Artis has been named an Equity in Energy Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Energy, and she previously served on the Education Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama Administration. Locally, Artis serves on the board for EngenuitySC, Central Carolina Community Foundation, Columbia Museum of Art, and the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health.
Artis earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University, a doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University, and a law degree from West Virginia University College of Law. Artis also holds a Certificate of Fundraising Management from Indiana University and a Certificate of Mastery in Prior Learning Assessment from DePaul University.
Q. To what do you attribute your success?
A. I often say, “life works for people who do.” I have a strong work ethic that I inherited from my parents. I embrace challenges, pay attention to detail, thoroughly prepare and never take short cuts. These attributes have served me well in my career. Additionally, while I take my work very seriously, I seldom take myself very seriously. I find that a little humor takes the stress out of most situations and allows people to find the common ground necessary to solve problems effectively.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. I am goal-oriented, intrinsically motivated, and highly competitive. These skills, coupled with my passion for the work I do, respect and appreciation for the team I lead, ability to think critically, communicate effectively and laugh often have made me a good leader. I also think the best leaders never cease to grown and learn. I consider myself a true lifelong learner.
President and 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 taking charge at 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, serving as corporate vice president of integration, vice president of clinical ancillary services, and vice president of operations.
Augsburger is an active member of the American Hospital Association’s Southeastern Regional Policy boards, the Central SC Alliance board, and the United Way of the Midlands board, where he currently serves as campaign co-chair. He also was chairman of the South Carolina Hospital Association board from 2019 to 2020, and chairman of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce board from 2016 to 2017.
Augsburger earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s from the University of Michigan. He is a Fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Bauknight, Pietras & Stormer, P.A.
Russell Bauknight has served as managing shareholder for Columbia accounting and consulting firm Bauknight, Pietras & Stormer, which he helped found more than 25 years ago.
Bauknight, a CPA, practices in the areas of tax, business consulting, trust, and estate practice. He has nearly four decades of public accounting experience.
Bauknight serves as a fiduciary to more than 60 trusts and estates. He was chosen as the court-appointed fiduciary to the James Brown Estate and Trust and is credited with rebuilding the Godfather of Soul’s estate assets so that they continue to benefit James Brown’s charitable and personal interests.
He has undergraduate degrees from Towson State University and the University of South Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tax program.
His community involvement involves serving on the board of the Congaree Land Trust, serving as a board member and past president of the Executives Association of Greater Columbia, and serving as a former board member of the Central Carolina Community Foundation.
President and CEO
UCI Medical Affiliates
Dr. Jon Belsher serves as the president and chief executive officer of UCI Medical Affiliates. Before joining UCI in November of 2017, Dr. Belsher served as co-founder and chief medical officer of MedSpring Urgent Care.
In this role, he was responsible for clinical services, business operations and employer health services. He was instrumental in growing the organization from inception to more than 40 centers across five markets and three states.
Belsher is trained in both family and internal medicine. He completed a Critical Care Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and served as a staff intensivist and assistant professor for the Scott & White Healthcare Delivery System in Temple, Texas.
Prior to his fellowship training, Belsher served as White House liaison and advance representative for the George H.W. Bush administration. He also served his country as an Air National Guardsman in the 162nd Fighter Wing, where he was chief of aerospace medicine, chief of flight medicine, and flight surgeon.
Tom Bogart began his tenure as president of Columbia College in October 2020, taking over as the institution’s 20th president.
Bogart has written various articles and publications in the field of economics with special focus on urban economic development, the impact of school quality and public policy on housing markets and evolving metropolitan structure.
Last year, Bogart announced the establishment of the Institute for Building Resilience through Trauma-Informed Practices at Columbia College.
He was a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University from 1990-2002, chief academic officer at York College in Pennsylvania from 2002-2010, and president of Maryville College in Tennessee from 2010-2020.
Bogart earned an undergraduate degree in economics and mathematical sciences from Rice University and a doctorate in economics from Princeton University.
Bowers Law Firm
Butch Bowers is the sole proprietor of the Bowers Law Office in Columbia, where he represents businesses, senior elected officials, government agencies, political campaigns, and advocacy organizations. He also advises clients on litigation matters, legislative and regulatory issues, and crisis management strategies.
Bowers regularly appears in state and federal courts in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., and before legislative, regulatory, and law enforcement authorities at the state and federal levels in significant, high-visibility matters.
In his military capacity, Butch serves as the assistant adjutant general for air, South Carolina Air National Guard. He has served in the S.C. Air National Guard for 36 years and holds the federally recognized rank of colonel. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General School, Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course; the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer School; the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College; and the U.S Air Force Air War College.
Bowers graduated from the University of South Carolina and earned his law degree from Tulane University School of Law.
Chief Operating Officer
South State Bank
Renee R. Brooks, chief operating officer for South State Bank, has spent nearly 30 years in banking, including 25 with South State.
Brooks has served in various positions since joining the bank in 1996, including commercial banking manager, head of retail banking, corporate secretary, chief risk officer, and chief administrative officer. She is currently responsible for IT, operations, marketing and communications, and digital strategy.
Brooks is active in the community and serves on the boards of S.C. Student Loan Corporation, South Carolina Bankers Association, and United Way.
She earned a bachelor of science in accounting from Clemson University and a master in business administration from Queens University in Charlotte.
S.C. Regional Executive Vice President
First Citizens Bank
Sharon Bryant of First Citizens Bank assumed her role as S.C. regional executive vice president in 2014.
She joined First Citizens in 1999 as executive vice president and director of human resources for First Citizens Bank, served as executive vice president and division executive from 2001-2010, took on the dual roles of regional executive vice president for central South Carolina and director of the bank’s wealth advisory group in 2010, and was named South Carolina banking executive in 2012.
She 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.
Her extensive community involvement includes serving as board chair of the Central Carolina Community Foundation, board member of the Business Development Corporation, and board member of the S.C. State Museum Commission.
She is a graduate of the University of the South.
Q. What are your goals for 2022?
A. Our goals for 2022 are to continue to provide outstanding relationship-based banking to our clients and assist them during these changing times. Relationships have always been a hallmark of the First Citizens way of banking. With us, it’s about partnerships — helping people and businesses navigate today’s challenges, working with them to achieve their financial goals and ensuring better tomorrows.
Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges your industry will face in the next five years?
A. Key challenges for the banking industry include determining the new customer normal, finding and keeping talent, adjusting to changing economic conditions and meeting client expectations in an increasingly digital landscape. First Citizens is poised to meet these challenges because of our Forever First culture, our long-term commitment to customers and our awesome team of associates. It’s people who make First Citizens what it is and make it all happen for our customers, day in and day out.
Chairman and CEO
Lee Bussell is senior counselor to many of the agency’s largest accounts, including BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Waste Management, and the University of South Carolina, according to Chernoff Newman’s website.
Since 1975, Bussell has picked up quite a number of accolades, including New Carolinian of the Year, Public Relations Practitioner of the Year for South Carolina, Distinguished Alumnus of the USC College of Mass Communication, Alumni Life Service Award for the USC College of Mass Communication, Life Service Award for Leadership Columbia, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year.
Bussell is an active participant in the business community, having completed a term as chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the South Carolina Business Alliance for Transportation.
He recently served as a member of the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and president of the University of South Carolina Alumni Association.
He is past chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, served as a member of the advisory board for South Carolina Competitive Initiative and as a member of the Vision South Carolina Team that established the state’s long-term vision of moving South Carolina’s per capita income to the national average.
He has served on the executive committee of EngenuitySC, and the executive committee of the Midlands Business Leadership Group.
Tally Parham Casey
Member/executive committee chair
Tally Parham Casey is a litigator with Wyche P.A., where she focuses on complex matters in commercial and securities litigation, health care and qui tam litigation, products liability, insurance, and aerospace law. She has represented clients in corporate defense/white collar criminal matters and internal investigations.
Casey has two decades of experience and serves as chair of Wyche’s executive committee.
A former F-16 fighter pilot, Casey was the first female fighter pilot in the South Carolina Air National Guard and is a veteran of three combat tours over Iraq
She is admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia in addition to South Carolina. She handles appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
She is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Southeastern Freight Lines
William T. “Bill” Cassels Jr. helps lead one of the nation’s largest transportation and logistics firms and also is involved in philanthropic efforts in the Midlands.
Founded in 1950, Southeastern Freight Lines operates 89 service centers in the Southeast, Southwest and Puerto Rico. Specializing in next-day and second-day services, Southeastern has more than 8,700 employees.
Cassels served in the Korean War on the front lines as an officer. Once back from the war, he joined his father at Southeastern Freight Lines as vice president and treasurer, but handled an array of duties, including loading trucks, picking up freight, and serving as the company’s only salesman.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College.
President and CEO
The Ritedose Corporation
Jody Chastain is president and chief executive officer of The Ritedose Corporation, a pharmaceuticals manufacturer located in Columbia.
Chastain joined Ritedose in 2005 after almost a decade at Fuji Photo Film in Greenwood. He was promoted to his current position in April 2018.
Prior to becoming chief executive, he served as vice president of operations and chief operating officer for Ritedose.
Ritedose began in 1995 with 11 employees and an annual capacity of 42 million units. Today, it has more than 360 employees and an annual capacity of 1.8 billion doses.
He attended Clemson University and graduated from Limestone College.
Robert “Bo” Cofield
Prisma Health Richland Hospital
Robert “Bo” Cofield serves as the chief executive officer of Prisma Health Richland Hospital, a 641-bed healthcare facility that provides acute, critical care, emergency, and procedural services through its Level I trauma center, dedicated Heart Hospital, and Children’s Hospital.
Cofield, who took on his current role in April 2020, is responsible for the effective coordination and management of Richland Hospital’s inpatient and outpatient clinical services and provides leadership for implementing Prisma Health’s strategic plan
He is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and has served on an array of boards, including March of Dimes, Hospice of the Piedmont, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Cofield completed his administrative fellowship and received master’s and doctoral degrees at Tulane University and earned an undergraduate degree at Hampden-Sydney College.
Teresa Coles serves as president of Riggs Partners and is a career brand strategist who has led branding and consumer engagement initiatives for corporations, public health organizations, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Coles has coached corporate social responsibility professionals from corporations such as Discovery Channel, Altria, and BMW Foundation.
Coles is co-founder of CreateAthon, an annual pro bono event in which Riggs works with nonprofits to provide creative work. Twenty years ago, Riggs expanded its CreateAthon event into a national network by sharing expertise and tools with those seeking to host their own events.
The global service network has delivered more than $25 million in pro bono marketing services to the nonprofit marketplace.
Coles’ community work includes serving on corporate institute leadership faculty of the Points of Light Foundation, as a board member of the Clemson University Conference Center & Inn, and as a past board member of the Clemson University Alumni Association.
She is a graduate of Clemson University.
President and CEO
First Community Bank
Mike Crapps has been president and CEO of First Community Bank, one of South Carolina’s largest state-based banks with more than $1.5 billion in assets, since its inception in 1995.
Crapps began his career with South Carolina National Bank and later served as president and CEO of Republic National Bank in Columbia. He started his banking career in 1980 at South Carolina National Bank.
Crapps has long been active in the community, having served as chair of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Clemson University Foundation Board of Directors, and the Midlands Business Leadership Group.
He is past chairman of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the Saluda Shoals Park Foundation, and the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society. A former chairman of the S.C. Bankers Association, Crapps is on the Charlotte board of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.
Crapps earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Clemson University, an MBA from the University of South Carolina, and is a graduate of the LSU Graduate School of Banking of the South.
Richard F. Davis
Forty years after Richard Davis founded Capitol Consultants, it is the largest government affairs and association-management firm in South Carolina.
Davis began his political career as a congressional legislative assistant in Washington, D.C. He then became the executive vice president and lobbyist for a state trade association for 10 years before starting Capitol Consultants.
Davis is the author of “A Manual for Incumbents,” a book that is distributed to members of the legislature and elected officials. He speaks frequently on the political process and “How to Communicate Effectively with Members of the General Assembly” to civic and business groups.
He is currently writing a book on the legislative process and his experiences, with a publication date of late 2022.
Davis has served on the Advisory Board of Directors of First Citizens Bank, the University of South Carolina Retail and Hospitality Board, the Town of Lexington Planning Commission, Community Health Solutions Board, and the Harvest Hope Board of Directors.
Alliance Consulting Engineers Inc.
Deepal Eliatamby is the president of Alliance Consulting Engineers, a professional engineering firm with offices in Bluffton; Charleston; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia; and Greenville.
Alliance Consulting Engineers provides an array of professional engineering services, including industrial site certification, Solid Waste Management, Stormwater Management, and Construction Management.
During the past 18 years, Alliance Consulting Engineers has completed more than 1,900 projects, including work for Adidas, Amazon, BMW Manufacturing, Continental Tire, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, and Volkswagen.
Eliatamby is a registered professional engineer in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, and he is a member of several professional and technical organizations, including the South Carolina Economic Developers Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Water Environment Federation.
He is a past president of the S.C. Economic Developers Association and the Columbia Chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers
Eliatamby earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of South Carolina.
Colliers International, South Carolina
John Folsom is CEO of Colliers International’s South Carolina operations. Colliers is the largest commercial real estate firm in the state, and Folsom is responsible for administration of the firm, including finance and human resources, client development, and the company’s service platforms. He also devotes considerable time to client development.
Folsom joined Colliers in 1993, after serving as president and CEO of a publicly traded financial services company.
Folsom has long been active in the Columbia community. He currently chairs the Midlands Business Leadership Group, chairing the Economic Development Task Force. He also serves on the boards of the Certified Development Corp., Transitions and Salute from the Shore.
In 2008, an award was created in his name by the S.C. Independent Schools Association to recognize volunteer leadership.
Folsom earned an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University and an MBA from the University of South Carolina.
Q. What are your goals for 2022?
A. Personal – get in better shape – or just get in shape, period! Corporate – be bold, be nimble and be ever-mindful of the importance of adjusting to changing market dynamics.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. Listening, which I do not do well, but strive to improve upon, which leads to more empathy for my family and those with whom I work. Also, the willingness, regardless of one’s position, to seek guidance and input from those whom you trust and whose opinions you value. I have several trusted advisors, most importantly, my wife, English, whose perspective is invaluable.
Director of Legislative Affairs
AT&T, South Carolina
Terrance Ford is the director of external and legislative affairs for AT&T, South Carolina. Named to the position in 2018, he is the company’s primary liaison with state policymakers and leads the company’s economic development and community affairs activities in the Midlands. He has been with AT&T since 2000.
Ford’s experience with AT&T includes directing the installation and maintenance of high-speed broadband and other advanced technologies and serving as regional director of external affairs.
Ford is engaged in the community, serving on the boards of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the Central SC Alliance, the Central Carolina Community Foundation, the United Way of the Midlands, the Columbia Urban League, and the Midlands Business Leadership Group.
Ford earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Webster University.
Columbia Metropolitan Airport
Mike Gula has been executive director of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport since 2018.
Gula previously served as director of operations, planning and facilities at the Columbia airport. He is responsible for the overall business operations, administration, human resources, financing, marketing, community relations, air service development, maintenance, safety, security and planning, and development of the Richland-Lexington Airport District and the related airport facilities.
Gula gained significant knowledge and airport administrative experience while serving four different commercial service airports over 18 years. He previously served as the director of operations at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport; operations manager at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky.; and manager of operations and cargo development at Toledo Express Airport in Ohio.
Gula maintains an Accredited Airport Executive certification from the American Association of Airport Executives, and in 2016 was named by Airport Business News a top 40 under 40 recipient.
Gula earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University.
S.C. Technical College System
Dr. Tim Hardee is president of the S.C. Technical College System, the largest higher education sector in the state, educating and training more than 160,000 South Carolinians each year.
Hardee has more than 30 years of educational experience including working as a teacher, coach, counselor, and principal in public schools. Prior to taking over his role with the S.C. Technical System in 2016 he served as president of Central Carolina Technical College.
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.
Hardee earned a bachelor’s degree from Coastal Carolina University and a master’s and doctorate from the University of South Carolina.
University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing
Hossein Haj-Hariri came to the University of South Carolina in 2016 and is a USC Educational Foundation distinguished professor and dean of the College of Engineering and Computing.
Haj-Hariri’s area of research has spanned a broad subset of computational and theoretical applied mechanics, including theoretical aero-acoustics, hydrodynamic stability, linear and nonlinear waves, and microgravity fluid mechanics. He holds several patents in the area of thermal management and carbon-fiber composites.
Since Haj-Harini’s arrival at USC, the College of Engineering and Computing has seen a near 30 percent increase in its graduation figures, an increase in undergraduates to 3,200, and the hiring of more than 35 tenured and tenure-track full-time faculty and more than 25 nontenured full-time faculty.
Haj-Hariri joined USC after 27 years on the faculty of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia, where he was chair from 2005 through 2015.
Prior to coming to Columbia, Haj-Hariri directed more than 35 research scientists, postdocs, graduate students, and numerous undergraduate students at UVA.
He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from MIT.
Q. What changes will you implement next year in your company?
A. Continue to expand, and to update the curricula to ensure that students are positioned for success regardless of the career paths they select: engineering practice, research, management consulting, professional schools, etc.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. Listening well, and listening broadly. And living what one preaches.
Heather Hoopes-Matthews is CEO of NP Strategy, a wholly owned strategic communications subsidiary of Columbia-headquartered law firm Nexsen Pruet, one of the largest in the Carolinas.
Hoopes-Matthews is a former television journalist and spent eight years as a reporter in Columbia. She joined Nexsen Pruet in 2002 as the marketing and public relations director.
In 2013, she helped launch NP Strategy to assist companies with messaging and stakeholder engagement in rapidly changing environments. Her experience ranges from developing and implementing statewide community relations efforts for economic development projects to training business executives and government leaders in public speaking and media relations
Hoopes-Matthews earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Robert Hughes III
Hughes Development Corporation
Robert Hughes III serves as president of Hughes Development Corp., a 72-year-old, family-owned real estate development firm based in Greenville. HDC has developed and owned a variety of projects across the Southeast.
Currently, Hughes Development’s largest project is the 181-acre BullStreet District in Columbia. As master developer, HDC is overseeing the development of up to 3.3 million square feet in commercial development and 3,558 residential units, all centered around a minor league baseball stadium.
Prior to joining Hughes Development, he was an assistant vice president in New York City for Barclays Capital after starting his career in the same division at Lehman Brothers.
Hughes is a graduate of Duke University and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School. He is involved with a number of community organizations, including serving on Greenville’s Racial Equality and Economic Mobility Commission, the Greenville Chamber’s Accelerate Leadership Council, and the Millennial Debt Commission.
Colonial Life Arena
Sid Kenyon serves as the general manager for Colonial Life Arena. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Colonial Life Arena held the highest ranking in South Carolina for The Carolinas Top Stops according to Venues Now, a nationally distributed magazine focusing on the sports and entertainment industry.
Kenyon played a key role in the planning of athletic events with Covid safety protocols implemented for patrons, athletes, and staff. During the pandemic he has served as a liaison for blood drives in partnership with the American Red Cross and vaccine clinics with the Columbia VA Health Care System, all of which have been hosted at Colonial Life Arena.
Additionally, Kenyon serves as the director of the Carolina Coliseum and is an adjunct professor in Sport and Entertainment Management at the University of South Carolina.
Kenyon has worked in a variety of roles at the university since he began working there in 1977.
W. Keller Kissam
Dominion Energy South Carolina
W. Keller Kissam is president of Dominion Energy South Carolina. He oversees Dominion Energy’s regulated utility in South Carolina serving about 1.1 million electric and gas customer accounts.
His recent positions include president and chief operations officer at South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), and president-Retail Operations at SCE&G.
Kissam joined SCANA in 1988 as a new utility professional and has held numerous positions in both electric and gas operations. He was named Vice President-Gas Operations in 1996 and was named Vice President-SCE&G Electric Operations in 2003 and president and chief operating officer of SCE&G in 2017. He assumed his current position in 2019.
He is a board member and past president of the Southeastern Electric Exchange and serves as chairman of the board of The Central South Carolina Economic Development Alliance.
Kissam earned a bachelor’s degree from The Citadel.
Q. To what do you attribute your success?
A. Any success I’ve had is all because of the rural, farming communities that raised me down in Calhoun County. Agriculture, excluding weather, is the perfect example where you can visibly see that the harvest is based upon the effort you put forward to plant and grow. Business is no different.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. To be a good leader, you have to love what you do. If you don’t, then go do something else. Most importantly, love your people even more!
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
Jim Lehman is the managing partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, South Carolina’s largest state-based law firm with more than 800 attorneys, policy advisers, and professionals across 25 offices.
He practices in the areas of business litigation, white collar investigations, and professional liability. He has served in senior executive management positions, including general counsel and corporate secretary of Safety-Kleen, which was undergoing one of the largest bankruptcies at the time; and as outside general counsel for various private equity portfolio companies.
Lehman is admitted to practice before the South Carolina Bar, the U.S. District Court of the District of South Carolina, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit and Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Active in his profession and community, he currently serves as chair of Claflin University and on the board of the Columbia Urban League.
A graduate of Bob Jones University and the University of South Carolina School of Law, Lehman began practicing law more than 30 years ago.
Harry M. Lightsey III
Secretary of Commerce
State of South Carolina
Harry M. Lightsey III was appointed by Governor Henry McMaster to serve as secretary of commerce in June 2021.
A fixture in the South Carolina business community for decades, Lightsey served in top executive leadership roles for major corporations in South Carolina and across the nation. Notably, he served as the president of BellSouth Telecommunications for South Carolina prior to the company’s merger with AT&T, afterward becoming president for AT&T’s Southeast region.
Following his 26 years in the telecommunications industry, Lightsey joined the General Motors Corp. where he directed the legacy automaker’s federal government affairs operation, as well as the emerging technologies, OnStar, and infotainment divisions. Lightsey most recently served as a principal with Hawksbill Advisors, a subsidiary of Hawksbill Group.
He has also served as a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Va.
Lightsey is a 1978 graduate of Princeton University and a 1981 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law.
President and CEO
Central South Carolina Alliance
Nelson Lindsay joined the Central SC Alliance as president and CEO in October 2021. The Central SC Alliance is a public-private partnership that nurtures and encourages growth in the eight-county region centered in Columbia.
A South Carolina certified economic developer, Lindsay most recently served as the director of global business development at the South Carolina Department of Commerce from October 2015 to September 2021. In this capacity, he led the team responsible for all project management activity and for the recruitment of new industry to South Carolina. He also worked with existing industries to further assist in their growth.
Prior to Commerce, Lindsay served as Richland County’s first director of economic development. In this capacity, he worked to recruit new industry to the community as well as assist existing industry with expansions.
Lindsay previously served as the director of economic development for Kershaw County for more than 14 years.
Lindsay earned a bachelor’s degree from Wofford College, and a master’s from the University of South Carolina. He is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
S.C. House of Representatives
Jay Lucas has served as the speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives since 2014. The Darlington Republican was elected to the legislature in 1998 and won a fourth term as speaker in 2020.
Lucas is the presiding officer in the House, which is majority Republican.
Lucas has been a partner in the Columbia law firm of Lucas, Warr, and White since 2009. Prior to joining Lucas, Warr, and White, he held various positions in city and county government, and also served as a city judge in his hometown of Hartsville.
He has been recognized for his work as a public servant by numerous organizations, including the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the S.C. Solicitor’s Association, and the S.C. Independent Colleges and Universities.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina and a juris doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
ENVIRO AgScience Inc.
Louis Lynn founded ENVIRO AgScience after being downsized by Monsanto Agriculture Corp. in 1995.
Using his severance pay, Lynn founded a company that combined his love for horticulture, his respect for the environment, and the science that links the two together.
Lynn has transformed ENVIRO AgScience from a landscaping company to a firm with three lines of service: construction, landscaping, and program and project management. It is currently the largest minority owned landscape firm in South Carolina with a workforce of 50-60 employees in Columbia and Aiken. Company projects can be seen at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Columbia’s Main Street Streetscape, and Colonial Life Arena
Lynn has served on numerous boards over the decades, including the Clemson Board of Trustees, BB&T and the National Urban League. He also serves as an adjunct professor of horticulture at Clemson.
Lynn earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clemson University and a doctorate from the University of Maryland.
As CEO of Mashburn Construction, Paul Mashburn provides strategic vision for the company’s long- and short-term goals and provides executive oversight throughout the construction phase of projects while working closely with the executive committee providing support and mentorship.
Mashburn has more than three decades of experience with the company and in the construction industry. He took over as CEO in 2017 after his father retired.
He is past president of the Carolinas Associated General Contractors and is the chair for the Industry Advisory Board of Clemson’s Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management. He chairs the Industry Liaison Committee of the Building Division Leadership of the Associated Contractors of America and is on many local boards in multiple organizations throughout South Carolina.
Mashburn earned a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University.
Columbia Housing Authority
Ivory Mathews is chief executive officer of Columbia Housing and Cayce Housing. Mathews has spent more than 20 years in the affordable housing industry.
Under Mathews’ leadership, Columbia Housing is rebuilding public trust, increasing organizational efficiency, and creating a climate of transparency and accountability. Using these principles, Columbia Housing has launched an aggressive $500 million portfolio repositioning and redevelopment strategy with a focus on the preservation and creation of quality affordable housing for families.
Mathews currently serves as president-elect of the Carolina’s Council of Housing, Redevelopment & Codes Officials, chair of the Legislative Network Committee of the Southeastern Regional Council of the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials, member of Columbia’s Affordable Housing Taskforce. and a congressional contact and vice president of the Legislative Network Advisory Committee for the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials.
Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from Newberry College, a master’s degree from Troy University, and several nationally recognized certifications in the affordable housing arena.
Dr. Ernest McNealey
President and CEO
Dr. Ernest McNealey took over as the president and CEO of Allen University in 2017 after spending a year as interim president.
During his tenure, Allen successfully completed its 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and gained approval to offer a graduate program. In addition, campus upgrades have been undertaken, university finances have been stabilized, and the Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary was launched.
Since arriving at Allen, McNealey has been elected to the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; elected vice chair of the Council of Presidents, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association; and named to the U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Accreditation and Innovation.
Prior to coming to Allen, McNealey was the principal officer in the McNealey Group, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, which specialized in accreditation, planning, financial modeling, and NCAA compliance.
McNealey earned a bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University, a master’s from Indiana University, and a doctorate from Ohio State University.
Q. What changes will you implement next year in your company?
A. Each January, there is a review of progress on the Strategic Plan with the entire university community. Changes in goals, objectives, activities, and tactics inevitably evolve from thatprocess. One such change will be the complete transition from windows-based to Apple-based technology. Similarly, the support for public schools and students will be codified in a new outwardly focused administrative unit.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. The alternating ability for otherness and oughtness, that is internal imagining and visioning while externally manifesting a personal discipline and authenticity that will invite and inspire others to pursue goals that reside beyond the horizon.
Nikole Setzler Mergo
Member/Columbia Office managing partner
Trial lawyer Nikole Setzler Mergo represents some of the world’s largest manufacturers, health care providers, and financial institutions, as well as locally owned North and South Carolina businesses in litigation.
She also manages the Columbia office of Nexsen Pruett, one of the state’s largest law firms.
Mergo regularly conducts investigations into alleged workplace harassment, discrimination, and other misconduct claims for employers across the country. In addition, a large part of Mergo’s practice is focused on complex, high stakes litigation, including trade secret litigation for employers.
She also provides daily employment law advice and counseling to a number of corporate clients on issues involving virtually all aspects of employment law.
Mergo regularly represents companies before the District Courts of North and South Carolina and in federal courts across the country, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, and the Department of Employment and Workforce.
She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia School of Law.
LTC Health Solutions
Scott Middleton and his family have been developing Columbia’s Main Street since 2014, when he moved his long-term care company Agapé Senior to 1624 Main St.
Middleton started Agape in 1999. When he moved Agape to downtown Columbia seven years ago, he began remaking the 1600 block of Main Street. The Middletons own downtown dining and entertainment businesses such as The Grand bar and bowling alley, The Main Course eatery and event venue, and the Good Life Café.
They are currently working on North Main Street brewery, which is scheduled to open in 2022.
Middleton is an ordained Methodist minister, having earned a master’s in divinity from Emory University, and also earned a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of South Carolina.
President and CEO
Optus Bank, Columbia
Dominik Mjartan is president and CEO of Optus Bank, an FDIC-designated minority depository institution, having joined the Columbia bank in 2017. Under his leadership, Optus Bank reached more than $300 million in assets, up from the low of $47 million, while directing nearly 90 percent of loans to underserved communities, businesses, and people.
Mjartan spent more than a decade as a senior executive officer at a community development bank, Southern Bancorp, most recently as the executive vice president of Southern Bancorp, Inc., a holding company for Southern Bancorp Bank and CEO of an affiliated lending company Southern Bancorp Community Partners. He is a current director of the Community Development Bankers Association and the National Bankers Association.
He is also finance chair of Midlands Arts Conservatory and serves on the finance committee of Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network, on the board of directors of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development, The Opportunity Center, and South Carolina Bankers Association.
Mjartan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an MBA from the University of Ulster.
South Carolina State Conference NAACP
Brenda Murphy is life member of the NAACP, having joined more than 40 years ago in Charleston. She’s also the first woman elected president in the South Carolina conference’s 80-year history.
In her role, she is an advocate for state conferences, branches, college chapters, and youth councils. Her areas of work include health and well-being, education innovation, race and justice, advocacy and litigation, inclusive economy, and next generation leadership.
Her professional experience includes nursing administration, nursing education, and adjunct faculty appointments at South Carolina State University, University of South Carolina, MUSC, and South University. She served 17 years as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves Nurse Corps, obtaining the rank of major.
She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of South Carolina.
Murphy is a recipient of the Director’s Leadership Award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
S.C. Farm Bureau Federation
Harry Ott has served as president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation since 2015. S.C. Farm Bureau serves to promote agricultural interests in the state and optimize the lives of those involved in agriculture while being respectful to the needs and concerns of citizens statewide.
Ott, a farmer from Calhoun County, served in the S.C. House of Representatives for 15 years, through 2013. He resigned his seat in the General Assembly to accept an appointment as state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency for South Carolina from 2013-2015.
Ott currently serves as the chairman of the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council Executive Committee. He also serves on the Clemson Cooperative Extension 4-H Foundation Advisory Board.
He is a graduate of Clemson University.
Rick Patel has played a key role in revitalizing Columbia’s Main Street. The CEO of Sejwad Hospitality, Patel developed the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel nearly 15 years ago when he renovated the Palmetto Building, a pre-World War I structure noted for its architecture and façade of limestone and terra cotta.
Sejwad’s holdings also include 1208 Washington St., a nearly century-old structure that was converted into a venue site, the Hilton Garden Columbia, on Pickens Street, and the Medallion Center in Columbia.
Patel and his father T.N. Patel have been in the hotel business in South Carolina since the 1980s.
Sejwad Hospitality is a prominent hotel development, management and ownership company headquartered in Columbia. Its portfolio includes nine hotels and two dedicated conference centers.
President and CEO
Zeus Industrial Products
Steve Peterson is president and CEO of Zeus Industrial Products. He assumed the latter position in the summer of 2020, two years after being named president. Peterson came to Zeus in 2017 as senior vice president of global sales and marketing.
Before joining Zeus, Peterson held global leadership positions with TE Connectivity, Samsung Electronics, and General Electric.
Zeus is headquartered in Orangeburg, and has manufacturing and sales sites in New Jersey, Tennessee, China and Ireland, in addition to South Carolina. Its core business is the development and precision extrusion of advanced polymeric materials, and its products and services serve companies in the medical, automotive, aerospace, fiber optics, energy, and fluid management markets.
Peterson earned an undergraduate degree from Weber State University and an MBA from Bellarmine University.
Terry Schmoyer Jr.
President and Managing Partner
Schmoyer and Company
Terry Schmoyer has spent the past 26-plus years running Schmoyer and Company, the Midlands’ certified public accounting and business consulting firm.
Schmoyer has more than 30 years of public accounting experience in auditing, business consulting, tax planning and related services, healthcare accounting and consulting, Medicaid and Medicare cost report preparation, and Medicaid and Medicare audit appeal representation.
He is a member of the South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, Georgia Association of Certified Public Accountants, North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Schmoyer is very active in the community, serving on an array of boards, including the Budget and Finance Committee of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, Executive Leadership Team for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Logistics Committee for the American Heart Walk of the Midlands
He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Edward Simmer
Dr. Edward Simmer is the director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Appointed to the position by the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control, he assumed his duties as agency director, upon confirmation by the South Carolina Senate, in February 2021.
Simmer leads a team of more than 3,500 staff located in more than 100 offices across the state. He is responsible for all state efforts in public health, healthcare quality, and environmental protection throughout South Carolina.
This includes leading the state’s response to Covid-19, managing coastal and water resources, and protecting and improving the health of the people of South Carolina as well as the environment in which they live and work.
Prior to being confirmed as agency director, Simmer served more than 30 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy.
Simmer earned a bachelor’s degree from Hiram College, a master’s from the Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University Consortium, and a medical degree from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Q. What personality traits make a good leader?
A. Most of all, a good leader must care about the people they work with and be an effective team-builder. In addition, a good leader must first be a good listener, and consider input from all levels of the organization. A good leader must be decisive, fair, and considerate. Humility and a calm demeanor are also very important.
S.C. Ports Authority
Bill Stern, a longtime regional developer, serves as chairman of the S.C. Ports Authority. Stern joined the Ports Authority board in 2002 and first served as chairman in 2006-’07. He was reappointed chairman in 2016.
Stern is a longtime developer with Stern Development, a commercial real estate development firm founded by Stern’s father Ben more than 60 years ago. Stern joined the business more than 35 years ago and expanded the business through a series of large retail, office, and industrial projects.
Over the past three decades Stern Development has focused on major developments including grocery chains and other big box anchored centers in partnership with some of the leading service, industrial and retail operations in the nation.
In 2020, President Donald Trump appointed Stern to be a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
First Reliance Bank
Justin Strickland took over as president of First Reliance Bank in January 2021. He had previously served as president of Southern First Bank from 2006-2020. Prior to joining Southern First, he served as the Midlands market president for Carolina First Bank from 1993-2006.
Strickland joined the management training program at C&S National Bank after college, and went on to serve in multiple capacities at C&S.
Strickland serves in a variety of leadership roles around the state, including being a member of the state Board of Financial Institutions and being on the board of Lexington Medical Center and the Lexington Medical Foundation. In the past, he has served as chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Palmetto Health Foundation, and the South Carolina Bankers Association.
Strickland graduated from the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Bankers School, and The Graduate Banking School of the South at Louisiana State University.
Regional President for the Carolinas
Richard Sturm is an executive vice president and Ameris Bank’s regional president for the Carolinas. He has worked for Ameris for 15 years and has more than 30 years of banking experience.
Prior to joining Ameris Bank, Sturm was regional executive for SCBT in Hilton Head, director of commercial lending for Carolina First in Greenville and a commercial lender for C&S/Bank of America in Columbia.
Sturm’s involvement in the community includes board memberships with the South Carolina Bankers Association and American Heart Association. He also spends time volunteering with Low Country Splash, dedicated to helping underprivileged children learn to swim, and the Whoyouwhit fishing tournament, raising money for mental health.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina.
Q. To what do you attribute your success?
A. I have been fortunate to surround myself with talented bankers who help me to continually learn. I am also proud to be employed by a bank with a 50-year history and with sound financial footing and a dedication to delivering financial peace of mind to our communities one customer at a time.
Q. What changes will you implement next year in your company?
A. We are always looking for ways to continuously improve our customers’ experience, particularly by way of technology. We will continue to deploy exceptional, catered customer service while also making advancements in the digital space to make it easier for customers to bank with us in-person, online or through our mobile app.
President and CEO
Carolinas Region of HUB International
Tommy Suggs is president and CEO for the Carolinas Region of HUB International. His responsibilities include managing HUB’s 10 offices throughout North Carolina and South Carolina.
Previously, Suggs was president and CEO of KeenanSuggs, the largest independently owned insurance, risk management, and benefits company in the Carolinas.
Before purchasing KeenanSuggs in 1996, Suggs spent 23 years in banking, ending his career with 12 years as executive vice president, chief banking officer, and board member with South Carolina Federal Savings Bank. Suggs’ banking experience also included serving as founding chairman of First Bank of the Midlands.
Suggs’ community activity includes serving as president of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina Nature Conservancy, Leadership Columbia, and as chairman of the Providence Hospital Foundation, and the University of South Carolina’s Development Foundation.
Suggs graduated from the University of South Carolina, the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University, the National Commercial Lending Graduate School at the University of Oklahoma, and the Wharton School of Business’s Executive Education Program.