President and CEO
Atlanta Business League
Leona Barr-Davenport is president and CEO of the Atlanta Business League, Atlanta’s oldest minority business development and advocacy organization. As president, she works with the board of directors to increase access to business opportunities for minorities, with specific emphasis on the development of businesses owned or operated by African Americans. Barr-Davenport has more than 25 years of experience in customer service, program development, organizational management, and fundraising for associations and youth-oriented programs.
Education: Benedict College, Clark Atlanta University School of Business (MBA)
Hometown: Johnsonville, South Carolina
Notable achievements: Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame (2019), Carver College honorary doctor of divinity (2014)
Lesson learned: The first step is showing up.
Bucket list: Tour of Africa and becoming an adjunct professor
Who’d play me in a biopic: Angela Bassett
President and CEO
Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Chris Clark is the longest-serving president and CEO in the century-plus history of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Previously he served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and as deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. A graduate of Leadership Georgia, Clark has frequently been named one of Georgia Trend’s 100 most influential Georgians and one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s most influential Atlantans.
Education: Georgia Southern University, Georgia College & State University (MA)
Few people know: I’m a huge, massive Parrothead. I’ve seen Jimmy Buffett over 25 times.
Favorite Atlanta podcast: Political Breakfast
Favorite travel destination: Montana
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: You’re lucky they hadn’t invented camera phones yet! Real lucky!
Bucket list: Fly-fishing in New Zealand
Who’d play me in a biopic: A young Michael J. Fox
Shan Cooper is the executive director for the Atlanta Committee for Progress, which was founded in 2003 to provide leadership on economic growth and inclusion for all Atlantans, and which includes more than 40 chief executives, university presidents, and civic leaders. Previously Cooper was chief transformation officer of the packaging company WestRock, responsible for recycling and waste services, procurement, enterprise logistics, and information technology. Prior to that she served as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
Education: Emory University Goizueta Business School (MBA), Rutgers University
Notable achievements: Black Enterprise Top 300 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America (2017), YWCA of Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers (2016), Georgia Trend Most Respected Business Leader (2015), U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology Pioneer Award (2013)
Why I chose this work: Prior to the role with ACP, I was retired. I came back to do this work because it allows me to have a positive impact in the community. I love giving back and I love Atlanta!
Jerry E. Gonzalez
Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
Jerry Gonzalez is the founder and executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, a statewide nonprofit and nonpartisan organization with a mission to increase civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino community across Georgia. A native of Laredo, Texas, Gonzalez also leads the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, which promotes voter registration and education, community education, and leadership development.
Education: Texas A&M University, Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (MA)
Why I chose this work: I made a conscious effort to dedicate my work toward improving our state.
First job: Closer at Wendy’s
Toughest challenge: GALEO was a startup 15 years ago.
Favorite Atlanta podcast: Los Politicos
Bucket list: Trip to South Africa
Who’d play me in a biopic: Jeff Bezos, we have the same hair stylist.
Chamblee native Ryan Gravel is best known for his Georgia Tech master’s thesis, which presented a vision for what would become the Atlanta BeltLine. But he’s also a planner, designer, and author whose work centers on the cultural aspects of urban design, exploring how its intimate relationship with our way of life can illuminate a brighter path forward for cities. The founder of the urban design consultancy Sixpitch and the ideas-focused nonprofit Generator, Gravel was the lead author of the Atlanta City Design and is the author of Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities.
Education: Georgia Tech (MA)
First job: Typing bar codes into a computer in the back room of a music store at Ansley Mall. I guess it was Turtle’s, but I’m not sure.
Favorite movie: Blade Runner 2049
Lesson learned: The ideas we need are often unpopular, unwanted, and underfunded.
Bucket list: Road trip #2 across America with my family, from Los Angeles to Atlanta
President and CEO
Kevin Green joined the Midtown Alliance as president and CEO in 2011. Previously he was executive director of the Clean Air Campaign, a Georgia nonprofit working in partnership with transportation management associations and public and private institutions to improve air quality and reduce traffic. Green was formerly vice president of environmental affairs for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and practiced law for a decade; his litigation experience includes state and federal trial and appellate courts across the Southeast
Education: James Madison University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
First job: Delivering Sheetrock off a flatbed truck
Favorite travel destination: Vietnam (so far)
What I’d tell a recent graduate: When the alarm clock rings and you aren’t excited to go to work, it’s time to do something different.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Oakland Cemetery (it’s strangely affirming)
Atlanta Regional Commission
Cincinnati native Doug Hooker is executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, an agency that coordinates the policies and strategies of at least 10 county and 71 city governments to prepare for Atlanta’s regional growth challenges and opportunities. Previously he served as Atlanta’s commissioner of public works and executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, and in engineering roles with Georgia Power. He’s focused throughout his career on projects related to transportation, transit, water, energy, and education.
Education: Georgia Tech (MS), Emory University Goizueta Business School (MBA)
Best advice received: From my wife, when as a young man I said I wanted to be a significant leader in the Atlanta community: “What’s stopping you?”
Few people know: I record books for blind and print-impaired people with Georgia Radio Reading Service.
Inspiring person: My maternal grandfather, whose education had to stop at eighth grade, but who sent eight of nine children to college.
Shannon W. James Sr. is president and CEO of the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, a public-private partnership working to improve the regional economic competitiveness of the area around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A native of Albany, Georgia, James accepted the top job at AeroATL in 2018 following a successful 15-year career in banking: Beginning his career as a part-time teller and customer service representative, James later became the first African American accepted into the management trainee program at the Park Avenue Bank, then went on to serve as vice president of commercial banking for both SunTrust and BB&T.
Education: Valdosta State University
Inspiring person: My mother
Toughest challenge: Becoming a father, because I’ve never met my father
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights
Favorite song about Georgia: “Georgia” by Field Mob and Ludacris ft. Jamie Foxx
Who’d play me in a biopic: Michael B. Jordan
Kali Kirkham Boatright is the CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, coming to the organization from the Douglas County Chamber, where she served as CEO from 2004 to 2018. In a 14-year career at her previous workplace, Golden Key International Honor Society, Boatright rose from regional director to chief operating officer.
Education: University of Missouri
Why I chose this work: Nonprofit management in many ways chose me. I thought I would become a writer, but I went to work for Golden Key right out of college and thrived in an environment where I wore many hats and worked with new leaders each year.
Favorite book: The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Favorite travel destination: Australia
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Walking and eating along the BeltLine
Bucket list: Empty-nesting!
In 2020 Katie Kirkpatrick became president and CEO of the 160-year-old Metro Atlanta Chamber. Previously she was the organization’s chief policy officer, serving as the link between the metro Atlanta business community and local and national government. Before joining the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2007 as vice president of environmental affairs, she worked as director of environmental engineering for the poultry producer Gold Kist. Kirkpatrick serves on the GRACE Commission, which aims to end human trafficking in Georgia, and as vice chair for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.
Education: Auburn University
Notable achievement: Leadership Atlanta class of 2012
First job: Coaching a neighborhood swim team
Best advice received: As a working mother, there will be times that you can’t give 100 percent to both jobs. Just know that whatever you can give, it is enough and better than most.
Favorite everyday restaurant: Jalisco Mexican Restaurant at Peachtree Battle
President and CEO
Cobb Chamber of Commerce
Sharon Mason has held six different leadership positions with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce since 2005; she climbed to president and CEO in January 2018, bringing more than 18 years of chamber and nonprofit leadership experience to the position. One particular source of pride is her partnerships with business and government leaders to establish a proactive job-creation strategy called SelectCobb, which has created more than 32,000 new jobs with more than $3 billion in private new investment since 2013.
Education: Samford University
First job: Special Times Gift Shop in Snellville
Favorite TV show/movie/book: Parks and Recreation, Wonder Woman, all John Maxwell books
Favorite travel destination: Saint John, Saint Thomas, Saint Maarten
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Chattahoochee River trails
Charities: MUST Ministries, Center for Family Resources, liveSAFE Resources
Bucket list: Hot-air balloon
President and CEO
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
As president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, William Pate promotes one of the city’s top economic drivers: tourism. He was vice president of the host committee that managed the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and board member of the host committee for Super Bowl LIII in 2019. In 2020, the American Marketing Association’s Atlanta chapter awarded Pate its Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2019 he was honored as Herman J. Russell CEO of the Year by the Atlanta Business League. The Atlanta Business Chronicle has honored Pate multiple times as one of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs.
Education: Georgia State University (MA)
Hometown: Decatur, Georgia
First job: When I was 12 years old, I raked leaves for Mrs. Brumbeloe at $2 an hour.
Central Atlanta Progress + Atlanta Downtown Improvement District
Since 2003, Knoxville native A.J. Robinson has been president of Central Atlanta Progress—a private business association and advocacy organization started in 1941—and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. Both groups are committed to making the Atlanta community, specifically downtown, more livable, vital, and diverse. Previously Robinson was president of the real estate company Portman Holdings, where he managed all aspects of the firm’s real estate development processes, including property and asset management of SunTrust Plaza and AmericasMart.
Education: Emory University, Harvard Business School (MBA)
Notable achievement: Being a founder of the Center for Civil and Human Rights
First job: Forklift driver for my father’s company
As president and CEO of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Taifa Smith Butler leads a team whose mission is to improve economic opportunity for all Georgians. The organization examines the state’s budget, taxes, and public policies in order to provide analysis and propose equitable solutions. Butler, who joined GBPI in 2011, counts more than 25 years of experience in strategic communications, public policy research, and data analysis in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.
Education: Mount Holyoke College, Carnegie Mellon University (MS)
First job: Gift shop cashier, Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia
Best advice recieved: From James White: “Being a public servant is not about having your name in lights, it’s about solving public problems.”
President and CEO
Pat Upshaw-Monteith became president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta in 2005, having started with the organization in 1992 as co-executive director. In her time at the helm, she’s participated in the present and future growth of Atlanta by imparting to new generations of leaders the values that have traditionally been central to the area’s success. Previously Upshaw-Monteith served for 13 years as associate general manager of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Education: Albany State University, Bowling Green State University (MA)
Notable achievement: When appointed to my position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, I had the distinct honor of being one of the first African Americans hired in management by a major symphony orchestra.
Favorite book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
As an opinion columnist for nine years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield wrote often about state politics and policy, focusing especially on education and school choice, transportation, healthcare, and state and local taxation. In April 2018 he joined the Georgia Public Policy Foundation as president and CEO, gaining a hands-on role in helping shape public policy at the state level after having written about it for so long.
Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: UGA Grady College John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award (2006)
Best advice received: For all the new parents out there: Never try to make a happy child happier.
First job: I spent a summer working in the dining hall at a Boy Scout camp near Rome. I made $35 a week—$32.32 after taxes.
Favorite travel destination: Jekyll Island
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit
District attorney for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit since 2017, Sherry Boston oversees the prosecution of felony offenses filed in the Superior Court of DeKalb County. She’s the second female district attorney in the history of the office. Previously she served as DeKalb County solicitor general—the elected official overseeing the prosecution of misdemeanor crimes—and was the first woman appointed as municipal court judge for the City of Dunwoody. Boston has also worked in private practice handling thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in metro Atlanta.
Education: Villanova University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
Few people know: I have a twin sister. Yes, really!
Favorite travel destination: Mexico
Hobbies: I love to cook and have recently become obsessed with the Instant Pot. Truly, I’m obsessed with it!
Carmalitha Gumbs is a member of the South Fulton City Council as well as the cultural and community affairs manager for the healthcare provider ChenMed, where she’s launched a range of wellness programs for Atlanta-area seniors, including pop-up dental clinics, salons, farmers markets, and other initiatives. Throughout the pandemic, Gumbs has worked to make sure seniors have access to food and other supplies while sheltering in place. The winner of multiple awards and a frequent featured guest speaker, Gumbs was recently recognized by State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague for her outstanding public service and her role in ensuring the welfare of the citizens of Georgia.
Education: Norfolk State University, Strayer University (MBA, MPH)
First job: In the country working at a potato grader
Why I chose this work: I love people. I love being a resource, and I am passionate about my community.
Favorite movies: Grease, Grease 2
Eugene E. Jones Jr. is president and CEO of Atlanta Housing, the Southeast’s largest public housing authority, which serves more than 25,000 families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. With 35 years of experience in housing and construction, Jones has served in leadership positions in cities across the U.S. and Canada. In Chicago, he was president and CEO of the nation’s second-largest housing authority from 2015 to 2019. Jones was president and CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation from 2012 to 2014, served as executive director of housing authorities in Detroit and Indianapolis, and has held key roles in housing agencies in Kansas City and San Francisco.
Education: University of Albuquerque, New Mexico Highlands University (MBA)
Notable achievement: Author of Housing Humans: A Vicarious Memorandum
Toughest challenge: Politicians
Charities: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Consistently recognized as one of the top lawyers in the state, Jen Jordan is an attorney who specializes in complex civil cases and stands up for those the system has failed. In 2015 Jordan brought suit against then secretary of state Brian Kemp over a data breach that exposed the personal information of Georgia voters. She was elected to the Georgia legislature in a 2017 special election—breaking a Republican supermajority in the state Senate—and won reelection in 2018. Jordan chairs the Senate Special Judiciary Committee and the Fulton County delegation.
Education: Georgia Southern University, University of Georgia School of Law (JD)
Notale achievement: In 2019, with the legislature debating a bill that would strictly limit access to abortion, Jordan delivered a dissent that went viral, drawing more than 3 million views on a single platform.
First job: Historical extra at Mossy Creek Festival. I would put on period clothing and be a hostess for visitors to the arts and crafts festival in Middle Georgia.
Timothy J. Keane
Commissioner of Planning
City of Atlanta
As Atlanta’s commissioner of planning, Tim Keane leads design, zoning, buildings, housing and community development, preservation, transportation planning, and other aspects of Atlanta’s growth. A native of Charlotte, he was appointed to the position in 2015. Previously Keane worked in Charleston, South Carolina, as director of planning, preservation, and sustainability, and as planning director for Davidson, North Carolina.
Education: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (MS)
Few people know: One of 12 kids. Six sisters and five brothers.
Lesson learned: Planning isn’t about taking notes.
Favorite book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: Get a haircut.
Bucket list: Learning to golf
President and CEO
Eloisa Klementich is president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the City’s economic development authority. Her key accomplishments include helping create more than 42,000 new jobs and $5.1 billion in new capital investment. Previously she worked as special assistant for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration and served as California’s assistant deputy secretary for economic development and commerce. She also worked as a consultant for Mexican president Vicente Fox.
Education: Pitzer College, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (MBA), University of California, Los Angeles (MA), University of La Verne (DPA)
First job: Big 5 Sporting Goods
Best advice received: From my father: “Nothing lasts forever.”
Board memberships: International Economic Development Council, Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, WorkSource Atlanta, Latin American Civic Association, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Atlanta Technical College, Atlanta Emerging Markets
Keisha Lance Bottoms
City of Atlanta
In 2018, Keisha Lance Bottoms took office as Atlanta’s 60th mayor—only the second woman to hold the city’s highest municipal government seat. She’s also the only mayor in city history to have been elected to all three branches of government, serving previously as a judge and city councilmember. A native of Southwest Atlanta and an advocate for affordable housing, Bottoms also serves as chair of the Community Development and Housing committee of the United States Conference of Mayors.
Education: Florida A&M University, Georgia State University College of Law (JD)
Notable achievements: Awarded the 2018 FAMU Distinguished Award, the highest given by FAMU’s National Alumni Association
As executive vice president and chief operating officer of the city’s official economic development agency, Dawn Luke Arnold oversees Invest Atlanta’s community development, finance, information technology, human resources, operations, and investment services departments. Previously she served as the organization’s senior vice president of community development, responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction in the successful execution of a shared vision of comprehensive community development, quality affordable housing, and economic growth in Atlanta’s 10 tax allocation districts. Arnold also managed and operated Invest Atlanta’s multifamily and single-family housing bond portfolio of approximately $1.8 billion and more than 20,000 units of housing.
Education: Spelman College, Georgia State University (MBA)
Hometown: LaGrange, Georgia
Why I chose this work: After having been homeless for a short period of time, then living in substandard housing, I made it my life’s mission to ensure that people were able to have decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing.
Superior Court of Fulton County
A former prosecutor, Judge Robert McBurney has served on the Fulton County Superior Court since 2012. He also serves on the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, a group of community leaders, legislators, judges, and law enforcement officials dedicated to reducing and eventually eliminating domestic violence in Georgia. Prior to his tenure on the bench, McBurney worked for a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta and, before that, for three years as a Fulton County assistant district attorney.
Education: Harvard College, Harvard Law School (JD)
Notable achievements: As a federal prosecutor, McBurney focused on cases involving public corruption, terrorism, and child sexual exploitation. His work on the Northern Exposure international counterterrorism operation earned him and his colleagues the FBI Director’s Award.
Following 20 years as a state representative, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald was appointed to the Georgia Public Service Commission in 1998 by Governor Zell Miller, and then reelected in a special election later that year. He held the seat until 2002. McDonald returned to the commission in 2008 and served as chairman. He’s also a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Electricity and an executive member of the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition.
Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: Started funeral-home business with son in 1997. Now own three funeral homes.
Why I chose this work: Zell Miller talked me into it.
First job: Soda jerk at Commerce Drug Company
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: The Varsity
Harold D. Melton was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2005 and sworn in as chief justice in 2018. Prior to joining the court, Melton served as executive counsel to Sonny Perdue, representing the governor on legal issues covering the entire scope of state government. Melton helped safeguard Georgia’s interests in water rights disputes with Alabama and Florida and participated in administration efforts to advance the delivery of criminal justice services in the state. Previously Melton spent 11 years in the Georgia Department of Law under two attorneys general, dealing with issues ranging from the creation of the Georgia Lottery to the administration of Georgia’s tobacco settl
Education: Auburn University, University of Georgia School of Law (JD)
First job: Sears parts department
Hobbies: Basketball, cooking out
Favorite book: All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Favorite movie: Raising Arizona
President of the Atlanta City Council since January 2018, Felicia A. Moore has spent nearly three decades as a public servant, beginning as president of Riverside Neighborhood Association. She then served as chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit D, becoming an advocate for community economic development. Moore was subsequently elected as Atlanta city councilmember for District 9, serving for 20 years prior to her election as council president. She’s also a licensed real estate broker and resident of the Historic Collier Heights community.
Education: Central State University, Central Michigan University (MS)
Notable achievements: Instrumental in the opening of a Publix supermarket in Northwest Atlanta where there hadn’t been a grocery store in decades. Authored and passed Mattie’s Call, an alert system to find wandering adults and others who have dementia or other mental disabilities. Authored legislation to implement independent procurement review officers; author of and unyielding advocate for legislation that resulted in the establishment of Atlanta’s first inspector general and independent compliance office.
Robert J. Murphy
Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Field Division
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
Counting more than 27 years of law enforcement experience, Robert J. Murphy serves as special agent in charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He leads hundreds of special agents, task force officers, intelligence research specialists, diversion investigators, and other employees assigned to Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Murphy began his career in 1991 as an officer in the Orlando Police Department.
Education: Florida State University
Notable achievements: Three-time recipient of the U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces National Case of the Year Award
Inspiring person: I was working at Publix supermarkets through college. A Tallahassee Police Department officer who worked security at the Publix talked me into doing a ride-along one night, and I was hooked.
Favorite book: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Who’d play me in a biopic: Kevin Bacon
Presiding Justice David E. Nahmias was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2009 by Governor Sonny Perdue, elected to a full six-year term in 2010, and reelected without opposition in 2016. An Atlanta native and the son of immigrants from Egypt and Germany, Nahmias practiced with a large law firm in Washington, D.C., before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta in 1995. As a federal prosecutor, he worked extensively on the investigations into the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and subsequent attacks by Eric Rudolph. Following the September 11 attacks, Nahmias became one of the Justice Department’s leading terrorism prosecutors, and in 2004 President George W. Bush appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Education: Duke University, Harvard Law School (JD)
First job: Youth soccer referee. Calling fouls and not calling fouls, with people complaining either way, is good training to be a judge.
What I’d tell a recent graduate: Work very hard at whatever you are doing, and always be open to new and unexpected opportunities.
A former three-term state representative, Byung J. “BJay” Pak was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2017 as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia—an office in which he previously prosecuted narcotics and economic crimes as an assistant U.S. attorney. Pak has also been in private legal practice handling complex civil litigation and white-collar investigation and prosecution matters, and was a member of Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Commission and the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.
Education: Stetson University, University of Illinois College of Law (JD)
Notable achievement: I am told I may be the first presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney of Korean descent in U.S. history.
First job: Chicken-wing cutter
Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad
Bucket list: Go fishing in Alaska
Elected mayor of Sandy Springs in 2013 and currently serving his second term, Russell K. “Rusty” Paul brings more than 40 years of government experience to the job. A former state senator, he was elected to Sandy Springs’ founding city council in 2005 and has served on the city’s charter-review commission and development authority. Paul also worked for the first Bush administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations.
Education: Samford University
Few people know: I’m a chick-flick aficionado; I’m addicted to the Hallmark Channel.
First job: Picking cotton at age six
Favorite travel destination: My cabin at the farm on which I grew up [near Birmingham]—land that has been in my family since 1880
As county attorney for Fulton County, Patrise Perkins-Hooker is responsible for the civil legal needs of one of Georgia’s largest counties. She leads a staff of over 40 and provides legal advice to seven commissioners and more than 45 departments. Before joining the county attorney’s office in 2016, Perkins-Hooker was vice president and general counsel for the Atlanta BeltLine and a partner at the law firm Hollowell Foster & Gepp. In 2014 she became the 52nd president of the State Bar of Georgia—the first African American and third woman to fill that role. She currently serves on the board of John Marshall Law School.
Education: Georgia Tech, Emory University School of Law (JD), Emory University Goizueta Business School (MBA)
First job: Six Flags Over Georgia ride operator
Lesson learned: Even with bad bosses, a few good team members can still accomplish miracles!
Hidden talent: I am an excellent cook.
Favorite books: All of John Grisham’s novels
Fulton County Board of Commissioners
Robb Pitts was elected in 2017 as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, having previously served on the board from 2002 to 2014. Pitts also served two decades on the Atlanta City Council, including a stint as president from 1997 to 2001. As a Fulton commissioner, he advocated for diversification of revenue sources to relieve tax burdens on property owners. Pitts is also a former college professor and registered real estate broker.
Education: Ohio University, Academia Hispano Americana, Kent State University, La Universidad Interamericana, Emory University (MA)
Why I chose this work: I wanted to effect positive change and ensure that taxpayers receive the services they pay for in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.
Ellijay native David Ralston has served as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, and as a state representative since 2002. He began his legal career in 1980 as an associate at the Athens firm of Cook, Noell, Tolley & Aldridge. Three years later, Ralston returned to his North Georgia roots and opened the Law Offices of David E. Ralston in Blue Ridge, where he’s practiced for the past 30 years.
Education: North Georgia College and State University, University of Georgia School of Law (JD)
Notable achievement: Georgia Trend Georgian of the Year (2011)
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Vic Reynolds was appointed director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in February 2019 by Governor Brian Kemp. In this position, he leads an agency of over 900 employees. Reynolds is the former district attorney of Cobb County, where he was elected twice. He has also served as a police officer and as the former chief magistrate judge of Cobb County, and he was a partner in the law firm of Berry and Reynolds. He has been published in both local and national print and is the author of Georgia Objections at Trial, which is in its second edition.
Education: Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University College of Law (JD)
Few people know: I enjoy playing the guitar, although not very well.
First job: Delivering newspapers
Hobbies: Working out, especially Krav Maga. And I try to read two books a month.
Randall B. Slaughter is chief of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and one of few to have served in each division of labor and at every rank within the organization. An Atlanta native, Slaughter joined the department in 1990 after completing a tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq. He became fire battalion chief in 2004, assistant fire chief in 2005, deputy fire chief in 2010, and first deputy fire chief in 2015 before taking the department’s top spot in 2018. The author of numerous fire service publications, Slaughter is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
Education: Georgia State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Columbus State University (MPA)
First job: Baskin-Robbins ice cream scooper
Best advice recieved: From my mom: “The darkest hour is just before day.”
Toughest challenge: Had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin
Hiddent talent: I’m a barber. Could have been a professional barber. Started cutting hair at 12 years old.
Lee Thomas is a deputy commissioner at the Georgia Department of Economic Development and division director of the Georgia Film Office. She’s helped Georgia become one of the top filming locations in the world, overseeing growth from $250 million to $2.9 billion in direct spending in the state. A native Atlantan, Thomas pursued doctoral studies in New York before returning to the city in 1996 to work for the Georgia Film and Videotape Office as a project manager, becoming a location specialist for the office in 1998 and director of the film division in 2010.
Education: University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Georgia State University (MA), New York University
Notable achievement: Georgia Trend Georgian of the Year (2019)
Inspiring person: Jimmy Carter
Few people know: We owned a restaurant and campground in Rabun County from 2010 until January 2020. It was initially an adventure renovating and running it, but it became way too much to handle!
Thomas W. Thrash Jr.
Northern District of Georgia
Thomas W. Thrash Jr. has worked as an assistant district attorney on the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, an adjunct professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law, a partner in a law firm, and as a sole practitioner, among other positions. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Georgia, and in 2014 he was confirmed as chief judge. He’s an elected member of the American Law Institute.
Education: University of Virginia, Harvard Law School (JD)
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Notable achievement: Nomination and confirmation as a federal judge
Board memberships: American Shakespeare Center Board of Trustees, Georgia State University College of Law Board of Visitors
Michael L. Thurmond
DeKalb County GovernmentRaised as a sharecropper’s son in Clarke County, Michael L. Thurmond was elected in 2016 as CEO of DeKalb County, one of the most diverse counties in the Southeast. His top priority is to restore faith in county government. His other priorities include adopting a balanced budget, ensuring accurate water bills, removing blight, offering summer youth employment, improving employee compensation, and fulfilling the federal-state sewer consent agreement. A former member of the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American elected to a statewide office without prior appointment, Thurmond is widely regarded as a “turnaround expert” after fundamentally transforming the culture and enhancing operations of complex organizations such as the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services, the Georgia Department of Labor, and the DeKalb County School District.
Education: Paine College, University of South Carolina School of Law (JD)
Notable achievement: Led passage of the first-ever special-purpose sales tax in DeKalb County, which passed with 70 percent voter approval and resulted in a projected $600 million in capital improvements
Georgia Department of Economic Development
As commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Pat Wilson leads the agency responsible for creating jobs and investment opportunities in Georgia through business recruitment and expansion, workforce development, and international trade and tourism, as well as the arts, film, and music industries. Before being appointed to the position in 2016 by Governor Nathan Deal, Wilson served as the organization’s chief operating officer, and was previously director of government affairs in the administration of Governor Sonny Perdue.
Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievement: Georgia was named the number one state in the nation for business for five consecutive years by both Site Selection and Area Development magazines.
First job: Picking peaches
Few people know: I love karaoke.
Hobbies: Baseball, football, softball, and my kids’ sports at Northside Youth Organization
Favorite book: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Top Georgia Officials
- Brian P. Kemp Governor
- Geoff Duncan Lieutenant Governor
- Chris Carr Attorney General
- Brad Raffensperger Secretary of State
- Jon Ossoff U.S. Senator
- Raphael Warnock U.S. Senator
- Hank Johnson Representative, 4th Congressional District
- Nikema Williams Representative, 5th Congressional District
- Lucy McBath Representative, 6th Congressional District
- Carolyn Bourdeaux Representative, 7th Congressional District
- Barry Loudermilk Representative, 11th Congressional District
- David Scott Representative, 13th Congressional District
Senior Vice President, In-Flight Service
Delta Air Lines
Allison Ausband is senior vice president of in-flight service for Delta Air Lines, leading a global team of 21,000 flight attendants and supervisory and support personnel, as well as Delta’s onboard global food and beverage operations. Under Ausband’s leadership, Delta’s in-flight service team has achieved all-time customer satisfaction scores. She previously served as vice president for reservation sales and customer care. Ausband began her career at Delta in 1985 as a flight attendant.
Education: University of Georgia
Favorite travel destination: Saint Barthélemy
Hidden talent: Before taking to the skies, I was a radio announcer.
Charities: I lead Delta’s efforts in the fight against human trafficking.
Who’d play me in a biopic: Diane Lane
Delta Air Lines
As CEO of Delta Air Lines since 2016, 20-year company veteran Ed Bastian helms a team of 80,000 global professionals. Under his leadership, Delta has become the world’s most awarded airline, named top U.S. airline by the Wall Street Journal, most admired airline worldwide by Fortune, and most on-time global airline by FlightGlobal. Delta has returned to sustained profitability, regaining its investment-grade credit rating with all three major ratings agencies and paying out more than $1 billion in profit-sharing to employees every year over the past four years. In 2018, Fortune named Bastian among the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and in 2019 he was elected to the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Education: Saint Bonaventure University
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, New York
Few people know: I was 25 before I first stepped foot on an airplane.
Favorite book: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Rahim Charania is the founder and managing director of Woodvale, an alternative investment firm based in Atlanta. Over a career that spans 20 years, Charania has formed and grown multiple organizations that have made significant impacts in their respective industries and in Georgia, including American Fueling Systems—one of the largest alternative fueling companies in the U.S.—and the media campus Three Ring Studios in Newton County. Charania serves on the board of Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, as well as on the advisory council of GSU’s Center for International Business, Education, and Research.
Education: Georgia State University (MBA)
Hometown: I was born in Pakistan but moved to the U.S. as a child, so I always consider my hometown to be Stone Mountain.
Best advice recieve: Listen more than you speak.
Lesson learned: When things are at their toughest and life seems to be hopeless, that is the time you need to work the hardest and when you need to recommit yourself to your goals and your vision.
Roderick McLean is vice president and general manager of the Air Mobility & Maritime Missions line of business at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, responsible for the C-130 Hercules transport, the C-5 strategic airlifter, and other aircraft; McLean is also site general manager for the 5,000-employee Marietta facility. Since joining in 1994 as a radar systems engineer, McLean has held a variety of roles in the company, most recently as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group programs in Fort Worth, Texas. He serves on the board of directors for the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the board of councillors for the Carter Center.
Education: North Carolina A&T State University, Georgia Tech (MA), University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business (MBA)
Hometown: Jacksonville, North Carolina
First job: Drove a school bus in high school at 16 and a half years old
Hidden talent: I enjoy playing classical music on the piano.
Russell R. McMurry
Georgia Department of Transportation
In 2015, Russell R. McMurry was appointed by the State Transportation Board as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation—the $3.5 billion, almost 4,000-employee state agency responsible for building, maintaining, and operating the 10th-largest transportation system in the country. McMurry began his career with the department in 1990 as an engineering trainee and has served in a variety of roles including construction project manager, district engineer, director of engineering, and chief engineer.
Education: Georgia Southern University
Notable achievement: Georgia Trend Georgian of the Year (2018)
First job: At 13, stocking shelves and taking inventory for a building-supply company
Few people know: I race motocross. I began riding at the age of 10 and still ride today.
Favorite book: The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough
Jeffrey A. Parker is the general manager and CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Beginning his transportation career in 1985 with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Parker has more than 30 years of experience in both public and private transportation, including as MARTA’s senior director of transportation operations and commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Prior to taking the helm at MARTA in 2018, Parker was vice president of the Georgia/Alabama/Tennessee District of the architecture and engineering consulting firm HNTB.
Education: Northeastern University
Board Memberships: Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Transportation Alliance, Central Atlanta Progress, Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce
Leading the world’s busiest airport, John Selden oversees operations as well as a multibillion-dollar capital improvement program that will pave the way for growth over the next 20 years. With more than three decades of aviation experience, Selden assumed the role of airport general manager in 2018; previously he was deputy general manager at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Selden is a retired Navy commander who served at the Pentagon and in Operation Desert Storm. He ended his tour of duty as deputy commander of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico.
Education: Naval War College, U.S. Naval Academy
Hometown: Syosset, New York
Why I chose this work: I’ve had a love for planes and aviation ever since I visited the cockpit of an airplane at the age of five. After working as a pilot for 25 years, leading an airport was a natural transition.
As director of real estate, property management, and development for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Lynn Smith works with stakeholders to strategically improve the significance of the airport’s real estate holdings, mainly commercial real estate assets. She brings more than 25 years of commercial real estate experience to the role, having previously worked for Cushman & Wakefield and Paradigm Asset Management. In 2006 Smith effectively created the Global Diversity Summit, a conference aimed at providing a national networking forum for women and minorities in the commercial real estate industry.
Education: Columbia University, Southern Polytechnic State University
First job: Health food store
Why I chose this work: Curating and managing a major portfolio is challenging and rewarding.
Inspiring person: New York artist, educator, and consultant Ari Melenciano
President and CEO
Paul Bowers is chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the nation’s leading energy providers. He joined the Southern Company system at Gulf Power in 1979 and has held executive leadership positions at multiple subsidiaries. Prior to his current position at Georgia Power, he served as chief financial officer of Southern Company, where he was rated by Institutional Investor as one of the industry’s Top Three CFOs in America.
Education: University of West Florida, Troy University (MS), Harvard Business School AMP
Notable achievements: Four Pillar Award (2018), Georgia Trustee (2018), Junior Achievement Atlanta Business Hall of Fame (2016), American Jewish Committee National Human Relations Award (2015)
President, Retail Energy
Southern Company Gas
Michael Braswell is president of retail energy for Southern Company Gas, responsible for ensuring the expansion and continued success of the company’s retail energy operations in multiple states. Braswell is also CEO of SouthStar Energy Services, which serves nearly 700,000 customers; in Georgia it conducts business as Georgia Natural Gas. A Dunwoody native, he has more than 25 years of experience in the natural gas industry and has worked in both regulated and nonutility environments.
Education: Georgia Tech, Georgia State University (MBA)
First job: At the Georgia Tech Research Institute while I was a student at Georgia Tech
Hobbies: I’m a bicycling and exercise enthusiast.
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Favorite travel destination: Antigua
Pedro Cherry, president and CEO of Atlanta Gas Light, is an energy-industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in finance, operations, external and governmental affairs, customer service, and economic and business development roles in domestic and international arenas. A native of Windsor, North Carolina, Cherry took the helm of Atlanta Gas Light in August 2020. Prior to that he spent almost 10 years in various positions at Georgia Power, rising to the position of executive vice president of customer service and operations.
Education: Auburn University (MBA)
First job: Picking tobacco on the farms of North Carolina in the summer
Best advice received: Always be a student of the business.
Favorite hobbies: Golf, traveling, watching college and professional sports
Favorite Atlanta restaurant: Canoe
Charities: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Zoo Atlanta
Bentina C. Terry is senior vice president for metro Atlanta and corporate relations for Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company. Terry is responsible for operations, sales, customer service, and economic and community development, as well as external affairs activities for 1.4 million customers across metro Atlanta and statewide responsibility for Georgia Power’s work in underserved communities. She began her career at Southern Company in 2001 and has held a variety of roles within the business. Board memberships include the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Leadership Atlanta, and the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Education: North Carolina State University, University of Michigan Law School (JD)
Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Notable achievements: First senior African American officer in two major Southern Company subsidiaries and the first woman in several officer positions
Few people know: I love tattoos. I love the show Ink Master, and I have two tattoos myself.
John Dwyer is the president of AT&T’s Prepaid Wireless Portfolio, which consists of Cricket Wireless and AT&T Prepaid. Previously he led the customer experience effort for AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, led the retail sales operations team, and served in sales and customer service leadership roles at AT&T, Cingular Wireless, and Pacific Bell Mobile Services. Dwyer serves on the executive board of directors of Junior Achievement of Georgia, the board of directors of 3DE, the executive committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Boy Scouts Atlanta Area Council.
Education: University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago (MA)
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Why I chose this work: I wanted to be in a growth industry, and over the last 25 years wireless communications has seen tremendous growth, innovation, and transformation.
First job: Dishwasher and oyster shucker in a seafood restaurant
Chairman, President, and CEO
A native of Sandy Springs, Tom Fanning has been chairman, president, and CEO of Southern Company since 2010. He’s worked for the energy giant for more than 35 years, holding 15 different positions in eight business units—most recently as chief operating officer, responsible for Southern Company’s generation and transmission, engineering and construction services, research and environmental affairs, system planning, and competitive generation business units. Previously Fanning was president and CEO of Gulf Power.
Education: Georgia Tech (MA)
First job: Financial analyst
Hidden talent: I have coached youth sports in Atlanta for decades and was the 2018 recipient of the CEO Coach of the Year Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Football Coaches Foundation.
Favorite travel destination: Maine
Kimberly Greene is the chair, president, and CEO of Southern Company Gas, the leading natural gas company in the industry. She ensures the safe delivery of natural gas to more than 4.2 million utility customers in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, and Virginia. In addition, she oversees the nonutility businesses that deliver energy-related products and services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations, including gas pipeline investments and storage and fuels. She is a strong advocate for emerging technologies, innovation, and STEM-related education. Greene serves as an oil and natural gas liaison colead for the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council, the principal liaison between the federal government and the energy sector on security issues. She is a member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
Education: University of Tennessee, University of Alabama at Birmingham (MS), Samford University (MBA), Harvard Business School (AMP)
President and CEO
Kevin Greiner has served as Gas South’s president and CEO since the company’s founding in 2006. Gas South is one of the Southeast’s largest energy marketers, providing natural gas to more than 300,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in competitive markets in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Gas South also operates a growing wholesale energy marketing operation and is an owner/investor in several solar energy projects. Since its founding, Gas South has doubled its customer base, while growing its sales volumes and workforce by 400 percent. In 2020, Gas South announced the acquisition of Infinite Energy, which will more than double Gas South’s revenues to nearly $1 billion. The merged company will be the largest retail natural gas provider in competitive markets in the southeastern U.S.
Education: Wesleyan University, University of Michigan (MBA, MS)
Notable achievement: YMCA of Metro Atlanta Volunteer of the Year (2017); board chair there in 2021
First job: Working in a bagel shop on Long Island
As president of AT&T’s Georgia operations since 2018, Venessa Harrison is responsible for developing the overall strategic direction of AT&T’s public policy and corporate activities across the state. Working with state and local policymakers and business and community leaders, she focuses on new technologies that drive innovation and create jobs and on providing educational and economic opportunities that improve the quality of life for all Georgians. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Harrison began her telecommunications career as a telephone operator. Prior to her current position, she served for six years as president of AT&T North Carolina.
Education: University of Phoenix
Lesson learned: At first I feared my inexperience in the telecommunications and technology fields was a liability. Over time, I learned that my greenness was an asset because, in general, people like to help others learn, and I could offer a fresh point of view.
Michael L. Smith
President and CEO
Michael L. Smith has served as president and CEO of Oglethorpe Power, one of the largest energy producers in Georgia, since 2013. He previously worked for Georgia Transmission—as senior vice president and chief financial officer, and later as president and CEO—and, prior to that, as the first executive director of the Committee of Chief Risk Officers, a nonprofit trade association incorporated in 2002 to compile best practices and standards for risk-management activities for the energy industry.
Education: Louisiana State University (MBA)
First job: Worked offshore in Gulf of Mexico oil fields
Favorite book: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Lesson learned: Every problem has a solution.
Favorite travel destination: Ireland
President and CEO
GE Aviation Services
GE Power Portfolio
Russell Stokes is president and CEO of GE Aviation Services and chairman of GE Power Portfolio. Stokes has more than two decades of experience at GE, including seven years at GE Aviation, where he served as the sourcing general manager as well as services chief risk officer and customized service agreements finance leader. Most recently, he was president and CEO of GE Power Portfolio; he remains its chairman, reporting to GE Chairman and CEO Larry Culp and advising the Power Portfolio business leadership teams.
Education: Cleveland State University
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights. The lunch counter sit-in simulation is something I will never forget and that all people could learn from by experiencing.
Charities: Junior Achievement of Georgia, Usher’s New Look
What I’d tell a recent graduate: If you aren’t multilingual already, invest in your future by learning other languages.
Deal served as a prosecutor, judge, state senator, and U.S. congressman for Georgia’s 9th District before being elected Georgia’s 82nd governor in 2010 and reelected in 2014. Under his leadership, Georgia was recognized as the top state for business five years in a row. Deal’s tenure was marked by efforts in transportation, criminal justice reform, and education reform.
In 1965, Epps bought a small fixed-base operation at DeKalb Peachtree Airport and launched Epps Air Service. He has grown the original facility into a hub serving local and international businesses. His many honors include the National Business Aviation Association’s American Spirit Award and lifetime achievement award. Epps has also been inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.
Inaugurated in 2002, Franklin became Atlanta’s 58th mayor. She was not only the city’s first female mayor, but also the first African American woman to helm any major Southern city. A former protégé of mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, she helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta. She received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2005.
In 2016, Isakson became the first Georgia Republican ever to be elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate. He is also the only Georgian ever to be elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. The Atlanta native is a respected businessman with more than 40 years of experience in the real estate industry. He stepped down from the Senate at the end of 2019.
Beginning his career in real estate, Massell served 22 years in elected offices, including eight as president of Atlanta’s Board of Aldermen and four as the city’s mayor from 1970 to 1974. As mayor, Massell established MARTA and developed minority opportunities in city government. Later, he became the founding president of the Buckhead Coalition.
Reed served two terms as Atlanta’s 59th mayor, beginning in 2010. Prior to that, he spent 11 years as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, first elected in 1998 as a state representative, then serving from 2002 to 2009 in the state Senate. He’s a former partner in the litigation practice of Holland & Knight, an international law firm with offices in Atlanta, where he specialized in entertainment law. Reed grew up in the Cascade community.
Leah Ward Sears
Now in private practice with Smith, Gambrell & Russell, Sears was the first woman to serve as a judge on the Superior Court of Fulton County. Four years later she was appointed, and then elected, to become a justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia—the first woman and youngest jurist ever to receive that title. From 2001 to 2005, she became the presiding justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, eventually being named chief justice.
Andrew J. Young
A protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Young was a leader of the SCLC. He helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was Georgia’s first African American congressman since Reconstruction. President Carter tapped him to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served two terms as mayor of Atlanta and helped bring the 1996 Olympics here. His accolades have included the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morehouse College’s Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership is named for him, as is Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.