Most Influential Georgians: Georgia's Power List

Georgia Trend’s annual listing of the state’s most powerful and influential citizens who affect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.

Henry Ward Beecher must have known a thing or two about influence. He was the subject, after all, of a 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography entitled The Most Famous Man in America.

According to Beecher, an obviously renowned 19th century preacher, speaker and abolitionist, “the humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others.”

The individuals on this 15th edition of Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential Georgians list, many you’ve heard of and a few you may not know by name, are exerting lots of influence in the worlds they inhabit – business, philanthropy, politics. They are impacting how we live, how we vote, how we buy or how we give.

Is this the definitive list that completely reflects the realities of leadership in Georgia? It’s a start – it’s how we start every year. And if it generates discussion and debate, it’s a good start.

There’s been some turnover – 33 of these individuals weren’t on the list last year. If you didn’t make the list this year, take heart. You’re in good company, one of the 10 million other Georgians who, as the Rev. Beecher knew, are also exerting some influence.

Profiles were written by Stan Awtrey, Mary Anne Dunkin, Jerry Grillo, Karen Kennedy, Susan Percy, Don Sadler, Randy Southerland and Ben Young. Susan Percy and Christy Simo assisted in the editing process.

Stacey Abrams
Minority Leader
Georgia House of Representatives
Atlanta
Age: 40

Abrams, a Democrat who represents District 84 in the Georgia General Assembly, is the first woman and first African American to serve as House Minority Leader. She     is co-founder and Senior VP of  NOWaccount Network Corporation, a financial services firm. Abrams, a graduate of Yale Law School, also co-founded Nourish, a beverage company that focuses on the needs of infants and toddlers.

Michael Adams
President
University of Georgia
Athens
Age: 64

By the time of his planned retirement in June, Adams will have led Georgia’s flagship university for 17 years, steering not only the growth of UGA’s reputation as a Top 20 university but also its student body and physical presence. Under his leadership, enrollment has increased by almost 6,000 students to nearly 35,000 and UGA has secured more than $1 billion in new construction.

Alejandro Aguilera
Artist
Saltworks Gallery
Atlanta
Age: 48

Aguilera, who was born in Cuba and settled in Atlanta in 1996, has shown in Miami, New York and Mexico City. His swirling portraits of heroes and icons reference folk art, a style that drew him to Georgia. “About the Modern Spirit” dazzled at the High Museum of Art last spring. 

Dan Amos
Chairman & CEO
Aflac
Columbus
Age: 61

Amos is the leader of an insurance company with 50 million customers worldwide and annual revenues of more than $22.2 billion. He’s also helped make the company a leader in corporate citizenship. Aflac is involved in a wide variety of charities, including $67 million in overall donations to Atlanta’s Aflac Cancer Center.

Brian Anderson
President & CEO
Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce
Dalton
Age: 48

Anderson has the challenging task of building an economic development strategy in a community that has been especially hit hard by the downturn. His focus is on two basic initiatives: aggressively marketing one of the state’s largest and most important manufacturing centers (Dalton is still the carpet capital of the world) and strengthening workforce capability for what he is calling the “new normal.”

Richard Anderson
CEO
Delta Air Lines
Atlanta
Age: 57

Anderson, who became CEO of Delta in 2007, has been instrumental in reinvigorating the airline’s business model for employee engagement and customer service. Under Anderson’s leadership, Delta has invested in new and enhanced airport facilities, advancements in technology and employee training. Anderson will chair the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2014.

Ricardo Azziz
President, Georgia Health Sciences University
CEO, Georgia Health Sciences Health System 



Augusta



Age: 54 



Azziz has led GHSU through an ambitious building program, expanding both its physical campus and offerings in biomedical education, research and clinical service. Now he is taking the helm of Georgia Regents University Augusta, created by the merger of GHSU and Augusta State University. The $1.3-billion university will include nine colleges, 10,000 students and nearly 7,000 faculty and staff.

John D. Barge
State School Superintendent
Rome
Age: 46

Barge has spent much of his life in Georgia public schools, as student, teacher, principal and administrator. He cites selection as a STAR Teacher by some of his students as the highlight of his career. The biggest challenge in his current job is that sometimes what is politically expedient may not always be best for the state’s students and teachers, but he’s striving to find a balance between the two.

Mark Becker
President
Georgia State University
Atlanta
Age: 54

Becker has launched a major strategic planning initiative focused on positioning GSU to become one of the nation’s premier urban universities. Under Becker’s leadership, GSU approved and began implementing its 10-year Strategic Plan. This follows his oversight of the launch of the Second Century Initiative (or 2CI) for faculty excellence in 2010, which seeks to recruit 100 additional faculty members over the next five years.

Sanford Bishop
U.S. Congressman



Albany



Age: 65




Bishop, Congressman from Southwest Georgia, is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Constructions and Veterans Affairs. While dealing with the extreme partisanship and tight fiscal environment in the House has been a challenge, Bishop is proud to have worked across party lines to reach consensus in funding and passing through the House the 2013 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill.

Gary W. Black
Commissioner
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Commerce
Age: 54

As the first new commissioner in more than four decades, Black has faced a wide range of challenges since taking office in 2010. Issues include farmers who can’t find workers at harvest time due to tougher immigration laws and a rising number of food safety scares. To boost the $65-billion agricultural industry, the department has implemented programs designed to market state products both nationally and internationally.

Frank Blake
Chairman & CEO
The Home Depot
Atlanta
Age: 64

Blake took over leadership of The Home Depot in 2007 and faced a daunting challenge: reinventing the world’s most-recognized big box hardware and home improvement store, which had lost ground to rival Lowe’s. Blake set about resurrecting the “Orange Apron Cult” and refocusing The Home Depot on the exceptional customer service that had been its trademark, setting the stage for the ensuing turnaround.

Arthur Blank
Philanthropist
Owner, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta
Age: 70

Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, has owned the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons since 2002 and has overseen the team’s most consistent run of success. Blank, who is working to orchestrate construction of a new stadium with a retractable roof, chairs his family’s charitable foundation and also serves on the boards of Emory University and Cox Enterprises.

Bill Bolling
Founder and Executive Director
Atlanta Community Food Bank
Atlanta
Age: 64

Bolling started the South’s first food bank in the basement of Atlanta’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 1979. Since then, his nonprofit has been the leader in feeding the hungry even as economic recession has swelled their ranks. Last year, ACFB distributed about 34 million pounds of food to more than 700 partner agencies throughout North Georgia. 

Paul Bowers
President/CEO
Georgia Power Company
Atlanta
Age: 56

As the head of Georgia’s largest electric utility, Bowers is a driving force behind the construction of the nation’s first two nuclear power units in 30 years, scheduled to come online in the next four years. Bowers says this $14-billion project will generate 4,000 to 5,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. He also served as the 2012 chairman of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

John Bulloch 
Former Georgia State Senator
Farmer
Ochlocknee
Age: 65

A past chair of the Thomas County Board of Commissioners and the Thomas County Board of Health, Bulloch served in the Georgia State House of Representatives from 1998 to 2002 and in the State Senate from 2003 to 2012, when he resigned his seat. He was respected on both sides of the aisle and was chair of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee. He is a farmer and owner of Bulloch Farms. 

Casey Cagle
Lieutenant Governor
State of Georgia
Chestnut Mountain
Age: 47

Cagle is in the midst of serving his second term as the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. He was the first Republican elected to the position in 2006 and was reelected in 2010. Born and raised in Hall County, Cagle became a business owner when he was only 20. First elected to public office in 1994, Cagle has been repeatedly honored for his support of small business by a variety of state and national groups.

Jason Carter
State Senator
Atlanta
Age: 37

Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, won re-election to represent the 42nd district in the state senate this past November. A rising star in the Democratic Party since winning a special election for his senate seat in 2010, he has served on the judiciary, public safety, science and technology, special judiciary and urban affairs committees.

C. Michael Cassidy
President & CEO
Georgia Research Alliance
Atlanta
Age: 59

Cassidy leads a private nonprofit organization that in its first 19 years has leveraged $525 million in state funding into $2.6 billion of additional federal and private investment. From these investments have come more than 150 companies and thousands of jobs. Bringing together universities and private sector companies, the GRA is a leader in fostering economic development for Georgia. 

Saxby Chambliss
U.S. Senator
Moultrie
Age: 69

The two-term U.S. Senator is considered one of the leading bipartisan legislators in Washington. Chambliss is the ranking Republican on the Select Committee on Intelligence and serves on the agriculture, armed services, and rules and administration committees. Chambliss is a well-respected figure on Capitol Hill, a leader of the Senate’s Gang of Six, who has a reputation for being a straight shooter.

Chris Clark
President & CEO
Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Fayetteville
Age: 43

Clark had extensive economic development experience when chosen to lead the state’s premier business organization, the Georgia Chamber, in 2010. Over the last year, Clark has helped the organization renew its focus on the state’s agribusiness via a new “Georgia Grown” program that partners with the Georgia Department of Agriculture. He was selected by Gov. Nathan Deal to co-chair the state’s Competitiveness Initiative.

David Connell
President & CEO
Cobb County Chamber of Commerce
Marietta
Age: 61

Connell heads up the seventh largest chamber of commerce in the Southeast (5,400 members, 2,500 businesses), and one of only two chambers in Georgia with a five-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Among the items topping his agenda: retain Dobbins Air Reserve Base and develop a first-class business incubator.

Joe Cook
Executive Director/Riverkeeper
Coosa River Basin Initiative
Rome
Age: 46

An expert in water resource issues, Cook has been the executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative since 2005. The organization has great influence on water legislation and environmental issues that affect the Coosa River Basin. In 2012, CRBI worked effectively to temporarily halt a 60-acre retail development along the Oostanaula River to allow public review of the project. Cook’s articles and photographs have appeared in numerous national and regional magazines.

Shan Cooper
Vice President & General Manager
Lockheed Martin
Marietta
Age: 44

Cooper is the first female manager of the 60-year-old Marietta assembly plant – long one of the largest employers in Cobb County. She oversees a facility responsible for building aircraft including the C-130 Hercules, the longest continuously operating military aircraft production line in history. She is also managing fallout from Pentagon budget cuts that have resulted in layoffs and slowed production.

Deke Copenhaver
Mayor, City of Augusta
Augusta
Age: 45

Born in Montreal, Copenhaver has been the mayor of Augusta (where he was raised) since 2005. His extensive background in real estate and business, including serving on the Georgia Land Conservation Partnership Advisory Council and as the executive director of the Central Savannah River Land Trust, has helped him focus firmly on economic development during his tenure.

Chris Cummiskey
Commissioner
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Atlanta
Age: 38

His role as the point person for overall economic development in Georgia makes Cummiskey one of the state’s most important individuals when it comes to business growth. Since his appointment in 2011, he has focused in particular on increasing tourism and growing international trade, the entertainment industry, and on small businesses and entrepreneurship in the state.

Scott Davis
Chairman & CEO
United Parcel Service
Alpharetta
Age: 60

Davis has served as CEO of UPS since 2007, and during that time he has guided the world’s largest package delivery company successfully through recession and expansion. Big Brown has achieved significant growth in international operations and improvements in its U.S. small package organizational network. He has been a strong advocate of international trade as a member of the President’s Export Council.

Stephen Dolinger
President
Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
Atlanta
Age: 65

Since assuming leadership of GPEE in 2003, Dolinger has expanded the partnership’s focus and tenaciously delivered the critical message about the inextricable link between quality education and economic sustainability. GPEE serves as the business voice on many education and economic development planning teams at the state and national levels.

Bruce Drennan
Executive Director
Cordele-Crisp County Industrial Development Council
Cordele
Age: 65

Drennan guides economic development in one of Georgia’s vibrant hubs, where a call center (500 jobs in two years) and wood products company (80 jobs) recently put down roots. The Cordele Inland Port, which opened in 2011, is drawing a lot of interest. It’s expected to handle more than 15,000 containers (shipped by rail to and from the Port of Savannah) this year, generating 1,500 to 3,000 jobs in the region within three years.

Burrell Ellis
CEO, DeKalb County
Stone Mountain
Age: 55

In 2012, Ellis captured 60 percent of the popular vote in DeKalb County to secure a second term as CEO and was elected president of County Executives of America. The Association County Commissioners of Georgia recognized ONE DeKalb, a program to create jobs and help families purchase homes, as the 2012 Civic and Community Engagement Advocate of the Year.

Alan Essig
Executive Director
Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Decatur
Age: 53

Essig, the first executive director of the GBPI, leads a group that analyzes budget and tax proposals offered by the state legislature. Over the last year, he’s been warning how revenue shortfalls threaten the state’s rainy day fund and encouraged lawmakers to modernize the state’s tax code. Essig is a regular guest of civic groups throughout the state, offering tax reform solutions and policies.

Tom Fanning
Chairman, President & CEO
Southern Company
Atlanta
Age: 55

Few topics are more important or controversial than the nation’s energy supply. As head of Southern Company since 2010, Fanning is guiding the company through a program of making its older plants cleaner while building a new nuclear power plant – the first in decades. A 30-year veteran of the company, he supports expanding energy sources to include nuclear, coal, natural gas and solar. 

Curtis J. Foltz
Executive Director
Georgia Ports Authority
Savannah
Age: 52

As executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority – a state port authority that owns and operates strategic gateways serving the Southeast – Foltz oversees all port activity involving the deep-water ports of Savannah and Brunswick, as well as inland terminal operations in Bainbridge and Columbus. Directing one of Georgia’s largest economic engines, he administers a $280-million annual budget.

Helene Gayle
President & CEO
CARE USA
Atlanta
Age: 57

Recognizing that women and children suffer disproportionately from poverty, Dr. Gayle has brought to CARE a focus on girls to create permanent social change in poor communities from Afghanistan to Malawi. As CEO, Gayle oversees an annual budget of $626 million that supports 1,105 poverty-fighting projects to reach more than 122 million people in 84 countries around the world.

Rob Gibson
Executive & Artistic Director
Savannah Music Festival
Savannah
Age: 54

The founding director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Gibson has brought world-class performers – and international attention – to the Savannah Music Festival. Hailed as “one of the top music festivals in the world” by USA Today, the annual event is also one of the inaugural recipients of the Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities.

Phil Gingrey
U.S. Congressman
Marietta
Age: 70

As a successful OB-GYN in Marietta, Gingrey provided care to thousands of Georgia women and delivered more than 5,200 babies. He is working now to improve healthcare as co-creator and chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, composed of 21 medical providers in Congress who use their medical expertise to develop patient-centered healthcare reforms focused on quality, access, affordability and portability.

W. Todd Groce
President & CEO
Georgia Historical Society
Savannah
Age: 51

Groce is guiding the GHS (the oldest continuously operating historical society in the South) into new territory with the launch of a new statewide public education initiative commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia. The Civil Rights Trail will use new historical markers and online tools and resources to foster in-depth exploration of the era for present and future generations.

Becca Brown Hardin
Executive Vice President
Valley Partnership
Columbus
Age: 47

As executive VP of economic development for the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce and The Valley Partnership, Hardin has led and implemented the business recruitment strategy for The Valley Partnership region – a bi-state entity covering seven counties and two cities. She was involved in the efforts to recruit Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia and led efforts to recruit NCR to Columbus. 

P. Russell Hardin
President
Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
Atlanta
Age: 54

Hardin oversees the independent private foundation created to support charitable, scientific and educational activities. The foundation gave away more than $115 million to tax-exempt public charities and government agencies located and operating in Georgia in 2011, including Emory University, Grady Memorial Hospital, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Springer Opera House.

Douglas Hooker
Executive Director
Atlanta Regional Commission
Atlanta
Age: 58

As leader of the planning organization for a 10-county, 68-city region, Hooker focuses on creating infrastructure and addressing human needs as a means of meeting the demands of Atlanta’s future growth. The agency is involved in transportation, land and water use, natural resources, aging services and workforce development and has recently added arts and culture to the mix.

Henry “Hank” Huckaby
Chancellor
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
Athens
Age: 71

Since taking office in July 2011, Huckaby has led the system through budget cuts, rising tuition, complex mergers of local campuses and even weathered a spending scandal at one of the state’s largest colleges. His considerable administrative and political skills will continue to be tested as the university system is reshaped to offer a more efficient and effective educational experience for students.

Carol W. Hunstein
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Georgia
Decatur
Age: 68

Appointed in November 1992 by then-Gov. Zell Miller, Hunstein is only the second woman in history to serve as a permanent member of the state Supreme Court. Since becoming Georgia’s chief justice in 2009, she has guided the court system through budget cuts that have strained the entire court system as it faces an ever-increasing caseload.

Donna W. Hyland
President & CEO
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Sandy Springs
Age: 52

Under Hyland’s leadership, CHOA has helped lead in the creation of the Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition, a statewide collaboration of pediatric healthcare providers working to improve healthcare and sustain specialty pediatric care in Georgia. She is part of its task force charged with improving the quality, cost and access to healthcare for children covered under Medicaid. Children’s is the largest Medicaid provider in the state, treating patients from all 159 counties.

Johnny Isakson
U.S. Senator



Marietta 



Age: 68

A champion of reducing government waste throughout his eight-year term as a U.S. Senator, Isakson was honored as a “Taxpayer Hero” in 2012 by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. The award is given annually to members of Congress who demonstrate a commitment to increasing transparency, minimizing waste, permanently eliminating earmarks and reducing the ever-growing national debt.

Edna Jackson
Mayor, City of Savannah
Savannah
Age: 68

The first African-American woman to serve as mayor of Savannah, Jackson has been engaged in the Civil Rights Movement since she was nine. She participated in sit-ins at downtown Savannah businesses, wade-ins at Tybee Beach and kneel-ins at local churches – and in the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery. As mayor, she has won praise for her handling of difficult city personnel matters.

Ronald Jackson



Commissioner



Technical College System of Georgia


Atlanta



Age: 64

Jackson leads a system of job training that results in careers for students and well-trained employees for Georgia’s businesses and industries. State budget cuts and changes to the HOPE scholarship program have challenged the system’s 25 colleges to develop new resources to maintain their mission of providing affordable and accessible workforce training for every Georgian.

Reynold Jennings
President & CEO
WellStar Health Systems
Marietta
Age: 66

In 2011, Jennings was called out of retirement in Kennesaw to become head of WellStar after its previous chief executive was fired. With healthcare reform taking effect, the pharmacist-turned-hospital executive believes that the hospital landscape is going to get more competitive. This makes size even more important in order to increase efficiency and enable more competitive pricing, he says.

Robert S. Jepson Jr.
Chairman & CEO
Jepson Associates
Savannah
Age: 60

Jepson is a philanthropist, businessman and patron of the arts who founded the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia. The founding chair and CEO of The Jepson Corporation, he remains chairman and CEO of Jepson Associates, a private-equity firm. He serves as chair of the Georgia Ports Authority and is currently leading the capital campaign for the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Museum of Art.

David Jernigan
Executive Director
KIPP Metro Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 35

In just eight years, Jernigan has helped build a network of six successful charter schools in the Atlanta area, and his group is planning to add a seventh soon (KIPP operates 125 schools across the country). About 75 percent of KIPP Atlanta students are from low-income backgrounds, but the schools consistently rank high in the state, with a graduation rate of 92 percent and a college matriculation rate of 83 percent.

Hank Johnson
U.S. Representative
Lithonia
Age: 58

Johnson was re-elected to his fourth term as U.S. Representative for the Fourth Congressional District, which includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale and Gwinnett counties. Johnson, a Democrat,  is a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary and chaired the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy that is responsible for antitrust legislation and overseeing the federal courts.

Jan Jones
Speaker Pro Tempore
Georgia House of Representatives
Milton
Age: 54

Jones was the driving force behind and in front of the charter school amendment (as author/co-sponsor of the original legislation) that Georgia voters passed in November, a major victory for those who believe the state should have the power to overrule local school board charter decisions. The speaker pro tempore also has been a vocal leader in the effort to create Milton County and reduce the impact of Fulton County on people in her district.

Brian Kemp



Georgia Secretary of State



Athens



Age: 49




Since taking office in 2010, Kemp has implemented wide-ranging efforts to boost efficiency and reduce red tape even as departmental budget cuts have forced staff layoffs and threatened to close the State Archives. The department has rolled out e-government solutions for license and voting divisions and pushed efforts to combat voter fraud.

Muhtar Kent
Chairman & CEO
The Coca-Cola Company
Atlanta
Age: 60

Kent, who became CEO in 2008 and chairman in 2009, leads the world’s largest soft drink company, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. He has continued Coca-Cola’s partnerships with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and with DEKA to bring clean water to communities in Africa and Latin America. The company is a leader in sustainability efforts.

Ross King
Executive Director
Association County Commissioners of Georgia
Fayetteville
Age: 54

As ACCG prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2014, King has worked with the association and UGA staff to overhaul the ACCG’s 25-year-old leadership development program, with an eye toward helping county officials to govern more efficiently. The new system allows commissioners to specialize in key areas such as county finance, economic development and public safety.

Jack Kingston
U.S. Congressman
Savannah
Age: 57

Prior to serving in Congress, Kingston sold agribusiness insurance. Today, as chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee, he maintains a close relationship with Georgia’s farmers and has been one of their strongest allies in Congress. His conservative track record has won him recognition and awards from many nonpartisan citizens’ groups. He is highly sought after for guest appearances on network television news shows.

Chuck Leavell
Musician, Tree Farmer, Conservationist
Author, Entrepreneur
Bullard
Age: 60

Leavell is the creative glue that holds the Rolling Stones together in the studio or on tour, as the legendary band’s keyboard wizard and musical director. When the band started planning its 50th anniversary shows this past winter, lead singer Mick Jagger called Leavell to assemble a set list. Co-founder of the Mother Nature Network, Leavell’s most recent book is Growing a Better America.

Tim Lee
Chairman
Cobb County Board of Commissioners
Marietta
Age: 55

As the Cobb County Commission’s chairman since July 2010, Lee says his most proud accomplishment was developing a 2012 budget that reduced spending and was balanced and fiscally sustainable. Cobb County’s FY 2012 budget – which was actually lower than the 2010 budget – allowed the county to restore its reserves while at the same time putting more fire and police personnel on the streets.

Tad Leithead
President & CEO, Tad Leithead Advisors
Chair, Atlanta Regional Commission
Atlanta
Age: 57

Before beginning his own firm, Leithead spent 26 years in the Atlanta commercial real estate market, leasing five million square feet of office space and leading commercial developments in the area. Today, he chairs the ARC, which steers planning and development for the Atlanta region, as well as the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a group of commercial property owners responsible for almost $3 billion of transportation improvements in Cobb County.

Craig Lesser
Managing Partner
The Pendleton Group
Sandy Springs
Age: 61

Lesser brings the world to Georgia, serving as chairman of the World Trade Center of Atlanta, chairman of the World Chamber of Commerce and chairman of CIFAL, the Atlanta-based training center for government officials in the western hemisphere.  A former economic development commissioner for Georgia, Lesser has worked with the Savannah Economic Development Authority to expand its global marketing of the coast.

John Lewis
U.S. Representative
Atlanta
Age: 72

A leader in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Lewis is Georgia’s longest-serving congressman, representing his district since 1987. He calls himself a strong and adamant liberal. In 2012, Lewis was awarded honorary degrees from Brown, Harvard and the Connecticut School of Law and became the first winner of the LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award. This past spring, Georgia’s First Amendment Foundation gave Lewis its Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award.

Dennis Lockhart
President & CEO
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 65

European economic turmoil and continuing high unemployment has launched the Federal Reserve into an expanding role in priming the nation’s money pump. As a member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which makes key decisions about interest rates and the nation’s money supply, Lockhart has been a key swing vote in decisions on asset purchases.

Todd Long
Deputy Commissioner
Georgia Department of Transportation
Lilburn
Age: 45

Long has dedicated his career to helping Georgians get where they want and need to go, most recently overseeing planning activities related to transportation projects throughout the state. In the Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan (SSTP) 2010-2030, Long reported investing in the transformation of Georgia’s transportation network could create 425,000 new jobs and generate $480 billion in GDP.

Penny McPhee
President & Trustee
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Atlanta
Age: 65

A celebrated author and former television producer, McPhee joined the Blank Family Foundation in 2004 and directs its strategic focus on enhancing opportunities for youth and improving quality of life for families and in communities, as well as job training. She serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Woodruff Arts Cen-ter and the Atlanta Education Fund, among others.

Timothy Mescon
President
Columbus State University
Columbus
Age: 58

The school has continued to grow   in stature under Mescon, who became president in 2008. In 2012 CSU was ranked 46th among public regional universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report. The school, with an enrollment of more than 8,200, has been cited for its expanded Columbus State Foundation allocation, endowed positions and private sector support.

Louis E. Miller
Aviation General Manager
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta
Age: 65

Since becoming the new manager of the world’s busiest airport in September 2010, Miller has supervised the successful completion of a massive new international terminal. The opening reinforced Hartsfield-Jackson’s position as one of the state’s most important economic engines. Along with passengers, the airport handles about 54,000 metric tons of cargo and more than 60,000 metric tons of mail each month.

Emory Morsberger
CEO
Morsberger Group
President, Stone Mountain CID
Lilburn
Age: 57

As a leading developer and redeveloper of communities, Morsberger has brought new beauty to aging neighborhoods from downtown Lawrenceville to downtown Atlanta. The impact of his work goes beyond pretty, secure buildings, however. As president of the Stone Mountain CID, his goal is to create 2,000 new jobs by cleaning up and filling up 3 million feet of vacant industrial space.

Jeff Mullis
State Senator
Chickamauga
Age: 53

A state senator since 2001, Mullis has risen through the ranks and now serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee of Appropriations, Secretary of Rules, and a member of Banking & Financial Institutions and Economic Development committees. These assignments brought challenges in 2012 as revenue was increasingly hard to come by.

Charlotte Nash
Chairman
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners
Dacula
Age: 58

A Gwinnett County native, Nash worked for the county government for 27 years before being elected commission chairman in a special election in 2011. She says she believes that loss of public trust is a fundamental issue facing county government and proposes tougher ethics requirements, overhaul of the land acquisition process and open communication with citizens as the first steps to gaining this trust back.

Dink NeSmith
President/Co-owner, Community Newspapers, Inc.
Chairman, Board of Regents
Athens
Age: 64

NeSmith’s company lives by the credo, “strong newspapers build strong communities,” and CNI remains a force on Main Street, publishing 30 newspapers with a total circulation of about 200,000 in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. Meanwhile, NeSmith sees opportunities for the university system to create a global brand (like the Research Triangle), founded on Georgia’s strengths in biomedical and other scientific research.

Lamar Norton
Executive Director
Georgia Municipal Association
Atlanta
Age: 66

Norton became executive director at the beginning of 2012, leading an organization that provides lobbying, training and technical consulting services to city officials. Before stepping into the executive director’s shoes, he served as director of governmental relations for GMA. His work was tough in 2012 as he tried to help cities find ways to survive five years of declining budgets.

Sam Olens
Attorney General



State of Georgia



Marietta



Age: 55




As AG, Olens guided the first significant revision of Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records Laws in more than a decade. Along with advocating for open government, his office has handled a wide range of controversial issues, from the big bank mortgage settlement to joining a multi-state challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the courts.

Dan Papp
President 



Kennesaw State University 



Marietta 



Age: 65
          
Despite the economic challenges of the past few years, Papp continues to lead Kennesaw State University into the ranks of those universities recognized for academic excellence. The university added a $21-million, 73,000-square-foot science lab in 2012 that will allow more science faculty to do what they do best: teach tomorrow’s scientists and help find the answers to fundamental research questions.

Karen Paty
Director
Georgia Council for the Arts
Decatur
Age: 35

Paty is guiding a shift in culture, outlook and function at GCA, including a move to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, putting the arts at the table in conversations about the state’s economic development vision. As GCA begins 2013 with a new five-year strategic plan and a mission statement, Paty emphasizes the importance of the arts in cultivating vibrant communities.

Willie Paulk
President
Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director
Laurens-Treutlen Joint Development Authority
Dublin
Age: 70

A fixture in economic development in Georgia for al-most four decades, Paulk has served on numerous state- and regional-level boards, including a term on the Professional Stan-dards Commission. She is one of just a few professionals to preside over both the Georgia Eco-nomic Developers Association and Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives in her career.

G.P. “Bud” Peterson



President



Georgia Institute of Technology



Atlanta 



Age: 60
          
Peterson leads Georgia Tech, which is not only one of the country’s premier educational and research institutions, but also an economic engine for the state. The challenge during these tough economic times, he says, is to continue to provide an engaging academic environment that prepares students to be leaders in a complex global economy.  Peterson oversees the National Science Foundation, advising President Obama and Congress on science and engineering research and education policy.

Alicia Philipp
President
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Decatur
Age: 59

Philipp is president of one of the largest and fastest-growing philanthropic organizations in the nation. The nonprofit Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta supports the 23 counties in the Metro Atlanta area with its assets of more than $724 million. Last year the foundation distributed more than $70 million in grants and support to nonprofits and received more than $80 million from donors.

Alec Poitevint



Chairman & President
Southeastern Minerals Inc.
Bainbridge
Age: 65

As chairman of the GOP’s Committee on Arrangements, Poitevint was responsible for assembling a leadership team for the 2012 Republican National Convention. His goal was a team that would deliver the best-ever convention, while being innovative, professional – and in light of Hurricane Isaac’s untimely visit – flexible. He managed all this while also serving as chair of the Georgia Ports Authority until June 2012.

David Ralston
Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives
Blue Ridge
Age: 58

Ralston worked to foster an economic environment that creates jobs during the 2012 legislative session. But the realities of managing increased demands on the state budget for healthcare and education, as well as other core functions of state government, remain a challenge, and one that is likely to continue into the 2013 session and beyond.

Kasim Reed
Mayor
City of Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 43

Elected mayor in 2009, Reed has grown a reputation for his ability to work with a variety of interests and bring together those with diverse viewpoints. During his first term, he has recruited more than 600 new police officers, re-opened the city’s recreation centers and increased reserve funds from $7.6 million to more than $94 million. He helped open the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson and remains a staunch advocate for the Port of Savannah.

A.J. Robinson
President
Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District
City: Atlanta
Age: 57

Robinson’s role is to manage the overall strategic functions of the organizations designed to improve downtown Atlanta’s livability, vitality and diversity. Last year’s accomplishments included helping to pass public space vending legislation, creating a city-wide anti-panhandling program, continuing revitalization of Woodruff Park and securing more than $80 million in New Market Tax Credits for downtown projects in partnership with the Atlanta Development Authority.

Jim Rubright
Chairman & CEO
RockTenn
City: Atlanta
Age: 66

As CEO, Rubright, a lawyer by training, has led the growth of RockTenn’s sales from $1.3 billion to $10 billion over the past 12 years, and the company keeps growing. With the closing of its acquisition of Smurfit-Stone Container in 2011, RockTenn became the second largest producer of containerboard, the second largest producer of coated recycled board and one of the largest paper recyclers in the U.S.

Sylvia Russell



President
AT&T Georgia
Atlanta



Age: 56

Under Russell’s leadership, AT&T Georgia has successfully worked with state officials to deploy the next-generation networks at an investment of more than $3.2 billion in Georgia in the last three years. Moving forward, she is focused on working with city and county governments to clear the path for additional capital investment in the state.

Michael E. Shapiro



Director



High Museum of Art



Atlanta



Age: 63

Shapiro continues to form partnerships between the High and other major art museums, including the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art and the Mauritshuis, in order to bring some of the world’s finest art to Atlanta. This year’s exhibitions will showcase the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and an exhibition of Dutch masterworks that includes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Page Siplon
Executive Director
Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics
Savannah
Age: 38

Since 2005, Siplon has headed Georgia’s leading resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness.  In 2009, he initiated the state’s first statewide Logistics Summit. He also created the first Georgia Logistics Report, which defined the state’s logistics industry and the resulting economic impact. As a consultant, he has worked with other states’ transportation departments on leveraging public private   partners for comprehensive statewide freight transportation planning.

Lynn Smith
State Representative
Newnan
Age: 67

An accomplished legislator, business owner and teacher, Rep. Smith’s most notable recent achievement was authoring HB 1102, which provides modifications to the successful brown-field program. This program offers liability protection and tax incentives for those who clean up environmentally damaged land. The bill passed the Georgia House of Representatives by a vote of 162 to 1; Gov. Deal signed it into law in May.

John W. Somerhalder II
Chairman, President & CEO
AGL Resources Inc.
Atlanta
Age: 56

Overseeing seven natural gas utilities serving nearly 4.5 million customers, Somerhalder is a leading voice in the natural gas industry, speaking out for ways natural gas supports a cleaner and more secure energy future. He also is active in the community as chairman of the board of the Atlanta BeltLine and board member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Kessel D. Stelling Jr.
Chairman & CEO
Synovus



Columbus



Age: 55

Stelling credits the Synovus leadership team for turning the company around. They’ve experienced five consecutive quarters of profitability, which have the company on the road to long-term success. Not that all challenges are behind them. He cites as current challenges managing compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act, while meeting customer needs and finding opportunities to grow in the present economic environment.

Jimmy Tallent
President & CEO
United Community Banks, Inc.
Blairsville
Age: 60

Tallent famously took over as president of a $42-million bank in rural Blairsville in 1984 and turned it into the third largest traditional bank holding company in Georgia. With assets of $6.7 billion, UCBI operates 27 community banks with more than 100 banking offices concentrated in north and coastal Georgia, Metro Atlanta, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

Beverly Daniel Tatum
President
Spelman College
Atlanta
Age: 58

Founded in 1881, Spelman College is the country’s oldest historically black college for women. Tatum became the ninth president of Spelman in 2002, bringing with her the expectation that the college would remain one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country. Applications have increased more than 40 percent during her tenure, making it one of the most selective women’s colleges in the United States.

Carol Tomé
Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Corporate Services
The Home Depot
Atlanta
Age: 55

As the CFO of the world’s largest home improvement chain, Tomé had to make some tough financial decisions in recent years. But these decisions have helped put The Home Depot back on the right track after the company lost ground to rival Lowe’s during the early 2000s. In addition, she also served as the 2012 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Teresa Tomlinson
Mayor of Columbus
Columbus
Age: 47

In 2011, Tomlinson became the first woman elected to serve as mayor of Columbus. Since taking office, she has helped reform the city’s pension plan so it would save taxpayers $25 million over 15 years, without endangering benefits. Her Copper Theft Task Force resulted in a 47 percent decrease in copper theft (which costs home and business owners millions in damages) in the city.

Natasha Trethewey
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing
Emory University
United States Poet Laureate
Decatur
Age: 46

As poet laureate, Trethewey is charged with bringing poetry into the daily lives of people in the United States, a challenge that will take her influence far beyond Georgia. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet also is serving as Mississippi’s poet laureate, the first to ever hold the national and a state laureate position at the same time. Her fourth collection of poetry, Thrall, was published in 2012.

William Underwood
President
Mercer University
Macon
Age: 56

Since 2006, when Underwood became Mercer’s president, enrollment has increased by more than 20 percent. Underwood has continued the school’s service-oriented approach to learning, and he oversaw the opening of an innovative Center for Collaborative Journalism, which uses a medical school model to train journalists. The private university has campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah.

T. Rogers Wade
Chairman
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
Sandy Springs
Age: 71

A former chief of staff to U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge and a current adviser to Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, Wade serves on many public sector boards. His most recent appointment is as executive director of the Governor’s Defense Initiative, a preemptive effort to secure the state’s military bases and contracts.

James Wagner
President
Emory University
Atlanta
Age: 59

Emory University continues to show growth under Wagner’s leadership. Formerly the provost and interim president of Case Western Reserve University, Wagner is known for creating collaboration among a variety of schools and programs and has continued the tradition of raising funds from private philanthropists and the Campaign Emory effort.

Joel Wernick
President & CEO
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital
Albany
Age: 58

Wernick leads the 100-year-old Phoebe in addressing the healthcare needs of Southwest Georgia. Currently the hospital is investing $35 million in a state-of-the-art digestive health center, a 48,000-square-foot facility for treatment of complex digestive health disease. That’s good news for Southwest Georgians, who will soon have no need to leave the region for care.

Philip A. Wilheit Sr.
President, Wilheit Packaging and Marketing Images
Vice Chair, University System of Georgia Board of Regents
Gainesville
Age: 68

Appointed to the Board of Regents in January 2011 and named vice chair in November, Wilheit is active in civic activities in Gainesville and statewide, serving on the Georgia Department of Economic Development Commission, Commission for a New Georgia and Georgia Chamber Transportation Commission among others. He served more than 40 years on the board of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce and more than 20 on the Georgia Chamber of Commerce board.

Sam Williams
President
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Atlanta
Age: 67

For almost half a century, Williams has dedicated his professional life to growing Atlanta. Today, as president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, he oversees the chamber’s efforts to attract business in key industry sectors. Among his accomplishments: “Industries of the Mind,” a campaign that successfully recruited 85 companies to the metro area and created more than 10,000 new technology jobs.

Yvonne D. Williams
President
Perimeter Community Improvement Districts
Marietta
Age: 56

Williams leads the ongoing initiative to improve transportation and accessibility in one of Metro Atlanta’s busiest office markets and one of the region’s largest employment centers. Traditionally hamstrung by road congestion, her district has become a model of mixed-use sustainable development as a result of $134 million in projects initiated by the self-taxing PCIDs to improve traffic flow, pedestrian and bike access and encourage more housing.

Sally Quillian Yates
U.S. Attorney
Northern District of Georgia
Atlanta
Age: 52

Yates became the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District when she was appointed by President Obama in 2010. She’s been a prosecutor for more than 22 years and was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Centennial Olympic  Park bomber Eric Rudolph. Yates has been a champion of the effort to fight human trafficking and sponsored a Youth Justice Summit for students at area high schools. 

Edit Module Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement