100 Most Influential Georgians

See who’s making an impact on the lives and livelihoods of people across the state this year,.

Here in Georgia, we have a lot to be proud of: a strong economy, top-rated universities, nationally recognized restaurants – the list goes on. And while it can be easy to take all this for granted, it’s because of many of this year’s Most Influential Georgians that we are happy to call Georgia home.

Some work behind the scenes and some wield their influence in the limelight, but every one of the 100 people you’ll find on the following pages have an enormous impact on the daily lives of Georgians.

We at Georgia Trend do not take the task of selecting the most influential people in the state lightly. It’s pretty much a year-round process for us and entails lots of meetings and discussions. The original list is always more than 100, and we think the final group – subject to retirements, course corrections and shifts in power, not to mention late-in-the-year hirings and firings and a controversy or two – represents the realities of leadership, power and influence in Georgia.

You’ll also find a list of 50 Notables on page 44 – Georgians who are making an impact in the state or have made an impression on the Georgia Trend staff this year.

Individual profiles were written by Stan Awtrey, Candice Dyer, Lori Johnston, Karen Kirkpatrick, John McCurry, Tom Oder, David Shivers, Christy Simo and K.K. Snyder. – The Editors


Stacey Abrams

Minority Leader
Georgia House of Representatives
Atlanta
Age: 42

First elected to the house in 2006, Abrams became the state’s first African-American minority leader and the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly in 2010. As the 2016 election approaches, she has received attention for her efforts to register minority voters through the New Georgia Project and to train young Democratic campaign staffers. – LJ


Dan Amos

Chairman and CEO
Aflac Inc.
Columbus
Age: 64

Amos has overseen operational changes to help the insurance company grow its successful brand in the United States and continue its trend of strong sales in Japan. Amos was named one of the world’s top 100 CEOs by Harvard Business Review in 2015. Since 1995, Aflac has contributed more than $90 million for childhood cancer treatment and research. – SA


Brian Anderson

President and CEO
Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce
Columbus
Age: 51

Anderson served for nearly seven years as president and CEO of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. In June 2015, he accepted a new challenge as head of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He was also appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2014 to serve on the State Workforce Investment Board. – DS


Richard Anderson

CEO
Delta Air Lines
Atlanta
Age: 60

Anderson has engineered a period of major growth and change at Delta since he took over in 2007. The airline flies more than 170 million customers a year on more than 15,000 flights daily to 316 destinations. With $37.7 billion in annual revenue in 2013 and nearly 80,000 employees, the company has a major impact on the state. Delta continues to focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship – it’s been named to the annual Dow Jones Sustainability Index North America for five straight years. – CS


John Baumstark

Chairman and CEO
Suniva Inc.
Norcross
Age: 53

John Baumstark leads Suniva’s strategic direction since launching the business from Georgia Tech’s photovoltaic labs with co-founder Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi. Under his leadership, Suniva has grown to be the largest U.S. manufacturer of solar products. In 2015, Suniva sold a majority interest to Hong Kong-based SFCE and announced a major expansion at its Norcross facility. Baumstark also serves on the boards of Gwinnett Technical College, Technology Association of Georgia and on the Advisory Board of Georgian Partners.  – CD


Brandon Beach

State Senator
District 21
Alpharetta
Age: 54

Beach was elected to represent Georgia Senate District 21, which includes portions of Cherokee and Fulton counties, in 2013. He is heavily vested in the district, serving as president and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber and as president of the North Fulton Community Improvement District, which has worked to bring more than $30 million in new infrastructure to the area. He is also a champion of MARTA expanding farther into North Fulton. – DS  


Karen Beavor

President and CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits
Atlanta
Age: 50

Beavor leads an organization that provides nonprofits with leadership development and other programs to help increase their impact. The center is also the brains and brawn behind Georgia Gives Day, a statewide day of giving each November. Since its inception in 2012, the initiative has raised more than $5.1 million to support more than 2,000 nonprofits around the state. – KK


Mark Becker

President
Georgia State University
Atlanta
Age: 57

After boosting growth, advancement and graduation rates, Becker now has his sights set on the soon-to-be-vacant 77-acre Turner Field. At press time one of three bidders, Georgia State’s $300-million proposal would either convert the stadium into mixed-use development or retrofit the stadium for the GSU Panthers football team and build a second stadium for baseball. Either way, Becker is thinking big for the school’s future. – KKS


Vance Bell

Chairman and CEO
Shaw Industries Group Inc.
Dalton
Age: 65

Bell is entering his 10th year leading the world’s largest carpet manufacturer with $4.8 billion in sales and more than 22,000 employees. In the past two years, Shaw committed $540 million in capital investments to enhance its operations and create 1,000 new jobs. In 2015, the $20-million Evergreen end-of-life carpet recycling facility opened in Ringgold, which will add 70 new full-time jobs. – LJ


Charlie Bethel

State Senator
District 54
Dalton
Age: 41

A Republican raised in Dalton, Bethel represents a swath of Northwest Georgia that includes Murray and Whitfield counties and a portion of Gordon and Pickens counties. He helped secure approval for the inland Appalachian Regional Port on a 42-acre site in Chatsworth that is scheduled to open in 2018 and will provide a direct rail connection to the port in  Savannah. – SA


Peter Berg

Senior Rabbi
The Temple
Atlanta
Age: 44

Berg has served since 2008 as senior rabbi of The Temple, founded in 1867 in Atlanta. His passion extends not only to Jewish learning and worship, but to social change within a host of issues, including separation of church and state, civil rights, welfare reform, hate crimes and the environment. In 2013, Berg was named by Newsweek as one of the top 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S. – JM


Gary W. Black

Commissioner
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Commerce
Age : 57

Black leads the nation’s oldest state department of agriculture. In 2015 he show- cased agriculture’s importance as Georgia’s No. 1 industry and the $72 billion it contributes to the state economy by emphasizing the importance of sustainability and by leading a trade mission to the Panama Canal. The trade trip’s goals were to identify regional and global export opportunities that would benefit state farmers, Georgia ports and their intermodal connectivity to Atlanta. – TO


Sara Blakely

Founder, Spanx
Co-owner, Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta
Age: 44

One of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires, Blakely launched Spanx in 2000 and continues to introduce slimming and shapewear products, but her influence expanded this year when she became part owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Her Sara Blakely Foundation supports female entrepreneurship and education, and in 2013 she joined the Giving Pledge to donate at least half of her wealth to charity. – LJ


Paul Bowers

Chairman, President and CEO
Georgia Power
Atlanta
Age: 58

Bowers has been at the helm of Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power since 2010. He is leading the company toward developing new technologies and alternative forms of generating electricity, particularly solar and nuclear power at Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, which are expected to come online in 2019 and 2020. He served as chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and sits on the boards of many Georgia institutions, including the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Research Alliance. – JM


Karen Bremer

CEO
Georgia Restaurant Association
Fayetteville
Age: 56

Inducted this year into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame, Bremer represents one of the largest industries in the state, reporting annual total sales of $17.1 billion and representing more than 420,000 jobs. She has more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including 18 years as president of Atlanta-based Peasant Restaurant Inc. Bremer is also credited with helping to create the Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week. – KKS


Alex Brewer

Artist
Atlanta
Age: 37

Brewer, an internationally recognized artist better known as HENSE, has been creating abstract public art for nearly 20 years. He’s come a long way from the graffiti he once scrawled along Atlanta’s streets, with legit large-scale commissions in Taiwan, Australia, Peru and Germany. Closer to home, he was selected as one of only 15 artists to paint a custom installation at Facebook’s new headquarters in California. – CS


Jon Burns

Majority Leader
Georgia House of Representatives
Newington
Age: 63

Burns was first elected to Georgia House District 159 in 2004 and was elected majority leader last year. The Effingham County native has his work cut out for him this session, which will see the return of some of the same issues we’ve encountered the past few years – medical marijuana, religious liberty and transportation. – KK


Carol Burrell

President and CEO
Northeast Georgia Health System
Gainesville
Age: 59

Burrell, a Northeast Georgia native, joined NGHS in 1999 and was promoted to executive vice president and COO in 2004. In 2011, she was named president and CEO. Under her leadership, the first completely new hospital in the state in nearly 20 years opened in 2015 in Braselton, and Healthgrades has named the Gainesville hospital as the state’s No. 1 heart hospital for 10 years in a row. Burrell is also an active member of the Gainesville civic community. – DS


Mark Butler

Commissioner
Department of Labor
Carrollton
Age: 45

Focused on improving the DOL’s relationship with employers, job seekers and Georgia’s future workforce, Butler has recently developed several programs, including the Regional Coordinator Program, the Business Service Unit and GeorgiaBEST, a middle and high school based program that certifies students as “work ready.” This year the DOL launched Customized Recruitment, a program for newly located companies to help streamline the employee recruitment process. – KKS


Casey Cagle

Lieutenant Governor
State of Georgia
Chestnut Mountain
Age: 49

In 2006, Cagle became the first Republican elected lieutenant governor since Reconstruction and was elected to his third term in 2014. Cagle has long been an advocate of charter schools and career academies to change the face of education in Georgia. He is also a proponent of last year’s medical cannabis oil and autism insurance bills, both of which successfully passed into law. – SA


Chris Carr

Commissioner
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Dunwoody
Age: 43

Continued growth of business in the state is the mission for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In 2015, the organization’s Global Commerce Division created nearly 27,000 jobs and generated $2.75 billion in revenue. Georgia continues to be “Hollywood East,” with the film industry generating a $6-billion impact in 2015. – SA


Meria Carstarphen

Superintendent
Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta
Age: 45

Carstarphen is challenged with overhauling Atlanta’s public schools ahead of a potential state takeover of the lowest performing schools. Under her watch, Atlanta Public School’s four-year graduation rate increased 12 percentage points from 2014 to 2015, a definite positive following the cheating scandal that rocked the system and sent 11 educators to jail prior to her arrival. – KKS


C. Michael Cassidy

President and CEO
Georgia Research Alliance
Atlanta
Age: 62

Since 2000, Cassidy has been president of the GRA, a nonprofit that helps Georgia’s universities expand research and commercial- ization capacity. Key initiatives include recruitment of top scientific talent, seeding centers of excellence and commercialization of university research discoveries. The GRA Venture Fund helps finance promising companies that emerge through the Alliance’s commercialization programs.  – DS


Chris Clark

President and CEO
Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Peachtree City
Age: 45

Clark, who has headed the chamber since 2010, is charged with creating international and domestic trade opportunities that benefit Georgia businesses. Under his direction Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in which to conduct business for three straight years by the influential Site Selection trade magazine. Clark also serves as a trustee at Georgia Southern University, his alma mater. – SA 


David Connell

President and CEO
Cobb Chamber of Commerce
Marietta
Age: 64

Since 2010, Connell has led the seventh-largest chamber in the Southeastern U.S., with 5,400 members and serving 2,500 businesses. In 2013, the chamber launched the Competitive EDGE program, a public-private partnership with a goal to create 7,500 new jobs, reduce unemployment to 5.5 percent and increase high school graduation by 7 percent. Since then, more than 13,000 new and retained jobs have been secured, generating roughly $2 billion in new private sector investment. – SA  


Shan Cooper

Vice President and General Manager
Lockheed Martin
Marietta
Age: 47

As Lockheed Martin’s Marietta general manager, Cooper leads the nearly 6,000 employees who design, build, deliver and maintain military aircraft for countries across the globe. Marietta programs include the C-130J Super Hercules, which in 2015 celebrated 60 years of production and rolled the 2,500th aircraft off its line. – KK


Gretchen Corbin

Commissioner
Technical College System of Georgia
Rome
Age: 44

Corbin is completing her first year as the fourth commissioner of the 22-college TCSG, which plays a key role in the state’s economic and workforce development. In 2015, the TCSG opened the $14-million BioScience Training Center in Newton County, provided $10 million in grants to help establish three new college and career academies in the state, and announced an executive director for the new Georgia Film Academy. – TO


Hardie Davis

Mayor
Augusta-Richmond County
Augusta
Age: 47

Davis is Augusta’s 84th mayor and the first elected black mayor of Augusta-Richmond County since the city and county governments consolidated in 1996. Before winning the 2014 mayoral election, Davis served for three years as a state representative and five years as a state senator. As mayor, he has pledged to grow jobs, industry and educational opportunities in Georgia’s third-largest city. – TO


Nathan Deal

Governor
State of Georgia
Demorest
Age: 73

Deal’s Education Reform Commission is looking at proposals that could dramatically change Georgia’s educational landscape by expanding schooling options, increasing access to early learning programs and recruiting and retaining high-quality instructors. Business and industry recruitment continues to be a focus, with Site Selection naming the state No. 1 in the country to do business three years in a row. – JM


Nancy Denson

Mayor
Athens-Clarke County
Athens
Age: 75

Denson became mayor of Athens-Clarke County in 2011, but she’s spent more than 30 years as an elected official. In 1980, she was the first woman ever to be elected to the Athens City Council and later served as Clarke County Tax Commissioner for more than 25 years. During her tenure as mayor, she has worked to reduce the poverty rate, improve area schools and create a business-friendly government. – JM


Chuck Eaton

Chairman
Georgia Public Service Commission
Atlanta
Age: 46

Eaton was first elected to the PSC in 2006 and became chairman in 2008. He was reelected in 2012 to serve a second six-year term. Under his direction, the PSC has crafted a clean energy policy that stresses lower rates and energy independence. Eaton is an outspoken critic of the stringent EPA regulations now being enacted. – SA  


Terry England

Chairman, Appropriations Committee
Georgia House of Representatives
Auburn
Age: 49

As a farmer and agribusinessman, England has represented District 116 in Northeast Georgia since 2004. In addition to chairing the Appropriations Committee, England also sits on five other House committees. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to the Education Reform Commission to study and make recommendations about the state’s K-12 education system. – CS


Tom Fanning

Chairman, President and CEO
Southern Co.
Sandy Springs
Age: 58

Fanning leads one of America’s largest electricity producers with 4.5 million customers. He advocates a comprehensive national energy policy that helps North America achieve energy security through investing in innovation, restoring America’s financial integrity and developing a full energy portfolio. At Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Southern Co. is creating the country’s first new nuclear units in 30 years. – LJ


Curtis Foltz

Executive Director
Georgia Ports Authority
Savannah
Age: 55

Foltz administers a $280-million annual budget and oversees the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick as well as inland terminals in Bainbridge and Columbus. Port-related expansions resulted in more than $619 million in private investment and 2,770 new jobs during the last fiscal year. In 2015, he worked to approve an inland port in Chatsworth that will provide a 388-mile direct rail connection from Northwest Georgia to the port. – SA 


Joe Folz

Chairman, Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance
Vice President, General Counsel
Secretary, Porsche Cars North America
Atlanta
Age: 62

The Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance works to boost economic development sur- rounding Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Folz also spearheaded the legal and public policy work for Porsche’s new North American headquarters – and the first Porsche Experience Center outside Europe –  in the Atlanta Aerotropolis area. – CD


Tom Frieden

Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta
Age: 55

Frieden, an expert in tuberculosis control, leads the CDC as it works to prevent, detect and respond to public health challenges including outbreaks such as Ebola, infectious diseases such as HIV and noncommunicable diseases such as tobacco use and obesity. Frieden, who joined the CDC in 2009, was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015. – LJ


Jennifer Frum

Vice President for Public Service and Outreach
University of Georgia
Athens
Age: 47

Frum has strengthened the PSO’s economic development partnerships across the state and implemented three strategic priorities for UGA’s outreach programs, which have a $587-million impact on the state: help create jobs and prosperity, develop the state’s leaders and address critical state issues. In 2013, Frum revived UGA’s New Faculty Tour, which showcases the state’s culture and economy while encouraging faculty to identify ways they can help address critical state issues. – CD


Larry Gellerstedt III

President and CEO
Cousins Properties
Atlanta
Age: 59

As part of a successful 2015, Cousins Properties entered into a 15-year lease with NCR Corp. to develop a nearly 485,000-square-foot headquarters building in Midtown Atlanta. The company currently manages a portfolio of nearly 16.5 million square feet at some of the more sought-after office and retail locations in the Southeast. – KKS


Jerry Gonzalez

Executive Director
Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
Atlanta
Age: 44

Georgia’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since the turn of the century, and with the population growth comes increasing political clout. As the founder and executive director of GALEO since 2003, Gonzalez seeks to give the state’s Latino community a voice in political issues such as immigration reform and voting rights. The nonprofit also looks to the future with its GALEO Institute for Leadership, which recently graduated its 14th class of vision- aries in business and public service. – CD


Todd Groce

President and CEO
Georgia Historical Society
Savannah
Age: 54

Groce leads the Georgia Historical Society, which was founded in 1839 and is the oldest continuously operated historical organization in the South. In his 20 years with the society, it has grown to a 6,000-member organization that operates on a $2.2-million budget with an $8-million endowment. – LJ


P. Russell Hardin

President
Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Inc.
Atlanta
Age: 58

President of the Woodruff Foundation since 2006, Hardin oversees an organization that awarded more than $121.5 million in grants in 2014. Beneficiaries include programs in health, education, environment, human services, arts and culture, and community development. The foundation – the largest in the state – has awarded more than $2.6 billion since its inception in 1937. – JM


Steve Henson

Minority Leader
State Senate
Tucker
Age: 56

Henson has represented District 41 since 2003 and previously represented District 55 from 1991 to 1999. He was part of the Senate Democrats’ successful effort to boost scholarships for minority students pursuing degrees in engineering as part of the passage of the state’s billion-dollar transportation bill in 2015. – LJ


P. Harris Hines

Presiding Justice
Georgia Supreme Court
Marietta
Age: 72

As presiding justice, Hines, who is known for his equability, also sits on the Judicial Council, the governing body over Georgia’s court system. He chairs that council’s policy committee, which examines legislation impacting the court system. As chairman of the court’s committee on justice for children, he has been recognized as a “Big Voice” by Voices for Georgia’s Children. Hines is also known for the quail breakfasts he serves after bird hunts. – CD


Doug Hooker

Executive Director
Atlanta Regional Commission
Atlanta
Age: 61

Hooker leads the agency responsible for unifying the complex and fast-growing 10-county Atlanta area on key issues of regional consequence. ARC’s newest plan to address priorities through 2040 is its most robust and comprehensive yet. Hooker’s goal is to coordinate once-separate efforts in transportation, land use, water, long-range waste planning, aging services and workforce development to address pressures expected from increases in population and seniors. – TO


Henry “Hank” M. Huckaby

Chancellor
University System of Georgia
Athens
Age: 73

Huckaby has gained national attention as an education change-agent because of consolidation initiatives in higher education. On his watch, Georgia’s public colleges and universities have dropped from 35 to 30 and will fall to 28 with two pending consolidations. In 2015, he proposed two new initiatives: strengthen the university system’s link to the business community and prepare students for the cyber-security field. – TO


Donna Hyland

President and CEO
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Sandy Springs
Age: 55

Hyland led CHOA, one of the country’s leading children’s hospitals, through a year of remarkable achievements in 2015. CHOA celebrated its 100th anniversary, conducted its 300th heart transplant and 600th kidney transplant and for the 10th straight year was named one of Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For. In addition, CHOA is building The Children’s Health Network of pediatric physicians, the only Georgia network specifically focused on children’s health. – TO


Tim Hynes

President
Clayton State University
Morrow
Age: 66

Hynes leads this institution of about 7,000 students, which in 2015 opened the $25-million Lakeview Discovery and Science Center. Clayton State has been ranked third among state universities in economic impact by the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. Hynes received the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Carl G. Rhodenizer Community Service Award for his efforts to support the school’s surrounding community. – LJ


Johnny Isakson

U.S. Senator
Marietta
Age: 71

Isakson is the only Republican senator to chair two committees in the 114th Congress: the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Select Committee on Ethics. He has worked to increase veterans’ access to mental healthcare and improve oversight of the administration of mental healthcare at the Veterans Health Administration. In his second term, the public servant is advancing bipartisan efforts to address federal spending, reduce the debt, create    jobs and reform regula-tions. – CD


Robert Jepson

Chairman and CEO
Jepson Associates
Savannah
Age: 73

A philanthropist and businessman, Jepson wields major influence in a number of areas. A former chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, he continues to serve on its board. He also serves as chairman of the Board of Curators at the Georgia Historical Society. His beneficiaries have included Savan-   nah College of Art and Design and the Bethesda Academy for Boys in Savannah. – JM


Jan Jones

Speaker Pro Tempore
Georgia House of Representatives
Milton
Age: 57

Georgia House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones represents District 47, which covers the top part of Fulton County centered around Milton. She was first elected to office in 2003, ran unopposed for re-election in 2014 and sits on six committees. A Republican, Jones advocates for keeping taxes low, cutting spending and enhancing the state’s job growth. – CS


Dan Kaufman

President and CEO
Gwinnett Chamber
Lawrenceville
Age: 68

Kaufman was the founding president of Georgia Gwinnett College but left that post to take his current position with the Gwinnett Chamber in 2013. In addition to being an advocate for regional initiatives and a competitive economy, Kaufman has guided the chamber during the development of a strategic plan, including a new set of key priorities. – SA 


Brooks Keel

President, Augusta University
CEO, Georgia Regents Health System
Augusta
Age: 59

Keel was named president of Georgia Regents University in July after serving as president of Georgia Southern. In September, he became president of Augusta University, when the Board of Regents changed GRU’s name to recognize “the critical partnership that exists between our institution and our local community,” Keel said. He also serves as CEO of Georgia Regents Health System. – DS


Brian Kemp

Secretary of State
State of Georgia
Athens
Age: 52

Kemp has served as secretary of state since 2005. His office oversees elections, issues professional licenses and registers securities and corporate filings. He has worked to increase efficiency, reduce paperwork and increase transparency. He wrapped up 2015 dealing with the fallout of an inadvertent – and massive – data leak of the info of some 6 million Georgians. – DS


Muhtar Kent

Chairman and CEO
The Coca-Cola Company
Atlanta
Age: 63

Kent, pressured by shareholders to improve sales, has streamlined operations, pushing cost cuts of $3 billion by 2019 and taking steps to boost the company’s global distribution system. The dollar’s strength contributed to falling profits during the third quarter of 2015, despite an increase in consumption of the company’s many carbonated and non-carbonated drinks. – JM


Ross King

Executive Director
ACCG
Fayetteville
Age: 57

As head of the ACCG, King leads one of the most active statewide county government associations in the country. He has developed a reputation as an innovator since taking office in 2010 and is gaining national recognition for his work. In 2015, he was elected third vice president of the National Council of County Association Executives. This puts him in line to be president of the national organization in 2017. – JM


Tim Lee

Chairman
Cobb County Board of Commissioners
Marietta
Age: 58

Lee is running for re-election in 2016 as construction continues in Cobb on the $622-million SunTrust Park, set to open for the Atlanta Braves for the 2017 season. Lee, first elected in 2010, is also leading the controversial effort to create a rapid transit bus system in Cobb and a proposed multi-use bridge over I-285 connecting users to the stadium. – LJ


Craig Lesser

Managing Partner
The Pendleton Group
Sandy Springs
Age: 64

Lesser, a former commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, has spent his career working to improve the business climate in Georgia and now consults on economic development and government affairs. As chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy, he continues to be focused on retaining and attracting talented people and companies from around the world. – SA 


Dennis P. Lockhart

President and CEO
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 68

Lockhart was one of five Federal Reserve Bank presidents who in 2015 had a vote on the Federal Open Market Committee, which formulates the nation’s monetary policy. The committee’s actions impact all Americans because they determine whether interest rates will rise or fall. Lockhart actively supports the Atlanta community as a director, trustee or advisory board member for local and global business organizations and in the area of education. – TO


Kyle Marrero

President
University of West Georgia
Carrollton
Age: 52

Marrero, who’s been president just since 2013, is making his mark. The University of West Georgia won Institution of the Year and Marrero himself was named President of the Year by the University System of Georgia in 2015. The two were recognized in part for initiatives to increase employee retention and improve morale, processes and efficiency, all while achieving record enrollment and fundraising. – KK


Russell McMurry

Commissioner
Georgia Department of Transportation
Atlanta
Age: 46

McMurry was appointed GDOT commissioner in January 2015, adding to a GDOT career that began in 1990. As commissioner, he oversees an agency that is in charge of the 10th largest road system in the U.S. His goals have included making much-needed improvements in road pavement and finding ways to fund highway projects. – JM


Craig Menear

Chairman, CEO and President
The Home Depot
Atlanta
Age: 58

Menear, who has been with The Home Depot since 1997, took over leadership of the home improvement giant in 2015 – a year that also saw the company growing its footprint in the Atlanta area. It opened a 200,000-square-foot technology center in Marietta that is home to 1,000 IT associates and anticipates bringing 500 more employees to the center.  – KK


Hala Moddelmog

President and CEO
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Atlanta
Age: 59

In 2014, Moddelmog became the first woman to serve as president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Prior to that, she led such well-known brands as Arby’s, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Church’s Chicken. This year she steered MAC through the rollout of a new marketing campaign designed to attract more businesses and millennials to the city. – TO


Jere W.  Morehead

President
University of Georgia
Athens
Age: 59

With the demand for a UGA degree increasing, Morehead announced last fall that the school enrolled its most academically qualified class of first-year students in its history. Also in 2015, the university dedicated its new Veter- inary Medical Center and broke ground on a Science Learning Center in Athens and a Food Technology Center in Griffin. – KKS


Paul Morris

President and CEO
Atlanta BeltLine Inc.
Atlanta
Age: 55

Morris has led Atlanta BeltLine Inc. – which is overseeing the most comprehensive revitalization project in Atlanta’s history – since 2013. During that time, the organization has won more than a dozen development awards. ABI’s work is now getting global attention with two prestigious awards in 2015 from the International Economic Development Council for neighborhood and economic development. – JM


Jeff  Mullis

State Senator
District 53
Chickamauga
Age: 56

First elected to the Georgia Senate in 2000, Mullis served as chairman of the Senate Rules committee in 2015 and is expected to fill that role again when the General Assembly reconvenes this month. He represents District 53, which includes Walker and Dade counties in Northwest Georgia. Mullis also serves as executive director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority. – CS 


Charlotte Nash

Chair
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners
Dacula
Age: 62

Nash was elected chair of the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners in 2011 and is this year serving as president of the ACCG, an organization for Georgia’s county governments. Nash, who leads one of the largest, most-diverse counties in the state, says that as ACCG president she wants to promote the diversity that exists among the state’s 159 counties. – SA 


Lamar Norton

Executive Director
Georgia Municipal Association
Atlanta
Age: 69

Norton opposed HB 170’s proposed $1-billion funding plan to redirect to state coffers money collected through local sales taxes on motor fuels. Instead, he lobbied for a statewide revenue plan. Though HB 170 eventually passed, Norton’s prime focus is still to provide lobbying, training and technical consulting services to officials among the state’s 521 municipal governments. – KKS


Michelle Nunn

President and CEO
CARE USA
Atlanta
Age: 49

Nunn quickly rebounded after an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate and has landed back in nonprofit work where she shines brightest. Now guiding CARE, a global humanitarian organization, she built a solid reputation for philanthropic leadership during her years with Hands on Atlanta and Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteer service organization. – KKS


Dan Papp

President
Kennesaw State University
Marietta
Age: 68

Dan Papp, who became Kennesaw State’s president in 2006, oversees one of the nation’s 50 largest public universities, which has 33,000 enrollees and this summer celebrated its 100,000th graduate. Recent physical additions at the school include a $41-million student recreation facility and $91 million in additions for education, science and research. – SA 


Keith Parker

General Manager and CEO
MARTA
Atlanta
Age: 49

Parker is responsible for the transit system that supports 24,000 jobs, gets about 150,000 Atlantans to and from work and generates approximately $2.6 billion in economic activity every year, according to a 2012 study. In 2015, MARTA underwent its first expansion in more than 40 years when bus service was extended to Clayton County. – KKS


Karen Paty

Director
Georgia Council for the Arts
Decatur
Age: 38

Leading the state agency tasked with providing access to the arts for Georgians, Paty has her work cut out for her. Georgia remains in last place, ranked 50th for per capita arts funding in the U.S., giving just 6 cents per resident to the arts. Like many, Paty advocates the arts as an economic driver, as it helps create vibrant communities and contributes to a solid education. – KKS


David Perdue

U.S. Senator
St. Simons
Age: 66

Elected in 2014, Perdue has taken a business-like approach to Washington. He has co-sponsored a bill to roll back regulations imposed on small businesses and is pushing the idea of eliminating the repatriation tax. He wants to cut the debt by growing the economy. He serves on the Budget, Foreign Relations, Agriculture and Judiciary committees. – SA 


G.P. “Bud” Peterson

President
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta
Age: 63

In his 2015 Institute Address, Peterson called out Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, or EI2, Georgia Tech’s primary business-outreach organization that in 2014 helped 1,800 Georgia manufacturing companies increase sales by $191 million and create or save 950 jobs. It’s just one of the programs in Technology Square, Georgia Tech’s Midtown Atlanta hub that’s home to a growing number of tech innovators. – DS


Alicia Philipp

President
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 62

As head of the foundation since 1977, Philipp has increased its initiatives as well as its financial assets, from $7 million to nearly $1 billion. She challenges the foundation to seek innovative ways to best serve the larger community with strategic focuses on donor engagement and strengthening nonprofits in the region. – DS


Jay Powell

State Representative
District 171
Camilla
Age: 63

Last year, attorney Jay Powell was named the new chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. First elected in 2008, Powell represents portions of Colquitt, Decatur and Mitchell counties in Southwest Georgia. He is also a member of five other House committees, including Rules and Government Affairs. – CS


David Ralston

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives
Blue Ridge
Age: 61

Ralston served in the Georgia Senate from 1992 to 1998 and was elected to the Georgia House in 2002 representing District 7. He became speaker in 2010. Ralston lent his support to a new campus of the University of North Georgia in Blue Ridge, which opened in 2015. He says a legislative priority for this year will be to appropriate money generated by the 2015 transportation bill for bridge repairs and transportation needs. – SA 


Robert Ramsay

President
Georgia Conservancy
Athens
Age: 44

North Georgia native and lifetime outdoorsman Robert Ramsay took the reins of the conservancy in July. He brings with him a passion for the fight to conserve the state’s natural resources and protect Georgia’s land and water. He is a graduate of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership, a past member of the Theodore Roosevelt Partnership’s Policy Council and a board member of EarthShare Georgia. – JM


Kasim Reed

Mayor
City of Atlanta
Atlanta
Age: 46

Since taking office in 2009, Reed has hired more than 900 police officers and grown the city’s coffers, all while investing in infrastructure and efficiency – areas identified as priorities by Atlanta citizens. He also led the way for the redevelopment of Buckhead Atlanta and Ponce City Market and had a hand in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  – KKS


Robert Reichert

Mayor
Macon-Bibb County
Macon
Age: 67

Reichert became the first mayor of Macon-Bibb County’s consolidated government in 2013 after serving as the city of Macon’s mayor since 2007. During his tenure, he has placed great emphasis on job creation in the region. A major proponent of increased funding of transportation infrastructure improvements, he is pushing for the creation of passenger rail service between Macon and Atlanta as an effort to curtail congestion. – JM


Valerie Montgomery Rice

President and Dean
Morehouse School of Medicine
Atlanta
Age: 54

Rice took the reins at the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2014 as it was gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Begun with the mission of expanding and diversifying the physician workforce in the state, the school has now taken on the task of health equity – how to provide individuals the specific care they need to reach their optimum level of health. – KK


Earl V. Rogers

President and CEO
Georgia Hospital Association
Atlanta
Age: 62

As the leader of Georgia’s largest trade organization of hospitals and health systems, Rogers advocates for health policy issues before the state legislature, U.S. Congress and regulatory bodies. He’s been vocal in opposing changes to the state’s Certificate of Need law and continues to be a voice for hospitals that face an uncertain future because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid. – TO


William H. Rogers Jr.

Chairman and CEO
SunTrust Banks
Atlanta
Age: 57

Rogers leads one of the nation’s largest financial services companies, serving 4.6 million households and businesses with $187 billion in total assets and 25,000 employees. A 25-year naming-rights deal also makes the Atlanta-based financial institution a key partner in the new Braves stadium – aka SunTrust Park – set to open in 2017. – LJ


Candice Saunders

President and CEO
WellStar Health System
Atlanta
Age: 62

Last summer Saunders assumed the roles of president and CEO of WellStar Health System, the largest not-for-profit health system in Georgia. Saunders has more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, and her leadership extends across the state as 2015 chair of the Georgia Hospital Association. WellStar is also expanding its reach with the acquisition of five Metro Atlanta hospitals from Tenet Healthcare. – DS


David Shafer

President Pro Tempore
Georgia Senate
Duluth
Age: 50

Shafer has represented Senate District 48 since 2002 and served as president pro tem since 2013. In that time, he has sponsored legislation aimed at limiting tax increases and providing for periodic review of government regulations. Shafer, a business owner, has also served on the boards of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Atlanta and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence. – KK 


Beth Shiroishi

President
AT&T Georgia
Atlanta
Age: 40

President for just over a year, Shiroishi previously was vice president for sustainability and philanthropy and president of the AT&T Foundation. Involved in the company’s more than half-billion-dollar investment in electric vehicles and alternative fuels, Shiroishi is a strong proponent of technology’s ability to enable people to lead better lives while using fewer energy resources. – DS


Lynn Smith

State Representative
District 70
Newnan
Age: 70

Smith, long an environmental champion, was instrumental in the development of the Legislative Environmental Policy Academy at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The academy worked to help members of the House Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, which Smith chairs, strengthen their understanding of complex environmental issues ahead of last year’s session. – KKS


Miguel Southwell

General Manager
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta
Age: 60

Southwell, who was named general manager in 2014, is pushing an ambitious agenda at the world’s busiest passenger airport, with a list of priorities that includes increasing air cargo capacity, development around the airport and enhancing the guest experience. All are designed to strengthen the airport’s economic impact on the state. – JM


Jeff Sprecher

Chairman and CEO, Intercontinental Exchange
Chairman, New York Stock Exchange
Atlanta
Age: 60

Under Sprecher’s leadership, ICE grew from operating an energy swaps market into a network of 11 global exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange. Recent highlights include the planned acquisition of Interactive Data Corp., the opening of a new headquarters in Atlanta and the acquisition of SuperDerivatives while charting four consecutive quarters of double-digit earnings growth from 2014 to 2015. – CD


Kessel D. Stelling Jr.

Chairman and CEO
Synovus
Columbus
Age: 58

Stelling led the bank – named a 2015 Most Reputable Bank by American Banker – to a 23 percent rise in profit in 2014. He announced late last year that Synovus plans a $300-million stock buy-back program over the next 12 months and a 20 percent increase in its quarterly common stock dividend, both the direct result of sustained growth. – KKS


Lee Thomas

Deputy Commissioner
Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Atlanta
Age: 50

Under Thomas’ watch, Georgia’s film and television industry has grown from $135 million in 2007 to an overall economic impact of $6 billion in FY 2015, making Georgia one of the top three production centers in the country. The recently announced creation of a Georgia Film Academy will serve to train aspiring film workers to help meet demand. – KKS


Trip Tollison

President and CEO
Savannah Economic Development Authority
Savannah
Age: 42

Tollison has been involved in major economic development initiatives in Chatham County for the last 10 years as head of SEDA since 2013 and previously with the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, SEDA helped facilitate 15 job announcements with 615 new job opportunities and more than $142 million in capital investment. – LJ


Chris Tomlinson

Executive Director
State Road and Tollway Authority
Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
Loganville
Age: 45

A graduate of Morehouse College and the Georgia State College of Law, Tomlinson oversees the state’s centralized toll operations and transportation financing agency – a huge undertaking with more than $9.1 million in tolls expected to be collected in 2015. He’s also on the front lines of the managed lanes (all toll lanes) under construction in Cherokee, Cobb and Henry counties. – SA


Teresa Tomlinson

Mayor
Columbus-Muscogee County
Columbus
Age: 50

Tomlinson, in her second term, is leading an effort to thaw a property tax freeze in place for more than 30 years in Georgia’s second-largest city, which has seen much revitalization during her tenure. She is also championing a high-speed rail line connecting Columbus to Atlanta, is spearheading efforts to revitalize the southern portion of the city and is committed to ending homelessness in the city within 10 years. – LJ


Steve Tumlin

Mayor
City of Marietta
Marietta
Age: 68

A Marietta native and attorney, Tumlin is focusing on the city’s future with efforts such as the Franklin Road revitalization. The project  includes the new training complex and headquarters facility for the Atlanta United professional soccer team, which will debut in 2017, and The Home Depot’s new Marietta Technology Center with its 1,000 IT employees. – LJ


Judson Turner

Director
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
Griffin
Age: 41

Turner, Georgia’s “water czar,” has helped manage the state’s defense of the case filed by Florida seeking judicial apportionment of the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Turner also led Georgia’s efforts to amend the president’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations so that generation from Plant Vogtle counts toward compliance with federal requirements. – CD


William D. Underwood

President
Mercer University
Macon
Age: 59

Underwood is overseeing continued growth at Mercer. Enrollment has risen by 22 percent, and doctoral/research programs and students have surged since he was named president in 2006. Since 2011, an estimated $100 million in new development has been invested near the Macon campus. The new Mercer Innovation Center aims to create jobs and encourage entrepreneurship. – LJ


T. Rogers Wade

Chairman
Governor’s Defense Initiative
Sandy Springs
Age: 74

Wade, who has more than 40 years of experience in Georgia’s business and political community, serves as chairman of the governor’s initiative to drive economic development in communities surrounding military bases. Wade is a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, serves on the board of the Georgia Research Alliance and is chairman of the board of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. – LJ


Joel Wernick

President and CEO
Phoebe Putney Health System
Albany
Age: 61

Under Wernick’s leadership, this Albany-based organization has been the recipient of the Healthgrades Vascular Surgery Excellence Award for five years in a row, and in 2013 it was ranked in the top five in the nation. In 2012, Phoebe Cancer Center earned a three-year approval with commendation for its cancer program from the Commission on Cancer and was designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. – CD


J. Alvin Wilbanks

CEO and Superintendent
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Suwanee
Age: 73

Wilbanks leads one of the best school districts in the nation. The district has been a three-time finalist and two-time winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, which recognizes the reduction of achievement gaps among ethnic groups and between low-income and high-income students. Last year, the school system’s main office was renamed the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center.  – CD


Phillip A. Wilheit Sr.

President and CEO
Wilheit Packaging
Gainesville
Age: 71

Wilheit has long played major roles in local and state economic development and education. Chairman of the Gainesville/Hall County Development Authority for more than 30 years, he has also served on the Georgia Department of Economic Development board and as a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. – JM

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