2005 40 Under 40

The Best And Brightest

2005 40 Under 40

2005 40 Under 40

For almost a decade, Georgia Trend has been identifying the state's most outstanding resource - its emerging business, cultural, government and academic leaders.



Each individual recognized in this section plays an integral role in weaving the tapestry of our state's future, from entrepreneurs whose sales have made record jumps in recent years and political aides and advisors who have the ears of our elected officials, to social workers dedicating their lives to preventing abuse and crime and civic leaders working to help Georgia's cities and counties reach their full potential.



Georgia Trend's editors select these leaders, aided by nominations from readers. This year's nominations, again, eclipsed those of previous years (for details on nominating individuals for the class of 2006, see page 40).



Individual profiles were contributed by Carol Carter, Jerry Grillo, Jennifer Hafer, Terrell Johnson, Karen Kennedy, Ed Lightsey, Bobby Nesbitt, Patty Rasmussen and Rick Woodall.



Appearing on these pages are, from left, Langford Holbrook, Lee County Administrator; Veronica Brinson, founder, Law Office of Veronica Brinson; Meg Smothers, outgoing president of the Georgia League of Women Voters and Harold Melton, Georgia's newest Supreme Court Justice.





HAROLD MELTON


Justice, Georgia Suprem Court


Atlanta


Age: 39



In June, Harold Melton became the first Georgia Supreme Court justice appointed by a Republican governor since 1868. When Gov. Sonny Perdue installed his former executive counsel on the court, there was a chorus of hallelujah from Republicans across the state who praised Melton's conservatism and adherence to party dogma as he donned the robes and became the third African American among the seven judges on state's highest appeals court.



Then Melton showed up for work and all bets were off. One of his first decisions was a dissent to the court's 5-2 decision not to stay the execution of convicted murderer Robert Conklin. It was a somewhat startling "nay" vote by the new justice, whose nomination was supported by prosecutors and death-penalty advocates.



"I'm striving to be a justice who reads the law and applies it, and though that sometimes seems easier said than done, I'm bound by that," Melton says. "It takes some degree of intellectual honesty, and I would hope to have a degree of courage. I have an aspiration to call it like I see it, and the application of law is not a popularity issue. It's based on legal principles and fairness, and being bound by those things keeps me grounded."



Melton, the first black student body president at Auburn University, was hired by Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers in 1991. Since then, he's almost continuously immersed himself in high-profile affairs. In 1998 Melton was Georgia's primary counsel in the national tobacco settlement. He also was Georgia's primary contact in the tri-state water negotiations with Alabama and Florida and acted as Gov. Perdue's ethics officer.



The father of three, Melton stays active in Southwest Christian Fellowship, where he heads the teen ministry. He also sits on the board of Atlanta Youth Academies, a private Christian school designed to give inner-city kids the prep school experience. - J.G.






MEG SMOTHERS


Former Executive Director


League of Women Voters of Georgia


Atlanta


Age: 26



Meg Smothers is fast becoming a familiar name on television and in newspapers. As the first full-time staffer for the League of Women Voters of Georgia, Smothers took league issues to the airwaves, testifying on C-Span before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, offering sound bites on Fox News and debating Georgia's new voter ID law on Atlanta television.



Not shy about offering opinions, she became a national go-to figure on election issues. The 26-year-old has entered law school but remains on the league's board. "I want it [law school] to be the next step in furthering my own skills in understanding and influencing policy," she says. On the state's new voter ID law, she says: "Every citizen of our state should be worried that Georgia has become the toughest place in America for eligible, registered voters to cast their ballots."



When Smothers took the league's helm two years ago, the organization was slumping. Since then, the group has quadrupled its reach through its Voter Guide, is capturing more and more funds from private foundations and corporations and is recruiting younger members as a foundation for the future.



Smothers got her first glint of interest in the political system accompanying her mother to the polls and her grandmother to political fund raisers to help register voters in North Carolina, her native state. Smothers says the league was a good match for her restless intellect. "I was attracted to the league because it truly is multi-issue," Smothers says. "In addition to working on election related issues, such as the advancement of Georgia's election system, reapportionment and campaign finance and ethics reform, I have been able to learn more about and advocate in support of protection of our state's natural resources, women's health and right to privacy, public education and a responsible state budget." - E.L.





VERONICA BRINSON


Law Office of Veronica Brinson


Macon


Age: 33





Veronica Brinson, 33, is a municipal court judge, a practicing attorney with her own firm specializing in family law, criminal and appeals cases, and a single mom with two teenage sons.



She also founded Success Matters For Us, Too, an organization that, among other things, reaches out to teenaged moms like she once was. "I tell them not to quit," Brinson says. "I talk to them about perseverance using my own life as an example." She has a lot to say.



A product of Macon city schools, Brinson attended Mercer University and Mercer University Law School. After briefly working in Albany and Atlanta, she returned to Macon, intent on making a difference. "I want to make sure the [legal] process works for everyone," she says. "I hope that everyone - judge, jury or appeals court - sees that there are two sides to every story."



Brinson puts that philosophy into action as she sits on the bench, a role she doesn't take lightly. "I hear mostly criminal misdemeanors, traffic cases like DUIs," says Brinson, who used to prosecute DUI offenders as a part-time county solicitor. "We sometimes have to wear different hats as attorneys," she adds. "Again, we must have the ability to see the two sides to every case and, no matter what the circumstances, ensure that everyone is aware of their Constitutional rights."



Giving a voice to the disenfranchised was a major motivation for Brinson when she entered the legal profession. "I've always supported the underdog," she says. "I saw the law as a mechanism for those people without a voice to have access to justice. Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed phone call to make something happen."



Though she claims to have "laid down the superwoman cloak a long time ago," Brinson belies the statement by juggling the needs of her sons, Ryan and Bryant, whom she calls "my biggest cheerleaders," and those of her clients, profession and foundation. - E.L.







LANGFORD D. HOLBROOK


County Administrator, Lee County


Leesburg


Age: 38



When the pressures of his job grow heavy, Lee County Administrator Langford D. Holbrook likes to get wet. "My wife and I are members of the Albany YMCA," he says, "and we swim two or three times a week to try and handle the stress."



In Holbrook's case, the stress is the best kind - managing rapid growth associated with thousands of new upper income families pouring into his county. Lee County was once a farming community that lost population for most of the mid-20th century. Then growth accelerated and from 2000-2003, Lee was in the top 10 fastest growing counties in one of the nation's fastest growing states.



Lee County's growth has measured about 1,000 new residents a year and its populationnow stands at 30,000 with another 5,000 transplants expected by decade's end. Holbrook's job has been to keep the infrastructure moving on pace with new arrivals. So many new subdivisions were popping up that Holbrook asked his county government leaders to stop and evaluate the direction of growth, getting a moratorium on some new construction this year.



"We are just pausing to catch our breath and make sure the things we have in place are adequate to deal with [growth] issues," Holbrook says. "One of the key reasons people are coming to Lee County is its natural beauty. We have lots of open farmland, beautiful bodies of water and other natural resources that attract new residents. The idea is to maintain some of that rural character even in some of our fastest developing areas."



To do that Holbrook has led an effort to create conservation subdivisions that set aside up to 25 percent of developable land for greenspace. Developers and residents are waiting to see how Holbrook juggles growth and asset preservation. So far, he hasn't dropped the ball. - E.L.





EMILY C. BAGWELL


Partner


Whelchel & Dunlap, LLP


Gainesville


Age: 38



TINA BONIFACIO


Vice President of Workforce &


Economic Development


Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce


Savannah


Age: 38



PAM CARNES


President/CEO


Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce


Canton


Age: 37



DAWN CARTEE


Vice President for Academic Affairs


Southeastern Technical College


Statesboro


Age: 37



DION DELOOF


Co-Founder and President


Anteo Group


Atlanta


Age: 35



AMY DORRILL


Development Director


University Health Care Foundation


Augusta


Age: 34



JODI DOSS


Owner/Entrepreneur


Jodi's Accessories


Valdosta


Age: 30



J. TILLMAN DOUGLAS, JR.


President and Founder


Douglas Sales Co.


Atlanta


Age: 38



WARRICK DUNN


Running Back, Atlanta Falcons


Philanthropist, Warrick Dunn Foundation


Atlanta


Age: 30



REBECCA FERGUSON


Regional Project Manager


Governor's Entrepreneur and Small


Business Office, Georgia Department of Economic Development


Griffin


Age: 35



J. BENJAMIN FINLEY


Lawyer and Co-Founder


Finley & Buckley, PC


Atlanta


Age: 39



BRITT FIGUEORA


CEO/Founder


Monkey Love Dessert Bar & Gallery


St. Simons Island


Age: 38



LOUIS FORDHAM


Vice President HR & Facilities


J&J Industries


Dalton


Age: 39



PAULA GLOVER


Executive DirectorRANDY GRAVLEY


Owner and Managing Partner


Tri-State Communications


Canton


Age: 32



RANDY GRAVLEY


Owner and Managing Partner


Tri-State Communications


Canton


Age: 32



TEE GREEN


President and Chief Operating Officer


Greenway Medical Technologies


Carrollton


Age: 33



DERON HICKS


Partner


Page, Scrantom Sprouse Tucker & Ford PC


Columbus


Age: 37





KATHRYN HUTTON


Attorney


King & Spalding LLP


Atlanta


Age: 39



PAMELA GREEN-JACKSON


Founder, Youth Becoming Healthy


State Coordinator


Georgia on the Move


Albany


Age: 39



SEAN KAUFMAN


Director of Programs


Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research, Emory University


Atlanta


Age: 32



RODDRICK MARSHALL


Community Activist/Volunteer


Savannah


Age: 31



CEASAR MITCHELL


Attorney


Thomas, Kennedy, Sampson & Patterson


Atlanta City Councilman Post 1 At-Large


Atlanta


Age: 36



DARRELL MOORE


President, Moultrie-Colquitt


Chamber and Economic Development Authorities


Chair, JDA Brooks, Grady Mitchell, Thomas and Moultrie Counties


Moultrie


Age: 36



BARTOW MORGAN


Chairman/CEO


The Brand Banking Co.


Flowery Branch


Age: 32



DAVID NOUR


Founder/Managing Partner


The Nour Group


Atlanta


Age: 37



KELLY AHL PAUL


Founder


The Marketing Department


Advertising & PR


Savannah


Age: 37



B. ANDREW


"DREW" PLANT


Writer


Atlanta


Age: 39



CARMEN QUEZADA


Director of Community Outreach Centers


Catholic Social Services of Atlanta


Atlanta


Age: 37



SHYAM REDDY


Attorney, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP


Atlanta


Age: 30



MARK ROUNTREE


President & CEO


Landmark Communications, Inc.


Duluth


Age: 39



CARLEN SELF


Manager


Avaya, Inc.


Macon


Age: 36



GABRIEL STERLING


Sterling Seasonal Home, Inc.


Sandy Springs


Age: 34



URI VAKNIN


Real Estate Agent


The Condo Store


Atlanta


Age: 35



JOHN WATSON


Chief of Staff for Gov. Sonny Perdue


Atlanta


Age: 36



ROBERT WEBB


Director of Corporate Communications


Mohawk Industries, Inc.


Dalton


Age: 35



GREGORY ZARUS


Mayor, Pine Lake


Team Leader, CDC Strike Team


Pine Lake


Age: 39



HAROLD MELTON


Justice, Georgia Supreme Court


Atlanta


Age: 39

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