The 100 Most Influential Georgians [G-L]

Mike Garrett


Georgia Power Company


Age: 56

Garrett, who helped raise $5.2 million as chairman of the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort, announced last year that Georgia Power will increase its cleanup efforts. The company plans to spend at least $1.3 billion on additional environmental controls over the next five years, primarily to remove sulfur dioxide from power plant emissions.


Dr. Julie Gerberding


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Age: 50

Terrorist threats, hurricanes, the threat of a worldwide flu pandemic ? to say the least, Gerberding has her hands full directing this Atlanta-headquartered agency. While she has had her rocky moments – such as last year’s flu vaccine shortage – Gerberding has been able to keep the agency moving ahead as it faces one crisis after another.


Archbishop Wilton Gregory

Archdiocese of Atlanta

Atlanta, GA

Age: 58

During his first month in office, Archbishop Wilton Gregory did what any smart incoming CEO or business leader would do: He sat down with his “workers” and listened to what they had to say. In this case, of course, the workers were priests responsible for the day-to-day operations of 98 parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as well as the spiritual needs of 370,000 Catholics.

Gregory, a native Chicago Southsider, was installed as the seventh Archbishop of Atlanta Jan. 17, 2005, taking over an archdiocese that covers 21,445 square miles of north Georgia and includes 69 counties north of and including Lincoln, McDuffie, Warren, Hancock, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Monroe, Upson, Meriwether and Troup counties. “I come with no preset agenda, but only with an open heart,” said Bishop Gregory at his first press conference in Atlanta. “My heart and office will be open to people.”

The first black president of the American Conference of Bishops, Gregory earned kudos for his leadership guiding the conference through the horrifying Church sex abuse scandal. Gregory directed creation of a binding policy to address abuse allegations and a watchdog association formed to monitor the plan.

Challenges present in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are also daunting. The number of Catholics has doubled since 1990, due mostly to Hispanic immigration, while the number of priests, around 220, has all but leveled off.

Media-savvy and charismatic, the Archbishop engaged in a question and answer session with members of neighboring Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, and earned applause for opening the annual Holy Thursday foot washing ceremony to women. – PR


Jerry Griffin

Executive Director

Association County Commissioners of Georgia


Age: 60

Griffin is the standard bearer for Georgia’s 159 county governments, an important mission as counties try to provide necessary services and implement costly state and federal mandates at a time when more politicians propose controlling government by cutting revenue sources. Accordingly, Griffin will wade into this year’s legislative tussle over local property taxes, a critical revenue source for local governments.


Sam Griffin


The Post-Searchlight


Age: 69

Griffin, who has run his family’s newspaper for 42 years, is Southwest Georgia’s steadfast defender of open records and freedom of information, assailing government secrecy through editorials and litigation. An award-winning columnist who typically backs Republicans, Griffin supports Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox, a former Post-Searchlight employee.


Gerald Grinstein

CEO, Delta Air Lines


Age: 73

Grinstein doggedly presides over a new chapter in Delta’s history, namely Chapter 11 bankruptcy. To turn things around, he’s orchestrating a transformation of the once mighty carrier into a smaller, more efficient airline, which means shedding up to 9,000 more jobs nationwide (about 2,000 in Metro Atlanta), as well as cuts in pay and benefits – including some for Grinstein.

Jack Guynn


Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta


Age: 63

As leader of the Atlanta reserve bank, Guynn plays a vital role in Fed functions, such as setting monetary policy, bank supervision and regulation, and managing the nationwide payments system. Guynn forecasts ongoing growth of GDP, employment and income despite the devastating economic effects of the Gulf Coast hurricanes.


Jim Higdon

Executive Director

Georgia Municipal Association


Age: 64

Higdon and the GMA are up against state legislators who support “inverse condemnation,” which forces local governments to pay landowners for the cost of state and local land use and quality of life regulations, or for not being able to use property for any purpose the landowner deems more profitable. City leaders “stand ready to protect local values,” Higdon has said.


Tommy Hills

Chief Financial Officer

State of Georgia


Age: 61

Georgia’s first chief financial officer found reason to celebrate as the corporate tax-break legislation he helped draft passed easily and was signed into law last year by the governor. Additionally, state tax collections kept growing and Georgia ended FY 2005 with a $200 million surplus.


David Hudson


Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley, P.C.


Age: 59

Hudson is legal counsel for the Georgia Press Association and a member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s legal committee. Lately he’s had his hands full, representing open government advocates who are staring down a Georgia General Assembly that has consistently drafted legislation emphasizing government secrecy.


L. Phillip Humann


SunTrust Banks, Inc.


Age: 60

Humann oversees operations for the largest bank in Georgia and one of the nation’s largest commercial banking organizations. With total assets topping $170 billion and more than $110 billion in deposits, SunTrust has some 1,600 retail branches and nearly 33,000 employees in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.


Johnny Isakson

U.S. Senator


Age: 61

Isakson has settled easily into his job, but then he’s had plenty of preparation. He served 17 years in the Georgia General Assembly and three terms in the U.S. House before being elected to the Senate in 2004. Isakson’s low-key, thoughtful approach to issues has put him in a strong position to help his Georgia constituents.


Neville Isdell


The Coca-Cola Company


Age: 61

When he isn’t running the Earth’s best-known beverage company Isdell serves as chairman of the U.S.-Russia Business Council. Coincidentally, Coca-Cola plans to invest $100 to $150 million annually in growing its business in Russia. The globetrotting Isdell also serves on the board of trustees of the International Business Leaders Forum, the U.S. Council for International Business and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Phil Jacobs


Planned Community Services

BellSouth Corporation


Age: 55

Jacobs changed jobs last year. The former president of BellSouth’s Georgia Operations now leads the company’s Planned Community Services division. He’ll focus on developing business strategies for housing developments, condo projects and apartments in the Southeast. Jacobs also finds time to chair the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.


Jim Jacoby

President, Atlantic Station, LLC

CEO, Jacoby Development, Inc.


Age: 62

Jacoby’s vision is blending into the Atlanta landscape. The 130-acre Atlantic Station, which opened its retail and entertainment district in October, is among the most ambitious projects ever seen in the United States, a national model for smart growth and sustainable development. The 24-hour community will have homes for 10,000 people and employment for 30,000.


Jimmy Jeter


Moultrie-ColquittCounty Development Authority


Age: 59

Jeter plays a leading role in Colquitt’s economic and social progress, from landing poultry giant Sanderson Farms, and creating 1,400 jobs in the area, to his involvement on the board of the South Georgia Community Foundation. Jeter has helped Moultrie and Colquitt County buck a national trend: They’ve added 2,600 jobs since 2001 and kept others from going overseas.


Eric Johnson

President Pro Tem

Georgia Senate


Age: 52

The state’s first Republican president pro tem of the Georgia Senate since Civil War reconstruction, Johnson cemented his status as a power broker in 2005 as he guided the senate through a productive session. An architect by profession, Johnson is a key designer of the GOP’s takeover of power in Georgia.

Otis Johnson


City of Savannah

Age: 63

Johnson, who took office as Savannah’s 64th mayor in January 2004, has spent most of his life trying to remedy the social ills of his native city. The former city councilman and director of the Chatham Savannah Youth Futures Authority, Johnson was named Public Elected Official of the Year last year by the National Association of Social Workers.


Bill Jones III


Sea Island Company

St. Simons Island

Age: 47

Jones has a front-row seat among Georgia’s influential decision-makers. He’s a trustee of the Georgia Research Alliance and the Nature Conservancy of Georgia, a board member of the Georgia Cancer Coalition and Georgia Chamber of Commerce, member of the Commission for a New Georgia and chairman of the Coastal Georgia Foundation. Last fall Jones donated $100,000 for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.


Vernon Jones


DeKalb County


Age: 45

The high-profile Mr. CEO has a knack for overcoming one sticky PR situation after another, winning the approval of the state’s most diverse and second most populous county. Jones oversees a $2.6 billion budget and manages 7,000 employees. In November, his agenda got the OK as voters approved a $230 million bond referendum for transportation, parks and greenspace and libraries.


Vernon Keenan


Georgia Bureau of Investigation


Age: 55

When he’s on the case, Vernon Keenan wants the spotlight wheeled in as close as it can get. As GBI director, he bows to the state Open Records Act.

“Open records is the best policeman,” Keenan says. “If hard questions are asked and records are open to the media, government officials are much less likely to take shortcuts or violate the law.”

Keenan, boss of the state’s primary investigation and enforcement agency, was responsible for bringing Georgia’s police and other groups together in 2002 to create Georgia’s Blue Book, the state’s guide for law enforcement and the Open Records Act. Keenan, who joined the GBI in 1973 and rose through the ranks, says transparency in government allows watchdogs a seat on the front row and makes public officials think twice about taking a detour.

“The experience of having worked public corruption cases has taught me it is necessary to have openness in government and when there is not openness corruption grows rapidly,” Keenan says. “Law enforcement officers are accustomed to having our actions scrutinized by the court. Government officials not used to operating in that arena become very resistant to having their actions scrutinized.”

Keenan, the son of a Waycross mortician, is recognizable for his fedora and availability

to the media – not to grab glory, but to keep the public informed. He originally intended to keep students informed as a history teacher. However, he switched his major at Valdosta State to criminal justice and moved right into law enforcement after graduation.

“What I like about [law enforcement] is when there is an injustice done, I don’t have to be standing there on the sidelines,” Keenan says. “I don’t want to be there and say ‘I wish someone would solve that case.’ I don’t have to wait for someone to take the action.” – RG


James Cox Kennedy


Cox Enterprises, Inc.


Age: 58

Kennedy, grandson of company founder James M. Cox, heads a media empire that includes newspapers, radio and television stations, a cable company and more. In Georgia, those properties include the state’s largest newspaper, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, WSB radio and TV. Atlanta-based Cox is Georgia’s largest private company.


Walter L. Kimbrough

Senior Pastor

Cascade United MethodistChurch


Age: 65

Since arriving at Cascade more than 30 years ago, Kimbrough has revived a dying church of fewer than 100 members in Southwest Atlanta, growing it into a mega-church with a flock of 7,000 who worship at a $5.2 million edifice. Kimbrough, who helped launch Hope House (transitional housing for the homeless) serves on the board of MARTA.


Charles “Chick” Krautler


Atlanta Regional Commission


Age: 58

As Metro Atlanta continues to sprawl with almost reckless abandon, Krautler’s job as a crusader for solutions to traffic, air and water problems becomes more challenging. In 2005, the ARC unveiled Envision6, a “scenario-based” approach to planning for the year 2030, when the region’s population is expected to reach 6 million.


John “Duke” Lane Jr.


Southern Orchard, Inc.


Age: 57

For the past 20 years Lane has run the century-old family peach empire that does business as “Lane Packing Company.” The orchards have about 300,000 peach trees on more than 2,500 acres, and 2,000-plus acres of pecans. Lane, past president of the Georgia Peach Council, was appointed to chair the State Farm Service Committee by President Bush.


Craig Lesser


GeorgiaDepartment of Economic Development


Age: 54

Armed with a new Georgia marketing slogan (Put Your Dreams in Motion) and a “peachy” new logo for the state – both part of a $6 million branding campaign, this native New Yorker promotes the state to prospective businesses and tourists. Named by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2004 to head the agency, Lesser has made organizational and leadership changes that have given new energy to the department as it markets Georgia’s options for work and play throughout the world.


John Lewis

U.S. Representative

5th District


Age: 65

Lewis is an advocate in Congress for teachers, tax subsidies to help small businesses provide affordable health care, the proposed Atlanta Beltline, peace and the oppressed. A harsh critic of what he calls “the most secretive presidential administration I’ve associated with,” the tenacious Lewis says he’s more determined than ever to preserve individual civil liberties.


Jim Lientz

Chief Operating Officer

State of Georgia


Age: 61

All of Georgia’s department heads report to Lientz, the first COO in state history, whose tasks include staff management and developing career paths as part of Gov. Perdue’s blueprint for a “customer-friendly” state government. Lientz, who retired as president of Bank of America’s mid-South division in 2000, formerly chaired The Carter Center’s Board of Councilors.

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