2007 Most Influential Georgians: Profiles M-Z

Doug Marchand

Executive Director

Georgia Ports Authority


Age: 59

With Marchand at the helm, Georgia continues to extend its reach into global seafaring markets. In FY 2006, the Savannah and Brunswick ports set records again for cargo handled. Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support 276,000 jobs, generate an income of $10.8 billion and contribute more than $35 billion in annual revenue.

Dr. Walter Massey

President, Morehouse College


Age: 68

Massey, who will retire at the end of this academic year, is leaving on a high note. Morehouse just completed the largest capital campaign in the college’s history, raising $120 million and surpassing its goal by $15 million. The college also recently secured stewardship of a collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous writings.

Mack Mattingly


Georgia Ports Authority

St. Simons

Age: 75

The former U.S. Senator is serving his second year as chairman of the board that governs Georgia’s ports. Under Mattingly’s leadership, the GPA has experienced double-digit growth, embarked on an $82.6 million capital improvement program and continued ongoing infrastructure expansion projects, including a critical harbor deepening project at the Port of Brunswick.

John Mellott


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Age: 49

Mellot runs the Southeast’s largest newspaper (circulation tops 380,000 daily and 620,000 for the Sunday edition), a major daily in a multimedia age, with an employee force of some 6,500. The AJC empire keeps growing, through acquisitions and expansions, reaching out to a diverse audience with publications such as Mundo Hispanico and Skirt magazine, and an explosion of Internet offerings.

Emory Morsberger


The Morsberger Group


Age: 51

Emory Morsberger doesn’t know what it means to stand on the sidelines. All you have to do is look at his business card, where he quotes a passage from a Teddy Roosevelt speech entitled “The Man in the Arena.”

That man in the arena is Morsberger, a “redeveloper” based in Lawrenceville, who dreams the big dream and doesn’t mind getting covered with fallout.

He’s helping to spearhead the so-called Brain Train, the commuter/passenger rail from Atlanta to Athens. Morsberger is making it happen by convincing residents in outlying counties that it’s not only OK, but that it will be advantageous to have whistle stops in their neighborhoods.

“Those same people who were against MARTA are sick of sitting in traffic for an hour each way,” Morsberger says. “They are beginning to see it hurt their quality of life, so there has been a change on their part in the last five years.”

Another Morsberger big dream is the $400 million redevelopment of the Sears Building in Atlanta, which houses city offices, including the police department. The multi-use project will also include residences, as well as recreation and employment opportunities, for handicapped patients who are under the care of the Shepherd Center and Jewish Family and Career Services.

“Somebody has to dream the big dreams and if you don’t have some big dreamers, big dreams don’t happen,” Morsberger says. “If you flop on a big dream, at least you tried.”

Morsberger’s signature line from Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech is telling: “The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, and sweat, and blood.” – RG

Larry Munson

Voice of the Georgia Bulldogs


Age: 84

Munson, whose gravelly voice is music to the ears of the Bulldog nation, once played piano for Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra, but he has been synonymous with University of Georgia football since 1966. The oft-imitated, iconic Munson, the Bulldogs’ unofficial “12th Man,” is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Robert Nardelli


The Home Depot


Age: 58

Nardelli has helped The Home Depot increase sales by nearly 80 percent, adding more than $35.5 billion in revenue since 2000. He also co-founded and co-chairs the Hands On Network Corporate Service Council, whose members have donated more than 850,000 volunteer hours impacting more than 2 million lives. The goal is to increase corporate volunteerism 10 percent by the end of 2007.

Sam Olens

Chairman, Cobb County Board of Commissioners

Chairman, Atlanta Regional Commission


Age: 49

This master consensus builder is the chief elected official in a county bursting at the seams (population of 660,000) and oversees a local government with over 4,300 employees and a budget that exceeds $685 million. As chairman of the ARC, Olens has focused on transportation issues, leading the way in creation of the regional Transit Planning Board.

Larry O’Neal

State Representative

District 146

Warner Robins

Age: 57

A tax lawyer and former accountant, O’Neal brings real-world experience to his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and author of legislation in support of economic development. Gov. Sonny Perdue’s friend and floor leader, O’Neal gained notoriety for implementing changes in a state law that provided $100,000 in tax breaks for the governor.

Carl V. Patton


Georgia State University


Age: 62

Patton, an urban planner who has invested personally and professionally in Downtown Atlanta, recently launched a 10-year, $1 billion expansion of the 40,000-student school. The university’s updated master plan includes a $200 million research park and $120 million business and law school as GSU prepares to serve an expected 10,000 additional full-time students by 2015.

Sonny Perdue


State of Georgia


Age: 60

Georgia voters love Perdue, who became the first GOP governor to win re-election in state history with a landslide victory over Mark Taylor in November – the most lopsided gubernatorial win in 20 years. Years of belt-tightening budget cuts under Perdue’s leadership left the state with a $580 million surplus, which means tax breaks and $1 billion for schools.

Alicia Philipp


The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta


Age: 53

Philipp leads one of the largest community foundations in the country, with nearly $600 million in assets. The Community Foundation helps its 650 donors and their families create philanthropic funds. In 2005 TCF awarded nearly 4,600 grants totaling almost $50 million in a broad range of areas, including arts and culture, community development, education, health and human services.

Alec Poitevint


Georgia Republican Party


Age: 59

Poitevint has presided over a Republican blitzkrieg in Georgia that only gained momentum in Nov-ember’s elections, when the Georgia GOP retained all of its incumbents and picked up open seats statewide and in the legislature. Poitevint, whose second term expires in May, was Gov. Sonny Perdue’s handpicked party chairman.

Dubose Porter

State Representative, District 143


Courier Herald


Age: 53

Porter, the House Democrat Leader, is a longtime state representative (he’s been in office since 1982) who served as former Gov. Zell Miller’s floor leader. Now a frequent target of GOP criticism, the Dublin newspaperman has fought against government use of eminent domain for private development, and for protection of the state’s sunshine laws.

Daniel Rahn, M.D.


Medical College of Georgia


Age: 58

Rahn, who also chairs Georgia’s Health Strategies Council, was appointed last summer to the newly created position of senior vice chancellor for health and medical programs for the state university system. The new part-time job strengthens MCG’s leading role in addressing an existing shortage of health care professionals that is only expected to worsen in the years ahead.

David Ratcliffe

CEO, Southern Company


Age: 58

Ratcliffe leads one of the world’s top energy companies, a corporation with almost $40 billion in assets and more than $13.5 billion in revenue, serving more than 4 million customers. In 2006, while Southern moved quickly to begin the process for developing new nuclear power generation, Ratcliffe chaired both the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Georgia Research Alliance.

John Rice

Vice Chairman

General Electric


GE Infrastructure


Age: 50

Rice was promoted in August to lead a vast business segment that encompasses GE Energy, GE Aviation, as well as other major corporate divisions (rail, oil and gas, water, energy financial services and aviation financial services). He also serves on the board of directors of Emory Healthcare and the Georgia Research Alliance.

Glenn Richardson


Georgia House of Representatives


Age: 46

“Hard work, blind luck and some divine guidance.” Those are the ingredients Glenn Richardson credits for his rise to power as Speaker of Georgia’s House of Representatives. In any case, after his second year in the top job – and an unopposed re-election – the state’s new speaker seems firmly entrenched in his role.

“When you get the slate wiped clean, walk in fresh and have no expectations, sometimes you have more ability to effect change,” Richardson says.

Among his proudest accomplishments, he lists tort reform, immigration reform and ethics reform. “We are just trying to do the job of advancing Georgia, improving education and improving development opportunities for the state,” he says. “We have a pro-family, pro-business, conservative agenda.”

Richardson is a partner with a Dallas law firm, Vinson, Talley, Richardson & Cable, where he has practiced since 1987. He has served for 16 years as Paulding County’s attorney.

Last year, Richardson was named chairman of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee and the Southern Legislative Conference, a division of the Council of State Governments. He also championed Georgia’s voter ID law, requiring all citizens to show photo identification in order to vote, which was later derailed by the courts.

“I have a modest view of what we ought to be doing. I believe less is more. It’s OK if we don’t pass a lot of new laws to affect people’s lives and families,” Richardson says. “My overall philosophy is, it’s OK if we don’t pass any new laws, except for the budget.” – KHT

Spurgeon Richardson


Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau


Age: 65

Richardson serves as ambassador for a mighty force to be reckoned with, Atlanta’s convention and hospitality industry. The numbers weren’t in at press time, but the ACVB was forecasting the strongest year yet for the hospitality industry in 2006. More than 36 million visitors come to Atlanta each year, bringing some $9 billion with them.

A.J. Robinson


Central Atlanta Progress


Age: 51

Robinson manages the overall strategic functions designed to make Downtown Atlanta more livable, vital and diverse, and he has an overflowing toolbox to work with. Residential offerings are increasing, the Georgia Aquarium has exceeded all expectations in visitor numbers, and the new World of Coca-Cola is scheduled to open this summer.

Joe Rogers, Jr.


Waffle House


Age: 60

Rogers leads a 1,500-restaurant empire that is as pervasive as kudzu on the Southern landscape, a chain of eateries that has served up some 500 million waffles and 1 billion cups of coffee since opening in 1955. And in 2006, after 50 years as a cash-only business, the House started accepting credit cards at its company-owned restaurants.

David Scott

U.S. Congressman

13th District


Age: 60

This month David Scott enters his 33rd year in public office. Given the recent political climate, that much time in the political spotlight is becoming rare. Even rarer these days: a Democrat in Republican Georgia who wins re-election with almost 70 percent of the vote.

While Democrats were making big gains in the rest of the nation in last November’s election, the number of Democrats in office in Georgia dwindled. But Scott won big, despite drastic changes in the district he represents. Currently, his 13th district stretches like a semicircle into six counties south and west of Atlanta, covering portions of Cobb, Douglas, Fulton, Clayton, Henry and DeKalb. Previously, it included part of the city of Atlanta and portions of 11 counties.

Scott was re-elected to his third term in Congress with the majority of votes in every county he represents. And now, with Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress, Scott gains more clout – for himself and the state.

Scott has the experience to put his newfound influence to good use. Before heading to Congress, he served 28 years in the Georgia Legislature – 20 years as a state senator and eight years as a state representative. While in the senate, he was chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee for 10 years. “That experience,” he says, “has helped me tremendously in Washington.”

Also useful: a strong business background. Scott received his MBA – with honors – from the Wharton School of Finance and founded and operated his own company, an advertising agency now run by his wife and daughters. – BN

Leah J. Sears

Chief Justice

Georgia Supreme Court


Age: 51

The first African-American female chief justice in the nation, Sears last year unveiled the Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law. The group studies the legal consequences associated with the fragmentation of Georgia families, making recommendations for addressing the root causes. Recently, Sears was elected to the board of directors for the National Conference of Chief Justices.

Tom Smith

President/CEO, Oglethorpe Power


Age: 52

When the lights come on every evening in rural Georgia, one of the people you can thank is Tom Smith, who runs the largest electricity cooperative in the United States.

Oglethorpe Power, with roots stretching back to the Rural Electrification Administration, had $1.2 billion in revenues in 2005 and almost $5 billion in assets. The electricity co-op is owned by and provides wholesale power to 38 of the state’s electrical membership corporations, covering about 70 percent of the state’s land mass and a customer base of about 4 million.

On Smith’s watch, OPC has pushed for operational reviews and maintenance improvements to ensure reliable generation and excellent performance at a number of power-generating facilities the company owns outright, or in partnership with Georgia Power, the city of Dalton and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

When Smith was introduced as the new CEO in 1999, he was called “a non-technical guy.” While Smith grew up in the finance side of the business, the technical guys soon discovered he could find his way around a power plant and more than hold his own in discussions with scientists on the payroll – he studied analytical chemistry at Purdue and Catawba and knows a thing or two about thermal dynamics.

“Interacting with people here, you learn something new every day,” Smith says. “There is never a dull moment.”

And it’s only going to get more interesting as OPC joins Georgia Power and its other energy partners in an attempt to build the next round of nuclear generation at Plant Vogtle. – RG

John Somerhalder


AGL Resources


Age: 51

Somerhalder stepped into his job in March, just as the AGL-backed “pipeline bill” was going down the tubes in the state legislature. But earnings are up and AGL, one of the nation’s top natural gas distributors with six local utilities serving 2.2 million customers, is well ahead of its 2005 pace, when net income was $193 million.

Michael Stipe

Musician, Activist


Age: 47

The lead singer for R.E.M. has been focusing his humanitarian eye on the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, launching his In the Sun Foundation, which gathered other musical heavyweights to record an album and film a documentary benefiting the region. In 2006, R.E.M. was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. This year they enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Tallent


United Community Bank, Inc.


Age: 54

Little more than 20 years ago, United Community Bank was a $40 million outfit known as Union County Bank. Then it hired Tallent. Today UCBI is a $6.3 billion bank holding company, the third largest based in Georgia, with offices throughout this state, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

Michael Thurmond


Georgia Department of Labor


Age: 53

The son of a sharecropper, Thurmond knows the value of hard work. Under his guidance, Georgia’s labor department leads the nation in moving the jobless back to work as Thurmond has focused his attention on workforce education and training. And while employer taxes have been cut by $1.4 billion, unemployment benefits have increased.

William J. Todd


Georgia Cancer Coalition


Age: 58

Under Todd’s leadership, the GCC is increasing Georgia’s role in the fight against a disease that claims some 550,000 American lives each year. The coalition’s influence has been critical in securing federal dollars for research initiatives in Georgia, including a $10 million National Institutes of Health grant to establish a collaborative program in cancer nanotechnology at Emory and Georgia Tech.

Cynthia Tucker

Editorial Page Editor

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Age: 51

Tucker, who guides editorial opinion policies for the largest paper in the Southeast, writes a syndicated column that appears in more than 70 newspapers across the country. A two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Tucker was selected as Journalist of the Year for 2006 by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Lynn H. Vellinga

State Accounting Officer


Age: 56

He may not be a household name and he doesn’t have a flashy job title, but in the topsy-turvy economic times of recent years, Lynn Vellinga may very well have one of the most important jobs in Georgia state government today.

As state accounting officer, he has the responsibility of helping oversee the state’s finances – making sure money is spent and collected as efficiently as possible.

Gov. Sonny Perdue named Vellinga to the newly-created post in October 2004 and gave him the task of getting a handle on the state’s somewhat unwieldy accounting practices. In the past, Georgia had not had a centralized accounting office and keeping track of what was happening in the many state agencies was difficult, at best.

Perdue says the new office was created “to streamline our accounting practices and further improve our fiscally conservative management of state resources.” Vellinga is responsible for the state’s financial reporting, statewide financial systems and statewide accounting policies and procedures. A big job, but government observers say Vellinga has lived up to it.

“We are making good progress,” Vellinga says. “It has been a team effort as we look at ways to do away with duplication and upgrade our system. Our goal is to improve the financial management of the state and to make information more available.”

Good information is important, but getting it can sometimes be a slow process. For example, Vellinga says, the state has some 1,400 banking accounts. “That’s something we should be able to consolidate to a more reasonable number,” he says. – BN

James Wagner


Emory University


Age: 53

Wagner is the trail boss on Emory’s path of “courageous inquiry,” a 10-year strategic plan designed to build upon the university’s rise to global prominence, and now aided by a $261.5 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation. Emory serves some 12,000 students from 50 states and 112 nations and has an economic impact of $5.1 billion in Metro Atlanta.

B.J. Walker


Georgia Department of Human Resources


Age: 57

Walker manages one of the largest agencies in state government, with 19,000 employees and a budget of $2.8 billion. DHR also has one of the most daunting missions in government, with divisions that include Aging Services, Family and Children Services, Public Health and the Division of Mental Health, Develop-mental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases.

John Wieland

Chairman, Chief Creative Officer

John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods Inc.


Age: 70

Wieland has raised the level of residential design and development in the Southeast, building more than 25,000 homes in Atlanta, Charleston, S.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville, TN. Wieland, who donated $12 million to help fund renovation at the High Museum, won the prestigious 2006 Four Pillar Award by the Council for Quality Growth, for his commitment to quality growth in Atlanta.

Sam Williams


Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce


Age: 61

NASCAR may have gotten away, but little else has slipped through Williams’ grasp since he took the reins at the chamber in 1997. For 10 years he has partnered with regional leaders to expand Atlanta’s reach, developing growth in targeted industry clusters such as biosciences and logistics, while focusing on major issues such as transportation, water and education.

Tommie Williams

Majority Leader

Georgia Senate


Age: 52

Williams is a conservative Republican who authored the bill allowing public high schools to teach Bible classes. Williams, who chairs the Transportation Committee and has pushed for greater use of private investment in public road building, uses biodiesel in his trucking business and has proposed requiring local governments to buy alternative fuels.

Rick Winger


Savannah Economic Development Authority


Age: 65

Winger has planted seeds for a thriving knowledge-based business environment, partnering with local governments to found The Creative Coast Initiative. But the sweetest plums in 2006 came in the manufacturing sector with the announcement of Gulfstream’s $300 million expansion (plus 1,100 new jobs) and Georgia Pacific Gypsum’s $115 million expansion.

Major General Walter Wojdakowski

Chief of Infantry, U.S. Army

Commanding General, Fort Benning

Age: 56

Wojdakowski commands the largest training installation in the U.S. Army, where 75,000 soldiers are trained annually. In the next five years, Fort Benning (economic impact of $2.3 billion, service and civilian population of 120,000) will expand under measures outlined by the 2005 BRAC, which means a population increase of 50,000 and about $3 billion in new construction.

Jim Wooten

Associate Editorial Page Editor

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Age: 61

Wooten is one of the state’s leading purveyors of the conservative creed, an editorialist who has cultivated a loyal following among readers in Republican-dominated Georgia. A straight-shooting columnist renowned for his pieces about government and politics, Wooten is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Georgia Army National Guard for 20 years.

In Memoriam

Dr. Rob Lipson, who was president and CEO of WellStar Health System, Inc. in Marietta, died last fall as Georgia Trend editors were preparing his entry to be included in the 100 Most Influential Georgians. Dr. Lipson was to be honored for his work in overseeing a $470 million-plus private, nonprofit health-care system serving Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties. The WellStar network includes five acute care hospitals with some 1,100 beds.

Categories: Features, People