100 Most Influential Georgians: Georgia’s Power List

This is the 12th edition of Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential Georgians, and it’s different from the others for one main reason – the speaker of the House did not make the cut this year. At presstime, Rep. David Ralston had been chosen by the GOP caucus, but the full House will not vote until the legislature is in session.

In the information age, news travels fast, but it often happens without regard to deadlines. It took a runoff election and, after that, a vote recount in December to choose Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who is on this year’s list.

Also, on this year’s roster of influential Geor-gians are people from business and industry, politics and government, science and education, philanthropy, healthcare – men and women helping guide the state during the roughest economic patch in decades.

Profiles were written by Linda Erbele, Jerry Grillo, Karen Kennedy, Matt Hennie, Bobby Nesbitt and Ben Young.

Michael Adams

President

University of Georgia

Athens

Age: 62

Despite severe state budget cuts, UGA, under Adams’ leadership, saw total enrollment set a new record at 34,885; this included the best-qualified freshman class ever (1263 SAT average, 3.83 GPA). For the fourth year in a row, UGA raised more than $100 million in private gifts ($110.8 million).

Dan Amos

Chairman/CEO

Aflac Incorporated

Columbus

Age: 58

Amos, a career Aflac man, is probably best known among the 40 million people the company insures for introducing the Aflac duck, which helped boost revenue to $16.6 billion in 2008. Since Amos took the reins, the company has been repeatedly recognized by Fortune magazine as one of America’s Most Admired Companies.

Richard Anderson

CEO

Delta Air Lines

Atlanta

Age: 54

Anderson, who has served as Delta’s CEO since 2007, has more than 20 years of aviation experience, which was vital as he shepherded the merger of Delta and Northwest at a time of economic turmoil. Anderson also serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Buckhead Coalition.

Thurbert Baker

Attorney General

State of Georgia

Stone Mountain

Age: 57

Baker convened the GA Meth Project, joined forces with the federal government to investigate and settle the largest case of alleged healthcare fraud in the nation’s history and recovered nearly $22 million for Georgia. He successfully defended Georgia’s residential mortgage fraud statute in the Court of Appeals and successfully prosecuted former state employees for stealing from the state.

Charles Bannister

Chairman

Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

Lilburn

Age: 70

Bannister, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 18 years, has been the top elected official in Gwinnett County since 2004. He manages a budget of $1.7 billion and serves nearly 800,000 residents. He also serves on the executive committee of the Atlanta Regional Commission and chairs the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority.

Roy Barnes

Attorney

Marietta

Age: 61

In many respects, Barnes was a one-term wonder as governor. Aggressive in tackling some of the state’s biggest problems, he chalked up some big wins, but also a surprising defeat, losing his re-election bid to Sonny Perdue. Barnes, a Democrat, is now running to reclaim the office saying there’s more he wants to do, especially in the areas of education and transportation.

Mark Becker

President

Georgia State University

Atlanta

Age: 51

Becker started his job as GSU’s seventh president last January, in the midst of a global recession. Yet, GSU continues to grow, surpassing 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students for the current academic year. Becker, former provost at the University of South Carolina, takes the helm as GSU enters a whole new era – the football team kicks off its inaugural season in 2010.

Sanford Bishop

U.S. Congressman

District 2

Albany

Age: 62

Bishop, a Democrat who sits on the influential House Appropriations Com-mittee and represents a district that includes several military installations, helped secure more than $330 million in federal funds for military and defense-related projects for his district in FY 2009. He also pushed for $18.5 million (over five years) for the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning.

Frank Blake

Chairman/CEO

Home Depot

Atlanta

Age: 61

Blake has emphasized customer service at America’s second-biggest retailer since taking the helm in 2007, prior to which he served as general counsel to the Environmental Protection Agency and General Electric. Blake was named one of the Best Managers of 2008 in BusinessWeek and sits on the boards of Southern Company and the Georgia Aquarium. Last year, Home Depot donated $30 million to Habitat for Humanity for sustainable home projects.

Arthur Blank

Owner/ CEO

Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Force

Chairman, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

Atlanta

Age: 67

Blank has wisely shifted attention from former Falcon Michael Vick’s dog fighting to the need for a new stadium for his team – will Sembler build it in Doraville or will the Georgia Dome be rebuilt? Meanwhile, the Blank Foundation is ubiquitous; whether donning a panda suit for Zoo Atlanta or pushing for K-12 reform through his Speaker Series, Blank is one of Atlanta’s most energetic philanthropists.

Bill Bolling

Executive Director/Founder

Atlanta Community Food Bank

Decatur

Age: 62

As founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Bill Bolling works to eliminate poverty through the distribution of more than 20 million pounds of food annually and by connecting people in need to key resources and government benefits. In 2009, Bolling received the Shining Light Award presented by Atlanta Gas Light and News/Talk 750 and the Beacon of Light Award presented by Boardwalk Consulting.

John Brock

CEO/Chairman

Coca-Cola Enterprises

Atlanta

Age: 61

Brock co-chaired Gov. Sonny Perdue’s water contingency task force, slated to present its recommendations this month. As a CEO, he heads the world’s largest marketer, producer and distributor of Coca-Cola products (more than 2 billion cases of product, equating to more than 42 billion bottles and cans in 2008), a company of 72,000 employees and revenues of almost $22 billion. Brock is the 2011 Metro Atlanta Chamber chair-elect.

Casey Cagle

Lieutenant Governor

Gainesville

Age: 43

Cagle opted out of the race for governor early this year, and has focused his efforts on water and transportation issues, and cutting government spending. Under his leadership, the state budget was cut from $20 billion to $16 billion. He actively urged the Corps of Engineers to keep Lake Lanier full to supply water to the region.

C. Michael Cassidy

President/CEO

Georgia Research Alliance

Atlanta

Age: 56

Call Cassidy the chief incubation officer. He’s responsible for bridging the gap between talent and infrastructure to build the foundation for the creation of new technology and science-based companies that drive economic growth. Since its founding in 1990, the public-private partnership has attracted more than $2.6 billion in federal and private funding.

Dan Cathy

President/COO

Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Fayetteville

Age: 56

“We’re here to serve. And not just sandwiches,” is more than just a nice saying to Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, who’s building on his father Truett’s philosophies as he leads what has become one of the largest privately-owned restaurant chains in the nation. The words reflect both the company’s beliefs about customer service and community service.

Saxby Chambliss

U.S. Senator

Moultrie

Age: 66

Chambliss introduced the FDA Food Safety Act and, along with other senators, the Military Overseas Voting Empower-ment Act. He has become a leading voice on Afghanistan, Iran and other national security issues. Chambliss was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame last year and he received Leadership Geor-gia’s J. W. Fanning Award.

Chris Clark

Commissioner

Georgia Department of

Natural Resources

Fayetteville

Age: 40

Clark leads the government agency charged with protecting the state’s natural resources, managing about 1,700 employees and an annually shrinking budget (currently about $155.2 million). Previously the executive director of the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), Clark’s background is actually in economic development (former deputy commissioner at Georgia Department of Economic Development).

Deke Copenhaver

Mayor

City of Augusta

Age: 42

Copenhaver presides over a consolidated city-county government. He came to the job by way of a special election before winning a full term. He brings to it the experience of a Canadian-born, Southern-raised man who found success at a young age in financial securities, real estate and nonprofits before stepping into electoral politics.

Charles Craig

President

Georgia Bio

Atlanta

Age: 57

Craig, the lead advocate for Georgia’s growing biotech industry, raised the state’s profile this past May when Georgia Bio played host to the industry’s largest gathering. The BIO International Convention brought to Atlanta more than 14,000 bio-industry leaders from more than 50 countries in an effort to showcase Georgia as a premier destination for biotech innovation and industry development.

Erroll Davis

Chancellor

University System of Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 65

Under Davis’ leadership, the USG played a strong role in NCR’s decision to relocate company headquarters to Geor-gia. The Early College initiative, aimed at raising graduation rates of under-served students, graduated its first group of high school seniors, with 100 percent accepted into colleges. In addition, considerable progress was made in expanding Georgia’s capacity to produce more medical professionals.

Scott Davis

Chairman/ CEO

United Parcel Service

Alpharetta

Age: 57

Davis, who took the reins at UPS in early 2008, is expanding the company into new lines, including multi-modal transportation services, logistics technologies, international trade management, supply-chain consulting and financial services. Says Davis, “I never cease to be impressed by UPSers’ ability to remove obstacles and deliver on our promise, day in and day out, around the world.”

Nathan Deal

U.S. Congressman District 9

Gainesville

Age: 67

Deal, a congressman since 1994, announced his candidacy for governor of Georgia in 2009. Despite his plan to leave Congress, Deal, a Republican, has been a key player in the healthcare reform debate as senior Republican on the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where much of the debate took place.

Benjamin DeCosta

Aviation General Manager

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Atlanta

Age: 64

DeCosta initiated an expansion of security-screening which reduces passenger wait times, a “retail Renaissance” program (adding more than 70 shops at the airport) and environmental enrichment programs, such as the Sam’s Lake wildlife preserve. Air Cargo World gave Hartsfield-Jackson its Award for Excellence and DeCosta was named “Man of the Year” by the Atlanta Tribune.

Margaret DeFrancisco

President/CEO

Georgia Lottery Corporation

Atlanta

Age: 60

The Georgia Lottery Corp. is the only traditional lottery in the U.S. to experience 11 consecutive years of growth in profits. DeFrancisco was named president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, where she will work toward execution of a joint initiative to cross-sell Mega Millions and Powerball in all U.S. lottery jurisdictions.

Kit Dunlap

President/CEO, Greater Hall County

Chamber of Commerce

Chair, Metropolitan North Georgia

Water Planning District

Gainesville

Age: 67

Georgia’s three-year drought finally ended this past summer, but the search for a solution to providing a consistent water supply goes on. Dunlap is a leader in that search as chair of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District and a member of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s water contingency task force.

Burrell Ellis

CEO

DeKalb County

Stone Mountain

Age: 51

In his first year as DeKalb CEO, Ellis has faced shrinking tax revenues and budget cuts as he worked to fulfill his campaign promise of improving public safety and streamlining government. He’s made inroads in both areas, firing the police chief and adding a public safety director while restructuring other county departments.

Robert Farris

Director

Georgia Forestry Commission

Gray

Age: 50

Farris, who has been with the GFC since 1985, became director in 2008, after serving in an interim capacity for almost two years. As director, he’s responsible for all programs of the GFC, which has 675 employees and an annual budget of about $40 million, and also for providing leadership, service and education in the protection and conservation of roughly 24 million acres of forest.

Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter

Commanding General

U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence

Fort Benning

Age: 53

Ferriter is managing the transformation of Fort Benning as part of the Base Realignment and Closure expansion, which will increase the area population by some 30,000 military personnel, students, civilian employees, contractors, family members and retirees by September 2011. More than $3.5 billion in construction will be invested on the base (which already has an annual impact of $2 billion) through 2016.

Thomas Frieden

Director, Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta

Age: 49

Frieden heads a global health agency charged with conducting and supporting public health activities in the United States, with more than 14,000 employees in 54 countries. With the spread of the H1N1 flu and vaccination supply challenges, the job is more important than ever, and Frieden is setting the CDC on a course to strategically address the leading causes of illness, disability and death.

Mike Garrett

President/CEO

Georgia Power Company

Atlanta

Age: 60

Georgia passed legislation enabling Georgia Power to pre-charge for nuclear reactors to increase the state’s power supply, getting the attention of national policy makers looking to expand alternative energy, and putting Georgia in the front of the line for stimulus funding. Garrett, who has led Southern Company’s largest subsidiary since 2004, sits on many boards, including Piedmont Healthcare, the Georgia Chamber, Metro Atlanta Chamber, United Way and Morehouse College.

Dr. Helene Gayle

President/CEO

CARE USA

Atlanta

Age: 54

Gayle runs an international poverty-fighting organization that contributed $609 million in supporting more than 1,000 projects in 66 countries in 2008. She used to lead the AIDS efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and last year was named to chair the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Tim Golden

State Senator

Valdosta

Age: 55

In his 20 years in the Georgia legislature, Golden has become known as a strong advocate for Georgia business and children’s healthcare issues. Golden, who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, serves as secretary of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and co-chairs the Senate Study Committee on the Future of Manufacturing in Georgia.

Beverly Hall

Superintendent

Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta

Age: 61

Since taking the position of superintendent 10 years ago, Hall has led the system through remarkable changes and achievements, including an increase in the graduation rate from 39 percent in 2002 to 72 percent in 2008. Her work was recognized at the national level with the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year Award, given by the American Association of School Administrators.

Karen Handel

Georgia Secretary of State

Roswell

Age: 47

No stranger to political controversy, Handel, a Republican, took on strengthening elections security in part through a voter ID requirement, knowing the potential for a lengthy court battle. But she faced similar hurdles in balancing a budget and reforming ethics laws as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She is a candidate for governor who has been outspoken about the need for ethics reform.

P. Russell Hardin

President

Robert W. Woodruff Foundation

Atlanta

Age: 52

In his third year overseeing the Woodruff Foundation, Hardin helped award 34 grants totaling nearly $117 million in a tough year for philanthropy. He also heads the Joseph B. Whitehead, Lettie Pate Evans and Lettie Pate Whitehead foundations, which support interests ranging from health and human welfare to economic development, the arts, and women’s college educations.

Jim Higdon

Executive Director

Georgia Municipal Association

Atlanta

Age: 68

Higdon leads the organization that represents the interests of 502 municipal governments across Georgia through legislative advocacy and technical consulting to its members. At a time when cities are feeling the squeeze from state budget cuts, he fosters collaboration among them to tackle economic development, improve tourism and pool resources.

Tommy Hills

Chief Financial Officer

State of Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 65

Anyone who’s had problems balancing a budget during these wacky economic times can sympathize with Hills. As Georgia’s chief financial watchdog, Hills strives to keep the state’s fiscal foundation as solid as possible – a tough job that has gotten tougher as decreased tax revenues continue forcing the state to make major budget cuts.

Pierre Howard

President

Georgia Conservancy

Atlanta

Age: 66

The former lieutenant governor is now leading the effort to create a sustainable funding source for land conservation in Georgia. A leading advocate for clean air and water, Howard – also a member of the governor’s water contingency task force – is working to build a broad base of political support to join in the protection of Georgia’s natural resources.

Donna Hyland

President/CEO

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Sandy Springs

Age: 49

CHOA went through a $365 million expansion at its Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals when Hyland was COO, and since she became CEO in 2008, Children’s completed a new $43 million facility at Hughes Spalding. With a work-force of some 7,400 at its three hospitals and 16 neighborhood clinics, CHOA treats patients from all 159 counties in Georgia and is ranked among the best pediatric healthcare providers in the United States.

Johnny Isakson

U.S. Senator

Marietta

Age: 65

Whether it’s an energy plan, high-speed rail or a tax credit for homebuyers, Isakson brings a conservative yet common-sense approach to solving issues. He’s grown a small business into a successful enterprise and been a fixture in state politics since 1974. When the recession hit, Isakson drew on that experience to offer answers to restoring the nation’s housing market and reducing the number of foreclosed homes.

George Israel

President and CEO

Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Macon

Age: 61

Israel brought experience as a chief executive in both government and business when he was appointed in 2002 to oversee the chamber. Since then, he’s increased membership rolls to more than 4,000, reorganized the chamber to make it more nimble and responsive, and served as a lobbying force for business interests at the state Capitol.

Ronald Jackson

Commissioner

Technical College System of Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 62

It’s no surprise that enrollment in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) set a new record high in fiscal 2009 with 156,000 students. As more Georgians faced unemployment, they turned to the TCSG to learn new job skills. Last year Jackson also dealt with the challenge of merging the administration of nine colleges into four colleges, while keeping all campuses open.

Robert S. Jepson, Jr.

Chairman/CEO

Jepson Associates, Inc.

Savannah

Age: 66

When Telfair Museum opened the Jepson Center of Fine Arts in 2006, the unforgettable facade by architect Moshe Safdie became an instant landmark, and signified that the former head of 14-company conglomerate Jepson Corpor-ation has stepped up his Georgia influence. Jepson sits on the boards of Savannah College of Art and Design and Lucas Theatre, and last year was appointed to the board of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Eric Johnson

Architect

Savannah

Age: 55

A key designer of the GOP’s takeover of power in Georgia, Johnson resigned his Senate seat and powerful post as president pro tem of the Georgia Senate to join the somewhat crowded race for governor. Backed by a number of influential “old guard” Republicans, he is considered a top choice of business leaders among the Republican candidates.

Otis Johnson

Mayor of Savannah

Savannah

Age: 66

Johnson has made the fight against persistent poverty a major theme in his administration. Re-elected in November 2007 with an overwhelming 70 percent of the vote, Johnson leads the city’s “Step Up” initiative, which brings together a coalition of Savannah’s business community, wealthy citizens and the disadvantaged to address poverty, focusing heavily on issues like affordable housing, healthcare and transportation.

Bill Jones III

Chairman/CEO

Sea Island Company

St. Simons Island

Age: 51

As chairman & CEO of the Sea Island Co., Jones is the steward of much of Georgia’s coast, including the world-renowned, historic hotel, The Cloister. He is a trustee and past chairman of the Georgia Research Alliance, chairman of the Georgia Historical Society Board of Curators and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Jerry Keen

Georgia House of Representatives

St. Simons Island

Age: 59

Keen, a life-long Georgian, is serving his fifth term in the state House and his third as majority leader. Keen sees the biggest issue of the upcoming legislative session to be managing the state budget with declining revenues and increasing population. He foresees it will be the “most difficult budgeting challenge in modern history.” But year-end scandals have likely added “ethics reform” to the House’s to-do list

James Cox Kennedy

Chairman/CEO

Cox Enterprises, Inc.

Atlanta

Age: 62

The Georgia Conservancy named Kennedy the 2009 Distinguished Conser-vationist of the Year. Although there are fewer newspapers rolling off the press these days – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s circulation keeps diving – the diversified Cox media empire posted revenues exceeding $15 billion last year.

Muhtar Kent

President and CEO

Coca-Cola Company

Atlanta

Age: 57

Former COO Kent leads one of the most powerful companies in the world – only the word “okay” is more recognized than “Coca-Cola.” Among Kent and Coke’s global initiatives, the Englishman wants to take on obesity, and recently reported 12 quarters of double digit growth for the new diet drink Coke Zero. Coke also gave $5 million to the Clinton Foundation last year for developing world programs.

Ross King

Deputy Director

Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG)

Fayetteville

Age: 51

When King takes over as executive director of ACCG in May, he won’t have to worry about a learning curve. He’s been with the organization for 23 years, serving as deputy director to Jerry Griffin, who is retiring. King plans to make leadership development a top priority to help Georgia’s 159 counties.

Jack Kingston

U.S. Congressman

District 1

Savannah

Age: 54

Kingston, a Republican, was elected to his ninth term from the 1st District in 2008. He serves on the House Appropria-tions Committee’s Defense Subcommit-tee, which oversees military-based funding, a good fit since his district is home to several military bases. He is also a member of the Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee.

Charles “Chick” Krautler

Director

Atlanta Regional Commission

Atlanta

Age: 62

With the interests of 10 metro counties to consider, Krautler is often called upon to be a problem solver and a moderator. The ARC’s Plan 2040 is one of the tools he has to address the area’s long-range land development and transportation needs. The plan also will address environmental, economic, and housing and human services challenges through the year 2040.

Brian Leary

President/CEO

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Atlanta

Age: 35

Leary spent 12 years as vice president of design and development on the Atlantic Station project before joining Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., in September. Now he’ll direct the efforts of a $2.8 billion urban redevelopment project along a 22-mile railroad corridor that could shape the way Atlanta grows over the next quarter century.

Chuck Leavell

Musician, Tree Farmer,

Author, Eco-entrepreneur

Bullard

Age: 57

Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, is a member of both the Alabama and Georgia music halls of fame. The only forest farmer to twice be named Georgia Tree Farmer of the Year (he was National Outstanding Tree Farmer for 1999, also), Leavell launched the Mother Nature Network (www.mnn.com) in 2009, offering the latest in environmental news and advice.

C.H. “Buff” Leavy IV

Owner, President & Editor

The Brunswick News Publishing Company

Brunswick

Age: 40

Leavy, immediate past president of the Georgia Press Association, is the fourth-generation owner of one of Georgia’s oldest family newspapers (founded in 1902). Despite the economic storm that has devastated his industry, Leavy says The Brunswick News remains strong as a “community watchdog” and a primary news source on Georgia’s coast.

David Lee

Vice President, Research

University of Georgia

Bogart

Age: 59

Lee oversees re-search at UGA’s 16 academic schools and colleges – the university has a total research expenditure of more than $333 million. Lee also is the executive VP for the UGA Research Foundation, VP of the UGA Real Estate Foundation, and serves on the board of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Science Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Dorothy Leland

President

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville

Age: 62

Leland presides over Georgia’s designated public liberal arts university, which has an annual regional impact of $154 million. Her focus on building quality is reflected in the school’s academic competitiveness, growth in undergraduate research and study abroad, and in the creation of specialized educational facilities, like a natural history museum, planetarium, museum of fine arts and the Center for Graduate and Profes-sional Learning in Macon.

John Lewis

U.S. Congressman

District 5

Atlanta

Age: 69

Lewis, the legendary civil rights figure, continues as an advocate for civil liberties from his position in Congress. He has served the 5th District, which includes the city of Atlanta, since 1987, rising to membership on the House Ways and Means Committee and to the position of chair on the Subcommittee on Oversight.

Jim Lientz

Chief Operating Officer

State of Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 65

As Georgia’s first COO, Lientz has been responsible for implementing the governor’s vision to make Georgia the best-managed state in the nation. Lientz has been key in ensuring agencies are doing what it takes to make long-term cultural changes that will benefit Georgians for years to come. The Pew Center on the States recognized Lientz’s efforts with a B+ in 2008.

Bill Linginfelter

Area President for

Georgia/South Carolina region

Regions Bank

Atlanta

Age: 53

The former CEO for Wachovia Bank in Georgia, Linginfelter joined Regions in 2008. Now he runs the Georgia/South Carolina region – a major chunk of business – for the Birmingham-based bank holding company with $140 billion in assets and more than 30,000 employees in 16 states. This year Linginfelter will serve as chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Dennis Lockhart

President & CEO

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Atlanta

Age: 62

Appointed in 2007 as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Lockhart hardly had time to settle in before he was on the frontlines of the country’s financial meltdown. His experience, gathered in a career in academia, investment banking and international finance, has served him well as he helps battle the biggest financial crisis of our generation.

Todd Long

Planning Director

Georgia Department of Transportation

Lilburn

Age: 43

Long, appointed to his post last June by Gov. Sonny Perdue, is responsible for all activities associated with statewide transportation planning for the DOT. He’ll be challenged to bring the various stakeholders from across the state together to develop a cohesive transportation plan in an era of population growth and dwindling funds.

Tim Lowe

President

Lowe Engineers

Atlanta

Age: 58

Lowe is co-chairman of the governor’s water contingency task force, created in response to a judge’s ruling that limits Georgia’s access to the water supply in Lake Lanier. Lowe also serves on the McPherson Redevelopment Authority and Georgia World Congress Center Authority and chairs the Energy & Environment Committee for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Jim Maran

President/CEO

Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce

Duluth

Age: 62

Under Maran’s leadership, Gwinnett secured the “Deal of the Year” for 2009, recruiting NCR’s corporate headquarters and creating more than 1,200 jobs for the area. Maran’s efforts in six years on the job have brought national recognition – the American Chamber of Commerce executives named Gwinnett one of the top three metro chambers in the U.S.

Emory Morsberger

CEO

The Morsberger Group

Lawrenceville

Age: 54

Morsberger has called himself a “big dreamer” and that’s often what it takes when your goal is to revitalize declining neighborhoods. His company is best known for the successful rejuvenation of the historic City of Lawrenceville Square and such ambitious in-town Atlanta projects as the planned redevelopment of the old City Hall East into a mixed-use community.

Jeff Mullis

State Senator

Chickamauga

Age: 50

Mullis, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, is one of the state’s most influential leaders on transportation matters. His efforts to establish a high-speed rail system linking Atlanta and Chattanooga got a big boost in September when the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $14.2 million study grant for the project.

Sam Olens

Chairman, Cobb County Board of Commissioners

Marietta

Age: 52

As the elected head of Cobb government, Olens spends his days overseeing one of Georgia’s largest and most prosperous counties and proactively working toward solutions for the metro region’s transportation and water challeges. The former chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Olens, a Republican, is a candidate for state attorney general.

Dan Papp

President

Kennesaw State University

Marietta

Age: 62

How do you manage one of the fast-est-growing schools in the state’s university system, with more than 22,500 students, representing 142 countries, across a sprawling 384-acre suburban campus? Papp pulled from more than three decades in higher education, both as an administrator and international affairs expert. U.S. News & World Report ranks KSU eighth in its 2010 list of up-and-coming master’s level universities in the South.

Joseph A. Parker

President/CEO

Georgia Hospital Association

Marietta

Age: 63

Under Parker’s lead-ership (since 1986), GHA has enjoyed nearly 100 percent membership among Georgia’s acute care hospitals. In 2005, the association was instrumental in the state’s passage of one of the strongest tort reform laws in the nation. Parker, a former board member of the American Hospital Assoc-iation, remains active at the national level of the healthcare reform debate.

Sonny Perdue

Governor

State of Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 64

Perdue turned his degree in veterinary medicine and success as a small business owner into a political career that propelled him to the state’s highest elected office. He’s relied on those same small business principles – reforming a budget, setting priorities, cutting wasteful spending – to guide him as governor, working to attract businesses and new jobs while keeping the state’s triple-A bond ratings intact during a time of sharp revenue reductions.

G.P. “Bud” Peterson

President

Georgia Tech

Atlanta

Age: 57

Peterson, former chancellor of the University of Colorado, became Georgia Tech’s 11th president in April. He heads one of the nation’s leading research universities, with 13,515 undergraduate students (20,291 overall), and a local economic impact of about $2 billion a year. Peterson is guiding a strategic visioning process to define what Tech will look like in 25 years.

DuBose Porter

Georgia House of Representatives

Newspaper owner

Dublin

Age: 56

Porter, one of the state’s top ranking Democrats as minority leader in the Georgia House and a state representative since 1982, threw his hat into the ring last April for the governor’s race. In 2009, Porter co-sponsored – and continues to fight for – a point of sale bill, which he argues would help Georgia claim more than $1 billion of lost revenue from already-paid sales taxes that are going uncollected. He has also been a proponent of ethics reform.

Tom Price

U.S. Congressman

District 6

Roswell

Age: 55

Price, one of the wealthiest U.S. congressmen, built a lucrative orthopedics practice in Atlanta before entering politics. And whether he’s chairing the Republican Study Committee (a caucus of more than 100 conservative GOP representatives), or debating with his congressional colleagues, he’s been a fiercely vocal and influential thorn in the side of Democratic healthcare reformists.

David Ratcliffe

Chairman, President & CEO

Southern Company

Atlanta

Age: 61

The Tifton native joined Georgia Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, as a biologist in 1971 and started on a track that led him to the executive suite of Southern Company in 2004. With 4.4 million customers, more than 500,000 shareholders and about 26,000 employees, Ratcliffe now runs a corporation that touches the lives of people across four states.

Kasim Reed

Mayor of Atlanta

Age: 40

The attorney and former state senator and campaign manager for Shirley Franklin follows in her footsteps as he becomes the 59th mayor of Atlanta, following a narrow victory over Mary Norwood in December’s runoff election. As mayor, Reed will grapple with the city’s moribund financial situation and focus on bolstering the police force. He brings a strong working relationship with state lawmakers to the new job.

John Rice

Vice Chairman,

General Electric Company

CEO, GE Technology Infrastructure

Roswell

Age: 53

Even in an era of cutbacks, Rice is leading his portion of GE in growth and development, actively working on global issues such as the environment and healthcare. He puts the same high energy into his community. He is a director of Emory Healthcare and a trustee of the Woodruff Arts Center, the Georgia Research Alliance and the Walker School.

A.J. Robinson

President

Central Atlanta Progress

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

Atlanta

Age: 54

Robinson helms organizations charged with keeping the heart of Atlanta safe, livable and economically vibrant. A director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Robinson has worked to launch a city-wide vending program. He began a multi-million dollar capital infrastructure campaign, created the Downtown Dining District and spearheaded a $200 million application for streetcar funding in a partnership with Midtown Atlanta.

Sylvia Russell

President

AT&T Georgia

Atlanta

Age: 53

Russell oversees all public policy and corporate citizen activities as well as the day-to-day business of the company and its 24,000 Georgia employees. She also serves on the boards of the Technical College System of Georgia, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the Metropolitan Atlanta United Way and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Beheruz N. Sethna

President/Professor of Business Administration

University of West Georgia

Carrollton

Age: 61

Sethna can claim several firsts in higher education. He is the first person from any ethnic minority to become president of a predominantly white or racially integrated university in Georgia and believed to be the first person of Indian origin to become president of any university in the nation. Under his leadership, the institution has seen enrollment increase to 11,500.

Dr. Greg Simone

President/CEO

WellStar Health System

Marietta

Age: 63

WellStar tapped the cardiologist to run its 11,500-employee, regional nonprofit healthcare system in 2007. Now he’ll lead the organization as it embarks on an $800 million expansion plan, which includes a $100 million, environmentally friendly healthcare campus to replace a 50-year-old hospital in Hiram. Currently, WellStar receives about 800,000 patient visits a year.

Suzanne Sitherwood

President

Atlanta Gas Light

Atlanta

Age: 49

Sitherwood is leading the company’s $400 million plan to expand pipeline capacity and natural gas storage. The dynamic, community-minded executive also serves as chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and on the governor’s Energy Policy Council, the boards of the Metropolitan North Georgia Planning District and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and on The Carter Center Board of Councilors.

Richard F. Smith

Chairman/CEO

Equifax, Inc.

Atlanta

Age: 50

Smith runs a $1.9 billion consumer credit reporting agency based in Atlanta, with 7,000 employees in 15 countries. He just completed a turn as chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and serves on the boards of the Commerce Club, the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta and the Atlanta Committee for Progress.

Thomas A. “Tom” Smith

President/CEO

Oglethorpe Power Corporation

Alpharetta

Age: 55

As the longtime head of the nation’s largest power co-op, Smith is aggressively guiding a major expansion program to serve more than 4 million Georgia customers. In 2009, OPC purchased an electric generating plant in northeast Georgia for $148.5 million and a generation facility in Heard County for $105 million.

Vance Smith

Commissioner

Georgia Department of Transportation

Pine Mountain

Age: 57

Smith learned the challenges facing Georgia’s transportation system as a state lawmaker for 16 years. Now he is putting his knowledge to work as commissioner of the struggling DOT, charged with managing the transportation infrastructure of one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S. while facing gigantic funding deficits.

John Somerhalder

President/CEO/Chairman

AGL Resources

Atlanta

Age: 54

Somerhalder heads Georgia’s second-oldest company, a leader in the natural gas industry. With more than 2,300 employees, the company serves 2.3 million customers in six states. Somerhalder serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, BeltLine Partnership and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Kessel Stelling, Jr.

President/CEO

Bank of North Georgia

Marietta

Age: 52

Even through harsh economic times, especially in the banking industry, employees of the Bank of North Georgia keep voting it as one of the best places to work in Atlanta and Georgia. They continuously cite company leadership as the reason why. That culture begins at the top with Stelling, who also serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

Ken Stewart

Commissioner

Georgia Department of Economic Development

Marietta

Age: 60

Despite tough economic times, Stewart remains upbeat about Georgia, which he believes is primed for recovery when the economy improves. He oversees an agency that located or expanded 327 economic projects in fiscal year 2009, and created nearly 17,000 jobs in the state. The agency also helped host BIO 2009, an international biotechnology conference held in Atlanta for the first time.

Jimmy Tallent

President and CEO

United Community Bank

Hiawassee

Age: 57

Through an economic downturn that has brought five consecutive quarterly losses, Tallent helps keep the Blairsville-based bank well capitalized. He taps nearly three decades of banking experience, including 15 years at the helm of UCB, to navigate the choppy economic waters and maintain the bank’s position as one of the largest traditional bank holding companies in the state.

Jan Tankersley

Bulloch County Commissioner,

President, Association County

Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG)

Brooklet

Age: 62

Tankersley, the first woman elected to the Bulloch County Board of Commis-sioners, won a third term in 2008 and is serving her second term as president of the ACCG. As a member of numerous gubernatorial and state government task forces and committees, Tankersley has focused on regional transportation and water issues and leadership training.

Charles Tarbutton

Assistant Vice President

Sandersville Railroad Company

Sandersville

Age: 43

The former chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce (2008), Tarbutton also serves on the boards of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Georgia College and State University Foundation. This year he turns his attention to politics – he’s chairing Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s re-election campaign.

Don Thomas

State Senator

District 54

Dalton

Age: 76

Thomas, a family physician for almost 50 years, chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, serves as secretary of the Education and Youth Committee and serves on the Appropriations, Ethics and Rules committees. He is currently working to repeal the seatbelt exemption for pick-up trucks, which could save taxpayers an estimated $25 million in Medicaid costs.

Michael Thurmond

Commissioner

Georgia Department of Labor

Athens

Age: 56

Thurmond has had to respond on the front lines to the highest unemployment rates (10.2 percent in November) in Georgia since 1976. In response, Thurmond created Georgia Work$ (GW$), which allows unemployed workers to collect unemployment insurance while they train for new work. More than 3,000 people have been hired as a result, and nearly 6,000 Georgia businesses have participated.

William Todd

President

Georgia Cancer Coalition

Atlanta

Age: 61

Todd was part of the collaborative team that helped Georgia secure a coveted National Cancer Institute designated cancer center at Emory/Winship; an NCI Community Cancer Center pilot site in Savannah with affiliations in Rome and Columbus; a statewide clinical trials network; and 150 cancer research scholars, among other things. He serves in several voluntary leadership roles with his alma mater, Georgia Tech.

James Wagner

President

Emory University

Atlanta

Age: 56

Under Wagner’s leadership, Emory continued to make progress in a challenging economic environment. The Winship Cancer Institute was named Georgia’s first National Cancer Institute designated cancer center; Emory researchers earned $484.2 million in external grant funding, an 18 percent increase; and Emory was named one of the top universities to work for by both The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Scientist magazine.

James Wells

Chairman/CEO

SunTrust Banks, Inc.

Atlanta

Age: 62

Wells runs a company that listed total assets of $179.1 billion last spring, with almost 1,700 retail branches and 2,700 ATMs in 11 states and the District of Columbia. But SunTrust, one of the nation’s largest financial holding companies, still feels pain in the difficult economic environment, reporting huge losses throughout 2009. Wells also serves on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Joel Wernick

President/CEO

Phoebe Putney Health System

Albany

Age: 55

Wernick has overseen the growing south Georgia healthcare system for 21 years as it expands into Sumter, Worth and Colquitt counties providing cancer, rheumatology and wound care services. Budgets have been tightened to protect jobs, but the system is moving forward on new facilities at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, to replace the hospital destroyed by a devastating tornado in 2007.

Jim Wetherington

Mayor of Columbus

Columbus

Age: 72

Wetherington, previously the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Correct-ions and police chief in Columbus, was elected mayor in 2006. He leads a local government that is poised for the heavy growth coming with the expansion of Fort Benning and has emphasized public safety, adding 100 new police officers to the city force, thanks to the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) he supported in 2008.

Sam Williams

President

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce

Atlanta

Age: 64

With 4,000 members that employ more than 1.1 million workers, Williams is at ease with the moniker of being the voice of Atlanta’s business community. He’s helped forge partnerships that addressed city water and sewers, Grady Memorial Hospital, business recruitment and economic development, transportation, education and the environment.

Tommie Williams

Majority Leader

Georgia Senate

Lyons

Age: 55

The conservative Re-publican from the 19th District in southeast Georgia has served in the Senate since 1998. Elected Senate majority leader in 2005, he also currently serves as president pro tempore. He advocates balanced budgets, consumer driven health-care and works to help farmers and other small businesses. He also is active in efforts to bring new businesses to Georgia.

Rick Winger

President/CEO

Savannah Economic

Development Authority

Savannah

Age: 69

Winger – a Savan-nah Business Hall of Famer – and SEDA had another busy year of economic development activity on the Georgia coast. The highlight of the year was the announcement in September that Mitsubishi Power Sys-tems of America would invest $325 million and create 500 jobs at build-out of the facility at the Chatham County Megasite.

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