10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch
Do you know a 25 to 40 year old rising professional residing in Cherokee County who is an up and coming leader? Do they have their sights set on where they want to be in the next five to ten years? Perhaps that person is you!
The Top 10 in 10 'Young Professionals to Watch' initiative is designed to cultivate and showcase exceptional Cherokee County young professionals. Coordinated by the Chamber in partnership with Enjoy! Cherokee Magazine, this recognition program will focus on 25-40 year olds considered to be Cherokee County's potential future leaders.
Those persons named as a Top 10 in 10 'Young Professional to Watch' will be:
Recognized at the Chamber's Good Morning Cherokee breakfast held on the first Thursday in June.
Featured in the June Issue of Enjoy! Cherokee Magazine (www.enjoycherokee.com.)
Nominated for the Georgia Trend Magazine 40 Under 40 recognition. (Must be under 40 years of age on October 1st.)
Past professional achievements and awards
Five to ten year professional goals
Deadline for entry:
Entries will be accepted beginning March 1.
Entries must be received no later than 5 pm, April 5, 2013.
2012 10 in 10 Recipients
Chris Bishop - Attorney, Law Firm of Barry W. Bishop, PC
Chris Bishop could not resist coming back to the community where he grew up. When he was fresh out of law school, he was initially attracted by the lure of becoming a "big city lawyer." "I considered working at a big firm in Atlanta," he says, "but it just made sense to come back and work here." Bishop notes how fast Cherokee County is growing and how that growth is affecting the local court system. "Cherokee has grown so fast," he says, "that I foresee another superior and state court judge for the county in the next 10 years."
If an extra state court judge seat is added, Bishop feels like it would be a good opportunity to increase the impact he can have in his community. "I'm thinking about throwing my name in the hat for that," he admits. Bishop said he is eyeing the state court seat because it affords a judge the opportunity to have a positive impact in people's lives, adding that "the state court judge can intervene after someone has made a small mistake in hopes that they will not make a bigger mistake later. "Bishop, 35, lives in the Sixes community. He has a finance degree from the University of Georgia and a law degree from John Marshall Law School.
Neil Blackman - Principal, Corblu Ecology Group, LLC
Being recognized as one of his community's rising leaders makes Neil Blackman of Woodstock's Corblu Ecology Group, LLC, reflect a little on his life and background. "I was surprised when I heard about the recognition," he says. "But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I have been blessed to be surrounded my whole life by great leaders. "Blackman says that being surrounded by great leaders has shown him the way to lead in his community. "It seems natural to lead by example and try to get the best out of the people around you," he says.
Blackman has accepted this recognition as a chance to become an even stronger leader in the community. "I don't think there is pressure," he says.
"It gives me a bit of a challenge to find the things that I do best and make sure I do them more often. It gives me more energy to find more opportunities to work in the community." Through his work coaching youth sports and serving on the Teen Leadership Cherokee steering committee, Blackman has had many opportunities to work with young people. "I think in the near future, I would want my community involvement to continue to be youth focused," he says.
Blackman also would like to take his talents to the board of the county's office of economic development. He thinks the tools he has honed in his professional career working with developments to bring jobs to the county in a responsible way make him a good candidate. "It is a goal of mine to be on that board," he says. Blackman, 36, lives in Holly Springs with his wife, Rachel, and children Jack and Jesse. He earned a degree from the University of Georgia in forest resources.
Greta Foll - President, Golden Home Services
Greta Foll said she sometimes likes to “slide under the radar” when working in the community. However, staying under the radar may not be easy, especially now that she has been recognized as an emerging county leader. Since moving to Canton a few years ago, she has started Golden Home Services, a home and personal care company. "I was in the corporate world and wanted to do something where I could lay my head on my pillow at night and feel better about it," she says. Taking a more active leadership role in the county is already on her mind. She said being from a small town in Indiana taught her to have deep roots wherever she lived."I definitely want to strengthen my community roots through my career or church or even through running for political office," she explains. "I am a type A personality. I don't like to stop."
Foll, who lived in Kennesaw before making Cherokee her home, said this community is a good place in which to be a leader. "We moved to Canton from Kennesaw and we love that it is a little more laid back." Foll lives in Canton with her husband, Curt. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
Mark Goddard - Manager-Commercial Marketing, Cobb EMC
Mark Goddard does not feel any pressure as a result of being named one of Cherokee County's rising leaders but acknowledges there is some responsibility that comes with the recognition. "There is a responsibility to help lead the community in the right direction," he concedes. "It is humbling and an honor to be part of this group." Goddard is a native of Cherokee County and hopes to see future generations prosper. "It is the place I have chosen to raise my children, so I want it to continue to prosper," he says. Goddard, manager of commercial marketing for Cobb EMC, is a past chairman of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, promoting existing businesses and recruiting new businesses to the county.
He believes that Cherokee County offers an ideal environment for business. "We have a great quality of life,” he adds. “We have exceptional schools. We have a variety of recreational opportunities for adults and youth. We have a lot of people leaving the county for work, but, in the future, people are going to want to be employed closer to home." Goddard lives in Canton with his wife, Jennifer, and children Billy and Caroline. He holds a marketing and professional sales degree from Kennesaw State University.
Alison Higgins - Community Relations Coordinator, Northside Hospital-Cherokee
Cherokee County has made an investment in Alison Higgins and she hopes she is paying it back with interest. "For my entire life, I have proudly called Cherokee County my home,” she says. “I was educated here from elementary school through college, and I have been blessed to be able to work here, attend church here and raise my family here," she says with pride. "This award helps prove that the investment this community has made in me is being returned to them."
Having that kind of familiarity with her community serves her well in her volunteer duties, as well as her professional duties. Higgins works at Northside Hospital-Cherokee as community relations coordinator."I feel that because of my ties to the community I have been able to better serve my employer as well as the civic organizations in which I am proud to serve," she adds. Higgins plans to continue her professional growth through career advancement and continued education over the next 10 years. She also plans to stay involved in the civic life, with a focus on serving children. Higgins lives in Hickory Flat with her husband, Chris, and son Jackson. She received an associate's degree from Reinhardt College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia.
Erika Neldner - Managing Editor, Cherokee Ledger-News
One of the county’s future leaders, Erika Neldner, will be keeping her eye on Cherokee's decision makers. As editor of the Cherokee Ledger-News, Neldner is helping the community keep up with what is happening locally."To me, it is about doing good things, doing the right thing and holding the spenders of taxpayer dollars accountable," she notes. While we can get all the news we need through digital media, one of Neldner's priorities over the next few years is to "reach out to the children in our community to ensure that print journalism truly means something to them." She and her staff give tours to children to show them how the newspaper is put together.
"I would also like to keep the newspaper involved in the community and not just reporting on the community," she adds. She grew up visiting grandparents in the Macedonia community and spent her summers here, so moving to Canton was a perfect fit. "Living and working in the county gives me even more reason to be involved, to donate my free time when I have it and to ensure that our county evolves in a way in which we are proud to leave it for our children and their children," she explains. Neldner lives in Canton with her husband, Michael, and son Jack. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a degree in communications.
Jason Nelms - Founding Partner, Everlast Synthetic Products, LLC
It should be easy to watch Jason Nelms over the next several years. He can be found on the first and third Tuesday each month at the county commission podium, representing Post 4. Nelms says that he is humbled by the recognition but knows that there is a responsibility now to live up to it: "I'm fortunate to be in a position of leadership. I have an opportunity to serve people and do good things. I am ready to bear that responsibility and do all I can to make this county the best that it can be. "In 10 years, Nelms hopes to continue to be in a leadership position in the private sector as well. He started his company, Everlast Synthetic Products, a leading manufacturer of vinyl sheet piling for sea walls, retaining walls and lake walls, in 2005.
"I'm a lucky man," he said. "I have a great business that I started in the county. Ten years from now, I hope I am still in the position of being a business owner and in a position to serve people."Nelms, 39, lives in Woodstock with his wife, Christa, and sons Tate and Cooper. He studied wildlife and forestry at Abraham Baldwin College prior to obtaining an undergraduate degree as well as MBA from Kennesaw State University.
Billy Peppers - Special Assistant, Office of Downtown Development, Community Development & Finance, Georgia Department of Community Affairs
Billy Peppers, Special
Assistant, Office of
Community Development &
Finance, Georgia Department of Community Affairs (a non- profit group that promotes economic re-development of Georgia’s downtowns), appreciates being recognized as one of the people to keep an eye on in Cherokee County. However, he prefers to see the end result of his efforts eceive the majority of the spotlight. The former Director of Economic Development Services for the
City of Woodstock feels that “in economic development, we stay in the background as much as possible,” he explains. “We want the projects to get the spotlight. The number one thing for us is to make the community look good.”
Peppers, who was a part of Woodstock’s vision, feels the community can grow even more. Improvements that will continue to build on Woodstock’s successes include bringing in more hotels and adding some conference space in the south end of the county. Peppers, 30, lives in Canton with his wife, Julie, and son Turner. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in political science
Jeff Rusbridge - Partner, Dyer & Rusbridge, PC
Jeff Rusbridge may have a different job title soon. An attorney in Canton, Rusbridge has set his sights on elected office. Qualifying for the Cherokee County State Court seat being vacated by retiring Judge C.J. Gober, ended late in May. As of late April, Rusbridge had qualified and was unopposed.
"I have always wanted tobe a judge in this county," he admits. "I have the experience necessary to do the job. I have handled all types of cases that are heard in state court. With that experience, I think I could do a good job. "Rusbridge said Cherokee's legal system stands out, and he wants a chance to be one of its leaders. "We've got a good professional court system with a great number of very professional attorneys in town," he acknowledges. He also praises the good job done by the county's judges. "I'd like to do what I can to keep up that tradition,” he adds.
Service in the community is something Rusbridge learned from his father, a Lion's Club member. "I grew up being taught to serve the community," he says. "I've always felt like it was my obligation." Rusbridge also plans on having a leadership role outside of the courthouse in the next few years."I can't see myself not heavily involved in community and civic organizations," he said. Rusbridge lives in Canton with his wife, Ashley, and sons Luke and Will. He earned a political science degree from Furman University and a law degree from the University of Georgia.
Jeff Rusbridge - Southeast Restoration Group
Jeremy Swafford acknowledges that he, too, is grateful to be recognized as one Cherokee County's rising leaders. "I wouldn't have thought of myself in that category," he says. Swafford, chief financial officer for Southeast Restoration Group, says the recognition of being a leader in his adopted hometown is an honor. He has lived in the county for approximately 10 years. "I absolutely love Cherokee County," he says. "There is a vast array of things to do and see. The geography is breathtaking. You go to any corner of the county and see a mountain or a lake. That is hard to find in many other counties."
Swafford sees his professional leadership role increasing as Southeast Restoration Group, a general contracting company that provides structural repairs and emergency services in Cherokee County and north Georgia, grows. In the community, Swafford hopes to work on family-focused organizations and endeavors. "I consider myself a servant leader,” he explains. Swafford, 31, lives in the Buffington community with his wife, Carrie and daughters Caroline, Catherine and Callianne. He received his undergraduate degree from Berry College and MBA from Kennesaw State University.