Selected for both their exceptional industry skills and their dedication to their workplace and community, the following business leaders make up CityScope® magazine’s prestigious Gold Club list this year.
Congratulations to these impactful men and women on this well-deserved honor!
Nic Cornelison first started working for his dad and uncle’s commercial construction company – P&C Construction, Inc. – as a young teenager. Now, in his role as president, Cornelison manages the company’s day-to-day operations with projects across the Southeast, and under his leadership, P&C has grown to be one of the largest construction companies in Chattanooga. As chairman of Associated General Contractors East Tennessee, Cornelison is guiding the vision to launch the Construction Workforce Center, which, starting in July 2022, will help prepare individuals for employment in the construction industry. He additionally serves as vice president of the Southeast Brangus Breeders Association.
Linda Murray Bullard founded LSMB Business Solutions in March of 2013; the company specializes in readying startups for success by creating a solid foundation, which helps them to implement and scale. In addition to her work at LSMB, Murray Bullard serves as a board member of the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga, and she is a certified Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute. She holds an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and she earned additional business administration degrees from both Bryan College and Chattanooga State Community College.
Restaurateur Scottie Bowman has owned local hot spots The Big Chill and Grill for 25 years and Scottie’s on the River for three. In 2020, she founded The Launch Pad – a sober-living house for women in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. While no longer managing the day-to-day operations of the restaurants, Bowman has found success in her current administrative role, as each of her establishments has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also been involved with several organizations and nonprofits over the years, such as Cempa, the Kidney Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, and CHI Memorial’s Pink! gala, and regularly hosts fundraisers for them at her restaurants.
Darlene Brown opened the doors of Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC in 2007 after seeing a need for a locally owned, woman-led real estate company in Chattanooga. Under Brown’s care, the company is now the largest of its kind in Chattanooga with three offices and over 140 REALTORS®. During her 40+ years in real estate, Brown has garnered many professional awards and positions, including Realtor of the Year and President of Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®. Brown is known to be one of the earliest and strongest proponents of downtown living. She prioritizes giving back often through her work with various nonprofits and community boards.
A 1992 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Dr. Yancy Freeman returned to his alma mater a few short years later to serve in a variety of roles, from admissions and recruitment to advising and student success. In his current role, Dr. Freeman works to increase enrollment as well as student engagement. Dr. Freeman is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and currently sits on the boards of the Public Education Foundation and the River City Company. He has also served as a member of 100 Black Men of Chattanooga. Dr. Freeman graduated from the University of Tennessee Executive Leadership Institute in 2020.
Rachel Davis has worked in a wide range of industries throughout her career, including information technology, manufacturing, politics, the nonprofit sector – and now healthcare. She currently oversees marketing for more than 15 AFC Urgent Care clinics in Tennessee and North Carolina. Her marketing efforts are largely community-based and reflect AFC’s values by providing educational and relatable information in a personal way. Davis is also an adjunct professor in the communications department at Lee University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in communications in 2007; she has held this role for the past eight years.
A passion for music and entertainment, coupled with a high school audition for a part-time DJ position, ignited Danny Howard’s radio career. Although the newly named general manager of Bahakel Communications – encompassing stations Sunny 92.3, Hits 96, Q-97.3/99.3, and Alt 98-7 – Howard is a familiar voice in the Chattanooga market, having programmed the stations for 28 years. He also plays a role in digital content and marketing and promotional efforts, constantly working to exceed the needs of the stations’ ad partners while enhancing the listener’s experience. Howard is a graduate of Western Carolina University, where he studied radio, television, film, and journalism.
A certified speaker, trainer, and coach with The John Maxwell Team, Dr. David Banks provides invaluable resources and training to City of Chattanooga employees. His responsibilities include setting the culture for employees to be motivated and productive, onboarding new hires, and providing leadership development for department leaders. Dr. Banks also conducts training on topics such as personal growth and professional development on a national and international scale – from India to Australia to Pakistan – and he has authored two marriage books, two children’s books, and a leadership book. Banks holds a doctorate in psychology from Jacksonville Theological Seminary.
Anna Baker left a career as a real estate broker to work with her husband Frank at Stone Source, Inc. in 2003. She has been involved with all aspects of the family-owned-and-operated business, from vendor relations to product training and advertising. Baker has developed a process to provide a sophisticated service model of one-on-one design, selection, and sales to enhance the customer experience. As a design-focused sales team leader, she has filled the showroom with a diverse collection of tile and countertop lines and staffed it with design consultants with expert product knowledge. A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Baker has a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Eunice Kal has owned several restaurants around Chattanooga since 2007, but her current role – in which she supports her management teams at her restaurants and supervises day-to-day operations in the corporate office – officially started three years ago. Kal has gained valuable knowledge and experience from working in management and supervisory roles, and she is also passionate about her community and partnering with local nonprofits. She oversees several goodwill projects that Kals International implements annually, such as a project that supplied food to first responders in the East Hamilton area following the tornado in 2020.
In his first job as a waiter in high school, Dr. Marc Cromie learned that “the customer always comes first.” Years later, at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, he continues to find success with this mantra. In his leadership role, Dr. Cromie helps oversee the clinic’s nine offices throughout Tennessee and Georgia while also seeing patients on a daily basis. He is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Cromie has also served on the boards of T.C. Thompson’s Children’s Hospital Foundation, Emily’s Power for a Cure, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, among others.
As president of NAI Charter – a role he’s held since 1998 – David DeVaney oversees the operations, direction, and success of its sales team while also leading the property management team. DeVaney has extended NAI Charter’s influence through five states with a third-party listing portfolio of over $90 million, and in the last 10 years, he has successfully completed commercial transactions of over $250 million. With a goal of giving back to the community, he has served on the boards of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, Young Life, CADAS, The University of Chattanooga Foundation, Rotary Club, and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams!” When Sewanee Vice Chancellor Reuben Brigety encouraged seniors at PEF’s Camp College to be precisely that, Dr. Edna Varner realized that she has been aspiring to it her whole life. She served 30 years as a teacher and principal before retiring to become the director of leadership development for a national literacy initiative. Since 2013, she has coached new teachers for PEF’s Project Inspire Teacher Residency. Dr. Varner has chaired seven local nonprofit boards and served on 20, spoken at education conferences on two continents, and represented PEF twice, addressing the U.S. Senate Education Committee on education reforms.
Kadi Brown has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry, but founding The Group Real Estate Brokerage with business partner Jason Farmer in 2017 was a definite highlight. Her typical workday includes tending to the company’s real estate agents’ needs, providing a desirable company culture, and managing new home sales for her builder clients, all while kicking off a new division focusing on marketing and sales for regional builders and the new home sales industry. Brown has also been actively involved in many community organizations, from Greater Chattanooga Realtors and the Homebuilders Association of Greater Chattanooga to the Baylor Alumni Board and Northside Neighborhood House.
R. Steve Hunt is a managing partner and principal broker at Berry & Hunt, a full-service commercial real estate company. After obtaining his real estate license in 1982 while attending UTC, Hunt joined with Jim Berry in 1988 to lead the marketing and leasing of Republic Centre – one of Chattanooga’s most successful office redevelopment projects. Hunt and Berry formalized their partnership as Berry & Hunt in 1999 and achieved success with numerous redevelopment projects, most notably Liberty Tower. Recently transitioning to more real estate brokerage, including tenant representation, commercial brokerage, and investment, Hunt enjoys assisting clients and his partners achieve their goals.
Pulling double duty, Guru Shah works for his family’s business, Hamilton Plastics, as well as his own ventures, Shah Trucking and Shah Logistics. On the transportation side, he empowers his teams to accelerate controlled and profitable growth while offering a high-quality level of service, and his role at Hamilton Plastics is largely centered in efficiency optimization and organizational development. Outside of these roles, Shah serves on the boards of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Heart Ball, and Baylor School Alumni. He is a 2006 graduate of Baylor School, a 2010 graduate of Vanderbilt University, and a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.
An attorney at law firm Evans Harrison Hackett PLLC, Maury Nicely has been practicing law for 24 years. Specializing in labor and employment, he primarily represents businesses – from small local startups to national corporations – with responsibilities including handling litigation and other legal issues, ensuring appropriate policies and procedures are in place, and advising on business decisions in order to avoid creating unnecessary legal exposure. An avid student of Chattanooga history, Nicely is currently on the boards of directors for the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, East Tennessee Historical Society, Cornerstones (Chattanooga’s historic preservation organization), and Rotary Club.
With a background in art history and historic preservation, Erin May turned her professional career from museum education and preservation tax credit consulting to the realm of advertising in 2004, after founding Maycreate with her husband Brian. May currently oversees business operations and staff hiring, where she most values her service in running an efficient agency with a dynamic and talented creative team. Along with her role at Maycreate, she also holds a position with an Ohio-based digital out-of-home media company, where she delivers national media plans for major brands and buying agencies.
Jim Vaughn leads Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC’s Tennessee efforts while also providing assurance, advisory, and tax advice to private equity and financial institution clients and a few high-net-worth families in the Southeast. He’s been with Mauldin & Jenkins for 22 years and a Chattanooga resident for six. Vaughn is a member of the UTC Gary W. Rollins College of Business Advisory Board and president of the Cherokee Area Council – Boy Scouts of America. He is a Certified Public Accountant in the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, and he holds a BBA from Georgia Southern University in accounting and finance.
Arney Guess has been supplying diamonds and fine jewelry, as well as custom pieces and repairs, to the Chattanooga area for 34 years. Arney first began working with gold in 1969, making dental crowns with his father, and a little more than 10 years later, he started turning precious metals into jewelry – eventually leading to the 1987 debut of Arney Guess Goldsmith, LLC, with his wife, Sheila, at his side. Today, the Hixson-based business is fully staffed with seven jewelers on-site, making it one of the most equipped and capable repair shops locally. Arney serves as owner, operator, master jeweler, and namesake.
Camille Daniel is one of the founders of the new locally owned and managed RockPoint Bank. As a 25-year veteran of the Chattanooga banking community, Daniel serves as chief banking officer and leads RockPoint’s business development efforts. She and her team at RockPoint are focused on the commercial needs of the small- to medium-sized business segment, as well as the personal banking needs of owners, operators, and professionals in the community. Daniel currently serves on the CHI Memorial Foundation board and is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.
Gina Sakich’s passion and forte is bringing real estate developments to life – evidenced by the extraordinary track record she’s made among 27 successful developments in the Chattanooga area over the past three decades. In 2014, she founded her firm – Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Signature Brokers – initially to support all of her developments. Ultimately, she found she equally loved supporting agents and helping them succeed. Sakich is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and Tennessee Association of REALTORS®, and she plays an active role in organizations such as Erlanger Children’s Hospital and the local community kitchen and homeless shelter.
In his role as senior vice president, Ryan Allen oversees the planning, development, and operations of Pointe Property Group and related companies Pointe Commercial Real Estate and Pointe General Contractors. Some of his responsibilities include putting together and reviewing financial analyses for potential projects, collaborating with the in-house team and third-party consultants and contractors throughout a project, and restructuring and re-capitalizing existing assets. He has served as president of the Building Owners and Managers Association, and he has also been involved with various outdoor communities, such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Allen is an avid fisherman, hunter, and whitewater kayaker.
With almost 40 years of experience in healthcare, Kelley Finnell has served in a number of leadership roles. While serving as executive director at SCCDC, Finnell was named COO in 2018. She oversees day-to-day operations, providing leadership, vision, and direction to her team of more than 250 employees. Under her guidance, they have successfully grown to a multi-specialty group spanning 13 locations throughout Georgia and Tennessee. She credits her entire team for the group’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of their dedication and commitment, SCCDC continues to make a positive impact on their patients and the communities in which they serve.
Kira Headlee first came to work for Brewer Media Group in December 1993. She started in promotions before moving to traffic operations and sales, and a few years later, she was overseeing office operations, accounting, and human resources – doing most everything at the station except being on-air. Headlee takes great pride in her staff, many of whom have received national recognitions in the industry. Outside of work, Headlee enjoys working with and inspiring confidence in young ladies through organizations like the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians, as well as spending time at a girls’ summer camp in Crossville, Tennessee.
Born and raised in Costa Rica, Marco Perez moved with his wife and daughters to Chattanooga in 2011 and quickly became involved in the community. As of April of 2021, he is the director of operations for La Paz Chattanooga, where he supports the mission of empowering and engaging the city’s Latinx population. He is also the most recent member of the Hamilton County Schools board. Through his prior work at LAUNCH Chattanooga and his independent work as a consultant through Relife Strategies, LLC, he has supported dozens of entrepreneurs and seen many of them grow and achieve tremendous results.
Jamey Dye was named president of COS (Chattanooga Office Supply) in 2017, although he was no stranger to the company – having been a part of operations since 2006. As president, he is responsible for all aspects of the business, including the day-to-day operations, financial management, and customer service. Before coming to COS, Dye previously served as the vice president of sales at Fulmarque, Inc. in Cleveland. Dye studied international economics at Delta State University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is also a coach for GPS and McCallie, as well as a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.
As president and CEO of Grain Craft, Pete Frederick develops and leads the strategic vision of the company, drives company culture, and is responsible for the company’s financial results. Outside of the office, Frederick is a mentor and presenter for The 10 Project and an elder at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. He is also actively involved with the McNabb Center Foundation and North American Millers Association, and he’s a regional economic contributor to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Frederick earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Iowa and was selected to participate in the Global Leadership Program during a 17-year tenure at Cargill.
After earning a degree in engineering, Dexter White worked in the commercial, nuclear, and residential construction industry before founding his own company in 1992. As a hands-on president of Dexter W. White Construction, he oversees construction management – devoting time and attention to every custom home built. White has put together an expertly trained team of specialists, from project managers and interior designers to trusted vendors and suppliers, to ensure that the highest level of customer service and satisfaction is achieved. White is a licensed general contractor in the state of Tennessee.
IV Whitman’s advertising career has taken him to Chicago, San Francisco, Kansas City, Asheville, and, most recently, the Scenic City. His role within the Scenic Land Company portfolio of brands provides oversight and guidance of corporate branding, marketing and advertising strategies, creative development, and brand experience. This touches on everything from the development of national advertising campaigns to the apparel in McLemore’s golf shop. Whitman serves as a Eucharistic minister at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chattanooga and has previously served as an international team member for the Global Orphan Project in Kansas City.