Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Georgia Trend 40 under 40. Notables

Henry B. “Hank” Hobbs 39
Director of Economic Development

Altamaha Technical College


Hank Hobbs’s personal and professional missions are to get people the training they need to go to work.

He spends his time developing relationships with local business and industry, then takes what he’s learned in the community back to Altamaha Technical College where for-credit and customized training programs, such as the culinary arts program housed in a renovated 100-plus-year-old home in Jeff Davis County, are put together to meet the workforce needs in a seven-county area.

It’s a win-win-win situation: Industry gets the educated workforce it needs; citizens get the training they need in order to get local jobs. And Hobbs fulfills his mission. – KK

Rand Knight | 37

Director of Global Enterprise Sales



Rand Knight is no stranger to taking the road less traveled. He studied environmental policy before “global warming” was a catchphrase, sold Apple computers before they were cool and was a candidate – unsuccessful – in the 2008 Democratic senatorial primary, vying for the chance to oppose incumbent Saxby Chambliss.

Now he blends all his skills as global enterprise sales director for QL2, a company that provides data to the federal government and top national companies. His work in renewable energy and energy efficiency concerns also informs his consulting for a handful of colleges in the state and volunteering with the Sierra Club.
“I’ve gained a lot of tool sets from the different places I’ve engaged myself,” Knight says. “If I can understand why people care, then I can understand how to explain some of the longer term threats that we face in society.” – MH

Rep. Tom Graves | 39

State Representative District 12


Ranger Tom Graves has spent most of the summer and early fall on the campaign trail hoping to make the leap from state representative to Congressman (he’s seeking the 9th district seat that will be vacated when Nathan Deal resigns to run for Governor).

Currently in his fourth term in the Georgia House, Graves was recently named vice chair of the motor vehicles committee. This summer he was named Legislator of the Year by both the 9th District Republican Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which recognizes lawmakers who adhere to Jeffersonian principles.
When he’s not under the Gold Dome, he manages multi-family housing and commercial real estate properties in north Georgia. If he wins, it will mean big changes for Graves’ family – wife Julie and children JoAnn, John and Janey – “but it’s something we’ve all agreed and committed to,” he says. As for the opportunity itself, Graves says he is excited about the possibility of being able to “influence change on the federal level” at a time when “the American people are really engaged in the process.” – SW

Frank Pendergast | 39

Milledgeville Frank Pendergast has spent most of his life bringing people back downtown. In the past 16 years, he has purchased and rehabilitated 12 buildings in downtown Milledgeville, where he owns a coffee shop and three restaurants.

As a result of his efforts, more than 100 jobs have been created, and downtown Milledgeville has become a model for other downtowns looking to revitalize and bring new jobs to their counties.

But he recognizes that one business alone cannot bring success to an area. “No matter how good my business is, if there’s a bunch of empty buildings and vacant lots around me, it doesn’t make downtown a good destination,” he says.

At the time Pendergast opened his first restaurant, The Brick, in 1993, downtown had a 60 percent vacancy rate. Today, it’s close to 95 percent full.

Said L. Sewell, PhD | 38

Executive Director
Academic Success Center

Associate Professor
Fort Valley State University

Fort Valley

During his tenure at the University of West Georgia, Professor Said Sewell – who himself entered college at 15 – noticed a need for a support system that would boost graduation rates among the school’s young black men.

“The trend at the time was that African-American males in Georgia and particularly at West Georgia had the lowest retention rate, the lowest graduation rate, the highest dropout rate, highest loss of Hope scholarship, and the highest number of disciplinary infractions of their peers,” he says.

In response, he created the Center for African American Male: Research, Success and Leadership (CAAMRSL). “For over nine years we worked to mentor encourage, chastise and advise roughly 190 guys. Of that 190 we graduated some 125 in the last five classes, most of them on time in four years.”

Now, as executive director of the Academic Success Center at Fort Valley State University, Sewell is putting the practices he developed at the CAAMRSL to work for the entire student body. He still runs the CAAMRSL, which received the Best Practices award from the University System of Georgia, as a separate, nonprofit organization. – SW

Chata M. Spikes | 30

Southeast Regional Producer/Coordinator
Network News Services

Adjunct Mass Communications Instructor
Fort Valley State University


If you watch Atlanta’s TV news, or if you see a news story pertaining to the Southeast on Fox, ABC or CBS television national news, chances are Chata Spikes had a hand in shaping the coverage. As a regional producer for Network News Services, a cooperative that provides story packages to the three networks, she crafts the video packages viewers see.

She’s also playing a major role in teaching the next generation of journalists at her alma mater, Fort Valley State University. This fall, students will produce a new TV show called Living It Up, for which they secure guests and an audience. She also has students blogging at Wildcat Expressions with a catch – they have to offer solutions and engage in reporting, not just post opinions.

“I enjoy teaching; I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I teach what I know. I teach what I do, and I enjoy pouring that into the students,” she says. – SW

Robert James | 37

Solicitor General

DeKalb County


Robert James says he didn’t even look at the salary when he decided to run for DeKalb County Solicitor. “I’ve always wanted to be in a position in my life where God would use me to make change in the world,” he says. “I believe that is what he’s doing, so I wake up every morning drunk with the possibility of a new day. What can we do to make this place better.”

The answer is: Plenty. He’s enacted programs to combat truancy (Perfect Atten-dance), give juvenile offenders a true second chance that includes work and school opportunities (Jobs Not Jail), provide emergency placement services for elderly and vulnerable adults when their caretakers are not available to them, and address community crimes such as pimping and solicitation.

He comes to the job well qualified, having served as the first African-American assistant DA in the history of Rockdale County (he was subsequently promoted to solicitor) and a crimes against children prosecutor in DeKalb County. – SW

Anne-Marie Wolff | 29

Planning and Zoning Administrator

Valdosta No doubt about it, Valdosta is growing and City Planner Anne-Marie Wolff knows that good growth doesn’t come without pains – specifically when the desires of longtime residents clash with those of new citizens. “As a planner,” Wolff says, “it’s my job to guide that discussion so we can come up with some compromise and work toward a common goal, which is not always easy.”

Wolff, who’s been with the city planner’s office since its inception (formerly it was a joint city-county endeavor), cut her professional teeth at the South Georgia Regional De-velopment Center.

The Florida native also is working with Valdosta’s chamber of commerce to help her adopted city engage and retain its young professionals via the Metro One Network, a networking group for 21- to 40-year-olds that’s celebrating its third year.

She’s recently become involved with a local literacy program, where she’s helping a 53-year-old woman secure her GED in hopes of becoming an architect. “Probably the most rewarding thing I do right now is volunteer with her,” Wolff says. – SW

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