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2 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
lOCAl SAlES mANAGER
In cooperation with Fayetteville Young Professionals mARKETING EDITOR
A program of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce Jason Beck
In this magazine, The Fayetteville Observer honors 40 of Cumberland GRApHIC DESIGNER
County’s rising leaders for both their business success and community Danielle N. Fennern
They were recognized during a formal gala held in their honor and their Honoree photos by
success is documented in this special keepsake publication. Andrew Craft
Cover photo illustration and
The honorees selected in this inaugural class stand out above the crowd. gala photos by michael Conti
They are youthful men and women who make a positive impact every day
through their careers and community service.
We sincerely thank our sponsors, judges and participants for making
this special initiative possible. Thanks to this year’s honorees for their
The entire contents of this magazine
passionate commitment to success and service that led to their selection. are copyrighted and may not be
We hope you enjoy meeting our “40 Under Forty” Class of 2011. used or reproduced without written
permission from the editors.
Contact us at:
The Fayetteville Observer
458 Whitfield St.
Fayetteville, N.C. 28306
Find The Fayetteville Observer
online at fayobserver.com.
Thank you to our sponsors
Visit us online at
to view photos from the gala.
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 3
Our judges W
hen we asked for the 40 best and brightest young leaders in Cumberland
County, we left our panel of volunteer judges with an arduous task.
Dozens of nominations were submitted, but we wanted only the most
deserving honorees inducted into the inaugural class of The Fayetteville Observer’s
40 Under Forty.
Our seven judges sorted through the nominations, debated each candidate’s
merits and weighed each resume against the others.
Chris Bostock The consensus? It was next to impossible to narrow the stellar field down to 40.
Financial Advisor, Senior Resident Director “It was an extremely strong group of nominees,” said Tim Richardson of First
Merrill Lynch Citizens Bank. “Without question it was very hard to make the final selection as all
candidates brought unique qualities to the table.”
Those qualities included strong leadership abilities, an insatiable work ethic and
Dr. Sid Gautam a desire to help others. Judges looked at a combination of all of those traits before
Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship making a final decision, said Chris Bostock of Merrill Lynch.
Methodist University “For me I can’t say it was any one quality,” Bostock said. “What was important to
me was an established track record of success and a long history of giving back to
William F. “Bill” Griffin Jeffery Womble of Fayetteville State University said his focus was more on service
than business success.
Dean of Business Programs
“One of the criteria that I looked for was community involvement,” he said. “So
Fayetteville Technical Community College often it is said that our young people are not as actively involved in community
and civic affairs as they should be. I, and I am sure my fellow judges would agree,
wanted to make certain that the individuals selected for this honor were giving back
Robert Hines to the community in which they live and work.”
President and CEO Suzanne Pennick of Coldwell Banker had two words to describe her ideal
United Way Cumberland County candidate – well rounded.
“All of the judges felt as I did, that it was important that the people selected be
well rounded, not only in their professional lives, but what they were able to give
Suzanne Pennink back to the community,” she said.
Broker/Owner Some of the nominations stood out head and shoulders above the rest, said
William Griffin of Fayetteville State University.
Coldwell Banker Advantage
“Overall the caliber was above and beyond the normal call of duty,” he said. “I did
not have a hard time identifying my top 20, they came to the top pretty easily. It was
the second group where I had to look deeper for tie breakers.”
Tim Richardson Robert Hines of United Way bragged on the honorees’ work ethic.
Area Vice President “You don’t have to chase them or beg them to do it, they want to do it,” Griffin
First Citizens Bank said. “It makes me feel good, because they are Fayetteville’s future leaders.”
Richardson said seeing this generation of young leaders encouraged him about
the future of our community.
Jeffery M. Womble “Many are already leaders in our community, with many more to follow that were
Director of Public Relations selected,” he said. “Fayetteville is a great place to work, live and raise a family. It will
Fayetteville State University continue to be an even stronger market because of these winners and others with
the talent, as well as the desire, to keep stretching us to new heights.”
Congratulations from FYP
When I saw the list of names that were selected for The Fayetteville As the Chair of the Fayetteville Young Professionals (FYP), I am
Observer’s 40 Under Forty, I was honored to be included in such an honored to congratulate this next group of leaders who have made
outstanding group of young professionals. From local elected leaders to Fayetteville their home and are constantly working to make it even
those serving in the military, this year’s inaugural class represents an better. Part of the mission of FYP is to create a network of young
outstanding cross section of our community. While we all come from professionals that fosters personal and professional development
different backgrounds and ended up in Fayetteville for different reasons, to engage them to take ownership in the future successes of our
the one thing we have in common is that everyone on the list gives back community. Those being honored live that mission daily.
to ensure that this community is better than when we got here. As a life-long resident who chose to come back to work in my family
Today’s Fayetteville is not the same Fayetteville that many of us grew business, were it not for FYP, I would not have been involved nor made
up in. Our downtown has been revitalized and transformed into a gem so many new friends. I’ve learned more about the community in this
for the community, per capita income has risen to second in the state, past year through FYP than I had in the 29 years I had been a resident.
and our quality of life has improved through additions like Festival Park While the 40 on this list are an outstanding group, there are many
and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. others who should also be honored for everything they do to make this
But we all know that change is hard, and transformation does not community a better place, and I encourage their peers to nominate them
occur by chance. Transformation happens because of hard work, in the future.
a vision, and a population committed to change and continuous Charlie Allen V
improvement. Chair, Fayetteville Young Professionals
4 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Class of 2011
Jeremy Aagard Marcus Cox Latonya Hankins Kristie Meave
Myra Allen Kady Ann Davy Jackson Howard Peter Pappas
Charlie Allen V Emily Dickens Esq. Hilton Hutchens Jr. Louis Patalano IV
Dr. Patrice Barber Sonya Evans Oates Thaddeus “TJ..” Jenkins Reshma Patel
Steven Barnard Daniel Fair Carrie King Nicholas Perkins
Frances Barragan Dr. Shanessa Fenner Toni King Robert “Jason” Poole II
Jenny Beaver Scott Flowers Wendy Lowery Shannon Shurko
Alan Buffaloe John Freudenberg Donna Mansfield Seema Slehria
Jose Coker Phillip Gilfus Jami McLaughlin Todd Sullivan
Michelle Courie Derick Graham Lorna McNeill Ricotta Billy West Jr.
Jeremy Aagard Age 32
Assistant General Manager, Fayetteville SwampDogs
Working for a baseball team means a lot of fun helped to organize is not during baseball season,
and games for Jeremy Aagard, but it also means but at Halloween – Trunk or Treat at the Swamp.
hard work and giving back. The SwampDogs’ The free, public event has welcomed more than
assistant general manager said since he joined the 8,000 children in the three years of its existence.
team five years ago, he has worked to make it a fun, His vision is what allowed it to happen.
clean and affordable place for Fayetteville families. “Jeremy Aagard embodies what we all want for
“We want this to be a way families can spend the future of Fayetteville,” said nominator Darrel
quality time together,” he said. “We want them to Handelsman of the Fayetteville SwampDogs. “He
make life-long memories with their experiences is caring, involved and an excellent leader. Jeremy
here.” has made lasting contributions to our community
Aside from helping provide quality baseball, and will continue to positively influence the path
Aagard works with charitable organizations to our city and county travel down.”
improve the community. He helped organize Aagard is also on the steering committee for
pink jersey auction night and the Strike Out Friends of African and African-American Art
Against Cancer Night at the Swamp. He is a with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland
volunteer for the Walk for Lupus and Karen County. He joined when he was approached to be
Chandler Trust fund. He also helped a sponsor for the Arts Council exhibit “We are
establish the Grainger Barrett Memorial the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.”
Scholarship and serves with the Special He decided to do more than sponsor and became
Olympics of Cumberland County. involved to keep things like the exhibit coming
“We are a part of the community back to Fayetteville.
and we want to take part in the “There is a whole avenue that I don’t think
community,” he said. “We want to people in Fayetteville know about. You have to
look back at the end of the night or look to find what you enjoy doing,” he said. “There
at the end of the year and realize we are lots of things going on in the community, and
were part of something amazing.” if you’re not a part of it, it could go away. I don’t
One of the biggest events Aagard want that.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 5
Charlie Allen V Age 29
Vice President, Two Men and a Truck, Vice President of Operations, Green Biz
Charlie Allen has a knack for growing things. Truck franchise. It has a business model he
He helped his parents grow their nursery, believes in which includes giving back to the
Green Biz, as the vice president of operations. community.
He has also grown his own business, Two Men “It makes sense to help the community
and a Truck, where he is also a vice president. out,” he said. “If I ever needed something, the
And he helped to grow the Fayetteville Young community would be there for me.”
Professionals – for whom he currently serves as Allen has donated time and money to many
the chairman – from a small group to the more- local organizations, including Fayetteville
than-400-member organization it is today. Urban Ministry, The Salvation Army,
And he is only 29. When asked how he has Partnership for Children, Cape Fear Botanical
done so much so young, he points to his hard Garden, Sunshine Kids Foundation and many
work. He goes to work at 6 a.m. or earlier in others.
order to get a head start on the day. It’s a “This is my community,” he said. “I take
practice he began in at North Carolina State pride in it, and I want it to be the best it can be.
University as a member of the rowing team. It’s great to be involved.”
It was also in college that he began to work Allen just added one more accolade to his
for Two Men and a Truck. resume, a master’s degree. He graduated in
“After my first day, I told my friend that April from Methodist University after attending
I didn’t think I could do it,” he said. “It their weekend MBA program. He saw it as an
was hard work. But my friend encouraged investment in his companies and knows it will
me to just come back the next day, and help him down the road.
I kept coming back. I stuck with it my “I saw this as necessary to take my
entire college career.” businesses to the next level,” he said. “It was
When he came back to Fayetteville really eye opening how much my family had
to help his parents, he wanted to already taught me. I attribute a lot of my
diversify his business interests and success to my mom and dad and their hard
decided to purchase a Two Men and a work.”
6 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Healthcare Management Department Chairperson, Fayetteville Technical Community College
One word describes Myra Allen – ambitious. Even count on Myra to make it happen, effortlessly, almost
with a busy role as Fayetteville Technical Community flawlessly.”
College’s Healthcare Management Department Allen said she was interested in broadcasting as
chairwoman, Allen is constantly advancing her career a child and planned on becoming the next Oprah
and education. Winfrey. Though she’s not on TV, she has found
She holds her real estate license, is a notary public ways to help those in need. The Guardian ad Litem
and has graduated from bartender school. She holds program, which provides support for children without
dual master’s degrees in health care and business an advocate in the legal system, is near her heart.
administration – both earned while working full time. “There are so many young people in need,”
“Some people fear spiders, I fear being she said. “Me being in their lives makes a difference.”
unemployed,” Allen said. “I know no matter what She said she’s faced many challenges while
happens with the economy, I can always find advancing to higher levels in her career.
something.” “I found myself in the workforce with people
However, with her success at FTCC, the 39-year- 20 or 30 years my senior,” she said. “I had the
old has career security. In the eight years she’s been a education plus some and the experience, but
department chairwoman, she’s developed curriculum, was told I didn’t qualify for the leadership
coordinated the program advisory committee and positions because I was too young.
managed the department’s budget. “As an African-American woman, I still
She considers programs she developed to give face challenges,” she said. “I overcame
back to the community her biggest successes. Those these battles by taking the higher road
include the Black Entrepreneurial Symposium, and by keeping a smile in my heart.”
Cumberland County World Aids Day and Adopt a Her goal for the future is to continue
Pop, a program that teams volunteers with elderly rest her career development at FTCC and
home residents. eventually start a nonprofit organization.
“She is the ‘ultimate volunteer,’” said Sonya “My personal vision is to be the best
Livingtson of Fayetteville State University. “If there me I can be,” she said. “Not like anyone
is a job to be done and no one else is willing, you can else.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 7
Dr. Patrice Barber Age 35
General Dentist, Owner, Alliance Family Dentistry
Dr. Patrice Barber found her dream job early, dream. She operates her business by her own set
but she had to take a risk to achieve it. of rules.
After pushing through dentistry school and “When I launched Alliance Family Dental, it
serving in the U.S. Army, the time had come to was my vision to establish a dental office which
finally open her own office. offered the perfect balance of old-fashioned
“It was beyond scary,” she said. “I take customer service with cutting edge technology
advantage of an opportunity as it presents itself. and expert care,” she said. “I wanted an office
Without risk there is no reward. I hit the ground where my staff was committed to the ‘team’
running and don’t regret any decisions.” concept and adhered to the Golden Rule.”
Her risk was a good decision. In a year and This same attitude caries over to her personal
a half, her practice – Alliance Family Dental – life. That’s why Barber loves giving back to others
has been successful. And she’s done it while through mentorship programs at her church and
raising a preschool child as her husband was the school system. She also speaks to children
deployed with the military. about oral health.
“I think I have a strong work ethic and a “I want to serve as a role model and mentor for
very strong desire to succeed,” she said. “I area youth and involve myself with organizations
would not be where I am if not for the people that seek to develop skills and mindsets of young
who paved the way and mentored me or offered people to make them civic-minded, goal-oriented
me encouragement.” citizens,” she said. “There’s a surge of joy I get
Barber, who said she has wanted to be a when I’m able to do something for someone else.
dentist since eighth grade, graduated with Kids are near and dear to my heart.”
honors from the University of Maryland Dental “It is indeed a hectic life to own a dental
School. Rather than immediately opening her practice, work in the community and church
own clinic, which was always her plan, she mentoring youth and being an exceptional wife
served as a dentist with the Army for three and mother,” said nominator Ava DeVault of
years, traveling as far away as Korea. LaFlamme Dental Clinic. “You could not pick a
Now, at 35, Barber has achieved her better professional for 40 Under Forty.”
8 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Capt. Steven Barnard Age 38
Civil Affairs Plans Officer, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command
Capt. Steven Barnard strives to give his soldiers provide additional training and education for senior
every opportunity, especially in education. He enlisted Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Military Information
in the military after high school and earned bachelor’s Support Operations officers to better function as
and master’s degrees while on active duty. He wants strategic-level planners on joint staffs.
soldiers he works with to be able to do the same. The course is in the process accreditation in lieu of
Barnard left active duty, eventually becoming a required professional military education and joint-
full-time reservist with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and service schooling. Best of all, students earn a graduate-
Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg. He level certificate from a military university that may
has been instrumental in helping reservists receive be used as credit toward other national defense-type
college credit for military training like their active- graduate degree programs with partner schools.
duty counterparts. Barnard is a strong proponent of quality education
Barnard helped develop the Volunteer Education at all levels. After he left active duty and before
Program. It gives college credit for many of the returning to the reserves, he was a teacher in the
military courses the soldiers take and transfers it to Seattle area for at-risk children. In 2004, he received
college credit. The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special the Walmart Teacher of the Year award.
Warfare Center and School already had a program for Part of his success in the classroom was his
active-duty soldiers and Barnard molded the program investment in the lives of those children. He
for reservists. takes the same approach in Fayetteville. He and
Barnard is also partnering with James Madison his wife recently bought a home in Haymont
University for a master’s degree program in public near Rowan Park and plan to help energize the
administration for civil affairs reserve officers. This neighborhood, connecting it to the green space
distance-learning hybrid program utilizes tuition nearby. He sees being engaged in Fayetteville
assistance and gives soldiers the critical skills needed as a must for himself and other soldiers.
for their branch. “Soldiers have a duty, and it starts locally,”
The Security, Stability and Development in he said. “They may be here for two to five years,
Complex Operations (SSDCO) course was developed but we have to be engaged locally. This is home,
in partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School to especially for reservists, the citizen soldiers.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 9
Frances Barragan Age 32
Women’s Tennis Coach, Methodist University
As many times as Frances Barragan played tennis coach,” she said. “It’s difficult when you get out of
as a child on the courts at Methodist University, she tennis to get back in.”
never suspected she’d one day be standing on the same However, when Methodist University needed a head
courts as head coach. coach for the women’s tennis program in 2005, she
Now she is not only leading a highly successful was selected for the job.
collegiate program, she’s giving back to the Her teams have won the USA South Conference
community and teaching children of all ages to Championship every year since then, with Barragan
embrace the sport she loves. named conference coach of the year four times. Her
“There’s a lot of people out there who want to play record is an astounding 105-22.
tennis and see the U.S. pros like Andy Roddick or the She’s a former community coordinator for the
Williams sisters who can’t find a place to play,” the United States Tennis Association. In 2006, she started
32-year-old said. “That’s my goal, to get kids of all the Methodist University tennis camp for children.
ages in the sport.” She is also the director of the Fort Bragg Youth Tennis
Barragan’s career as a tennis coach is an Camp.
extension of her highly successful run as a player “I always wanted to do something to make a
both at South View High School and at N.C. State difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I feel like I have
University. the opportunity to impact people’s lives.”
She worked as a graduate assistant for the Barragan also gives back to the community through
Wolfpack tennis team, but gave up the position food drives, children’s reading programs and athletic
after the events of September 11, 2001, made her training at elementary schools.
second-guess her career on the road. She knows few people have found their dream job
“I was supposed to fly that day,” she said. “It at such a young age, but she wouldn’t want it any other
shook me.” way.
Barragan took a job as a financial analyst that “I love my job. It doesn’t seem like work.” she said.
would keep her closer to home, but she was never “I don’t mind working nights and weekends now ... I
satisfied with the simple 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. can’t see myself getting out of coaching. I don’t know
“I knew I wanted to be a college tennis what I would do.”
Jenny Beaver Age 33
Specialty Senior Professional Sales Representative, Shire Pharmaceutical,
Owner, Just Jenny Designs & Events
Jenny Beaver has played many roles throughout Wilmington. Then, as she became more involved with
her life, both on and off the stage. On stage, she’s been the community, she realized all the things Fayetteville
characters from Hamlet to Janet in “Rocky Horror had to offer.
Picture Show.” Off stage, she’s been a sales representative, “I saw that the downtown was actually a place where
business owner, volunteer and committee chair. people wanted to visit,” she said. “I love the young, hip
She’s employed in sales for Shire Pharmaceuticals and vibe downtown Fayetteville has, and I want the next
shines at work, being named Sales Representative of generation to continue to help grow the city.”
the Quarter twice and chosen to be one of 15 put on the Beaver actively continues to improve the city, and is
company’s Field Advisory Board, where she serves the deeply involved in many organizations including the
company at various conferences throughout the year. She Boys & Girls Club, Cumberland County Education
also owns her own event-planning business, Just Jenny Foundation, Child Advocacy Center and Junior
Designs & Events, LLC, which she hopes will one day be League.
a one-stop shop for any event’s needs. She was a founding member of the
“I’m a very creative person, and I needed a creative Fayetteville Young Professionals and is an
outlet,” she said. “I had done event planning as a active member in several other organizations.
volunteer and knew that I loved it, so I made it a She also continues to act and volunteer with
business.” both the Gilbert and Cape Fear Regional
She credits her success with her positive attitude. Theaters. She said volunteering is an
She also said growing up in the theater makes her important part of the community, and she
comfortable in front of people, no matter the situation. wants to be involved.
She said her supportive family also helped and “You don’t volunteer for fame or glory or
encourage her. Family is the main reason Beaver decided credit,” she said. “It’s nice to think people
to come back to Fayetteville after living in California for notice or that you make a difference.
three years. People sometimes joke that I like the
When she moved back in 2003, she said she would spotlight because I spent so much time on
spend her weekends in different cities like Raleigh or stage, but it’s really not about that.”
10 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Alan Buffaloe Age 39
General Manager, Gill Security Systems, Inc.
Sometimes what seems to be misfortune heavily involved in the community. He serves on
turns out to be a blessing. When Alan Buffaloe’s the Reading is Fun committee for pre-kindergarten
15-year career in radio ended due to the economic children, as a deacon at Lebanon Baptist Church in
downturn, his greatest success was just around the Eastover, as a member of the Kiwanis Club and as
corner. the chairman of the board for Cumberland County
Buffaloe was hired as the general manager for Gill United Way.
Security Systems Inc., nearly two years ago, and he His co-workers think highly of his work ethic and
hasn’t second guessed switching fields. attitude.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” he said. “I’ve “We are nominating Alan Buffaloe for this honor
been very blessed. I give credit to the Lord. He’s because he truly represents the type of leader we
opened and closed doors at just the right time.” need in Fayetteville today,” said Becky Rose of Gill
Buffaloe, now 39, was a sales manager and general Security Systems Inc. “Alan is committed to making
manager for broadcast companies. He said his Fayetteville a better place to live and do business
experience in that field has led to his recent success. and he is doing something about it!”
“In the industries I’ve been in, you depend Buffaloe may be the only member of the “40
on customers,” he said. “Sales is involved in any Under Forty” club who is a farmer.
business. I’ve always been surrounded by good He said his small family farm has taught him
people. I’ve been able to work with good people.” a lot about life.
He has strong ambitions for his company’s future “You have got to be a hard worker and
after nearly two years with the security provider. putting in an extra effort,” he said. “Nothing is
“As technology continues to evolve, we have easy on the family farm or the business world.”
the opportunity to better serve our customers It’s a mindset that’s helped him rise above
and to better fulfill their wants and desires while even the most difficult times.
still keeping them safe and secure,” he said. “My “That’s something you have to accept,” he
personal goal for Gill Security is to see the company said. “There are certain challenges you have
double in size over the next 10 years.” to face, but the attitude taken determines
As a life-long Fayetteville resident, he’s also the outcome.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 11
Jose Coker Age 35
Attorney, The Charleston Group
Hard work has never scared Jose Coker away. His an appropriate example to young people in terms
first job was helping his mother clean an automotive of exemplifying the opportunities that are available
dealership in town. The child of immigrant parents, through a good education. Jose is a wonderful example
Coker worked hard and went to college at Old of what is good about Fayetteville.”
Dominion University. Then the first-generation college Coker said his own success motivates him to help
graduate went on to get his law degree. Now the others try to succeed as well. He wants to be a resource
associate for The Charleston Group Lawyers represents to people for many different kinds of problems, so he
the automotive manufacturer for the same dealership he attended the Citizens’ Academy to better understand the
used to clean. workings of the city.
Such humble beginnings keep Coker grounded. “What I do in the community leaves an imprint for
And he said his roots have also helped him know future young professionals who will come in,” he said.
how to give back. “I want them to see the wonderful opportunities the city
“I know what it’s like to have to do hard and community can provide.”
work, and I don’t forget that,” he said. “It’s a Coker wants to play a pivotal role in bringing new
good thing. It keeps me honest.” business and helping start-up companies come to
He said he feels lucky that Jonathon Fayetteville. He wants to help keep young professionals
Charleston took him in and mentored him employed here and spending their free time here.
after law school, challenging him and He helps out by teaching seminars and classes as a
allowing him to sit in on trials and high- volunteer with the Center for Economic Empowerment
profile meetings that many attorneys do and Development. He offers answers to legal questions
not get to do until later in their career. and gives pointers to entrepreneurs who may be
Charleston is also Coker’s nominator. unfamiliar with legal jargon and the mass of paperwork
“His professional and community that must be filed.
involvements demonstrate his passion “I continuously strive to support the growth of small
for and commitment to the Fayetteville businesses, including those of Hispanic entrepreneurs,”
community,” Charleston said. “He he said. “It’s nice to apply the experience I have to help
has made a commitment to being business owners create successful ventures.”
Michelle Courie Age 39
Michelle Courie never gives up. She strides to help and encourage them through their
through challenges many have stumbled over difficult circumstances. She said helping others
and continues to be positive and strong. As is something she picked up naturally from the
an account executive with R.H. Donnally, she women in her family. She has been a member of
was able to exceed her goals and often bring Junior League of Fayetteville since 1996 and has
increased sales from clients who were about to served as president, Holly Day Fair chairwoman
close their accounts. and publicity chairwoman during her tenure.
She married her husband in 2005 and She is a committee member for the
together they decided to grow a real estate Cumberland County Education Foundation,
business and start a family. She left her job March of Dimes and Cape Fear Valley Hospital
and became an active community volunteer. Circle of Friends Gala. She also participates
While their business took off, Courie had with the Care Clinic Evening of Care and is
several setbacks while trying to get pregnant. a member of Haymount United Methodist
It was a difficult time, but her husband, who Church. Courie is also a founding member of
also nominated her, said that she showed her the Women’s Giving Circle.
true mettle. She did not back down from her This year, she is the president of the Cape
commitments and continued to serve as she had Fear Regional Theatre and continues to work
for years. diligently to ensure the quality of theater in
“Sometimes when you deal with things Cumberland County.
personally, it can be distracting from the other She believes it is important for her son, Taft,
things you need to focus on,” she said. “But I to see her and her husband volunteering so
always try to find a way to overcome obstacles. that he will have the drive to give back to his
It was beneficial to me to focus on something community as well.
larger than myself. Having a positive impact on “It’s important to reach out and help
my community was a comfort. I was glad to be people,” she said. “I think it is great that we
there and to place my energy there.” have organizations within the community
She now shares her story with other women that are willing to go find answers.”
12 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Marcus Cox Age 36
Fayetteville Market President, Senior Client Manager Business Banking, Bank of America
From the mail room to the board room, Marcus forum to thrive.
Cox has been a hard worker. His enthusiastic outlook He gives back to the Cumberland County community
has carried him to his position of Fayetteville market in various ways.
president/senior client manager for business banking at “I try to be as responsible as possible with my public
Bank of America Merrill Lynch. service,” he said. “We deal with arts and culture, with
In his nine years with the financial giant, Cox has human and health services, and with children as well.”
helped bring the bank to major corporations worldwide. Cox sits on boards for the Boys & Girls Club, Child
And all from a start in a mail room. Advocacy Center, Fayetteville State University School
During college at Winston-Salem State University, of Business and Economics Advisory Board, Second
Cox wanted a career in law enforcement. The dean Harvest Food Bank and others. He most enjoys
required all students to attend a financial services job collecting and admiring art, which is why he serves
fair and Cox was chosen, but he missed the deadline for on the board for the Arts Council of Fayetteville/
the management-training program by two weeks. Cumberland County.
“I went back and had to work for a year in the mail “I’m very passionate on community education
room,” he said. “That was a humbling position for me, and promotion of the arts in all types and all
but it was the best lesson I had. I learned a lot, and it forms,” he said. “It’s not work; it’s 100 percent
made me a much better manager. fun.”
“I promised I’d never overlook anyone based on their It’s his work with the Arts Council that
position in the bank,” he said. impressed one of those nominating him for this
Eventually, his can-do attitude and financial prowess honor.
pushed his career back on track. “The community is fortunate to count Marcus
“Every day I wake up and ask myself how I can be Cox as one of its most active supporters and
useful to the corporation and useful to the community,” advocates,” said Deborah Mintz, executive
the 36-year-old said. “It’s about planning and working director of the Arts Council. “Marcus truly cares
your plan. If you plan well and work with the plan, you about the health and success of this community
are able to reach great heights through promotion.” and uses his talents and resources to touch
His job has expanded his horizons and giving him a almost every nonprofit sector here.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 13
Kady Ann Davy Age 28
Councilwoman, City of Fayetteville
elected position. Since moving to Fayetteville
At only 28, Kady Ann Davy is the youngest
in 2005 after graduating from the University
member of the 2011 class of 40 Under Forty.
of Oregon, she has been able to blend into the
However, with success in both the business and
community and give back to her adopted home.
political arena, she’s hardly the least experienced.
Politics has always played a role in her life.
How does Davy balance a life full of work, public
“I was a school senator in middle school,” she
office and community service?
said. “That’s why I like dealing with grass roots and
“Prayer,” said the youngest member of the
dealing with social issues and getting out the vote.”
Fayetteville City Council. “Each day I try to plan
A daughter of two Jamaican immigrants who had
out as much as possible.”
little formal education, Davy is honored to be able
Stella Mullen of the Massey Hill Community
to be actively involved in the community and give
Watch nominated Davy for her desire to help
back to others. Older adults hold a special place
in her heart, and she volunteers at an area senior
“She has a passion for life and people,” Mullen
said. “She works hard to achieve her goals
“I love being around seniors,” she said. “I never
and works toward the betterment of the
knew my grandparents, so I always adopt people.”
She’s involved in numerous community
Davy has worked as a community
organizations including the CARE Clinic of
educator, in the health care industry and
Cumberland County, Operation Inasmuch,
in sales. She’s currently exploring future
Fayetteville Urban Ministry, United Way, the Arts
career opportunities while working on her
Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Junior
League and Fayetteville Young Professionals.
She aspires to participate in outreach
The sky is the limit for Davy. She’s currently in
work, using her diverse background to
graduate school at Fayetteville State University and
knows she will continue to pursue her political
While her employment success is
impressive, she is most proud of her
Emily Dickens, Esq. Age 37
Director of Government and Community Relations, Fayetteville State University
Emily Dickens decided to attend N.C. Central the Durham County Habitat for Humanity
University based on positive word of mouth she as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She lived in the
heard from an alumnus. A native of Queens, N.Y., neighborhood where the group was building
she had never been to North Carolina, but she houses and was able to directly interact with the
trusted his word. She has never regretted it. new homeowners.
She now tries to spread the positive reputation After that, she earned her master’s degree in
of Fayetteville State University through word of history and went on to get a law degree, which
mouth. To bolster the institution’s reputation, she she draws on to help the university build stronger
has been directly involved in several community bonds with the city and county.
projects. “We want to be the intellectual and cultural
She has helped to bring $3 million in funding center of the community, a community partner
to the community through grants from the and to promote fiscal and environmental
Department of Defense, the Department of sustainability,” she said.
Commerce and the Department of Transportation. Dickens is also an active member of the
The funding means jobs in the community as well community. She serves as the secretary
as assets for its residents to utilize. of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County
“We feel we have a responsibility to make the Chamber of Commerce, executive
area better,” she said. “The more education in an committee member for the Cumberland
area, the higher the average income. We leave our Community Action Program Board,
door open and try to help others open doors with a member of the North Carolina
education.” Partnership for Defense Innovation
Not only are Dickens and FSU bringing grant Board and a member of the planning and
money for research to the area, but they are evaluation committee for the Partnership
generating money to help improve the southern for Children. She is also active in Alpha
Murchison Road area around the school. Kappa Alpha and recently served as vice
Helping communities isn’t new for Dickens. president and program chair, receiving
Her first job out of college was working for awards for her work during her tenure.
14 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Sonya Evans Oates Age 39
Owner, Speech Language Pathologist, Need Speech? Inc.
Sonya Evans Oates grew up wanting to be an “I truly believe that she has realized her purpose
anchorwoman, but she often found herself working in life,” McAllister said. “Sonya is doing what she
with kids. Eventually she realized helping children was created to do in that she is an incredible wife
with disabilities was her calling. and mother, an employer of many happy employees
Now Evans Oates owns Need Speech? Inc., a ... and a therapist extraordinaire to many satisfied
private speech pathology clinic that helps kids of all clients and families.”
ages with verbal issues. Evans Oates’ calling carries over into her
“I started working as a nursery worker even community outreach. As a member of the Junior
before I married and had children,” she said. “I was League of Fayetteville she leads a board dealing with
a day-care provider in college ... I’ve always liked mental health issues, the organization’s focus for
children. this year. Service with the Junior League has also
“I had a mentor talk to me about speech pathology allowed her to volunteer with the foster children
and audiology,” she said. “I did not see any type of program, organize a nutrition fair for children,
speech therapy until I was in graduate school.” help children obtain necessary shots for
She picked up on the profession quickly as kindergarten and paint a child-friendly mural
Womack Army Hospital’s only speech pathologist. at the Child Advocacy Center.
She started her own part-time business in 2002 “I always tell children: ‘You will always
working with toddlers after hours. From those need someone to do something for you and it
humble beginnings Need Speech? Inc. has evolved always feels better to give to someone else,’”
into a full time clinic with eight employees. she said. “I truly believe in giving back to the
She said her workers are the secret to her success. community.”
“When people come interview with me at Need That attitude extends to her business as
Speech?, I tell them this is my calling,” Evans Oates well.
said. “It’s good people and prayer. We like coming “I discovered my love and gift for working
to work.” with children diagnosed with autism,”
Co-worker Marla McAllister paid back the she said. “We take in kids most speech
compliment by nominating her. pathologist don’t want to deal with.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 15
Daniel Fair Age 35
Chief Executive Officer, Pierro’s Italian Bistro
Daniel Fair feels like he’s living the American dream. do so much and grow the business.”
At 23, he thought he’d be a career soldier. Two years “They say entrepreneurship is taking a calculated
later, he was a successful businessman. risk,” he said. “It’s something I’m willing to do, but you
Over the last 10 years, Fair has owned and operated definitely take a risk.”
nine businesses that posted $2 million in annual sales. Fair’s risk has paid off. He’s proud of his contribution
Fair, now 35, owns the Pierro’s Italian Bistro brand to the county, providing more than 100 local jobs and
of restaurants in Fayetteville among other ventures. His being a major part of the revitalization of downtown.
rise to entrepreneurship came through fate, hard work “Many businesses did not take a chance in the
and an innate business sense. potential of downtown Fayetteville. Danny did and
As a young Army sergeant, Fair was pleased with was successful for it,” said attorney Lou Olivera, who
his career path. He’d received his associate’s degree nominated Fair. “At such a young age, Danny has
in nursing through the military and was settled in shown what hard work and determination can do,
his role. Then a phone call changed his life and not only for business but for the betterment of our
future. Fair’s father, a military veteran who community”
owned a flower shop with Fair’s mother, died Fair also gives back in other ways.
unexpectedly. Fair took control of the business. “We are always donating food or gift certificates to
As he prepared for discharge from the Army, local schools, churches, military organizations, as well
he prepared for his next venture – the first as civic organizations,” he said. “As members of the
Pierro’s Italian Bistro. Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Alliance, we
“We started small with a 28-seat work with other business members to have a positive
restaurant,” he said. “I worked starting out, impact on the downtown and greater community.”
seven days a week from open until close.” Fair named Pierro’s after his grandfather, who came
Expansion happened rapidly, with other to America through Ellis Island from Italy during the
Pierro’s locations opening around town. Great Depression.
“In the first three years, I had like seven “It’s definitely the American dream,” he said.
businesses at one point,” Fair said. “It was “Getting to fulfill that is great, and I wouldn’t trade it
a little too much, but I was so hungry to for anything.”
Dr. Shanessa Fenner Age 39
Principal, Alger B. Wilkins Elementary School, Cumberland County Schools
If there were an extra hour in the day, Dr. upbringing, something she said prepared her
Shanessa Fenner would find a way to fill it. well for the future.
The 39-year-old principal of Alger B. Wilkens “I am the product of a single parent, and my
Elementary School always has an iron in the fire mother is my greatest inspiration,” Fenner said.
and a new plan on the back burner. “She taught me strength, independence and the
“I am known to be a well-rounded person,” ability to not put up with any drama.”
Fenner said. “I don’t ever want to lay in bed When Fenner comes home from a busy day
when I’m older and say ‘I wish I would have done at the school, she enjoys reading, writing and
this, or I wish I would have done that.’” listening to music. She combined two of those
So far, she’s covered it all. In addition to being passions and wrote songs that were recorded
a highly regarded principal, she writes songs, on two performers’ albums, something she
blogs, hosts a TV show and performs community hopes to do more of this year. She also
service. She has earned two master’s degrees and hosts television’s “Let’s Talk with Dr.
completed her doctorate degree while working as Shanessa Fenner” on which she discusses
principal. local news and issues. Her goal is to write
That, she said, was her most difficult trial. a children’s book – a goal she’ll no doubt
“It was a challenge,” she said. “When I walked accomplish.
across the stage, a burden was lifted. You have to “She is the epitome of making it happen,”
have crazy time-management skills.” said co-worker Shirley Hines. “Why would
As principal, she has a special way of anyone not want to celebrate a young woman
managing. who does it all?”
“I’m a very tenacious person,” she said. “I’m For Fenner, there’s one main purpose.
part of a younger group of principals. “I work to motivate, inspire, teach them
“At my school they know I mean business,” and prepare children for the future,” she said.
she said. “We are here to teach children” “I want to be a cheerleader – tell them they can
Her all-business attitude comes from her when they say they can’t and give them hope.”
16 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Scott Flowers Age 33
Attorney, Hutchens, Senter & Britton, P.A.
It’s not easy being a super lawyer, but Scott Flowers and has traveled to 70 of the 100 counties. Everywhere he
makes it look that way. The 2011 North Carolina Super travels, he represents his firm and city well.
Lawyer Rising Star recipient humbly said that he tries “I’m trying to get rid of that bad atmosphere,” he said.
to be a professional in and out of the courtroom and to “Just because we are involved in litigation, we can still be
represent his profession well. To many, he goes above and polite and courteous. We need to practice law the right
beyond what is expected. way, the courteous and professional way.”
The East Carolina University graduate has spent his Flowers is also a mentor for the North Carolina Bar
entire life in southeastern North Carolina. After he Association and helps to celebrate law day with the
attended Campbell University’s Law School, he decided local bar by either helping local citizens with home
to stay here with his family and invest and engage improvement projects or visiting elementary schools to
with the city as an attorney for The Law Firm of teach them about the constitution. He is also an active
Hutchins, Senter & Britton, P.A. member of Haymount United Methodist Church and a
He has coached mock trial and moot court member of the board of directors for the YMCA.
with Terry Sanford High School. He took a “Scott is an asset to Fayetteville, our legal community
dwindling team and made it competitive at and our firm,” said Sarah Miranda of Hutchens, Senter &
the national level. He sees it as part of his Britton, one of Flowers’ nominators. “I am proud to work
role encouraging young lawyers and future with him and know him.”
lawyers because he was mentored when he Green building and urban expansion are his key
first joined his profession. interests. He hopes to help play a role moving Fayetteville
“Several of my past students are on a toward a more eco-friendly future without expanding the
path to be attorneys, good attorneys,” sprawl of the city.
Flowers said. “I also mentor younger Despite his busy schedule, he gives his family top
lawyers, because I was so extremely priority. He rearranges his schedule to take his daughters
blessed to have a mentor in Terry to the doctor or even visit them for lunch on occasion.
Hutchins, who took time to guide and “Our goal should be to get better with every
teach things that law school did not.” generation,” he said. “I’m just trying to make an impact
Flowers works throughout the state while I’m here.”
John Freudenberg Age 34
Government and Military Affairs Liaison, Partnership For Children
While working on the 2008 congressional want every child to have access to high-quality
campaign for U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, John child care and family and health support.”
Freudenberg met a veteran from Massachusetts He gives to charity and joins community
who inspired him to work with military families. efforts, and he is also a big proponent of what he
“I wanted to be more than a person with a calls “civic engagement,” something he said his
yellow ribbon, but actually do something,” the generation has been lacking.
former veterans specialist and caseworker said. Freudenberg said he hopes to restore his
“Now, instead of one veteran, I work for a county generation’s role in civic organizations and
of veterans.” cites the Kiwanis Club, an organization with a
Freudenberg is the Partnership for Children’s typically older membership, as an example.
Government and Military Affairs Liaison, and This problem is something he hopes to
he works to improve the communication and combat, especially in organizations like
relationship among the military, their families, Kiwanis which give so much to children.
and the programs and resources available to “We’ve lost a lot with our generation,
them. and we’re just not represented the way
As a part of his job, he helped organize the we should be,” he said. “We have to stay
Forward March Conference from which sprung involved with these organizations.”
the Living in a New Normal Initiative. Both The community has many things
are designed to empower children and military to offer its youngest members, and
families by helping to address the challenges Freudenberg is fighting to allow all of
associated with the operational tempo of today’s them to gain access to the resources
military and its effect on families. The conference they need to be successful.
brought together resources for parents, including “All the research shows that
often overlooked mental health resources. everything for a child starts at an early
“My goal is to be the best advocate for military age,” he said. “Everything we do is
and civilian children that I can be,” he said. “I building bridges.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 17
Phillip Gilfus Age 30
Attorney, The Mitchell Law Group
By his own admission, patience has never been Mitchell of The Mitchell Law Group, who nominated
a strong suit for Phillip Gilfus. But hard work and him.
service have always been part of his character, and for “He continues to be a role model as he displays how
the former Cumberland County commissioner, it will to be a public servant,” he said.
continue to be. While he has met some opposition The experiences and leadership opportunities he
because of his youth, he feels ready to face bigger had in the military gave him the drive to become an
challenges and climb to higher heights. elected official, but it wasn’t easy. Gilfus said he faced
“I’ve been lucky with all of the opportunities I’ve scrutiny over his age and experience.
gotten,” he said. “To me it’s really about accomplishing “I’ve always known what I wanted to do,” he said.
things, and I try to do things as quickly as I can.” “I’ve gotten a taste of the highs and lows, but I’ve
He said he is wired for service and wants to serve been very fortunate. I’m a public-service person. I
his native Fayetteville, a city full of potential. think government is where you can make the biggest
It began with an internship with a state senator difference.”
in Greenville and another at the state Senate. Gilfus Running for local office again is a given for Gilfus,
was smitten with politics and the idea of service. but he isn’t sure which office he should seek. While he
Gilfus graduated East Carolina University in plans to start again at the local level, he does have his
May after the September 11, 2001, attack and sights set on the state legislature in the not-to-distant
joined the military. He felt it was his duty to serve future.
his country and volunteered to deploy to Iraq in “I’m looking forward to finding out where people
2005. After returning, Gilfus attained his law want me to re-engage in civil service,” he said.
degree from Campbell University. He joined the Gilfus said he wants to remain in local government
Army Reserves where he serves as a captain for now. Most services, even those provided by the
in the 12th Legal Support Organization. He is federal government, are handled on the county or city
also an attorney with The Mitchell Law Group level.
serving his clients when he is not serving his “There can be a lot of bureaucracy, but I think it’s
country. rewarding,” he said. “It has its moments, but you get
It was there that he caught the eye of Grant to see your direct impact.”
Derick Graham Age 39
Owner, Director of Player Development, Athlete’s Choice Batting Center
Derick Graham is more than a baseball physically. They often have a hard time finding
instructor; he is a mentor. He knows baseball healthy food options after a game or a double
requires more than a good swing, quick hands and header and in many circumstances, may have to
a strong arm. It requires leadership and the ability sleep on a bus or in a hotel before and after the
to know what to do before it happens. Those are game. Graham works to help players understand
the things that he teaches his students. and, more importantly, prepare.
“There were some things I missed,” he said. “I He hopes that his center will be a place for
wanted to come back and give the guys and girls college scouts to come, and that his students will
the opportunity to learn what I didn’t.” be able to use baseball as a vehicle to scholarships.
This Raeford native and former ballplayer in He wants his students to succeed both on and
the Cincinnati Reds’ organization came back to off the field.
Fayetteville and opened Athlete’s Choice Batting Melvin Teel, a retired command sergeant
Center, where he serves as the owner and the major, nominated Graham because of the
director of player development. great improvement he has seen in his son
He’s worked with middle schools and high since training at the batting center.
schools, and he said he can see improvement. In a Teel credits his son’s positive attitude
sport where every parent and coach is a critic, he and improvement on the field to his
said he was glad to see results which point to his participation in the center’s program.
methods working. Graham wants all of his students to
“I take a cause-and-effect approach to teaching become leaders, both on and off the field.
baseball,” Graham said. “Kids get the chance to “They will lead by example,” Graham
think about what causes them to have a bad swing. said. “They don’t have to be a verbal guy,
They can process the outcomes and make a right and they can be mild mannered off the
choice.” field, but their teammates will follow
He understands the long grind of the season and because of the respect they have for
the toll it can have on players, both mentally and them on the field.”
18 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Latonya Hankins Age 35
Controller, Fayetteville Publishing Company
Family values have driven Latonya Hankins financial reporting, payroll, cash management
to a successful career in accounting. The 13th of and business systems.
14 children, the 35-year-old learned hard work Though her career efforts are impressive, she
at an early age. also stands out in her community service.
“My father passed away when I was 9 years She’s a member of Networth, the Fayetteville
old, but even at a young age he instilled in Young Professionals and the Junior League
me and my siblings a strong work ethic,” said of Fayetteville, where she serves as the
Hankins, who works as the controller for chairwoman of the Done-in-a-Day committee,
Fayetteville Publishing Company. “Many of my which is responsible for planning volunteer
siblings are entrepreneurs and go-getters. I am opportunities with local organizations.
truly inspired by their drive, determination In addition, she also serves on the
and persistence, which contributes to my board of directors for Cumberland County
professional accomplishments.” CommuniCare Inc., which provides early
It was another trait, however, she inherited intervention to at-risk children. As a former
from her family that pushed her to her current high school basketball standout, she’s also the
career. assistant coach for the Fayetteville Lady Spurs
“I’ve always been good with numbers ... we AAU basketball team, working with 9th- and
are all good with numbers. I think we get that 10th-grade players. She’s also served with
from my mom,” she said. “It made me want to United Way. This year she’ll be a mentor for a
be in the business and finance area.” Cumberland County elementary student.
Hankins has done well in that field. She “As far back as I can remember I’ve always
earned her master’s degree in accounting from volunteered, whether it was in church
North Carolina State University and became or in school, I’ve always worked for the
a CPA. After two years with the company, community,” she said. “I see the benefit of it
she was promoted to controller, giving her in people’s lives.”
responsibility for all accounting, budgeting,
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 19
Jackson Howard Age 34
Owner, Principal, Carolina Commercial Mortgage LLC
Jackson Howard was only 30 when he was faced with ownership wasn’t just a blind risk. Howard has master’s
a life changing decision. He was about to resign from degrees in real estate finance and entrepreneurship.
his job in sales for a Fortune 500 company and take a Branching out into development, he is project
partnership in a small local startup. manager of a 280-unit luxury apartment community in
In a short time with service giant Cintas, Howard Jacksonville. He hopes his position as a lender will put
had generated more than $1.3 million in sales. The new him in contact with more developers.
opportunity came from Fayetteville businessmen John Grabbing the bull by the horns is the secret to
Koenig and David Allred, and they were up front about Howard’s success.
the risk and the initial pay cut. “In my experience it’s recognizing an opportunity
“(Allred) said, ‘You understand there is no guarantee in front of you and having the confidence to act on
on this?’ “Howard said of his initial conversations with the opportunity and work very hard,” he said. “With
his new business partner. “He said, ‘Come back to that being said, you have to be able to roll the dice and
me with a number you can live with.’ It was about count on yourself rather than rely on a bigger company
half of what I was making.” to do things for you.”
The risk paid off. Five years later, under His advice for other young entrepreneurs looking at
Howard’s leadership, Carolina Commercial small-business ownership is to put in some time with a
Mortgage LLC has boasted double-digit corporate giant.
growth every year since its founding and has “I would not have wanted to start a business right
provided more than $250 million in loans to out of college or high school; there’s too much to learn
businesses. from the big boys,” he said. “I think it’s a neat idea to be
His decision wasn’t completely based on your own boss, but there is a time and place.”
finances. He enjoys giving back to the community by
“I thought I would like to work for a volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, March of
local company, rather than a Fortune 500 Dimes and Operation Blessing.
company,” he said. “I thought it would be “Giving back is something very important,
more fun.” something I could do more of,” he said modestly. “The
Jumping into small business person giving back receives the most.”
Hilton Hutchens Jr. Age 34
Associate Attorney, Law Firm of Hutchens, Senter & Britton, P.A.
As a child, Hilton Hutchens knew he wanted to have a job, but eventually I learned how important it
follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer. What he was.”
didn’t know was that he’d follow those steps directly. That ethic carries over into Hutchens’ community
Now, as a partner in his father’s Fayetteville law firm, service. He is active in the March of Dimes, Fayetteville
Hutchens, Senter and Britton, he knows he’s exactly Young Professionals, the Jimmy V Foundation, the
where he belongs. Fayetteville Bar’s efforts through Operation Inasmuch
“My father was an attorney, and at early age, I knew and his firm’s Pro Bono Committee, which gives
I was going to be,” Hutchens said. “I originally wanted free legal services to those in the community who
to be an astronaut as a child growing up in the ‘80s, but cannot afford it. He hopes to see the Fayetteville legal
my dad was always my hero.” community come together to be “citizen attorneys.”
Still, after earning his undergraduate degree from “Fayetteville is so fortunate to have such
Wake Forest University, coming home was the last a remarkable young man and attorney
thing Hutchens expected. He moved to Jackson Hole, as Hutch Hutchens,” said nominator
Wyo., and made ends meet by parking cars and waiting Sandy Warren of CityView Magazine.
tables. “It’s so nice to see our younger
“I didn’t think I’d move back to Fayetteville right generation get involved and take over
away,” Hutchens said. “I thought I wanted to practice the responsibilities of making our
somewhere else, but when I graduated from law school, community a better place.”
I realized Fayetteville was the place I wanted to be.” Hutchins said he loves the area
He became a partner about five and half years ago. and is completely satisfied with his
Now 35, he’s settled in his role. decision to return.
It’s no surprise the father and son continue to expand “I love my hometown,” he said.
one of the most successful law firms in Fayetteville. “I am boastful when I tell folks how
Hutchens said his dad instilled in him a work ethic he’ll my community has grown in beauty,
never forget. pride, economically, culturally, etc.
“Ever since I was 15, when I had time to work at a I am excited to join those who are
paying job, I worked,” he said. “He almost forced me to making these things happen.”
20 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Thaddeus “T.J.” Jenkins Age 33
President, Owner, The Wrijen Company
As a young college graduate, Thaddeus Jenkins spent Jenkins said. “You have to provide an asset and show
hours inside a small room in his parents’ home ironing people you are valuable.”
out the details of his first marketing contract. Kneeling He met many of those contacts as a disc jockey
in front of his bed – because he didn’t own a desk – and music promoter while in college at East Carolina
Jenkins signed his name to a deal that would launch The University. Even before graduation he desired his own
Wrijen Company into the national spotlight. business.
“Money was tight,” Jenkins said. “I was so rock- Lavar Wright of Rick Hendrick Chrysler-Jeep
bottom broke that I didn’t have a bank account. I had to nominated Jenkins.
borrow $100 from my dad to get an account to cash the “T.J. has dedicated his time, effort and funds to
check.” helping Fayetteville grow to be the great city it should
Six months later, Jenkins’ startup was be,” Wright said. “Not only does T.J. give back to
moving into an office in downtown Fayetteville by way of funds and time, he does so in
Fayetteville’s Systel Building and handling service to churches, schools and the community.”
multi-million dollar clients. Local impact is Jenkins’ focus in all he does.
Over the last seven years the young “That’s one of the biggest things, all of the staff
entrepreneur has expanded his marketing stays in Cumberland County,” he said. “I grew up on
and promotional company extensively. Murchison Road. I came back here to make an impact in
Now 34, he’s branching out into markets the community. We could have moved to a larger metro
such as Dallas and San Diego. area to get recognition, but we are doing it right here.”
Thanks to aggressive marketing He volunteers his time with Find-a-Friend, the E.E.
strategies, Jenkins’ first client went Smith Giving Circle, March of Dimes, the Kiwanis Club,
public, was named one of Fortune and serves on the boards of the is a member of several
500’s top five companies in 2006 and boards including the Fayetteville-Cumberland County
still ranks in the top 100. The Wrijen Chamber of Commerce, the Crown Center and the
Company currently represents several Methodist University Foundation.
national brands. “I still want to give back here,” he said. “The main goal
“It was just me using my contacts,” is to change the world and to do it from Fayetteville.”
Carrie King Age 36
Executive Director, Fayetteville Dogwood Festival
Carrie King’s rise from receptionist to executive can have anything you want with hard work.”
director wasn’t a stroke of luck. The 36-year- Outgoing, ambitious and willing to get her hands
old knows a thing or two about hard work and dirty, King constantly strives to improve the festival,
dedication, which is why the Fayetteville Dogwood while keeping it family oriented and free.
Festival has been named the region’s best event and “I feel like I’ve hit the pinnacle with my career,
competes at the international level. but I don’t see myself going anywhere,” she said. “My
At 22, King left college early and took a job goal now is just to be better at this every year.”
working for the Fayetteville/Cumberland County She credits her family, friends, board members
Chamber of Commerce as a receptionist. She didn’t and other supporters for her success and claims that
stay seated behind a desk long. Working her way without their help, her success wouldn’t be possible.
through the chamber, she earned a reputation as “I have a core group of people I can call, and they
an event planner and was hired by the Dogwood are there for me,” she said. “My board members –
Festival five years ago. In 2009, she was named my top dogs – without them I am nothing.”
Executive Director of the Year by the North Carolina King said she also has a special talent that has
Festival and Events Association. helped her career advancement.
“Being in the trenches and doing the work is what “I have a very good memory,” she said. “I can
groomed me,” she said. “As far as the industry goes, I run into someone I briefly met eight years ago, and
am a lot younger than my peers, and they have been I can remember who they are and where we met.”
doing this a lot longer than I have.” King’s volunteer work includes helping plan
The Dogwood Festival has been named best events with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/
event in the state at least three times during her Cumberland County. She loves the idea of giving
tenure and has claimed dozens of regional and back to her hometown through providing arts
international awards. and entertainment.
“At the end of the day it’s about your word and “It makes my heart smile, because I am giving
your work ethic,” King said. “I’ve always had a job. I so many people and families a lasting memory,” she
had a job when I was 16. My dad always told us you said. “This is my home.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 21
Toni King Age 36
District Court Judge, 12th Judicial District Court
Toni King loves her job as a District Court judge. love to continue to do this in the future.”
After all, handing out justice has been a life-long King also enjoys community service. She’s
ambition. a member of the Junior League of Fayetteville,
“I always wanted to be a judge,” she said. “I didn’t Networth and the Upsilon Kappa Omega chapter of
expect it to happen so quickly. I’m still taking it in.” the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
At 38, King is the youngest judge in Cumberland “Giving back in the community is important to
County. She was appointed to fill a vacant seat on me,” King said. “I attribute it to the fact that I don’t
the bench three years ago. Last year, she ran for have any kids and I’m single. I have free time to give
election unopposed and won her second term in back to the community.”
office. She’s also given to the Wounded Warriors
How did a young lawyer with eight years in Foundation, The Boys & Girls Club, Cape Fear
private practice earn enough confidence from her Regional Theater and mentored in the school
peers to be appointed as a judge? system.
“Hard work,” King said. “You have to try to “Judge King is committed to making the
make sure you are prepared. I had experience community in which she resides a better place,”
in different areas. That definitely helps with said Gretchen Morales of Cumberland County
the position.” Schools. “She is dedicated to civil service and
Even though she’s younger than most believes that it takes many hands working together
of her colleagues, King has no lack of to make our environment a better place to live.”
experience. Practicing as an attorney with She also gives back through the court system.
her own law firm gave her exposure to “I hope I’m giving people justice,” she said.
all aspects of the courtroom. She said “People just like to be heard ... tell their side of the
sitting behind the bench is where she’s the story.
happiest. “My favorite part is coming in contact with
“I love my position, I love my job, and I people every day,” she said. “I know my decisions
love being in the courtroom every day,” she affect people’s lives, but I am happy when I make
said. “It’s something I enjoy doing, and I’d the right decision.”
Wendy Lowery Age 32
Associate Vice Chancellor of Development, Alumni House, Fayetteville State University
As Fayetteville State University’s associate vice “I’ve always been in fund-raising,” she said. “My
chancellor of development, Wendy Lowery’s day never biggest career success came when I was with the
stops. Her phone rings, her planner is full and her feet American Heart Association. I raised the most
keep moving. She wouldn’t have it any other way. money in the (Sandhills Heart Walk) event’s history.
“When I was a young girl, I had a vision of who We received national recognition.”
and what I wanted to be when I became an adult and That work ethic is why Kristie Meave nominated
the life-style that I wanted for myself,” the 32-year- Lowery.
old said. “I envisioned a woman in a business suit “Since I have known Wendy, I have been impressed
running up stairs on the way to an important meeting, with her leadership and work ethic at such a young
checking her phone and signing her signature on all age,” the nominator said. “I believe Wendy will
sorts of important documents throughout the day. continue to be a valuable asset to this community over
“There was always something about the busy the next several years.”
professional life-style that appealed to me,” she said. Hard work carries over to her personal life.
“I knew that I wanted to be a part of something that She enjoys giving back to the community,
made me feel accomplished, and that in return would supporting organizations such as the
make a difference in my community.” Highlands Chapter of the American
With her job at Fayetteville State, Lowery is doing Red Cross, Networth, The Fayetteville-
exactly that. She’s in charge of public relations, Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce
marketing affairs and financing projects on campus. and Fayetteville Young Professionals. She’s
“I’m extremely organized with my Blackberry and also active in the school system, where she
my planner,” she said. “I’m very structured with my has two elementary-age children.
time. You have got to know how to multitask and just In fulfilling her goal of being successful
prioritize.” in a busy career, she’s learned one rule to
Spearheading fund-raising initiatives is her keep herself on the right track.
strongest asset, something she focused on in a “You have got to be positive,” she said.
previous job. “There’s always a good side to everything.”
22 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Donna Mansfield Age 34
Obstacles never daunted Donna Mansfield. She go through is so intense,” she said. “I can’t imagine
treated them like a runner does. Even though she my son thinking at night about if his dad will come
came from a challenging childhood, she joined home.”
the Army and went on to become the first college In 2008 she had the chance to host the First Lady’s
graduate in her family. She earned her degree from first formal military families and spouses meeting.
Fayetteville State University while serving on active She organized and supplied the guest list and took
duty. It was a hard road, but she calls it a sweet herself off the list because she didn’t want to take
victory for her family. space away from those with a story to tell Michelle
Her tough childhood has made her an early- Obama.
childhood advocate, and when she left the military Mansfield also participated in Leadership North
she began volunteering with Partnership for Carolina. She is the third person from Cumberland
Children and was eventually named board County to be selected for the honor, which allows her
chairwoman. Mansfield found creative ways to to advocate on behalf of the city and for the economic
raise money for the partnership including the development of southeastern North Carolina.
Evening with the Stars Oscar Gala. “She is a young woman full of promise,” said
“Some children start their lives exposed to Eva Hansen with the Partnership for Children and
things they shouldn’t be exposed to and not Mansfield’s nominator. “She motivates and leads by
exposed to things they should be,” she said. “I example.”
am committed to the importance of nurturing She is also passionate about a program called
and raising strong children.” Girls on the Run and wants to start a branch in
Being a former soldier and being married Fayetteville. The program takes at-risk girls and pairs
to a former soldier makes military families them with a mentor to train for a marathon, teaching
near and dear to Mansfield’s heart. The them the discipline and fortitude to succeed.
USO board member said she can’t imagine “There are a lot of children who think they can’t
the stress military children face every day. achieve,” she said. “Running a marathon means
“A lot of kids here are in some way training, discipline and devotion to do it. No one can
related to the military, and the stress they let you do it but yourself.”
Downtown Development Manager, City of Fayetteville, Age 34
Public service is in Jami McLaughlin’s blood. now she is here to stay. She said she has a love of the
Her grandfather was the first mayor and the first area and enjoys that even when doing something as
Chamber of Commerce president in Spring Lake. Her simple as venturing to the grocery store, she not only
father chose to serve the country through military runs into long-time friends but has the chance to
service, but McLaughlin followed in her grandfather’s meet someone from another country.
footsteps and was elected the mayor pro-tem of Her dedication and commitment to the community
Spring Lake at 26. can be seen in her volunteerism. She is involved
It wasn’t something the East Carolina University in Junior League, the Fayetteville Duck Derby,
graduate had planned on doing, but when she decided Fayetteville Young Professionals, Cumberland County
to run, her family supported her. Society of Patriots, Daughters of the United States
“My mom actually backed me,” she said. “All I Army, Army’s Army, Spring Lake Economic
promised during my campaign was to listen and Development Committee and Heroes
research, and that’s what I did. I didn’t want anyone to Homecoming. She is a board member of the
discredit me, so I researched everything.” Fayetteville Downtown Alliance and a
She learned so much that she ended up co-writing certified tourism ambassador.
a book and editing another, both with the town According to her nominator,
historian, about the history of Spring Lake. Chris McLaughlin of Storr Office
McLaughlin counts it as an invaluable experience Environments, she is a unique
which she draws on in her current job as downtown individual with a vision for the
development manager for Fayetteville. community who works tirelessly
“There is so much potential in downtown to play her part. While she agrees
Fayetteville right now,” she said. “We’re at a turning with her nominator that she has
point right now, especially with all the development one-of-a-kind resume, she said
and the nationally recognized festivals, we’re she doesn’t feel like she has worked
becoming an event destination.” much, but it is a true labor of love.
She has come back to the Fayetteville area three “I feel fortunate to have the kind of
times since graduating college and admits she thinks experiences I have had,” she said.
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 23
Lorna McNeill Ricotta Age 34
Owner, Ethos Creative Group
When you’ve been Miss North Carolina, James Taylor at Gov. Jim Hunt’s inauguration,
represented your country internationally and sang the national anthem at a Carolina
island-hopped as a professional singer by your Panthers game and recorded two solo albums.
mid-20s, what is left to do? Ricotta was nominated by Fayetteville State
Lorna McNeill Ricotta could have been University’s Wendy Lowery, who said her
satisfied with her accomplishments, but she friend is the perfect fit for 40 Under Forty.
wasn’t afraid to take on her biggest challenge “Lorna demonstrates the true essence of
yet – owning a small business. being a young professional that has a strong
Two years ago, the former singer and 2000 passion for her community and professional
winner of the state’s top pageant founded Ethos growth and truly exemplifies all components
Creative Group, an interior design and event- for this sort of recognition,” she said.
planning company. Ricotta also has a big heart when it comes to
The career change may seem like a service. She volunteers with many nonprofits,
departure for the 34-year-old Ricotta, but including the Cumberland County Education
she said it’s a natural progression. Foundation, Community Concerts and the
“Design has been a life-long interest; it’s University of North Carolina at Pembroke
more of a passion,” she said. “I feel like this Board of Trustees. She also enjoys mentoring
is where I’m supposed to be at this point in children.
my life. I’m a multi-faceted person. I don’t like “Youth development is imperative to our
being pigeon holed. I’m an entrepreneur at community growth,” she said. “I envision
heart.” creating programs to help our youth excel,
At Ethos she works to combine the creative highlight their strengths and improve their
forces of interior decorating and event weaknesses.”
planning, two fields she said tie together, “I look back in life and ask myself how I’ve
with the design aspect as the common been helped by a hand up, not a hand out, and
thread. I feel like that’s something I should do for the
As a singer, Ricotta performed alongside next generation,” she said.
Kristie Meave Age 34
Being successful is about taking risk and the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of
enjoying adventure. Kristie Meave knows a thing Commerce for seven years. She recently received
or two about taking chances. Six days after being her MBA and is ready for her next challenge in life.
the first in her family to graduate from college, “A bunch of doors have opened,” she said.
Meave left Texas for the first time and moved to “I’ve thought about starting my own business.
Washington D.C. with no job, no place to live and The chamber taught me what it means to be an
no plans. entrepreneur and many of the skills it takes to be
The gamble paid off for the young political successful ... the sky’s the limit.”
science graduate, who scored jobs with influential Her proudest moment in her previous position
congressmen and senators. was starting a new group for young leaders.
Later, Meave climbed the Great Wall of China in “The thing I’ve enjoyed most and am
a snowstorm. She’s now traveled to 16 countries. most proud of is the Fayetteville Young
“(Climbing the Great Wall) was the scariest Professionals,” she said. “I suggested it to my
thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I made it to the boss.”
top with white knuckles and frostbitten fingers. The group has grown from a handful of
The accomplishment taught me what real fear members to more than 400 in only couple
is and continues to help me not sweat the small of years.
stuff.” She hopes her next adventure keeps her
After experiences like that, you’d think the rest here in Fayetteville.
of her career would be dull, but the 35-year-old “It’s home; I’ve lived here as long as
Meave tackles her work with the same gusto. I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life,” she
“Everything you can think of that’s happening, said. “This is a time for self examination
I’ve been on the committee or board,” she said. and finding what is important in life.
“That’s one of the greatest challenges, letting I think people who work hard and are
people know there is a lot to do in Fayetteville.” nice to people wind up getting jobs
Meave was most recently employed as the vice and doing great things.”
president of marketing and communication for
24 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Peter Pappas Age 36
President, Baldinos Giant Jersey Subs/ Pappas Commercial Properties
Few people have been placed in charge of 35 people and the Council for Hotel and Restaurant Trainers to
at the young age of 20, but Peter Pappas has never continue to motivate and improve his staff. He also
been ordinary. While he will admit he has learned a gives back to many local charitable organizations.
lot since being responsibility for those workers, many He often donates money or food to events, but hopes
of whom were older, he wouldn’t trade the experience to soon be able to have an ongoing partnership with
of opening a new Baldinos Giant Jersey Subs for some local organizations and send employees to help
anything. by giving their time.
“My family needed a strong leader to take our He sees a positive direction for Baldinos. He hopes
company to the next level,” he said. “I decided to leave to be able to transition from operator to franchiser,
Emory University in Atlanta once I had my associate’s allowing him to focus on the things he enjoys
degree and come home to work and get my bachelor’s most – menu development, marketing and
degree locally.” associate development.
His drive and ambition helped him through, and “I like a challenge,” he said. “This is
after a few years, he said he earned the respect of his where the fun will start because I could go
workers. He opened two more Baldinos locations in from running the store to specializing in
2004 while getting his real estate license. promotions and training. It will allow me
Since he is busy with so much construction while to expand quicker.”
opening his new stores, he also incorporated a His outlook for the future of
construction company. While it may seem like an odd Fayetteville is also very bright. He said
combination, Pappas said it was a natural progression. that with the growth of the city and the
“Right now I manage 20 properties monthly, and vision of its business leaders, there is a
this puts us in a position to help small businesses,” positive direction for the community.
he said. “I feel fortunate because I’ve had a lot of “I look forward to all the new folks
experience, so I end up being the go-to guy.” who will make Fayetteville a place to
Pappas is always looking for ways to help, from his be,” he said. “It’s up to the people in
employees to his community. He attends conferences my age group to show a welcoming
for the Society for Human Resource Management and positive spirit.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 25
Louis Patalano IV Age 37
General Counsel and Vice President, Legal Services, Cape Fear Valley Health System
Health care is one of today’s hot-button legal Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s anti-fraud program and
topics. That’s why when Louis Patalano IV became a with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office
lawyer, his heart was set on that specialty. in the Medicaid investigations unit. At only 38, his
“It’s a busy job, I’m not twiddling my thumbs for experience is sometimes a surprise for his peers.
sure,” said Patalano, who is the general counsel and “I’ve had employees at the company longer than
vice president of legal services for Cape Fear Valley I’ve been alive, so to have these people working for
Health System. “People don’t realize how many legal me or answering to me has been a challenge for me,”
situations apply to a health care provider. It’s one he said. “I am the youngest member of the senior
of those areas of law that is dynamic. You see it on executive committee of Cape Fear Valley. What I’ve
the front page of the paper, and you see it on the tried to do is work hard and do the right thing.”
nightly news.” He is the vice chairman on the board of directors
Patalano said his job is ever changing, for Communities in Schools of North Carolina. He’s
as the hospital needs legal council for a also on the board of directors for the Cumberland
variety of reasons. Patalano’s role at Cape County Education Foundation.
Fear is extensive. With two kids of his own, helping children is an
“Cape Fear Valley has historically important part of Patalano’s life.
not had in-house counsel,” he said. “I “I enjoy working with and for children,” he said.
came to Cape Fear Valley and started “I serve on two boards, both geared toward trying to
the legal services department from save kids at risk for dropout. To help children who
scratch.” may fall through the cracks is very rewarding.”
The legal department has grown As an Army brat, Patalano spent his childhood in
from only three employees when and out of Fayetteville. He said his goal is to continue
Patalano was hired to 25 today. He is to help the community improve.
able to provide expert advice, thanks “I’ve watched it develop, and it’s not the same
to former jobs on opposite sides of Fayetteville as when I left in high school,” he
the health care spectrum. said. “To be a part of it from Cape Fear Valley’s
He’s worked both as director of perspective, and how we are growing, is exciting.”
Reshma Patel Age 38
Occupational Therapist, Cumberland County Schools
When microbiologist-turned-occupational-therapist Directors for Cape Fear Regional Theater, a Friends of
Reshma Patel moved to Fayetteville, the only person Cancer Advisory Council member, a Heart and Stroke
she knew here was her brother. She was born in Event Coordinator and has co-chaired the Circle of
Raleigh, but had lived in Pittsburgh and Canada. Friends Hospital Gala twice.
She quickly fell in love with Fayetteville and found She has been a big sister for the Big Brother Big
her niche working with children in the Cumberland Sister Program and a tutor for adult literacy. She has
County Schools. delivered Meals on Wheels and volunteered with
She helps students with fine motor problems nursing homes. She also wants to become more
resulting from anything such as a sports injury involved with the fund-raising efforts for military
or congenital deformity to a child with Asperger’s organizations, such as the Green Beret Foundation.
Syndrome, and she works through the challenges so She also wants to help children become more
the students can do things more normally. She chose involved in volunteer efforts, and is looking to start
this job because it allows her to collaborate with a group where kids can get together and volunteer.
teachers, parents and community services to best help “The spirit of volunteerism is very important in
each child. my family, and those value are being taught to my
Even though Patel works so closely with children, daughter,” she said. “I would love to see continued
helping them every day, her nominator, Karen growth and sense of community within our city.”
Goldsmith of Atlas Chiropractic, notes that Patel still Patel said she remembers volunteering in
finds it is important to volunteer and give back to high school with seniors helping seniors where
the community. She gives back generously, despite she helped senior citizens. Having a spirit of
personal tragedy in her life. volunteerism starts at a young age, and Patel
“We all have a story with good, bad, all of it, and encourages her daughter and all young people
it shapes our future,” Patel said. “I could give you a to give back because it teaches compassion and
laundry list of sad things, but I have one life to live. empathy.
Bitterness is not an option.” “We have freedom. We have a roof over
She is involved with many different organizations our head. We’re lucky,” Patel said. “When we
she personally believes in. She is on the Board of have that, we have to give back.”
26 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Nicholas Perkins Age 30
President, Perkins Management Services Company, Inc.
Nicholas Perkins turned a college job in the cafeteria “Growing up in a modest and humble family structure,
into a career in food service. His food management I wanted financial freedom, and I recognized having
company provides meals on college campuses and military access to capital would afford me every opportunity I
installations throughout the South and owns one of the wanted in life,” he said.
busiest new restaurants in Fayetteville. He supports education at E.E. Smith and Fayetteville
“I always wanted to have my own business,” Perkins State University through sponsorships, but said his
said. “When I fell in love with food services, I decided to contribution to the community is the jobs he hopes his
combine the two.” investments provide. In all, his company has about 200
His company, Perkins Management Services Company, employees, many in Cumberland County.
provides food services to three university campuses “It’s very important, which is why we are
and two military bases. The company recently opened opening businesses inside of Fayetteville,” he
Church’s Chicken on Yadkin Road. The fast food franchise said. “I’ve tried to increase the employment
has been so successful in its first months that Perkins has opportunities by actually entering into
announced two more Fayetteville locations to open in the commercial markets. I give back to my
future. community in ways we really need.”
It all started in the cafeteria at Fayetteville State Perkins’ dedication to personal
University. service made an impact on Jacquelyn
“As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to work in Melvin-Alexander of JMA, Inc., who
food service – it was an enlightening experience,” Perkins nominated him for this honor.
said. “It was hard work, but it was something I really liked. “As a business consultant, receiving
He started his the company five years ago and is seeing a telephone call from Nicholas to
growth every year. The 30-year-old is proud to be a first- discuss one of his latest projects
generation business owner. brings an immediate smile to my
“I knew in college I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he face knowing that the project
said. “Everything I did in college was for my future career. will be dealt with the utmost of
I used the classroom and the time in school to establish a professionalism and a commitment
business plan. to its success,” she said.
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 27
Robert “Jason” Poole II Age 35
Partner , Todd Rivenbark & Puryear, PLLC
Being the partner of a CPA firm before the age of 40 in the Kiwanis Club, which he joined in 2003. He has
is impressive. Jason Poole was named a partner at 30 at served on the board of directors and currently is the one
Todd Rivenbark & Puryear, PLLC. His hard work and of the youngest president-elects of the club, something
lead-by-example mentality is what his nominators say both of his nominators noted and applauded.
got him his position, but he has a more humble opinion. “The Kiwanis just felt like a good fit for me,” he said.
“I got really lucky,” he said. “I put in a lot of hard “I love their mission, which is to support kids, and
work, but really it was good timing.” I’ve always been interested in volunteering. When the
The natural-born leader is an East Carolina opportunity came, I took it.”
University graduate and a native of Fayetteville and Poole immediately jumped in by chairing the annual
he thinks that growing up here gave him a unique Talent Night event that awards winners with a summer
perspective about the city’s future. music camp scholarship to Methodist University. He
“I like Fayetteville,” he said. “There is a lot of also actively participates in their Smart Start program
opportunity, and I saw the potential that the and Reading is Fun and sponsors a Little League
city has.” baseball team.
His parents and college professors “Jason is an impressive young man who truly leads by
taught him to give back. He is treasurer example,” said Gary Cooper of Carolina Mortgage, one
and a member of the board of directors of Poole’s nominators. “He is respected by everyone who
for the Highlands Chapter of the observes his work ethic and values.”
American Red Cross. He is also the His involvement is not likely to slow down any
treasurer of the Homebuilders time soon, either. He is looking to find some more
Association of Fayetteville. organizations within the community. He is also looking
Poole is also an active member into possibly serving on a local government board.
of the North Carolina Association “I would like to get involved with local government,”
of Certified Public Accountants he said. “The timing would have to be right, but I
and Fayetteville Young believe that I should take an active role in being part
Professionals. of the solution, and help our elected leaders make
He is probably most active Fayetteville a better home for everyone.”
Shannon Shurko Age 35
Military Support Liaison, Cumberland County Schools
Classrooms are comfortable for Shannon Shurko. gives of her own personal time to get a job done.”
She is an excellent educator who loves watching her Her responsibilities have grown, and her job and
students become interested in learning. She is also volunteer efforts often overlap. She gives her time
an active Army wife who volunteers with her Family to students and their parents, which often means
Readiness Group and other military organizations. checking her email into the night waiting for replies
Then she found an opening for a Military Support from deployed and overseas parents, but it’s not
Liaison for Cumberland County Schools, the first something she would change.
position of its kind in North Carolina, and applied. A “There are men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan
few months later she was offered the job. She calls it and all over the place, and they work on off hours to
the perfect marriage of her Army and civilian lives. us,” Shurko said. “I would want someone to answer
“In a lot of ways, you have to be in the military me if I wasn’t around. My kids deserve that, and so do
machine to know how it works,” she said. “I want theirs.”
military kids to know that they are supported. They Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. She was
are sacrificing right along with their service member.” awarded 82nd Airborne Division Volunteer
Since then she has served on White House panels Recognition in 2008 and was given the
looking to support military families, and helped Partnership for Children’s Military Family
organize conferences designed to bring services, both Leadership Award for outstanding leadership
military and civilian, together for families. She creates in 2010.
an umbrella of sorts with information for students and She said the recognition makes her want to
parents. work that much harder for her students. She
Her efforts do not stop there, as her nominator would like to see the position grow to include
Nakol Lovett pointed out. Shurko organized a government affairs so someone could lobby
graduation for veterans who served during World War the state legislature for changes to support
II, Korea and Vietnam and were honorably discharged. military children in the school system.
“Shannon is clearly not only a leader, but someone “I want the students to have an innate
who loves to help others learn to lead as well,” Lovett sense of support here,” she said. “This
said. “She deeply cares for those around her and often should be a safe place for students to fall.”
28 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
Seema Slehria Age 39
After winning sales and customer service prescription they need any other way.”
awards, it was hard for Seema Slehria to leave Slehria is the event chairwoman for
the banking industry to stay at home with the Women’s Giving Circle. This year the
her children. But she knew she wanted to organization chose to start a campaign directed
volunteer her time and make a difference in her at combatting homelessness in Fayetteville.
community. Looking back at what she has done She is also a Fashion Show Committee
for her community during the last six years, she Member for the Medical Society Alliance. That
does not have a single regret. organization is made of physicians’ spouses who
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said, raise money for health education foundations
“But I knew I wanted to be involved. I have supporting nursing programs.
learned so much – leadership, event planning Slehria’s nominator, Christin Bellian, said she
and teamwork. I have learned how to make the is the first one to volunteer when help is needed,
impossible become possible.” and she always keeps her cool, never getting
She earned her master’s degree in health angry or annoyed.
care management and became active in “I feel at the end of the day, if I have even
nonprofit organizations with which she touched one life or made a difference for even
has personal connections. After her one person, I am successful,” she said.
father passed away from complications of Even in the rough economy, Slehria continues
diabetes, Slehria began volunteering with to set her goals high; she wants to use her
Better Health, an organization that fills degree and return to the private sector while
the health-care gap so patients can get continuing her work with nonprofits. But after
the medical supplies and prescriptions running the house for several years, she thinks
they need but might not be able to it will be a fun challenge.
afford. “People who stay at home don’t usually get to
“What matters to me is being able see the full benefit of what they do,” she said.
to help people,” she said. “Maybe “They may think it’s just a household, but it’s
it’s a sick person who can’t get the a lot.”
Todd Sullivan Age 36
Vice President, Sullivan’s Highland Funeral Service and Crematory
Todd Sullivan learned to serve by watching members college has.
of his family. His grandfather was a particularly “FTCC is such a huge asset to Cumberland County,”
strong influence. He was mayor of Fayetteville and a he said. “It provides a big economic engine for those
businessman who strove to make Fayetteville a better who don’t want to or can’t afford to go to a four-year
place to live. university. It gives them practical training.”
Sullivan said it was that drive that brought him back A hunting and fly fishing enthusiast, he also is a
after working in the planning department of a large long-time member of Ducks Unlimited. He believes
manufacturing facility and then designing investment the conservation of the wetlands and its wildlife is
portfolios. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps paramount, because when it is gone, it won’t come back.
and is trying to make his hometown one of the best In 2005, he purchased the funeral service his
cities in the state. dad was working with and became the
“I think my grandfather was sensitive to civil affairs; vice president in charge of day to day
it’s not many people who are willing to serve,” he said. operations. It’s a job that allows him to
“He was convinced, and I agree, that if you put the right help other people during some of their
people in the right place, we can make Fayetteville a lowest points.
great place, and it will continue to grow.” At that time he was also diagnosed
He knows Fayetteville has the spirit and tenacity to with cancer. Even as he continues to
grow, even in a down economy. He points out the Cape battle cancer with many treatments
Fear Botanical Garden and how supporters have built and surgeries, he has still been able
new facilities many said couldn’t be done because it was to continue working, helping people
too big. Sullivan points out that all the project needed in need.
was passionate people who believed in it. “It helps you identify with
He is very active with Fayetteville Technical people going through something
Community College, serving on its foundation board. similar,” he said. “It make you
Sullivan helps raise money for scholarships, award look at life differently and see
grants for students to attend school and educates the what’s important to you. It really
community of the tremendous positive impact the puts things into perspective.”
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 29
Billy West, Jr. Age 36
District Attorney, Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office
Being selected as an Atlantic Coast Conference’s back to the community.”
Outstanding Male Scholarship Athlete is impressive, West is a member of the Child Advocacy
but the trophies Billy West keeps at his house are Center Board of Advocates, the Fayetteville Police
those he won locally. Foundation and the Cumberland County Joint
The district attorney has won the Cumberland Criminal Task Force. He has served as the chairman
County Golf Championship five times, the of the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizens
Cumberland County Match Play Championship Dinner and an event volunteer for the Rape Crisis
three times and has been named the Cumberland Center.
County Golf Association Player of the Year five times. He has also previously served as a coach for the
“I followed the county championships through the mock trial team of Terry Sanford High School and
years, and now I get to win some of the local stuff, Fayetteville Academy, leading his teams to the
which is the most important to me,” he said. regional championship twice and to the state finals
While West’s nominator George Breece, three times.
admires his ability on the golf course, it’s “The mock trials are a chance for me to give back
his attitude off the course that caught his in an area where I have experience and expertise,” he
attention and led him to nominate West. said. “It gives them a confidence in public speaking.”
Having a local focus to every part of his While his volunteering improves the quality of life
life is important to the life-long resident of in Cumberland County, West tries to do the same
Cumberland County. After attending North through his office. His goal for the District Attorney’s
Carolina State University and earning a law Office is to protect the integrity and independence
degree at Campbell University, West came of the office while being fair and objective to all
back to Fayetteville and began working citizens.
as an assistant district attorney. He said “I care about the future of our community, its
he wants to play an active role in the success and its image,” he said. “I believe a strong,
community. independent District Attorney’s Office has a positive
“I had a lot of support growing up here,” role to play in the life and growth of Cumberland
West said. “I think it’s important to give County.”
30 The Fayetteville Observer’s 2011 40 Under Forty
www.fayobserver.com/40under40 • Sunday, May 15, 2011 31