Mobile Bay’s 2016 Class of 40 Under 40

This year’s young leaders have professional savvy, big hearts and lots to say — so listen up. Our future’s looking bright.

Kari Kirk Benson, Pharm D., 39

Owner, Frios Gourmet Pops
Pharmacist, University of South Alabama Medical Center and Mitchell Cancer Institute

As both a practicing pharmacist and the owner of a favorite local popsicle business, Kari has become the Bay area’s go-to source for a cure. Three months after discovering Frios Gourmet Pops at the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, Kari successfully expanded the Gadsden-made product to the Gulf Coast, and the rest is icy, delicious history. Alongside her continuing work as a pharmacist, Kari is also a charter member of the women’s entrepreneurial group “She Started It.”

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Selma, Ala.
Spouse + Children James; Morgan Claire (9); Paige James (8)
Guilty Pleasure The Candy Bar Frios Pop! It’s really hard to resist.
Hidden talents I’m actually pretty strong for my size, and I’m pretty handy with power tools.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Veterinarian
If I were mayor of Mobile, I would… Do everything I could to facilitate small business growth and expansion.
Why is “She Started It” so important? The members support one another. We also learn a lot from each other — about everything from taxes and marketing to hiring and firing. We’ve discussed it all at our monthly meetings.

Riley Brenes, 29

Artist / Detention Officer, Strickland Youth Center

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Time and time again, Riley has proven himself to be a source of innovation, vision and leadership throughout the city of Mobile. Through undertakings such as the 401 Dauphin St. Project, the Fry Building Project and ChARTing New Directions, Riley has supported local artists while raising funds for tornado relief, an overseas orphanage and programs benefiting inner city youth. He’s also wholly devoted to his work at the Strickland Youth Center and the challenging but rewarding task of influencing the lives of Mobile’s youth.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + Children Bethany Miller; Odessa Elista (2)
Hidden Talents I try not to hide them.
Best advice you have ever received “Don’t worry about what others are doing — just work hard, ” from my dad, David Brenes.
What’s the significance of the ashes and sack cloth? Sack cloth and ashes are a representation of repentance and mourning … I find myself in mourning because our youth detention centers hold the future leaders of our community who have yet to learn their capacity.

John P. Browning, 39

Partner, Burr & Forman LLP 

John has received many accolades over the years, from being named an Alabama Rising Star by Super Lawyers in 2010 to participating in the TIPS Leadership Academy in 2015. Besides his legal work, John makes it a point to stay active in his community. He has served on boards for the Mobile Public Library, Mobile Downtown Alliance and the YMCA of South Alabama, for which he received the 2015 Volunteer of the Year award.

Alma Mater B.A., Troy University; J.D., Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law
Hometown Montgomery, Ala.
Spouse + Children Margaret Sue Helmsing; Margaret (4)
Favorite Mobile dish West Indies Salad
Best advice you have ever received Never burn a bridge.
Guilty pleasure Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter
Celebrity doppelganger Barrett Jones, former UA center
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Astronaut
Hidden talent Bringing people together who vehemently disagree on something
What is your main goal in volunteering and community service? I believe we have a Christian duty to serve others with the talents we have been given by God. When we serve, we are giving back a little bit of ourselves to the organization to make it a better place just for having been a part of it.

Andrew E. Byrd, MBA, Ph.D., 37

Director of the Office of Commercialization and Industry Collaboration, University of South Alabama

Building partnerships is what Andrew does best. He’s worked with the University of South Alabama for more than 15 years, where he strives to discover intellectual and technological talent and, by helping develop and commercialize, keep that talent in Mobile. He works closely with local tech startups, including Innovation PortAL, to bring more companies to success here in the Port City. Andrew has had a hand in a total of six USA-affiliated high-tech startups. The South Alabama grad also volunteers with United Way and the American Heart Association.

Alma Mater B.S., MBA, Ph.D. University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Children Brooks (10), Olivia Rose (9)
First job Bagging horse and cow feed at a store in West Mobile
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Superman. According to my mom, it went on for years and years. She made me a cape so I could fly from furniture to furniture.
Celebrity doppelganger Sylvester Stallone
Best advice you have ever received From my dad: “Go out today and make it a great day!”
What is the key to networking? Being genuine in your relationships. It’s a rare but important quality and should be respected and appreciated.

Holly Carter, 39

Vice President Commercial Banking, Regions Bank

As a consistent top 10 percent performer in her company for more than a decade, Holly knows what it takes to succeed. The University of Florida grad optimizes cash flow for South Alabama clients and was recently selected to participate in the Certified Treasury Professional program. Holly is a 2006 graduate of Leadership Mobile and dedicates her spare time to volunteering with the Upward Youth Sports Program, as well as working with Mobile United, the United Way Women’s Initiative and the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Alma Mater University of Florida
Hometown DeFuniak Springs, Fla.
Children Ava (9)
Hobbies Family time, boating, fishing, being outdoors
First job Project Analyst, SouthTrust Bank
Hidden talents Ping pong
Favorite Mobile dish Felix’s white fish almondine…delicious!
Favorite thing about your job Helping local business owners
What does it take to be a top 10 percent performer? You must be a team player, self-aware, a great listener and have the ability to influence. I have been successful in sales over the past 14 years by not focusing on selling. Instead, I have focused on getting to know my clients, understanding their business and being a trusted partner.

Joshua Cogswell, 36

Director of University Development, University of South Alabama 

In his first year working at the University of South Alabama, Joshua increased year-over-year fundraising by 44 percent, a remarkable feat that has continued to grow in the three years since. Earlier in his career, he helmed a $10 million fundraising effort for the MIND Alzheimer’s Research Center at University of Mississippi Medical Center, and since joining USA, he has added $12 million to the school’s endowed scholarships. Joshua is an Emerging Leader for the United Way of Southeast Alabama and a graduate of the Alabama Leadership Institute.

Alma Mater B.A., Harvard University; M.S., Columbia University
Hometown Cape Coral, Fla.
Spouse + children Erin; Kaylin (11), Owen (4)
Hobbies When I am not working on a degree, I enjoy running, playing soccer and reading.
First job Cleaning toilets for my dad’s janitorial business
Guilty pleasure Will Ferrell movies.
Best advice you have ever received A former boss told me, “Come to me with solutions, not with problems.”
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A detective
How do you inspire your team to succeed? In my career, I have found the best way to learn and grow is by doing. My job is to bring together talented people and let them do their jobs, while hopefully providing guidance and wisdom along the way.

Ashley McLeod Dukes, 33

Cofounder and President, Midtown Mobile Movement

With vision and prowess, Ashley helms the Midtown Mobile Movement, an organization she helped create to promote walkability and community connectedness in the area. She spearheaded a plan for enlivening Old Shell Road and the surrounding areas with a new coffee shop (in the works!) and better infrastructure, among other improvements. In 2014, Ashley helped bring Mobile Streets Alive to fruition, and she continues to spearhead community efforts in Midtown and beyond.

Alma Mater University of Mississippi
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse Witt
Guilty pleasure Nutella + red wine (preferably an Oregon Pinot Noir)
Favorite thing about your job I am constantly meeting new people and learning from them by seeing the world from their perspectives.
Best advice you’ve ever received Leave a place better than you found it
High school superlative Best smile
What is the biggest step to be taken to reach your goals of improved community connectedness? Safe, complete streets for people, bikes and cars will create the biggest impact in connecting the Midtown community, and thanks to our city council and mayor, steps are being taken to focus on improving our city’s infrastructure.

Nathan W. Emmorey, 36

Chief Municipal Court Administrator, City of Mobile
Judge Advocate, Alabama Army National Guard

Appointed Mobile’s chief municipal court administrator in 2014, Nathan has worked to transform a struggling justice system. A statement from Mayor Stimpson’s office declared that under Nathan’s leadership, “the court has sought to transform citizens’ experience with a justice system that is efficient, effective and punishes crime, not penalizing poverty.” He has worked as a foreign claims commissioner in Afghanistan and, in 2017, will be deployed to the Arabian Gulf region for 6 months.

Alma Mater B.B.A., Grand Valley State University; J.D., Ave Maria School of Law; MBA (projected 2018), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Hometown Grew up in Gaylord, Michigan, but Mobile is my home.
Spouse + Children Brittani Anne; Nash Wayne (2)
Celebrity doppelganger I’m told I resemble Tom Hanks; however, it’s more in diction than actual appearance.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a garbage man so I could pull the lever and smash all the trash. Later on, I wanted to be a lawyer.
Favorite thing about your job I love working to ensure that all people who enter Mobile’s Municipal Court system are treated justly.
Tell us about your deployment later this year. I will be the command judge advocate (lawyer) for Joint Special Operations Task Force (Arabian Peninsula), providing full-spectrum legal services to the commander, including operational law, administrative law, contract law and criminal law.

Julia Greer Fobes, 31

Designer, Julia Greer Fobes: Fashion, Art & Flowers

With a flair for florals and artistic design, Julia is well on her way to becoming a Mobile institution. Her new solo venture also specializes in creating and embellishing Mardi Gras robes, trains and costumes, which, for Mobilians, is a job not entrusted to just any designer. She cut her teeth working at Zimlich Brothers, and now her floral work has been showcased in the annual Festival of Flowers. Building multiple businesses from the ground up, Fobes possesses a knack for leadership and creativity that is unparalleled.

Alma Mater University of Mississippi
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse Gray
Hobbies Going to the beach, antiquing, hot yoga, decorating, gardening and brunch
Guilty pleasure Netflix and Yuengling — enjoyed together or separately
High school superlative Best Hair
Celebrity doppelganger Some people say I look like Sarah Jessica Parker. I don’t see it, but I’m definitely OK with it!
Best advice you have ever received “It’s nice to be smart, but it’s much smarter to be nice!” I learned this from my dad, who learned it from his dad, who learned it from his dad.
What is your favorite part of the design process? I really love all the stages of the design process. The best is any job where I know I am giving customers exactly what they want, but they are easygoing enough that I can use my artistic license and push it a lot further.

Margie Friedman, RN, BSN, MSN, 36

NICU Nurse, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital

For almost five years, Margie has worked in the neonatal intensive care unit, which cares for more than 80 babies a day, every day of the year. Apart from her innate ability to guide and encourage parents through their toughest days, Margie demonstrated a natural skill for fundraising by leading a successful $750, 000 campaign to renovate the NICU. This past summer, the McDonald’s Corporation recognized her as one of 24 national Ronald McDonald Hometown Heroes.

Alma Mater B.A., Auburn University; B.S.N., M.S.N., University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Josh; Jack (14), Brooks (11), Sam (5), William (1)
First job Lifeguard at Waterville
Celebrity doppelganger I don’t really have a celebrity doppelganger, but I do have an identical twin sister named Valli Rodning.
Hidden talents I played the oboe in high school.
Best advice you’ve ever received Find a career you are passionate about and love doing. It makes it so much easier to go to work!
How did you decide to pursue neonatal care? My oldest son, Jack, had to be transported to Children’s and Women’s Hospital to the NICU a few days after birth and was there for three weeks. It was terrifying but also amazing, so I decided that I wanted to go back to school to become a NICU nurse.

Todd Greer, 35

Chief Catalyst, Exchange 202

As a cofounder of Mobile’s first collaborative workspace, Todd is truly a pioneer of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s taking hold in the city. After working as a full-time minister in Michigan and Virginia for a total of nine years, he decided to turn his attention toward providing individuals and businesses with the tools necessary to network and grow. Todd also serves as the executive editor of Nonprofit Performance Magazine and is a board member for the local innovation center, Innovation PortAL.

Alma mater B.A., Defiance College; Ph.D., Regent University
Hometown Monroe, Mich.
Spouse + Children Chelsea; Cecelia (7), Baby Greer (due January 2017)
First job Paperboy
Guilty pleasure Books!
Hidden talent The ability to find great deals on things I don’t need!
Favorite Mobile dish: Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Corner 251
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer
Best advice you have ever received “Be ye an opener of doors, ” a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, passed along by Frances Hesselbein
Is Mobile ahead or behind the co-working trend? At present, we find Mobile simultaneously ahead of and behind the trend. Many communities jumped into co-working before Mobile, but from a population density perspective we probably have more spaces, per person, than cities much larger than us.

Adam J. Handwerger, M.D., 39

Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, The Orthopaedic Group

Sticks and stones may break bones, but Adam has got them covered. An accomplished orthopaedic surgeon, Adam has spent his career treating some of the most difficult pediatric cases on the Gulf Coast. In 2011, he joined the Pediatric Orthopaedic Fellowship Program in Atlanta, Georgia, and became one of only two such trained physicians in the Gulf Coast area. When he’s not in the operating room, he’s helping to make it a more effective space through procedural change.

Alma Mater University of Georgia; University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Camilla; Elizabeth (6), Amelia (4)
Hobbies Tennis, golf, snow skiing
Celebrity doppelganger Andy Samberg (“Saturday Night Live, ” “Brooklyn Nine Nine”)
Favorite Mobile dish It’s a dead heat between burgers at Callaghan’s and Butch Cassidy’s
If I were mayor, I would… Develop a true waterfront shopping and dining district
Favorite thing about your job Knowing that I can make a difference that will last a lifetime in my patients
How is treating children different than adults? I found that I enjoyed taking care of kids a lot, and it was very rewarding seeing them get better. I know that when I treat an infant or toddler, it can have a profound effect that may not make itself apparent for years to come. I enjoy that challenge.

Justin Hardee, 34

Industrial Civil Team Leader, Thompson Engineering Inc.

Justin has spent a decade working on projects as the head of civil engineering design, with his efforts contributing $2 million in revenue. He leads technicians, designers and engineers to work together seamlessly for a common goal. A 2006 graduate of the University of South Alabama, Justin attended the Thompson Academy in 2011, where he strengthened his leadership and mentoring skills. He also serves as a mentor in Metro Ministries and has worked with students from Moss Point to encourage their interest in STEM fields.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Kim; George Mason (due April 2017)
Favorite Mobile dish Raw oysters
Guilty pleasure Netflix binges
Celebrity doppelganger I’ve always fancied myself a young Lyle Lovett.
Favorite thing about your job The people. The assurance I have in Thompson’s ability to drive success with our clients and communities is the result of the confidence I have in those around me.
When a project isn’t going as it should, how do you turn it around? Like a wrong turn, the longer you wait to address the issue, the more effort the correction will require. Respond immediately, over-communicate and have a mentor you can rely on for guidance. Embrace the struggle; you’ll be better off for it.

Peyton Harvill, 39

Residential Contractor, PH Building & Design

Peyton has been in the construction business for the past 15 years, but it was 10 years ago that he formed PH Building & Design to meet the demand of clients focused on building high-end, custom-designed homes. In tandem with his wife, Perry, Peyton has developed more than 60 custom homes around Spring Hill and Midtown. A proud father of three, he has also coached his children in baseball, basketball and football.

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + Children Perry; Julia (11), Haas (9), Henry (5)
First job Working on a concrete crew when I was 14. We dug the footings for LeFlore High School.
Favorite Mobile dish Anything from Delish Bakery & Eatery on Upham! I hit that place at least once a week.
What’s better, getting a new project or driving past a completed one? Definitely driving by one of my finished projects! It’s gratifying seeing the end product and knowing all the hard work that went into providing a family with their new home.

Will Israel, 36

Product Manager, The SSI Group Inc.

Upon being hired in 2012 as a product manager for the SSI Group, Will quickly produced results. In 2014, he was recognized with the “Impact Award” for his assistance to the sales group, and revenues have sextupled for the primary product set he manages. Will has recently been placed in charge of the entire financial and performance management portfolio. Coworkers describe him as a strategic planner who successfully works from the macro to the micro.

Alma Mater Hampden-Sydney College
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + Children Katie; First baby on the way!
First job Construction
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? MacGyver
Favorite Mobile dish Rosmarino Pizza from Red or White
Hobbies Flying drones (his photography has been featured in MB) and traveling
Favorite thing about your job Solving complex problems in unique ways.
Ever had a spectacular drone crash? My dad crashed it straight into some azalea bushes at pretty close to top speed. As he handed the controller back, he said, “Maybe you shouldn’t buy such expensive toys.” We disagreed on what the lesson was there.

Steven A. Kahn, M.D., 36

Burn and Trauma Surgeon / Director, Arnold Luterman Regional, USA Medical Center

One of the youngest burn center directors in America, Steven is known nationally for his research related to firefighter safety, resuscitation of burn patients and the use of artificial skin. When he became director of the USA Regional Burn Center, he rebuilt the care team, reeducated existing staff on modern burn care and updated care protocols, resulting in better patient outcomes. Under his leadership, the center was recognized as having the country’s second best survival rate in the first quarter of 2015.

Alma Mater University of Tennessee
Hometown Knoxville, Tenn.
Hobbies Fishing, hiking, and camping
Celebrity doppelganger When I was younger and in better shape, people said I looked like Mark Wahlberg or Mario Lopez. Now, if I keep exercising at my current rate, it’ll soon be Jonah Hill.
Favorite Mobile dish Felix’s sautéed crab claws
Hidden talents Incredibly high tolerance for spicy food
Favorite thing about your job I get to hear very interesting stories about how people are injured. Helping people recover and get back on their feet is also amazingly rewarding.
What’s the secret to the center’s success? We always ask the question, “How can we do things better and more efficiently?” In general, the healthcare field is very resistant to change, but I am fortunate enough to have a very skilled multidisciplinary burn team that embraces process improvement.

Tyler Kerns, 33

Dean of Students, St. Paul’s Episcopal School
Head Age Group Coach, City of Mobile Swim Association  

A St. Paul’s graduate himself, Tyler returned to his alma mater where he now serves as the head coach of the swim and dive team in addition to his role as dean of students. He was recently named the 2015 State Coach of the Year for Girls’ Swimming and Diving, an accomplishment that reflects Tyler’s leadership and coaching excellence. He also donates his time organizing swim lessons for the children of St. Mary’s Home and coordinating the Special Olympics Program at St. Paul’s.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Grand Bay, Ala.
Spouse + children Amanda; Kennedy (6), Colton (19 months)
Celebrity doppelganger People say I have two: Rory McIlroy or Fred Savage from the Wonder Years.
Favorite Mobile dish Mixed Grill from Mediterranean Sandwich Co.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Professional baseball player
What lessons can kids learn through swimming? Swimming provides an excellent platform to teach so many lessons. Water serves as an equalizer, where size and strength can help but effort can overcome. Success in swimming — and life — is cumulative; it is achieved stroke by stroke, mistake by mistake, small victory by small victory.

Kenny King, 35

Athletic Director / Head Football Coach, Daphne High School

After four years of playing defensive end for the University of Alabama and five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Kenny has strapped up on football fields across America. However, as the head football coach at Daphne High School, perhaps Kenny is back on the field that means the most to him. In recognition of the role football has played in his life, Kenny has been on a mission to use the sport as a tool for growth and has created a handful of charities aimed at developing young athletes and scholars.

Alma Mater The University of Alabama
Hometown Daphne
Spouse + Children Strelitzia; Kenneth (7), Kennedy (6), Ransom (5)
Best advice you have ever received There comes a time in life where you have to step out on faith and hard work to make your dreams happen.
First job McDonald’s on Hwy 98 in Daphne
Hidden talents I am an awesome drummer!
What’s the most memorable experience of your entire football career? On my 21st birthday, the phone call I received from “Mean Joe” Green to inform me that I had been drafted by the Arizona Cardinals was the most memorable experience of my football career. It was the culmination of all the hard work and prayers from my time at Daphne High and The University of Alabama and a dream achieved.
What’s it like to return to Daphne? When I was a kid, my hometown, my teachers and my coaches invested in me and provided me with the opportunities to help me become successful. Now, I have the opportunity to do the same for the kids in my hometown, which is a joy that can’t be put into words.

Kim Proctor Lawkis, MPA, 28

Nutrition Programs Director, Feeding the Gulf Coast

As the youngest program director in the history of Feeding the Gulf Coast (formerly the Bay Area Food Bank), Kim is responsible for all nutrition programs for children in the bank’s service area, stretching across Alabama, Florida and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Her duties include managing program staff and a budget in excess of $1.5 million. Under Kim’s leadership, the food bank has established new programs and doubled participation in existing child feeding programs.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Scottsboro, Ala.
Spouse Nick
Children We have three furry children: Two Wheaten Terriers, Dolce (10) and Finley (5), and our ARFan, Trooper (3)
Guilty pleasure A glass of Balvenie Scotch and a Monte Cristo cigar!
Hidden talent Guessing the correct total at the grocery store within a $5 margin
Favorite Mobile Dish Felix’s Crab Stack
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Doctor
Proudest accomplishment The community partnerships our nutrition team has built to increase access to healthful meals for children during the summer. Since 2014, we’ve added 103 new feeding sites and reached an additional 4, 500 children, bringing our total to 215 feeding sites reaching over 12, 500 children. Our summer feeding program is a national model for how to reach children in urban and rural areas. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of and lead!

Brandon L. Maye, 27

CEO / Owner, Brandon Maye Inspirations and Brandon Maye Enterprises 

A game-changing injury formed Brandon’s future after he had spent years dreaming of becoming an NFL legend. Initially devastated, he penned a book, “Diamond in the Rough, ” which led the way to his creation of the Brandon Maye Foundation. The organization helps troubled youth get on the path to college and reflects Brandon’s own education that supported him beyond his athletic aspirations. He now travels around the country giving motivational speeches about achieving greatness.

Alma Mater Clemson University; Mississippi State University
Hometown Prichard, Ala.
Hobbies Workout, fish, read
First Job Church’s Chicken
Guilty pleasure Driving all the way to the casino in Biloxi, only for snow crabs
Hidden talent Playing the drums
If I were mayor, I would… Build an academic institution in the heart of Mobile to aid youth in long-term academic success.
What does it mean to “activate your desperation”? It’s your daily approach on life. Desperation is a form of focus in the right direction with positive things, striving toward your goals and dreams. What would your life look like if you gave 110 percent? All people exist but few live. Desperation allows you to see what your life looks like going “all in.”

Ashley McKeithan, 33

Human Resources Leader, Hargove Engineers + Constructors

With seven years of experience in team building, leadership development and human resource management under her belt, Ashley is all about working together for a common cause. As an HR leader with Hargrove, she had a huge hand in launching project manager certification programs for the company, and she also heavily supports the Women of Hargrove
Embracing and Engaging in Leadership (WHEEL) initiative. The St. Paul’s, UA and USA graduate has also served on the Penelope House board and as a United Way coordinator.

Alma Mater B.A., University of Alabama; MBA, University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Lee; Mary Tanner (5), Riley (1)
Hobbies Running, reading, boating, spending time with my kids
Guilty pleasure Watching “Dateline”
If I were mayor, I would… Do my best to improve the public school education system in Mobile County.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Lawyer
What challenges do you face as a leader? Constantly adapting my leadership style to cater to a diverse group of people that have different learning styles and different skill levels. I overcome this by spending time with my team, doing team-building activities and understanding each teammate’s role.

M. Stephen McNair, PH.D., 35

Owner and Senior Consultant, McNair Historic Preservation Inc.

In 2015, Stephen started McNair Historic Preservation, Mobile’s only consulting firm that assists clients with historic tax credit projects. In this short period of time, the business has already made an impressive impact on the local economy, most notably through its assistance with the rebirth of St. Louis Street in Downtown Mobile. The firm also serves clients across the country as far north as Boston. As a registered lobbyist, Stephen spends a lot of time in Montgomery fighting for the renewal of the state historic tax credit.

Alma Mater University of Alabama; Masters, Tulane University; Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
Hometown Mobile
Spouse Lila
Hobbies Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, politics, Mobile history, cooking, bluegrass music, Alabama football and traveling with my wife
First Job Stockroom and deliveries for Mobile Popcorn
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Ghostbuster
Guilty Pleasure Reading the comments at the bottom of articles
If you could go back in time and walk through any historic Mobile building, which building and year would you choose? Fort Charlotte during the Spanish siege in 1780 and Fort Carlota during the British counterattack in 1781, both part of the Gulf Coast campaigns of the American Revolutionary War and Anglo-Spanish War.
What area of Mobile needs the most immediate attention in terms of historic renovation? Commercial and residential structures downtown. Neglectful property owners by the dozens are allowing some of Mobile’s most historic assets to decay and disappear.

Brian Munger, 38

Personal Insurance Advisor, Thames Batre Insurance

Brian’s strength lies in his leadership. As a featured speaker for the Gulf Coast Estate Planning Council, he led Thames Batre into the top 50 agencies in the country for Cincinnati Insurance Company. In his spare time, Brian acts as a league organizer at Westside Baseball Park and as sponsorship coordinator for Bo Bikes Bama. In 2011, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation honored him as one of the Bay Area Finest, which recognizes top young professionals in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Deborah; Zackary (11), Mallory (6)
What did you want to be when you grew up? A high school basketball or baseball coach
First job Cashier at Delchamps
High school superlative None, but I think I was robbed of class clown.
Favorite Mobile dish Beef Brisket from The Meat Boss
Best advice you have ever received Never take a “no” from someone who doesn’t have the authority to give you a “yes.”
If I were mayor, I would… try to invest in a multi-sport youth sports complex. Many local baseball, soccer and lacrosse travel teams are going to neighboring cities and states to play in tournaments every weekend. I’d like to see Mobile be the destination for those teams.
What are some misconceptions about your field? The most common misconception I hear from clients is that I’m in sales. While I think we are all in sales, I see myself more as their trusted advisor to help avoid, mitigate and transfer risk.

Nikki Nicholson, 33

Special Events Coordinator / Constituent Services Representative, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Bradley Byrne AL01

Nikki has worked with the U.S. House of Representatives under Congressman Bradley Byrne for two and a half years, planning events hosted by the Congressman and acting as a liaison between his constituents and all federal agencies. Her previous healthcare experience, having worked in nursing services for eight years, is a huge asset in her new role working with local healthcare facilities and minimizing the challenges they face. In 2013, Nikki also chaired the Young Republican National Convention in Mobile.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Grand Bay / Mobile
Children My adorable weenie dog, Atticus Finch (3 1/2 years old)
Best advice you’ve ever received Feet first the first time.
Hidden talents Moonlighting as one of Mobile’s highest rated Uber drivers
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A pediatrician
Favorite thing about your job Getting to help people, especially our veterans. Also, I get to go on cool “field trips” with the Congressman.
Why the change from health to public service? The opportunity fell in my lap, and I could not be happier. When Congressman Byrne decided to run, I was the first person he hired on the campaign because of my many years of dabbling in politics on the side.

Aishwarya Prakash, Ph.D., 32

Assistant Professor of Oncologic Sciences, Mitchell Cancer Institute

Aishwarya joined the team at MCI in 2016, and she’s already contributed heavily to the research center. She won the Math World Honor for Young Mathematicians in India in 1999 at the age of 16. From there, she’s received several awards and grants for her genome and cancer research, including the Norman and Bernice Harris Award and an R00 research grant from the National Institutes of Health. This spring, she will also be working with St. Luke’s Episcopal School students in biomedical sciences.

Alma Mater B.S. University of Nebraska at Omaha; Ph.D. University of Nebraska Medical Center
Hometown Bangalore, India
Hidden talents I love to paint, but only when I’m inspired by something or someone.
Celebrity doppelganger People have told me that I look like Mindy Kaling…
Best advice you have ever received? If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!
Favorite thing about your job In scientific research, finding something new is what drives us forward. However, every time you think you have answered one question, numerous others crop up. This makes my job interesting and fun.
Why do you choose to work with high school students? It is very important to educate kids about the benefits, rewards and frustrations that come with scientific research. I like getting kids engaged and hooked on science by showing them the various ways we can make a difference as scientists.

Chad Riley, 32

Associate Director of Marketing and Communications, St. Paul’s Episcopal School

Capturing the perfect moment is Chad’s passion. As a popular area photographer and photography instructor at St. Paul’s, he puts his skills with a lens to good use through community involvement. His philanthropic brainchild, HELP PORTRAIT, allows him to spend a day around the holidays producing high caliber family photos for less fortunate families. He is also involved with Weekend Ministry at Taylor Park, where he interacts with the children and photographs the event. In 2015, he was voted the Best Wedding Photographer in the Mobile Nappie Awards.

Alma Mater University of Mississippi
Hometown Kosciusko, Miss.
Spouse + children Cameron; Nora (2)
Favorite Mobile dish Eggs Cathedral at Spot of Tea
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A graphic artist or a physical therapist. I went with graphic art and married a physical therapist, so it worked out well.
When do you know you’ve captured the perfect shot? When the moment really matters to people in the picture. One of my favorite pictures taken of me is of my grandfather and me when I was little. It was shot on film, it’s underexposed and it’s out of focus. Every technical aspect of the picture is imperfect, but it’s a moment that means something to me.

Bradley Sanders, 39

Attorney, Phelps Dunbar LLP

Named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers, Bradley has a reputation for winning. In the last six years alone, he’s successfully won $20 million on behalf of his clients in his work as a real estate, corporate and business lawyer. He is also a 2014 graduate of Leadership Mobile. In his spare time, Bradley works with the Mobile Greenway Initiative, serving as cochairman of the Langan Municipal Park subcommittee, where he singlehandedly developed a five-year master plan to rejuvenate the beloved park.

Alma Mater Millsaps College; University of Mississippi
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Best advice you have ever received If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not important, you’ll find an excuse.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Archeologist
If I were mayor, I would… Promote and urge the City Council to invest in curbside recycling for the City of Mobile.
Hobbies Traveling, water sports, walking
What is the key to successful negotiation? The primary keys to successful negotiation, whether in a legal setting or writing a grant, are to appreciate and understand the objectives, be prepared with facts and information to support your position, and make points accurately and succinctly.
What is your vision for Mobile’s future? My vision for Mobile’s future is for Mobile to be a pedestrian and bike oriented, eco-friendly, and economically thriving city, while simultaneously preserving our historic buildings and sites, supporting the arts and making significant advancements in education.

Blair Danley Schoenvogel, 38

Lower School Counselor, UMS-Wright Preparatory School

For Blair, inspiring Mobile’s children is all in a day’s work. She taught first grade for 10 years before moving into the counselor’s office at her alma mater of UMS-Wright in 2013. From there, her focus has been on helping students with character building and decision making. Her “Wright Way” initiative helps young children learn to navigate the speed bumps of life. Through understanding and compassion, Blair shows students what respect and determination truly are.

Alma Mater Birmingham-Southern College
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Charles; Mac (7), Henri (4)
First job Summer camp counselor at Camp Mac in Munford, Alabama
High school superlative Most Spirited
Celebrity doppelganger I’ve been told Kirsten Dunst. I don’t think so.
What has been your proudest moment as a counselor and educator? Seeing a child work through the stages of a problem, solve the problem and then retain that knowledge for struggles that may arise in the future. I am overjoyed when my students feel confident in handling different situations on their own.

Lauren Cronenberg Self, M.D., 37

OB/GYN, Azalea City Physicians for Women

With an interest in high-risk obstetrics and a passion for delivering babies, Lauren has been a comforting presence for countless patients on the most exciting days of their lives. Patients describe Lauren’s sheer devotion to their needs and her willingness to drop everything at any time of day to be by their side. She also hosts a free seminar twice a year called “For Girls Only, ” to educate young ladies between ages 8 and 14 on puberty and safe sex.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + children Adam; John Greyson (6), Fielder (4), Amelia (1)
Hobbies Swimmimg, camping, boating, biking
Guilty pleasure “The Walking Dead”
If I were mayor of Mobile, I would… Pave over unused railroad tracks to create biking and walking trails for the city (Rails-to-Trails).
Favorite thing about your job I get to deliver babies!
What’s the trick to balancing work with raising children? The trick is having a lot of help. I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive of my schedule and so helpful with the daily grind of dinner, homework, baths and bedtime. I also have a dependable nanny who helps during the day.

Chris Sherrill, 39

Executive Chef / Managing Partner, Flora-Bama Yacht Club

When he’s not serving up delicious dishes, Chris shares coastal cuisine with the world. He represented Alabama in the Taste of the Gulf competition in 2012, where he cooked for American Olympic athletes in London. Three years later, he took home third place in the seafood division at the World Food Championships. He also helped form the NUISANCE Group, which raises awareness about seafood sustainability, and he was recently named a finalist for the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance’s Spirit Award.

Alma Mater Johnson & Wales University
Hometown Eufaula, Ala.
Spouse + children Jenny; Alex (18), Taylor (16), Hannah (15), Sadie (8)
What did you want to be when you grew up? A professional fisherman or a chef.
First job Waiter at Shoney’s
Guilty pleasure Captain D’s or Chef Boyardee Ravioli
Hidden talent I can sing!
Besides fresh Gulf seafood, what is your favorite ingredient to work with? Your favorite dish to create? I love working with wild game. I hunt my own food and cook it often. My favorite ingredient? I couldn’t cook without garlic! Lots and lots of garlic. Outside of wild game, I love cooking Cajun/Creole cuisine.
What is your fondest memory with food? Cooking gumbo with my grandparents when I was a young child. I still have that privilege today! I also cooked for the family of “Duck Dynasty.” I was so worried Mrs. Kay was going to be upset. She hugged me and kissed me and thanked me a million times that I cooked and she didn’t have to!

David Shuford, CET, CFPS, 39

Project Manager, Firetrol Protection Systems

David has spent nearly two decades in the fire prevention technology industry. His breadth of experience has landed him among the top 10 sales professionals in the country within Firetrol for several years, and he was recognized in the top three in 2013 and 2015. David also serves on the board of the Gulf Coast chapter of Society of Fire Protection Engineers and has received the elite Certified Fire Protection Specialist designation from the National Fire Protection Association.

Hometown Baton Rouge, La.
Spouse + children Sydnie; Olivia (15), Taylor (13), Jack (2)
First job Dishwasher
Favorite Mobile dish Fried grouper at Queen G’s
Hobbies Cooking, failed attempts at gardening
What did you want to be when you grew up? An architect
Favorite part of your job I really enjoy my customers, coworkers and colleagues in the industry. I even like most of my competitors.
What gives you the most pride in your work? I work in an industry that focuses on safety. When I complete a project there is a rewarding sense to know that the building is safer for occupants than it was before.

April D. Smith, 37

Partner, Adams and Reese LLP

In 2016, April was made a partner of Adams and Reese firm, and she continues to make a name for herself in the industry. For each of the last four years, the Leadership Mobile graduate has been selected as an Alabama Rising Star by Super Lawyers. Outside of her legal work, April passionately participates in the Downtown Mobile Alliance’s Development and Awards committees, in addition to volunteering with Mobile United and the South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Wills for Heroes program.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama; University of Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + Children Bryan; Marissa (6), Grayson (3)
If I were mayor, i would…  Explore development of the waterfront for better pedestrian use
Hidden talents Stopping traffic — I have a tendency to walk out in the road without looking, and people have, up to this point, always stopped.
What does the idea of “client-centered culture” mean to you? Partnering with your clients and providing a high level of service that accomplishes their ongoing goals and contributes to the success of their business. I always let this standard guide the services I provide my clients.

Katie P. Smith, 36

Associate Managing Director, Oakworth Capital Bank

Katie is one of the most sought-after financial planning executives in the Bay area, specializing in probate, estate and investment management for individuals, families and charitable foundations. Her passion for advising clients in a hands-on fashion sets her apart in the financial industry. In 2015, Katie was an integral part in the opening of the Oakworth Capital office in Mobile. She and her family are active members of St. James Episcopal Church in Fairhope.

Alma Mater Auburn University; University of Alabama School of Law
Hometown Meridian, Miss.
Spouse + children Brad; Forrest (9), Marion (3)
Favorite Mobile dish Flaming oysters at the Bluegill. The dish is great on its own, but when it’s served at a table on the back deck of the Bluegill with good music playing, that takes it to the top of the list for me.
Best advice you have ever received 1) Don’t forget where you came from. 2) Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
How do you hope a client describes Their experience working with you? Honest advice that helps bring peace of mind. And hopefully they say it’s fun!

Trice Stabler, 37

Shareholder, Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C.

Despite being the youngest shareholder in Maynard, Cooper & Gale’s Mobile office, Trice is among the firm’s most dependable assets. Considered a rising star within the office, he’s been involved in numerous significant business transactions throughout the Southeast, including high-profile mergers and acquisitions. Trice also volunteers a significant amount of his time to the South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program assisting the less fortunate with legal needs on a pro bono basis.

Alma Mater B.S., University of Alabama; J.D., Cumberland School of Law
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse + Children Anne; Mitch (6), Frances (3), Mae (10 months)
First job Dockhand at a marina in Orange Beach
Best advice you Have ever received Try your hardest. There’s no substitute for hard work.
Favorite thing about your job Most every client and every project is different. Being a lawyer may not be the most exciting job in the world, but it’s hard to get bored.
Celebrity doppelganger Someone once told me I resembled Drew Brees. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s my athletic ability.

Marcus Tan, MBBS, FACS, 39

Surgical Oncologist and Program Leader Liver-Biliary-Pancreas Cancer Program, Mitchell
Cancer Institute

An Australian-born surgeon, Marcus is like a cancer team quarterback at Mitchell Cancer Institute. Every Monday morning, Marcus co-moderates a panel of surgeons, medical oncologists and nurses at MCI to discuss key cancer cases in an effort to sustain a multidisciplinary program. As one of only two board-certified cancer surgeons in the Mobile area, Marcus approaches the fight against cancer as his life’s mission. In 2015 and 2016, he was awarded the Scarlet Sash Award from the USA College of Medicine for his contribution to medical education.

Alma Mater BSC and MBBS, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Hometown Sydney, Australia
Spouse + Children Susan; Audrey (6), Ellie (3)
First job High school tennis umpire
If I were mayor of Mobile, I would … Develop a city-wide waste recycling service
What’s Something most people don’t know about the Mitchell Cancer Institute? We’ve become a high volume center not just for pancreatic surgery, but also for liver and melanoma surgery.

Doug Thomas, 37

Vice President / Senior Commercial Banker, First Community Bank

In his 15 years in the industry, Doug has been named a top producer in the company for several quarters. In fact, he once set a production record for the entire bank, and he reached 111 percent of his 2016 goals by the third quarter. Additionally, Doug has been named to the 2017 class of Leadership Baldwin County. He has served on the board of the Daphne Bounds YMCA, participated in the Red Cross Heroes program and the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Daphne, Ala.
First job Servicing postage meters for Quality Printing
Best advice you Have ever received You cannot condition generosity — try to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the outcome.
Celebrity doppelganger Someone confused me for Patton Oswalt at dinner, and I did have to Google him to find out who he was.
What are you hoping to gain from leadership baldwin county this year? Networking and meeting people and learning more about Baldwin County. I’ve lived in Baldwin County for 14 years and thought I had a good grasp of what goes on, but I wanted to learn more.

Brenton Vance, 29

Clinical Supervisor / Therapist, Lifelines Counseling Services

From Mobile to Africa, Brenton devotes himself to making an impact on others’ lives. The University of Mobile and USA grad leads a unit of therapists in working with about 150 children and their families, and he has provided crisis counseling to families affected by the oil spill. Brenton and his wife have also taken part in a number of mission trips, including one to Timbuktu to build homes, maintain a medical clinic, teach basic hygiene and more.

Alma Mater B.A., University of Mobile; M.S., University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse Haleigh
Favorite thing about your job Helping kids recover from trauma and seeing lives restored
Guilty pleasure Binge watching “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” on Netflix
High school superlative Most likely to travel the world
How do you form a true bond of trust with others? I believe the most important factor is to show them that you truly care about them and are genuinely interested in what they have to say. People are more trusting when they know that you are there to help them and are truly invested in their lives.

Suntrease Williams-Maynard, 33

Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Alabama

As an assistant United States attorney, Suntrease has prosecuted thousands of cases involving immigration, drug trafficking, child exploitation, bulk cash smuggling, violent crimes and more. She also serves as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, advising the commander of her special operations wing on discipline and administrative actions. Furthermore, she created the S.T.Y.L.E. Program in Mobile. Designed to foster positive relationships between youth and law enforcement, this program has been adopted by the FBI for national implementation.

Alma Mater B.A., Shaw University; M.P.A., Pennsylvania State University; J.D., North Carolina Central University School of Law
Hometown Farmville, Virginia
Spouse + children Stephen; Dareon (8), Destiny (4)
Guilty pleasure Eating! Though petite in stature, I am the ultimate foodie! I enjoy different cuisine and eating as the locals eat wherever I travel
Best advice you have ever received My grandmother would often say that every setback is a setup. Usually that “setup” is for a comeback.

Tim Wills, 33

Chief Executive Officer Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama

In all, Tim has 12 years of experience in the field of youth development, and his latest stop is in the Port City. He has worked for the Boys & Girls Club in Chicago, Washington D.C. and Harford County, Maryland; during his tenure at each of those stops, club membership, outreach and financial resources increased substantially. Named CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of South Alabama in April of this year, Tim oversees six year-round club sites and serves 3,600 youth ages 6 to 18.

Alma Mater Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Hometown St. Louis, Missouri
First job Balloon specialist at Party City
Best advice you have ever received Live with gratitude every day. Read more than the next person. Never give up on yourself.
Hobbies Traveling, traveling and traveling
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Anchor on “The Today Show”
If I were mayor, I would… Fight loudly for a high-quality education for every child in my city with no exceptions
Where would you like to travel next? Tokyo! I am fascinated by the city.

Mary-Lacey Rogers Zeiders, 29

Executive Director, The Steeple

After singing under contract for three years with the Minnesota Opera, Mary-Lacey returned to Mobile with a mission to help the community grow — especially in music. In 2015, Mary-Lacey sank her teeth into renovating the St. Francis Street Methodist Church into what is now known as The Steeple, Mobile’s newest music and event venue. Outside of music, she has led a life of adventure, biking across America raising money for cancer research, leading overseas travel programs and receiving certification as a rescue EMT.

Alma Mater Master of Music, The Johns Hopkins University; Undergraduate, Converse College
Hometown Mobile, Ala.
Spouse Jeffrey
First job Cantoring (singing) at St. Joseph’s Chapel at Spring Hill College
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I desperately
wanted to be a tornado chaser and meteorologist.
What’s your vision for the Steeple? The Steeple is an intimate space designed so that patrons can experience a show, not just attend. When they leave, we want them to feel like they are new best friends with the performers and feel that spark of energy in Downtown Mobile that The Steeple brings!

Photos by Matthew Coughlin

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