Mobile Bay’s 2018 Class of 40 Under 40

Honorees from both sides of the Bay stand out for their work, philanthropies and personalities.

Michael Berson

Attorney, Adams and Reese LLP

Following his service as director of government affairs and associate general counsel for the National Small Business Association on Capitol Hill, Michael started a career in private practice back home in Mobile. He has proven to be a go-to resource in the areas of litigation, federal government relations, economic development and education. In his spare time, Michael facilitates forums on economic development, speaking on topics such as public policy and taxation. Michael previously served as a board member for both the Dumas Wesley Community Center and Fuse Project.

Alma Mater University of Florida; Samford University Cumberland School of Law
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Jena; Bram (3)
Hidden talents Champion grill master
Guilty pleasures Netflix and Amazon Prime
What did you want to be when you grew up? A tugboat captain
High school superlative Most Likely To Be Smiling and Undaunted
What word would you use to describe Mobile? Colorful
If I were Mayor, I would… get a Trader Joe’s in Mobile.


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Harry Brislin IV

Real Estate Director, USA Properties at the University of South Alabama

Harry began his career in real estate at an early age, serving in the mail room of The Mitchell Company during college. He climbed the ladder there to the position of broker and vice president of commercial sales, leasing and development. Harry now serves as the director of USA’s 225,000-square-foot technology and research park, which houses more than 20 private companies and 300 employees. In his spare time, he is active in community organizations including the Mobile Chamber’s Gulf Coast Technology Council steering committee and Camp Rap-A-Hope, among other philanthropies.

Alma Mater B.A., MBA, University of South Alabama
Hometown Mobile
Hobbies Golf, watching sports and working with Camp Rap-A-Hope
First Job Arby’s. I wasn’t old enough to touch the slicer, but I could do math quick enough in my head to work the drive-thru register at lunch.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A game show host
Guilty pleasure Bread pudding. If it’s on the menu, I’m getting it.
Best advice you have ever received “The most disrespectful thing you can do to someone is disrespect their time.”

Cory Bronenkamp

Development Project Manager, Elcan and Associates, Inc.

In only six years, Cory has established himself as a leader in commercial retail development, managing more than 35 projects across a territory of 11 states. He has completed more than $60 million in development projects. A proud alumnus of Spring Hill College, he currently serves as the Mobile alumni chapter president. The former Badger soccer player also assists with coaching duties for the SHC team. In his spare time, Cory volunteers as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is on the Young Professionals Board of Camp Rap-A-Hope.

Alma Mater B.A., MBA, Spring Hill College
Hometown St. Louis, Mo.
Spouse Downing
Hobbies We have a true passion for travel. You name it, we’ll go!
What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer. I could argue my way out of anything!
Hidden talent Basketball referee. Maybe one day you’ll catch me on ESPN!
If I were mayor, I would… continue to revitalize Downtown in addition to creating a waterfront shopping and lifestyle district.
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Anywhere on the Causeway … quintessential Mobile!
What word would you use to describe Mobile? Enchanting

Melanie Bunting-Seymour

Broker and Owner, 1702 Real Estate

Melanie’s boutique real estate company is the first in the area to include sales, renovation, home staging and design under one roof. She has been honored with numerous awards, including Oakleigh Garden District’s Hammer and Nails Award for the renovation of an 1840s Creole cottage. Her renovation projects include more than 35 properties, most of them historic. She is also a long-standing member of Restore Mobile and serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity. In her spare time, she volunteers with animal rescue groups.

Alma Mater University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hometown York, Pa.
Spouse + children Jon; Lola (9) and our four-legged children, Duke, Delilah, Bugsy, Electra, Figaro and Poppy
Hobbies Working. Is that weird?
Hidden talents I’m an undercover animal whisperer, and I can rap any ’90s hip-hop song with the best of them.
First job Foot Action in the Galleria Mall in Birmingham. One night, I watched the first half of a basketball game with Allen Iverson when he played at Georgetown. I had no clue who he was. I also worked for a kids’ party character business. Cinderella, Pocahontas, even a clown, I loved it all — except for the balloon part. I’m petrified of balloons.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A veterinarian

Jessica Callahan

Co-founder, Mission Fitness

Jessica and her former business partner, new owner Alison Jones, established a boutique fitness studio in Midtown to help members of the community achieve healthy lifestyles. Prior to opening Mission Fitness, Jessica worked in marketing, public relations, fundraising and social media for more than 12 years. She is a board member of the Young Advisory Council for Mobile Baykeeper, Mobile chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama and Make-A-Wish Mobile. These nonprofits and others are spotlighted at the gym.

Alma Mater Purdue University
Hometown Terre Haute, Ind.
Spouse Andy
Hobbies Fitness, boating, enjoying local restaurants and music with friends
Guilty pleasure Ice cream
First job Brand manager for the NCAA
What did you want to be when you grew up? An artist
Hidden talents I can make a bottle of wine disappear.
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Wintzell’s for oysters, then Chuck’s Fish for sushi
High school superlative I was voted Best Friend.
Best advice you have ever received “Slow down and live life in the moment. ”

Sydney V. Cody

President and CEO, Vanguard Pacific, LLC

Sydney served for nearly six years on active duty as a naval officer in the Civil Engineers Corps, where she worked as a project manager. Her military awards include the Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and two Navy Achievement Medals. After being honorably discharged, she was hired as an engineering manager for two Fortune 500 firms. In 2016, she opened Vanguard Pacific, a small business specializing in government contracting, which American
Express selected as the On the Rise Government Contractor of the Year.

Alma Mater B.S., Tulane University; MBA, University of Hawaii; post-graduate certificate in Finance, California Lutheran University
Hometown Foley
Spouse + children Bryan; Liam (8), Lula-Rae (5)
Hobbies Running and CrossFit
Guilty pleasure DONUTS!
Hidden talents Second-degree black belt
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? The Haberdasher
Best advice you have ever received “Ignore what everyone else is doing and saying and just do your thing!”

Jennifer Conrad

Bakery Co-owner, ellenJAY

Jennifer and her business partner, Lauren Kapeluck, established a unique boutique bakery in Midtown just four years ago. Since then, ellenJAY has expanded exponentially, growing nearly 50 percent each year. The company has become synonymous with artistically beautiful and equally delicious desserts, and ellenJAY confections have appeared in many print publications and wedding style blogs. Their social media presence has quickly grown to more than 23,000 followers.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama; Tulane University
Hometown Mobile
Spouse Geoff; Gavin (11), Cora (6)
What did you want to be when you grew up? A cheerleader (Never cheered a day in my life!)
High school superlative Drama Nerd
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Southern National
Best advice you have ever received “Lean in!”  My dear family friend, Fran Smith, gave me a copy of the book, “Lean In,” when she learned we were starting ellenJAY. She wrote the sweetest note of encouragement to LEAN IN and believe in myself!  Her words stay with me today.
What words would you use to describe Mobile? Sticky, but sweet

Abby Davis    

Senior Architect and Interior Designer, Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects

In just a few short years, Abby has become an integral leader at the firm, taking on complicated design challenges, expanding the residential interior design facet and mentoring younger designers. She has been an active member of the community, volunteering with Ronald McDonald House, Prodisee Pantry and her church. Prior to moving back to her hometown, Abby led a successful career in luxury beach home design in upscale Florida panhandle communities including Seaside, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor and others.

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Mobile
Spouse Trent; Winston (6), Vivian (4)
Hobbies Reading, painting, dancing, driving around town to “ooh and ahh” over historic architecture in Mobile
What did you want to be when you grew up? A ballerina, an artist or an archaeologist
High school superlative Most Likely to Succeed
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Dumbwaiter, Dew Drop, Pour Baby
Best advice you have ever received
“Plan your work, and work your plan, and your plan will work for you.” – My dad

Jennifer L. Davis

Assistant Director of Human Resources, Premier Medical Group, Inc.

While at Premier Medical, Jennifer has taken on demanding tasks such as completing the Affordable Care Act requirements and establishing supervisor training programs. At only 26 years old, she earned her Professional in Human Resources certification. She also currently serves on the board of the Mobile Medical Group Management Association.

Alma Mater Spring Hill College; currently pursuing an MBA at Louisiana State University Shreveport
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + Children Mark S. Davis Jr.; John Reese (8 months)
Hobbies Anything outdoors
Guilty pleasures Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. Anything with a good docu-series
What did you want to be when you grew up? A whale trainer at SeaWorld
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Callaghan’s. It offers a unique look at the city, along with a great burger.
If I were Mayor, I would… push for riverfront development. Mobile Bay is underutilized as a selling point to tourists.
Favorite thing about your job It is rewarding to watch someone you hired settle in and grow within the company.

Margaret Delaney

Theatre Guild Director and Middle School Art Teacher, UMS-Wright Preparatory School

In addition to being named the “Coolest High School Teacher” in the 2018 Nappies, Margaret has made a name for herself as a popular community theater actress. Her UMS-Wright drama productions are known for her elaborate design elements and visual effects, and under her leadership, the group has earned a state championship trophy and two all-star cast member awards.

Alma Mater University of Georgia; Spring Hill College
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + Children William Richard Delaney Jr.; Killian (10), William Richard Delaney III (7)
Hobbies Acting in community theater plays, deep sea fishing, hunting, painting, prop-making
First job Animal care worker at B & B Pet Stop
Hidden talents Tennis, chess, clay sculpting, trivia
High school superlative Most Unique
If I were Mayor, I would… invest in the arts, encourage attendance at arts events, and update city facilities to attract more concerts and touring Broadway shows.
Best advice you have ever received “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” – Frank Tindall (my grandfather)

Moshae Elise Donald, Esq.

Owner and Attorney, Law Office of Moshae Donald, LLC

At only 27 years old, Moshae opened her own law firm and has proven herself as a top-notch attorney and community advocate. She was appointed as the vice-chair of the USA Regional Autism Network board by the governor of Alabama. Prior to her law career, she served with Teach for America and as an elementary school teacher. Moshae was also recently chosen as a network attorney for the Alabama Education Association.

Alma Mater Alabama A&M University; Vanderbilt University Law School
Hometown Mobile
Child Korey (8)
First job Sonic Drive-in. I was the carhop who refused to wear skates.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A cardiologist, because my grandmother had heart disease and I wanted to be a doctor so that I could fix her heart.
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Dauphin’s for the views and ambience and Southern National for the exquisite cuisine
Hidden talents Singing. I once sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for the Senior Bowl.
Favorite thing about your job The opportunity to impact and change the lives of the most vulnerable in our society, especially children, through legal advocacy and love.

Tim Dozier

Partner and Creative Director, Hummingbird Ideas

As a leader in the local ad industry with the second largest agency in our market, Tim has landed a plethora of big clients and earned numerous Addie awards for his innovative campaign work. He is also a mentor for up-and-coming creatives in the agency, guiding them from college stars to professional art directors. Tim was also the driving force in the company’s recent merger. In his spare time, he is a youth soccer coach and a volunteer with Coastal Cleanup, Kennedy House and his church.

Alma Mater The University of Alabama; Savannah College of Art and Design
Hometown Dothan
Spouse + children Elisha; Cullen (6), Oliver (3)
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to make special effects in movies. I would look into how they were created — and try to make my own with stuff around the house. It wasn’t “Star Wars,” but they weren’t bad.
Guilty pleasure Really bad monster movies — like the old Godzilla films. Could be why I wanted to be in movie special effects.
Hidden talents I remember useless information, like lines from movies. I am a great at Trivial Pursuit ’80s Edition.
High school superlative Worst Singer

James Evans

Director of Materials, Springhill Medical Center

During his 20-year tenure at Springhill Medical Center, James has risen through the ranks to now supervise more than 20 employees and oversee $50 million in inventory. He has been the recipient of the hospital’s Priceless Person recognition and earned the Mobile HeartWalk’s Leadership Appreciation award. James serves on the Coastal Laundry Board, Nurse Practice Council, and Orthopaedic and Cardiology Management committees. He is also an active member of the community, volunteering with Camp Rap-A-Hope and with South Coast Church as the coach of the information resources team.

Alma mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Key West, Fla.
Spouse + Children Jade; Braelynn (10), Colten (4), baby Evans due June 2019
Hobbies Family time, hunting and fishing
First job Skateworld
What did you want to be when you grew up? A rock star
Hidden talents I sing really well at the top of my lungs when I’m by myself in my truck.
Favorite part of your job Working for a family that is passionate about their employees, patients and community
High school superlative Class Clown

Michael G. Gates, M.D.

Allergy and Immunology Physician, Pulmonary Associates of Mobile

Certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology as well as the American Board of Internal Medicine, Michael was a critical asset to the designing and rebranding of Pulmonary Associates of Mobile’s Coastal Allergy and Asthma division. In his five years with the practice, he introduced immunology to the West Mobile office and drew in some 4,300 patients. In addition to his service as the president of the Alabama State Allergy and Immunology Society, he is a regular attendant and nursery volunteer at Cottage Hill Baptist Church.

Alma mater B.S., Auburn University; M.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + Children Meagan; Julianne (4), Gil (1)
First job Construction with my father’s company, Gulf Coast Industrial Maintenance
If I were mayor, I would… continue the beautification projects along Mobile’s streets and encourage unique businesses and restaurants to come to the area.
Hidden talent I am the best player ever at Super Mario Kart for Super Nintendo.
Best advice you’ve ever received “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Christopher Grant

Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture, Watermark Design Group

As a certified Professional Landscape Architect, Christopher works on countless projects to better the Mobile Bay area and surrounding communities. He most recently served as the lead planner for a watershed management plan for the Weeks Bay Watershed in coordination with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. He is also instrumental as the landscape architect for the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project and notably served as a Louisiana State Trustee field operative during the assessment of the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon-252 oil spill.

Alma mater Louisiana State University
Hometown Baton Rouge, La.
Spouse + Children Ginny; Peyton (13), Madeline (13), Sydney (5), Caroline (3)
What did you want to be when you grew up? An architect. My father is an architect, and I loved building with LEGOs as a child. However, my love for the outdoors and sports led me to my career as a landscape architect. I still play with LEGOs.
Guilty pleasures Ice cream! Every Sunday my wife and I gather up the kids on bikes and ride to Mr. Gene’s Beans in downtown Fairhope. It has become a tradition for us, and the girls all look forward to Ice Cream Sunday!

Lee Grimm Jr., M.D.

Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Colon & Rectal Surgery and Program Director, General Surgery Residency, University of South Alabama

One of only three colorectal surgeons at the University of South Alabama, Lee began the region’s only tumor board dedicated to colorectal cancer at USA Health. The University of South Alabama has honored him with nominations to the USA chapter of the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society and the USA chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He also serves on the board of the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama, where he leads a month-long mission trip in Rwanda, Africa. He serves as one of the founding families of the Midtown campus of Grace Community Church and coaches his son’s Municipal Park T-ball team in his spare time.

Alma mater Southern Methodist University; M.D., University of Texas at Houston; UAB; Baylor University Medical Center
Hometown Memphis, Tenn.
Spouse + Children Meredith; Lee III (9), Ellis (7), Paul (6)
Best advice you’ve ever received “It’s good to endure a little hardship.” – my grandfather, Warren Barry, former World War II B-24 Pilot and POW for 1 1/2 years in Germany. One of the true heroes and role models in my life. 

Benjamin Hoeb

Digital Marketing Manager, PCH Hotels & Resorts
Chairman, Mobile Area Rugby Foundation

With 13 years of qualifications under his belt, Benjamin has moved up the ranks from supervisor at the Grand Hotel Marriott in Point Clear to the management of the digital marketing initiatives of eight hotels throughout Alabama, where he helped increase website revenue by 55 percent. He visits each property quarterly and generates a monthly report using a scorecard that he built, which is now used by other leaders in the industry. He has been nominated for the Convert Award at the Marriott Digital Summit and a seat on the Digital Advisory Board for the Hospitality Sales and Marketing International Foundation. He chairs the Mobile Area Rugby Foundation, where he organizes two annual tournaments, and helped start the B-26 Battle Foundation, a nonprofit working to get a memorial placed in the English town where the B-26 D-Day crash occurred.

Alma mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Daphne
First Job Dishwasher at The Last Nacho in Point Clear
Favorite thing about your job The people I work with. We have a motto in our company of  “we’re here to make good things happen for other people,” and I see it every day from my coworkers.

Kevin W. Jackson

Commissioning and Startup Leader, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors

After serving as a senior controls and automation engineer and the central region leader over Birmingham’s controls and automation office, Kevin was invited to become one of Hargrove’s associate owners and invest in the company as a principal. He directed Hargrove to support clients with a new commissioning and startup service. He is factory-trained and expertly experienced with countless automation systems used to safely run industrial plants. Kevin’s heart for service led him to sponsor a World Vision child from childhood through adulthood, which inspired his daughter to raise funds for mosquito netting for families in underdeveloped countries. He is an avid soccer player, coaching for Christ United Methodist Church’s recreation ministry and the Gulf Coast Texans Mobile club soccer league in his downtime.

Alma mater B.A., University of Mobile; B.S., M.S., University of South Alabama
Hometown Baker, La.
Spouse + Children Lena Ashley; Ava Lena (12), Nora Ashley (9), Eli (7), Luke (3), Blake (3)
First job X-ray clerk; UPS preload
What did you want to be when you grew up? Professional soccer player
High school superlative Most Courteous and Best Personality

Clinton L. Johnson Jr.

Business Office Manager, Alabama Power Company

During his 11-year tenure at Alabama Power, which he represents on the Prichard Chamber of Commerce, Clinton has committed himself to both his work and his community. He is a graduate of Leadership Clarke County and serves on the United Way of Southwest Alabama board for Mobile County, where he was recognized as their 2017 Volunteer of the Year. He is a member of 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile and the West Mobile Rotary Club, treasurer of the Gulf Coast chapter of the American Association of Blacks, committee chair of the Southwest Alabama Partnership for Training and Employment and chair of the Board of Trustees at New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. He has a strong moral compass that is greatly influenced and guided by his faith.

Alma Mater University of Alabama
Hometown Mobile
Children Haleigh (7)
First job Gulf Coast Exploreum at the IMAX Theatre
Where would you take an out of town guest to eat? The Lighthouse Restaurant in Irvington for the crab claws
High school superlative Most Likely to Succeed

Moh’d Khushman, M.D.

Hematologist and Oncologist, Mitchell Cancer Institute, The University of South Alabama

Moh’d is board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine, allowing him to excel in treating patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. He served as a principal investigator on many clinical trials and, along with his research team, has been published in peer-reviewed journals that have been cited more than 100 times. Moh’d is especially committed to outreach for cancer patients in rural areas. He sees patients at a Mitchell Cancer Institute office at Monroe County Hospital, allowing patients in Monroeville to receive quality care closer to home. His work has expanded the hepato-pancreato-biliary and colorectal groups at Mitchell Cancer Institute and helped reach the goal of developing disease-specific teams for cancer care.

Alma Mater M.D., The University of Jordan; Henry Ford Hospital; The University of Miami
Hometown Amman, Jordan
What did you want to be when you grew up? Pilot
Hidden talents Maybe a future magician. Still exploring that.
Favorite thing about your job My patients. Each one teaches me something every day.

Zac Lambrecht

Spiritual Activities Coordinator, St. Paul’s Episcopal School

Growing up as a state-champion wrestler, Zac began his career running youth programs and coaching a successful wrestling program in Memphis, Tenn. Since moving to Mobile in 2011, he has committed his time to school-aged children and their families. He helps organize home Bible studies as well as leads a weekly Bible study for St. Paul’s lower school students, coordinates weekly chapel and teaches sixth grade religion. He is coach of the St. Paul’s golf team, which won Alabama Golf State Championships in both 2017 and 2018. Zac also leads a Sunday school class and serves as the interim youth pastor at Spring Hill Baptist Church.

Alma Mater Harding University
Hometown Tampa, Fla.
Spouse + Children Dr. Lauren Lambrecht; James and Joshua (5)
What did you want to be when you grew up? A minister. My father was one, and while my classmates dreamed of playing in the big leagues, I was taking notes during the sermon each week (and working on my comb-over).
Best advice you’ve ever received “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Hidden talent Former professional disc golfer

Robert C. Matthews, Esq.

Partner, Burr & Forman LLP

Robert was the valedictorian of his Spring Hill College class. He now handles many of the major loan transactions in Baldwin County for Burr & Forman. In the past two years, his book of business increased  by 25 percent each year. He was named the Alabama Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in the business/corporate category for 2011 – 2015, as well as a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated Lawyer and the Mid-South Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in the banking category for 2016 – 2017. He served as chairman of the Mobile Bar Association’s probate and estate section; serves on the advisory board for the Center of Real Estate and Economic Development in Mobile; and was chosen to be in the 2019 class of Leadership Mobile.

Alma Mater Spring Hill College; University of Alabama School of Law
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + Children Alicia; Cain (11), Cooper (10)
First job When I was 15, I worked after school bagging groceries at Delchamps in Spring Hill for $4.75 an hour.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Fighter pilot
Hidden talents I’m undefeated at Monopoly and Risk. You want to be on my team during family game night!

Josh Montgomery

Head of Upper School, Bayside Academy
Development Director, Fairhope Soccer Club

In 11 years at Bayside, Josh earned the 2014 Bayside’s Best award, given by peers to an outstanding faculty member; won the 2013 Barbara Froom Award, Bayside’s most prestigious award, given by students to an outstanding faculty member; and served on the 2015 – 2016 Strategic Plan Committee, the 2017 Pursuit of Excellence Committee, the 2017 Master Plan Committee and the 2017 Academic Council. He formerly was the history department chair, the 11th grade dean of students and the head of the women’s soccer team where, during his tenure, participation increased by 50 percent. Josh is also a U.S. Soccer Federation National C License coach and a U.S. Youth Soccer Association National Y License coach. Off campus, he is the Fairhope Academy U9 girls’ soccer coach.

Alma Mater Kenyon College
Hometown Montgomery, Ala.
Spouse + children Meredith; Mays (9) and Thatch (4)
What did you want to be when you grew up? Professional soccer player or marine biologist
Favorite thing about your job Having an impact on young people’s lives. Being responsible for them intellectually and socially is an honor and a privilege.

Ann-Brooks Morrissette, CPA

Director of Development, Fuse Project

Fuse Project has implemented 38 projects benefiting children in South Alabama since its beginnings, and Ann-Brooks has been a vital asset to project No. 39 — implementing the Purpose Built Communities model in Mobile. Ann-Brooks joined Fuse Project after earning a B.S. in commerce and business administration and a Master of Accountancy. She is a member of the Alabama Society of CPAs and a Chamber Chase member for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. She was the Outstanding Junior Board Member of the Year for the Exceptional Foundation in 2014. She is a volunteer with Outback America/Outback University, a member of the Order of Fuse and a member of Dauphin Way United Methodist Church.

Alma Mater The University of Alabama
Hometown Daphne
Spouse + children Taylor; Taylor and Philip (9 months)
First job Retail sales associate at Lucca in Orange Beach
Best advice you have ever received “You only live life once, but if you live it right, once is enough.”
Favorite thing about your job We are enacting positive change in our community by investing in the lives of children.

Ryan New

Senior Vice President and Commercial Relationship Officer, Renasant Bank

While at BBVA Compass, Ryan was named an “Employee of the Quarter” and earned the prestigious Pinnacle award, which is limited to the top 10 percent of sales for the company. When Renasant Bank was in its development stages in Mobile, he was a top pick. He served as a loaned executive for the United Way of Southwest Alabama and  was named their loaned executive of the year in 2012, their Mobile County campaign chair in 2014 and 2015 and their current chairman of the Emerging Leaders. He serves on the board and is the incoming board chair for the Mobile chapter of the American Red Cross and is the vice president of programs on the local board for Junior Achievement.

Alma Mater B.S.B.A. in Accountancy, Auburn University
Hometown Mobile
Spouse Rachel
First job Springhill Memorial Hospital purchasing department
What did you want to be when you grew up? A veterinarian. From a very young age, I was notorious for bringing home everything from dogs and cats to turtles and rabbits. I even had a goggle-eye that I caught while fishing with my grandfather that I managed to keep alive for several years. 

Hunter Oswalt

Director, Read-Write: The Learning Center

Six years ago, Hunter started Read-Write Baldwin County, where she oversees more than 65 children and 11 teachers as well as performs diagnostic testing for dyslexia. She is a certified Academic Language practitioner and certified dyslexia practitioner, has served as a literacy specialist with Teach for America and is heavily involved with the Alabama branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Her work has allowed her to form a partnership with the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe, implement remote therapy via computer and open Read-Write Montgomery. Additionally, Hunter is vice president of the Mobile chapter of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association and teaches Sunday school at Government Street Presbyterian Church.

Alma Mater Vanderbilt University
Hometown Montgomery, Ala.
Spouse + children Harris Oswalt Jr.; Eleanor (4), Harris Oswalt III (1)
What did you want to be when you grew up? Interior decorator
Best advice you’ve ever received Point the thumb, not the finger.
Favorite thing about your job Academic language therapy is life changing for students with learning disabilities. It is amazing to watch kids gain confidence in their abilities!

Andrew Passmore, M.S., CFP®

Financial Planner, Passmore Planning Professionals

Andrew graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama, where he also completed graduate school with a 4.0 GPA. A third-generation leader of Passmore Planning Professionals, Andrew has led the practice over the last decade in the development of a unique coordinated financial planning process that focuses on the individual client’s financial strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. He has 14 years of financial planning experience and is the current vice president of the Estate Planning Council of Mobile. Andrew has also been a leader in various charitable organizations, including the Mobile Jaycees’ Azalea Trail program and the Boy Scouts of America.

Alma Mater University of Alabama
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Ellis; Gaillard (8), Walt (4)
Guilty pleasure Old Dutch ice cream
Hobbies Camping, geocaching, family time, tinkering on various projects
High school superlative Most likely to disappear into the woods but never actually be lost
Hidden talents I can start a fire without matches or a lighter.
If I were mayor, I would… sell an annual family pass covering all city museums and attractions.

Lauren Pettis, MSN, RN, OCN

Executive Director, Southern Cancer Center

At only 33, Lauren has risen through the ranks at Southern Cancer Center, landing most recently at the highest role, executive director. She is known for putting patients’ and staff’s best interests first and assisting all employees, no matter how large the task. Lauren is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, Community Oncology Alliance and Mobile Chamber of Commerce. An active member of Anchor Cross Cancer Foundation and Port City Church of Christ, Lauren can often be found participating in numerous American Cancer Society annual events. 

Alma Mater Troy University; University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Justin; Reagan (6), Charlie (5)
First job Runner at a local law firm
Best advice you’ve ever received “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
Hidden talent I can say my ABCs backwards.
What words would you use to describe mobile? Southern charm with a small-town vibe
Favorite thing about your job Being able to make something more tolerable for my patients, in what may seem like the darkest days, leaves me feeling accomplished and proud.

Ryan Ramagosa, M.D.

Partner, Sunrise Dermatology

Ryan, along with a partner, founded Sunrise Dermatology only two months after completing residency. Over the past seven years, Ryan has grown the staff to 35 and has created an environment where employees feel empowered to reach toward achievement and advancement. He is locally recognized as being amongst the best in his field and is a staunch supporter of the American Cancer Society. Additionally, Ryan serves as a lecturer for the University of Colorado residency program and as an undergraduate interviewer for Georgetown University. He attends St. James Episcopal Church in Fairhope.

Alma Mater
Georgetown University; Georgetown University School of Medicine
Hometown Pompano Beach, Fla.
Spouse + children Amy; Burke (8), Vivian (6)
What did you want to be when you grew up? My own boss
Guilty pleasure Playing fantasy sports and drinking Scotch old enough to buy its own Scotch
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? Jesse’s in Magnolia Springs
Hidden Talents Singing. If you look hard enough on Spotify, you can find my college stuff with the Georgetown Chimes still floating around.

Brandi Richardson

West Campus Director, Cottage Hill Christian Academy

While in college, Brandi worked in Washington, D.C., interning under Congressman Jo Bonner. It did not take long for her to realize she wanted to work in the field of education, teaching future politicians. Brandi spent time teaching at Faith Academy and St. Luke’s Episcopal School before moving on to Faulkner State Community College (now Coastal Alabama Community College), where she still teaches night classes in the history department. She is currently the youngest upper school director in the area. Over the years, Brandi has traveled back to Washington, D.C., for numerous educational studies.

Alma Mater University of Alabama; Spring Hill College
Hometown Grand Bay
Spouse + children Brandon; Margaret Roe (5 months)
First job Preschool dance instructor
Hobbies Reading, traveling, cooking, listening to music
Best advice you’ve ever received  “Heat the oil in the cast-iron skillet before you add the batter.” Crispy cornbread crust is a must!
Favorite thing about your job I love working with teenagers! It is my goal that every student who leaves my sphere of influence feels respected, loved and prepared.

Laventrice S. Ridgeway, M.S.

Coordinator for the Office of Student Disability Services, University of South Alabama

Laventrice has earned many awards, the most recent ones being the NASPA-Region III Rising Star Award and the USA Division of Student Affairs Excellence in Customer Service Award. He is a committee member for the USA Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center Planning Committee and serves as youth minister for his church. During his presidency with chapter VIII of the Alabama Counseling Association, he and the chapter received the award for Most Outstanding Community Service Project with their “Warming Feet, Warming Hearts” sock drive for Project Homeless Connect.

Alma Mater University of South Alabama
Hometown Whistler
What did you want to be when you grew up?  I always wanted to be a pharmacist; however, my sights changed once I discovered higher education.
Guilty pleasure Watching “The Golden Girls”
Hidden talents I can cut hair. Those who know are always trying to convince me to cut theirs.
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat? It’s a toss-up between Kazoola and Dauphin’s. Both offer live music and cuisine that I think would give any guest a good sense of the Mobile experience.

Joseph Jermaine Roberson, M.Ed.

Assistant Principal, Mobile County Public School System

Joseph’s career in the Mobile County Public School System spans 15 years. During this time, he created the inaugural Citronelle High School Outokumpu Internship Program, which gives students hands-on training and paying jobs in their chosen careers. The program has, in turn, impacted the economic growth of the community. A former Mobile Kappa Leaguer, he founded and facilitated the Kappa Kids program, which mentors fourth- and fifth-grade boys.

Alma Mater Alabama State University; University of South Alabama
Hometown Prichard
First job McDonald’s on Government Street
High school superlative Best All Around, Class Clown, Most Likely to Succeed
If I were mayor, I would…provide relocation incentives and professional job placement assistance to work with private and public entities to make Mobile more attractive to current college graduates.
Favorite thing about your job Witnessing the educational cycle emanate full circle. Some of my elementary students are now educators, skilled workers, and one is even an NFL player. It warms my heart seeing former students become productive and contributing members of society. 

Melanie Rose, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Cardio-Thoracic and Vascular Surgical Associates, PC

Board certified in general and vascular surgery, Melanie is the first female vascular surgeon in Alabama and the only female vascular surgeon along the Gulf Coast. She serves on the peer review committee for both Mobile Infirmary and Thomas Hospital and is a member of the American College of Surgeons, the Vascular and Endovascular Surgical Society, the Alabama Vascular Society and the Association of Women Surgeons. Melanie is also an associate professor of surgery for the USA College of Medicine and a clinical mentor for first- and second-year medical students.

Alma Mater University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of South Alabama College of Medicine
Hometown Hueytown, Ala.
Spouse + Children Jason; Sarah (16), Stacy (11)
What word would you use to describe Mobile? Welcoming
Guilty pleasure I enjoy listening to ’80s hair band rock music and drinking Starbucks coffee, but not necessarily at the same time.
First job Title manager at Long Lewis Ford Car Sales
Best advice you’ve ever received “Treat each patient as if they are your mom or dad.”

Grant Saltz

Co-owner, Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que

Since opening the first Moe’s restaurant in downtown Mobile, Grant has won local “Best BBQ” awards six consecutive years. Moe’s partners with numerous organizations, hosting events throughout the year to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile and local high school athletic teams. Grant is a member of the Order of Fuse and is an active contributor to the
Fuse Project, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children in the Mobile area.

Alma Mater Huntingdon College; University of West Florida
Hometown Fairhope
Spouse Amber
What did you want to be when you grew up? I never really knew. One thing is for sure: I never thought I’d own a restaurant.
Where would you take an out-of-town guest to eat?  Moe’s BBQ, of course. But I wouldn’t let them miss Von’s, Chuck’s Fish or Callaghan’s, either.
Best advice you’ve ever received “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” We had to memorize and recite “Attitude” by Charles Swindoll in middle school, and that line stuck with me. 

Jay Savage, M.D.

Orthopaedic Surgeon, Bayside Orthopaedic, Sports Medicine and Rehab

Jay’s specialty is sports medicine, for which he completed a fellowship in Santa Monica. While there, he served as an assistant team physician for LA Galaxy and Pepperdine University. Jay currently serves as Bayside Academy’s team physician, which includes game coverage, sports physicals and a free clinic on Saturday mornings during football season. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Alabama Orthopaedic Society, Arthroscopy Association of North America and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

Alma Mater Auburn University; University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Jessica; Julia (9), James (6), John Bailey (3)
First job Summer lawn care with Jake Peavy. We probably still owe our parents for all of their lawn equipment we tore up that summer!
Hobbies Being a dad, reading, hunting and fishing
Favorite thing about your job The opportunity to help people who are broken and hurting to become healed and restored. There is a wonderful glimpse of the Gospel in what we have the opportunity to be a part of when treating patients.

Kenneth “Dale” Speetjens

CEO / Co-founder, Shipshape Urban Farms

Dale is a natural leader who leads by example, a trait that no doubt stems from his experience in the United States Army. Shipshape Urban Farms is Mobile’s only farm-to-table delivery service, which has plans for hydroponic expansions. Dale is an inductee of Leadership Mobile and received Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Bloomberg Transformer Award. He is a visiting assistant professor teaching landscape architecture at Auburn University and is a project manager with the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team.

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Fairhope
Spouse + Children Angela; Amira (15)
Hidden talents I am an eagle eye. I shot 40 out of 40 targets during Army basic training.
Guilty pleasure Playing really nerdy board games
Best advice you’ve ever received “It is okay to fail, but learn from it.”
Favorite thing about your job Knowing the technology I have designed will help alleviate
food deserts and food waste while providing a safer, fresher, more cost-effective food source.   

Julia Starr, LBA, BCBA

Program Director of Woody’s Song School and Clinical Director of Growing Independence Behavioral Services, The Learning Tree, Inc.

With 16 years of experience in the behavior analysis field, Julia is well known in the special needs community as an expert in applied behavior analysis and autism interventions. She developed Woody’s Song to offer children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders ways to learn and develop that were previously unavailable to them. Her ability to see potential in every child led to her award as the Mobile ARC and Alabama ARC Teacher of the Year in 2014. Julia serves on the board of the Alabama Association of Behavior Analysis and supports Autism Society of Alabama, Camp Smile and Dance Without Limits.

Alma Mater Auburn University
Hometown Trussville, Ala.
Spouse + Children Marissa; Dillan (16), Christopher (15), Charleston (3), Everly (8 months)
Best advice you’ve ever received “Don’t let anyone change your heart. Do good things, and be the sunshine.”
High school superlative Most Likely to Change the World or Die Trying
What word would you use to describe mobile? Eclectic

Kari Whatley, LPC

Owner and Therapy Director, Equine Therapy Group

Kari, a licensed professional counselor certified in equine assisted therapy, established the Equine Therapy Group as a way to serve veterans and at-risk youth in Mobile and Baldwin counties. She developed original curriculum for youth and for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the program has been recognized by Recovery Campus Magazine as one of the cutting-edge approaches for helping those with addictions. She currently serves on the advisory board of Pathway, Inc., and she is heavily involved with Under His Wings, Wounded Warrior Project and local Marine Corp leagues.

Alma Mater B.S., M.A., Liberty University
Hometown Mobile
Spouse Jason
Guilty pleasure Red wine and a good book!
If I were mayor, I would… continue former mayor Mike Dow’s legacy as a champion for the revitalization of downtown Mobile and expend every effort to reopen Searcy Hospital and provide intervention services for our community. Mental health policy should focus more resources on prevention and not just repair!
Best advice you’ve ever received “If you can help, you should help.” — Allen Cox

Christian White

Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Leader, Regions Bank

Christian has garnered 15 years of commercial banking experience. Under his leadership, the South Alabama/Florida Panhandle commercial banking team has grown across all metrics, including revenue and personnel. Christian has been recognized multiple times as one of the top-performing commercial bankers in the company, and received multiple Chairman’s Club awards, an honor bestowed to the top 10 percent of associates across 15 states. He is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, board president of Wilmer Hall Children’s Home and a council member for USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital. He is a summa cum laude graduate from Hampden-Sydney College.

Alma Mater Hampden-Sydney College
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children Emily; James (4), Whit (2)
What did you want to be when you grew up? I thought I wanted to be in the medical field until I spent two weeks working in a local emergency room department. I spent the rest of the summer washing boats!
Favorite thing about your job Working on a team of highly motivated people that are passionate about our company, our customers and the communities we serve.

DeKendell Young

Director, Waterfront Mission

DeKendell has spent the past year restructuring Waterfront Mission’s rehabilitation and reintegration programs and is in the process of implementing a year-long addiction and recovery project. He is the recipient of the 2015 Citizen of the Year by the Mobile Alumni Chapter of Kappa Psi. DeKendell serves as the youth minister at Central Missionary Baptist Church and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry. He is a key member of the 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile, whose mission is to empower and encourage the underprivileged youth in Mobile and Baldwin counties. DeKendell and his wife, LaShoundra, are also highly successful fashion bloggers and photographers, whose work has been recognized by Xonecole, Essence, Glamhive and Redbook.

Alma Mater University of Alabama; Faith Evangelical Seminary
Hometown Mobile
Spouse + children LaShoundra; Kaden (8)
First job Stock crew at Delchamps grocery store
Hidden talents I’m an excellent cook.
What word would you use to describe mobile? Quaint
If i were mayor, i would… try to provide adequate assistance for the homeless that would position them for lifelong success.

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Photos by Matthew Coughlin

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