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Leadership

Leading the charge for rural preservation
  • Sonny Seals

    Chairman and Co-Founder

    Mr. Seals is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Historic Rural Churches of Georgia. Presently he is the Founder and Managing Director of Eton Partners LLC, a retained executive search firm.  Prior to founding Eton Partners, Mr. Seals was a senior executive with A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, and Russell Corporation, a textile and athletic apparel company. Mr. Seals is an active member of the Atlanta Arts Community and has served on the executive committee of the Alliance Theater Company board of directors and the Alliance Theater advisory board for several years.  He is a graduate of Georgia Tech and has served on several boards there including the Alumni Association Board of Trustees and the Ferst Center for the Performing Arts.  He presently Chairs the external Arts Advisory Board at Georgia Tech.

  • George Hart

    President and Co-Founder

    Mr. Hart is the President and Co-Founder of Historic Rural Churches of Georgia.  He has a career that includes senior positions in the technology and real estate industries in Atlanta.  He is especially interested in inner city, adaptive re-use developments. He has served on the board of the Atlanta Humane Society for many years and presently serves on the board of Historic Oakland Foundation, where he was the past Chair.  He is Chairman of the Line Creek Community Association and has served on the Fairburn City Planning Commission.  Mr. Hart is a former Naval Officer, a graduate of Emory University and the Harvard Graduate Business School.

  • Tom Beard

    Mr. Beard is a Senior Vice President of Wealth Management for Morgan Stanley.  Tom joined Smith Barney, now Morgan Stanley, in March of 2004, coming from the Private Wealth Management division of Deutsche Bank Alex Brown.  As Managing Director with the Deutsche Bank Mid Atlantic Group for the investment banking division, and as Director of the Atlanta branch of Stephens, Inc. (Little Rock, Arkansas), Tom launched investment banking opportunities on a national and international scale, with a focus on the Southeast. A graduate of the University of Georgia business school, Tom was a U.S. Army officer and later served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to President Carter.  He has been a board member with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, The Atlanta College of Art, The National Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustees, The President’s Committee for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the International Campaign for Tibet, and Camp Sunshine.  He is also a former co-owner of three Winston Cup NASCAR race teams. 

  • Tom Gay

    Mr. Gay is the Chairman of Gay Construction Company, a general construction firm that has been involved in many large adaptive re-use projects in the Southeast.  For many years he has been involved with the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts, Hillside Hospital, the YMCA and the Atlanta Kiwanis Foundation.  He is actively involved with his church, Peachtree Presbyterian, where he serves as an Elder.  He is a graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State.  Mr. Gay has served as President of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, is presently a Trustee of the Georgia Tech Foundation and is on the Emory University Board of Visitors.

  • Bill Verner

    Mr. Verner is the Sr. VP, External Affairs for the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), representing 41 electric membership corporations, Oglethorpe Power and Georgia Transmission Corporation – who provide electricity and other services to more than 4.5 million Georgians across the state. As head of Georgia EMC External Affairs, he coordinates the representation of EMCs’ interests before the Georgia General Assembly, Congress, and state and federal agencies. Mr. Verner also oversees Georgia EMC’s communications, public relations, member services, media relations and the publication of the EMCs’ popular monthly consumer publication, GEORGIA Magazine. Mr. Verner has served on the board for Leadership Georgia and he currently serves on the boards of 2020 Vision for School Nutrition, the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, and the Georgia Humanities Council.

  • Scott Ward

    Mr. Ward is a principal in the architectural firm, Warner Summers. Scott joined the Warner Summers firm in 1981. As Principal, Scott leads the Warner Summer staff of 15 in the design of commercial facilities, including educational, industrial, commercial interiors, financial and medical building types. Scott is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), National Council of Architecture Registration Board (NCARB), and is licensed in 14 states. He currently serves as a board member with the Flannery O’Conner Andalusia Board as Chair of the Building, Grounds and Collection Committee and the Dewees Island Architectural Registration Board.  Mr. Ward is also involved with Friends of the Purification Church, set up for the purpose of restoring the oldest Catholic Church in the state located in Sharon, Ga.

  • Brian Brodrick, Athens

    Jackson Spalding Partner

    A member of Jackson Spalding since 1997, Brian Brodrick established the Athens, Ga. office in 2004 and oversees all business operations there. He also provides leadership on many regional and national accounts and is an executive and management team member at Jackson Spalding. Before joining Jackson Spalding, Brian was a reporter for The Rome News-Tribune in North Georgia. He is often tapped by the media for insights on a plethora of civic, trade and business topics. Brian was elected as a Watkinsville City Councilman in 2003. In addition, he served as the 2012 Chair of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, is a board member of Eagle Ranch, a board member at Oconee State Bank, a trustee of Leadership Georgia, a trustee of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, a board member for the Georgia Humanities Council and a member of the board of visitors for Berry College. In 2007 he was recognized by Georgia Trend as one of Georgia’s “40 under 40 Best and Brightest” citizens. In 2008, he was named as Berry’s Outstanding Young Alumnus and was a member of the 2010 class of Leadership Georgia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Berry College and completed additional graduate-level coursework at The University of Georgia.

  • Julianne Chambliss, Moultrie

    Retired Educator

    Mrs. Chambliss has dedicated her career to the enrichment of the lives of children. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in elementary education, Julianne began her career teaching sixth grade in Knoxville, Tennessee. She then accepted a position with the Colquitt County public school system, where she retired after 30 years of teaching. Julianne was a reading resource teacher for fifth grade teachers, led workshops on creative writing, and conducted workshops for teachers on enrichment and remedial activities. She was named a Star Teacher for Colquitt County. Julianne is an active member of the St. Marks’s Anglican Church, where she served as church youth director, Sunday school director, and president of Women of the Church. Julianne served as publicity chairman of the Moultrie Junior Woman’s Club, chairman of the Moultrie Speech and Hearing Center, and president of the Moultrie Service League. She was also chairman of the National March of Dimes Gala in Washington D.C. Julianne’s platform continues to focus on education and literacy.  

  • Buddy Darden, Marietta

    Former House Representative

    Buddy Darden was born in Hancock County, Georgia and graduated from Sparta High School in Sparta, Georgia in 1961. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Georgia in Athens in 1965 and his Juris Doctor from the UGA School of Law in 1967. Mr. Darden represented Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District in the US House of Representatives for six terms. During his tenure in Congress, he served on the Armed Services Committee, the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. Additionally, he was the senior Democrat of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics). Before his election to Congress, Mr. Darden was a member of the Georgia General Assembly and served as District Attorney of the Cobb Judicial Circuit. In 2010, Mr. Darden was honored by the State Bar of Georgia with its Tradition of Excellence Award, which recognizes outstanding lawyers and judges and has become one of the most prestigious honors a lawyer or judge can receive. Currently, Buddy Darden concentrates on public policy and public finance. He has been recognized as one of the “Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend and JAMES Magazine. He is a member of the Dentons law firm and currently represents the State of Georgia in its water allocation negotiations with Alabama and Florida. Mr. Darden also advises clients on conducting business with the State of Georgia and the federal government and developing strategy for legislative and government affairs issues.

  • Hardie Davis, Augusta

    Augusta Mayor

    Mr. Davis holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Christian Life School of Theology in Columbus. In college, he began teaching bible study which prepared him to become founder and senior pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center in Augusta, Georgia. His career includes 18 years of systems, automation and controls engineering, and his public service spans three years as a state Representative and five years as a state Senator. He is currently serving the third year of his first term as Mayor of Augusta. A distinguished lawmaker while in the state legislature, Mr. Davis served as chairman of the Interstate Cooperation Committee and was an active member of the Economic Development, Ethics, Finance and Higher Education Senate Committees. He has been recognized by numerous organizations and constituent groups, including Georgia Bio, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education.

  • Todd Groce, Savannah

    President - Georgia Historical Society

    One of the leading public history executives in the nation, W. Todd Groce has over 25 years of experience as an educator and administrator and has led institutions in raising nearly $80 million for educational programming, capital projects, and endowment. Born in Virginia and reared in Tennessee, Dr. Groce graduated cum laude with honors in history from the University of Memphis (’84) and earned an M.A. (’87) and Ph.D. (’92) in history from the University of Tennessee. In 1990 Dr. Groce began his career in public history. He served five years as executive director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, taking that institution to the next level through the development of a new regional history museum. In November 1994 Dr. Groce was named executive director of the Georgia Historical Society, and in April 2006 he was elected the institution’s 43rd president. Dr. Groce currently serves in this position.

  • Sheffield Hale, Atlanta

    CEO - Atlanta History Center

    F. Sheffield Hale is President and CEO of the Atlanta History Center. Prior to joining the Atlanta History Center in 2012 he served as Chief Counsel of the American Cancer Society, Inc. and was a Partner practicing corporate law in the firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. Mr. Hale serves as a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is a board member of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center, Fox Theatre, Inc., Buckhead Coalition, Midtown Alliance, and Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is a Past Chair of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Atlanta History Center, St. Jude’s Recovery Center, Inc., and the State of Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Commission. Mr. Hale received his B.A. in History from the University of Georgia summa cum laude in 1982, and received his J.D. in 1985 from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a member of the American Law Institute.

  • Susan Holmes, Montecello

    State House of Representitive

    Since 2011, Ms. Holmes has served in the Georgia House of Representatives representing district 129. She serves on a variety of legislative committees, including Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. Susan Holmes is a product of rural Georgia. She is a seventh-generation Jasper Countian raised on a cotton farm in the community of Farrar in northern Jasper County. Susan was an honor graduate of Monticello High School and received a BS degree in Business Education from the University of Georgia. She has taught school, served as a postmaster, a legal assistant, and was CFO of a family owned insurance company. Susan has served on a variety of boards in her career of public service, including the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. She was a member of the Jasper County Board of Health for eleven years, serving as chair for the last year. She was a member of the Georgia College and State University Foundation Board and the Griffin Technical College Foundation Board. Susan served twelve years as Mayor of the City of Monticello. Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Mrs. Holmes as vice chair of the Rural Development Council and the Georgia Workforce Development Council. She has served as president of the Georgia Municipal Association which represents over 600 Georgia cities. Mrs. Holmes was selected as Monticello-Jasper County Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine and one of the five most outstanding women in Middle Georgia by the Girl Scouts Council. She received recognition as Northeast Georgia’s Most Outstanding Citizen and the Georgia Downtown Association’s Outstanding Leadership Award.

  • Sistie Hudson, Sparta

    Hancock County Commissioner

    Sistie Hudson was elected Chairman of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners in 2012, and took office on January 1, 2013. She had previously served in many capacities, serving the citizens of Sparta and Hancock County: first on the Sparta City Council for four years, Mayor of Sparta for six years, Hancock County Commissioner for two years, and the Georgia House of Representatives for 16 years. She was educated in Hancock County Schools, and graduated in 1968. She continued her educational training at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and graduated in 1972 with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry, where she also served as President of Beta Beta Beta, an honorary Biological Society. Chairman Hudson has always enjoyed "public service" and values this experience deeply. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, researching and sharing Hancock County's wonderful history, and working each day to make Hancock County a better place to live.

  • Mark Massee, Fitzgerald

    Former Fitzgerald Mayor

    Mayor Massee is a life-long resident of Fitzgerald and has been actively involved in community leadership for three decades.  He is past president of the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce and the Fitzgerald Jaycees, and he was named one of Five Outstanding Young Georgians for 1987-88 by the Georgia Jaycees. The former mayor is also a director of the Wiregrass Georgia Technical College North Foundation and the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Mr. Massee is a director and vice-chairman of Colony Bankcorp, Inc., a publicly-traded bank holding company, as well as a director of Colony Bank of Fitzgerald.

    Mayor Massee is President of Massee Builders, Inc., a highly successful building construction firm for more than thirty years. He attended Ben Hill County public schools prior to receiving a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • Laura McCarty, Atlanta

    President - Georgia Humanities

    Laura McCarty is President of Georgia Humanities, where she works on projects that bring the humanities and especially history to the people of Georgia.  A native of South Carolina, and the daughter of a United Methodist minister and a teacher, Laura has also had lifelong connections to churches in a variety of rural settings.  Laura studied English and French at Wofford College and Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia.  She is author of Coretta Scott King: a Biography (ABC-Clio, 2009) and over 30 articles for the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

  • Janisse Ray, Reidsville

    Author and Environmental Activist

    Writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray is author of six books. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has been awarded two honorary doctorates, one from Unity College in Maine and the other from LaGrange College in Georgia. As an activist and writer, Ray has published many poems and essays in such magazines and newspapers as The Georgia Review, Georgia Wildlife, National Geographic Wildlife, and Orion. A nature commentator for Georgia Public Radio and a founding board member of Altamaha Riverkeeper, Ray also helped to form the Georgia Nature-Based Tourism Association and continues working to preserve the 3,400-acre Moody Forest in Appling County. In 2015 she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her work has been translated and published in France and Turkey. Janisse is an active speaker who gives readings and presentations frequently. She and her husband live on their farm in rural southern Georgia.

  • Dan Roper, Rome

    Georgia Backroads Publisher

    Dan Roper has authored more than 130 published articles, most appearing in Georgia Backroads magazine and its predecessor, North Georgia Journal magazine, on topics about Georgia history, nature and travel. Mr. Roper graduated from the University of Georgia with a BS Forest Resources in 1983 and Juris Doctor in 19866. Mr. Roper has been publisher and editor of Georgia Backroads magazine since 2005. He began a legal career in 1986 with Smith, Shaw, Maddox, Davidson & Graham in Rome, Georgia and partnered with the firm from 1992 to 2005. He served as counsel to the firm from 2005 to 2010. He was admitted to U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Georgia Court of Appeals, and Georgia Supreme Court.  Mr. Roper founded and served as vice chairman (from 1987 to 1993) of the Agricultural Law Section, State Bar of Georgia. Mr. Roper held the position of Adjunct Professor of Business Law at Berry College from 1993 to 1997, and assisted as an Instructor for the Berry College Continuing Education Department from 1990 to 2001.  Since 2015, he has served as an Instructor for Berry College Senior Scholars.

  • George Turner, Stonecrest

    Stonecrest City Council

    George Turner is a Stonecrest City Councilman in District 4, DeKalb County. Mr. Turner was formally a management executive for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority General Superintendent. Mr. Turner also served with the Georgia General Assembly as a people’s advocate and legislative aide for 8 years, and currently, does volunteer work in and around DeKalb County. Mr. Turner’s voluntary involvement ranges from updating zoning ordinances to assisting in planning Georgia DOT road improvement. Overall, George Turner has dedicated his time to improving his community as well as communities throughout the state.

  • Gil Watson, Atlanta

    Methodist Minister

    Dr. Gil Watson has been Senior Pastor of Northside Church since 1994. An Atlanta native, he began his higher education at nearby Oglethorpe University with a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science, followed by a Master of Divinity from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. Gil was ordained an Elder in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1972. He and his wife Carol have three children and six grandchildren. Gil’s extracurricular activities demonstrate a passion for the history of the American South and for storytelling.

  • Mark C. McDonald, Atlanta

    President - Georgia Trust for Hisoric Preservation

    Mark C. McDonald has served as President and CEO of The Georgia Trust since June 2008. Since that time, The Georgia Trust has dramatically improved its budget performance and extended its programs and revolving fund activities. Mr. McDonald has over 25 years of professional involvement in historic preservation as well as a strong business background. Mark received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in history and English from Emory University and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. He has served as the executive director for three preservation organizations in the Southeast, including the Historic Salisbury Foundation in North Carolina from 1986-1990, the Mobile Historic Development Commission in Mobile, Alabama from 1990-1998 and most recently, Historic Savannah Foundation since 1998. During Mark’s tenure at Historic Savannah Foundation, the organization became a strong advocate for quality urban design; reinvigorated its revolving fund program by selling nearly 75 endangered properties with preservation easements and built the fund’s capital from $30,000 to approximately $1 million; and helped gain architectural design review in three additional historic districts.

  • Cindy Eidson, Atlanta

    Georgia Tourism Director of Product Development

    Cindy is the Director for the Office of Tourism Product Development with Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Cindy received a Master’s of City Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Housing and Community Economic Development from the University of Georgia. She has also completed preservation studies in Historic Preservation at Georgia State University. Cindy was formally a Manager for the Office of Community Affairs, and also served as Manager over Training and Special Projects with the Office of Downtown Development, as well as the Main Street Manager for both the City of Gainesville and Newnan Main Street Programs. With a total of 27 years of downtown planning experience, Cindy also worked as a Preservation Planner Intern with the Georgia Mountain RDC and six years with the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service.

  • D L Henderson, Atlanta

    Genealogist and Historian

    Dr. D L Henderson is an independent historian and genealogist whose current research and writing focuses on the intersection of history, memory, and culture in African American life. She received the doctor of arts degree in humanities from Clark Atlanta University. She is a member of the Historic Oakland Foundation Board of Directors, and she is a member of the Historic South-View Foundation Board of Advisors. She has researched and written tours on cemetery history and the art and architecture of Atlanta’s Oakland and South-View cemeteries. She has been awarded the Atlanta Urban Design Commission's Jenny D. Thurston Memorial Award to an Outstanding Preservation Professional, and she has been recognized by the Atlanta City Council for her contribution to the preservation and interpretation of African American history and culture. Her article, “Imagining Slave Square: Resurrecting History through Cemetery Research and Interpretation,” appeared in Interpreting African American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites, a publication of the American Association of State and Local History. She is currently researching and writing a history of South-View Cemetery.