Top 20 Rising Stars Under 40
by Joel Groover, Jennifer Hafer, Kevin Hazzard, and Michael J. Pallerino
March 03, 2014 12:00 AM | 7546 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Angela Shipp
Angela Shipp
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David Cunningham
David Cunningham
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Jennifer Blomquist
Jennifer Blomquist
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Caitlyn Cooper
Caitlyn Cooper
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Kendell Williams
Kendell Williams
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Dan Timko
Dan Timko
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Mandy Burton
Mandy Burton
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Brooks Mathis
Brooks Mathis
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Lola Ajayi
Lola Ajayi
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Jason Waters
Jason Waters
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Dr. Dustin Tipton
Dr. Dustin Tipton
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Ryan Patrick
Ryan Patrick
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David Cole
David Cole
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Leslie O'Neal
Leslie O'Neal
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Mamie Doyle
Mamie Doyle
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Austin Mann
Austin Mann
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Adam Emrich
Adam Emrich
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David Johnson
David Johnson
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Daniel Diemer
Daniel Diemer
slideshow
Todd Thrasher
Todd Thrasher
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A look at some of Cobb County's brightest who are driving change in business, law, politics and the arts

Angela Shipp

Director of publications and digital media, Cobb EMC

Though she shares a last name with a man famous in Georgia writing circles, Angela Shipp is not related.

"No, I'm no relation to Bill Shipp, but I get asked that a lot," Shipp said with a laugh.

As director of publications and digital media for Cobb EMC, Shipp is responsible for the corporate brand internally and externally, a position she has held for 14 years.

"This was back in 2000 before social media, and the Internet wasn't as big. I responded to a classified ad," Shipp recalled. "For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be in communications."

Whether producing a company newsletter, writing Web copy or designing the team T-shirts for a charity event, Shipp said corporate communications is her passion.

"Even corporate communications can be creative," she said. "I can design something out of the box, or try to weave in some writing that doesn't sound quite so stiff or corporate."

The Stats

Age: 39

Family: Single

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, UGA; Certifications: Certified Cooperative Communicator; Technical Writing; Pre-Press Preparation

Volunteer activities: YWCA of Northwest Georgia; Cobb Diaper Day; Operation Warmth: Cobb; Cobb Youth Leadership; Leadership Cobb Alumni Association


David Cunningham

Field Supervisor, Superior Plumbing

“One of my earliest childhood memories was going with my dad to help him replace a water heater,” says David Cunningham, a 32-year-old licensed plumber and newly appointed field supervisor at Kennesaw-based Superior Plumbing. “He taught me to always do things right. Giving it your all and putting in that extra effort is what separates you from the rest.”

The Cobb County native, who joined Superior full-time in 2000, crisscrossed metro Atlanta for 12 years tackling plumbing projects large and small before becoming the company’s accounting manager in 2010. He is now transitioning to a new position as field supervisor for Superior’s team of indoor plumbers. “These are the guys who do things like install water heaters, fix showers and toilets and replace kitchen faucets,” he said. “My job is to work with them to identify and implement best practices.”

That might range from seemingly small details—always putting down rubber mats to protect a customer’s wooden floors, for example, or thoroughly cleaning toilets after fixing them — to systemic changes that stand to boost the company’s overall quality and efficiency. Enforcing uniform standards is important in part because Superior’s 35 licensed plumbers hail from all over the country. Few applicants make it through the company’s tough hiring process — it involves background checks, drug tests and multiple interviews, Cunningham said. As a result, the company takes out “help wanted” ads in neighboring states. “One of our plumbers even came to us from Alaska,” he said.

Cunningham, who earned a math degree from Kennesaw State University, is the oldest of seven children, three of whom have also worked at Superior alongside their father, James “Jay” Cunningham. He owns a house in Kennesaw and, in his spare time, enjoys shooting hoops and playing touch football with his KSU pals. Cunningham and Sarah Furse tied the knot Feb. 8. 

The Stats

Age: 32 

Family: Married to Sarah.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Kennesaw State University

Volunteer activities: David and his colleagues at Superior Plumbing contribute to a host of local organizations, including Hope House, Furry Friends, MUST Ministries and North Cobb High School’s “Ready to Work” program. Superior also supports programs to provide iPads to schoolchildren with autism, and special evenings and prom-night limousine rides for special needs students at local high schools. David is a frequent blood donor to the Red Cross.


Jennifer Blomquist

Owner and President, Blomquist Builders Group

Growing up, Jennifer Blomquist had an unusual hobby. 

“I was 10 years old and my favorite thing to do was my mother would take me to look at houses,” Blomquist said. “Even at 10, I was redesigning the inside of homes.”

With her penchant for designing, her mother thought Blomquist might grow up to be an interior decorator, but the Cobb native had a different idea. Today she is president and owner of Blomquist Builders Group and Redu Guru.

In the male-dominated field of housing construction, Blomquist is something of a rarity.

“Men know a lot about construction, but when it comes to building a home and knowing what a woman wants and what’s needed in certain spaces, that’s when it’s good to have a woman’s perspective,” she said. “I thought I needed to do this to show them what a girl’s point of view is.”

Specializing in the building of ranch homes, Blomquist estimates she has built between 45 and 50 homes since she started her business 13 years ago.

“To this day, my mother is so proud; she’ll say even at 10 years old I knew what I was talking about when it came to building a house,” she said. “There’s nothing greater than watching a house grow.”

The Stats

Age: 36 

Family: Married to Blake. Children Brenden, 13, Brett, 11, and Leah, 7.

Education: Contractors license, Realtor’s license

Volunteer activities: Volunteers at her church with Hope For Christmas each year


Caitlyn Cooper

Chief Fundraiser, Comm360

Having spent years as champion of the powerless, Caitlyn Cooper now devotes herself to the state’s most powerful. What’s the common link between these two disparate worlds? Passion. 

After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2007, Cooper became a forensic interviewer, working with children who were either victims of or witnesses to abuse. She took special pride in carrying these youngest of charges through a difficult process and on to a brighter future. 

“The greatest part is watching a child go from victim to survivor,” Cooper says. 

Still, the work was gut-wrenching, the hours exhausting and, over time, she succumbed to the inevitable burnout. Though she still provides expert testimony in court, Cooper eventually drifted away from full-time field work and made her way to what, at first glance, appears a rather unlikely second act — political fundraising. 

Today, she lives in Marietta and works as chief fundraiser for political candidates at Comm360, a Cobb-based PR and fundraising firm. Her proudest achievements have been her work on charter school legislation and being part of Attorney General of Georgia Sam Olens’ election campaign. 

“I get my passion from my family and from a desire to get the right people into office,” Cooper says when asked how fundraising compares to the life of a forensic interviewer. “I only take candidates I believe in. And I’ve turned people down.”

Asked what stokes her political passions, Cooper quotes the Margaret Thatcher line about asking a man if you want something said in politics and a woman if you want something done. “I’m very interested in getting more young women involved in politics.”

The Stats

Age: 29

Family: Single. Enjoys spending time with sisters Kellen Cooper-Carr, 26, and Kathleen Cooper, 12. She will become an aunt for the first time this spring. 

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, UGA

Volunteer activities: Director of Programs for Marietta Rotary. Leadership Cobb Class of 2014


Kendell Williams

Women’s Track & Field athlete, University of Georgia

During the Cherry & Silver Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., in January, University of Georgia freshman Kendell Williams set a new American Junior record in the pentathlon with 4,302 points, breaking the previous record by 243 points. The mark also was good enough for No. 2 in the Lady Bulldog record books.

When it comes to all things track & field, there really aren’t any more surprises when it comes to the former Kell High School standout. You want accolades; Williams has accolades. Try the 2012-13 Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year; the 2012 IAFF World Junior Championship “Athlete of the Meet” in Barcelona; winner of the heptathlon at the 2013 USA Junior Championships; Silver medal winner at the 2013 Pan Am Junior Championships; and an 11-time state high school title winner, just to name a few.

And if that is enough, she posted a 3.75 GPA at Kell, serving as a member of the Kell’s Angels and National Thespian Society.

“I’ve been working really hard, so it’s nice to see that the work is paying off,” says Williams, who many say could be the next Jackie Joyner-Kersee. “I feel like I am on the right track to reaching my ultimate goal, which is to run in the Olympics. My future plans are to do really well at the SEC and NCAA meet to finish out my indoor season, and then have a successful outdoor season.”

Williams’ foray into the track scene actually started with a baseball game. While attending a Fourth of July travel tournament in Rome for her older brother, Devon, a sophomore on UGA’s men’s track & field team, she started running with (and faster than) the boys. So her parents signed up them both of to run track. 

Today, along with being one of the nation’s best track & field athletes, she is reveling in the aspect of being a role model.

“It is extremely flattering when young girls or even people my age tell me I am their role model. I like it, but there is a little bit of pressure. I don’t ever want to disappoint the ones who look up to me.”

The secret, as Williams admits, is in the advice her father gave her when she was a little kid — words that still ring true today: “Do your best and whatever happens, happens.”

The Stats

Age: 18

family: Parents, Blane and Terri Williams; brother, Devon, a multi-event competitor on the Bulldog Men’s Track & Field team

Major: Communications, UGA

Favorite quote: “You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Favorite class: Women’s Studies


Dan Timko

Co-founder, President and Chief Technology Officer, Cirrity

His business keeps his head in the cloud, but for Dan Timko, one of his passions can be found beneath the deep blue sea.

“It’s a whole different world down there,” said the co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Cirrity. “When you’re scuba diving, you’re not thinking about anything else; it’s very therapeutic and totally clears your mind.”

As a principal in the five-year-old business-to-business cloud service provider, Timko wears many hats.

“We’re the company behind the company,” he said. “Research and development is probably the biggest thing we do, and I love that, staying on top of the new stuff. It’s about the technology and what you can do with it.”

Timko’s curiosity was cultivated early on as he and his engineer father tinkered with the first computers in his garage growing up.

“I love a challenge,” he said. “A lot of people play with cars trying to get extra horsepower, and it was the same thing with computers back then. You couldn’t just call Dell and order what you wanted.”

Today, it’s the challenge of making something happen faster or finding innovative ways to use technology to bring down costs that drive Timko.

“It’s really the way my minds works,” he said. “I’m very analytical, which can be frustrating for my wife.”

The Stats

Age: 34

Family: Married to Meaghan. Children: Katie Grace, 6, and Ella, 3.

Education: Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, Georgia Tech

Volunteer activities: Autism Speaks; has worked with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society previously.




Mandy Burton

Marketing Strategist, WellStar Medical Group

Marietta’s Mandy Burton believes in community. That’s why her job as a marketing strategist at WellStar Medical Group is so rewarding. She enjoys being on the front lines of the initiative to help people learn about what it takes to live a healthier life. Whether it’s creating an educational brochure or leading the charge on a fundraiser, Burton understands the impact that each endeavor makes.

“It’s rewarding to know that what I do, in a small and sometimes intangible way, can impact a patient — maybe help create a life-changing or lifesaving moment,” Burton says. “Because WellStar is so engrained in supporting the community, my job has allowed me to be involved in some non-profit organizations. I’m passionate about community work and feel blessed that I can participate in those activities. I feel like I’m giving back two-fold.” 

Ask Burton and she’ll tell you that the best part of her job is connecting patients and physicians on the essence of health care. “It’s important to help increase awareness about the power people have in managing their health. It’s about helping patients navigate their well-being and bridging those gaps. As we continue to expand the Medical Group, our scope of tasks and opportunities grow on a daily basis. It’s a fast-paced environment and I love it.” 

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Burton moved to Nashville to work in the music industry. After four years, she took a job as a marketing director for a real estate development company, moving from Anderson/Greenville, S.C., to Asheville, N.C., and then Charleston, S.C. After the company disbanded with the real estate crash, she became an event planner, eventually moving back to Georgia. In 2009, she joined the Cardiovascular Medicine Group, which became a part of the WellStar Health System. Today, she helps lead the brand standardization of the WellStar Medical Group, which through acquisitions and expansion of services has experienced rapid growth over the last two years.

“I’m told I am good under pressure, and that I am resourceful in solving problems and putting out fires,” Burton says. It’s good to be depended on. I always seem to wear a lot of hats in any job I have, so I don’t mind juggling things to make things happen.”

The Stats

Age: 35

Volunteer activities: WellStar Foundation; American Heart Association (Cobb Heart Walk team leader); American Cancer Society (Annual Swordsman’s Ball); Marietta Cobb Museum of Art (ChARTer); Cobb Chamber of Commerce (Chair of Cobb Young Professionals; member of this year’s or 2013-2014 Leadership Cobb class); YWCA 100-plus women against domestic violence; Jazzercise instructor

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, University of Georgia; also studied literature, music, event planning and promotion, and European media and culture at the University of Innsbruck in Austria

Favorite quote: “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world” — Dolly Parton


Brooks Mathis

Vice president of economic development, Cobb Chamber of Commerce

There’s a special sense of pride Brooks Mathis feels when he heads to his local supermarket and sees packages of Talenti Gelato on the shelf in the refrigerated section.

That’s because 18 months ago, the vice president of economic development of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce helped lure the Texas-based company to Marietta, representing a significant new investment in the community and the addition of about 100 jobs.

“Cobb is one of those communities that’s a gold standard,” Mathis said. “It has a lot going for it, which makes it one of the best communities in Georgia to go out and sell.”

And sell he does. Mathis joined the chamber in 2011, as the organization’s youngest vice president of economic development. Since that time, nearly 10,000 new jobs have been added to the county’s roster and more than $1.3 billion has been invested, including the new jobs and investments that will be made as a part of the Braves move to Cobb.

“I’m a people person and I knew I needed to go into a job where you interacted with people; me behind a desk one day would not work,” Mathis said. “I’m grateful Cobb has visionary leaders because I could not do anything by myself.”

The Stats

Age: 31 

Family: Single 

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Shorter College 


Lola Ajayi

Owner, Mathnasium west Marietta

Lola Ajayi’s first business enterprise was when she was 15 years old. Her father gave her $40 to place an ad in the local newspaper for a 900-hotline number for tutoring over the phone. Even though the job only lasted three months (and netted her about $650), she was hooked. A true entrepreneur at heart, Ajayi always has had an affinity for business. In February 2013, the then-marketing manager for The Home Depot felt a void. And the decision was made. She would start her own business. 

A month later, while driving around Smyrna’s West Village, she ended up parking in front of a Mathnasium Center. The franchise opportunity was just what she was looking for. Today, Ajayi gets to work with students looking to build their math skills — and rebuild their confidence — in the Mathnasium Center in west Marietta, which she opened in January 2014.

“The biggest reward I get is from the look of relief and satisfaction from parents who were so frustrated with their child’s math challenges,” Ajayi says. “Different teachers teach math in different ways, and along with my instructors, I have the added challenge of ‘breaking the mold’ of memorization and plugging numbers into formulas. We try to re-program their minds to see math as a conceptual thought process. This can be quite challenging, but our expert instructors always rise to task.”

As Ajayi helps shape the paths of future generations, she has fully dedicated herself to creating a legacy that will create legacies. “As one generation dies out, the next one is instrumental in shaping our world. Kids today have several advantages that my generation did not have. They are much more tech-savvy and can communicate with and learn from the entire world via various social media platforms and the like. Their possibilities are virtually limitless. But by the same token, they rely heavily on gadgetry to solve basic academic problems, which causes below average performance when compared to their global peers. It will take each and every one of us to encourage our kids to think logically with their own minds instead of ‘Googling it.’” 

The Stats

Age: 34 Family: Married.

Volunteer activities: Partners in Education, Cobb County

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Georgia State University; Masters of Business Administration, Georgia State University

Favorite quote: “If you want your dreams to come true, you mustn’t oversleep.”


Jason Waters

First Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager at SunTrust Bank

After 15 years in the competitive and always unpredictable world of high finance, Jason Waters has seen it all. And still, at the end of however long a day can be, the rewards show themselves in the faces of the clients’ lives he sees every day.

“I get to meet a lot of business owners and understand what makes businesses and people successful,” Waters says. “Helping people achieve their business, financial and personal dreams is the best thing that we do.”

As the Senior Commercial Relationship Manager with SunTrust, Waters works with small- and medium-sized businesses to provide capital to finance their operations and help them manage their business funds efficiently. 

And when things change, as they so often can in the financial world, Waters helps deal with the increasingly complicated regulations by being the one people enjoy seeing when things are going down to the wire. “I’m the person my colleagues say that makes it fun to come to the office every day.”

This past year, Waters was elected to the Marietta City School Board (Ward 2), where he will take his penchant for getting things done to a new level as one of seven local residents from each of the city’s wards. During his four-year term, he will help ensure the school system operations are efficient, financially and legally sound, and focused on the best interest of Marietta’s children.

“To lead, every person should have three qualities,” Waters says. “Empathy, gumption and perseverance.”

The Stats

Age: 38

Family: Married to Katie. 

Children: Virginia, 3, and Hank, 2.

Volunteer activities: Board member, Marietta City Schools; board member, Marietta Planning and Zoning Commission; past president, Leadership Cobb Alumni Association; past chair, Marietta Area Council of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Marietta, Member and Stonebridge Church

Education: Bachelor ‘s Degree, University of Georgia

Favorite quote: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky


Dr. Dustin Tipton

Partner, Farrar & Tipton Orthodontics, Marietta

In his first full-time job as an orthodontist, Dr. Dustin Tipton gained a huge amount of experience — but he also discovered the downside of working for a high-volume corporate dental office. “I was working at four or five locations and constantly driving throughout greater Atlanta, going as far as Dawsonville,” he said. “Back then, my wife and I were not part of the Marietta community, simply because I was having to spend so much time out of town.” 

That all changed in 2010 after the 33-year-old Maryville, Tenn., native joined the community-oriented practice of veteran Marietta orthodontist Dr. Ken Farrar. Within a year, Tipton became a 50-50 partner in what is now Farrar & Tipton Orthodontics, located at 3770 Due West Road. “We know our patients by name,” he said. “In fact, the majority of the folks we treat are people we already know from school or church or elsewhere in the community. It’s exactly what I was looking for.” 

The son of a hardworking Norfolk Southern railway man, Tipton attended college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and dental school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree with highest honors and received specialty orthodontics training at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. “As an orthodontist, I specialize in things like invisible ceramic braces, retainers, advanced Damon System braces and Invisalign, which straightens teeth without wires and brackets,” he said. 

In his spare time, Tipton enjoys golfing, mountain biking, traveling and spending time with his wife, Ann, and their three children. His older brother, Todd, happens to be a practicing dentist in South Carolina. 

One of Farrar & Tipton’s best testimonials, Tipton says, is its popularity among one demographic group in particular —other dentists. “We are a referral-based business, and we have been very fortunate to treat a lot of the dentists’ children in the community as well as local dentists themselves,” he said. “When the dentists in your area trust you, you have really earned your word-of-mouth.”

The Stats

Age: 33 

Family: Married to Ann. Children: Evelyn, 8, Kate, 6, and Vance, 4.

Volunteer Activities: Farrar & Tipton Orthodontics contributes to the Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb, a nonprofit that provides a wide range of medical, dental, prescription and social services for low-income patients. Each year, Dr. Tipton donates braces to local auctions to raise money for various educational and charitable causes.

Education: University of Tennessee; Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center


Ryan Patrick

Real Estate Attorney, Smith, Tumlin, McCurley & Patrick, P.C.

For Ryan Patrick, a 33-year-old partner with the Marietta law firm of Smith, Tumlin, McCurley & Patrick, P.C., leisure time was scarce last year. 

“The housing market was on the upswing, largely as a result of all the pent-up demand and excess inventory,” he said. “It was the busiest year our firm has experienced in six or seven years.” 

That meant Patrick’s calendar was chock full of real estate closings, along with client meetings focused on business transactions, probate matters and estate plans. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic about 2014 as well,” he said. “Certainly, there are some broader concerns, but the economy seems to have weathered the worst, which is nice to be able to say.”

Patrick joined the firm, located just off the Marietta Square at 94 Church Street, in 2006. His partners are Wayne McCurley, Don and Hap Smith and Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin. 

“Mayor Tumlin, who happens to be my father-in-law, has been a mentor to me since I was in law school,” Patrick said. “Everyone at the firm has taught me so much. I work closely with Hap, in particular. He has practiced law since 1976 and has really showed me the ropes in real estate.”

Patrick, whose parents are both teachers, is now passing along some of this knowledge as well in his role as a real estate law instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College’s North Metro Campus. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2002 with a B.A. in political science and earned his law degree from Mercer University in 2005. An avid golfer, runner and music fan, Patrick is known for his relaxed and open style. “Some attorneys get caught up in telling clients what they know instead of listening to them and crafting the best approach based on the situation,” he said. “I believe listening is a key part of our job. If you’re not listening, you’re not being an effective counselor.”

The Stats

Age: 33

Family: Married to Jamie. Children: Ali, 7, Rhodes, 5, and Beck, 23 months.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, UGA; Law Degree, Mercer University

Volunteer Activities: Board of Directors, Cobb Health Futures Foundation; closing and settlement seminar instructor for first-time buyers, Marietta Housing Authority; former member, WellStar Major Gifts Committee.


David Cole

Attorney, Freeman Mathis & Gary

David Cole still remembers the advice his father gave him. If you ever have to make a decision you cannot sleep on, the answer is no. Throughout his career as an attorney, the advice has paid off. Taking his time to make thoughtful choices and never rushing to judgment is something people count on in times of need. 

“When people come to me for legal help, they are often experiencing something stressful like a lawsuit or a data breach,” Cole says. “It is gratifying to help them overcome these stressful experiences and find solutions to their problems so they can move forward with growing their businesses. The best thing anybody has ever said about me professionally is that I am able to explain complicated issues in a simple, easy-to-understand way.” 

Originally from Seattle, Cole planned to chase the dot-com boom, but changed course and moved southward to attend law school at Wake Forest University. Recruited by Freeman Mathis & Gary right out of law school, he has been with the firm ever since. He was named partner in 2012. 

Today, Cole exclusively represents businesses and local governments in the areas of employment law and cyber law. On the employment side, he represents employers in a variety of lawsuits and helps them with many other human resources issues. “In my cyber practice, I represent businesses in all types of legal issues that may arise because of their use of computers and the Internet. The biggest component of this is representing businesses that have experienced a data breach, such as a hacker attack or some other loss of confidential information. These are growing threats for many businesses.” 

Along with being an author and speaker, Cole has served in a variety of leadership roles around the area, including president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Cobb County Bar Association and chair of the Employment Law Committee for the State Bar of Georgia, Young Lawyers Division. In addition, he currently is chair of the Employment Law Committee for the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association and is on the Executive Committee for the Atlanta Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

How does Cole continue to push forward? “I believe that to be a leader, you must have vision, passion and humility,” he said.

The Stats

Age: 34

Family: Married to Meredith. Children: Wesley, 3, and Henry, 1.

Volunteer activities: Board of Directors, SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center; Board of Directors, Cobb County Chamber of Commerce; member and preschool volunteer, Burnt Hickory Baptist Church

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, University of Washington; Juris Doctor, Wake Forest University

Favorite quote: “Better to remain silent and appear the fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln


Leslie O’Neal

Attorney and Founding Partner, O’Dell & O’Neal

Few areas of metro Atlanta, a region whose population has exceeded five million, have a genuinely small-town feel. Marietta Square is one of them. The theater, the restaurants, the blocks of elegant Victorian homes, Marietta Square simply feels much further from the fuss of Atlanta than it actually is. That’s what attracted attorney Leslie O’Neal. 

O’Neal is a founding partner at O’Dell & O’Neal, a firm she started just one week after passing the bar exam. She chose Marietta because her husband, whom she met in law school, was from Atlanta and wanted to move closer to home. 

“It’s hard to whittle down all the great things about Cobb,” O’Neal says. “But we located our practice here because of the Square.”

O’Neal refers to her firm as a small-town general practice, focusing on family law and domestic violence. Some of the cases can be difficult but the results are rewarding. 

“It’s a great opportunity to help people through a difficult time,” she says. “If we are highly ethical, are good listeners and provide a well-priced legal service, it can be less daunting for our clients than it otherwise might be.”

O’Neal chose this path while studying law at Ole Miss and appears quite sure of herself, confident that even when life takes over she’s still right where she wants to be. 

“I don’t know if I would recommend beginning a practice a week after passing the bar to anyone else,” she says, “but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m happy with law and happy with Cobb.” 

The Stats

Age: 31

Family: Married to David.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Auburn; Juris Doctorate, Ole Miss

Volunteer Activities: Cobb County Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, Cobb County Advisory Board Member for the United Way, Kiwanis Club of Marietta, Cobb Young Professionals, Leadership Cobb Class of 2014


Mamie Doyle

Owner, Miss Mamie's Cupcakes, Cakes & Such

Mention weddings and the mind immediately drifts off to dresses and venues and guests lists, the details — both elegant and dizzying — that signify the first step on a couple’s long journey toward a happy life. 

Mamie Doyle’s thoughts go immediately to the cake. 

Doyle is an art school grad from Michigan who worked one summer making wedding cakes and got hooked. That fall she moved to Marietta and attended Le Cordon Bleu where she studied baking and patisserie. 

But don’t write her off as a flour-dusted, head-in-the-clouds baker. She’s also a calculating and shrewd entrepreneur. Le Cordon Bleu requires its students to complete an internship before graduating. Doyle chose a bakery on Marietta Square precisely because she knew it was closing. Her plan? Work at the bakery, learn how it operated and buy it from her boss. 

“The last day of my internship was my first day as a bakery owner,” she says. “I was only 21 and a little nervous. But it just felt right.”

Although Doyle’s passion is for cakes, the bakery was set up for cupcakes and so Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes was born. Doyle’s business partner is her brother Ross, whom she affectionately describes as the business end of cupcake making. Together, they’re off to a great start — in March of 2013 the bakery was featured on the Food Network reality series Cupcake Wars, which provided a “big bump” in business. 

Not one to accept constraints, Doyle has already expanded into cakes, plays host to bridal and baby showers, and is planning a move into cheesecakes and pies. “But cupcakes are hot right now,” Doyle says. 

The menu at Miss Mamie is seasonal, with twenty rotating varieties and includes such eccentric flavors as Guinness and S’mores. To Doyle’s chagrin, the red velvet remains the most popular flavor. The chef’s personal favorite?

“Definitely the coconut lemon,” she says with conviction. Then, wavering like only the creative mind can, she adds, “The tiramisu is also good. And so is …”

The Stats

Age: 26

Family: Single. Brother, Ross Doyle, is her business partner.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design, Alma College; studied Baking and Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu

Volunteer Activities: Junior League of Cobb 


Austin Mann

Owner, Austin Mann Interiors

Austin Mann has never spent a dime on advertising, but her reputation as an interior designer has helped her build a successful company through referrals.

“I think I wanted to be an interior decorator ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “I have a gift for design, and I love it; I have a passion for it.”

After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in interior design, Mann and her husband migrated to Atlanta, where she landed a job with celebrated designer Dan Carithers.

“We moved to Marietta in 2004 when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter,” Mann recalled. “I started out with just a couple of great clients, and through word-of-mouth I’ve had steady work for the past almost 10 years.”

Mann said she is fond of using Chippendale fretwork fabric in her designs — and pillows.

“I love pillows,” she said. “I’ll give you more pillows on your bed and sofa than anyone really needs, but I love them! At the end of the day, however, my hope would be that any one of my clients would tell you I listened to what their needs were, and I did my best to meet their needs in their home.”

The Stats

Age: 37

Family: Married to Chris. Children: Finlay, Grace and Collins.­­­

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Auburn University; training at Dan Carithers 

Volunteer Activities: Stonebridge Church and West Side Elementary 


Adam Emrich

Financial Comptroller, Georgia Power

Adam Emrich isn’t a movie star or the lead singer of a popular band, but he is pretty famous in Cobb County business circles.

That’s because last year, as chair of the Cobb Young Professionals group, Emrich created the “Next Generation Mentoring Program,” which pairs successful business leaders with young professionals in a five-month long mentoring relationship. Mentors have included participants from some of Cobb’s biggest and most well known companies, such as Lockheed Martin, the Cobb County School District, WellStar Health Systems and Loud Security.

“I had this idea that we needed to have a way to develop and retain our young professionals in Cobb County,” Emrich said. “The goal of the program is to help develop Cobb’s future leaders.”

During Emrich’s chairmanship of Cobb Young Professionals, an initiative of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, membership in the group grew by 50 percent.

“We have so many experienced leaders in the chamber, but there was nothing in place to help leverage that experience into helping young professionals start their careers or run their businesses,” he said.

For his efforts, Emrich a financial manager for Georgia Power’s electrical construction business, recently won the chamber’s “Chairman’s Award.”

“Working with the chamber I’ve gained valuable leadership experience and insight into how the business community works,” he said. “The challenge of working at a big company is to get into leadership, but I’ve been able to leverage the leadership skills I’ve gained through chamber activities into moving into a supervisory role at Georgia Power.”

The Stats

Age: 31

Family: Married to Sarah. Children: Brooklyn, 2, and Luke, three months old. 

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Georgia State University

Volunteer Activities: Cobb Chamber Board of Directors, Leadership Cobb (2014), East Cobb Area Council Director, Advisor and Past Chairman of Cobb Young Professionals, United Way Young Professional Leaders member, Class Director at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church


David Johnson

Senior Relationship Manager for Middle Market Banking, Community Southern Bank

David Johnson once dreamed of a career on the PGA golf tour. But with a swing or two he couldn’t get out of his bag, the senior relationship manager for middle market banking at Community Southern Bank had to come up with a Plan B.

“We work as a team to provide working capital to companies, and we help them manage their cash,” Johnson said. “Our team focuses on companies with annual sales of $35 million and above.”

As the new kids on the block, Johnson has helped the four-year-old bank build its commercial lending division.

“Since we’re a little smaller bank, that allows us to think outside the box and be a little more nimble on customer requests,” he said.

Though his childhood dreams of playing professional golf didn’t pan out, today Johnson uses the paths and fairways of the golf course to build customer relationships. 

“Golf is the one sport where you can get out there with your client for four hours and it opens up the opportunity for you to really get to know someone,” he said.

No need to feel intimidated by the former college athlete, however; while on the clock, Johnson plays “client golf.”

The Stats

Age: 39

Family: Married to Crystal. Children: Sydney Lynn, 6, and Lawson, 4.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Georgia College & State University

Volunteer activities: Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Cobb, WellStar Foundation Men in Philanthropy and Major Gifts Committees, Metro Atlanta Chamber, GA Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, Rivershore HOA past Board of Directors, Captain for March of Dimes, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church


Daniel Diemer

General Manager, Day’s Chevrolet

Daniel Diemer wants to sell you a car. Not to hit his sales quota or to keep his boss happy or even for the commission. For Diemer, the motivation is building upon his family’s legacy. 

Diemer is general manager of Day’s Chevrolet and that boss, the one he’s not trying to please by selling you a car? That’s his father, Calvin. Oh, and his brother, Andrew. 

The family has owned and operated Day’s Chevrolet since it was founded by his grandfather and great-grandfather in 1958. Since then, it has expanded from its original location in Acworth to include sites in Jasper and Rockmart. For Diemer, it’s definitely a family affair. 

“I knew when I was 16 or 17 I wanted to be involved in our business,” he says. 

So are Calvin and Andrew, his kin and bosses, hard-driving task masters? No. But that doesn’t mean a family business is without its pressures. 

“The pressure comes from trying to carry on what your family’s done for several generations and to do a good job. To do it right.”

Diemer attributes the business’ enduring success to a low-pressure, straight-forward sales approach that focuses on building relationships with the community. 

“We have a lot of repeat customers, people with a history with us,” he says. “Some people may dread buying a car but most of our customers are very comfortable when they come in.”

Asked if he’d like to see his own children join the family business, Diemer, whose first child is due in April, is demure. 

“I don’t ever want to put any pressure on my kids to be a part of it,” he says,” but if they wanted to it’d be really cool. We’re already at the fourth generation. It’s uncommon, but it’s great.”

The Stats

Age: 28

Family: Married to Allison. Child: Cooper Lee.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Auburn

Volunteer Activities: Acworth Business Association, Partnership with Acworth’s Horizon League through Chevy Youth Baseball, member of Cedarcrest Church


Todd Thrasher

Managing partner, Brooks Chadwick Capital

Todd Thrasher was four credit hours shy of graduation from Columbia International University in South Carolina when he left to take a job he couldn’t turn down 14 years ago. They call that fate. Today, Thrasher is managing partner of Brooks Chadwick Capital, a Cobb-based privately held real estate development and investment firm. Brooks Chadwick Capital has been one of the most active residential developers in the metro Atlanta area the past five years. 

Working in a revived economic climate, Thrasher helps provide strategic direction by focusing on acquiring prime real estate opportunities, builds relationships with new and existing investors, and oversees numerous development projects. 

“The best thing about what we do is getting to do something different almost every day,” Thrasher says. “One day you may be buying a high profile property, and the next you may be spending your efforts on ensuring that land planners understand your vision for saving a tree that the families in a future neighborhood can enjoy for years to come. There is never a boring moment in this business.”

A sample of what Brooks Chadwick does on a day-to-day basis can be seen in recent developments such as The Park at Chattahoochee Plantation, Wigley Preserve, Sterling Walk and Whitney Landing, to name a few. 

“One of our biggest rewards is having the opportunity to create quality developments that homeowners and the community as a whole can take pride in,” Thrasher says. “We truly enjoy the process of taking a piece of land and spending time on every detail, from the streetscape to the landscape. It means a lot when those same individuals come back to us after the development is complete and thank us for doing everything we said we were going to do or say how much they appreciate the quality of our development.”

Prior to Brooks Chadwick Capital, Thrasher served as partner and vice president for land acquisitions for a residential development firm in the metro Atlanta area, where he acquired and developed hundreds of single-family lots, and contracted with numerous national and regional homebuilders to purchase the finished lots. In addition, he was responsible for raising millions of dollars in equity for new projects. 

The Stats

Age: 37

Family: Married to Whitney. Children: Brooks, 6, and Hadley, 4.

Volunteer Activities: The Atlanta Union Mission; HomeAid Atlanta; Mabry Park in East Cobb

Favorite Quote:“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

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