The New Guard 2019: Savannah’s next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and all-around changemakers who make our city better through prowess — and the utmost professionalism.
Cecilia Arango, Marketing manager, Thomas & Hutton consulting and engineering firm
You’ve been at Thomas & Hutton for a while now. How do you stay energized about your job? I’ve been at the company for 18 years, which is a testament to its culture. We get support from the top down, and we’re all very community-oriented. That translates to Savannah as a whole and makes for easy connections, and those connections turn into valuable collaborative relationships, whether on a personal or professional level. As for my job, it’s easy to keep it fresh because, all things considered, it’s new in our field: professional codes prohibited marketing in the architecture/engineering industry until the late 1970s.
Jeff Bush, President, Parker’s
How did Savannah’s sense of community foster your own career path? I first met Parker’s founder and CEO Greg Parker while I was a student at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus. He was a guest speaker in my economics class, and I immediately became intrigued by his company and the convenience store industry as a whole — it’s a complex business that integrates marketing, design, operations, logistics and more into one storefront that also happens to operate 24/7. I asked a lot of questions, and then he asked me to come work for him. The rest is history. At Parker’s we’re also able to attract top-level talent to our organization thanks to being headquartered in Savannah. It’s a wonderful place to work, shop, eat and live.
Stephanie Wilson-Evans, President and qualifying broker, Three Oaks Realty
Savannah is growing and changing so quickly. How do you see the real estate industry following suit? The future of real estate is both exciting and daunting. While technology like artificial intelligence and “iBuyers” [companies that purchase homes outright from sellers online] infiltrate the industry, there are still those of us who truly believe in personal connections. Our team at Three Oaks Realty can help locals navigate Savannah real estate, serving as a trusted adviser, confidante and friend. The best part of my job has always been the people.
Kyle “Kipper” Millsap, Artist
What’s the best part of your job? At the risk of sounding like a total stalker, I love watching complete strangers engage and interact with my work, such as the mural “Tropicalia” at Peregrin rooftop bar atop Perry Lane Hotel. I’m always searching locations and hashtags on social media to see who has posted a family portrait, engagement photo or maybe just a really great selfie with one of my murals as the backdrop. People are embracing murals and street art like never before, and cities are seeing the value that it brings to their neighborhoods. Savannah’s creative microcosm draws artists from around the world who bring new life to our community.
Pritpal Singh, General manager, Perry Lane Hotel
Your job has taken you all over the world. How does Savannah stack up as a sought-after destination? I grew up in India, where many of my peers aspired to be doctors or engineers. This path — while highly regarded — seemed unexciting to me. I want to learn, grow and travel, which eventually led me to the hospitality industry. My first internship took me to Switzerland, where I had the privilege of working with colleagues from China, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Cuba and the United States. Each person brought a new and different perspective, and that experience left a lasting impression on me. Being a port city, Savannah has a long history of welcoming travelers from around the globe. Today, we continue that tradition with a fresh take on Southern hospitality that’s sophisticated and authentic.
Catherine C. Grant, Founder and CEO, ExperCARE Health urgent care and walk-in clinic
As technology continues to evolve, how does health care stay current and caring? People want access to excellent care that’s convenient and efficient. We live in a culture of on-demand access, and when you couple that with innovation and technology, it’s crazy to not expect health care to follow suit. Still, there’s this relationship aspect that’s so important in health care — I think it’s why we haven’t quite figured out the role of telemedicine yet. If you can provide a relationship and a sense of trust while also providing access and convenience, customers will follow. That’s really our sweet spot at ExperCARE. We have boots on the ground in this community, and we’re very experience-focused, which health care in general is beginning to move toward — but big ships turn slowly. One of the advantages of being a small ship is that we can respond quickly to address people’s needs.
Casey Welsh, M.Ed., Dyslexia interventionist; owner, Savannah Dyslexia
You use the Orton-Gillingham approach to teach literacy for students with dyslexia, which you’ve brought to classrooms throughout Savannah. What do you personally love about working with these students, and how is the world changing to support them better? When reading and writing don’t come naturally, you learn perseverance. These kids have grit! I’ve worked with more than 100 students and continue to train to the highest level of my specialty so that, in turn, I can train more specialists and teachers in Savannah. In May 2019, Governor Kemp signed Georgia General Assembly Senate Bill 48 into law, which provides diagnostics and support for dyslexic students in pre-kindergarten through second-grade. Our state government is now moving toward adjusting our education system to better reach and teach these students.
Bess Butler, Associate investment adviser, The Fiduciary Group
What initially drew you to your profession? My grandfather, Lee Butler, started The Fiduciary Group in 1970, and my father joined not long after. Growing up, investing and saving was always a part of our dinner-table conversations, and I’m honored to be following in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps. Living in Savannah has also guided me toward my passions outside of work. I grew up living downtown and saw firsthand how difficult it is to preserve historic sites. Now, I’m involved with the Historic Savannah Foundation as a member of its 13th Colony initiative, which cultivates the next generation of preservation-minded community leaders.
Riki Patel, Vice president, HOS Management
How does hospitality management impact our larger community? I’ve been in Savannah since 1992, and I’ve seen the landscape grow significantly in the last 25 years. Savannah is such a diverse city: it’s got manufacturing, health care, port logistics, military and tourism. Having a nice balance allows our industry to sustain growth over the long haul. And of course, visitors spread their dollars through various industries — not just the hotel side of it. They’re dining out, they’re shopping, they’re buying things made locally in Savannah. Everyone benefits.
Staci Donegan, Associate broker, Seabolt Real Estate
You weren’t always in real estate. What was the catalyst for a new career? I left my corporate job at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta when I met my husband and moved to Savannah. Real estate served as the perfect opportunity to combine my business background with my passion for customer service and love of Savannah. One of my favorite things is sharing the city with people who are new to town — it’s deeply rewarding to help my clients find their dream home in a city with such remarkable beauty and with such friendly, welcoming neighborhoods suited for every lifestyle. Still, I’d suggest someone new to the industry run their business like a company. I’m a former corporate CPA, so I bring a data-driven, business-based approach to the real estate field, and I utilize my background to lead my team of marketing, public relations and social media experts.
Bryan Bailey, former chief operating officer, Victory North music venue and event space
Note: Bailey recently left Victory North to pursue new opportunities.
It’s been said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. How has this been true in your career? I’m a former musician and I was born and raised in Savannah. My job at Victory North allows me to work in a field I’m passionate about while supporting the community. We’re providing something Savannah has always wanted and needed — a mid-sized venue for national touring acts. My favorite part of the job is reaching what I call an “aha moment,” where the audience, musicians and staff all seem to connect at the same instant during a concert or event. However briefly, everything just comes together, and it’s a beautiful moment in time.
Juston Gill, Senior project engineer, JE Dunn Construction Company
How do you define professional success? My ultimate satisfaction is witnessing our clients and members of the general public use a newly finished building for the first time, and knowing that I was instrumental in materializing what was once only an idea into a reality that will impact people for years to come. Working in engineering and construction means having a career with a lasting effect, and I get to do all this in a city that’s in the midst of a robust period of capital enhancement — the skyline of downtown Savannah by 2025 will be evidence of this exciting, upward trend. My definition of success isn’t limited to my job. For me, nurturing young people [through volunteer work] and serving at my church rounds it out. The most important and impactful metric of any professional — no matter your occupation, position or pay — is how you interact with and care for the wellbeing of every single person you encounter.
Jason Hux, Physical therapist and director of therapy services, Chatham Orthopaedics
What prompted your interest in orthopedic physical therapy? I had the privilege of going to physical therapy for an injury in college, and I was amazed at the difference it made compared with not having PT for the same type of injury in high school. That personal experience opened my eyes to the profession and ultimately led me to my career. Now, I see people from start to finish of their rehabilitation. Every patient provides a unique challenge, so it never gets monotonous. Most of all, it’s amazing to see what people can accomplish if you believe in them and give them some direction.
Karrie Bulski, CEO and co-founder, One Love Animal Rescue; research associate, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
What spurred your founding of One Love Animal Rescue? There are a lot of homeless animals here, and the need [for rescue organizations and foster homes] is overwhelming. Luckily, Savannah is a really big animal-loving community, so I just got in there and started working hard, first as a volunteer with local animal services and then eventually founding One Love with two other women. Along the way, we gathered support and followers who jumped in on the lifesaving mission. One Love has an amazing family of volunteers who set these animals up for a successful second chance — we provide a crate, a bed, toys, treats and all the vetting an animal needs. I was going to be a vet growing up, but I decided I to become a marine biologist. Now, instead of just working with crabs and shrimp, I get to work with cats and dogs, too.
Jeffrey Heinz, Co-owner, Kaufman-Heinz event management
How does Savannah help support what you do? This city has so many businesses that rely on art and technical specialists, from medical facilities, private and state universities and non-profits to destination events, military events, weddings and festivals. I developed a love for art and design at a young age, and being naturally pretty tech-savvy opened up many doors in this industry. It’s fast-paced, physically demanding and creatively challenging, but that’s exactly what keeps me here. Being presented with technical and artistic challenges, and then helping find a solution to convey each individual or corporate story gives me and my business partner a great sense of accomplishment.
Greg Sewell, Partner and trial attorney, Bouhan Falligant
What advice can you share for young professionals entering your field? Please remember the value of civility and professionalism. Although Savannah is fortunate to have a collegial bar and judiciary, the practice of law — and in particular litigation and trial work — is at its core an adversarial system: it generally involves two sides with different or outright opposing positions. I think it’s safe to say that interacting with the judicial system is a scary proposition for most people, so on the civil side of the system, where I practice, one of the more rewarding parts of my job is seeing and hearing the sense of relief my clients express when I tell them I’m here to guide them through a difficult time, and to shoulder the burden of worrying with them and for them.
Beth A. Fleming, M.S., CCC-LP, Pediatric speech-language pathologist and owner, Chatterbox Pediatric Therapy
What makes your line of work so rewarding? Originally, I wanted to be a special education teacher, but I changed my major when I learned more about the field of speech-language pathology. I love being able to help children learn to communicate, whether it be through verbal or alternative means, such as sign language or augmentative communication devices.
Our work at Chatterbox Pediatric Therapy often looks like play, since we incorporate the skills we’re teaching into motivating activities that encourage children to engage and participate. I get to spend my time watching kids blossom!
Want more? Check out the New Guard 2018 winners.