Published On: July 20, 2023972 words4.9 min read

(CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga.) Regional health and infrastructure in Chatham County and Savannah were the topics of the fifth and final Leadership Southeast Georgia program for 2023. Held throughout 10 coastal counties, LSEGA trains regional leaders from business, professional and civic organizations who seek to make a positive difference in their communities. Participants have now attended five training sessions and have successfully graduated from the program.

The first day of the fifth and final session began at the Memorial Health Medical Education Building with a welcome from Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Helen Stone of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

The group was then welcomed by Bradley S. Talbert, President & CEO of Memorial Health, and given an overview of the hospital. Next, Memorial’s Behavioral Health Manager Mary Jo Horton presented “Mental Stressors in Today’s Youth,” followed by a tour of the Children’s Hospital. The class then traveled to United Way of the Coastal Empire to take part in an investment panel simulation to learn about supporting our region’s nonprofit organizations. The class also heard from Brynn Grant, President & CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire, and Paula Kreissler, Executive Director of Healthy Savannah.

The morning of the second day began at Georgia Ports Authority for discussions on transportation infrastructure from Deputy Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Transportation, Brad Saxon. This was followed by the presentation of the class capstone projects. Smaller groups collaborated to present projects on natural resources, agriculture, education, military, health and infrastructure. These presentations were heard by a panel of subject matter experts, Brad Saxon, Deputy Commissioner, Georgia Department of Transportation, Jason O’Kane, Chief, USACE Regulatory Division, David Cromley, Cromley Farms, Dr. Alisa Leckie, Assistant Dean for Partnerships and Outreach, Georgia Southern University, D.J. Spisso, Senior Exercise Planner, Georgia Air National Guard, and Laura Lemieux, Director, Emergency Department, Memorial Health.

Other speakers during the final session included Lee Beckmann of Georgia Ports Authority, Michael Owens of the Tourism Leadership Council, Mark Bennett and Chris Nowicki of Gulfstream Aerospace, and Greg Kelly of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.

The final day of the session was held at the Savannah Economic Development Authority for a presentation named “Bringing it All Together,” led by Suzanne Kirk, LSEGA Facilitator and President of Employee Development Strategies.

The graduation ceremony followed, with keynote speaker Cecilia Russo Turner, Owner and CEO of Cecilia Russo Marketing. Russo Turner spoke on leadership lessons she has learned over the last 15 years of being an entrepreneur and over the course of her thirty year career. The graduates were then presented with their plaques and certificates and encouraged to stay involved in LSEGA alumni events and planning for future classes.

This year’s graduates include:

  • Bethany Akridge, Communications Coordinator, Coastal Electric Cooperative, Bryan County
  • Wheeler Bryan, Historian and VIP Services Specialist, Sea Island Company, Glynn County
  • Demetrius Bynes, Director of Human Resources, City of Statesboro, Bulloch County
  • DeLisa Clift, Owner, Global Business Development Strategist, Long County
  • Chriscilia Cox, Founder and CEO, SUMA Consulting, Long County
  • Andrew Cripps, CEO, Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, Effingham County
  • Samuel Evans, Partner, Hancock Askew and Co., Chatham County
  • Christopher Fletcher, Director of Public Affairs, U.S. Army Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Liberty County
  • Edward Fulford, Media Relations Manager, Georgia Ports Authority, Bryan County
  • John Giordano, Partner, Thomas & Hutton, Chatham County
  • Caroline Gregory, Client Advisor, Sterling Seacrest Pritchard, Chatham County
  • Mary Kathryn Griffin, Communications Specialist, James W. Buckley & Associates, Inc., Chatham County
  • Kathryn Johnson, Marketing Manager, The Coleman Company, Inc., Bryan County
  • Derek Jones, COO, Planters Broadband Cooperative, Screven County
  • Vanessa Kaigler, Deputy Superintendent/COO, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Chatham County
  • Courtney Rawlins, Executive Director, Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Chatham County
  • Karl Riles, District 5 Councilmember, City of Hinesville, Liberty County
  • Zerik Samples, CEO, Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity, Effingham County
  • Matthew Shingler, Facilities Services Director, Georgia Southern University, Bulloch County
  • Cindy Steinmann, Assistant County Manager, Bulloch County Board of Commissioners, Bulloch County
  • Stephen G. Swinson, Attorney, Gray Pannell & Woodward, Chatham County
  • Kimberly Tanner, Chatham County
  • Rachel Thompson, CFO, Bank of Newington, Screven County
  • Armand Turner, Program Manager, Healthy Savannah, Chatham County
  • Anne Weisel, Lower School Principal, St. Andrew’s School, Chatham County
  • Michael Winckler, President and CEO, Goodwill Southeast Georgia, Chatham County
  • Sugandha Yadav, CEO, Camden Hospitality Services, Camden County
  • Kimberly Young, Practice Manager, Ascension St. Vincent’s Coastal Cardiology, McIntosh County

“We’re thrilled with the enthusiasm of this graduating class,” said Jared Downs, LSEGA Board Chair. “They asked great questions at all the discussions, their capstone projects were impressive and I think they really bonded over the course of five months. It’s exciting to see what they’ll do next.”

Sponsors for the Chatham County session include Pintail Site Preparation, Great Oaks Bank, Albeck Group, TQ Constructors, Memorial Health, Camden Hospitality Services, Inc., Cecilia Russo Marketing, Gulfstream Aerospace, and The Alida Hotel.

LSEGA 2023 program sponsors include Evans General Contractors, Georgia Power, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Georgia Southern University, M.E. Sack Engineering, Gulfstream Aerospace, HARCO Construction, The Sack Company, Sterling Seacrest Partners, Thomas & Hutton, International Paper, Hunter Maclean, Colony Bank, Hussey Gay Bell, Comcast, Savannah Economic Development Authority, Visit Savannah, Chick-fil-A Hinesville, Southeastern Bank and Rhowe Design + Build.


Leadership Southeast Georgia is a five-month, region-wide program designed to equip, empower and connect community leaders to most effectively advance positive growth and improve the quality of life in the southeast Georgia region. The executive board and program participants represent a variety of industries across Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Screven counties. From February through June, the class spends two to three days a month traveling to surrounding counties exploring regional issues such as healthcare, education, natural resources, economic development and transportation. For more information, visit

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