Dec. 29–Many of Chattanooga’s biggest employers got new bosses in 2017.
In the past year, new CEOs were named to head Hamilton County’s public schools, Chattanooga’s biggest community college, the region’s largest manufacturer, one of the country’s biggest trucking companies, Chattanooga’s daily newspaper and three major local business associations. Although a few were promoted from within their organizations, most were new to their businesses and to Chattanooga and provide a fresh, but experienced perspective to their organizations.
A new school superintendent for Hamilton County
Bryan Johnson, formerly the chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, was tapped as the new superintendent for Hamilton County public schools. He replaced interim superintendent Kirk Kelly last summer and succeeded former Superintendent Rick Smith, who retired in 2016 after more than 30 years with the school system. Johnson is the fourth superintendent to lead Hamilton County Schools since its merger with the former Chattanooga school system a decade ago.
Another president at Chattanooga State
For the second time in as many years, Chattanooga State Community College picked a new president this year. Rebecca Ashford, formerly vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, was named president of Chattanooga State after Flora Tydings, who was picked for the same job just a year earlier, was promoted to chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Volkswagen Chattanooga gets new leader
Nine years after Volkswagen picked Chattanooga as its assembly site for the U.S. market, the German automaker named veteran VW manager Antonio Pinto to head the Chattanooga plant as executive vice president of operations in Chattanooga. He replaced Christian Koch, who returned to Germany for VW after three years in Chattanooga. Pinto is a 30-year Volkswagen employee who most recently served as director of production for Volkswagen South Africa.
Chamber of Commerce picks new president
For the first time in its 130-year history, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce named a female as its president. Christy Gillenwater, who previously headed the award-winning Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce in Evansville, Ind., succeeded Bill Kilbride this month as president of the 2,000-member Chamber in Chattanooga. Kilbride, a former Mohawk Industries executive, headed the Chattanooga Chamber for the past three years. Gillenwater is the first outside Chamber president brought to Chattanooga in nearly two decades.
Augusta tourism leader to promote Chattanooga
The Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has tapped Barry E. White, the head of the convention and visitors bureau in Augusta, Ga., to succeed Bob Doak, who headed the Chattanooga tourism agency for the past 15 years. White worked for the Augusta tourism agency for 26 years but hails from Tennessee as a native of Kingsport. He begins his job in February.
Trucking ahead with a new generation
U.S. Xpress Enterprises, the 16th biggest trucking company in the United States, passed the top leadership of the privately held business to a new generation this year. Eric Fuller, son of former company CEO and co-founder Max Fuller, was elevated to CEO of the 31-year-old company in March. At the same time, Lisa Quinn Pate, the daughter of company co-founder Patrick Quinn, was named president and chief administrative officer.
Veteran banker returns to Chattanooga
Joe DiNicolantonio, a former executive of Regions Bank, joined Atlantic Capital Bank this year to head the local market. He succeeded Nathan Hunter as head of the Chattanooga operations of Atlantic Capital, which merged two years ago with FSG Bank. Mike Kramer, who headed FSG and Atlantic Capital and helped turn around the bank’s finances, retired from the bank’s board this year but continues to work on an investment business, Southeastern Trust Co., which was spun off from the trust department at Atlantic Capital.
Manufacturers change name, leader
The unexpected death in February of Tim Spires brought a change in leadership and direction this year in the manufacturers group he headed for more than four years. Spires had helped lead an effort to broaden the nation’s oldest manufacturers group, the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association, across the state as the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers. But after Spires’ death, the group decided to refocus its efforts on the Chattanooga region and tapped operations manager Megan King as president.
Uber manager moves into Bellhops suite
The founders of one of Chattanooga’s most successful recent tech startups hired an Uber manager this year to help guide the future growth of the on-demand moving company. Bellhops, which started in 2011 in Auburn, Ala., and moved to Chattanooga in 2012, tapped Luke Marklin as its CEO this summer. A St. Louis native who earned an MBA from Harvard in 2012, Marklin spent the past three years as a regional general manager for Uber in Atlanta. When he moved to Chattanooga, he, of course, used Bellhops to help his family relocate.
New leader on the playground
Roger Posacki, formerly president of Elmer’s Products, took the helm of America’s biggest maker of playground equipment this year. Playcore named Posacki to succeed Bob Farnsworth, who worked and helped build up the Chattanooga company for the past 19 years. Posacki made three acquisitions in 2017 — Playcraft Systems, APC Brands and Worlds of Wow — and helped oversee the sale of Playcore to New York equity firm Court Square Capital Partners.
Oak Ridge lab promotes Zacharia to director
Thomas Zacharia, who built Oak Ridge National Laboratory into a global supercomputing power, was selected in June as the lab’s director by UT-Battelle, the partnership that operates ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy. He succeeded Dr. Thom Mason. Although the lab expanded its Chattanooga presence in 2017, budget cuts led to cutting 350 jobs, or about 7 percent of the lab workforce.
Times Free Press picks DeLoach as president
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the city’s biggest news organization, owned by WEHCO Media in Arkansas, named Jeff DeLoach as president in May. He succeeded Bruce Hartmann, who left the newspaper after three years in Chattanooga and 25 years with E.W. Scripps, to become vice president of community relations at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville. DeLoach, a Jackson, Tenn., native who has worked in the newspaper industry for more than three decades, previously served as publisher of newspapers in San Angelo and Abilene, Texas, where he was named the winner of the Pat Taggart award for Newspaper Leader of the Year by the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.
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