The newest group of noteworthy young professionals in Augusta was recently recognized. Here’s a look at where some past recipients of the Augusta Metro Chamber’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch honors have landed.
The program, started by the chamber in 2009, highlights young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 who are nominated by local business leaders. Each class is featured in Augusta Magazine, honored at a chamber luncheon and can compete in Georgia Trend’s 40 under 40 competition.
To date, 50 young professionals in metro Augusta have been honored, and four recipients have won the 40 under 40 award. Those winners are Serotta, Maddocks Evans & Co. CPA’s senior accountant Summer Finley Bell; Fort Gordon architect and project manager JaMia Jennings; Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art executive director Rebekah Henry; and Symphony Orchestra Augusta director Shizuo Z. Kuwahara.
Rhonda Oellerich Banks (2009)
As part of the inaugural group of young professionals given Top 10 in 10 recognition, Rhonda Oellerich Banks said she was honored to have been chosen.
At the time, Banks was working as the broker-in-charge for Keystone Home Realty.
“For me, it was just kind of a cool thing to be part of the first group,” said Banks, now 35.
In 2011, and after a decade of working in the real estate business, Banks decided to switch careers and took on the role of directing alumni affairs at Georgia Regents University.
Banks graduated from Au-gusta State University, now Georgia Regents, in 2000 and was active in the alumni program.
As the director, she handles all alumni programming, manages the school’s alumni magazine and leads funding efforts.
Banks said being part of the Top 10 in 10 list gave her visibility in the business world.
When the article on the young professionals ran in Augusta Magazine, Banks said, she got a call from an alumni representative at Georgia Southern University, where she received her master’s degree in business administration, with an invitation to a reception featuring the college’s business school dean.
“She called me the day it hit the stands,” said Banks, a 1996 Evans High School graduate. “It did connect me with someone I probably wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.”
Dave Dunaway (2010)
Since his recognition as a Top 10 in 10 recipient, attorney Dave Dunaway has moved up at his law firm of Hull Barrett Attorneys.
“I’ve had the good fortune of being named partner at my law firm,” said Dunaway, who is 35.
A 1996 graduate of Thomson High School, Dunaway joined Hull Barrett as an associate shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia’s law school in 2003 and is approaching his 10-year anniversary with the company.
Dunaway deals mostly with real estate and construction litigation, insurance defense and government litigation.
Last March, Dunaway was selected to serve as the McDuffie County attorney. He also is involved with the Augusta Bar Association, serving as treasurer, in addition to several civic associations such as the Augusta Sports Council and Easter Seals of East Georgia.
Receiving the Top 10 in 10 designation is an honor Dunaway continues to cherish, he said.
Dunaway said he enjoys reading about the newest group of young professionals and their contributions to the community.
“Every year, I’m honored to see the recipients, just knowing their hard work,” he said.
Kyle Masters (2011)
An opportunity presented itself last spring for construction project manager Kyle Masters that he couldn’t pass up.
The 27-year-old was given a chance to move with his wife to New York City and work for real estate development and construction company Fields Development Group.
“I didn’t move out of Augusta because I didn’t want to be there,” said Masters, who spent five years as assistant project manager at JE Dunn Construction Co. “It was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come live in New York.
The Hoboken, N.J.-based company specializes in mid-rise residential and mixed-use projects in the New York City area. It also has developed several condominium buildings in Jersey City and surrounding areas.
Masters, a native of Fort Mill, S.C., was involved in several local projects before making the move up North. He helped facilitate construction of the Augusta Convention Center parking deck and a MRI replacement wing at Georgia Regents Medical Center. He also worked on a steam-pipe replacement project on the GRU campus.
Masters said the Top 10 in 10 award assisted him personally and professionally by connecting him with community members.
“In the short period of time we were there, it changed a lot,” said Masters, a Clemson University graduate. “It seemed like it changed a lot for the better. Being on that list let me meet some of the people that were really influential in driving that change.”
Robbie Bennett (2012)
Robbie Bennett has seen an upward shift in his work responsibilities within the past four months.
In March, Bennett became the Columbia County Development Authority’s new director after spending 3½ years as the project manager at the Augusta-Richmond County agency.
“It’s definitely an increase in responsibility,” said the 34-year-old.
In his newest role, Bennett’s duties include attracting new companies to Columbia County in addition to fostering relationships with existing ones. At the Augusta Economic Development Authority, he worked with Starbucks, Rural Sourcing, Rockwood Pigments and other manufacturing industries.
Bennett graduated from Silver Bluff High School in 1997 and earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of South Carolina.
Bennett said he felt his inclusion in the Top 10 in 10 list put his name out in the community and united with him with other business people.
“It’s very good to get to know other young professionals in roles similar to yours,” he said.