2022 Arkansas Money & Politics Future 50
Arkansas Money & Politics is proud to showcase its Future 50 for 2022. The Future 50 represents those Arkansans — business, political, cultural leaders — recognized by AMP readers as poised to do big things in their fields.
They could be up-and-comers, business leaders already established or industry veterans who have switched fields. But they all share one thing in common — from them, big things are expected. Highlighted by, the subject of this month’s cover, Today’s Power Inc.’s Jennah Denney, this year’s Future 50 installments runs the gamut of Arkansas industry from tech startups to government service.
These 50 exceptional Arkansans and what they do are highlighted below.
Owner, Northwind Holdings, LLC
Brent Ashcraft graduated with a business degree from UCA in 2013. After graduation, he went to work in the financial services world on the business development team at a local NLR firm. Unable to contain his entrepreneurial spirit, Ashcraft left the firm to set out on his own. Alongside his brother, the two have had their hands in a variety of businesses over the years, ranging from heavy haul/specialized trucking to residential/recreational development projects. Recently, Ashcraft has sunk his teeth into the waste hauling business and has been fortunate to land contracts serving Gulf Coast hurricane recovery efforts, serving some of the nation’s largest retail brands and contractors. Above all business are his sons Riggs (3) and Rowan (1). While they drive him to seize business opportunities to benefit his family, they are his daily reminder to slow down and do what he can to be a bright spot in someone else’s day, and that success is worthless without character.
City President of Hot Springs, Citizens Bank
Josh Baker serves as Citizens Bank’s city president in Hot Springs, where he oversees three banking centers and leads the bank’s Garland County expansion initiatives. Baker’s 15 years of financial industry experience includes management of multiple bank branches, helping create and execute successful operational banking strategies, building and maximizing important relationships with major business clients, and nurturing the capabilities of bank employees.
Baker earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Central Arkansas and is a graduate of the Barrett School of Banking. He is active in his community and has served on several boards including the Maumelle Baseball Association board of directors. He is also a volunteer coach and enjoys mentoring the youth through sports and is on the advisory board at Majestic Park in Hot Springs He and his wife, Andrea, have three sons, Reed, Graham and Jax.
Chief Accounting Officer, BSR Real Estate Investment Trust
Brandon Barger has served as chief accounting officer of BSR Trust, LLC since 2017. Prior to that period, Barger served as director of Financial Reporting of BSR Trust from 2014 to 2016. BSR REIT, a leading owner and operator of apartment communities in the US, is a growing Little Rock-based company that recently completed a successful international IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange in May 2018. Headquartered in Little Rock’s historic Union Station, BSR owns and manages 31 properties comprised of approximately 8,666 units in three states. Barger was also previously the controller of Anchor Human Resources, LLC from 2013 to 2014, and held various positions in the audit practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC from 2009 to 2013. Barger is a Certified Public Accountant and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting & Finance from the University of Central Arkansas.
Director of Business Development, Hytrol
Ajit Baridun is an accomplished and goal-oriented U.S. Army veteran with 15+ years of leadership and management experience. Comprehensive background in business development, project management, engineering, operations management, and planning from leading domestic and global operations, serving as a professional mentor for nonprofit organizations helping military, veterans, and their families, also providing service for the PMI Honolulu chapter as a Director of Professional Development assisting the project management community. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Bhavnagar University with a Bachelor of Structural Engineering, he continued his educational career with multiple certificates in engineering, project management and economics. Baridun received two degrees, one a Master of Science in Computer Science and the other a Master of Business Administration and Management. For the last 4.5 years, Baridun has progressed quickly from program manager for systems engineering and project manager to Director of Business Development.
Attorney, Mitchell Williams
Devin Bates is an attorney at Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. where he handles legal matters including education issues and business disputes. A native of New Hampshire, Bates graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in economics in 2009. Following graduation, he joined Teach for America, a nonprofit that placed him in the Lakeside School District in Lake Village. Following four years with the district, Bates attended William & Mary Law School and earned a Juris Doctor, graduating cum laude, in 2016. After law school, Bates served as a law clerk to chief district Judge P.K. Holmes, III, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. In 2020, Bates was the lead counsel for the Pulaski County School District in its four-decades-long desegregation case. Bates is president of the board of directors for AR Kids Read. He first became involved with the organization when he served as a volunteer reading tutor. He is a graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock, Class XXXV, serves on the board of directors of Economics Arkansas, and previously on the board of directors of Create Little Rock, Little Rock Chamber of Commerce.
UAMS Northcentral Family Medicine Residency
Timothy Baty of UAMS Northcentral Family Medicine Residency was raised in a blue-collar family in Widener, Arkansas, a small town with a population of 300 people. His family eventually moved to Wynne, and after graduating high school, Baty went on to be a first-generation college student at the University of Central Arkansas and a medical student at the New York Institute College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University.
At the end of Baty’s first year of medical school, his father passed away of colon cancer at the age of 53. Baty believes that if his father had been educated and had access to medical care, he could still be here today. Baty chose family medicine to prevent families from losing their loved ones too soon, as his family did. After graduating from residency in June 2023, he plans to return to his hometown of Wynne to provide high-quality medical care at Wynne Medical Clinic.
Vice Principal, Think Rubix
Charles Blake serves as vice principal at Think Rubix, where he leads the Government and Corporate Affairs division. Blake, a former legislator, is a skilled policy maker, political strategist, entrepreneur and civil servant. Think Rubix is a diverse “culture first” public affairs and consulting firm that creates solutions for businesses, organizations and leaders seeking to drive innovative change through research and development in Equity and Inclusion, community and stakeholder engagement, and brand strategy and storytelling. Blake served three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives and as Minority Leader of the Democratic Caucus. He was also elected Minority Whip as well as vice-chair of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus during his tenure. Most recently, Blake served as Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s chief of staff. An Arkansas native, Blake graduated from Little Rock Central High School before earning his political science degree at Grinnell College in Iowa. Upon his return to Arkansas, he began a career in banking and financial services with Regions Bank and Morgan Keegan Co. He has also served as a founding administrator of the Little Rock Preparatory Academy and president of CenArk Transportation.
Chief Executive Officer, Bledsoe Chiropractic
When Dr. Amanda Bledsoe was 14, she was diagnosed with major scoliosis of the spine. At the time, it was recommended that she visit a chiropractor, but Bledsoe didn’t end up seeing one until she was 18. After experiencing firsthand how powerful chiropractic care was, coupled with the fact that she always wanted to work in health care, chiropractic became the perfect career path for her. “I missed out on critical years of chiropractic care between 14 and 18 years old; I want to help others who were afraid like I was, to experience just how amazing chiropractic care can be.” Dr. Bledsoe attended the Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City. While there, she honed several different adjustment styles so that she’s able to offer patients options that fit their needs, including instrument adjusting for nervous or elderly patients. Dr. Bledsoe’s love for chiropractic seems to grow with each passing day. One of her ultimate goals for patients is to make chiropractic care not just effective for all, but affordable. When she isn’t helping patients of all ages lead happier, healthier lives, she enjoys spending time with her two children, Audrey and Hunter. Dr. Bledsoe enjoys all that Conway has to offer and is an active part of her community, including being a part of a local business networking group and a member of United Way. She also finds ways to support many local organizations like Bethlehem House and Deliver Hope. Dr. Bledsoe’s family recently moved their home to Little Rock to be closer to their Pleasant Valley church family and they are excited to expand the clinic to the first satellite location in Maumelle this fall.
Program Manager II- Associate Resource Groups, Walmart
Vonnice Boone, MBA, is a transplant from the Washington, D.C. area. Boone is a proud graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting as a non-traditional student in 2007, and the University of Maryland, where she earned her MBA in 2012. Boone is currently pursuing her doctorate in education with a focus on performance improvement process. She will graduate with her EdD in June 2023. In addition, Boone is the CEO and President of Vonnice Boone Consulting, LLC, and co-owns a barbecue catering company, Avenue Smokers, in Northwest Arkansas with her husband, Dorian. She is a proud mom of two boys Darius (13) and Dylan (6). In the community, Boone serves as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, vice president of Compassion House Executive Board (a home for teen moms), a council member of the NWA MLK Council, a member of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Sam Walton College of Business, the president of Endo Black in Washington, D.C., and a charter member and first and current president of the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the NBMBAA®.
Peer Specialist Program Manager, NAADAC
Kyle Brewer is the peer specialist program manager for NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, where he manages the Arkansas Peer Specialist program. Brewer oversees the development and implementation of a three-tier credentialing process (Core, Advanced, Supervision) for the Arkansas Peer Support Model. He earned a Bachelor of Science in addiction studies from the University of Central Arkansas in 2013. He went on to use his lived experience with drug and alcohol addiction to become a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and became the state’s first Peer Recovery Specialist stationed in an emergency department. He led the development and implementation of this position at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and multiple hospitals across the state.
In 2020, he became one of the first 10 Certified Peer Support Supervisors in Arkansas. Brewer is a trainer in Peer Support, Peer Supervision and Family Opioid Response Narcan Training. He serves on numerous committees and boards to develop and strengthen the Arkansas Model and improve peer support services across the U.S. Brewer was awarded the 2021 Arkansas Peer Leadership Award for his exemplary leadership in advancing the peer movement and practices of the peer support profession.
Attorney, Schnipper, Britton & Stobaugh
Beau Britton is a partner at Schnipper, Britton & Stobaugh, Arkansas’ second-oldest law firm, founded in 1875. Britton received his undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Arkansas and his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. His practice primarily focuses on the areas of estate planning, probate, real estate, general business and civil litigation. Britton is a past president of the Garland County Bar Association and is very active in the Hot Springs community. He serves on the board of directors for the Hot Springs Area Community Foundation, Ouachita Children, Youth, & Family Services, Garland County Habitat for Humanity, and MidAmerica Science Museum. Britton lives in Hot Springs with his wife, Lauren, and their two boys, Briggs and Banks. He and his family are active members of First United Methodist Church Hot Springs. Britton loves spending time with his wife and kids on Lake Hamilton, watching the Razorbacks play or enjoying one of the many local attractions in Hot Springs.
Social Media and Communications, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas
Madeline Burke helps create and publish content that strengthens the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas brand and raises awareness about organizational projects and initiatives. Burke is also a second-year master’s student at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. Her areas of interest are economic development and social justice. She graduated from the Donaghey Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. While earning her Bachelor of Arts in international studies with a minor in legal studies, Burke also received research grants and published several papers examining different legal or policy issues. After graduation and prior to attending the Clinton School of Public Service, she worked as a journalist covering stories on local politics and businesses at AY Media Group in Little Rock.
Industrial Services President, Baldwin & Shell
Nick Copas serves as the Industrial Services President for Baldwin & Shell Construction Company, where he manages the firm’s industrial portfolio and self-performed construction services. Copas has been instrumental in the growth and diversification of the company’s book of business since joining the firm in 2003. He is responsible for facilitating the company’s first joint-venture operation, expanding its self-performed construction capabilities and securing its largest design-build contracts to date. In 2019, he was appointed to Baldwin & Shell Board of Directors and is a current member of its Executive Management Team. Copas is a Leadership Greater Little Rock alumnus, Associated General Contractors of America member and past Chapter Officer of the American Society of Professional Estimators.
EV Infrastructure Program Manager, Today’s Power, Inc.
Jennah Denney was named EV Charging Infrastructure program manager for North Little Rock solar company Today’s Power, Inc. in 2022. Denney was promoted from the company’s manager of marketing and public relations, a position she had held since Sep. 2021. In her new role, Denney serves as a member of the TPI operations team and works alongside utilities, cities, schools and businesses to evolve the EV charging economy. Denney joined TPI in 2016 and has successfully held several positions within the company since. She was appointed to the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) in June 2021.
CEO, RedSTAR Media
Sherra Dunklin is a medical public relations and marketing professional with over a decade of experience leading her own firm, RedSTAR Media. She started her own media company after studying film and television production in Los Angeles and deciding to bring her talents back home to Arkansas. RedSTAR media primarily produces creative commercial advertisements for television, many of which are on-air currently.
Dunklin is intimately familiar with the needs of medical product marketing, having executed successful programs for a number of institutions, including Covenant Surgical Partners, Pathology Partners Laboratories, Arkansas Diagnostic Center, and Kanis Endoscopy Center. She has also developed messaging strategies for the Liver Wellness Center.
In addition to her wide medical marketing experience, Dunklin also runs a Colorectal Cancer Prevention Campaign, which she has been doing for over 10 years, and helps facilitate mental health fairs in partnership with Arkansas Behavioral Center and many other health care groups.
Dunklin is also a proud member of the Chi Eta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Chief Communications Officer, Arkansas Community Foundation
Jessica Ford is the chief communications officer at Arkansas Community Foundation, where she oversees all communications, media relations and marketing. Starting her career as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Ford has worked in the nonprofit sector for 17 years. Prior to the Community Foundation, she spent 12 years at Heifer International and is an alumna of the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s “Emerging Leaders in the Social Sector” program. When COVID hit Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson endorsed the Foundation as the best place to donate for pandemic relief. Ford and the Foundation team immediately leapt into action, and in four months raised more than $3.8 million for granting to 837 nonprofits statewide. A native of Redfield, Arkansas, Ford has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from the University of Wyoming and is a recent graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock.
Commercial Banker, Bank OZK
Derek Fisher knew that he wanted to be a banker for as long as he can remember. He jumped into the commercial lending space three years ago, in Bank OZK’s credit underwriting department — where he learned the ins-and-outs and back-office side of the business — and was recently promoted to commercial banker. Fisher got into lending because it’s client-based, and he knew that he wanted to help and interface with people. Client communications, developing relationships and creating innovative ideas while figuring out the best lending solutions to make clients’ dreams come true is his passion. Single-family and multifamily properties while working directly with the builders are the projects that excite him the most. Fisher’s teammates love working with him because of his “can-do” attitude. He graduated from Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Finance degree with an emphasis in banking. At the ripe old age of 25, he aspires to be a chief lending officer, running the lending department at a bank, preferably Bank OZK.
Financial Advisor, Garcia Wealth Management – Northwestern Mutual
Gilberto Garcia is the co-founder and President of Garcia Wealth Management- Northwestern Mutual, where he works alongside the entire GWM team to serve clients in Arkansas and nationally through their core values of accountability, transparency and integrity. Helping put clients in the position of power is the firm’s mission statement, while also continuing to have an impact in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Prior to helping establish the firm, Gilberto was exposed to business and entrepreneurship through his upbringing. Football opened the door for him to be a four-year student athlete at the University of Central Arkansas where he obtained two undergraduate degrees in Finance and Risk Management & Insurance, an MBA, and he also obtained a financial field designation during his time at UCA. Garcia was recently appointed to the UCA Purple Circle Board of Directors on a five-year term and was the 2021 recipient of the Conway Chamber Area of Commerce’s Young Business Professional of the Year award.
PR Director, The Peacock Group
As a third-generation public relations professional, strategic storytelling runs in Allyson Pittman Gattin’s DNA. With 12 years of experience in both nonprofit and for-profit industries, Gattin has a proven track record of strengthening company brand and awareness, delivering engaging content strategies and increasing revenue growth. With a passion for people –– being around them, learning about them and helping them — Gattin enjoys supporting The Peacock Group’s clients and her community, daily. She also serves on the board of the Central Arkansas Diaper Bank, a community resource that provides diapers to families in need. As a graduate of the Leadership Greater Little Rock Class of XXXII, Gattin has previously served as chair of the City of Little Rock Arts and Culture Commission. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and recently earned her Accreditation of Public Relations (APR).
State Representative, Arkansas House of Representatives
SAVE10 Project Manager, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas
Rep. Megan Godfrey is serving her second term in the Arkansas House. She represents District 89 which includes portions of Washington County in Northwest Arkansas. For the 93rd General Assembly, Godfrey serves on the House City, County & Local Affairs Committee, the House Education Committee, and the Joint Performance Review Committee. Godfrey is an experienced educator, policymaker, researcher, and team leader. She spent 14 years as a public school educator of immigrant students, has a PhD in curriculum and instruction, and served two terms in the Arkansas legislature. She is the founder of Room 100, an educational and political consultancy built on her core values of excellence, engagement, and empowerment. As SAVE10 Project Coordinator, Godfrey facilitates WFA’s initiative to empower Arkansas women to save for life and retirement. With her background in public education and her fierce commitment to expanding opportunity, she brings passion and purpose to her role of leading the SAVE10 for Arkansas Educators initiative and elevating the life-changing message of improved financial security for women across Arkansas.
Communications Deputy Director, Walton Family Foundation
Luis Gonzalez is the communications deputy director of the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to his work with the foundation, he served as the communications and marketing manager for the City of Little Rock. Gonzalez also has experience in advertising, previously working for CJRW as an account supervisor where he managed advertising campaigns in the higher education, economic development and public health sectors. Gonzalez attended the University of the Ozarks, where he earned Bachelor of Science degrees in marketing and business administration.
Co-owner/Manager, Capitol Glass Company, Inc.
Pharmacist, CHI St. Vincent Infirmary
Market/Social Media Director, Shiloh Marina on Greers Ferry Lake
Aaron Grimes is a man who wears many hats. He spent his high school summers working at the family business, Capitol Glass Company, but while attending college at the University of Central Arkansas, he focused his time on wakeboarding and other watersports. Grimes competed in wakeboard competitions throughout most of the 2000s and was sponsored by Hyperlite Wakeboards. Once he graduated from UCA, Grimes helped his father get involved in the boating industry to open S&G Extreme Marine, and he opened his own skate shop with locations in Little Rock and Kansas City. The recession of 2008 resulted in the closing of both skate shops, and Grimes returned to the family business. In the years that followed, Grimes attended pharmacy school at UAMS, worked full time at CHI St. Vincent as a pharmacist, and now balances his time between Capitol Glass Company, the hospital, and helping his father when he can. He says,“My main day-to-day focus right now is continuing to grow Capitol Glass Company and make sure that it is still the No. 1 auto glass company in the state.”
President, Chief Executive Officer, Waco Title
Arkansas native Sara Heck received her bachelor’s degree in business economics from the University of Arkansas and her J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Heck began her private practice career focusing on creditor and real estate law. She then served as corporate counsel for a regional property management company, after which she joined Arvest Bank in 2013. Her roles at Arvest have included Bankruptcy and Foreclosure supervisor, director of Mortgage Loan Servicing in default and customer experience, and director of operations for Consumer Lending. She now serves as the CEO of WACO Title and is passionate about her team and the customers they serve.
Blogger and Host, “Arkie Travels” and “Hey Arkansas!” Podcast
Sarah Heer is an award-winning travel enthusiast, celebrating all things Arkansas at “Arkie Travels” and in hosting the “Hey Arkansas!” podcast. Heer and her husband, Paul, travel the Natural State, visiting locally owned shops and restaurants, staying at unique Airbnbs and boutique hotels, exploring hidden waterfalls, trails and swimming holes, and showing off what makes Arkansas the best kept secret in the South. In 2020, the couple completed a YouTube video series on all 52 Arkansas State Parks, which led to the creation of the 52 Arkansas State Parks Challenge Scratch-Off Map, which can be found at visitors centers and shops all over the state as well as online at ArkansasAlley.com. Earlier this year, “Arkie Travels” was the proud recipient of the Rising Star Award for excellence in Arkansas tourism and, since then, Heer has added the “Hey Arkansas!” podcast to her lineup — shining a light on the amazing things Arkansans are doing statewide and beyond.
President, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Encore Bank
Burt Hicks has made a tremendous impact on the Arkansas banking world in just over a decade of working in finance. A native of Pearcy, Arkansas, Hicks first worked on Wall Street as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, before returning home to undertake management training with Simmons Bank and graduate law school from UALR and the Clinton School of Public Service. Hicks took invaluable experience he gained over several years with Simmons Bank with him when he made the leap to co-founding Encore Bank – joining with Chris Roberts and Philip Jett to buy out the shareholders of the Capital Bank, rebrand it, and raise an impressive $57 million in startup capital.
Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Superior Senior Care
Quincy Hurst is the vice president and chief operating officer of Superior Senior Care, a statewide caregiver registry specializing in non-medical home care services since 1985. After graduating from the University of Arkansas, Hurst began working for Superior Senior Care as a billing specialist at the company’s Rogers branch. He worked his way up, founding and managing the largest Superior Senior Care office to date, before joining the corporate team in Hot Springs. After helping grow the business from 12 locations to 26, Hurst was promoted to chief operating officer in 2022. Hurst attributes the success of the company to a loyal team of hardworking individuals, many of whom have been with the company for over 20 years and says the company’s rich history in Arkansas is what sets it apart.
Executive Broker, Mossy Oak Properties-Delta Land Management. Co.
Kevin Keen started his real estate career with Mossy Oak Properties-Delta Land Management in 2013 and has been the acting executive broker since 2015. MOP-DLM is a farmland and recreational real estate brokerage that has consistently been one of the state’s top-producing vacant land firms. Keen is an Arkansas native who grew up in the farm fields of northeast Arkansas. He received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and management, followed by a master’s in biology with an emphasis on environmental education. Being tied to the land since his first steps, in conjunction with being a certified wildlife biologist, has helped Keen understand the needs of both buyers and sellers within the land market. He is best known by his family and friends as one who loves the outdoors and can never spend too much time outside hunting and fishing. He has row cropped, raised livestock, and been an educator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Executive VP and Partner, Kelley Commercial Partners
Nick Kelley began his career in Georgia, where he attended the University of Georgia in Athens, and earned a bachelor’s degree in real estate and finance in 2006. In 2010, Kelley obtained a law degree from Georgia’s Mercer University. After several years working as a practicing attorney in Atlanta, he decided to return to Arkansas, where he began his career in commercial real estate, a field in which his father and grandfather found much success. Prior to joining Kelley Commercial Partners in 2017, Kelley worked at Little Rock’s Quattlebaum, Grooms, & Tull law firm. He now serves as executive vice president and partner at Kelley Commercial Partners. As an attorney specializing in real estate, Kelley’s expertise brings a high level of real estate services to the firm. In his work, he has represented real estate developers, Fortune 500 retailers, lenders, borrows and other clients on complex commercial transactions. In addition to his leadership roles at KCP, Kelley serves as a member of the Central Arkansas Executives Association as well as the Children’s Hospital Committee for the Future. He is a proud graduate of Little Rock Regional Chamber’s Leadership Class XXXV.
Vice President of Growth, Bond.AI
Jared Landrum attended the University of Arkansas, where he graduated in the summer of 2010. After earning his degree, Landrum moved to Little Rock, where he now serves as vice president of Growth at BOND.AI. Landrum has been employed at BOND.AI since 2018 and has been integral to the development of the company. In bringing the Empathy Engine® for financial health and chatbot technologies to key financial institutions across the United States and Latin America, Landrum has also fostered partnerships with companies such as FIS and Thales Group. During his tenure at BOND.AI, the company has helped present and win numerous industry accolades from Finovate, CFSI Money 20/20 and MED awards. Landrum serves at the 2022 Chair of Create Little Rock, the founder of the Little Rock Blockchain Meetup, and is an active member of Little Rock Regional Chamber’s Board, Hat Club of Little Rock and Easterseals’ Guardians.
Client Advisor, Arvest Wealth Management
Brayden Mallett, a client advisor for Arvest Wealth Management, has made a clear plan for his future. He received his bachelor’s degree in finance with a minor in management from the University of Central Arkansas. Furthering his education, Mallett graduated in May 2022 from UCA with an MBA in business, and his next course of action is to obtain a CFP in the next few years. Having worked in the banking and financial services industry since 2014, Mallett is in his first full year of production with Arvest Wealth Management and has already generated close to $210,000 in revenue for the firm. Additionally, he manages almost $50 million in assets in over 410 unique households.
Associate Vice President, Mortgage Loan Originator, First Community Bank
Tara Mallett was born and raised in Central Arkansas and is a graduate of Greenbrier High School, Central Baptist College, and Conway Area Leadership Institute. Mallet began her 11-year banking career while attending college and has since become assistant vice president for First Community Bank as a mortgage loan originator. She has accumulated extensive banking knowledge and experience over the years while also serving at various other banking institutions, including U.S. Bank, First Service Bank, and First Security Bank. She is passionate about building relationships and working closely with her clients to ensure their home buying experience is a positive one. Mallet is very involved in her community, serves on the Conway Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and is a member of the Conway Noon Rotary Club.
Arkansas Water Team Manager, Garver
Growing up in the River Valley, Jerry Martin found a passion for the environment and conservation early in life. He volunteered with organizations that exposed him to the critical role water plays in the day-to-day lives of people. Martin began his professional career with the U.S. Navy. After being introduced to water quality and treatment, he then pursued a career in water resources and environmental engineering. In 2011, he joined Garver, a multi-discipline engineering firm headquartered in North Little Rock. Martin has quickly climbed the ranks and now serves as the firm’s Arkansas Water team leader, leading an array of water and wastewater engineering experts working with municipalities across Arkansas and surrounding areas to deliver solutions to the most pressing water and wastewater infrastructure issues.
Committed to supporting his industry both in and outside of the office, Martin is a member of a multitude of industry organizations. He is an elected member of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Public Health Advisory Board, serving as an advocate for the critical role that water and wastewater infrastructure play in public health. He also serves as vice president of the Arkansas Water Environment Association, has recently been named to the Arkansas 5S Society, and is an active member within several other industry organizations, including the Water Environment Federation, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Water Works Association and many more.
Vice President of Technologies, ARMI Contractors & ARMI Manufacturing
As Vice President of Technologies at both ARMI Contractors and ARMI Manufacturing, Ryan Moore oversees all technical initiatives to help the companies operate as efficiently as possible, reflecting ARMI’s values of continuous improvement. Moore utilizes his leadership capabilities, problem-solving skills, calm demeanor, and relatability to help the company navigate difficult, high-impact decisions and situations. He is a proud supporter of the Ronald McDonald House of Arkoma, which provides a “home-away-from-home” in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley to families of children in long-term hospital care. Moore also has over 10 years of engineering management experience and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Vice President of Sales Development, Apptegy
Jessica Johnston-Myers serves as the vice president of Sales Development for Little Rock-based tech company, Apptegy, where she previously served as director of sales. Apptegy specializes in powering school districts with technology that helps K12 leaders build a strong digital brand, without adding work to their team. Johnston-Myers was born in Fayetteville, grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Hendrix in Conway with a theater-focused liberal arts bachelor’s degree. She applies her theater skills to various sales and operations roles, often coaching high-performing sales teams.
Internal Communications Specialist, Travel Nurse Across America
Before Maggie Noga was the internal communications specialist for Travel Nurse Across America, she attended college at the University of Central Arkansas. She received a Bachelor of Science in public relations and a Bachelor of Science in communications, preparing Noga for her blossoming career with Travel Nurse Across America. However, it was a senior project with Conway Regional Health Systems that officially steered Noga toward health care. At TNAA, Noga is in charge of ensuring that the TNAA core values, vision, mission statement and marketing strategy are understood among the internal employees. At only 23 years old, Noga has developed strong skills in communication, public relations, as well as in social media strategy and community outreach, and she plans to use these skills to advocate, promote and support health care workers.
Senior Marketing Manager, Sam’s Club
Amanda Propst recently joined Sam’s Club as a senior marketing manager. With a background of 12 years rooted in marketing technology and artificial intelligence at Arkansas-based tech firms Acxiom and Inuvo, where she built the corporate marketing department from the ground up to support new strategic acquisition of the company to shift focus of the business from publishing to programmatic media. Propst brings her experience in martech and data science to the Sam’s Customer Relationship Management team, helping to create personalized brand and performance strategies. She has knowledge and expetise in several different fields, including marketing, advertising, artificial intelligence, advertising technology, data, analytics, creativity, innovation and transformation. A University of Arkansas at Little Rock alumna, Propst brings her professional expertise in marketing to causes to which she has personal connections: Calvary Baptist Church, Ronald McDonald House, and supporting enrichment and STEM programs at her children’s schools.
Director Of Marketing, Unity Health
Brooke Pryor has served 12 years as the marketing leader for Unity Health, based in Searcy. Following her undergraduate degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in sociology from Arkansas State University, Pryor did not anticipate landing in health care on her career path. With excellent leadership skills, genuine empathy, and energy, Pryor seeks to lead her team with grace and poise. Her leadership duties include directing the marketing team, with additional leadership for the Community Health Department, Volunteer Services and Patient Experience. Pryor and her associates have been awarded Diamond Awards for marketing and advertising campaigns for multiple consecutive years through the Arkansas Hospital Association. As a member of the National Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development and the immediate past president of the Arkansas Society for Healthcare Marketing & PR, Pryor works to stay in tune with the needs and expectations of today’s health care consumers. She holds a philosophy that health care is about compassionate care and looks for ways to reach people where they are, with a message that means something to them personally. Pryor enjoys the ever-changing, fast-paced health care environment.
She successfully balances her time with living a healthy lifestyle and being a wife to Grant and mother to Stella (12) and Charlotte (9). She is dedicated to her faith, family and the betterment of those she encounters through her work at Unity Health.
Chief Creative Officer, Owner, Puzzle Piece Media, LLC
Lauren Ramsey is the owner and founder of Arkansas PR firm Puzzle Piece Media, LLC. Ramsey received her Master of Science from the University of Central Arkansas and has 10-plus years of experience in marketing, promotion, social media management and event planning services. In 2020, Ramsey took a leap of faith, left her health care marketing career and founded Puzzle Piece Media, LLC. She aims to help small businesses exceed their social media marketing goals by creating original and creative strategies. By doing so, she can share her marketing and social media management expertise with companies across Arkansas. Ramsey was born and raised in Little Rock and now resides in Bryant with her husband and two sons.
Chief Executive Officer, Experience Fayetteville
Molly Rawn is the CEO of Experience Fayetteville, the destination marketing organization for Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the stewards of the city’s HMR tax. During her tenure, the city has seen unprecedented tourism growth, including its highest HMR collection month on record. Rawn led the team responsible for planning and executing the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship – only the second time in 72 years the event was held on U.S. soil. Prior to leading Experience Fayetteville, Rawn was a member of the leadership staff that opened the Scott Family Amazeum, Northwest Arkansas’ first Children’s Museum, where she served as director of Development and Communication.
After growing up in Paragould and Little Rock, Rawn relocated to Fayetteville to attend the University of Arkansas and decided to make it her family’s permanent home. She is passionate about civic engagement, community building and expanding opportunities for women in civic leadership.
Chief Executive Officer, SFA Consulting, LLC
Susie Reynolds Reece is an international mental health advocate, national speaker, consultant, and activist. Reece began her career as a grassroots organizer of suicide prevention efforts in Hot Springs, and over time, has championed and led multiple activism efforts revolving around suicide prevention, mental health, lived experience and inclusivity. Reece serves at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center as the Lived Experience engagement coordinator. In this role, she leads lived experience inclusivity efforts to ensure a spectrum of voices are included in prevention and social justice efforts across the nation. She is also the committee chair for Arkansas’ AFSP Corrections project — which is aimed at developing an implementation guide that can lead to efforts in reducing suicide within these settings — and serves on several national, state, and local boards.
Market Sales Manager, Banco Sí (Signature Bank of Arkansas)
Marlee Ramirez Safreed is the market sales manager for Signature Bank of Arkansas’ newest division, Banco Sí. Safreed was initially hired as the Banco Sí bank manager, but was quickly promoted to play a more strategic role in the development of this new and unique banking experience. From the beginning of her career, she has maintained a passion to serve the LatinX community. As a teenager, Safreed started a small business representing her Salvadoran culture while simultaneously starting her banking career and attending the University of Arkansas. Shortly after earning her degree, she was promoted to her first management role. Since then, Safreed has further developed her skills in financial services to a passion for leveraging her knowledge to serve women and the Hispanic community. She is engaging with the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter and the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas to volunteer and deepen her impact on the community, in addition to volunteering with the new Salvadoran consulate in Springdale.
Director of AU Foundation & Marketing, Arkansas Urology
Little Rock native Chris Shenep has been serving as the director of the UA Foundation and Marketing for Arkansas Urology for a couple of years, but his skill and experience extend over a decade. Shenep graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Following graduation, Shenep served as the personal aide to the 45th Governor of Arkansas, Mike Beebe. Commitment to the community is just as important to Shenep as his work with the AU Foundation. He is a contributor on 103.7 The Buzz, an active member of Rotary Club 99, serves on the board of the Arkansas Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals, The Hat Club and a Class XXV graduate of the Great Little Rock Leadership Program.
Chief Operating Officer, Arkansas Colleges of Health Education
Les Smith joined Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) in 2019, after 20 years of growing with Arvest Bank. Smith began his career at Arvest in college as a bank teller. After many years of service and promotions within the organization, he was appointed executive vice president/loan manager. The affiliation/partnership between Arvest and ACHE allowed Smith to meet chief staff members of ACHE, and when offered the opportunity to join ACHE, he couldn’t say no. Smith’s involvement in the community is as extensive as his years with Arvest. He has previously served the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce as an ambassador; the Championship for Charities and the United Way Allocation Committee as president, vice president and secretary of United Way; LSU Banking School Board of Trustees; and as a board member for the Reynolds Cancer Support House. Currently, Smith is the United Way Endowment chair, a Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club board member, and he has also joined the Board of Directors for the Mercy Health Fort Smith Communities.
Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager, Bank of America
Robyn Staggs is the senior vice president and senior relationship manager for the Combined Coverage market in Commercial Banking at Bank of America in Rogers. Staggs first joined Bank of America in 2005 in credit products in Kansas City, Missouri, before moving to Northwest Arkansas in 2011. Staggs has served mid-sized companies throughout the Midwest area in supporting their commercial banking needs. She continues her work in the communities she serves by volunteering with several not-for-profit organizations. Staggs is on the board of directors for Samaritan Community Center and Restoration Village, where she is the market integration executive for Arkansas, a member of the Arkansas Leadership team, and a member of the Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development Network for Women.
Executive Director, Startup Junkie Foundation
Caleb Talley is the Executive Director of Startup Junkie Foundation, where he and his team work to improve lives through innovation and entrepreneurship. Through their efforts, over 800 entrepreneurs and small business owners are assisted each year through no-cost consultations and access to resources. Talley joined the team in 2019 as the marketing and events director, where he was responsible for planning and carrying out the foundation’s portfolio of events and workshops, geared to serve the local entrepreneurial community. A native of Forrest City, Talley graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in journalism and political science. He worked as a reporter for the Times-Herald in Forrest City, and later at Vowell Inc., where he served as editor of AY Magazine and Arkansas Money & Politics.
Vice President of Marketing, Apptegy
Tyler Vawser serves as the vice president of Marketing for Little Rock-based tech company, Apptegy. Vawser specializes in creating connections with people and growth in companies and says he is working on finding thoughtful people that find meaning in excellence at a great company. Before joining Apptegy in 2018, Vawser was a marketing consultant for Tvaw Marketing — where he built, executed and supported marketing for startups and businesses — and vice president of marketing for Sticker Mule in New York City –– where he was responsible for marketing the launch of new products, email marketing, customer acquisition, conversion optimization, internationalization, SEO and more. He volunteers on the Strategic Advisory Board for Restore NYC, a human rights organization. Vawser says he and his team at Apptegy want to create a company in a particular way, without compromise, and that Apptegy’s culture is visible, real and ever-growing.
Project Manager, Baldwin & Shell Construction Company
Krysten Wagner joined Baldwin & Shell construction company in 2018 as a project manager for the central Arkansas team. Wagner entered the construction industry nearly 10 years ago, after receiving her master’s in civil engineering from the University of South Florida, and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Florida Gulf Coast University. Her education and experience offer a strong base of knowledge, which she utilizes on every project. Most recently, Wagner was the project manager for Jacksonville North Pulaski School District’s new middle school as well as the new Rock City Harley-Davidson building in Little Rock. She received her Associated General Contractors Certificate of Management in Lean Construction in 2020. She is also very involved in Cabot Parks and Recreation, where she coaches soccer for her sons, Preston and Jordan.
Chief Sales Officer, Paradox
Allisha Watkins’ career has had many turns but has now developed her into a truly multifaceted marketer. Having gained invaluable experience with Walmart, Watkins learned how to manage vast amounts of data across multiple projects at once. Making a name for herself in the supplier world then led Watkins through both agency and CPG roles, landing at Mars Wrigley as the team lead for Shopper Marketing. Finding herself in a situation where the resume accomplishments were plenty, but displaced within the company, the mentorships gained previously proved fruitful. At that moment it was evident every role, project, person, and setback was simply a setup for the adventure of a lifetime to finally begin. In April 2019, Paradox was born. Watkins and her business partner Amanda Whittaker formed Paradox, a marketing agency, on the belief that there had to be a better agency model. Not only did the company double its growth amid a global pandemic, but it also expanded capabilities across all retail channels and opened a physical office for its industry leaders to deliver amazing work together.
Head Distiller, Delta Dirt Distillery
Thomas Williams is the head distiller at Delta Dirt Distillery, a family-owned craft distillery located in the richest farmland of the Arkansas Delta. Williams graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and was going to go on to pursue a medical profession. However, he attended distillery school in Kentucky and was introduced to the distilling business. After months of experimentation, the Williams family found the right balance of corn and sweet potatoes to create a vodka with unique characteristics and balance. They went into production, but with COVID-19 putting the brakes on both the renovation of their 6,500-SF space and their ability to serve foot traffic, they weren’t able to introduce the product to the public. The week before Christmas 2020, they were ready to launch. Now, Delta Dirt Distillery hopes to “Raise Spirits in the Delta,” one bottle at a time.
In 2014, Shelly York began her journey as a hearing care professional in Louisiana. Three years later, York and her husband moved to Little Rock, and fully invested in hearing care as Miracle-Ear franchise owners. York, with experience as a hearing care provider, and her husband with experience as a business owner, made a strong team. After two years, the couple expanded from their first Miracle-Ear location on Chenal Parkway in Little Rock with a service center in Morrilton. After the pandemic hit, the Yorks felt the weight of the world on their shoulders as small business owners. However, with York passionate about helping people and thriving in problem-solving environments, the couple opened their third location in Hot Springs. York wants to help people who suffer from hearing loss throughout the entire state. In efficiently facilitating their dreams, the Yorks partnered with Miracle-Ear Midwest, which is based in Missouri. Together, they hope to bring the Miracle-Ear difference to all of Arkansas.