The Hickory Young Professionals have announced the 2019 recipients of the Top 10 Under 40 for Leadership. Those honored are: Fentress Fountain, Aaron Kohrs, Cameron Laney Bixby, Breanna Hucks, Deaton Smith, Hannah Miller, Lillie Greenhill, Lorissa Vines, Sarah Davis and Carmen Eckard.
Here's a look at the winners:
Kohrs, 25, currently serves as the mobility manager for Greenway Public Transportation where he handles communications between the Greenway and other organizations that span four counties. When he worked on the Hickory City Schools’ Book Bus, Kohrs worked with his supervisor to hold a special “book bus day” for the elementary schools that generally were not on the bus route. Kohrs also serves on the board of directors for Unique World Gifts, and aims to continue serving the county as a community organizer, where he voluntarily works to put together ideas, people and causes, to help benefit organizations with human capital. Kohrs serves on the Hickory International Council, and most recently was awarded the Frances Moody Volunteer Award for 2019 by the Hickory Landmarks Society. Kohrs said, “I think the Hickory community needs young professionals who are committed to public service, and I try to help others wherever I can — professionally in transit, as an organizer in the community, and personally, as a believer.”
Fountain, 27, currently serves as a reporter/producer at WHKY-TV. In this role she is responsible for filming, producing, and editing commercials for clients who advertise with WHKY, as well as being in front of the camera and interviewing a wide variety of leaders and celebrities. She focuses on serving as a journalist, to help give a voice to the voiceless. She also serves on the planning committee for the Hickory Sesquicentennial celebration, and volunteers in many ways, including with the American Heart Association, Backpacks and Braids, and as a Lunch Buddy for Northview Middle. Fountain also owns her own production company and is a wife and mother of a toddler. Fountain said, “No matter how many hats I wear, I remain motivated by my family, and those that watch me daily, who I hope to continue to positively influence.”
Cameron Laney Bixby
Bixby, 34, currently serves as the accounting and marketing operations director at Catawba Insurance Agency. Her focus is to develop and implement strategy for socializing and leveraging community opportunities, while driving the core social media campaign strategies, brand marketing, determining actionable opportunities, and driving brand knowledge and growth. In her previous role, Bixby was one of the youngest managers in the company, where she was named Manager of the Year, and worked with her team to achieve awards for Branch of the Year, Million Dollar Club Award, and Operational Excellence. In the community, she is a recent graduate of Leadership Catawba and now serves on the organization’s advisory board, she serves as the chairman of the Hickory Young Professionals and as an ex officio member of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce board. She is on the Catawba County Street Team and is a Hickory Brand Ambassador, she serves on the Women’s Leadership Committee and as an Ambassador Team Lead for the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce. Bixby is an active member of Redeemer Lutheran Church, in addition to serving on the various committees for the Town of Catawba. Her focus has been to find a need in the organizations in which she serves and to help fill that need. She has helped to bring events to the Town of Catawba over the past two years that have brought thousands of visitors to town, in turn spurring additional economic growth in town. Bixby said, “Someone inspired me. They filled my cup. I aim to do the same for others. Leaving a legacy in a community that has so much potential, whether it be in our family agency, or the small town that I love, or the county that continues to inspire me, is important to me. While I may not be certain of my future, I know for certain that I want to serve and to help others join in along the way.”
Hucks, 33, currently serves as an in-home prenatal and parenting educator for the Early Head Start Program of Alexander County. Hucks provides weekly home visits to families that qualify for the program and supports them in parenting education, parent-child engagement, mental health supports, and other family-led goals. She also leads parenting and breastfeeding classes and is a Certified Labor Doula and Certified Lactation Counselor. Hucks is a youth leader at Catawba United Methodist Church, is a board member for Hickory Young Professionals, and also leads the only parenting, prenatal and breastfeeding classes for families in Alexander County. She also works with the Legacy for Children, where she is a certified facilitator that promotes maternal responsibility, responsiveness to education and emotional needs, and builds a sense of community. Hucks said, “The passion I have for helping others has grown into a career that I truly love. I get to see the positive in situations that many don’t. I get to be a small part of change that happens within individuals, their homes and in their communities.”
Smith, 35, currently serves as the president and chief compliance officer for Thayer Financial. As the owner of the firm, he is responsible for business development, client engagement and portfolio management. Smith also serves as a board member and secretary for the Hickory Rotary Club and is an advisory board member for NETworX Catawba, an organization/community that accompanies individuals and families as they move toward self-reliance. He serves as a member of the West Point Field Force that helps extend the reach of the US Military Academy’s admissions office and is a member of St. Luke’s Methodist Church, and the vice president of the West Point Society of Western NC. As a founding member, he helped organize all the academy graduates from Catawba County to Asheville. Smith also organized an alumni society, following his graduation from West Point, here in Catawba County, that is focused on coming together to give back to the community.
Miller, 34, is an associate attorney at Fleischer Law and was promoted to partner in September of 2019. Her role varies from business management and advising to guiding clients with legal matters. Her role requires her to lead by example. She said, “Some days I’m a warrior. Other days I’m a voice, a counselor, and a listening ear, while every day, I’m earning trust from my clients and helping them put one foot in front of the other.” Miller volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, has coached Optimist t-ball, answered phones at the domestic violence clinic, and continues to serve her community by serving on the board of Catawba County Bar Association. She also facilitates a family law workshop at the Women’s Resource Center and is a new board member for the Family Guidance Center.
Greenhill, 29, is currently the director for BAYADA Home Health Care where she works within the fifth largest pediatric office in the state and works with special needs children and their families. She also fully operates the Watauga County branch, where they recently hit a client services record of $106,000 of billing, per week, which was a goal of hers. Greenhill serves as a board member for the Family Guidance Center, serving as president in 2019. She was the founder of the annual Blue Jean Ball fundraiser, which has raised over $15,000, is president of the Wisteria Woods Homeowners Association, and is an active member of Discovery Church. She said, “My entire life, I have been taught that ‘To whom much has been given, much is required,’ and to me, that means service and leadership. As I’ve grown as a young professional and civic volunteer, my passion specifically for serving families, has evolved.”
Vines, 38, currently serves as the director of development for Carolina Caring Foundation. Her role is to ensure that everyone in the community has access to the services provided by Carolina Caring: hospice, palliative medicine, and counseling. She has spent many years in the nonprofit industry, where she has served as a case manager for First Step Domestic Violence Program, and she established the Circle of Life Society, honoring those who have chosen to leave a legacy that will impact future generations, as well as starting Pet Peace of Mind. She is a senior member of Carolina Caring Foundation’s team, the co-chair of Carolina Caring’s Cultural Diversity Committee, and a member of the Western NC Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She said, “My passion is serving those in need. I am humbled to share Carolina Caring’s story and privileged to tell our community’s story. I hope to continue to make a difference by moving forward as an advocate, a leader, and a storyteller.”
Davis, 30, currently serves as the director of sales and marketing with the Hickory Metro Convention Center and Visitors Bureau. In that role she has the opportunity to work with corporate groups and associations, religious organizations, private events, etc. in the Hickory Metro area. She works hands-on with the clients and helps to create the perfect experience for the attendees, both on site and in the community. She is also a member of two tourism industry organizations; Meeting Professionals International — Carolina’s Chapter (MPI-CC) and Association Executives of NC (AENC). She represents Hickory with the State Sports Commission (SportsNC), most recently planning a Cycle NC (1,000 cyclists) event in Hickory. She has sat on the Safe Harbor Volunteer Advisory Council, the Hickory Young Professionals Leadership Council and is an active member of the East Taylorsville Baptist Church, where she sings in the choir and leads the praise team. Davis also is the lead singer for the Extraordinaires band. She said, “I want to say that I am proud of all of my personal and professional accomplishments and blessings, which have been many. However, I also know that I have a long way to go and grow. There is always room for better things, volunteering more and growing myself professionally, spiritually, and personally.”
Eckard, 38, is the designer, creator, and publisher of the Foothills Digest. The magazine covers Western North Carolina and is sold in major drug and grocery chains across the western third of the state. The magazine focuses on art, culture, food and history, and events. Eckard was a winner of the Edison competition, prior to even having their shipment for her first issue. She also manages Eckard photographic. She also served as an ex officio member of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as serving on the board for the Henry River Preservation Fund. Eckard said, “I moved here with literally nothing. I had $13 in my account after I paid my first month’s rent. That was 15 years ago, and in that time, I’ve learned to run two successful businesses and created something truly unique that highlights our city in a beautiful way.”
Winners will be honored at an awards dinner at Rock Barn Golf & Spa on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online at the Hickory Young Professionals website:
hickoryhyp.com (look under the calendar of events). Sponsors for the 2019 event include: Presenting Sponsor - Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, PA, Speaker Sponsor - City of Hickory, and Premier Sponsor - Rock Barn Country Club & Spa.
Nominees for the awards must be younger than 40. They must be employed in and live in Catawba, Caldwell, Burke or Alexander counties, and must be involved in activities outside of work. Nominees were reviewed and winners were selected by a group of non-eligible community leaders, chosen by the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, contact the Catawba County Chamber at 828-328-6111.
Hickory Young Professionals (HYP) was established in 2008 to provide young professionals in the Greater Hickory Metro area an opportunity to excel professionally, socially and economically. This initiative was a recommendation of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber recognized the economic impact of engaged, young professionals on the region, and the need to retain existing, and attract new, young professionals to the area.