Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch

Young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 are changing the landscape – surpassing previous generations in numbers and diversity, these young professionals have taken on a new role of influence, especially in shaping the future of economic growth and labor markets. Placing a high value on entrepreneurship, leadership and social responsibility, studies demonstrate this ambitious and technologically-connected generation is setting the pace for the transforming work environments and social networks.

The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Augusta Magazine, is pleased to announce 10 of Augusta’s most outstanding young professionals. The young professionals featured entered into a competitive nomination process in March and have emerged as this year’s most promising and rising stars. These outstanding individuals exemplify what can be achieved with passion and vision, and while we congratulate their current achievements, we look forward to watching them reach their dreams.

—Sue Parr, president
Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce

Beth James

Age: 35

Education: James has received her Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from Georgia Southern University.

Employer: Queensborough National Bank & Trust

Occupation: VP, Marketing Director

Professional Responsibilities: As Marketing Director, James ensures that Queensborough has effective and successful marketing strategies that are competitive with other banks while also attracting consumers.

Professional five and 10-year goals: Though she is  relatively new to her position, James wants to continue to elevate the Queensborough brand and keep them as the true community bank that they are. She is currently attending Georgia Banking School and plans to become a Certified Financial Marketing Professional in the next couple of years.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: In 2020 James and her husband bought a house and began renovating it from top to bottom. Throughout their renovations they documented their journey and accumulated a following of people who wanted to know more about financing, renovating and property management. She hopes to inform people about the process in order to create wealth for their families.

Volunteer work: James’ major volunteer work began in 2012 when she was a member of the Junior League of Augusta, eventually she held the position of League Links Chair from 2015 to 2016. She also serves as a board member for Young Professionals of Augusta and as a board member for Leadership Augusta.

Bradley King

Age: 32

Education: King has received his Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his Masters of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati.

Employer: 2KM Architects, Inc.

Occupation: Architect

Professional Responsibilities: King’s role at 2KM consists of leading design teams of projects of all types, mentoring staff, developing the digital standards of drawings, overseeing social media and assisting with internal IT.

Professional five and 10-year goals: King recently was able to change the companies billing, invoicing and accounting software which will help track finances better going forward. He plans to continue auditing each internal process creating effecencies where possible to allow more time to focus on client design. Within the next five years King will be in the position to assume the role of chief
financial officer.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: King’s work for the Augusta region can be seen through design projects and murals he has worked on with his wife, local artist April Henry King. His design projects include a restaurant, daycare, theater, and assisting with various healthcare projects. He would love to partner with one of the local higher education instituions to launch an architectural program.

Volunteer work: He has been a board member and co-chair (in 2019, 2020 and 2021) with Historic Augusta and has been involved with the loft tour. In fact, his own loft above Craft and Vine has been on the tour. King hopes to go back to in person loft tours for this year’s event in October.

April Henry King

Age: 31

Education: King received her Bachelors in Communication Studies from Augusta University.

Employer: April Henry King ART

Occupation: Artist, Muralist, Illustrator

Professional Responsibilities: April Henry King is a self-taught artist born and raised in Augusta. She has been full-time artist for five years. Her work consists of painted pet portraits, murals, live wedding paintings and anything in between.

Professional five and 10-year goals: King wants to continue adding color and positivity to Augusta through her public art. She hopes to crowd fund or personally donate a series of murals in the downtown area to include Augusta’s native flowers and also wishes to do the same in neighboring towns to showcase their uniqueness.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: In 2017 she worked with her husband, Brad, to create and place six miniature doors on participating storefronts along Broad Street. The goal of aDOORables was to increase foot traffic throughout downtown. Through her murals King is increasing online marketing and foot traffic to local businesses. She also uses her own online platform to promote Augusta and her vibrant mural work.

Volunteer work: King has donated various murals to major institutions and non-profits and led tours at the Morris Museum of Art. She was a part of the Historic Augusta Event Committee and currently serves as a board member for the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art along with being a committee co-chair of the Westobou Festival.


Amber Brantley

Age: 32

Education: Brantley received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, her Masters in Administrative Justice and Security, and completed her Juris Doctor degree in 2015.

Employer: Solicitor General’s Office

Occupation: Assistant Solicitor General

Professional Responsibilities: Brantley prosecutes misdemeanors for the Solicitor General’s Office and was recently selected to be the prosecutor over the new Domestic Violence Accountability Court in Richmond County. She is a trial team lead of seven members that serve Judge Kellie K. McIntyre while also being a part-time real estate and travel agent.

Professional five and 10-year goals: In the next five to 10 years Brantley will continue to serve and work to reestablish legal trust within the community.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Brantley continues her community involvement through monthly service projects. She wishes to continue meeting those needs while also growing her real estate business, which will help her identify the economic needs within our communities.

Volunteer work: Alongside many drives and donations to schools and their students, Brantley is a member of the Augusta Conference of African American Attorneys and a member of the Younger Lawyers Association of Augusta. She has been volunteering with The Prosecuting Attorney Council to train and teach prosecutors throughout Georgia and even volunteered for ACLU Georgia Phone back in 2020 as a way to encourage people to go to the polls and vote.

Eleanor Prater

Age: 28

Education: Prater received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Employer: Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Occupation: Marketing & Communications Manager

Professional Responsibilities: As the marketing & communications manager, Prater works to promote local tourism and hospitality in Augusta’s River Region by working with regional and national media outlets to pitch Augusta’s destination assets. She also focuses on enhancing their digital presence, e-marketing efforts and social media of while encouraging travel with their newly launched ‘Come See Augusta’ campaign.

Professional five and 10-year goals: Within the next five to 10 years Prater has her eyes set on changing the dynamic of Augusta’s tourism. The Masters Tournament is world famous but she hopes to showcase our Southern hospitality and tourism during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Prater has worked directly with the CVB’s president & CEO and vice president of marketing to develop a marketing campaign that would highlight Augusta as a top destination in the Southeast. She plans to continue her work promoting Augusta as a must-see destination.

Volunteer work: As a 2019 graduate of Leadership Augusta, Prater has received many awards and titles for her digital marketing. She received the National Award of Merit for Special Purpose Publications from the National School Public Relations Association for her work on publications with the Richmond County Board of Education and has received eight awards in electronic media from the Georgia School Public Relations Association. She was most recently awarded the Hermes Creative Gold Award in 2021 for her work rebranding the local non-profit, RISE Augusta.

Tiana Bias

Age: 28

Education: Bias has received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology, along with her Juris Doctor degree.

Employer: Hawk Law Group

Occupation: Criminal Defense Attorney

Professional Responsibilities: Through her work, Bias provides transparency, clarification and understanding of the legal system. She specializes in all areas of criminal defense and is a proven trial lawyer that achieves success through pre-trial preparation and trial advocacy.

Professional five and 10-year goals: In the next five to 10 years Bias plans to continue helping with the success and expansion of the Hawk Law Group, while also improving on her own quality and representation that she provides to her clients by working to stay up to date on current legal, technological and social strategies.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Along with her legal assistance to the community, Bias will continue working with youth in Augusta to foster the skills they need in order to be successful within school. She hopes that by assisting the youth they will be able to use their skills and talents to give back to the community. As for her legal knowledge, she wants to continue creating opportunities for people to better their future.

Volunteer work: Bias has served as a certified Civil Mediator and a certified Court Appointed Special Advocate. She also has been a member of the Georgia Bar Association and has served as secretary for the Augusta Bar Association. Currently she is a committee member for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business.

Marissa Smith

Age: 34

Employer: Bank of America

Occupation: Market Executive

Professional Responsibilities: Currently Smith is the market executive for Bank of America in Augusta and Aiken. She’s responsible for integration, planning, coordination and leveraging of the bank’s local contributions, along with managing events and sponsorships and facilitating relationships within the community.

Professional five and 10-year goals: Smith plans to broaden her community partnerships and relationships while deepening her business acumen. She would also like to mentor other young women in her field and hopes to join a non-profit that is focused on economic development.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Since 2018 Smith has helped deploy more than $3 million in capital support to the Augusta region from Bank of America. She also facilitated the bank’s donation of 300 thousand PPE masks, 250 cases of hand sanitizer and 44 thousand gloves to more than 70 nonprofits and vulnerable populations in the CSRA. She plans to continue leveraging Bank of America’s contributions, programs and job initiatives to address the regions low education attainment.

Volunteer work: Smith serves as the Co-Chair for the Augusta-Aiken Bank of America community volunteers, the role of event lead for the MSAG Augusta Chapter, volunteers regularly with The Salvation Army of Augusta and manages signature programs for the bank. Additionally, she serves on the Business Education Advisory Council for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Patrick Wells

Age: 33

Education: Received his Professional Bachelor Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia.

Employer: Piedmont Landscape Management

Occupation: President

Professional Responsibilities: Wells is a registered Landscape Architect that serves as the President of Piedmont Landscape Management. Though he is in charge of manager and foreman training, budgeting, sales goals and company culture, Wells’ main objective is to bring together horticulturalists that are capable of changing the way their clients look at their landscape.

Professional five and 10-year goals: He wants to promote from inside the company. Within five years, Wells hopes to open one branch and have two within 10, both of which would be in Augusta.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta:  Piedmont Landscape Management currentlyhas 41 full-time employees. Wells hopes to build a new facility and move in the summer 2021. By 2030, he hopes to have 175 or more employees in our region.

Volunteer work: Wells has a lot of volunteer work under his belt, he served as the Rotary Club president in 2018 and in 2020 he served as the Rotary Eye on Business chair which began in an effort to grow membership and allow people to meet socially distanced outside of typical meeting times. Wells is also part of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Becky Dearden

Age: 35

Education: Received her Bachelor of Arts in Advertising from the University of South Carolina.

Employer: SME CPAs

Occupation: Marketing Director

Professional Responsibilities: Dearden is responsible for all of SME’s advertising, events and marketing services to current clients. She also teaches the company’s new workforce about Augusta and SME while maintaining a professional and enjoyable environment for current employees.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She hopes to become the first marketing director to become a partner at SME CPAs. Dearden wants to continue her participation in executive leadership classes to enhance her values and skill sets, becoming an example that  empowers other women through community involvement and mentoring opportunities.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Dearden has been a community volunteer for four years and believes that bringing together the region of North Augusta and Augusta will allow for the biggest success. She is currently positioning herself to aid in that task by her many volunteer efforts and professional organizations that she is involved in.

Kigwana Cherry

Age: 34

Education: Cherry has received his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Tuskegee University and a Masters of Engineering in Construction Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Employer: Pop-Up Augusta!

Occupation: Owner

Professional Responsibilities: As owner of Pop-Up Augusta! Cherry curate’s intimate pop-up dinner experiences. He also is the Owner of Farmer Musician Urban Farming Development and Consulting and a Healthcare Construction Engineer with Nika Solutions.

Professional five and 10-year goals: In the next five to 10 years he hopes to start his own consulting firm, expand Pop-Up Augusta! nationwide and build a full production farm/concert venue to support agritourism.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: With Pop-Up Augusta!, he has made it his mission to support local business in the Augusta River Region. During the pandemic, Cherry started a livestream called Overhead Augusta in an effort to help artists regain lost funds when gigs were canceled. He also hosted the Live From Your Lawn series with his band, The Lady & The Gents. Lastly, he launched Farmer Musician, an urban teaching farm beginning with two community gardens.

Volunteer work: Cherry has always put the Augusta community first, not only does he sing for the Augusta Chorale but he is a member of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, Garden City Jazz Logistics Coordinator, VP of Development for the Greater Augusta Arts Council, VP at Large for the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce and many more.

Article appears in the June/July 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.

Have feedback or a story idea? Our publisher would love to hear from you!

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  • Episode 11: Jay Jefferies
    Jay Jefferies stops by to deliver the weather and much more!
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    We had the pleasure of sitting down with Nesia Wright, owner and CEO of the Georgia Soul Basketball Team. Ashlee and Nesia discuss life as the owner of a basketball team, retirement and more.
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    Michael Romano, self-proclaimed carbohydrate king and executive pastry chef for Edgar's Hospitality Group stopped by our front porch to chat with Ashlee.


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