Best and Brightest Charleston 2023


Welcome to Charleston Business Magazine’s 2023 Best &
Brightest 35 and Under! Each year, we celebrate men and women who are making a
difference in our state.

They are bankers, entrepreneurs, educators, attorneys, and more,
and although they’re still young, they are putting their own stamp on their
community and on the business world — in the Lowcountry and beyond.

We salute these young leaders, and we look forward to seeing how
they will continue to shape our state in the coming years. Each individual is
unique, and it is our privilege to share their stories.

We will be celebrating these honorees at an event in Charleston
during the month of October. Congratulations to all!


Kirby Altman

Age 27

Senior Marketing Manager

The Brandon Agency

Born and raised in South Carolina, I am lucky enough to call this
place home. I graduated from Clemson University in 2017 with a dual degree in
graphic communications and marketing, with a minor in business administration.

I began my career at Brandon early on as an intern during my
freshman year of college. I was able to learn the ropes of being a creative in
an ad agency — getting to work with different types of clients and on a variety
of projects. Since joining the team full-time after graduating, I have held the
titles of junior art director, marketing and new business coordinator,
marketing and production manager, and now senior marketing manager. As a driven
individual, I like to face challenges head-on, and work to not just meet a
goal, but exceed it.

A long-term goal of mine is to continue to grow and push
boundaries in my career, and ultimately to become a chief marketing officer.

Community is very important to me, since I feel that community
has helped shape me into who I am today. I am very involved with my church, and
I give back to my community as often as I can.

Your favorite quote and why:

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore

Confidence plays such a large role in success, and mentality is
everything. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would tell my 18-year-old self to not worry about what other
people think, and to just be you! Comparison is the thief of joy, and you are
your own person. Step out, and be confident in who you are, what you know, and
what you believe.


Jordan Berry

Age 32

CTO and Co-Founder

Technologies, Inc.

Empowering others to achieve more with data is the passion that
drove my co-founder and me to start Interloop Technologies, Inc. Based in
Charleston, we have helped over 65 organizations transform their data into
insights that move their organizations forward. Elevating others to succeed is
what drives me every day.

I consider myself a servant leader and an innovative problem solver
who can simplify complex ideas and create lasting results. I enjoy guiding
organizations through transformation and demonstrating how cutting-edge
technologies like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence can fuel
their businesses. Although the problems we address are seldom easy, it’s all
worth it when working with our talented team of problem solvers. I measure my
success by the positive impact I can help others create.

I also believe in giving back to the community. In Charleston, I
am an active member of the growing technology sector. I mentor upcoming
startups in partnership with the Harbor Entrepreneur Center and advise the
Charleston Technology Council. Additionally, I serve as the forum co-chair for
the EO Charleston Chapter.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who serves others to create a
better reality for everyone. They connect with their teams to demonstrate
genuine care, coach them to achieve desired outcomes, and help them to be their
authentic selves in both their personal and professional lives.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Express gratitude every day. While focusing on your goals, make
sure to cherish and value the positive people and experiences you have in your


Travis Burdette

Age 35

Financial Consultant

The Coleman Dunleavy Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo

I started in financial services in my home state of West Virginia
and have gained valuable experience with two firms over the last 11 years. In
2017, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where I acquired my series 9 and
10 licenses.

Taking on the role as an operations manager, I had the privilege
of working with seven coastal wealth management offices in South Carolina,
which highlighted my commitment to maintaining high standards.

In 2021, I embraced a new opportunity by joining the Coleman
Dunleavy Wealth Management Group. In this role, I help to lead a talented team
of six individuals for a high-performing wealth practice. My dedication to
uplifting others and fostering appreciation is my driving force.

Outside of work, I have a strong passion for exploring the world
to experience new places and cultures. I may be biased, but my favorite place
is right here in Charleston. I love soaking up all that it has to offer with my
wife and dog.

Your favorite quote and why:

“The past is a memory. It’s a thought arising in the present. The
future is merely anticipated, it’s another thought arising now. What we truly
have is this moment.”

Why? It’s easier said than done, but I believe being present goes
a long way in living a happy life.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader leads with their actions. They can relate,
and delegate but never dictates.


Ryan Cass

Age 30


Won Day and Champion Tribe

My purpose in life is to inspire people to establish a foundation
for sustained success, break long-standing chains of adversity, and chart a
desirable course for life.

I discovered the power of goal setting 12 years ago when making
the choice to do something about breaking a long-standing chain of alcoholism
in my family. Since then, I have become an expert on building systems and an
indomitable mindset to accomplish goals and conquer any obstacle that life
delivers. My systems have enabled me to earn a senior management position at
The Boeing Company while simultaneously founding two personal development
companies, Won Day and Champion Tribe; a globally downloaded podcast; and a
scholarship fund for students who are committed to breaking generational

The best gift is to give back. I serve as a big brother and board
member through Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Lowcountry in addition to
volunteering with The First Tee of Greater Charleston. When not involved in business
or community activities, you’ll find me exploring and testing my limits. I have
completed six ultra-marathons including a 100-mile race and The Boston
Marathon. Running is my meditation!

Your favorite quote and why:

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.” – Herb

We have an abundance of opportunities to design the life that we
want and create magical moments. When you’re intentional and live life on
purpose, you get to create countless great moments as a result.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Things in life happen for you, not to you. Flip the script on any
negative situation and you’ll always find a gift that will help you grow and
serve others better.


Jon Clark

Age 32


The Optimization Specialists

I grew up in Northeast Ohio where the cold hurts your face and
everyone vacations in the Carolinas. I moved to the Charleston area in 2016 for
my son and have enjoyed every moment since.

I am a father, husband, and business owner where I help busy
business owners reclaim their time through automations and optimized systems to
focus on what matters most. I plan to turn the business into a full-time

Having a son at 18, my life was very different from my friends’.
I had to quickly learn how to support more than just myself and manage my time
carefully. It pushed me to focus on personal development which led to me
writing a best-selling book, “Student
Success Principles.”

Service has always been a part of my life. It started when I
created a Relay for Life team at 14 for an Eagle Scout project, which turned
into volunteering at that event for the next eight years. Since then, I have
been on boards of different organizations that are making a big impact in the

Your favorite quote and why:

“Success is attracted to who you become” – Jim Rohn

People think success is something you achieve, but I think you
really need to change into the person that is capable of the success they are
seeking.  If you want to win awards as an
athlete, you need to turn into a top-level athlete.  It takes time, energy, and focus.  Over time, you become that new person capable
of winning those awards.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Enjoy life more. Appreciate the now. You are bound to do great
things, not everything has to be accomplished in the next five years.


Elizabeth Coddington

Age 29

Mortgage Loan Officer

REV Federal Credit

After living in Charlotte for 10 years working in the event and
wedding industry, I moved to Georgia, where I worked alongside one of the
hardest-working real estate attorneys in the state. Helping shape my real
estate career path, my fiancée
and I decided to move to Charleston so I could start my career with REV as a
mortgage loan officer in 2020. From planning weddings to providing loan options
for homebuyers, I love being a part of a person’s new chapter.

Within the last three years, I’ve brought in over $35 million in
loan volume, I’ve been awarded Influencer of the Year with my company, and have
served on the Young Professional’s Steering Committee in 2023.

Giving back to the community is one way we can all make a
difference. One of the reasons I chose to work for REV is we get an opportunity
to give back all throughout the year including our annual #REVdayforgood. We
meet at the RiverDogs Stadium to put together bags of different hygiene items
then deliver to local nonprofits. Then we get to volunteer alongside these
nonprofits for the remainder of the day. It’s such a feel-good moment!

What is your definition of a successful leader?

The person who is willing to step in, be a team player, and help
get the job done, is the definition of success. You’re only as good as your
weakest link.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would tell my 18-year-old self to save money, invest in a
401(k) as early as you can and focus on yourself. There were so many times
throughout the last 10 years where I changed careers and I thought, “Well,
what if I would’ve stuck with that career path?” Take your time and figure
it out; that’s what your 20s are there for!


Craig Conover

Age 35


Sewing Down South

I learned how to sew and cook in Home Economics class back in
seventh grade in Fenwick Island, Delaware. After a brief move to the Abaco
Islands in the Bahamas, I rediscovered my passion for sewing while searching
for a new creative outlet. Since then, I went from being lost in a sea of
pillows that I had sewn in my dining room, to finding two incredible partners
that helped me create a nationally recognized brand.

In its four years of operation, Sewing Down South has fulfilled
over 100,000 orders and donated over $200,000 to charities around the world.
Additionally, I am a proud alumnus of both the College of Charleston and
Charleston School of Law. I own and operate my own law firm right here in Mount
Pleasant and have a restaurant, Carriage House, in New York City.

My first book, “Pillow Talk,” was published in 2022. When I am
not working, I enjoy engaging in the community through organizations such as
the Special Olympics and Charleston Uplift.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who facilitates an environment of
team spirit and individual ambition. Encouraging their team to work hard for
each other and then rewarding them individually as a result of that process.
They excite and inspire their team by rewarding ambition, creativity, and
problem solving through exciting incentives. The goal of every leader should be
to see their employees outgrow themselves and their roles, instead of being
threatened by their success.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Trust your gut, intern somewhere, and just because someone hasn’t
done it yet doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Also find a place to volunteer
once a month. It will change your life.


Meghan Cradock

Age 23

Operations Manager

Charleston Digital Corridor

As a Charleston native, my deep-rooted connection and admiration
for the cities community and lifestyle has driven my commitment to its economic
success. I am a proud Carolina Gamecock and graduated from University of South
Carolina in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration,
specializing in marketing.

As the operations manager of the Charleston Digital Corridor, I
am the driving force behind the day-to-day operations at the CDC Flagship at
the Charleston Tech Center, fostering an environment where tech companies can
thrive. I am dedicated to serving the members of the Charleston tech community,
working alongside the director to provide resources and support that catalyzes
growth, collaboration, and innovation.

In my free time you may find me at local community events,
enjoying time on the boat, or exploring the newest restaurant spots downtown.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is one that inspires, motivates, and strives
for the success of those that they wish to lead.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Relationships are a valuable investment.


Mitzi Gamez

Age 28


La Azteca Latin Market

When my parents immigrated to the U.S. over 20 years ago, the
only option they had was to work hard for their “American dream.” Their
entrepreneurial spirits drove them to open two Latin grocery stores and a
Mexican restaurant.

I grew up in these businesses, always helping out as much as I
could. Once I graduated high school, my parents encouraged me to seek a
different career path. I attended Clemson University and graduated with a
degree in materials science and engineering. Shortly after graduating, I began
my career in supply chain back in Charleston, but then life took a turn in
early 2022 when my father passed unexpectedly. His businesses were left
hanging, and I made the difficult decision to leave my career in an effort to
continue his legacy. Becoming a small business owner was a huge lifestyle
change, but at the same time it felt natural to me.

My most recent project has been opening a brand-new Latin grocery
store in the Summerville area. La Azteca Latin Market was created not only as a
single location but also as an opportunity to re-brand my family’s existing
locations in Mount Pleasant and Johns Island. The learning experiences have
been overwhelming at times, but I am so grateful to be able to serve my
community, and more importantly, work every day alongside my family. Although I
am young, my journey as a business owner has just begun, and I am so excited to
continue to maximize our potential.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who motivates, inspires, and works
alongside their team to reach a common goal.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Time is a thief! Take every opportunity you can, and don’t be
afraid to fail!


Brittany Grabski

Age 34

Marketing Director


I am marketing director for SeamonWhiteside, and I have a passion
for developing, implementing, and managing strategic marketing initiatives to
capitalize on the strength of the SW+ brand.

My journey has been driven by a commitment to pushing boundaries
and embracing innovation. As I look toward the future, my long-term goal is to
lead a dynamic team that combines data-driven insights, compelling narratives,
and innovative communication strategies to effectively showcase the societal
and environmental benefits to our projects.

Beyond my professional endeavors, I believe in the power of
giving back to the community that has supported me. Whether it’s volunteering
for Habitat for Humanity or mentoring aspiring marketing professionals, I’m
dedicated to contributing positively to the lives of others.

In a world where collaboration and empathy are more important
than ever, I find immense fulfillment in fostering growth and positive change.
I’m excited to continue this journey, making an impact and leaving a legacy
that extends beyond my accomplishments alone.

Your favorite quote and why:

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days
before you’ve actually left them.”

A reminder to always live in the present.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You have to trust your intuition.


Brittney Greer

Age 33

Assistant Dean of Residence Life

Charleston Southern University

I am an alumna of Charleston Southern University and have been
serving in higher education for approximately seven years. I obtained my
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and later received my Master’s in
Organization Management from Charleston Southern University.

I have served in the enrollment sector, the career services
sector, residence life sector, and serve as assistant dean of residence life.
My mission is to serve all students with excellence and advocate and help
students navigate through their personal and educational journey. I am
passionate about ensuring all students receive as many opportunities and
resources as possible.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

My definition of a successful leader is someone who has
integrity, humility, vision, and a servant heart. The most successful leaders I
have witnessed always lead to serve and empower their teams or those around
them in a positive and influential way.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Your choices will impact your destiny. Make sure that every
decision you make is one that reflects what you want your life to look like.
Don’t be bound by fear or the opinions of others but rather only see yourself
the way God sees you and hold on to that.


Carleigh Hoy

Age 27

Senior Consultant


I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and moved to
Charleston in 2014 to attend the College of Charleston. I quickly fell in love
with the city’s vibrant culture and feel so fortunate to now call Charleston my
home. After graduating from the college with a degree in Latin and Ancient
Greek, I changed my career trajectory and earned a master’s degree in accounting
and acquired my CPA license. I began my career as a tax associate and have
since pivoted to forensics and valuation consulting.

I am passionate about being an active member in and giving back
to my community. I serve on the board for Trident United Way’s Young Leaders
United and Historic Charleston Foundation’s PreserVISIONists. Previously, I
have served on the board for Charleston Young Professionals, a subset of the
Metro Chamber, and for Charitable Society of Charleston. In my free time, I
love walking downtown’s beautiful and historic streets and indulging in our
city’s world-class dining options.

Your favorite quote and why:

“Today is the youngest you will ever be. Live like it.”
– Mark Cuban

This quote is my reminder to look for every opportunity to smile,
get inspired, and take on new challenges. It’s a reminder to not get trapped by
others’ standards or expectations.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Allow yourself to make mistakes, change directions, and take
risks! Enjoy the process instead of focusing on the outcome. It’s all about the


Bobby Hudson

Age 26

Chief of Staff, Boeing 787 Program

The Boeing Company

I graduated from The Citadel with a degree in supply chain
management in 2019. Following graduation, I began working at Boeing, holding
various roles within the Industrial Engineering department. I have been blessed
with dedicated and thoughtful mentors in the company. I am currently the chief
of staff for the Boeing 787 Program in Charleston, South Carolina.

In addition to my career at Boeing, I developed and patented The
Deckmate, an easy-to-clean foot mat durable for the outdoors. I am the sole
owner and oversee all sales and operations for the business. I am motivated by
faith, relationships, and my desire to improve and add value to the experiences
of others.

Outside of my career, I lead the Citadel Alumni Group at Boeing,
serve as a big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry, and
volunteer with Best Buddies South Carolina.

I recently completed my master’s in industrial engineering from

Your favorite quote and why:

“Many people miss opportunity because it comes dressed in
overalls and looks like hard work.” – 
Thomas Edison

This is a motivating quote that helps me to keep a productive
perspective in life.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Always have a positive attitude, unshakable belief, tireless
curiosity, and steady discipline.


McCain Kerr

Age 26

Assistant Branch Manager

First National Bank

I was born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, where I attended
Union Academy, a character education-based charter school. I graduated from the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Honors College and served in the
Order of the Bell Tower.

In the community, I am involved with the Charleston Metro Chamber
of Commerce, specifically the Charleston Young Professionals Steering Committee
starting January 2022. I enjoy volunteering with the Historic Charleston Rotary
Club, particularly the Rotary Interact program, helping high school students
develop into leaders.

Professionally, I achieved the highest loan volume award at First
National Bank within my first two years. I started my MBA at Wingate University
in the fall 2022.

My friends will tell you that I am full of fun facts and my No. 1
hobby right now is grilling. I like to spend my time outside of work exploring
the Gibbes Museum and attending Grace Episcopal Church.

I am a 2023-2024 recipient of the Charleston ChangeMaker and
Jefferson Awards.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone admired for their tremendous
achievements, without the sacrifice of their character.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Focus on your strengths and passions and give them 110 percent
effort. The results will continue to benefit you the rest of your life. The
doubts in your mind only grow if you feed them.


Kerianne Krause

Age 32


Beyond Distilling Company

I began my career in South Carolina as a line therapist in an ABA
company. During this time, I realized my passion for making a difference in the
lives of individuals with disabilities. I worked through college at an applied
behavior analysis company, working full-time with children with autism until i
received my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Then I began studying for my Master of Science in applied
behavior analysis and autism. My master’s thesis focused on mastery and
retention in job skills for adults diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability. I
am now a board-certified behavior analyst.

In 2016, I opened my first company, Building Independence
Together, which now employs 55 people and provides services to 85 families in
the Summerville area.

I also began working on a program book that would provide
training to all individuals working in an inclusive setting to prepare for
success and efficiency within the workplace. In 2019, with my business
partners, I created Beyond Distilling Company, with a mission of providing an
inclusive environment to those seeking employment who may otherwise have been
excluded from the workforce. Beyond Distilling Company makes bourbon, tropical
gin, and coconut rum. When not at work, I love spending time with my husband
and four kids.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who knows that providing a
positive environment for staff to learn, grow, and share feedback is the
greatest asset a company can have.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would love to tell my 18-year-old self that life will take you
in many different directions, but if you keep your principles and passions
aligned, you will do great things. Never back down when someone challenges your


Tyler LaCorata

Age 35

Co-Owner/Chief Distiller

Beyond Distilling Company

I am the co-owner/chief distiller at Beyond Distilling Company. I
am originally from the Hudson Valley region of New York, and I have lived on
and off in Charleston since high school

Before I was in the distilling industry I worked as a
chef/personal chef for many years. I was also in the brewing industry for some
years as well. I’ve learned my craft with distilling, brewing, and cooking all
from hands on and on the job. My ADD/ADHD has really come in handy with
hyper-focusing on something to learn as much as I can.

I have taken what I’ve learned and teamed up with my amazing
business partners, Kerianne Krause and Ryan Sadis, to open Beyond Distilling
Company. At Beyond Distilling Company, we started out with a mission to hire at
least 50 percent of our employees with intellectual disabilities. As of three
months ago, we are at 99 percent of our employees are adults with disabilities.
We wanted to create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels welcome and can

Being in the Charleston area has been amazing, and we’ve had a
lot of support from the community. We look forward to the future.

Your favorite quote and why:

“Life’s a garden, dig it.” 

The reason why I like that is it’s simple and to the point. Life
is short, and you should enjoy it to the fullest and live!

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Live in the moment; it goes by fast.


Christopher Makowski

Age 25

Public Information Officer

Town of Summerville

As the public information officer for the Town of Summerville, my
passion for effective communication and commitment to the community drives my
work as a PIO. With over six years of experience, I have a proven track record
of success.

I have led projects such as rebranding initiatives, website
redesigns, crisis communications, social media growth, and launching the first
municipal-based podcast in the Lowcountry. I believe that informed communities
can make a positive impact, and I strive to connect with those I serve.

I’m also an FAA-certified drone pilot, a prime example of how I
blend innovation with service. As a kid, in my quest to become an Eagle Scout,
I developed a love for service. Additionally, I am a Leadership Charleston
Graduate and honors graduate of Charleston Southern University.

My professional achievements are no match to the joy of being a
girl dad to my 17-month-old, Parker. Through innovative communication
strategies, breathtaking aerial imagery, or top-notch dad jokes, my work is
driven by a desire to inspire and serve.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader motivates and enables others to achieve
goals, has integrity, a clear sense of direction, and is adaptable to changing
circumstances while promoting a cooperative environment.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Always trust your instincts and never stop thinking about the
bigger picture.


Jaymes McCloud

Age 31


J.H.W. Enterprises Property Management, Inc.

In March 2018, I founded J.H.W. Enterprises Property Management,
Inc., where I grew exponentially from managing one property at a mere $60 each
month during its first year to an astounding portfolio of over 80 properties by
year two.

I lead a dynamic team of dedicated professionals in managing and
caring for hundreds of multifamily, commercial, and residential properties
spanning five states. J.H.W. Enterprises has become one of the Southeast’s
fastest-growing multifamily portfolio management companies, amassing a
portfolio of more than 800 units across South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
Maryland, and Texas.

Motivated by a desire “to do property management the right
way,” I guide my team in applying an integrity-led approach in effectively
capturing market rent, identifying qualified tenants, stabilizing facilities
expenses, and offering transparent reporting to property investors.

Seeing a lack of representation in the property management
industry and a need for more compassion-driven leadership, I began a career as
a leasing agent in 2011. After climbing the corporate ladder and earning
several promotions, I became a property manager, regional manager, and vice
president of property management, supervising a 60-member team across five

I am also a champion in the fight against homelessness and
poverty. I’m a former member of the Landlord Engagement Committee for
Homelessness, which worked to close gaps for the marginalized by providing safe
and affordable housing to those without a place to call home. I’ve also worked
to develop partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as One80 Place, the
South Carolina Department of Mental Health, and Roper St. Francis Hospital.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending quality time with my wife,
Jessica, and our three children, Kylie, Kristian, and Jaymes II.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is defined by the people he/she is surrounded
by. A leader leads the focus to uplift and create more leaders.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You will live a life filled with a culture for success. You have
to set a standard of excellence and stay true to it; a standard that breathes
legacy and community. Compliancy is not an option, and character/integrity is
your lifeline.


Dr. Brantley Meier

Age 34


The Bridge Chiropractic

Having been born and raised in Charleston, I feel there is no
greater privilege than serving this city. From taking care of patients to being
on multiple boards throughout the city, I try to give back in every single way

With my background as a professional athlete, I feel that my
experience with human performance, injury prevention, and rehabilitation
provides major benefits for the patients I see every day. Through the
grassroots campaigns that we implement as an office, we are constantly involved
in local events, sponsorships, and volunteer opportunities.

Personally, outside of the office, I spend the majority of my
free time with my family or in nature. Camping, free diving, kayaking, any
activity outdoors has my heart. The past two years have been a huge blessing,
winning Best Chiropractor in Charleston 5 times, being awarded the Top 40 Under
40 in Charleston, and Who’s Who in America. My long-term goals are to open
multiple chiropractic clinics in the Charleston area, opening my own nonprofit,
and continuing serving on local boards that are making tremendous positive
impacts in Charleston.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader can make the absolute most out of everything
available. A successful leader makes every single person around them better.
The vision is clear, the action steps are determined, and the implementation is

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

The same thing that I tell myself every day. Keep the faith.
Never give up.


Kaity Miller

Age 34

Chief Operating Officer

Build Carolina

Raised in Dillon County, South Carolina, I transferred to the
College of Charleston my sophomore year and immediately fell in love with the
city. Fifteen years later, that love has grown into a passion for serving my
community in a number of ways both professionally and philanthropically.

As a nonprofit COO committed to enhancing accessibility and
growth within the tech talent ecosystem, I am fueled by the life-changing power
of tech education and mentorship. Within this role, I have assisted in the
creation, launch, and/or sustainability of several programs which include a
unique and innovative approach to apprenticeship, an immersive software
development bootcamp, and a free coding education platform. These programs
collectively have exposed more than 56,000 individuals to coding skills and
tech career opportunities.

I am passionate about giving back to my community in hopes of
making it a welcome place for all to live and work. I serve on the board for
Charleston Women in Tech, and I am a certified Guardian ad litem working closely
with children involved with the Department of Social Services.

Your favorite quote and why:

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to
dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent
leader.” – Dolly Parton.

This quote is a guiding light back to focusing on what’s
important if I get lost along the way.

What’s your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who runs ahead to clear a path so
those behind them can more easily succeed.


Joshua Mitchell

Age 33

Transportation Engineer


Growing up in Pakistan as a missionary kid, I can’t say I
envisioned settling down in South Carolina. But after graduating from Clemson
University, staying close and moving to Charleston was the perfect fit.

On an extended internship in Haiti, I saw firsthand the impact
improvements to a transportation system have on a community. That sparked my
love for transportation engineering, and since joining Stantec, I’ve had the
opportunity to serve as a project manager for a variety of projects in the
Lowcountry and throughout the state – and to serve as a mentor to a growing
number of staff engineers. My focus is on advancing improvements to the local
transportation network to ensure that as the region grows, so does its ability
to manage traffic efficiently and safely.

I’ve also had the pleasure of serving in our community as a
refugee family supporter and through the City of Charleston Mentorship Program,
and as a foster parent with my wife, providing a home for kids in transitioning
and challenging circumstances, with the goal of family reunification.

Your favorite quote and why:

“When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin, but
when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon
my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so
and sought my good.” – Charles

Misconceptions about God abound – in all of us. But when we
understand his goodness, especially in Christ, they fail to hold up to scrutiny.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is one that sets others up for success,
sometimes – perhaps often – at their own expense.


Caroline Muller

Age 27

Assistant General Manager

Nolan Transportation Group

I was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut before
deciding to go south and attend Clemson University. Once I graduated, I worked
with GIVE Volunteers as a recruiter traveling throughout the country teaching
students about the opportunities presented by that organization and sharing my
own experiences traveling with GIVE.

After an incredibly fulfilling year, I accepted a position as an
account manager at Nolan Transportation Group, starting with a class of about
25 new employees. Although at times, sales was undoubtedly a frustrating
endeavor, I learned a lot in a short period of time and determined that
leadership was ultimately the path I wanted to pursue.

I moved into a leadership position in under two years of being
with the company and was able to climb the ranks to where I am today as
assistant general manager. My current focus is on building up our employees in
both sales and operations to be the best they can be – the best part of my work
is the people, and I am lucky to be able to work with everyone I do.

Your favorite quote and why:

“Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal.”

I think that quote perfectly encapsulates the impact that your
perspective can have on a given opportunity or situation. Always looking for
the silver lining or the lesson in any circumstances is the best thing you can
do for yourself.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would tell my 18-year-old self to trust the process. If someone
had told me when I was entering college that I would be a manager at a
logistics company in nine years, I would have looked at them like they were
crazy, and yet, this is right where I feel I am meant to be at this point in


Tevin Proctor

Age 32

DEI Program Manager

Wellstar Health System

I’m proud to have established myself as a distinguished
professional with a resume reflecting notable professional achievement and high
academic accolades. I hold a prominent position at WellStar Health Systems,
where I contribute to streamlined healthcare innovation, pioneering
transformative solutions that are redefining patient care.

In this role, I champion vital initiatives that fortify
diversity, inclusion, and health equity, equipping socioeconomically
disempowered populations with the resources and tools necessary to enhance
their well-being. I hold a bachelor’s in biology from the College of Charleston
and an MBA from Charleston Southern University. In the fall of 2024, I expect
to complete my Doctor of Health Science degree at the University of Bridgeport,
deepening my commitment to driving positive change in healthcare.

Giving back to the community holds immense significance to me. My
commitment to the community reflects my deeply ingrained values and firm belief
that genuine progress lies not only in personal success but also in the
enrichment of others. As I look ahead, I envision myself assuming leadership
roles that allow me to catalyze positive change on a global scale.

Your favorite quote and why:

“You’ll learn hearing doubts doesn’t mean you have to listen
… and find out everything you had was everything you missin’.” – Big Sean

The first part of this quote keeps me grounded and reminds me
that our life story is ours alone to write. It’s a reminder not to let anyone
else dictate our path. The second part of this quote means a lot because it’s
so easy to feel lost at times or like something is missing in life. But when I
really think about it, I realize that everything I truly want is already a part
of my life.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I’d emphasize prioritizing myself a bit more. It’s easy to get
caught up in external demands and expectations to the point where it’s easy to
lose sight of oneself. I would also encourage myself to have more patience –
not just in waiting for outward achievements or life milestones, but also in
making room to embrace the notion that each step has a purpose and there’s a
guiding force steering me along the way.


Noelle Richard

Age 33

Senior Coordinator, Partnership Marketing & CRM

US Club Soccer

Born and raised in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts, I was
always a lover of the beach and history. So naturally, I jumped at the
opportunity to move to Charleston with both feet.

Before venturing to the Lowcountry, I began my career in Minor
League Baseball (MiLB) shortly after graduating from the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst. Working in MiLB allowed me to take charge in a variety
of roles, from something as minor as performing in a mascot suit in between
innings to working alongside New York Yankee legends Reggie Jackson and Bernie
Williams for national campaigns. It was during that time in my career where I
learned that there was no such thing as a “small” role. Every role is vital in
order to make an organization run. I have taken that mindset with me in every
position I have held since moving on from MiLB – whether it was stocking the
shelves at Lowes Foods grocery store during the pandemic or my current role in
partnership marketing with US Club Soccer, every role matters.

Your favorite quote and why:

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” – Clare Pooley

We can hold the highest titles in a company, have a collection of
awards, but at the end of the day, we are only ever truly remembered by how we
made a person feel.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who is not hesitant to jump in and
help their team when and where it is needed. A person who does not believe that
a task is too small or “beneath them.”


Nina Cano Richards

Age 34

Immigration Attorney and Language Access Consultant

Cano Law, LLC/Spanglish Consulting, LLC

My Bolivian heritage and my upbringing in the Lowcountry have
afforded me invaluable life experiences shaping who I am and the way that I do
business. After matriculating from Winthrop University for undergrad and law
school in Florida, I began my career at the Texas-Mexico border where I
provided legal representation to unaccompanied minors detained during the UAC
crisis. At 25, I returned to Charleston and opened Cano Law, a thriving law
firm with a steadfast commitment to representing immigrants, their families,
and U.S. employers.

As an attorney and passionate advocate for Charleston’s Hispanic
community, I remain committed to making a difference. But we need more than legal
services. New Americans, like my family, face significant obstacles in access.
So, in 2023, I co-founded Spanglish Consulting to bridge the language access
gap by working with businesses and organizations to strategically plan
accessible services to multilingual communities with mutually beneficial
outcomes. I have the honor of serving on the board of the SC-ACLU and the
Mayor’s Latinx Advisory Council. To relax, I enjoy traveling and spending time
with my close-knit family.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader will bring others with them to the table and
empower them to become leaders themselves. More than obtaining successful
outcomes, a successful leader inspires and empowers others to reach for their
dreams and reach their fullest potential.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You have the potential to do incredible things. Don’t limit
yourself based on the expectations of others. Dream big, set audacious goals,
and remain determined to make them a reality.


Emily Ross

Age 24

General Manager

Ross Printing and Low Country Target Mailing

I grew up a proud Charleston native and the daughter of a local
multigenerational printing company owner, and the importance and need for
supporting the community has always been emphasized. After years of nursing
school, I made the decision to become the fourth generation in the family
business. I was amazed at the positive impact that our printing company could
make on the community.

I am a member of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce,
serving on the steering committee for the Charleston Young Professionals group.
I, along with others, strive to offer meaningful opportunities, engaging
community members to build themselves professionally as leaders. As a member of
the professional development pillar for CYP, I continue to develop myself and
my company as an emerging leader in the Charleston area.

Consecutively earning the title of Charleston’s Choice, we
support programs such as The March of Dimes, Walk for Water, The Charleston
Animal Society, and many local companies and charities. I’m as dedicated and
passionate about continually supporting the Charleston area as my family before

Your favorite quote and why:

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects
it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

This quote runs through my mind every time I get stressed about a
situation. You can be upset with the situation, you can wait for someone else
to fix it, or you can get up and do something about it. It gives me the
ambition to source alternative options or solutions.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is not one who commands respect, but one that
embodies hard work, kindness, and dedication in a way that motivates others to
improve themselves. Someone who the team is proud to follow.


Jaimee Salone

Age 29

Global Marketing Communications Specialist


Although I am a South Carolina transplant, originally from
Chicago, I have had the privilege of calling Charleston home for the past 11
years. As a Charleston Southern alumna and current Webster University graduate
student, I strive to integrate faith and excellence into my personal and
professional life. Since graduating, I have had successful career opportunities
with Joint Base Charleston, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and
Ingevity that have encouraged and inspired me to want to serve the Charleston

I am involved with many organizations that allow me to impact the
community in different ways, including volunteer leadership with the chamber,
volunteering on Joint Base Charleston, being a big sister with Big Brothers Big
Sisters and being an active member of Delta Iota Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma
Rho Sorority Inc. for nearly nine years.

My long-term goals are to strive for excellence through
professionalism and servant leadership while integrating my faith. Through my
life’s work, giving back to the community means making impactful changes in the
lives of individuals and enriching our global community.

Your favorite quote and why:

“The dream is free. The Hustle is sold separately.” – Anonymous

This quote has resonated with me as my family has instilled the
values of hard work, ethics, and staying focused. It has encouraged me always
to follow my dreams; it reminds me that having dreams alone is not enough to
achieve my goals, but drive, dedication, and hustle are required.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

When I look back at 18-year-old Jaimee, I want her to understand
that there is a right time for everything. There is a time for high school,
where she accomplished so much and paved the way for the impending college
challenge, which gives her new opportunities to explore, develop, and succeed
in all things with Christ.


Sam Skardon

Age 35

Director, Development & Operations


I am the director of development and operations at the CLIMB
Fund, a not-for-profit loan fund that provides access to capital for South
Carolina’s disadvantaged small businesses. Over the past four years, I have
been pivotal to the CLIMB Fund’s rapid growth. It has tripled in size since
2019, and now makes over 100 loans per year to small businesses owned by
female, minority, veteran, and low-wealth entrepreneurs.

I previously served in several roles that blended social and
economic impact. I served as the director of One Region and Economic
Development Strategy for the Charleston Metro Area, and a legislative aide to
former U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. I hold an M.B.A. from
Georgetown University and a B.A. from Emory University.

I am the current chairman of the Charleston County Democratic
Party and was the 2020 Democratic nominee for State Senate District 41. Most
importantly, I am an extremely proud dad to twin toddler sons, Lewis and
Lawson, and consider myself very lucky to be husband to their mom, Leslie.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

My former boss, Congressman John Lewis, used to say,
“Leaders must be headlights, not tail lights.”  I think it captures the idea that some
leaders may be tempted to simply follow public opinion, or to continue the
metaphor, jump on the back of a moving car. 
But truly successful leaders guide the way.  They show where the car is going, and where
it can go, and are instrumental in people seeing the way there – then getting

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t watch college football from about 2014 to 2021.


Margaret Stypa

Age 28


Carolina Creative Marketing

I graduated from The College of Charleston in 2017 with a major
in public health and a minor in Spanish. After graduating, I worked as the
director of marketing for David Aylor Law Offices here in Charleston. It
sparked my interest in marketing and being active in the Charleston community.

In 2021, I began working for Bear Island Distributors as their
Wine Portfolio Manager, curating a wine portfolio by working with winemakers
and importers around the world. In that same year, I started Carolina Creative
Marketing to pursue my passion for marketing and sales and integrating
community involvement.

I have always been driven to build, create, and be part of a
community. I have volunteered on the board for The Charleston American
Marketing Association for four years, and took over as the chapter president in
July 2023. I also have been volunteering with Be A Mentor for five years.
Giving back to the community is so important to me and I am always looking for
more ways to give back and get involved.

Your favorite quote and why:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Our lives are a collection of the choices we make. From emotions
to actions, they shape who we are and who we become. We carry our attitudes and
beliefs into every single action we take in life.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Trust the process and embrace the journey! Take advantage of the
opportunities in front of you. And surround yourself with people who lift and
motivate you.


Kym Swanger

Age 30

Creative Director

Stingray Branding

I am a native of the rolling Appalachian Mountains of
Pennsylvania, and graduated from Millersville University in 2015, where I
focused on growing my skills in the field of graphic and interactive design.
After learning of the rich and growing tech industry in Charleston, I decided
to call it my home in 2016.

In my free time you’ll find me gardening, reading, detailing my
Mustang, or wrangling our pit bull/lab mix and two German shepherds, who are my

I started my journey with Stingray Branding in 2019. It was here
that I improved my skills as a web and mobile app designer to become creative
director in January 2022. My favorite part about my career is imparting my
knowledge and wisdom to younger designers whenever I get the opportunity and
watching them grow.

I, of course, would not be where I am today without my family,
friends, and boyfriend in my corner, always pushing me to work hard and never
give up on my dreams!

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is one who is always learning and empowers
those who follow them.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to come out of your cocoon. It will be scary, but
in the end, you will spread your wings and THRIVE.


Jessie Tanner Wall

Age 32

VP of Sales and Membership

Crush Yard

I enjoy meeting people. From my first summer job as an ice cream
scooper in my hometown of Dillon, South Carolina, at South of the Border, I
learned that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. I love finding
the common ground to create a genuine connection.

Sales and events are my passion. My experiences have ranged from
publications in People Magazine, Southern Living, Martha Stewart, and Brides,
to intimate gatherings in beautiful private homes. I approach challenges with a
mindset geared toward finding solutions, often pushing the boundaries of
creativity to craft moments that produce genuine “WOW” reactions.

I am the vice president of sales and membership for Crush Yard
Pickleball Club & Restaurant. Crush Yard is redefining the “eatertainment”
space with America’s fastest-growing sport. It combines priority member-only
options with a chef-crafted menu and pour-your-own beer, wine, and fountain
drinks, all in an ultra-modern, lounge-style environment.

I love to give back to the Charleston community by supporting
Feed the Need. This organization helps soup kitchens provide meal services
daily and focuses on job training for the unhoused and disadvantaged, providing
a clearer route to economic independence.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader guides with love and teaches through action.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You are allowed to make mistakes as long as you apologize to
yourself, grow from the experience, and always try your best.

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The first section of the trail at George W. Childs Park in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is now blacktop. Media toured the site on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, ahead of an expected reopening in 2024.

Restored Childs Park will reopen next year


Pocono Record

The first section of the trail at George W. Childs Park in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is now blacktop. Media toured the site on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, ahead of an expected reopening in 2024.

The first section of the trail at George W. Childs Park in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is now blacktop. Media toured the site on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, ahead of an expected reopening in 2024.

Kathryne Rubright

Repaired railings in Childs Park in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are seen on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. The site is scheduled to reopen next year. It has been closed due to storm damage since 2018.

Repaired railings in Childs Park in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are seen on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. The site is scheduled to reopen next year. It has been closed due to storm damage since 2018.

Kathryne Rubright

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Updated Mount Pocono Cape Cod House for Sale



The next-door neighbor of the house we featured last week has plenty of room for your family and a potential basement in-law suite.

house for sale mount pocono cape cod exterior front

You and your family will find a lot to like about this updated Cape Cod at 35 Knob Rd., Mt. Pocono, PA 18344. But if this isn’t enough for you, you can buy its next-door neighbor as well. / Photography by Christopher Urena via BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors

The same person who built the Colonial I showed you last week on the ashes of Horne’s Inn in 1945 also built this Cape Cod next door that same year. His name was George Saab, and he also built a motel two doors down from both of these houses.

The owner of the Colonial Saab built, former Mount Pocono Mayor Michael Penn, also owns this Mount Pocono Cape Cod house for sale. If you’re looking for a nice, well-maintained Poconos house right in the middle of Monroe County, you can buy either one of these. Or if you’re looking for a little something more, you can buy both.

But let’s consider this house on its own merits first.

house for sale mount pocono cape cod side porch

Side porch

house for sale mount pocono cape cod exterior rear

Exterior rear

This nicely maintained house sits on a sloping lot that gives it both a patio and a large deck in the rear.

house for sale mount pocono cape cod foyer


Its main floor has a traditional center-hall Colonial layout, with a foyer that separates the living room on the left from the dining room and kitchen on the right. You will find a powder room at the end of the hall.

house for sale mount pocono cape cod living room

Living room

side porch

Side porch

The living room spans the entire depth of the main floor. It has a stone fireplace and a door leading out to the covered side porch and rear deck.

dining room

Dining room

Like the living room, the dining room has a chair rail and large three-section windows with diamond mullions.



You’ll find those windows in the updated kitchen as well. It has enough room for a breakfast table and a door leading to stairs to the side yard.

primary bedroom

Primary bedroom

The upper floor contains three bedrooms, a sitting area overlooking the backyard and a full bathroom. The primary bedroom differs from the other two only in being larger and having a larger closet.

first and second floor bathrooms

First-floor (left) and second-floor (right) bathrooms

The basement contains two partly finished bonus rooms, a bedroom and a full bath. Its layout allows you to make an in-law suite out of one of the bonus rooms, the bathroom and the bedroom.

basement patio

Basement patio

The other bonus room has a door leading to the rear patio. And the layout of the basement actually makes it easier for you to take the seller up on a suggestion made in last week’s feature.

And that would be going into the lodging business.

According to the Mount Pocono Borough zoning map, the land on which these two houses sit is zoned for single-family residential use. However, the rules for its zoning district say that bed-and-breakfast inns are permitted in such zones. You should double-check with the borough before buying both with the aim of becoming an innkeeper, but if I understand the rules correctly, you could indeed buy 35 and 37 Knob Road together, turn 35’s basement into your own apartment, and welcome guests into the upstairs bedrooms in both.

You’d be able to offer a more personal lodging experience than the motel can. And your guests could take in the view from the rear deck, which stretches all the way to the Delaware Water Gap. You can also see the Camelback Mountain Ski Resort, one of several Poconos attractions convenient to here.

Other nearby attractions include the Kalahari indoor waterpark, the Mount Airy Casino Resort, and several state game lands and preserves. Even closer is the Knob Lookout at the end of the street on which this Mount Pocono Cape Cod house for sale sits.

So whether you buy one or both of these next-door neighbors, you will be getting an attractive property in a great location. And if you buy both, you could be on your way to making all sorts of new friends as a gracious host.



BATHS: 2 full, 1 half


SALE PRICE: $510,000

OTHER STUFF: This house’s sale price has been reduced twice, most recently by $20,000 on Sept. 2nd. This property is also being offered together with its next-door neighbor at 37 Knob Road. The asking price for both is $1,145,000.

35 Knob Rd., Mount Pocono, PA 18344 | 35 & 37 Knob Rd., Mount Pocono, PA 18344 [Alexis Cruel | BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors]

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How Social Media is Complicating Verification of Fastest …


Colorado is known for athletes who attempt impressive, sometimes dangerous, feats in the mountains. There are ski-mountaineers who descend from the summits of fourteeners. Stair-steppers who race down the Manitou Incline. And all manner of trail runners and hikers who attempt Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on routes crisscrossing the Centennial State.

Last month, the niche world of FKTs caught the media spotlight when a 25-year-old endurance athlete from Boulder, Erin Ton, claimed to have completed an unassisted FKT of Colorado’s highest peaks. The only problem? It turned out that the La Sportiva–sponsored athlete had skipped Culebra Peak, one of Colorado’s 58 mountains over 14,000 feet, which sits on private property and whose owners require hikers to obtain a $150 paid permit and reservation to access.

Even without Culebra, there was little debate that Ton’s athletic feat—completing 57 fourteeners in just over two weeks—was impressive. The logistics alone of covering so much ground, unsupported in a friend’s borrowed Jeep Wrangler, were astounding. But the controversy surrounding Ton’s Instagram post on August 1, in which she claimed an FKT of Colorado’s fourteeners but failed to mention omitting Culebra, overshadowed her accomplishment on the 57 other peaks. It didn’t help Ton’s case that she reportedly deleted comments on Instagram and blocked users before coming clean that she had, in fact, not climbed the 14,053-foot peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

This isn’t the first time social media has caused a problem in the FKT world. According to Buzz Burrell, one of the founding fathers of the Fastest Known Times movement, the instantaneousness of uploading to social media and the speed at which online content spreads can cause problems when official verification of FKTs takes longer than simply posting to your Instagram feed.

Burrell—who, like Ton, is based in Boulder—and his adventure buddy Peter Bakwin helped popularize FKTs when they set out to complete one on California’s John Muir Trail in 2000. At the time, the two runners had difficulty finding existing records of completed speed attempts on the route, so Bakwin later created an online forum on a free web platform called ProBoards to keep track of runners’ attempts on various routes and maintained it for more than 10 years. Then, in 2018, Burrell and Bakwin launched, which has become the go-to, official FKT database, complete with its own detailed instructions for verification.

Burrell has seen a lot of change around FKTs since he and Bakwin started conquering trails together. In 2022, Outside Inc. acquired, and Burrell is no longer involved in its day-to-day operation. But the legendary trail runner and pioneer of FKTs is still invested in the movement he helped inspire, and at the age of 71 is still an active athlete. 5280 recently caught up with Burrell, just after he had finished an uphill race in Portugal and was waiting to be called to the awards podium, to chat about social media, corporate sponsorships in adventure sports, and the Erin Ton controversy.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

5280: Let’s start at the beginning. Why were FKTs appealing to you when you first started speed attempts?
I’ve always done what we call “projects,” which is borrowed from climbing terminology. And I used to project—it can also be used as a verb—routes. So, when the concept of fastest known times came up after Peter Bakwin’s and my John Muir Trail FKT, it was a natural fit…and part of it is human nature. Some may say why [do FKTs]? We say why not? This is what we do. And so, in this sense, I like to equate FKTs in some ways with races. You want to see who’s the fastest. FKTs are the same that way, except you’re not locked into doing it at a certain time, a certain place, a certain course, with someone handing you water every three kilometers like they do today.

When you and Bakwin created the first web forum in the early 2000s and people started logging these FKT attempts, that was still pre-social media. At that point, did corporate sponsorships already play a role in FKTs, or was it really just about having personal challenges as athletes?
For quite some time, it was just people who liked the concept. Almost immediately, Kilian Jornet was our first submittal. He just jumped on it because this was his thing. He felt done with races and wanted to do FKTs because he’s a smart guy. He’s a mountain guy. The skillset that is required [for FKTs] appealed to him…and at the beginning we just had three rules: Be honest, tell someone what you were going to do before you did it, and then tell them immediately after you did it. You couldn’t say, “Well, I did that 10 years ago” and then offer no proof. But people started doing that. So, then we started saying that you had to submit a GPX file [from a GPS tracking device].

When did corporate sponsorships start playing a role in FKTs?
What I noticed early on was that it was the Europeans who were more upfront about it than Americans. They would announce an FKT attempt and would blow up one of those inflatable banners, have spectators and have people cheering [the end of the FKT attempt].

How did you feel about that, because it seems like a paradigm shift from the individual challenge that could be done at any time, and now you had European companies turning athletes’ FKT attempts into public spectator events.
We were totally fine with it. We welcomed it. And Peter and I were actually happy to see pro athletes get contracts that included FKTs on them, contracts saying you’ve got to do four pro races or FKTs per year. Because if you compare [the financial model] to professional cycling, where they’re on a team, they get a salary. And if you’re a track or a road runner, you can get prize money at races—like winning the World Marathon Majors is $100,000. But whatever you win at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is practically nothing. [In ultrarunning] it’s the sponsorships that matter financially—so it’s a very different model. And then social media sort of arose at the same time.

And what effect did social media have on the sponsorship model?
Well, the sponsors now are just paying for impressions. When I was a director at La Sportiva, [prospective athletes] would write in and say, “What does it take to get sponsored? I’ve already got this result and that result.” And I would be like, Dude, we pay for impressions. I don’t care what races you finished third at. I care how many people see you. And I know that’s just terrible, but that’s the way it is right now.

Have you heard any cynicism about that? Are there any athletes who will submit GPS files for FKTs, but refuse to have a social media presence?
There’s Jack Kuenzle, a hardcore FKTer who doesn’t spray—another climbing term we use, meaning “Weeee, look at me.” But mostly social media is an accepted part of it. And people try to work it their own way. You have people like Anton Krupicka, a totally sincere guy who uses Strava as his main social media, with long posts and descriptions. And then he’ll just do what he’s required to do on Instagram because the sponsor brands will write into contracts: Each time we do a product release, you have to say, “Hey, look at this cool thing.” That’s the athlete’s fucking job, and again, it all rolls back into the sponsorship model.

Has social media made FKT verifications easier, or more difficult?
There are both good and bad aspects. An interesting positive aspect is that on some of the most popular routes, like the Appalachian Trial, if someone is doing live GPS tracking—which they should do for such premier routes—and they step off the route for like two feet, people watch for that and jump all over it. Someone’s going to point it out if you made a mistake. And, so, if someone’s stupid enough to actually try to cheat, which is very uncommon, you may have someone say, “Wait, I saw them hitchhiking into Delaware Gap!” So, in that sense, verification is crowdsourced, which is good. Because we are in charge [at] of creating a level playing field. That’s all we do. We don’t put up routes. You submit routes, and we look at them.

What about the bad? I imagine there was a period when was where people would first find out about these new claims, and maybe it had already been verified by editors on the website. But with social media, any athlete can post immediately.
You’re totally right. And you identified something that’s very annoying, and it’s happened before Erin Ton. Since Outside Inc. bought, they have [an editor] there who is a total Trojan but who is overworked and paid by the hour to do the whole thing. And they really need someone who’s ahead of the game, who’s following attempts and riding the crest of that wave. The website is still in the old-school, Peter-and-Buzz method of waiting until an FKT attempt is completed, and waiting until someone submits the form, before verifying it.

But with social media, it’s all happening right now. It’s in the moment. So that’s an awkward aspect that’s very well demonstrated by Erin Ton—who’s a good person, by the way. She’s a really good athlete, too. But she skipped Culebra. And you can’t skip Culebra. I’m sorry. And while she’s not a bad person or a liar, she would be unfair to previous people who had done fourteener FKTs—if that was given to her—because they all had to jump through the hoops [of submitting on]. So that’s another aspect of the social media problem with FKTs, is sometimes the website has to be the bad guy that rolls things back. Because then we’re taking heat when there are already 5,000 people on social media saying to the athlete, “Hey, you’re the best, we love you!” and then there’s one person rolling it back. That’s not a fun job to have.

What would be your suggestions for athletes tackling FKTs on popular routes in the future?
There’s nothing wrong with posting to social media, but an FKT is not done until it’s verified. And it’s not a popularity contest. It’s not a democracy here; just because you’re really popular doesn’t mean you have the FKT. FKTs are an objective determination, so please allow [the editors] at to do their work, because they work really hard. And if you are going to post on social media, saying something like Hey, I just completed this, and now I’m going to submit for verification would be the cool way to do things. Not to say that I expect that, but that would be lovely. And again, please respect the work of the FKT editors. They are good people, and they are creating a level playing field for everyone.

Chris Walker

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Arthur Schnurpel's home was caked in mud after surge from Hurricane Ian caused water from the Caloosahatchee River to spill into his neighborhood.

6 people died by suicide in the aftermath of Hurricane Ia…


Editor’s note: This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. You can call or text 988 to be connected to the suicide & crisis helpline. Additional resources are listed at the bottom of this story.

Arthur Schnurpel’s daughter heard it in his voice. Not his usual soft-spoken tenor, but something different — inconsolable.

Three days earlier, Hurricane Ian had made landfall in Lee County. Walls of water crashed into coastal homes, tearing buildings from foundations, leaving carnage.

But the storm’s damage, it would soon become clear, swelled beyond physical destruction.

Hurricane Ian wrought or worsened widespread mental anguish that, for at least six senior Floridians, ended in their suicides. It’s a tragic toll that researchers warn could worsen.

About 20 miles inland on that September day, Schnurpel had hoisted his wife, who is disabled, onto a makeshift raft as water spilled from the Caloosahatchee River into their home.

For hours, Schnurpel, 70, had stood partially submerged in rising saltwater, wondering if they were going to die. All around him were his life’s possessions, his history, the retirement he’d built in Florida after moving from Indiana. He watched it all melt into a thick brown sludge.

Arthur Schnurpel's home was caked in mud after surge from Hurricane Ian caused water from the Caloosahatchee River to spill into his neighborhood.
Arthur Schnurpel’s home was caked in mud after surge from Hurricane Ian caused water from the Caloosahatchee River to spill into his neighborhood. [ Photo provided by Shawnya Scott. ]

Rescue crews eventually whisked the couple to a hospital, where his wife, who had Stage 5 Parkinson’s, was kept. Schnurpel begged to stay, but was discharged and sent away.

Now it was the first day of October. He didn’t have money or an ID. He didn’t have his glasses, and his truck was flooded. He had managed to keep his phone alive, though, and called his only daughter, Shawnya Scott, at home in the Midwest.

Arthur Schnurpel spent most of his life in Indiana working as a machine shop foreperson. In Florida, he loved the beach and working in a wide-brimmed sun hat, planting flowers and mulching his yard.
Arthur Schnurpel spent most of his life in Indiana working as a machine shop foreperson. In Florida, he loved the beach and working in a wide-brimmed sun hat, planting flowers and mulching his yard. [ Photo provided by Shawnya Scott. ]

“Dad, it’s going to be OK, let me help you. I can fill out FEMA paperwork,” Scott remembers saying, but her father stopped her.

He didn’t have insurance, he said, panicking. He took care of his wife — had done so for the last three years — and he knew he couldn’t help her without stable housing. Where would they go?

His tongue was so swollen he could hardly talk, Scott remembers.

“Shawnya, I just need to know that you still love me,” he said to his daughter.

“There was silence. Then I said, ‘Of course I love you, Dad. We’re going to get this sorted out.’”

It would be their last conversation. Schnurpel died by suicide later that day.

Invisible toll

Elsewhere in Lee County, another man in his 70s was telling his neighbors he’d lost everything.

A full-time delivery driver, he had ridden out the storm in a neighbor’s room of the building where he had lived for nearly three decades. When the floodwaters came into his bottom-floor apartment, they left an inch of mud and soiled furniture behind.

“Who would have thought at 73 that I’d have to start over,” he said.

They found his body the following day.

Over the next two months, four others in the region would take their own lives. Of the six who died, all were older adults. At least two lived with preexisting mental illnesses. Half were without insurance and feared becoming homeless.

In the aftermath of disaster, beyond the toppled buildings, twisted street signs and billions of dollars in repairs, communities have to reckon with another, insidious harm: the burden on mental health.

Research has found that up to half of people who live through a disaster struggle with anxiety and depression, substance use or post-traumatic stress disorder, said Jennifer Horney, an epidemiology professor at the University of Delaware who studies the effects of catastrophe on health.

The result is often an increase in suicides.

In the year that Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, suicides there spiked by 29%. When Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found suicides increased, too.

The report urged leaders to build mental health services into hurricane response plans — especially in the long recovery phase.

Those who died by suicide after Hurricane Ian experienced varying stressors.

More than two months after Hurricane Ian's landfall, wreckage was abundant. An aerial view shows collapsed mobile homes in Fort Myers Beach on Dec. 4, 2022.
More than two months after Hurricane Ian’s landfall, wreckage was abundant. An aerial view shows collapsed mobile homes in Fort Myers Beach on Dec. 4, 2022. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2022) ]

There was the 81-year-old man whose winter home was ruined, who was despondent over the loss of his belongings.

The 65-year-old man in Cape Coral who had struggled with mental illness most of his life, who had faced housing insecurity once before and was scared to do so again. He left a note making reference to the destruction of his home.

There was the 79-year-old staunch conservative who wore suspenders and a sun hat. He was a bookish man, described by one neighbor, who had a military background working with submarines. He had gotten rid of his insurance a few months earlier. Overwhelmed by Ian’s damage, he quickly sold his home for little money to “We Buy Ugly Houses,” but by November, he’d become distraught by the decision and unsure of where he would live.

Then, there was the 69-year-old retired nurse living on Pine Island. She was still grieving the husband she’d been with for 36 years, who had died the year prior. They’d moved from Michigan so he could live out his dream of boating on warm waters. After Ian hit, she confided in neighbors that she was frustrated with her insurance company, with whom she was fighting over her claim. She was depressed, she said, because of the piles of debris strewn around town now two months later.

Her body was found after she didn’t show up to family Thanksgiving.

All but one of the deaths resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A grueling recovery

These six documented suicides could be directly tied to the storm by medical examiners, who considered notes left by the deceased, proximity to the disaster and statements made by family and friends. But the true toll may well be higher.

Lee County is entering year two of recovery — a window that research shows is a critical time.

Horney and her collaborators analyzed 281 natural disasters in the U.S., looking at suicide rates in affected communities before and after the crisis.

For hours, Arthur Schnurpel stood partially submerged in rising saltwater, wondering if he and his wife with mobility challenges would make it out alive.
For hours, Arthur Schnurpel stood partially submerged in rising saltwater, wondering if he and his wife with mobility challenges would make it out alive. [ Photo provided by Shawnya Scott. ]

Rates leapt the highest two years post-disaster, she found, when the initial response had faded but damage remained extensive.

“Recovery can be so long and arduous and expensive,” she said. “It’s that hopelessness that sets in.”

Immediately after a storm, communities can often tap funds that boost local emergency mental health services, Horney said. People’s mental health may even improve as they come together to rebuild.

But those resources run out. And as the grind of recovery sets in, people’s well-being can crater.

In Florida, mental health funding and resources are particularly scarce — a worrisome stat as experts warn of natural disasters’ compounding effects.

Last year, Florida ranked 49th in the nation for access to mental health care, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America, which considered measures such as affordability and availability of clinicians.

Historically, Florida has spent one of the lowest dollar amounts per resident on mental health — as much as 10 times lower than leading states.

In July, the state’s budget allotted $2.5 billion for mental health and substance use disorder support, a step toward closing the gap.

Summer in Florida brings spaghetti models and, sometimes, blaring weather alarms. For a storm survivor, each brush, however distant, might dig up unwanted memories.

In areas where wildfires have spread, people have reported being triggered by simple gusts of wind, said Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness out of Columbia University. Where hurricanes or floods have wrecked communities, heavy rain and seasonal weather changes can spark a trauma response.

Laura Sampson, a professor at Stony Brook University who focuses on the effects of disaster on health, has studied community responses after hurricanes Sandy, Harvey, Irma and Maria. Her takeaway: The vulnerable get more vulnerable.

Arthur Schnurpel and Shawnya Scott.
Arthur Schnurpel and Shawnya Scott. [ Photo provided by Shawnya Scott. ]

That includes people living in poverty or paycheck to paycheck, those with unstable housing, people with chronic health conditions or those already living with a mental illness, as well as older adults, she said.

Almost 30% of Lee County residents are seniors. Nearly a fifth of residents under 65 and not on Medicare live without health insurance.

The ability to bounce back from disaster can be vastly different for neighbors in the same community. It takes more than just money, though that plays a big role, Sampson said. It’s also support from neighbors, family and friends that can make a difference.

Rebuilding a community

A week after Ian hit, Jeanine Joy was driving down a Fort Myers road when Jimmy Buffett’s “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” came on the radio.

I must confess, I could use some rest. I can’t run at this pace very long,” he sang. Joy burst into tears.

She was on her way to deliver aid to the displaced, part of a larger response she was leading as president and CEO of the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties.

She and nine colleagues had spent two intense days operating the county’s 211 Helpline as the storm angled toward their coast, fielding calls from frightened residents.

Families were panicking, pleading for help though it was too late to reach them. A 70-year-old woman who couldn’t swim called while neck-deep in water. The surge was rising when the call dropped.

“We would take turns taking calls and then breaking down,” Joy said. “There was so much need.”

In the year since the hurricane hit, hotline calls have kept coming. Three-quarters, Joy estimates, are from people experiencing mental health struggles. She said staff have repeatedly referred callers to the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Helpline.

Families were already struggling amid a growing affordability crisis and pandemic recovery, she said. Mental health had been on the decline, and provider shortages were widespread.

People who were behind on rent fell further behind. Some who had struggled with mental illness were living with post-traumatic stress. The helpers — people who had perhaps just recovered from pandemic-induced burnout — were facing another protracted, messy crisis.

Jeanine Joy and a team of United Way workers survey the home of a survivor of Hurricane Ian.
Jeanine Joy and a team of United Way workers survey the home of a survivor of Hurricane Ian. [ Provided by the United Way. ]

For about four months, at least, checks rolled in.

In recent months, they’ve dropped off.

But hurricane survivors still need to pay doctors’ bills and rent. They need car payments and help with child care so they can focus on battling insurance companies for repairs. They need school notebooks and mattresses, so they don’t have to sleep on the floor.

Whether it’s blue tarps on roofs, mangled boats or broken traffic lights, the memory of the storm remains close.

“It feels like we have only done the first layer of recovery,” said Madison Mitchell, who oversees fund distribution for the local United Way.

“I know that we will get through this as a community. I can say that with 100% certainty,” Mitchell said. “We need people to know that help exists, and it’s OK to ask for it.”

A call for action

Scott says she misses her dad’s gentle voice — the kindness in it.

A childhood photo of Shawnya Scott with her dad, Arthur Schnurpel.
A childhood photo of Shawnya Scott with her dad, Arthur Schnurpel. [ Photo provided by Shawnya Scott. ]

She misses watching Indiana University basketball games together while eating popcorn and watermelon before bed. She misses his landscaping updates: He loved working in a wide-brimmed sun hat, planting flowers and mulching his yard.

She misses visiting him down south. Schnurpel had spent 30 years working as a machine shop foreperson, and there was something special about seeing him so relaxed in the Florida sun. He loved the beach, and the seagulls really loved him. They’d flutter around in flocks, and he’d marvel at the life he was living in his coastal town, so different from the fields of Indiana.

Schnurpel loved his grandkids, his great-grandkids, though he was soft-spoken and often shy. He liked his quiet life — the only exception being his guitar.

It was the only possession salvaged from the home. Now, Schnurpel’s grandson plays it.

Scott tries to understand what happened. She thinks about the emergency responders who rescued him, the hospital staff who discharged him and sent him away, back to his destroyed home.

Why wasn’t there more help? she wonders.

Now, when she misses her dad, she plays a voicemail he left her on the day he died.

“Hey, Shawnya, it’s me,” Schnurpel says. “I just wanted to call and say I love ya. Bye-bye.”

• • •

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24-hour National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by texting or calling 988 or chat with someone online at The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting

If you are a resident of Lee, Hendry or Glades counties seeking help, you can connect with the United Way Helpline by calling 211 or visit for information on hurricane recovery assistance.

To learn more about resources available in your community and to connect with your local 211 provider, visit

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