By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Leadership Southeast Georgia class graduates
Leadership Southeast Georgia class graduates
The Leadership Southeast Georgia class visited Georgia Southern University and the football team’s indoor practice facility. Photo provided

The Leadership Southeast Georgia Class of 2024 concluded its five-month program with a final session and graduation ceremony held across various locations in Chatham County.

The program culminated with a focus on economic development, specifically the impact of the region’s military installations. Participants also presented their capstone projects, reflecting on the diverse topics covered throughout the program, including infrastructure and workforce, agriculture, education, military affairs, and community health.

Day one commenced at the Air Dominance Center with introductions and a welcome address from Pooler Mayor Karen Williams. This was followed by a discussion panel on military impact led by Kristin Fulford, deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office. The participants delved into how military installations influence various aspects of the region. Col. David “DJ” Spisso, an Air National Guard instructor pilot, then led a captivating military experience exercise.

The afternoon session included Jessica Hood, vice president of the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, leading the group on an immersive economic development exercise exploring the factors an organization would need to consider before relocating to the area.

The second day began with the presentation of House Resolution 1610, recognizing and commending the Class of 2024. Dignitaries, including state Reps. Ron Stephens and Lehman Franklin, presented the resolution.

Following the presentations, class members had the opportunity to showcase their capstone projects during question and answer sessions. The afternoon included a visit to the Mitsubishi Power Americas plant in Pooler, exploring manufacturing and its economic influence on the community. This was followed by a windshield tour of the Georgia Ports Authority site.

“The exercises and site visits provide a powerful connection to our panel discussions,” said Courtney Rawlins, LSEGA program manager and CEO of the Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce. “Real-world experiences bring the topics to life and uncover opportunities for improvement that might be missed in a traditional classroom setting. That’s truly one of the program’s greatest strengths.”

Alumni from across the region gathered for a reception honoring the class, the program managers and volunteer committees. This included a catered dinner and karaoke event at the rooftop Sky Suite at 300 Drayton in downtown Savannah.

“It’s truly inspiring to witness the dedication and growth of our participants each year,” said Suzanne Kirk, LSEGA facilitator and president of Employee Development Strategies, Inc. “Through Leadership Southeast Georgia, these leaders gain a deeper understanding of our region’s complex issues and develop the skills to collaboratively create positive change.”

On the final day, the class received valuable insights from previous graduates and participated in a program review before receiving their graduation plaques and certificates.

“The 2024 LSEGA class has been exceptional from the very beginning,” remarked Kendria Lee, chairwoman of Leadership Southeast Georgia. “Their enthusiasm grew with each session. It’s been incredibly rewarding to witness this diverse and energetic group come together, share ideas, support one another and develop their leadership skills to serve our community. I wholeheartedly congratulate them on their achievements.”

The Class of 2024 includes:

• Billy Joe Nelson, Jr., District Attorney, State of Georgia, Bryan, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties

• Russell Parr, project manager, Resource + Land Consultants, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, and Screven counties

• Dr. Olivia Penrod, Education Services Officer, Fort Stewart/ Hunter Army Airfield, Chatham and Liberty counties

• Desiree Riley, office administrator, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Liberty County

• Leigh Smiley, broker, Coldwell Banker, Liberty County The Leadership Southeast Georgia 2024 overall program sponsors include Evans General Contractors, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Georgia Power, Georgia Southern University, M.E. Sack Engineering, Thomas & Hutton, International Paper, The Sack Company, Coleman Company, Goodwill Southeast Georgia, Bouhan Falligant, Rhowe Design + Build, Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Savannah Economic Development Authority, World Trade Center Savannah, HunterMaclean, Hussey Gay Bell, Bank of Newington, Strategic Biz Solutions Unlimited LLC, Global Business Development Strategist LLC, Cecilia Russo Marketing, Dabbs Hickman Hill & Cannon, LLP and Georgia CEO.

To learn more about the Leadership Southeast Georgia program, visit

Sign up for our E-Newsletters