Introducing The Ledger's 40 Over 40 winners

Get to know these 40 people over age 40 doing incredible work to make our region a better place

IMPORTANT NOTE (1/18/2021): This is the list of the Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 winners for 2020. FOR INFORMATION ON THE 2021 CONTEST, CHECK OUT THIS POST, or follow The Charlotte Ledger’s 40 Over 40 LinkedIn page.

The Charlotte Ledger announces inaugural class of inspirational award-winners: 40 leaders aged 40+

The Charlotte Ledger is pleased to announce this year’s recipients of The Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 Awards.

The awards, revealed in a special presentation on Friday night, celebrate local unsung heroes aged 40+ who are doing great things in our community.

This year’s recipients were chosen by a distinguished panel of under-40 judges, who reviewed many impressive nominations — awe-inspiring and thought-provoking stories of innovators and problem solvers who toil humbly to lift others up, or find gaps in systems and work to fill them.

The 40 selected this year are making Charlotte a better place in a variety of ways, all over the city.

“This is an amazing group of people, and they deserve public recognition and appreciation for the important work they are doing day after day for our city and the people who live in it,” said Tony Mecia, executive editor of The Charlotte Ledger, the fast-growing new digital business publication that sponsored the awards. “So far, 2020 has been a rough year, but these people we are honoring today serve as important reminders of the many positive things that are happening all around us even in the midst of difficult circumstances.”

With great pride, we present the inaugural class of The Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 Award recipients:

Susan Andersen

Susan is founder and executive director of ANSWER Scholarship Inc., a non-profit that provides college scholarships, mentoring and professional development training to mothers in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. She helps strong women become self-sufficient and says, “When you educate a mom, you educate her children.”

Amy Aussieker

Amy is the executive director of Envision Charlotte, a public/private non-profit focused on making Charlotte the most sustainable city in the country. She has led a number of successful initiatives to promote recycling, reduce emissions and champion energy efficiency.

Joanne O’Brien Beam

Joanne heads her own firm, Beam Outcomes, which helps a number of nonprofits with strategy and fundraising, including work with Charlotte Family Housing, the YWCA, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Ronald McDonald House.

Beth Bell

Beth is executive director of Fashion & Compassion, a nonprofit that helps vulnerable women learn life skills and crafts such as jewelry-making to achieve financial independence and a brighter future. She has also dedicated her time to serving on boards of nonprofits including Charlotte Family Housing and the Harvest Center of Charlotte.

Kimbo Bohannon

Kimbo retired from a 27-year teaching career and founded Buddy/Mentor, a nonprofit mentoring program for elementary students. She volunteers at other nonprofits, and her nominator said: “Kim is an inspiration and a beacon of light who does not ask to be recognized.”

Mike Boykin

Mike is the CEO of Bespoke Sports & Entertainment, an award-winning Charlotte marketing agency. He started the Charlotte Sports and Business networking group, which now has thousands of members.

Colleen Brannan

Colleen is an award-winning 30-year public relations professional and owner of Branstorm PR. She serves on a variety of civic and professional boards, and her nominator calls her a “black belt marketer, an idea machine, a calm voice in a crisis, a connector and laugh-out-loud funny.”

Neil Cottrell

Neil is the head of the Joe Martin ALS Foundation, a nonprofit that provides joy and free home care for ALS patients. His nominator said: “Neil is the kindest, most honest, humble, and caring person who shows up when patients and their families need it the most.”

Ross Danis

Ross is the president and CEO of MeckED, a Charlotte nonprofit dedicated to ensuring access to opportunity for all children. His nominator wrote: “I’ve never met a more dedicated public servant who was willing to fight for what was right.”

Jas Dillard

Jas is the founder and owner of Kumon of Myers Park, an after-school math and reading-enrichment business that helps children and teens from different socioeconomic backgrounds. She is also the co-founder of FiA, a Charlotte women’s exercise and leadership group.

Crystal Emerick

Crystal is the founder and executive director of Brave Step, which empowers individuals affected by sexual violence by directing them to the counseling and support they need, which helps build a strong and supportive community.

Shawn Flynn

Shawn is a lifelong journalist who has spent the past 17 years engaging viewers and readers in the Charlotte region, much of it with Spectrum News. He is passionate about philanthropy and has been heavily involved in healthcare-related nonprofits including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Charlie’s Heart Foundation and St. Jude’s Hospital.

Beth Ford

After the unexpected death of her husband in 2014, Beth started a social group of local widows and widowers that now has more than 500 members. Her nominator said the group “acts as a safe place for young widows and widowers to have a good cry, to get advice on how to deal with the rawness of grief and to learn how to navigate the world as a newly single person.”

Bill Grier

After a distinguished career in the construction industry, Bill is a commercial real estate investor who is a strong advocate for F3 Nation and the Charlotte Leadership Forum, and he co-hosts an annual fundraising lunch that benefits the Men’s Shelter, Charlotte Rescue Mission and other local charities.

Elizabeth A. Hardin

Although Elizabeth’s day job is vice chancellor for business affairs at UNC Charlotte, where she oversees finance, HR and other business functions, she is also a tireless volunteer at her church, Holy Comforter, and with local charities that provide shelter and food. She also leads popular book studies on social justice topics.

Rob Harrington

Rob is a lawyer with Robinson Bradshaw, where he chairs the firm’s litigation department. He also chairs the board of trustees of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and has chaired boards of the Mecklenburg County Bar, the Arts & Science Council, the Levine Museum of the New South and the National Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Abigail Naomi Head

Abigail left a 17-year career in I.T. to become an actor, writer, storyteller and filmmaker. She founded the Comedy Arts Theater of Charlotte, which teaches classes and holds performances in the area known as “LoSo” and volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol.

Darlene Heater

Darlene is the executive director of University City Partners, which helps lead economic development and growth in the University area. It’s her latest stop in a career that has spanned 20 years of leadership and service to Charlotte.

Ann Doss Helms

Ann, the education reporter for WFAE, has been a journalist in the Charlotte area since 1987. She has developed a mastery in covering local education, and her nominator wrote that she “is simply the go-to source for unbiased information about K-12 education in Charlotte-Mecklenburg” and that “she may well be the best the city has ever seen.”

Wendy L. Hickey

Wendy is the founder and executive director of ArtPop Street Gallery, which makes locally made art more accessible and visible to all. ArtPop works to place art on billboards, shopping center displays, in airports and in other public places for the benefit of the community and local artists.

Jason Hlewicki

Jason is the Director of Commercial Interiors and Special Projects at Swinerton, part of a 22-year career in construction, and he has done fundraising and community engagement for the 24 Foundation, a nonprofit for cancer research.

Latoya N. Hubbard

Latoya is a senior manager at Vanguard, where she is heavily involved in the Vanguard Black Professional Network and Vanguard Women in Leadership. She devotes much of her time to My Classroom Economy, a national financial literacy program for students.

Manoj Kesavan

Manoj is the founder and executive director of Que-OS, a nonprofit that transforms how art and culture is created and shared, such as organizing the annual Boom festival and finding other original ways for artists and performers to connect with each other.

Maureen Krueger

Maureen is executive director of the Charlotte Community ToolBank, which provides expertise, tools and special event equipment to community groups, churches, schools and other nonprofits. Her nominator says she has a “huge heart of gold” and is a “true connector” with “delightful human compassion.”

Tony Marciano

Tony has served as president and CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission since 1996. He says it has been his joy to share the hope of Christ with thousands of men and women who have come through the doors of the Rescue Mission seeking help and hope from an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Pat Millen

After a 24-year career as an international sports marketing consultant, Pat pivoted in 2013 to co-found the nonprofit E2D—Eliminate the Digital Divide to ensure that all students have affordable access to essential at-home technology to support academic success and prepare students for college, careers and beyond.

Mario Mitchell

Mario is a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and coworkers say he’s been a valuable mentor and teacher. He raises money and volunteers for The Men’s Shelter and coaches youth basketball and baseball.

Robert Phocas

Robert is the director of corporate social responsibility for AvidXchange after a stint as the director of sustainability for the city of Charlotte. He leads the AvidXchange Foundation, which focuses on STEAM and life skills for youth.

Shana Plott

Shana is the CEO of Coleman Lew Canny Bowen, a retained executive search firm with offices in Charlotte and New York. In 2016, she became the company's first woman CEO in its 40-year history. She volunteers regularly and serves on the board of directors for Loaves & Fishes.

Ed Price

Ed runs the Community Matters Cafe, the project run in partnership with the Charlotte Rescue Mission that serves great food, provides the community with a unique gathering space and provides an important step into employment for often-forgotten men and women struggling with addiction and poverty.

Blair Primis

Blair is senior vice president of marketing and talent management at OrthoCarolina and the co-director of the OrthoCarolina Foundation. His nominator wrote that Blair has “single-handedly changed how people think of marketing in Charlotte” by investing in people and organizations that make Charlotte a better place.

Dave Redding

Dave is a commercial litigator who has practiced law in Charlotte for 20 years. He is the co-founder of the F3 men’s workout and leadership group, whose participants know him affectionately as “Dredd.”

Shannon L. Routh

Shannon is the founder of Teal Diva, a nonprofit that raises awareness of ovarian cancer and provides a support network for patients and families. She describes herself as a “10-year cancer-slaying warrior ninja fighting goddess.”

Deb Ryan

Deb is the first and only woman to reach the rank of full professor in the almost-50-year history of the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture. She’s a creative thinker who has worked to improve public policy that addresses the values of saving open spaces.

George Sistrunk

George is a lawyer at Hamilton Stephens and owner of Town Brewing Company. He has served as board chair for Supportive Housing Communities and is on the board of the local Red Cross chapter.

Glenn M. Smith

Glenn is the founder and CEO of Life Connections of the Carolinas, a nonprofit that strengthens families and keeps kids out of jail. It runs 18 mentoring, vocational, family skill-building and restorative justice programs for at-risk youth in 10 North Carolina counties.

Allen Starrett

Allen has started several networking groups, led several Ballantyne civic organizations and founded the hugely successful Ballantyne Ball, an annual masquerade gala that raises money for charities. He started Starrett Law Firm a little over a decade ago and is a dedicated soccer coach at the Morrison YMCA.

Charles Thomas

Charles is the Charlotte program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where he focuses on fostering and supporting equitable development in the city’s Historic West End and plays a vital role supporting local arts and cultural organizations.

Rick Winiker

Rick is a U.S. Army veteran and criminal defense attorney who is also a volunteer Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation commissioner. He’s helping the county plan for a future that includes healthy, sustainable, connected and accessible open spaces for all of our neighbors.

Kevin Young

Kevin has his own video production company, The 5 and 2 Project, and he founded Speed for Need, a volunteer organization that allows children and adults with disabilities or illnesses to participate in running events. He says: “It’s a life-changing experience to help a cancer survivor cross the finish line.”

The 40 winners were honored Friday evening at an awards gala that included Charlotte media celebrities Joe Bruno, Lisa Worf, Chris Wilcox, Chris William and Jamie Boll, plus guest appearances by former UNC basketball star Joel Berry II, TV personality Brooke Burke and superstar and recording artist David Hasselhoff.

Here’s the clip from Hasselhoff thanking this year’s winners and providing inspiration:

The full awards video runs 24 minutes and is available here.

About The Charlotte Ledger

The Charlotte Ledger is a new online publication that is quickly growing as a source of original, responsible and fun local business-y news. It is run by Tony Mecia and Cristina Bolling, two experienced former Charlotte Observer reporters who believe that Charlotte deserves better, smarter local sources of information. The Ledger believes in accuracy and honesty and is almost entirely reader-supported, which allows true editorial independence and enables the publication to focus on serving the needs of readers. There are free and paid plans available. Find out more. You can sign up here:

About The Charlotte Ledger’s 40 Over 40 Awards

The Charlotte Ledger accepted nominations in January. A panel of 12 judges read the nominations, scored each one on a scale of 1-5, and the top 40 were declared the winners.

No pay-to-play: As the official rules state: “There is no fee to enter, no dinner ticket to buy, no gala award table to sponsor, no special advertising section to congratulate winners, no money changing hands.”

Winners will receive a 40 Over 40 beverage koozie and an awards certificate suitable for framing (frame not included):

Do you know someone who didn’t make the final cut, or whom you’d like to nominate for next year? Hang onto that thought for our 2021 Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 contest, which we’ll announce at the start of 2021.

Congratulations again to all of the award recipients, and a big thank you to everybody who made this celebration a success: all the nominees, all the people who took the time to nominate somebody, our volunteer judges, our awards presenters and people who offered advice along the way. Until next year, everybody!

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

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Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire; Reporting intern: David Griffith