It is with great enthusiasm that Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce present the 2024 selection of Cherokee County’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch.

Cherokee County Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 presented by Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

(front row, l to r): Daylan Greene, Hillary Nichols, Laura Chambers, Dr. Neely Bursmith, Vanna Hernandez; (back row, l to r): Kevin Turner, Casey Barton, Chris Luly, Casey Belli, Jesse Hamilton

 

Hillary Turner Nichols

Counselor, Cherokee County School District | Canton Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Hillary Turner Nichols | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Hillary Turner Nichols, 33

As a high school counselor for the Cherokee County School District, Hillary Nichols collaborates with educators and connects with students’ families to promote students’ success academically, emotionally, and socially. Hillary has served as the counselor at i-Grad Virtual Academy from the day it opened in August 2021 and will transfer to Cherokee High School in August 2024. Hillary explains, “i-Grad Virtual Academy is a nontraditional route for high school students to pursue a high school diploma. However, the majority of our students have special circumstances as to why they have chosen the nontraditional route. Working at i-Grad taught me how to meet students where they are, and that is often through the use of technology. I am excited to continue using that skill set to serve my students and their families at Cherokee High School.”

Hillary serves on the county’s Crisis Response team comprising school counselors, social workers, and other student-service professionals who aid Cherokee County School District schools that may be experiencing a crisis because of a death or other tragedy.

Using her creative skills, Hillary often photographs school events throughout the district, including its recent Special Olympics Awareness Day.

Hillary was selected for the 2024 Superintendent’s Leadership Academy professional development initiative. She was also a Cherokee County Educational Foundation grant winner in 2022; the grant provided funding for technology and gear for a recording room at i-Grad Virtual Academy.

Currently pursuing a doctor of education degree in professional school counseling and supervision at the University of West Georgia, over the next five years Hillary plans to complete her research, defend her dissertation, and learn skills needed to lead other school counselors. She shares, “I am excited to see the Cherokee County School District pour into student services, and I hope to be a part of that movement.”

FUN FACT: “I am also a full-time photographer on the weekends outside of my school-counselor job. I have been shooting weddings and portraits for fourteen years. I have shot more than two hundred weddings and countless portraits for families.”

Casey Belli

Assistant Principal, Cherokee County School District | Canton Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Casey Belli | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Casey Belli, 33

As assistant principal at Cherokee High School, Casey Belli prides himself in his engagement with students’ needs. He shares, “By working closely with students, I foster a future-focused, growth-oriented mindset to prepare them for life beyond Cherokee High School.” In this role Casey oversees the largest special education program in Cherokee County, serving more than five hundred students with learning disabilities. After the COVID-19 lockdown ended, he created the school’s Academic Extension afterschool program that provides individualized academic support. He also works closely with at-risk students, mentoring them through social and emotional challenges through the Cherokee C.A.R.E.S.—Cultivating Achievement, Resiliency, and the Empowerment of Students—initiative.

Prior to his role as assistant principal, Casey was a classroom teacher for eight years at River Ridge High School where he served as the Math Department chair.

Students have noticed his efforts as well. In 2021 he was named STAR Teacher of the Year by River Ridge class of 2021 valedictorian Nicholas Audinet, who also selected Casey as that year’s Outstanding Teacher. In 2022 Casey was again selected as Outstanding Teacher, this time by valedictorian Carson Portis and salutatorian Lexie Montfort, a rare double honor that Casey says is the pinnacle of his teaching journey.

Leadership is at the core of Casey’s career. He was accepted into the Cherokee County School District Teacher Leader Academy in 2019 and was invited to join the Superintendent’s Leadership Academy in 2022 and 2023. Looking forward, he hopes to continue fostering leadership and learning for students as a principal. 

He says, “By building strong relationships and leveraging resources effectively, I aim to establish a school environment that prepares students for the challenges and opportunities of the future, contributing to the overall success and reputation of Cherokee County as a premier place for education and community development.”

FUN FACT: “My wife, a math teacher at River Ridge High School, and I, a former math teacher, were married on Pi Day (3.14.15), the most accurate Pi Day of the century.”

 

Laura Chambers

Executive Director of Marketing, Chick-fil-A Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta | Ball Ground Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Laura Chambers | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Laura Chambers, 26

The path to being an entrepreneur began long ago in Laura Chambers’s roots. Born in Ball Ground and raised in a line of successful women, she was inspired by her mother, broker Amie Chambers, and her aunt, Jamie Quinn, owner of North GA CPA Services. Laura continues the chain of success as the youngest executive board member for Chick-fil-A Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, as well as founder of Studio 22 Marketing.

Laura explains that after graduating Reinhardt University, “I found my way to a brand that would challenge me to be the best version of myself professionally and personally.” She assumed the role of executive director of marketing for Chick-fil-A Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta in 2021, and the Woodstock location keeps Laura close to home.

Laura cultivates brand awareness, coordinates events, and assists with outreach programs. She serves as a board member and marketing chair for the Cherokee County Chick-fil-A 5K, benefiting the Cherokee County Educational Foundation and Cherokee County Special Olympics. The 2023 Chick-fil-A 5K raised more than $100,000 for the Cherokee County Educational Foundation alone. Laura is currently organizing the next Chick-fil-A 5K set for Saturday, August 17, 2024.

Instrumental in organizing IMPACT Woodstock, a program connecting Chick-fil-A team members and nonprofit organizations for volunteer opportunities, Laura also leads Chick-fil-A’s food support programs for Cherokee County, working with Never Alone food pantry, the company’s Shared Table partner. Shared Table is a program designed to donate surplus food to prevent food waste.

Laura’s dreams remain local. She plans to continue growing the Chick-fil-A brand and her business, Studio 22 Marketing. Learning from a family of entrepreneurs has taught her all the hats a business owner needs to wear. “Our community needs small businesses,” Laura says, “and small business owners deserve accessible and effective digital marketing.”

FUN FACT: “I am learning Spanish, and I am a first-generation college graduate—magna cum laude—and former cheerleader for Reinhardt University in Waleska.”

 

Jesse Hamilton

Police Lieutenant, City of Canton Police Department | Canton Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Jesse Hamilton | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Jesse Hamilton, 34

Jesse Hamilton has served the city of Canton through law enforcement for more than eleven years. Currently the department’s Support Bureau Commander, Jesse holds public service closely to his heart. Jesse shares, “I grew up in a family of public servants with my mom being a nurse and my dad being a schoolteacher, and my brother is a firefighter. Public service was always in my heart.”

Jesse’s commitment to public service overflows into volunteer hours. He coaches both of his sons’ baseball teams, using that time to relate the players’ struggles and accomplishments to life lessons. His family also volunteers in their church, often donating back-to-school supplies and Christmas presents for children in need. He and his wife, Megan, have registered to sponsor a child in Kenya.

Throughout Jesse’s career his work has been recognized with awards and honors, including Rookie of the Year, Reinhardt University Outstanding Alumni Award, two-time Supervisor of the Year, the department’s Chief’s Award (2019), Criminal Investigations Supervisor of the Year by the Moose Lodge (2022), and Outstanding Employee of the Year by the Rotary Club of Canton (2023). Jesse humbly explains, “I entered this profession to help people. A great example was when a local law enforcement officer approached me and asked if I remembered them. They told me that the compassion I showed when they were younger on a call—even with arresting one of their parents—was a huge reason they got into law enforcement. I am proud of the awards I’ve had the honor to receive, but the lives changed are my proudest accomplishments.”

Next, Jesse plans to pursue a master’s degree. Another goal is to expand the agency’s services by developing a Crime Scene Unit to advance the department’s investigative capabilities and provide more opportunities for newer officers.

FUN FACT: “When I was younger I could name where almost any NFL player played college.”

 

Vanna Hernandez

Project Manager, Cherokee Office of Economic Development | Ball Ground Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Vanna Hernandez | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Vanna Hernandez, 34

As a project manager for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development [COED], Vanna Hernandez consistently makes an impact on workforce initiatives and fosters growth and development. A champion of community and inclusion, she spearheaded COED’s Latino Business Roundtable and Black Business Roundtable, enabling participants to network, collaborate, and feel supported within the minority-owned business community. The roundtable discussions promote synergy and solidarity while covering valuable information on market trends and business opportunities. “As a member of the Latino community, I understand the importance of representation and role models in inspiring the next generation,” Vanna shares. “I aim to amplify marginalized voices, break down barriers, and create opportunities for those who come after me.”

Through innovative economic development strategies with a special focus on the technology industry, Vanna fosters sustainable growth across target sectors in Cherokee County. She explains, “I aspire to cultivate a thriving ecosystem where innovation thrives, businesses flourish, and professionals find ample opportunities, all without the necessity of commuting to major cities.”

Vanna, a bilingual volunteer for the Cherokee County School District, bridges language barriers for parents and participates in the Reading Buddies program at Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy in Canton. She has a passion for running and is a member of several community running groups, which hold a special place in her heart, she says, as opportunities to forge new friendships, rally together, and make meaningful connections.

Vanna holds an associate of science degree in criminal justice from Chattahoochee Technical College and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Kennesaw State University. She is also a certified project management professional, Leadership Cherokee class of 2016 alumni, and graduate of Cherokee High School.

FUN FACT: “I have completed six marathons and [am] currently training for my first 50K ultra.”

 

Kevin Turner

Community Development Director, City of Canton | Woodstock Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Kevin Turner | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Kevin Turner, 39

As Canton’s community development director, Kevin Turner manages the department that oversees all planning, zoning, housing, code enforcement, business licenses, and permitting within the city. Certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners, Kevin earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Florida State University after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia. He previously served as Cherokee County’s planning and zoning department deputy director and was among the team awarded the Georgia Planning Association 2023 Innovation in Planning Award. He served as project manager for the recent Waleska Comprehensive Plan that won the Georgia Planning Association’s 2023 Outstanding Planning Document (Small Community) award. Kevin has been a guest speaker for the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Regional Issues Forum and the Council for Quality Growth’s Cherokee Advisory Roundtable. 

In terms of plans for the next five years, Kevin explains, “The two biggest projects to take on in the next five years will be to update the impact fee methodology to ensure we are adequately funding for future infrastructure based on current growth and to complete a new comprehensive plan, from the ground up.”

Kevin is a community group leader for Sojourn Woodstock and is part of its Main Street Development committee, which focuses on developing current church property and scouting for a future church site. He previously volunteered with World Relief, a group focusing on refugee resettlement, and She is Safe, a nonprofit organization based in nearby Roswell providing education and training to prevent sex trafficking. Kevin is a member of Trout Unlimited, an organization advocating for conservation and preservation of cold-water fisheries. He is also a member of the Little River Elementary PTA.

FUN FACT: “I wrote the first ordinance to allow a brewery in a downtown space.”

 

Casey Barton

Captain, City of Holly Springs Police Department | Canton Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Casey Barton | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Casey Barton, 40

Since beginning his law enforcement career as a Woodstock Police Department patrol officer in 2005, Captain Casey Barton of the Holly Springs Police Department [HSPD] has consistently risen through the ranks. Prior to working in law enforcement, Casey served in the United States Marine Corps. He holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Kennesaw State University and is working toward a master of science degree from Columbus State University with a focus on public safety administration.

His other accomplishments include Leadership Cherokee (2023), HSPD Bob Fuller Leadership Award (2022), Rotary Club of Canton Colonel George Bailey Leadership Award (2016), HSPD Officer of the Year (2011), and the United States Marine Corps Meritorious Mast for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (2004-2005).

Casey serves as captain of the uniform patrol, managing all uniformed police officers and focusing on community outreach, recruiting efforts, public information, and the department’s social media presence. He shares, “I am particularly proud of the connections made during our Faith and Blue Food Drive, Shop with a Hero Christmas event, Coffee with a Cop, and Popsicles in the Park [events].” He is also credited with establishing HSPD’s first Bicycle Patrol Unit and Honor Guard Unit.

Another initiative Casey helmed is the department’s Officer Wellness Program. It works to improve the emotional, physical, and financial health of Holly Springs police officers, a cause Casey is passionate about. He hopes to partner with surrounding agencies to implement the program to better support police officers and other first responders.

To further his leadership abilities, Casey aspires to enroll in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Executive Development Association. His ultimate professional goal is become chief of police with a focus on professional and ethical leadership.

FUN FACT: “I am an avid mountain biker, but I am most proud of being a ‘Girl Dad.’”

 

Dr. Neely Bursmith

Clinical Pharmacist, Northside Hospital Cherokee | Waleska Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Neely Bursmith | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Dr. Neely Bursmith, 38

Dr. Neely Bursmith, an ambulatory care pharmacist specializing in diabetes management services, enjoys more than just helping her patients. Every day at Medical Associates of North Georgia, a division of Northside Hospital Cherokee, Neely does everything she can to help her patients, coworkers, and mentees feel comfortable and cared for throughout their journey. Through her dedication to aiding those around her, Neely has taken the lead in the Anticoagulation Management Clinic. Even before graduating from Mercer University with her doctor of pharmacy degree, Neely had her sights set on gaining a leadership role to simultaneously make a change in pharmacy and community, and now she has multiple.

Neely oversees and guides young pharmacy students and says she enjoys the opportunity to “pour into the next generation of pharmacists” and do her part to guarantee a solid future for the field.

Neely also donates her time to many other aspects of the community. As a member of Revolution Church she volunteers in the nursery. She also serves as school council vice chair at R.M. Moore Elementary School. Neely is also an honorary member of the Service League of Cherokee County, where she served as co-chair of the cookbook committee, chair of the exhibitor booth awards for the league’s annual Riverfest, and publicity chair for both Riverfest and the Reindeer Run 5K.

Neely desires to “become a mentor to a pharmacist early in their career to encourage and support their development.” Neely has already made an impact in her field, and she strives to leave a legacy with the people whom she impacts.

FUN FACT: “I have been skydiving!”

 

Daylan A. Greene

Attorney, Goodwin Moss & Greene | Waleska Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Daylan Greene | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Daylan A. Greene, 29

Passionate about serving families and the community, Daylan Greene is a partner and owner of Goodwin Moss & Greene with a focus on estate law, advocating for juveniles in Cherokee County, and probate cases. She holds a juris doctor degree from Georgia State University College of Law and completed undergraduate studies at Berry College, majoring in political science with a minor in legal studies. In law school Daylan served as the research assistant to Professor Mary Radford and was involved in researching and writing books on estate planning, trusts, and guardianship law. She then brought her expertise home to Cherokee County, where she served as assistant district attorney for the county. Daylan was a prosecutor for the juvenile court team.

Judges frequently appoint Daylan to represent parties in juvenile and superior court matters, especially as guardian ad litem, advocating for the best interest of children in need. Her experience with juvenile cases working at a district level has led her to focus on helping families and children, which resulted in Daylan making probate and juvenile cases a priority at her firm.

Daylan anticipates the growth of Goodwin Moss & Greene, particularly in probate law, focusing on assisting families after a loved one has passed. Daylan also wants to ensure she and partner Courtney Goodwin Moss are able to continue practicing juvenile law and assisting with adoptions. “This is an area of law that I want to still practice as our probate and estate planning increases, because I think it is a way to give back to future generations,” Daylan says.

She also volunteers at Macedonia Baptist Church, where she leads the teens, and Hightower Baptist food and clothing bank, which serves on average seven hundred families a month. She is also secretary for the Blue Ridge Bar Association.

FUN FACT: “I taught my husband, Michael, how to fly-fish.”

 

Christopher E. Luly

Director of Planning and Zoning, City of Ball Ground | Holly Springs Resident

Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch 2024 | Christopher Luly | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Christopher E. Luly, 36

In his role as director since 2021, Christopher Luly manages all aspects of planning and zoning for Ball Ground, including annexation requests, rezoning applications, variance requests, technical plan review, sign permits, plat review, long-term planning efforts, zoning code oversight, boards and commission staffing, and development inspections. Chris also oversees the city’s building permits and inspections, mapping and geographic information system, and parks and recreation. He supports City Manager Eric Wilmarth with specific projects, such as event planning, code enforcement, utilities, transportation, and information technology.

This year Chris will assume responsibility for alcohol licensing, business licensing, and impact fees. He intends to amalgamate all of this into a Department of Community Development with a public service counter, which he envisions as a “one-stop shop” for residents to access necessary resources. Chris also says the city must “initiate and adopt a major overhaul of the city’s development code, including a complete revamping of the city’s zoning code.”

His professional goals include continuing to build upon his knowledge and experience in planning, zoning, and local government through training and completing professional certification programs.

Chris is a volunteer board member for The Children’s Haven, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children impacted by abuse and neglect. He is also a Leadership Cherokee class of 2022 alumni, an experience he calls life-changing, and intends to “build upon that by gaining acceptance to and completing the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute, a natural next step.”

While previously living in Atlanta, Chris volunteered with Hands On Atlanta, the Wylde Center, Chastain Park Conservancy, and food security efforts. Chris also partnered with the Green Heart Project & Beach Sweep in Charleston, South Carolina, and the material reuse program in Athens, Georgia, while pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Georgia.

FUN FACT: “My wife, Sara, and I recently moved to Cherokee County, where I grew up, and welcomed our first child, a daughter named Nora.”

 

 

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