Meet Cherokee County’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch—from the pharmacy to the fire station to the classroom and beyond, these ten honorees are making positive impacts throughout Cherokee County. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Top 10 in 10 awards, sponsored by Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and Enjoy Cherokee, and this year’s selected group is sure to be influential in the future of our community.
Cherokee County native Kyle Bennett grew up on a farm in Salacoa Valley that has been in his family since the 1840s. Since 2006 he has served Cherokee County in various roles. He is the City of Woodstock tourism manager and volunteers with History Cherokee, Preservation Woodstock, and Cherokee County Friends of the Library.
As tourism manager Kyle has helped build Woodstock’s reputation as a tourist destination, and visitation to the city has tripled during his tenure. He manages the Visitors Center, oversees Woodstock’s online presence, directs tourism marketing efforts, and manages many events, including the Farm Fresh Market, Scarecrow Invasion, Discover WDSTK Scavenger Hunt, and Downtown WDSTK Walking Tours. Under his leadership Woodstock was honored as Georgia’s 2019 Visitors Center of the Year.
Kyle plans to continue building Woodstock’s reputation as one of the top destinations in the Southeast. He says, “Woodstock is poised to be one of the most popular cities in Georgia for state residents and out-of-state tourists to visit. By 2032 the City of Woodstock can and should be viewed as one of the top ten cities in Georgia to visit.”
He also strives to bring more jobs to Cherokee County, enabling more residents to work within the county rather than commuting. Kyle has been instrumental in both preserving Cherokee County’s history and shaping its bright future.
FUN FACT: Kyle is featured on multiple DragonCon panels that have explored a variety of topics related to Star Wars.
DR. SARAH BOWEN
Dr. Sarah Bowen has been a vital member of Northside Hospital Cherokee’s pharmacy team since 2018, where she currently serves as pharmacy operations supervisor. Sarah has helped develop and open both the NICU Pharmacy Satellite and the OR Pharmacy Satellite, in addition to overseeing the daily operations of the main pharmacy. Her work ethic and dedication to her employees has led to her success in each of these areas.
A graduate of Mercer University and UGA, Sarah uses her education and experience to mentor future generations of pharmacists through roles as preceptor, clinical assistant professor, and pharmacy student mentor.
She values ongoing education and plans to complete the Lean Six Sigma professional development certification program in the future.
Sarah is an active member of the Service League of Cherokee County. As chairperson of apparel for Riverfest Arts & Crafts Festival in 2021, she helped raise $20,000 in profit, funds that go directly into helping the children of Cherokee County. This year Sarah is vice chair for the Riverfest 2022 Decorating Committee and helps obtain sponsors as well as plans and organizes all decorations for the festival planned for September 24 and 25 at Etowah River Park.
In addition to her career and volunteerism, Sarah is also a proud mom of two beautiful children, a two-year-old and a four-year-old.
FUN FACT: Sarah has two fur babies—Fitz, a Boston terrier, and Nash, a brand-new French bulldog puppy.
Lifelong Cherokee County resident Brady Cornelison grew up in the Clayton community where he resides with his wife and their children. Brady’s grandfather Gene Cornelison was an early member of the Clayton Community Volunteer Fire Department. Brady grew up watching his grandfather and uncle protect their community through firefighting, and by age fourteen he wanted to follow in their footsteps.
In 2002 he took the first step toward his dream by joining the Cherokee County Fire Explorer Post. After Brady served in the Explorers program and as a volunteer firefighter, Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services hired Brady in 2007. He has proudly served his community ever since, advancing through the ranks of the station and earning the rank of captain in June 2020.
In February 2022 Brady was recognized in the community for his heroic actions while off duty. He was driving down Hickory Flat Highway when he noticed smoke coming from a house. He stopped to call 911 and alert the resident of the home. Brady remarks, “I’d like to think that if I weren’t a fireman, I would still stop and do the same thing.”
Brady enjoys time with his family and friends hunting, fishing, and watching Atlanta Braves baseball. He is an assistant baseball coach for his son’s team and a deacon at Canton First Baptist Church.
FUN FACT: Brady has interesting stories to tell about his history of sleepwalking.
SANDI PRICE HARRISON
Sandi Harrison has fostered learning for sixteen years within Cherokee County. She advocates for her schools and says she strives “to empower educators to step into leadership positions that will further the development and impact of authentic, powerful, and engaging learning environments for students, families, and the community.” Her efforts were recognized with the Teacher of the Year Award and the Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching and leadership.
She joined the Rotary Club of Canton in 2021 after working with the club as a liaison for Hasty Elementary. With the help of the organization, Sandi launched a project to provide students and staff members in her school with journals to give them increased resources and opportunities to write. The project has been a success for three years running. Sandi has also found a passion for grant writing, through which she has obtained $30,000 in grants for the school system.
A lifelong learner, Sandi is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership to develop added tools to, as she says, “meet the changing needs of young people in our ever-evolving society.” Recently appointed as incoming principal of Liberty Elementary, she views the role as a dream come true and an opportunity to serve the students, staff, families, and community. Sandi focuses on enhancing the academic progress and overall wellbeing of her students and increasing connectivity among everyone who walks the halls of her school.
FUN FACT: While growing up Sandi knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she also dreamed of being a Today Show anchor.
“The only way to make a difference in the community is to get involved,” says Rajpal Sagoo, and he lives up to his belief by being an active leader, volunteer, and service-member. His desire to serve his community started early, when he earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America Organization, and then enlisted in the Army Reserve as a biological warfare specialist.
In college he realized his passion was for developing start-up businesses with innovative strategies and technology. Currently he is a partner at MDD Holdings, which focuses on small business investments and consulting. Rajpal’s ambition also extends into the world of sports, as he helped develop Major League Rugby, the professional North American rugby league, and later went on to found the Rugby ATL franchise for which he serves as chief information officer.
He volunteers as a member of the Board of Advisors for the University of North Georgia School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, associate member of the Make-A-Wish Georgia program for Atlanta young professionals, board member with the Pets for Vets foundation, and member of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Council.
Rajpal intends to continue fostering business development and help establish Cherokee County as a hub for industry experts, tapping into what he believes is one of the county’s most valuable resources: our people.
FUN FACT: Rajpal and his wife love to travel, and when they post pictures he always makes it a point to be punny—very punny!
ALYSSA RUMSEY SHEEHAN
Alyssa Sheehan’s passion is for innovation, and she lives by the mantra “Leave it better than how you found it.” Alyssa works with manufacturers across Georgia to help them connect, compete, and grow with a focus on workforce development and entrepreneurship.
With a mission of empowering and engaging the next generation, Alyssa has created partnerships between Georgia Tech and the K-12 InVenture Prize competition, which encourages students to present projects to identify real-world problems and design unique solutions. As a volunteer she works with Women in Manufacturing, NextGeneration Manufacturing, and Launchpad2X, a training program founded in Georgia that focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs. She also launched a product development summer camp and set up sponsorships with Launchpad2X.
In pursuit of a PhD in human-centered computing at Georgia Tech, Alyssa’s research focuses on developing technologies for blue-collar industries that balance organizational goals with worker needs. Alyssa says, “Technology should contribute to meaningful work that makes a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Alyssa intends to continue championing women in manufacturing and technology and ensure progress for Georgia by creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation. With combined experiences in sociology, design, and industry, Alyssa is poised to make a positive impact on Georgia’s economy through growth and enrichment of local companies.
FUN FACT: When Alyssa was growing up, she was a nationally ranked 4-H Shooting Sports competitor and is still an avid hunter and markswoman.
DR. JACOB SLUDER
Though not born in Cherokee County, after moving here Dr. Jacob Sluder embraced this community and is involved with multiple charities and organizations focused on community outreach and enrichment. He serves as chairman of networking group Young Professionals of Woodstock and is board secretary for IN WDSTK. A participant of the 2019 Leadership Cherokee class, he organized program days for the 2020/2021 and 2022 Leadership Cherokee classes. In addition to contributing to Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, Limitless Disability Services, and Next Step Ministries, his office partners with Cherokee Family Violence Center to provide dental care to domestic-violence survivors in need.
Beyond Cherokee County, he participates with Georgia Mission of Mercy, a free dental clinic for low- and no-income adults unable to afford dental care. He is also on a team of doctors who travel to third-world countries to deliver medical care to impoverished populations in remote areas.
Jacob recognizes that Cherokee County is growing and evolving, and he intends for his office to grow with the community by expanding and bringing in a new dental partner to better serve their patients. He also aspires to further his education by earning the prestigious title of master of academy of general dentist, a level achieved by less than 5 percent of dentists.
FUN FACT: Jacob’s in-laws have a cattle farm, and he often works on the farm during weekends, especially during the summer.
Andrew Smith was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Church of God missionary parents originally from Savannah, Georgia. He also spent time in Singapore and Australia before moving to the United States to attend Lee University in Tennessee. He earned his law degree at Mercer University and was recognized with the Award of Achievement for the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyer 2013 Leadership Academy. With his wife Brittany and son Drew, he calls Cherokee County home.
An experienced transactional and litigation attorney whose clientele includes small businesses, international corporations, banks, real estate investment ventures, and nonprofit organizations, Andy primarily oversees real estate closings and title division at Flint, Connolly & Walker and handles residential, commercial, and SBA loan closings. Fluent in English and Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian national language, as well as conversant in French, Andy frequently contributes his multilingual skills to assist domestic and international clients with international matters.
Andy is an involved member of his community and serves on the board of several charitable and community organizations. He chairs an annual 5K fundraiser benefitting displaced children in Cherokee County, coaches academy-level soccer, is a Little League umpire, and leads several children’s programs at his local church. In his leisure time he enjoys competing in obstacle course races, running half-marathons, advancing in Brazilian jiujitsu, traveling, playing soccer, and watching Atlanta United and the Atlanta Braves.
FUN FACT: Born and raised in Indonesia, Andy was present during the 2004 tsunami and worked as a translator for several relief organizations.
Marcie Smith leads a team of dedicated staff members and volunteers in the mission of promoting the health and happiness of children impacted by abuse and neglect. Marcie contributes to this mission through organizational management, strategic planning, community relations, fundraising, grant writing, volunteer recruitment, and more. Under her leadership The Children’s Haven was named 2020 Nonprofit of the Year by Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, received national recognition as the 2020 Hedi Levenback Supervised Visitation Provider of the Year, and earned the 2019 Georgia CASA Innovative Program of the Year award.
Marcie sits on the board of directors for Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and volunteers on the regional child abuse and neglect task force. She is social media manager and treasurer-elect for the Rotary Club of Canton. In her hometown of Covington, she is a trustee for Salem Campground, an honor achieved by only ten women in the organization’s more than one-hundred-year history. Marcie previously served as president of the Family Readiness Group supporting the Georgia National Guard. She is a member of the 2022 Leadership Cherokee class and was a 2016 graduate of the LEAD Atlanta program, where she now serves as an alumni volunteer.
In her dream job at The Children’s Haven, she strives for continued growth with long-term sustainability. Committed to growing volunteerism, she says, “The more diverse our volunteer base is, the better we can serve our children.”
FUN FACT: Marcie loves an adrenaline rush; she bungee-jumped off a bridge in New Zealand has been skydiving as well.
Inspired by her father’s love of math and science and her mother’s dedication as a civil servant, Bethany Watson aspired to be a city engineer from an early age and says her tenure with the City of Canton “has been a literal dream.” She has served Canton since 2014, when she moved to Cherokee County to be with her now-husband Cody, a native of Ball Ground.
Bethany has developed a strong passion for growing Canton. She is instrumental in the development and evolution of Canton, with notable current projects including construction of the Archer Street Parking Deck, Etowah River Trails Addition, Canton Transportation Master Plan, intersection redesigns on Highway 140 North, and Harmon Park Expansion. Bethany has helped secure more than five million dollars in federal funding for City of Canton Transportation projects, potentially saving Canton’s residents millions of dollars in taxes.
The mother of five, Bethany says her passion for bettering the community is dedicated to serving future generations. Toward that goal Bethany plans to become a certified floodplain manager and obtain certification in green infrastructure. She has already developed a Green Infrastructure/Low-Impact Development Program for Canton’s commercial projects and intends to expand the program to include new residential projects.
With goals of increasing residents’ quality of life, offering safe places for recreation, and promoting healthy growth, Bethany is excited about the future of Canton and Cherokee County.
FUN FACT: Bethany enjoys traveling, math puzzles such as Kakuro and Ken-Ken, and a good game of expert-level Minesweeper.