Thrive Regional Partnership Announces New Trustees

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

At the outset of 2019, Thrive Regional Partnership welcomed seven new trustees to its board that reflect growing representation and leadership across the tri-state, 16-county greater Chattanooga region. The newly-elected board trustees are Whitney Coe, Joel Houser, Brittany Pittman, Emerson Russell, Dr. Mina Sartipi, Dennis Tumlin and Greg Vital.


Bridgett Massengill, president and CEO, said, “It is with great honor that we welcome the newest Trustees to our board.

Their appointments align us closer with our founding board’s vision of fully representing the 16-county region and the four focus areas we serve. Not only do these new Trustees expand our reach across the region, but they also add a depth of expertise in rural, urban, conservation, workforce, education, data analytics, and economic development that will enrich the value Thrive lends to the tri-state region.”


Whitney K. Coe of Athens, Tn. in McMinn County is coordinator of the National Rural Assembly with the Center for Rural Strategies, a rural movement made up of activities and partnerships geared toward building better policy and more opportunity across the country. In 2018 she served locally on the Athens Thriving Communities team, leveraging local arts and culture assets across McMinn County to achieve economic vibrancy and growth. Ms.Coe has a MA in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and an undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Queens University of Charlotte.


Joel Houser of Chattanooga, is the Southeast field coordinator for the Open Space Institute, a regional environmental protection organization. His regional efforts in conservation cover the entire 16-county footprint. He is an active member of the community, an avid outdoor recreationist, and environmental conservationist with a background in agriculture. He has served as the executive director of Crabtree Farms, and the Southeast regional director for The Land Trust for Tennessee. Over the course of his career, he has expressed: “My favorite parts of this region are the lands and its people.”  


Brittany Pittman is a native of Chatsworth, Ga. in Murray County. She has a strong desire to see rural Georgia thrive, which led her to her current role as the State of Georgia Program Manager for the Appalachian Regional Commission. She previously served as the Sole Commissioner of Murray County Georgia during which time she was instrumental in the recruitment of the Appalachian Regional Port to northwest Georgia.  Ms. Pittman feels that regional collaboration along with a strong focus on economic development is the key to building successful communities.


Emerson Russell, a resident of Rossville, is the CEO of ERMC, headquartered in Chattanooga, and has lived in Catoosa County for over 20 years. Mr. Russell has served as the Chair of the Top of Georgia initiative for the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, a bold six-year program to stimulate economic and community development in Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker Counties. Mr. Russell launched ERMC as a security company in 1972. The company now offers a full-range of janitorial, maintenance, security and landscaping services to more than 200 companies across the country in industries ranging from aviation and industrial to retail and residential.


Dr. Mina Sartipi is the founding director of the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in Hamilton County, where she is also a UC Foundation professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Her research, funded by NSF, NIH, state of Tennessee, and industry, focuses on data-driven approaches to tackle real-world challenges in smart city applications such as transportation, health, and energy. She has a number of invited papers, journal papers, and professional conference presentations and she serves on the board of directors of startups and non-profit organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and outdoor activities including hiking and rock climbing with her husband (Dr. George Yu) and their two young daughters.


Dennis Tumlin is the executive director of the Rhea County Economic Development and Tourism Council in Dayton, Tn. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a BS in Business Administration and is a TN Certified Economic Developer through the University of Tennessee’s Center for Industrial Services. Mr. Tumlin has served on Governor Haslam’s Rural Task force subcommittee on rural economic development, and also served on Governor Haslam’s Project H20 board focusing on a long term plan for water stewardship in Tennessee. His vision to create the 330-acre Rail Hub South industrial development paved the way for the recently announced Nokian Tyres manufacturing plant that selected Dayton in May 2017. Mr. Tumlin is a Rhea County native where he currently resides with his wife and three daughters.


Greg A. Vital is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Independent Healthcare Properties and Morning Pointe Senior Living.  Since the formation of the company in 1996, IHP has developed over 32 assisted living facilities throughout the Southeast. Both a noted conservationist and developer, Mr. Vital owns farmland in Georgetown, where he raises buffalo.  A portion of the farm is protected through a conservation easement. He currently serves as a board member of the Tennessee Aquarium, The Land Trust for Tennessee, East Tennessee Historical Society, and is board chairman of National Parks Conservation Association.


“Each of the Thrive board members bring a unique and special attribute to the table,” said Connie Vaughan, chair of Thrive Regional Partnership. “As we welcome these new members, I look forward to their contributions to help steer the organization’s collaborative efforts around efficient transportation, community development, and the preservation of our natural resources.”


With these appointments, the Thrive board consists of 22 trustees. Chaired by Connie Vaughan, Government Relations Manager for McKee Foods, the board of trustees includes: Rob Bradham, President & CEO of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce; Daniel Carter of Carter Farm and Sewanee, University of the South; Chuck Dobbins of Dobbins Investments, LLC; Gary Farlow, President & CEO of the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce; Christy Gillenwater, President & CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce; Daniel R. Jacobson, Chairman of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority; Beth Jones, Executive Director of Southeast Tennessee Development; Erik McNair of McNair Media; Denny Mobbs of Jordan Fabricating; Rick Roden, President & CEO of Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce; Honna Rogers, Municipal Management Consultant for UT-Municipal Technical Advisory Service; Dr. Edna Varner, Senior Advisor for the Public Education Foundation; Elizabeth Wells of Rossville Redevelopment; and Charles Wood, Chief Economic Development Officer of the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership.


Thrive Regional Partnership is an independent nonprofit with a mission to ignite responsible and inspired growth across the tri-state region for the next four decades. Through communication, collaboration, analytics and innovation, Thrive optimizes community development opportunities while protecting the natural treasures and landscapes that define this special place.


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