100 People to Meet: New Folks
They might be new to the Old Dominion or just new to their positions, but all of them bring decades of expertise and new vantage points. Here’s a sampling of people — some fresh faces, others familiar — who have recently taken on significant new leadership roles.
Growing up in Northern Mexico, Devaki Baker supported herself through college at the University of Texas El Paso, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. In 2015, she founded Team Verso, where she developed software-as-a-service offerings, working with toll road operator Transurban. In June, she brought this knowledge to her new position as CEO for VeriToll, which markets a software-as-a-service platform that allows users to report problems with tolling systems that cause state transportation departments to lose revenue and drivers to be erroneously billed — and also offers an alternative, touchless option for users to pay tolls. “There couldn’t be a better time for a solution like VeriToll,” Baker says. “VeriToll, along with our network of strategic partnerships, want to utilize technology to create a tolling industry that works for all.” This November, VeriToll moved its California headquarters to Ashburn.
State coordinator of emergency management, Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Curtis Brown took over the state’s head emergency management position during one of the largest public health crises in living memory — the COVID-19 pandemic. After four years as the chief deputy state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, he was promoted in June and is the first Black person to hold the post. “A critical priority … has been to focus on the disproportionate impact of the disaster on people of color … and others in at-risk populations,” he said in a speech at his alma mater, Radford University, in September. Hailing from Prince George’s County, Maryland, which has a highly educated, majority Black population, Brown also founded the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, a global nonprofit focused on empowering marginalized communities during the disaster management cycle. “I grew up in a place where Black excellence and the influence of public leadership were ubiquitous,” Brown told Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, where he earned his master’s degree.
Producing artistic director, Barter Theatre
When Abingdon’s Barter Theatre — the nation’s oldest Actors’ Equity Association theater — closed the curtain on its spring season in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Katy Brown was there to make sure the show goes on. In October 2019, after 13 years serving as associate artistic director, she became the first woman to run the theater and the fourth artistic director since its founding during the Great Depression. She likes to note that the theater was established during hard times, and it will survive the coronavirus. This year, Brown oversaw the transition of traditional theater performances to drive-in and online streaming options. “It’s been an incredible way for our audience to have an experience together, but safely distanced,” she says.
Chief revenue officer, Axios
Without a media background, Fabricio Drummond became the first chief revenue officer of the burgeoning media company in November 2019. Since its 2016 inception, Axios has raised $30 million in venture capital and at the end of 2019 it was poised to raise an additional $20 million in venture capital, raising its valuation to $200 million. Its website attracts 7 to 10 million unique visitors per month, generating $25 million in 2018 revenue. Drummond is no stranger to high-growth companies. Before joining Axios, he spent more than 15 years leading business development within startup companies. He previously served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer at SuperBAC, an international biotechnology solutions company.
Earl T. Granger III
Chief development officer, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Earl Granger is a Williamsburg champion through and through. The William & Mary graduate was most recently the associate vice president for development at his alma mater. He joined the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in August at the height of the pandemic while the hospitality and tourism industries plummeted — particularly in Colonial Williamsburg, where more than 700 employees were furloughed or placed on administrative leave during the spring. He has his work cut out for him this year but has hope for the world’s largest living-history museum — largely bolstered by a switch to outdoor programming and bringing back furloughed employees. “Colonial Williamsburg has cause for cautious optimism as we head into 2021,” he says.
Head of security and senior managing director, The McLean Group LLC
Marc Gruzenski left the Magic Kingdom this spring to become the head of security for The McLean Group, a middle-market investment bank. Gruzenski served for seven years as The Walt Disney Co.’s director of global security technology and director of information protection. He has also worked as the chief of intelligence and analysis and global asset protection for Accenture. While investment banking professionals and consumers increase their online business during the pandemic, Gruzenski has his focus on cybersecurity, physical security and security risk management at The McLean Group, which provides financial advice on mergers and acquisitions and business valuations.
D. Jermaine Johnson
Greater Washington and Virginia regional president, PNC Bank
After 15 years with the ninth-largest bank in the nation by assets, D. Jermaine Johnson was tapped to fill the gap left by the promotion of Richard Bynum, a prominent D.C.-area business leader who is taking on a larger corporate role at the bank. Although Johnson is new to his role, he isn’t new to the banking industry. He started his career 25 years ago with Bank of America as a management trainee. He was most recently the corporate banking market manager for the Greater Washington and Greater Maryland markets with PNC Bank before his promotion. The James Madison University graduate serves as treasurer of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and on the audit committee for the Arlington-based March of Dimes.
Dr. Arthur Kellermann
CEO, VCU Health System; senior vice president, VCU Health Sciences
Steering one of Virginia’s top health systems is no small feat — especially during a pandemic. Dr. Arthur Kellermann, who was appointed CEO of VCU Health Systems in October, has COVID-19 prevention, treatment and vaccine deployment at the top of his 2021 to-do list. “If the life of someone you love is on the line, it’s where you want to go,” Kellermann says of VCU Health. The former dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, Kellerman’s other priorities include securing VCU Massey Cancer Center’s designation as a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center and ensuring construction of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond stays on schedule for a 2022 opening.
Associate vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, James Madison University
Following nationwide protests for racial equity, organizations have made space for executives such as Brent Lewis, the new associate vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at James Madison University. In late September, Lewis, who wrote his dissertation about the social and cultural experience of gay and lesbian students attending historically Black colleges or universities, became the first person to hold the position overseeing JMU’s Division of Student Affairs and leading the Office of Disability Services; Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression; and the Center for Multicultural Student services. “The higher education landscape is being required to do more and create more meaningful and intentional opportunities for students to gain a sense of belonging,” Lewis says. During the next two years, he and other JMU leaders will convene a racial equity task force to “tackle difficult conversations” and make action recommendations, he says.
Chief experience officer, United Way Worldwide
Now more than ever, the United Way is being sought to provide support for community efforts to aid those affected by the global pandemic. Former SunTrust Foundation President Stan Little, who has a background in systems engineering, took his new role in February during a wave of companies and organizations hiring CXOs to improve interactions between customers and employees. The nonprofit United Way Worldwide helps coordinate a network of 1,800 autonomous community-based United Way chapters worldwide, 25 of which are located in Virginia. Little leads all donor-facing functions for United Way Worldwide, which annually has nearly 3 million volunteers and raises nearly $5 billion from than 8 million donors. The former Georgia State University business professor has also been an adviser to the Federal Communications Commission and The College Board.
President and CEO, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center
Brett Malone is a prime product of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, where he started his first software company, Blacksburg-based Phoenix Integration, in 1996. And now he serves as the research center’s president and CEO. The “triple Hokie,” who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Virginia Tech, has plans to expand the CRC, a space for research and development for tech companies, through investments in more lab space, biotech building construction and industry partnerships, he says. A Northern Virginia expansion (where Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus is being built) is another top priority for 2021. “The entrepreneurial researcher … we really cater to that phenotype,” he says. “We think there’s opportunity to expand that model.”
Director of customer and regulatory relations for Virginia, Exacta Systems
2020 has been about as predictable as a game of blackjack, but that hasn’t stopped the Virginia Lottery and other gaming organizations from posting significant profits this year. In October, Peter Phillips, a disabled veteran with 25 years of service as a naval special warfare officer, became the Virginia director of customer and regulatory relations for Boynton Beach, Florida-based Exacta Systems (which also has a Henrico County office). The company sells historic horse race software and machines to businesses including Colonial Downs Group and its four Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations statewide. Colonial Downs is poised to generate more than $26 million in state tax revenue and nearly $18 million in local tax revenue this year, according to the company, and annually generates $25 million for the horse racing industry. As the legal gaming industry continues to grow in Virginia, Exacta Systems announced plans in October to increase hiring.
President and CEO, Valley Health System
For Mark Nantz, getting to know his 6,500-member team of caregivers following his June appointment as president and CEO of Valley Health System was a little different — but the welcome was just as warm (think masks, elbow bumps and Zoom meetings). After all, Nantz says, “the COVID pandemic has changed much about the way we provide care, how our community views health care workers … and even the way we live.” At the Winchester-based health care system, Nantz oversees six hospitals and 50 medical practices that collectively serve more than 500,000 people in the Shenandoah Valley. Despite the pandemic, the former Atlantic group president for Bon Secours Mercy Health anticipates that services will continue to grow during 2021, he says.
Health group president, Leidos
Reston-based federal contractor Leidos in August promoted Liz Porter to president of the company’s $2 billion health group business, which employs 7,500 people. Leidos’ health group provides technology and life sciences services for patient care, providers and payer operations, all of which Porter oversees. At its core, the group works to improve care and reduce costs for health care organizations, which has emerged as a challenge during the pandemic. “Look for Leidos to expand our operational services and platform capabilities in the health space,” Porter says. “It is all about supporting a holistic view of the patient.“ Porter, a military spouse, also serves on the industrial advisory board to the engineering department at Villanova University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
Director, U.Va. Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership
During a time of laser-sharp focus on politics, Larry Roberts was hired as the fifth director of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership in January. A graduate of U.Va. and the Georgetown University Law Center, the veteran Virginia political and legal adviser brings decades of experience to the nonpartisan institute, which provides leadership training for high school and college students as well as first-time political candidates and community and business leaders. The institute in 2021 will focus on partisan and regional balance to grow the number of leaders in rural Virginia, Roberts says. “I’ve had success in elections, I’ve had success in government, but what I feel I can do most effectively at this point is to work outside of [that] to train people who are going to be the future leaders in politics,” he says.
President and CEO, Northern Virginia Technology Council
In September, Jennifer Taylor took the baton from the highly influential Bobbie Kilberg, who led the Northern Virginia Technology Council for 22 years, building the regional membership and trade association into one of the nation’s largest technology councils. As the former vice president of industry affairs with the Consumer Technology Association, Taylor brings business relationships with Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. In 2021, Taylor will outline her three- to five-year strategic plan for NVTC. “We are in the midst of facing the next wave of technology evolution, with more commercial tech companies moving to the area such as Amazon … and NVTC will be prepared to help create a tech hub … anchored with tech companies of all sizes, service providers, academia and policy makers,” she says.
Vice president and chief diversity officer, Tegna
Once part of McLean-based Gannett Co. Inc. (the nation’s largest newspaper publisher), Tegna in September named Grady Tripp its inaugural chief diversity officer, following months of racial equity protests across the nation. The broadcast media and marketing services company tasked Tripp with attracting, retaining and growing a diverse talent pool, as well as developing training programs and a company diversity and inclusion working group. He’ll leverage his three years of experience as part of Tegna’s talent acquisition team to inform his new role. The Florida A&M University grad previously worked for Fortune Global 500 company Accenture plc. This fall, Tripp played an integral role in Tegna’s expansion of parental paid leave to six weeks. “We truly aspire to serve the greater good of our communities and our employees a little better each day,” he said.