100 People to Meet in 2022: Go-Getters
High achievers all, these Virginians are well-rounded leaders in their fields and their communities, sharing their expertise and moving the needle for growth and progress.
President Virginia Beach, TowneBank
Born and raised in Hampton Roads, Buffy Barefoot hasn’t strayed far from the ZIP code she grew up in. After attending Virginia Tech, she spent 18 years with Bank of America and the past nine with TowneBank. “I just like working with different companies in the community and assisting them with their financial needs in order to help them achieve their goals and dreams,” says Barefoot, who oversees the bank’s largest region, with five branches and almost 30% of the market share in Hampton Roads. A member of Lead Virginia’s class of 2021, Barefoot loves the community aspect of her job. “We make decisions based upon the needs of our community and our decision-making process is localized. We know the folks that we are doing business with. They are our neighbors.”
Director of intergovernmental affairs, Virginia Association
As director of intergovernmental affairs for the Virginia Association of Counties, Jeremy Bennett works to find common ground among Virginia’s counties, from Accomack to York. It’s helpful that local government issues tend to be bread-and-butter ones like school funding, which Virginia splits between state and local governments. Local governments appropriate about $4 billion above what is required by Virginia for education, and state funding has not returned to what it used to be before the Great Recession, says Bennett, a member of Lead Virginia’s 2021 class. This General Assembly session, Bennett will advocate for counties to receive increased education funding or to be granted funding methods beyond property taxes, particularly for school construction and modernization, given that about half of Virginia public schools are more than 50 years old.
CEO, HRTec and FedHIVE
A George Mason University graduate who has worked in information technology for more than two decades, Michael Cardaci leads cloud computing company Human Resources Technologies Inc. (HRTec) and FedHIVE, a network of IT experts who help government agencies and contractors navigate FedRAMP and other public sector tech programs. “I’ve always been in IT from school on, and trying to help folks solve problems,” says Cardaci, a member of the 2021 class of Lead Virginia. “You get a particular enjoyment from getting folks ‘fixed.’” That instinct carries over to Cardaci’s personal life. “I want to leave the community better than I found it,” says Cardaci, who coaches girls’ basketball and mentors Northern Virginia Community College students interested in cloud computing and cybersecurity.
Founder and CEO, Tilt Creative + Production
Tilt Creative + Production is making magic, says founder and CEO Ron Carey. “What I love about [content production] is the fact that you have the potential to have a very positive impact on society in terms of … the messaging that you put in front of people,” says Carey, whose agency produces advertising and promotional content for clients including Capital One, Walmart and Audi of America. Attracting good people and a diverse team is key to success, says Carey, a Henrico County native who played football at the University of Virginia. Following COVID-19’s acceleration of technology usage, Tilt can grow with remote teams outside of Richmond, and the all-in-one production company now offers remote video production, allowing clients to see what’s happening in the studio.
Director, Warren Whitney
Richmond native Stephanie Ford has been with management consulting firm Warren Whitney since 2004, following an earlier career in commercial banking. Although she works in several areas — strategic marketing, business development, financing and administration — Ford says her primary job is helping small and midsize businesses grow. “I’m just a real believer in doing what’s right for the client,” she says. During the pandemic, a lot of her advice has focused on managing cash flow and helping businesses budget and forecast during uncertain times. Outside of work, Ford is a fan of the James River, hiking, gardening and photography. A member of the 2021 class of Lead Virginia, she’s also a member of the Virginia Council of CEOs board and James Madison University’s Honors Advisory Council.
CEO, Dovel Technologies
A passion for purposeful problem-solving drives Damon Griggs’ business and personal philosophy. Griggs is CEO of Dovel Technologies, a McLean-based software technology company that works with clients across a variety of sectors, from public health to emergency management and community development grants. Griggs, who this year was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the mid-Atlantic, says he’s not the stereotypical entrepreneur, having picked up the “bug” later in his career. Outside of Dovel, Griggs is an avid soccer fan who has attended at least five World Cups.
Rus Hayslett Jr.
Vice president of operations, Virginia Natural Gas
Portsmouth native Rus Hayslett Jr. grew up hearing about the natural gas industry around the dinner table from his mother, who led customer service operations for a local gas company. Hayslett, who holds a civil engineering technology degree from Old Dominion University, started working in the industry himself at age 18, taking an entry-level position on a crew truck. “I probably connect with our field folks more than anybody else because I’ve been there,” says Hayslett, who joined Virginia Natural Gas in 2010 after working for three other gas companies. A member of Lead Virginia’s 2021 class, Hayslett serves on the executive committee for the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors and is on the executive advisory board for ODU’s Batten College of Engineering and Technology.
Richmond office managing partner, McGuireWoods LLP
After 13 years as Richmond commonwealth’s attorney, Michael Herring resigned in 2019 to become a partner at McGuireWoods, the state’s largest law firm. In August, he became managing partner of the firm’s Richmond office. Herring decided to re-enter private practice because he believes that turnover is healthy, he says, and thought it was time to pass on the prosecutorial mantle. Though he misses having a broader impact on Richmond and advocating for policy change, he appreciates not worrying that the decisions he makes will be interpreted through a political lens. Another shift is his practice area, which focuses on property rights and business disputes rather than criminal law. From all accounts, McGuireWoods appears to be the right place for him: “I like to tell folks they’ll have to drag me out of here.”
Co-founder and CEO,
Pyramid Technologies LLC
Herb Jones says that joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college was the single best decision of his life, leading to a decade serving in the U.S. Army, where he learned “how to follow and how to lead” during two tours in Iraq. He and his brother Michael then formed Pyramid Technologies, a federal contracting technology business based in Providence Forge. A former three-term New Kent County treasurer, Jones was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam to the Virginia Military Advisory Council and serves on the boards of several nonprofits, including Virginia NORML, Advancing Community Excellence and Roanoke Area Ministries. A Lead Virginia 2021 class member, Jones unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat as a Democrat in 2019 and plans to run again in 2023: “I am at the point in life where it is important to prepare the way for future generations.”
Senior payments business advisor,
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Having begun her career at the state Auditor of Public Accounts, Vanity McDaniel now oversees regional Payments Advisory Councils for the Richmond Fed and serves as a key adviser to executive leadership on strategic initiatives such as FedNow, an upcoming service that will enable financial institutions to deliver end-to-end instant payments to customers. McDaniel is a member of the 2021 class of Lead Virginia, through which, she says, she’s learned the value of open-mindedness in breaking down silos for the community good. She notes that it’s an exciting time for the Fed due to innovations “such as cryptocurrency, mobile payment apps [and] cross-border payments.” In 2022, she’ll be closely watching initiatives related to faster payments, central bank digital currency and collaborations between financial tech companies and financial institutions on payment initiatives.
Executive director, Virginia Council of CEOs
It can be lonely at the top for a CEO, but the nonprofit Scot McRoberts heads up provides peer support to top executives. McRoberts helped found the Virginia Council of CEOs 21 years ago and now the organization is setting its sights for statewide expansion beyond Central Virginia, with hopes of doubling the organization’s size in five years. McRoberts has helped set up CEO roundtables in Charlottesville, Roanoke and Northern Virginia and is planning one for Hampton Roads. The council provided a lifeline for CEOs during the pandemic, says McRoberts, a 2021 Lead Virginia class member. Instead of meeting once a month, groups of CEOs would talk weekly, helping each other, trying to figure out what would happen next. The organization restarted smaller in-person events over the summer and held its first large event again in September. But the group is also looking at how to integrate more virtual and targeted events, saving time for busy execs.
Cecilia “Cricket” Middleton
Director of North American contract management, Accenture
“I tell people I worked from home before it was cool,” says Cricket Middleton, who oversees a legal team across the United States and Canada, an endeavor necessitating a lot of virtual communication. During the start of the pandemic, Middleton instituted a nonmandatory “drop-in” virtual call for her employees to bring questions. It proved so popular, it’s become permanent, she says. A native of Florida, Middleton worked for many of the largest government contractors — Harris Corp., Northrop Grumman and Boeing — before joining Accenture, where she focuses on contract management. She and her husband live in Warrenton with two hybrid English sheepdog-poodles, Willoughby and Miss Moneypenny, and spend a lot of time outside. Middleton is in Lead Virginia’s 2021 class.
Kelley C. Miller
Reed Smith LLP
Named one of the most influential female federal tax law attorneys in the nation by Law360 in 2019, Kelley Miller is a partner at Reed Smith’s Washington, D.C., office, where her clients include Fortune 25
companies and privately held corporations worth more than $1 billion. Also an adjunct professor who teaches federal partnership tax at Georgetown University Law Center, she loves tax work because it’s challenging, noting that she majored in literary classics as an undergrad. “Federal income tax code is encyclopedic, very dense. … Classical authors [were too].” One of very few lawyers nationwide with expertise in cannabis law, she expects the field to grow in 2022 — pun intended. A member of Lead Virginia’s 2021 class, Miller is a recipient of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation’s Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award and the Thomson Reuters Everyday Hero Award.
Vice president of operations and electronic tolling, Faneuil Inc.
Mike Ohmsen is proud of his Virginia heritage, which goes back hundreds of years on both sides of his family. A Chesapeake native, he lives in the neighborhood he grew up in. He’s always been interested in sales, customer service and taking care of people. A member of Lead Virginia’s class of 2021, Ohmsen likes to say that Faneuil is a fairly large company you’ve never heard of, and that’s by design. The company contracts with tolling companies such as E-Z Pass to provide customer service at call centers and it has contracts up and down the East Coast. Ohmsen, who studied finance at James Madison University, worked for Bank of America for about 25 years. But many people also know Ohmsen for being a nationally ranked water-skier and a past president of the Virginia Water Ski Federation.
CEO, Virginia Health Information
There’s never been more demand or interest for health care data, says Kyle Russell, who was promoted to CEO of Virginia Health Information in October. VHI partners with state government to collect and disseminate health care-related data, a mission that became even more important for informing public health decisions amid the pandemic. Russell has been with VHI for eight years, starting as a data analyst. VHI’s biggest focus right now is an emergency department care coordination program that links together hospital emergency departments and inpatient facilities with insurance plans for real-time data transfers. A Richmond-area native, Russell also teaches a class on health care analytics at Virginia Commonwealth University and is a member of Lead Virginia’s 2021 class.
CEO, Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV)
L.G. Shaw’s nickname comes from a popular 1980s wetsuit brand model. It makes sense, considering that he grew up working in a family business that’s the largest East Coast manufacturer of surfboards and a major retailer of surf products in Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks, where WRV’s five-dolphins/wave logo is a familiar sight. Shaw, who became CEO this year, taking over from his father, also serves as president for Friends of the Creative District, which promotes and supports Virginia Beach’s ViBe Creative District. In his spare time, he enjoys surfing, snowboarding and fishing. “At the end of the day, we just want to surf and enjoy
Chief human resources officer, Virginia Port Authority
Mississippi native Monica Sturgis has worked for a variety of major companies, including Bridgestone, BASF, Pfizer and Diageo, before joining the Port of Virginia about a year ago. Her wide-ranging background has helped her understand the importance of supply chains and logistics to business operations, she says. The Port of Virginia stands out for its excellence in service, as well as the key role the port plays as an economic driver, says Sturgis, adding that her true passion is people. “My core — human resources — [the] beat of my heart, if you will, is to … help people find jobs and the resources they need to sustain their livelihood.” Sturgis is a member of the 2021 class of statewide leadership program Lead Virginia.