Cathy Ackermann

Cathy has become synonymous with the best in public relations and marketing strategy in the East Tennessee region. She lives it, breathes it, and has a tenacious determination to advance the business goals of the firm’s clients. It’s the reason she’s been able to build a successful agency from the ground up over the last 30 years. When she’s not delivering high-level consultation and strategy to a wide array of organizations, Cathy spends time traveling and bicycling with her husband, hosting friends at her mountain cabin, or tending to her (very spoiled) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Jack Burgin

Jack Burgin is a partner in the law firm of Kramer Rayson LLP. He represents employers on all aspects of labor and employment law, including employee benefits issues, and represents clients on government and commercial contract litigation. Before joining Kramer Rayson, Mr. Burgin graduated with honors from The University of Tennessee College of Law (1989), and then clerked for the Honorable Gary R. Wade, then Judge of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Jack authors “Our Own Point of View” a blog about legal issues affecting Tennessee employers, contributes to the DIS Unplugged, a travel blog, where he writes about pending legal disputes involving Disney and other theme parks, and appears as a guest on the DIS Unplugged Podcast. Jack served two terms on the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, serving as Chair of the CLE Commission in 2011. He is an avid amateur photographer and enjoys traveling and hiking with his wife, Catherine.

Billy Carroll

William Young Carroll, Jr. (Billy) is the President and Chief Executive Officer of SmartBank.  Mr. Carroll, also a founding Director of SmartBank, has held the position since the Bank’s organization.  A graduate of the University of Tennessee, he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1990.  Following his graduation, Mr. Carroll worked for Kraft CPAs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked primarily in the areas of audit and tax.

Mr. Carroll joined Sevierville, Tennessee, based Citizens National Bank in 1992 where he held various management positions including Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.  He also served on the Bank’s Board of Directors, as well as Loan Committee and Asset Liability Committee and was responsible for all operational areas of the Bank, including brokerage and insurance subsidiaries.

Mr. Carroll began organizing SmartBank in 2006 with the help of several community leaders.  Their goal was to create a new, exciting banking environment focused on building a dynamic culture and recruiting outstanding associates.  The organization is becoming one of the regions strongest and fastest growing new banking concepts with assets over $300 million.

During Mr. Carroll’s professional career, he has served as president of the Sevier County High School Foundation, member of the Sevierville Planning Commission, president of the Sevier County’s University of the Tennessee Alumni chapter, Board member of the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, Board member of Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic, member of the Sevier County Economic Development Council, president of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the United Way of Sevier County.  He is active in numerous other local organizations including Leadership Sevier and Leadership Knoxville, and has been inducted into Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame.

Mr. Carroll currently serves on the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank, Nashville Branch.

Bill Cobble

For twenty-seven years, Bill Cobble was the CEO and owner of Cobble Staffing Companies, a temporary and permanent placement company with 15 offices, 100 permanent employees and 10,000 temporary employees/year. In 1995, the company was sold to Staffing Solutions, and Mr. Cobble was inducted into the East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame.

Shortly after, Mr. Cobble and his wife Donna purchased and began managing the family-owned farm that they reside on today. Marblegate Farm is set on a stunning 250 acres and is a short drive from Knoxville, TN.

Mr. Cobble was the founding President of Tremont’s board of directors and to this day serves on the board. His other organizational affiliations include East Tennessee Historical Society, Foothills Land Conservancy, Boy Scouts of America, Cherokee Country Club and Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church.

Hank Dye

Hank Dye retired from the University of Tennessee in July, 2012. He joined the University April 1, 2005 as Vice President for Public and Government Relations.  In that role, he had responsibility for overall communications, marketing and branding activity, and for government relations at both the state and federal levels.

His UT involvements include being a past member of the Athletics Board, the Development Council, the National Alumni Board of Governors, the Public Affairs Committee and the College of Communications Board of Visitors.

In 1980 he was one of three founding partners who started the Nashville public relations agency Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence.  The agency is among the 10 largest public relations agencies in the Southeast.

He is past Chairman of the Nashville Sports Council and has previously served on the executive committee of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Board, the Board of the Music City Bowl, the Advisory Board of Nashville YWCA, the board of Leadership Nashville Alumni and the executive committee of the board of Nashville Alliance for Public Education. He served as an elder at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville. He is a Nashville Advertising Federation Silver Medalist.

A native of Portland, Tennessee and a 1963 graduate of UT, Hank is married to the former Margaret Strom and has two sons—Clay and Andrew—and six grandchildren.

Joe Emert

Joe Emert is a 7th generation East Tennessean whose family settled Emert’s Cove (now Pittman Center) in the 1790s and his 3rd great grandfather moved to Tuckaleechee Cove (now Townsend) in 1826.  His family genealogy includes the Reagan, Dunn, and Ghormley families, all early settlers of East Tennessee.  He grew up in Maryville and was raised on family stories of the area while spending time in Townsend and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, especially in the Tremont area. He and his wife Cindy were early supporters of the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center and are currently fundraising for the Sam Houston statue in Maryville. Joe is a 1978 graduate of The University of Tennessee and currently serves on The Board of Advisors for the College of Nursing.  He is also on The East Tennessee Historical Society Board of Directors serving as President Elect.  He has been awarded the Distinguished Alumni of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, College of Nursing and an Accomplished Alumni of The University of Tennessee. Upon his retirement from the medical device industry, he was awarded the Medtronic Life Time Achievement Award for his 28-year career.  Joe and Cindy are the parents of 2 grown sons, Jason and Josh, and currently reside in West Knoxville at Stony Point.

Elizabeth Estill

Elizabeth Estill retired from the US Forest Service as its Deputy Chief.   A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Harvard University she began her career as an ecologist with TVA.  She later became TVA’s District Administrator in Nashville, and the Director of Land Between The Lakes.

Elizabeth joined the US Forest Service as its National Director of Recreation, Cultural Resources and Wilderness Management.  In 1992 she became the first female Regional Forester (field general) in the agency’s history. She led the Rocky Mountain Region (2.2 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands) as well as the 13 state Southeastern Region prior to becoming the Deputy Chief in Washington D.C.

Elizabeth received the Distinguished Rank Award from President George W. Bush “in recognition of visionary, global leadership in involving corporations, volunteers, and communities in collaborative natural resource management”.  She also garnered the government’s highest award for innovation from Vice President Albert Gore for cost savings in the Rocky Mountain Region (over $4 million) and for the Southern Forest Resource Assessment to evaluate sustainability of natural resources and provide a common framework for decision-makers at all levels of government.  She has represented the United States at numerous international conferences and negotiations on Forestry, Land Use, Wilderness, and Sustainability issues.

Currently she mentors, lectures and consults on natural resource policy. She enjoys her grandchildren, a good book, painting, and traveling.  Elizabeth is married to John Dreves.  She has one son, four stepchildren, and nine grandchildren.

Phil Francis

Phil began his career in 1972 at Kings Mountain National Military Park where he served as a seasonal park ranger and later as a permanent administrative employee.  He was selected as an intake trainee in 1977 and worked in the National Capital Region.  Upon completion of his intake assignment, Phil served as Administrative Officer of Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP, Shenandoah NP, and Yosemite NP.  In 1991, he was selected to be the Associate Regional Director, Administration, for the Southwest Region.   In 1994 Phil moved to Great Smoky Mountains National Park where he served as Deputy Superintendent until 2005.  For three of those eleven years, Phil served as acting Superintendent.  In 2005, Phil became the sixth superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, serving in that capacity until April of 2013.   Phil has received numerous awards and honors and is an avid advocate for the national parks.

During the 41 year span of Phil’s career, he was involved in a wide array of initiatives and programs, working in small historic areas to large natural parks.   He has led YCC programs, made presentations to hundreds of groups including ones that were on opposing sides of issues, conducted interpretive presentations, actively supported law enforcement activities, and worked closely with numerous partner organizations demonstrating an ability to creatively solve problems.  He completed the Department’s Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program and received the Department’s Superior Achievement Award.

Phil hopes to continue advocating for protection of park resources, providing outstanding service to the public, enhancing science in the parks, and ensuring that the Service and its employees are well-positioned for the future.

Daniel Green

Daniel is a proud Knoxville native and graduate from The University of Tennessee where he earned his BA in finance. Daniel joined UBS from New York City where he worked with Lord Abbett, Private Wealth Group. He worked with and supported many of our industries top wealth advisors throughout the country. Daniel spent several years gaining great insight and knowledge into markets, investments, and strategies all of which he brings to our team/clients. In 2015, Daniel was asked to serve as Treasurer of Wesley Neighbors HOA Board. West Hills Neighborhood has a strong presence in the community of Knoxville and consists of over 1200 homes in west Knoxville. As a graduate of NYC’s Dale Carnegie Training Community, one of his favorite parts of his job is building strong relationship’s with clients. Daniel and his wife Sissy currently reside at their home in West Hills with their two children Henry and Archie.

Shannon Harper

Shannon is Vice President of Harper Auto Square in Knoxville. Shannon started at the dealerships washing cars and has worked in every possible position in the dealerships. He has the same commitment to creating long term enthusiastic customers as his father, Tom. Shannon is very active in the community as a member of Nucleus Knoxville, involved with East TN Boys and Girls Club and United Way, and on the board of Junior Achievement of East Tennessee and the Dogwood Arts Festival. Harper is a proud sponsor of Ruthie’s Fund, Knoxville Opera, and the Great Smoky Mountains Tremont Foundation. He has also received an Automotive News 40 under 40 award and is an Introduction Knoxville alumnus.

James A. Haslam II

When Haslam founded Pilot Corporation in 1958, it was a family- owned business with one gas station. The company has grown to become the nation’s largest operator of travel centers and largest seller of over-the-road diesel fuel. Pilot Flying J operates a network of more than 650 travel centers and travel plazas across North America. In 2013, Haslam received the Hall of Fame award from NATSO, the trade association representing the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

Haslam serves on the boards of the George W. Bush Library Foundation, the National Football Foundation, the Trust Company of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee Health System. He is chairman of the board of the Baker Center at the University of Tennessee.

Haslam has been a director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, First American Bank, AmSouth Bank, and Appalachian Life Insurance Company. He was a trustee for the University of Tennessee for 27 years and was both vice chairman and chairman of the Executive Committee. He has been the chairman of the board of the Greater Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Knoxville, Webb School of Knoxville, the Public Building Authority and United Way of Greater Knoxville. He also served as the campaign chairman for United Way and was the founder and remains the chairman of the local Alexis de Tocqueville Society.

A strong believer in giving back to the community, Haslam founded the Haslam Family Foundation, which has contributed millions of dollars to charitable organizations over the years.

Haslam is married to Natalie Leach Haslam. They have six adult children, 18 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Chuck James

Chuck James grew up in Michigan. After finishing high school he moved to Chicago, IL to major in Social Group Work at George Williams College and later in Business at Northwestern University. Chuck worked several summers as a YMCA Camp Counselor while in college. He and his wife Terry have been married for 39 years. Chuck retired from Transonic Systems, a world leader in intraoperative blood flow monitoring, where he served as Vice President of Sales. While in Illinois Chuck served 10 years on the Buehler YMCA Board and is past President.

Twelve years ago Chuck and Terry moved from Inverness, IL to Loudon, TN where he continued to work until retiring in 2009. Chuck fills his retirement time serving on several non-profit Boards. He is a past Board Member of the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and is the current President of the Tennessee Bluebird Society and serves on the Knoxville Opera Board. In their spare time Chuck and Terry enjoy exploring the trails and steams in the GSMNP.

Chuck believes we have made great strides since the 1970’s in environmental education. However, we must now continue to educate the next generation in the importance of conservation. He believes GSMIT opens a child’s eyes and begins a life long journey of learning about the wonders of nature.

Richard E. Ray

Dick Ray began his career with the Aluminum Company of America at Tennessee Operations in 1953. He held metallurgical and management positions at Davenport,
Iowa; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Point Henry, Australia before returning to serve as Operations Manager at Tennessee Operations, a post he held for 15 years. Under his leadership the Tennessee plant was modernized to become the most state of the art aluminum rolling facility in the world.

Ray was appointed by Governor Lamar Alexander to the State of TN Board of Education where he served for 26 years, including many years as chairman. He is the past chairman of the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont and has held membership and chairmanship of many other civic groups.

Morton Massey

Morton Massey is a retired software developer from Knoxville. His career included 31 years with QuickPen International, a software company providing software solutions for the HVAC and Mechanical construction industry, the last 5 years of which he served as CEO. The company was sold in 2009 to Trimble Navigation.

He was born in Knoxville, went to high school at Webb School of Knoxville then graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Business. He is married to Senator Becky Duncan Massey and they have two grown daughters and one granddaughter.

Morton has been an active volunteer during his adult life including servings as a youth softball, basketball and soccer coach for 20+ years. Over the last 15 years he has assisted over 100 nonprofit organizations with fund raising auction events. His primary pastime in retirement is continuing his lifelong hobby of birdwatching.

Edward Pershing

Ed Pershing is President and co-founder of Pershing Yoakley & Associates (PYA), a management consulting and accounting firm headquartered in Knoxville with offices in Atlanta, Kansas, Knoxville, Nashville and Tampa Bay.  Ed has led the firm’s growth since its founding in 1983 with three employees to its position today as one of the leading healthcare accounting and consulting firms in the United States.   PYA serves healthcare clients in 48 states and the Virgin Islands.  PYA was recently recognized byModern Healthcare as one of the Top-20 Healthcare Consulting Firms in the nation.

Ed has 35+ years of experience in healthcare.  In 1977, Ed was one of 18 individuals in the U.S. and Great Britain selected to participate in a one-year education and internship work-study program in serving the healthcare industry developed at the direction of the Chairman of Ernst & Ernst.

Bill Varner

L. W. (Bill) Varner, Jr. is currently the CEO of United Subcontractors, Inc., the second largest insulation services provider in the United States. Prior to this, Bill served for seven and a half years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Aquilex Corporation, a leading provider of specialty services to the energy sector with its headquarters located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bill has led various businesses for domestic and foreign global technology service and engineering companies such as ABB/ Flakt AB, Zellweger Uster, and Invensys PLC. Bill’s background includes turnarounds, significant growth initiatives, acquisitions and divestitures.

Bill is a graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina and has served on various philanthropic, industry and community boards. He currently sits on the board of directors for USI, Bartlett Holdings as well as The Identity Group.

He has resided in Knoxville, Tennessee since 1991 and is married to Susan Burgess Varner. Together they have 3 daughters and seven grandchildren.

Chad Youngblood

Chad Youngblood has over 25 years of creative, branding and advertising experience and is passionate about helping all businesses grow. Chad held senior creative & marketing positions at ABC, Disney & NBC, in San Francisco and at HGTV in Knoxville. Chad was also General Manager of two multi-million lifestyle brands, the DIY Network and the Fine Living Television Network. Chad is active in his community, serving as a loaned executive to United Way of East Tennessee, and the current board chair for Legacy Parks Foundation.

He and his wife Ginette have twin sons, Evan and Owen.