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Staff photos by Olivia Ross and Matt Hamilton

"Brain Gain" is a commonly used term that is the polar opposite of "Brain Drain," which happens when smart people flee a city en masse. By all accounts, Chattanooga is experiencing a golden era for attracting talented young professionals, resulting in a big-time "Brain Gain" here. Our gig-speed internet and a culture deeply rooted in outdoor adventure sports are siren calls to the young and the restless.

This year, Chatter's 20 Under 40 Class is dedicated to those who can't call Chattanooga their hometown, but do call it their home — and we are grateful they do. The talents and experiences they bring help make our city more desirable than ever.

The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Randy Connelly

Randall Connelly, owner of Valkyrie Axe Throwing

Age: 33

Hometown: DeLand, Florida

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 4

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

Almost everything. Chattanooga is over five times the size of my hometown in population, and with far more outdoor activities in the area: mountains, rivers with no alligators — and no "Florida man."

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

Tanasi Brewing! Hands down, one of the best breweries in town and 100% underrated.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

Any pasta dish at Tony's. I absolutely love pasta, and they do an outstanding job and won't kill your wallet.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

Opening up my own axe-throwing bar. I love what I do; my customers are amazing, and it lets me give back to the area. Not only am I providing a locally owned and operated, high-quality, unique experience, but I use that to help with several local charity events throughout the year. We even ran one ourselves last summer.

Dream retirement?

Drinking on a beach in Fiji? Honestly, I have no idea. I barely know how to stop working for a day, let alone the rest of my life. At this point, I think it would be what I'm already doing now: throwing axes, making mead and hanging out with the people I know at the local breweries.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

I'm a million times happier. I opened a business, met my fiance and gained some of the best friends you could imagine since moving here.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Jessica Whatley

Jessica Whatley, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga

Age: 36

Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama

Years in Chattanooga: 3

Weekend routine?

I have two boys, so I typically bounce back and forth between a soccer field and a baseball field. When we're not doing those things, we like to go get energy out at Coolidge [Park], throwing a baseball, football or kicking around a soccer ball and grabbing some lunch.

Dream retirement?

We live on Signal now and love it, but I want to retire and move down to the Southside where I can walk to restaurants anytime I want.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

This is a tie: Alex Thai's "Southside Spicy" or the "PB & Acai" bowl at The Local Juicery.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

So many people don't get to see all that Chattanooga has to offer, I hope that is one way that Big Brothers Big Sisters and my work impact the city. I know that the youth that is a part of our program is going to be these future change-makers and protectors of this beautiful place we call home.

Favorite Chattanooga memory?

Moon River Festival 2019 – a beautiful day of listening to music, and we wanted to beat the crowds out so we left a little early and walked back to our car, along the walking bridge, listening to Brandi Carlile with the other crowds that had gathered along the bridge. Just another one of those days that this city stole my heart.

 

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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Jeigh Billingy

Jeigh Billingy, therapist at Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County and founder/director of mental health and wellness platform MySuspire, Inc.

Age: 31

Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, California

Years in Chattanooga: 13

What brought you to Chattanooga?

At first, I came as an EMT for nursing school. After some life changes and a mountain fire, I wound up with a Master's of Social Work in Emergency Management and Trauma. I got my first job as a crisis in-home specialist traveling to all types of homes in the greater Chattanooga region and fell in love with the community.

First impression of Chattanooga?

It's so green! And instead of Starbucks, there are Waffle Houses everywhere!

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

I'd love to see more street lamps and curated sidewalks, especially in the older neighborhoods. The vision of equitable access to safe "outside" is something I find important and improving the quality of life experience and people.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

I've been obsessed with this garden decoration I purchased at the Master Gardeners yearly convention at Camp Jordan. A beautiful, bright yellow flower hand-crafted with glass plates and a solar bulb — an amazing addition to my garden.

Weekend routine?

Take my pup to Heritage Park, and then take him with me for a couple loops at Enterprise South.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I hope that my work in this city edifies and elevates the fact that mental health matters. Mental health has no barriers. I also hope to see more individual lives freed from the burdens of stigma, perception and trauma.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Leigh McCormack

Leigh McCormack, assistant vice president of data science strategy and innovation at Unum

Age: 38

Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina

Years in Chattanooga: 13

You have one hour to convince a friend to move here — where do you take them?

I'd take them to hike to Edwards Point. If that view and serenity can't capture their heart for Chattanooga, then this isn't the place for them.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

Asheville and Chattanooga are very similar, which is why it was easy to feel at home here. I will say, however, that the beauty and centrality of the Tennessee River is a huge win for Chattanooga in my book.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

More live music, please! I will say that Chattanooga's music scene has improved since I've moved here, specifically the festivals. However, I would welcome the opportunity to have bigger acts stop here on a routine basis.

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

With three small children, a lot of my money goes to the Mountain Arts Community Center on Signal Mountain. My children love taking classes there — piano, computer programming and ballet.

Dream retirement?

I want to own a quaint cabin on the Tennessee River. Nothing fancy, just a place to relax and call home after long trips in an RV to see North America.

Favorite Chattanooga trivia?

I'm biased since I work in tech, but I'm always excited to say that Chattanooga was the first in the world to bring gig internet to residents.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Jessica Holladay

Jessica Holladay, director of trauma at Erlanger Health System

Age: 31

Hometown: Ashland, Ohio

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 8

What brought you to Chattanooga?

I was driving through on a road trip and immediately fell in love with the city. When I got back to Ohio, I put in my two-weeks notice and moved.

You have one hour to convince a friend to move here — where do you take them?

I am trying to get ALL of my family and friends to move here! I would take them to brunch at State of Confusion and then hit up the Sunday market (love the fresh flowers)!

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

As an East Ridge resident — the traffic around the Ridge.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

In May 2020, my husband and I opened a local gym, Rising Point Fitness. Best investment in our community ever. We love our gym family!

Weekend routine?

Saturday morning workout class at Rising Point Fitness, then we will go out to eat at one of the local restaurants for dinner. On Sunday, we will go to the Chattanooga Market or go to one of the local parks with my 2-year-old daughter, Grier.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

[Working at] Erlanger, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region, is an honor that I take very seriously. I am proud of the work that we do and the people that we help. We get to take care of people on their worst days. The nurses I get to work alongside are top-notch. They are kind, courageous and hardworking. To be a nurse at Erlanger is more than a job, it's a mission field, a calling.

 

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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Penny Chevalley

Penny Chevalley, owner of mobile bartending service Tipsy Tin

Age: 38

Hometown: Washington, D.C

Years in Chattanooga: 4

First impression of Chattanooga?

Honestly, I liked it, didn't love it — but I didn't know what I know now. I wasn't sure that my businesses would thrive here, but I quickly learned quite the opposite. Chattanooga has proven to be the perfect location for growth both personally and professionally.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

It's really hard to beat D.C. for anything more diverse. Between the embassies, the food, the constant travel and hustle and bustle, it's quite the unique area. Chattanooga is almost a slower D.C., which I actually appreciate.

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

Favorite place to spend it? Target. Most frequent place I spend it? Chattanooga Wine & Spirits.

Weekend routine?

Since weddings typically take place on weekends, that's where you'll find me. Fridays are usually prep days. Saturdays (sometimes Sundays) are delivery days and weddings, so I'm behind the bars, working. If we don't have a wedding on Sunday, then it's a rest day. I hang out with the kids, do all the things to get them ready for school the next week, and prepare for another amazing event coming up.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

I think Chattanooga gave me time to slow down. In 10 years, I've lived in two of the biggest cities in the country (maybe the world), and it's hard in the midst of all that brick and concrete to see beauty in Mother Nature. With the sprawling wedding venues, the mountains and the lush greenery that Chattanooga boasts, there are many nights where I can just take a moment and breathe. With a quick-paced business like mine, having those moments is worth gold.

 

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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Kenneth Burke

Kenneth Burke, vice president of marketing at business texting platform Text Request

Age: 28

Hometown: Donalsonville, Georgia

Years in Chattanooga: 12

First impression of Chattanooga?

Big and busy. And interesting. Very different from the farm towns I came from. I was also 8 years old, so Sticky Fingers and Mr. T's pizza were the greatest things ever.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

End the "tale of two Chattanoogas" situation. Chattanooga is a fantastic place to live for a lot of us. For many others, though, every day presents challenges to access, equity and income. It's a hugely complicated issue, and thank heavens there are people far smarter and more capable than me working on it every day. But if I could snap my fingers and change one thing, that'd be it.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

Chicken and waffles from anywhere, always. But also the green curry from Rain Thai Bistro.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

Protege, [a team-based mentoring program] run by Young Professionals of Chattanooga under the [Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce]. It was my first chance to spend significant time with other growth-minded young professionals outside of my bubble. I still text, meet up and work with these people today. That's led me into Leadership Chattanooga, major milestones in my leadership development and dozens of great relationships.

Favorite Chattanooga trivia?

[We were the] first place to bottle Coke! And our Text Request offices are actually in a former bottling factory.

Favorite Chattanooga memory?

May 10th, 2014. College graduation ceremony. Got engaged at Ross's Landing. Extended family dinner at the Marriott to celebrate all the things. Good times!

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Jocelyn Loza

Jocelyn Loza, founder/ director of Latina Professionals of Chattanooga and founder/ consultant at Hoopla Marketing Now

Age: 38

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Years in Chattanooga: 12

First impression of Chattanooga?

To be honest, I didn't have a great first impression of Chattanooga or Tennessee. Sadly, my family and I faced discrimination thus making us feel unwelcome. But thankfully that has improved, and we have developed amazing friendships.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

The obvious one is the weather; I enjoy a cooler climate. The second is the population size and its diversity. Luckily, in the past two years, I've seen more diversity in Chattanooga which is an incredible thing. And lastly, there isn't much traffic in Chattanooga like there is in Chicago, which I appreciate.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

I'm excited to see that Chattanooga is heading in the right direction; however, I would love to see more diversity and representation of our growing populations in our city government.

Dream retirement?

It may sound cliched; however, I would spend my time with my children, seeing my daughters growing into amazing Latina women. Cherishing those moments with family is priceless.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I hope that my endeavors highlighting the importance of allyship with the Latino community and providing resources for Latina women and girls through Latina Professionals, the organization I founded in 2018, can be reflected in how companies in Chattanooga and the city government increase representation by hiring diverse talent and become more mindful in how our city continues to grow.

 

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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Kirsten Ert

Kirsten Ert, city manager at City of Lakesite, Tennessee

Age: 34

Hometown: Halle (Saale), Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Years in Chattanooga: 5

What brought you to Chattanooga?

I wanted something different after I graduated college in Hawaii. It was absolutely beautiful there, but I wanted to be a little closer to home, and I wanted to live in a place that had four seasons. Chattanooga definitely checked all of these boxes, and the graduate school here offered the degree I wanted.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

The biggest difference is probably the lack of a tramway/light rail here. I didn't even have a driver's license until I moved to the States. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that in a place where so many start driving at 16. But having a car is a hassle there and reliable, easy-to-use transit is available around every corner. I miss the culture that comes with public transit — seeing the same neighbors at the tram stop every morning, the friends you meet on the tram on your way to your favorite café, or how much reading I got done during my commute.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

The humidity. After five years here, I still struggle with how humid it gets.

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

Really, any flower shop or nursery. #plantlady

Local dish that always cheers you up?

It's not quite a meal, but a lemon bar from Rembrandt's always makes everything better. Their pastries just remind me of all the delicious pastries and baked goods back home.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I work in city management so it's all about positively affecting the quality of life of my fellow community members. Public service is a way for me to give back while doing the things that I'm good at and enjoy.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Hollie Berry

Hollie Berry, artist and mayor of Red Bank

Age: 35

Hometown: Katy, Texas

Years in Chattanooga: 10

Local dish that always cheers you up?

Anything Chef Rebecca Barron makes. My husband and I are big foodies and have followed her cuisine from St. John's to Slick's and now Hello Monty. I have never eaten a dull bite that she has concocted.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

Our house in Red Bank. Our house turns 100 this year (built in 1922). My husband and I both grew up in the cookie-cutter suburbs of Houston and jumped at the chance to live in a house with real history and character.

Dream retirement?

I might not be the retiring kind. I'll always be an artist, and I'll always be involved in my community. When I grow older and my body forces me to slow down, I hope to be able to be a mentor and advisor to the younger and more energetic folks, keep making art and spend more time in nature.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

I wouldn't be the artist I am today without this city. If the people of Chattanooga hadn't banded together to save the Walnut Street Bridge for pedestrian use, I never would have started my monumental dew drawings in the lawn of Coolidge Park (which could only be seen from above). These "dewdles" gave me my first real connections to the Chattanooga art scene as well as the boldness to pursue new mediums like torch painting. I probably never would have become the mayor of anything if I hadn't moved to Red Bank. My identity is now interwoven with this land, and I am forever grateful.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

A guiding principle of my life and a common thread between my work as an artist and as a public figure has been leaving things more beautiful than I found them.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Liz Langs

Liz Langs, owner of Traveling Tutors of Chattanooga

Age: 35

Hometown: Grand Blanc, Michigan

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 6

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

Growing up in Michigan, winter lasts for about six months of the year. One of the many benefits of Chattanooga is still being able to experience all four seasons but with a much milder winter.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

The massaman curry at Thai Esan in East Ridge.

Weekend routine?

You can find me exploring a new trail, enjoying an old favorite or biking along the river. Anything outside!

How has Chattanooga changed you?

Chattanooga has been the perfect place for me to embrace my adventurous side. It has also supported me in my journey from teacher to entrepreneur. There are so many amazing resources to help business owners in our city!

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I hope that Traveling Tutors has a legacy of supporting families and students. I hope we're known for the positive impact we have had and the strong relationships we've built.

Favorite local activity to do with your kids?

We love spending time at a local campground, climbing at High Point downtown, checking out a local event or concert, golfing at Top Golf or enjoying the beautiful weather in our own backyard.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Micah Stockett

Micah Stockett, senior director of external communications at GE

Age: 33

Hometown: Sevierville, Tennessee

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 4

What brought you to Chattanooga?

Prior to moving to Chattanooga, I lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for eight years for former Chattanooga Mayor and then-U.S. Senator Bob Corker. When he decided not to seek a third term in office, I knew it was time to move home to Tennessee to be closer to family. I considered several different cities but ultimately settled on Chattanooga to help start a new business, Bridge Public Affairs, with a few of my former colleagues.

You have one hour to convince a friend to move here — where do you take them?

I am proud to say that I've had several friends move to Chattanooga in the past three years, and I am actively recruiting more! With just one hour, I would probably start with ice cream on the North Shore before a nice walk through Renaissance Park, over the Walnut Street Bridge, to the Edwin Hotel for a cocktail at Whiskey Thief.

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

From barbecue on the porch at Edley's to shopping at Rock/Creek, The Sandbox [Children's Boutique], Whole Foods and NoogaPaws, we certainly spend a good bit of time — and money — on the North Shore.

Weekend routine?

Friday is typically a pizza date night. On Saturday, cooking breakfast before heading out to our family's property on the back of Lookout Mountain to hike and fish before an afternoon/evening of sports viewing of some kind and then dinner out. Sundays are typically reserved for visits to the White Oak Dog Park and spending time with friends and family.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

From starting and growing a new business, building my first home, meeting and falling in love with my husband and getting married, I've lived a lot of life in three and a half years in Chattanooga! While I don't really believe in "work-life balance," I have learned a lot about prioritizing the things that matter most in life. I've been able to spend more time outdoors and really learn how to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Andrew Zito

Andrew Zito, vice president of the Chattanooga Lookouts

Age: 35

Hometown: Fort Myers, Florida

Years in Chattanooga: 10

First impression of Chattanooga?

I moved to Chattanooga to begin my career in sports, working as a food and beverage intern for the Chattanooga Lookouts. My first apartment was off of Germantown Road, and we pulled into town late Sunday night after a full day of driving. At the time, Exit 1 didn't have much life to it, and I quickly questioned what the heck had I gotten myself into. The next morning, driving down the ridge cut to the ballpark put the beauty of the city into perspective, especially for this Florida kid.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

The Pork Osso Bucco from Il Primo. Delicious.

Weekend routine?

Working in baseball, a weekend routine is nearly non-existent from April through September. However, when we do get a weekend, they often consist of a visit to the Chattanooga Market, a hike, a good dinner and a cold beer.

Dream retirement?

As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to spend time on a ranch in Montana.

Favorite Chattanooga trivia?

One time, [former Chattanooga Lookouts President] Joe Engle traded a player for a turkey.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

My hope is that when someone chooses to come to a Lookouts event, they feel appreciated, that they can forget about the worries of the world for a few hours, and they create lasting memories while they are here. Nearly everyone in Chattanooga has a Lookouts story, and to play even a small role in those memories is truly special.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Ranjith Babu

Ranjith Babu, neurosurgeon at CHI Memorial

Age: 33

Hometown: Nassau, Bahamas

Years in Chattanooga: 1

What brought you to Chattanooga?

I moved to Chattanooga to start the Neurosurgery and Brain Tumor Program at CHI Memorial.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

The biggest difference is definitely the geography given that the Bahamas is flat and does not have any mountains.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

I would increase the ethnic diversity of the cuisine in the city.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

Chattanooga has made me want to be outdoors more. I have really enjoyed the beautiful hikes and look forward to trying new activities like mountain biking and rock climbing.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I am really passionate about delivering the highest quality of neurosurgical care for the people of Chattanooga and the surrounding region. At CHI Memorial, we have built a comprehensive neurosurgery program and are treating patients with complex problems, like brain tumors, in a way that has never been done before. I am honored to be able to help take care of our city and provide world-class care here at home.

Favorite Chattanooga memory?

One of my favorite days was in the winter when my parents and sister came to visit. We went to the Incline Railway and went on a hike on Lookout Mountain. Afterward, we got hot chocolate and fried chicken from Champy's. Then in the evening, we went to Rock City to see the Enchanted Garden of Lights. To top it all off, we had a great dinner at Alleia.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Crystle Carrion

Crystle Carrion, assistant vice president and legal counsel at Unum

Age: 36

Hometown: New York City, New York

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 6

What brought you to Chattanooga?

The opportunity came in the form of a job offer from our local district attorney's office. I was offered a position as an assistant district attorney in an office I respected tremendously, and I simply couldn't turn it down.

Biggest difference between Chattanooga and your hometown?

When you look out the window in NYC, you see buildings and bustling streets. Here, you see rolling mountains, trees and family strolls downtown. There is a certain flair to the city that I'll always enjoy — it's busy and creative and diverse — but you can't really get away from that busy energy unless you leave the whole city. Here you can hike a wooded trail in the morning, people-watch at Clumpies at lunch and then spend a fun evening downtown with your friends.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

I don't even know if I should say this because they sell out every time they're on the menu — but the ribs from Main Street Meats are so good. I mean, ridiculously good.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

A membership to the Tennessee Aquarium.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I've held two positions since coming to Chattanooga — one as assistant district attorney and [my current one]. I hope my time at the DA's office created a pathway for trust between the community and the justice system — that the people I interacted with felt like I treated them with kindness and fairness. Unum has allowed me the time and freedom to engage in more community involvement. Through my participation with the S.L. Hutchins Bar Association and through inclusion and diversity initiatives at Unum, I hope to be able to foster a progressive environment that's mindful of the value of diversity in Chattanooga.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Juan Moreno

Juan Moreno, principal at East Ridge High School

Age: 35

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Years in Chattanooga: Almost 18

What brought you to Chattanooga?

I attended high school in Nashville, so when it came to looking at colleges, I wanted a school that was the right size, but that was also close enough to go home if I needed to return. So I moved to Chattanooga to start my undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

There is something comforting about the breakfast special from Wally's.

Weekend routine?

Weekends are for finding new breakfast places and catching up with friends. When I need alone time, I love walking the bridges and alongside the river with my dogs, Carmen, a coonhound-pointer mix, and Dodger, a goldendoodle.

Dream retirement?

I often joke that in my family, retirement is not an option. My grandparents were migrant field workers, and my parents have always modeled the hardworking aspect of chasing the "American Dream." So my dream retirement is actual retirement.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

Being an educator of color, who spent his early childhood with teachers who spoke two languages and looked like me, I do not take for granted that I have served the same learning community with a high Latinx and Hispanic population. In my first year of teaching, I committed to removing barriers for my students to the best of my ability by giving them the power to think for themselves and love of learning. I have continued that same commitment for the last thirteen years, and I am excited to see how those seeds will start to bloom in and around the city in the next few years.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Jared Hueter

Jared Hueter, owner and architect at Ally Architecture

Age: 38

Hometown: Henderson, Tennessee

Years in Chattanooga: 9

Weekend routine?

This depends on the time of year, but typically Friday nights are family movie nights with lots of popcorn. Saturdays are spent in the woods as much as possible. We get up, eat breakfast and then just drive out of town to explore. Any trail that leads to water or a great view will make everyone happy. Sundays are spent with our church family at the East Ridge Church of Christ. We have morning and evening worship services with additional service projects, Bible classes and a decent amount of napping in between.

Favorite Chattanooga trivia?

The mystery around Underground Chattanooga has interested me since I learned of it. The city is full of clues in the built environment like underground tunnels, hidden floors and doorways that lead to nowhere that reveal past efforts to alter downtown's topography as a flood mitigation strategy. These efforts would likely have taken place after the flood of 1867 and were not rediscovered until the 1970s.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

I want to use my design work to improve people's lives. I believe that good architecture should make life better.

Favorite Chattanooga memory?

Professionally, I would have to say the opening night of Passageways 1.0 the summer of 2016. After so much hard work and planning, it was so rewarding to watch so many people exploring the alleys and interacting with the installations. The purpose of Passageways was to re-imagine Chattanooga's alleyways; to breathe life into these auxiliary spaces; to create a place, a destination in itself and to demonstrate the value, the importance and the potential of these between-spaces and the significance they have to our built urban fabric.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Callie Starnes

Callie Starnes, president/ general manager at Local 3

Age: 37

Hometown: Duluth, Georgia

Years in Chattanooga: 14

First impression of Chattanooga?

I could not believe how much it had changed since childhood visits. Not long after I moved to town, Volkswagen announced plans to build its assembly plant in Chattanooga. The city felt hopeful, forward-thinking and on the brink of great things. It has been amazing to watch the city continue to evolve these last 14 years.

You have one hour to convince a friend to move here — where do you take them?

I would take them for a drive up Signal or Lookout, a walk along the riverfront then to the Choo Choo for drinks at Stir. We should probably order the fried green tomatoes. Those fried green tomatoes have helped recruit a few Local 3 journalists to town over the years.

Weekend routine?

I am in a season of life full of soccer tournaments and baseball games. Coffee is on the go and so is our family.

Dream retirement?

My dream retirement is sooner than later and near a beach.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

I think back to the tornado outbreak of 2011 and the terrorist attack in 2015. I witnessed up close some of the darkest days in Chattanooga history. It is what happened in the days after those tragedies that I learned what it means to be "Chattanooga Strong."

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

In a world full of misinformation, there is nothing more important than local journalism. Chattanooga is fortunate to have a journalism community that puts journalism before competition. Don't get me wrong — we compete, and we all like to win. However, when it comes down to it, advocating for truth and our community comes first. The people you see on Local 3, and the many faces behind the scenes that you do not see, are your neighbors. They shop at the same grocery stores. Their kids attend the same schools your kids do. Local journalists care about the communities they serve because it is their home, too.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Adam Schreader
 

Adam Schreader, senior director of emergency services at Erlanger Health System

Age: 38

Hometown: Portland, Tennessee

Years in Chattanooga: 19

What brought you to Chattanooga?

My then-girlfriend, who is now my wife, is from Cleveland, Tennessee. We met at a Bible conference our junior year in high school and dated long distance. I knew I wanted to be here with her after I graduated high school. We both attended Southern Adventist University.

Local dish that always cheers you up?

The Enchiladito smothered burrito at [recently closed] Mojo Burrito.

Favorite local investment or unique purchase?

My wife and I purchased a Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp edition that was uniquely designed right here in Chattanooga. It is our family hauler.

How has Chattanooga changed you?

Chattanooga has provided me with a home, career and a community to connect with. With that said, it hasn't so much changed me as it has given me the drive to help our community through my position as a healthcare professional.

Favorite Chattanooga memory?

The very first date my wife and I went on. [We went to] the Tennessee Aquarium, Tortilla Factory (for those who remember it) and Rock City — then a drive home than ended up with me asking for directions on how to get down a foggy Lookout Mountain. Hands down, one of my all-time favorite days.

 

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Josh Singh

Josh R. Singh, director of strategy and growth at The Bethlehem Center and owner of Chattanooga Fitness Club

Age: 35

Hometown: New York City, New York

Years in Chattanooga: 5

What brought you to Chattanooga?

I moved to the Chattanooga area from Atlanta in 2017 to pursue a ministry opportunity. That led me into nonprofit work and then nonprofit management. And recently, I opened my own group fitness and personal training facility, Chattanooga Fitness Club. Chattanooga has treated me very well in the past half-decade, so much so that I've planted down permanent roots here, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

One change you'd make to Chattanooga?

Invest all the things into public education.

Favorite place to spend money in the city?

I get my car washed every day at Surf's Up Car Wash. I'm a monthly member so it's not super expensive, but I do love me a freshly washed vehicle!

Weekend routine?

Right now, I'm a brand new brick-and-mortar business owner, so I wake up early and spend a lot of time [at Chattanooga Fitness Club]. My faith as a Christian is very important to me, and while I'm currently between churches, it is important to me to spend time with God. Rest and rejuvenation are also key. I love spending time with my 6-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier and taking her to the dog park. We go to White Oak since it's close, and she loves it!

Dream retirement?

I am a super Type A personality from New York that walks fast, talks fast and is about my business. I'll work till the day I die.

Favorite Chattanooga trivia?

Between other cities its size, Chattanooga is consistently ranked first or second in philanthropic giving and generosity.

How do you hope your work impacts Chattanooga?

My desire is to serve people and make their lives better. I also have a heart for helping those in need. My work at the Bethlehem Center, as well as owning Chattanooga Fitness Club, continues to allow me to positively impact Chattanooga.

— Compiled by Sunny Montgomery 

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