This story was updated Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, at 9 p.m. with more information and photos.

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2019 Chattanooga leadership changes

Many of Chattanooga's biggest businesses are under new management this year, with new CEOs named at more than a dozen local companies and agencies.

New bosses were picked for Chattanooga's biggest hospital, manufacturing business and electric and water utilities this year, among others. The churn in the C-suite was not unique to Chattanooga. The consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which tracks CEO turnover, says the turnover in CEOs in the first 10 months of 2019 was 13% ahead of last year and the highest since the firm began tracking CEO changes in 2002.


Among the local C-suite changes in 2019:

* In perhaps the most contentious battle, Dr. William Jackson was named CEO of Erlanger Health System after hospital trustees forced out former CEO Kevin Spiegel following the loss of $4.4 million by the hospital last year and the appeal by Erlanger's surgeons and medical staff urging his ouster in a letter of no confidence. Jackson was previously Erlanger's chief medical officer.

Jeff Lyash, a former head of Ontario Power Generation, was chosen to lead America's biggest public power utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, after former TVA CEO Bill Johnson relocated to California to head the bankrupt Pacific, Gas & Electric.

* Chattanooga's water utility, Tennessee American Water, also got a new leader. Darlene Williams, a 10-year veteran manager in the utility industry who previously served as senior manager of operations for New Jersey American Water, replaced Valoria Armstrong. Armstrong is now leading American Water's national government affairs and community development efforts.

* At Chattanooga's biggest manufacturer, Volkswagen of America, Tom du Plessis replaced Frank Fischer, who was brought back to Chattanooga briefly this year in the midst of an unsuccessful union organizing attempt by the United Auto Workers. The year began with Antonio Pinto heading VW's Chattanooga assembly plant and, after three months under the helm of the plant's former manager Frank Fischer, du Plessis was named to the post in July. He was formerly director of production at multiple plants in China for the last five years.

* One of the region's oldest and best known manufacturers, Lodge Manufacturing, also got the first CEO from outside the founding family for the first time in 123 years when Mike Otterman was elevated to CEO of the cast iron cookware maker. Otterman joined Lodge in 2016 after serving as global marketing head of Coleman Co.

* At Astec Industries, an outside leader also was brought in during 2019 for the first time since the company was started by the late Dr. J. Don Brock in 1972. Barry Ruffalo, formerly group vice president at Valmont Industries for 13 years, replaced CEO Ben Brock, the son of company founder who resigned after heading Astec for five years.

* At Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation, Matthew Gibson will take over as the CEO in January, replacing current CEO Carol Sim, who announced her retirement in October.

* Meanwhile, Synovus Bank is looking to fill the market president job in Chattanooga after Mike Sarvis left the bank to return to Greenville, South Carolina.


A number of major schools and non-profit agencies also got new leaders during 2019:

* At Bryan College in Dayton, Doug Mann, the vice president of academics and provost of the Christan liberal arts college, was picked to succeed longtime President Stephen Livesay next year.

* At Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Autumn A. Graves announced that she will leave GPS at the end of the school year to assume a similar job at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia. No successor has yet been named at GPS.

* At ArtsBuild, James McKissic was chosen to fill the top job vacated by the retirement of Dan Bowers. McKissic was formerly chief operating officer of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. Before that, he was the senior adviser to the mayor and the director of the city of Chattanooga's Office of Multicultural Affairs.

* Chattanooga's entrepreneurial promotion agency, the Enterprise Center, hired Deb Socia to to replace the retiring Ken Hays as president. Socia was previously executive director of Next Century Cities in Washington D.C.

* The Friends of the Festival, the nonprofit group behind the Riverbend Festival, hired Mickey McCamish to replace Chip Baker who retired from the job after 20 years. McCamish was previously director of marketing and sponsorship for the Riverbend Festival.

New leaders in 2019

* Erlanger: Dr. William Jackson is named CEO of Erlanger Health System

* TVA: Jeff Lyash is chosen to lead America’s biggest public power utility

* Tennesssee American Water: Darlene Williams becomes president of the utility

* Volkswagen of America: Tom du Plessis helms Chattanooga’s largest manufacturer

* Lodge Manufacturing: Mike Otterman is elevated to CEO

* Astec Industries: Barry Ruffalo becomes CEO

* Bryan College in Dayton: Dr. Doug Mann becomes president

* ArtsBuild: James McKissic is chosen to fill the top job

* The Enterprise Center: Deb Socia becomes president

* Friends of the Festival: Mickey McCamish leads the organization