Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. These pillars of our community bring diverse backgrounds and many years of experience and success to their current positions. We take a glimpse into their pasts, catch up with the work they are doing now, and look to the future with inspiration from their goals and vision.
President & CEO, Greater Louisville Inc.
As the first woman and youngest person in GLI’s 157-year history to serve as President & CEO of the Metro Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville Inc., Sarah Davasher-Wisdom has “the pleasure of leading” 36 professionals who “develop and implement the strategies, objectives, and policies of GLI.” GLI focuses on regional economic growth through business attraction, engagement, and leadership, economic and global outreach, community talent development, encouraging entrepreneurship, and fostering a pro-business environment. At the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Conference in July 2019, Greater Louisville Inc.(GLI) was named Chamber of the Year for large chambers of commerce, achieved in no small part by Sarah’s leadership as COO at the time.
Sarah hails from Holland, Kentucky, less than 6 miles from the Kentucky-Tennessee state line and less than 40 miles from Western Kentucky University. At WKU, Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Government and a Master of Public Administration degree. She is also a graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management and the Government Affairs Institute’s Legislative Studies Program through Georgetown University. While still an undergrad student, Sarah successfully worked as an Office/Sales Manager for a home construction company. Through graduate school and a couple of years after, she served as Community Development Coordinator in the Office of Congressman Ron Lewis - KY. Before joining GLI, Sarah was also Strategic Communications Officer for the Army Corps of Engineers and Government Relations Manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Sarah’s experience with the Army Corps of Engineers gave her great insight into emergency management functions, insight that she is putting to good use now as she provides strategic leadership of GLI and its Louisville business leaders coming together to support one another through the economic crisis of coronavirus. According to Sarah, community involvement and business leadership are “essential for economic growth” and, “Business leaders have stepped up to lead initiatives with governmental officials. They have a natural affinity for community service.” Sarah was an internal candidate nominated to assume the GLI President & CEO role and took full responsibility on January 23. Shortly before the governor imposed pandemic-related restrictions, Sarah had just presented “An Economic Development Roadmap for the Greater Louisville Region” featuring 7 key strategies:
Sarah’s prior experience with GLI helped to shape her goals and vision. She moved to Louisville and joined GLI in 2014 as Vice President of Government Affairs. In a little over a year, she rose to Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategy and just six months later became Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff. Now as President & CEO, she has had to rapidly shift gears, adapting GLI to work from home and forming a coronavirus recovery task force or “rapid response team” to meet immediate needs of businesses and, by extension, the community at large. GLI has been working to host helpful webinars and assist businesses in navigating the CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program loans, and other forms of federal relief. Sarah and GLI have transitioned again recently to helping formulate and implement business reopening plans and requirements for the city.
COVID-19 Resources are available at greaterlouisville.com/covidhelp and GLI’s Louisville Crisis Support Hub can be found at crisissupporthub.org.
Multipreneur CEO, NAC • Founder/Chair, Derby Diversity & Business Summit • Owner/Operator, Encore on 4th • Owner, AFM Threads
To say that Tawana Bain has a lot of irons in the fire is an understatement. But to boil it all down, Tawana works at the intersection of fashion, entertainment, hospitality, marketing, and events with a mission to diversify customer bases and supply chains in Louisville and across the country. She was born and raised in upstate New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Communications and a minor concentration in Computer Science from SUNY Brockport. She achieved oral and written proficiency in French communication at L’Institut de Touraine in Tours, France. While in college, her work experiences as a customer service representative gave her early, real-world insight into the impact a representative can have on the brand, customer relations, and bottom line of an organization, for good or ill.
Tawana was working in Miami when she was given an opportunity with her job to transfer to Louisville. She was somewhat hesitant at first to make this her permanent home, but after a Derby Festival season or two, she understood what makes Louisville so special. Tawana channeled her work experience and entrepreneurial drive into forming her own company, NAC, in 2006. “NAC is a marketing and project management firm with an array of project support for events,” says CEO Tawana, and is a one-stop-shop for global access to the coolest and most talented professional writers, designers, digital experts, videographers, analysts, and consultants. Tawana’s creative acumen and knack for logistics serves other businesses as well as her own and has been the catalyst behind her growth.
After years of searching and wishing for a truly diverse diversity conference, Tawana founded and created in 2017 the Derby Diversity and Business Summit, “an organization designed to drive innovative strategies to attract diverse consumers while promoting the utilization of best in class diverse business leaders within the Executive Workforce and Global Supply Chain.” The five-day event is typically held during Derby Week and features high-profile events all over the city, such as Derby Fashion Week, the Derby Sneaker Ball, and the DDBS Awards. Just as the Kentucky Derby has been postponed due to the coronavirus threat, so has DDBS with rescheduled dates of September 1-5, 2020. In the interim, Tawana as Chair has launched the DDBS Digital Dialogue Series “Candid Conversations Across the Digital Divide”, an “online series of speakers to assist with establishing new connections and resources when the world is transforming.” The series offers free weekly panel discussions and online networking. Topics include intergenerational disconnect, women’s unspoken rivalries, religion, funding, and support in these uncertain times. Tawana was also the driving force behind the online event Oaks Night In held on May 1.
As Owner/Operator of Encore on 4th: a Southern Coastal Booze Room with Live Music, Tawana had to pivot quickly from running a lively see-and-be-seen restaurant, bar, and event space to sustaining the business and its employees through curbside pickup only. When restaurants were first ordered to close in mid-March, Tawana had little faith that Encore on 4th could remain viable. But the restaurant management and staff pulled together, determined to make a go of it. Along with menu favorites such as Bourbon Shrimp & Grits, Skillet Mac & Cheese, and Finish Line Bourbon Brownie Parfait and Homemade Banana Pudding desserts layered in mason jars, Encore on 4th also offers Cocktails to Go and Beer and WIne by the Bottle. Enjoy their Fish Fry Fridays and (with 48-hours notice) family-style meals.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, Tawana then faced the temporary closings of both locations of her AFM Threads boutiques at Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center. The “trendy, chic, and unique” fashions were still being sold online after retail closures featuring Get to the Bag! Specials curated by AFM stylists at five different price points. For example, the customer selects a Stylist Bag: Boss Up/Glam/Dapper/Chic, and for only $50 receives a complete look valued at $150. For a couple, $100 gets them $300 worth of style. Tawana is thankful for every client, friend, and the friends she didn’t know she had, who supported her businesses, especially these past few months.
Follow @getfancywithT on Instagram to find out what’s next!
Council Member, Gerson Lehrman Group
Rear Admiral Stewart O’Bryan retired from the United States Navy on May 31, 2012 “after 34 years of distinguished service.” But he has neither figuratively nor literally let any grass grow under his feet. He currently works from his home office in Louisville as a Council Member for Gerson Lehrman GroupⓇ, a global consulting firm headquartered in New York City. His specialties lie in the areas of government and US Navy contracts, research and development, and ship-building, helping clients with budget management, research sources, and contacts at the Navy, Joint Staff, and Pentagon.
Stewart’s parents were born in Kentucky near Bardstown and eventually settled in Louisville when he was middle-school age. He was born the first of six children: three boys and three girls. His father, Michael “Boot” O’Bryan was in the Navy for 22 years, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and served two tours in Vietnam. Stewart and his siblings attended Catholic schools, with Stewart graduating from Trinity High School. He also worked at Plantation Country Club where he met his sweetheart, Stacia. Stewart attended college at JCC and U of L, where he served in the university’s Navy ROTC program. He and Stacia married during his junior year; and Stewart deployed with the Navy just days after graduation. He continued his education with the Navy Command and Staff program at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, earning a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Study in May 1992.
In his 34 years with the Navy, Admiral O’Bryan held numerous sea duty assignments around the world, including officer and commanding officer of at least seven ships, including the U.S.S. Cole. He also served as commander of a destroyer squadron, a task group, and carrier strike groups launching more than 400 Tomahawk missiles during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Admiral O’Bryan was stationed in Gaeta, Italy as Chief of Staff of the US Sixth Fleet. His various shore assignments included Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Missile Defense; Executive Assistant to the Commander of Naval Forces Europe in Naples, Italy; Director of Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia; Director of Navy Maritime Domain Awareness, office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C.; and Commander of Navy Air and Missile Defense Command in Dahlgren, Va. Among other decorations, Admiral O’Bryan was awarded the Legion of Merit seven times, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and the Bronze Star.
The Admiral feels fortunate to have served in the military for so long and to have been blessed with such a great education and life experiences. He pays that gratitude forward with speaking engagements at Trinity, U of L, and with veterans groups. He often works with the Catholic Education Foundation in Louisville, speaking at schools and to various groups on leadership qualities and military involvement. Admiral O’Bryan and his wife take pride in how well-rounded their three grown children are and how “they can walk into any situation” with confidence.
Even in his spare time, Admiral O’Bryan likes to keep busy and spends time outdoors and with his family, especially his ten grandchildren. He loves golf, fishing with his grandsons, and doing his own yard work and gardening, which he finds “enjoyable and relaxing”. Reading is high on his list as well. In fact, the Admiral himself appears in the January 2019 book Fortune Favors Boldness: The Story of Naval Valor During Operation Iraqi Freedom by Barry M. Costello, Vice Admiral, USN (Retired). In today’s challenging times, “Family is very important right now.” When asked about this global pandemic, there is zero equivocation in Admiral O’Bryan’s calm, direct assurance, “We’ll get through it.”
Vice President, Public Affairs, United Parcel Service
As Vice President of Public Affairs for United Parcel Service, Nick D’Andrea is responsible for public policy that affects all of UPS in Kentucky, including UPS Airlines and Worldport, and the Southeastern states. He advocates on behalf of the company on issues such as alternative fuels, sustainability strategy, taxes, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and healthcare. He also works with the entire Public Affairs team to administer almost $1million annually in grants and scholarships.
Nick D’Andrea grew up in Richwood, Kentucky, where his family owned a restaurant about 20 miles south/southwest of Cincinnati. He was a diehard Bengals fan and attended Covington Catholic High School, where he developed an interest in sports medicine. Nick was chosen to become a student trainer for the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball team. But with Coach Denny Crum’s retirement, that promise of a position went away as well. Nick changed course and followed his passion for politics, majoring in Political Science at U of L with a concentration in Law & Public Policy, followed by a Master’s in Business Administration. He went on to formulate the university’s legislative agenda as Director of Governmental Affairs. Nick has held similar public affairs positions with the state of Kentucky’s Passport Health Plan, the American Diabetes Association, Congressional Members, and Louisville Metro Council.
All of these positions, and his role with UPS, have shaped his philosophies of business leadership and community engagement. But with UPS, he has come to adopt their corporate philosophy of constructive dissatisfaction, “It’s the idea that no matter how good something is, you can always improve. That applies to relationships with public officials, legislation and rulemaking, and improving our business and the community around us.” That continuous hunger for improvement has served UPS well in its efforts to relieve stressed supply chains and extend their already generous community outreach during this global pandemic.
UPS was declared an essential service critical to national security by the President and the Department of Homeland Security as a transportation and logistics industry leader. “We’ve gone to great lengths to keep our employees safe, with social distancing, enhanced PPE and cleaning protocols, and payment protection programs, because the shipments our folks move are saving lives and livelihoods every day. Our employees have been heroes during this crisis.” Nick and his team have been working to keep their pilots safe through international aviation rules. Daily, Nick is in communication with the Beshear and Fischer administrations regarding the coordination of emergency medical shipments, PPE donations, and financial grants for those in need, among other issues. He has even hand-delivered sanitizer produced at local distilleries to UPS employees.
Overall, UPS has committed over $15 million and counting to coronavirus relief, including more than $300,000 locally. The company has donated more than 10,000 N-95 face masks to Kentucky’s public health system as just a small part of a nationwide effort. UPS pilots ferry international medical and PPE shipments for FEMA’s Project Air Bridge to meet needs here in the US. The supplies are staged and distributed out of a 450,000 square foot base at Worldport here in Louisville.
While Nick’s ultimate professional responsibility is the continued growth and prosperity of his company, UPS's work also works for the good of the entire community. A 2019 economic impact study found that UPS created 62,000 Kentucky jobs, with $2.5 billion annual payrolls and $300 million annual tax revenue. The UPS Metropolitan College and Kentucky LOOP Programs have provided tuition-free education to thousands of Kentucky students. The company donates $4 million and 200,000 employee volunteer hours to area charities annually, including their Metro United Way campaign.
Supporting Nick always and especially through these challenging times is Ashley, his lovely wife of four years. When Nick finds a little free time, he enjoys golfing and yard work.
Infectious Disease, Baptist Health
In a dual physician household with three small children, Dr. Anna Hart’s daily routine was already set on “survival mode” and filled with work, school activities, and family life. Then the coronavirus came along and she found herself working full-time, weeknights until 7 or 8pm, and on weekends. Dr. Hart is an Infectious Disease Specialist and Advisor to Infection Control and Co-Chair of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee for Baptist Health Louisville, and was named a Louisville Magazine Top Doctor in 2019. A few months ago, she was able to work part-time at the outpatient clinic, on in-patient consults, and in administrative meetings. Then suddenly her already busy days got busier than she could have imagined.
Anna Awdankiewicz was born in the US; but her family is from Poland, where she spent her childhood. She graduated from SUNY Stony Brook and Weill Cornell Medical College and completed her residency and infectious disease fellowship at Vanderbilt. She married oncology/hematology specialist Dr. Andrew Hart, who also works for Baptist Health. The Harts belong to St. Albert the Great Parish where their children, Emma (8), Benjamin (6), and Jacob (3½), attend school. Anna and Andy feel fortunate to have the help of a nanny who makes it possible for them to devote more time and energy to their important work.
Anna’s work is now about 50% administrative with pandemic planning, response, and review. She also has contact with most, if not all, Baptist Health COVID patients for screening, isolation, and ensuring proper protocols are followed. Anna, who had been accustomed to business attire, has switched to scrubs and PPE. After her long days at work, she leaves her shoes and scrubs in the garage and heads straight for the shower in order to protect her family. But Anna had some idea of what she was getting herself into when she chose infectious disease as her specialty. She often thinks of the other hospital workers: dieticians, environmental services (EVS), security, and other support staff. Anna is “in awe of essential workers” in all front-facing businesses, who did not sign up for the risks they have undertaken as part of their jobs. She makes a point of thanking them for risking their own lives and those of their families to continue serving the community. “It’s the most inspiring thing ever.”
We asked Dr. Hart what we all need to know now, as the phased reopening begins, and how we can help. “The virus is not going away anytime soon. People need to educate themselves about the virus and its transmission using good sources of information such as the CDC. With that knowledge, people can minimize the risk they take with any activity. Wear a mask when you are around other people. Take extreme precautions when around vulnerable people.” Anna reflects on how staying inside has actually inspired most people to look outward to the community and find ways to take care of each other. “I hope that carries on and makes a difference. Your actions and your health can influence so many around you.”