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Movers & Shapers, December 2015

Spotlight on Lee and Russell Counties

Karen DeLano

Karen DeLano

Henry Brandhorst 

Brandhorst is managing director of CHZ Technologies LLC and e-Materials Recovery LLC and also president and chief technology officer of Carbon-Free Energy LLC, all located in the Auburn Research Park. Earlier, he headed Auburn University’s Space Research Institute and, with NASA, helped develop technology that’s still in use on the International Space Station and most satellites. Brandhorst received his BA in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in nuclear chemistry. Brandhorst is active in the First Presbyterian Church.

Taylor Buckner 

Buckner is an attorney at Davis, Bingham & Hudson PC in Auburn. He graduated from Auburn University in 2005 with a degree in accounting and finance, earned a law degree at Cumberland School of Law and an LL.M. in taxation at the University of Denver. He volunteers his legal services for Habitat for Humanity, local churches and other nonprofit organizations. He is a board member for the Auburn Chamber of Commerce.

Karen DeLano

DeLano is superintendent of the Auburn City Schools, which she attended before earning her undergraduate through doctoral degrees at Auburn University. She is working with her leadership team to oversee the construction of the new Auburn High School, which is set to be complete in the spring of 2017. DeLano has 40 years of experience in public education, beginning as an elementary school teacher. Her many accolades include being the principal of a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and being named the 2010 Curriculum Leader of the Year by the Alabama Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She is active in United Way of Lee County, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and the National Advisory Council at Auburn University. 

Joe Donaldson 

Donaldson is a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments, a position he has held since 2005. He served as a firefighter for the city of Auburn from 1999 to 2005 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1994 to 1998. He is 2014 chairman of the board for the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, and has won awards for his volunteerism and service. He is a member of the city of Auburn Downtown Redevelopment Authority Board, the Lee County Kiwanis Club and has served as a volunteer coach for his children’s youth sports and volunteered at the Super 7 Alabama High School Football Championship Games. 

Haitham Eletrabi


‚ÄčHaitham Eletrabi 

Eletrabi is an engineer, researcher, tennis player and entrepreneur. He is a postdoctoral researcher in civil engineering at Auburn University. A native of Egypt, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Cairo University, along with an MBA and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Auburn University. An inventor, he has a patent pending on his design for a smart wristband to monitor tennis players’ swings and shots, and he is working on the Tennibot, a robotic tennis ball collector that picks up tennis balls for the player. He won the Audience Choice Award in the Alabama Launchpad Competition in August. 

Jay Gogue 

Gogue is Auburn University’s 18th president. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture at Auburn, before earning a doctorate in that field from Michigan State University. During his tenure as president, he has worked to improve the academic strength of Auburn’s student body and encouraged research and outreach. He also teaches a graduate course in higher education administration, maintaining a connection with students in the classroom. He began his career at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he worked for 12 years, before moving into academia. He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2012, and in 2013 he received the Michigan State University Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Charles Ludwig

Ludwig is managing director of CHZ Technologies LLC and e-Materials Recovery LLC plus co-managing director of C&A Ludwig LLC, all located in the Auburn Research Park. Ludwig is co-founder of Aetos Technologies and CytoViva, both located in the Auburn Research Park. He also is a former CEO of Avistis and GIL Technologies; vice president of Great Lakes Chemicals Co, and electronics programs manager-GE Plastics. He has chemistry, chemical engineering and MBA degrees from Purdue University. Ludwig is active in community and alumni projects and with the Auburn United Methodist Church.

Marcus Marshall 

Marshall is an independent franchisee of McDonald’s who co-owns and operates eight restaurants in Lee and Macon counties. Marshall has spent the majority of his life in Alabama, attending Auburn public schools and leaving the state only briefly to obtain degrees in business and law at Morehouse College and Emory University School of Law. Marshall is active in the Auburn community, working with Boys and Girls Club of Lee County, the City of Auburn planning commission, and Auburn Chamber of Commerce board.  He is a member of the Alabama State Bar Association.

Mary Mayrose


Mary Mayrose 

Mayrose is executive director of the Phenix City Housing Authority, which is redeveloping a 1940s public housing project and creating self-sufficiency programs for low-income residents. Before coming to Phenix City, she worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Kentucky and with city programs in Louisville. She holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Louisville and a bachelor of fine arts from Drake University. She volunteers in downtown development, community theatre and support dogs for the handicapped. 

John McNutt 

McNutt is a founder and creative partner at Stokes, McNutt & Partners LLC a marketing and advertising firm in Auburn. He also is owner and principal of McNutt & Company Creative Solutions, a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm. He is a graduate of Auburn University and North Country Community College. 

Mark Neighbors 

Neighbors has served as Opelika city schools superintendent since 2007. Before becoming superintendent, he served as assistant superintendent, principal of Opelika Middle School and an agribusiness teacher for Tallapoosa County schools and Alexander City schools. He also worked for the Montgomery Police Department. He holds a bachelor’s in agribusiness and a doctorate in education from Auburn University, and a master’s from Auburn University Montgomery.  He serves on the Governor’s Commission on Career Technical Education and is a founding member of the Community Action Support Team of Opelika. 

Rinkesh Patel 

Patel is president and founder of RAMHotels. Patel had immigrant status in 1998 and now is president of a company that’s poised to take its place as a premiere hotel management and development leader. He began his career as a teenager in a family hotel and worked in hotels while studying engineering at Auburn University. While enrolled in college, he and other family members purchased a Days Inn hotel in Phenix City. The hotel scored two Chairman Awards for excellence and set the stage for other successes. Patel is a member of the Citizen Trust Bank advisory board and assists the Phenix City economic development office.

Tricia Peterson


Tricia Peterson

Peterson is owner of Three Sixty Real Estate Solution, a residential, retail and commercial development and leasing company. An Auburn University graduate, she began her career in Atlanta, where she worked in the architecture industry before returning to Alabama. She is on the Auburn Chamber of Commerce board, chairs the March of Dimes Signature Chef Auction, and is active in Auburn Woman’s Club, Auburn University Women’s Philanthropy Board, local, state and national real estate associations and other professional and civic organizations. 

Ford Stokes

Stokes is a founder and client partner at Stokes, McNutt & Partners LLC, a marketing and advertising firm in Auburn. Prior to starting this firm, he was chief marketing officer for The Impact Partnership in Kennesaw, Georgia, where he was responsible for developing and launching a New York-style ad agency from the ground up. He has an MBA from Auburn University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing, also from Auburn. 

John Weete

Weete is executive director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation. He serves on the foundation’s board and is professor emeritus at Auburn University. Weete also serves on the City of Auburn Industrial Development Board and the board of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. He is responsible for developing and managing the Auburn Research Park and founded the Auburn Business Incubator in the park in 2011. Earlier, he was vice president for research and economic development at West Virginia University and president of the WVU
Research Corp.   

David White 

White is vice chancellor of Troy University’s Phenix City campus. He has been with Troy for more than 18 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Florida State University, a master’s of education degree in educational administration from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Utah. He also served for 26 years as an infantry officer with the U.S. Army before retiring as colonel. He serves on the board of the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.  

Robert Williams 

Williams is market president with BancorpSouth Bank in Opelika. He has been in the financial industry for more than 28 years. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics and banking and has been president of the Opelika Rotary Club, chairman of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, treasurer of Keep Opelika Beautiful and a certified counselor for the Will Graham Celebration in Auburn. He sings in the adult choir at Lakeview Baptist Church, and is treasurer of the East Alabama Medical Center Foundation Board and vice president of the Achievement Center of East Central Alabama Board.

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