A Celebration of Regional Leadership


A Celebration of Regional Leadership
Added on December 7, 2023 to Chamber News

A Celebration of Regional Leadership

On November 29, the Hampton Roads Chamber had the privilege of honoring five prestigious regional leaders and paying tribute to the LEAD757 class of 2023 at the Bravo Celebration of Leadership event.

Keynote speaker, Governor Glenn Youngkin, remarked “Bravo to you all” noting that the evening, “is about the impact that leadership has on our communities.” Governor Youngkin proudly took the stage honoring the five awardees sharing, “I know each of you personally and you are inspiring because of your leadership and service.”

The governor then thanked the 2023 LEAD757 class and the LEAD757 alumni base for their commitment to leadership in the Hampton Roads community. To the Hampton Roads Chamber, the governor remarked, “Thank you for continuing this extraordinary program,” referring to 35 years of LEAD757 and an alumni list of over 1600 leaders.

From there, the evening went on to honor our 5 BRAVO award winners.


ICON Award, Mayor Phillip Jones of Newport News

Award Rationale

In January of 2023, Mayor Jones took the oath of office as the City of Newport News youngest-elected Mayor. As Mayor of Newport News, Mayor Jones works to improve education, invest in public safety, and modernize City Hall. His vision is for Newport News to become an All-American City focused on leveraging public-private partnerships, modernizing city hall processes, and elevating the narrative of Newport News to a national level. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Veterans Service Foundation, is a Board Member at Ironbound Boxing and is a member of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and the Leadership Now Project. Prior to becoming Mayor, Mayor Jones served six years as a Marine Corps infantry officer and was also a management consultant with a leading global firm.

Remarks from Mayor Jones:

“It is an honor to be here,” Mayor Jones shared as he took the stage noting that he was blown away by all of the talent in the room. When accepting his award, Mayor Jones remarked, “People here are committed to transforming our region and nation.” Mayor Jones went on to share that the future of our youth is dependent on the example and actions made by the Mayor and City Manager.  Mayor Jones is clearly committed to promoting inclusion and engaging the community as evident in his impactful remarks.


Julian Hirst Alumni Award, Suzy Kelly of Jo-Kell, Inc.

Award Rationale

Aside from being the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Jo-Kell Inc., Suzy is involved in the Hampton Roads community in many different ways. She has served on numerous boards, committees, and commissions including the Hampton Roads Executive Roundtable, Chesapeake City Council, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonald’s Commission to Reform and Restructure Government, and she served as Chair of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Suzy has created a culture of giving back with her Jo-Kell team who donates thousands of pounds of food each year to the Southeastern Virginia Foodbank, and supports first responders annually at the Chesapeake Jubilee.

Remarks From Suzy Kelly:

During her acceptance speech, Suzy expressed her appreciation for LEAD757. Suzy remarked, “LEAD757 was the jet fuel that propelled me into service.” She then thanked TowneBank’s Charity Volman-Winn for nominating her for the leadership program. Suzy ended her speech with sharing her gratitude for her community as she shared that leadership is about connecting with people and inspiring them to help others.


Visionary Award, Shawn Avery with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council

Award Rationale

As President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Shawn leads the largest workforce board in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He is a recipient of numerous regional and state awards and currently serves on the GO Virginia Regional Council and the Hampton Roads Alliance Boards. In July of 2021, Shawn led the merger of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board into one regional workforce development board where his work has tremendously benefitted the entire region.

Remarks From Shawn Avery:

“Workforce is a team sport. We can’t do it alone, we do it with a lot of partners,” said Shawn. He continued his award acceptance by sharing the importance of collaboration and encouraged those in the room to partner with each other to continue to help the Hampton Roads community.


Regional Statesperson Award, Senator Tommy Norment of the Senate of Virginia

Award Rationale

Senator Tommy Norment has served for over 30 years in the Senate of Virginia and while there, has earned a reputation as one of the Commonwealth’s most effective legislators. For this reason, he was elected by his colleagues to serve as Majority Leader of Senate Republicans from 2014-2020, and is currently the Minority Leader. As a member of the Senate Judiciary, Finance & Appropriations, Rules, and Commerce and Labor Committees, Tommy regularly works on legislation to make our community safer. Tommy is a champion of Virginia’s right-to-work laws and is equally committed to promoting transparency in government. For the past 32 years, Senator Norment has worked tirelessly to ensure that Hampton Roads and Virginia remains the best state in which to raise a family and do business.

Remarks From Senator Tommy Norment:

During his speech, Senator Norment shared that a statesperson sets aside their own ego and takes an objective view on issues. Starting his public service on the Board of Supervisors, Senator Norment shared how he got his start in public service. Giving words of advice he shared, “try not to focus on yourself, but focus on the objective.”


First Citizen of Hampton Roads, Bruce Thompson of Gold Key|PHR

Award Rationale

As CEO of Gold Key|PHR, Bruce Thompson has been a leader in the travel industry for over 30 years. As one of the region’s most prominent developers and hoteliers, Bruce’s grit and determination has transformed the landscape of Hampton Roads. Aside from his leadership at Gold Key|PHR, he has also been a leader within the community. He became part of the city’s inaugural Resort Area Advisory Commission, that created and managed the Tourism and Growth Investment Fund which led to some of Virginia Beach’s largest endeavors. He has served on numerous boards and commissions, led the largest Walk to Defeat ALS, and designed and funded the world’s first fully accessible oceanfront park.

Remarks From Bruce Thompson:

As Bruce took the stage to accept his prestigious award, he expressed his appreciation to his family, the Gold Key|PHR team, and his business partners. “Every single thing I have accomplished started with that first business deal in 1986.” He continued to express the importance of community involvement during times of need and ended his speech encouraging everyone to “go out and do something good this year.”


From one celebration of leadership to another, we then had the honor to highlight our fantastic LEAD757 Class of 2023.

We congratulate the following individuals on their graduation from this esteemed civic leadership program:


Claudine Beaman, Southern Bank and Trust Company
Brooke Boothby, Eastern Virginia Medical School
Scott Boyce, Clark Nexsen
Susan Bruce-Ross, garrett Realty Partners
Noreen Burke, United States Navy
Adam Chase, WTKR News3
Geoffrey Cole, Vantage Consulting Group
Kellie Crawford-Sorey, Tidewater Community College
Latonya English, Hampton Roads Workforce Council
Richard “Corky” Erie, United States Navy
Michael Evans, Hampton Roads Alliance
Sean Flynn
Heather Germany, LifeNet Health
Jessica Gomez, Newport News Shipbuilding
Charles Gunter, Virginia Natural Gas, Inc.
Ty Herron, The Port of Virginia
Lindsay Himelright, Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate
Vita Kenney, Atlantic Union Bank
Alexis Majied, Hampton Roads Transit
Chuck Mitchell
, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic
Laura Morgan, TowneBank
Ashleigh Newman-Twyman, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company
Todd Nichols, Hampton Roads Military & Federal Facilities Alliance
William Palmer, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C.
Michael Paris, City of Norfolk Department of Economic Development
Nicholas Parr, Shepard Financial Group
Pavithra Parthasarathi, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission
Elizabeth “Liz” Pasqualini, VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads
Ingrid Phillips, City of Chesapeake Fire Department
Anthony Piglowski, Jr., Freedom Street Partners
Christopher Plante, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Melissa Pullin, The Franklin Johnston Group
Erin Rice, Cox Communications – East Region
Andy Rivenbark, TowneBank
Lauren Roberts Carter, Hampton Roads Chamber
James Salgado, Commonwealth Payroll
Maria Salova, Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas Asset Management, LLC
Carlos Sanyer, City of Virginia Beach Police Department
Justin Saunders, Hampton Roads Chamber
Dr. Hope Sinclair, Communities in Schools of Hampton Roads
Shannon Sorrell, Dominion Energy
Courtney Stutzman, Old Point National Bank
Jacob Trent, PNC Bank
Victor Valdez, City of Virginia Beach Fire Department
Tyler Williamson, Families of Autistic Children of Tidewater
Elisa Willis, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare
Shonda Windham, Chesapeake Public Schools

The Hampton Roads Chamber would like to thank the following sponsors for taking part in this evening of leadership celebrations!

Presenting Sponsor: The Franklin Johnston Group

Host Sponsor: Gold Key|PHR

Event Sponsors: The Port of Virginia and Jo-Kell, Inc.

Media Sponsor: WTKR News 3 and Stellar Exposures

Media Experience Sponsor: Tidewater Photobooth Co.