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Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Presents Third Annual 4 Under 40 Awards

(L to R) Front Row: Charlene Grasinger, Danielle Wade, Geralyn Mitchell, Caroline Gandy, Jeannine Underdown Collins, Rowen Todd, Dr. Holli Sink, Tierra Stark; Back Row: Caleb McGuire, Joseph Miller, Zak Ammar, Shae Jones, Matt Dull, Ryan Costin, Andy Hill, Julie Wiggins, Brian Bettis

Four emerging leaders and a trusted advocate for young professionals were honored during the 3rd annual Boone Area Chamber of Commerce 4 Under 40 Awards luncheon. The sold-out event was held Wednesday at The Harvest House in Boone and was presented by Appalachian Commercial Real Estate.

Over 40 nominations were submitted by local community members and 16 finalists were recognized during the event. Nominees were sought in the categories of business owner, education, non-profit business professional, and rising star. A biography of each award winner is listed below:

Business Owner: Joseph Miller, COBO / Black Cat

Joseph Miller is a Boone local that graduated Appalachian State in 2007 with a BSBA in Finance from the Walker College of Business. He has accumulated over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry. After graduating he moved to Colorado and worked in the sushi business for five years, and then moved back to the High Country to open COBO in May of 2013. In 2015, COBO was awarded as a Top 10 Restaurant in in western North Carolina by WNC Magazine. In June of 2018, he purchased Black Cat with his parents Wayne & Jenny Miller. When asked what he valued most about his business ventures, he said, “The most important aspect of a company is the staff. My employees are everything to me and my businesses and I love them more than they could ever know.”

Additional finalists: Zak Ammar, Vixster, LLC; Ryan Costin, Beech Mountain Resort; Shae Jones, Ground Effects Landscaping & Maintenance

Education: Tierra Stark, Watauga High School

Tierra Stark is an Assistant Principal and Career & Technical Education Director for Watauga County School. She is a product of a Watauga County Schools education, having attended Parkway Elementary School and Watauga High School. She attended Appalachian State University and then began her career with Watauga County Schools as a Family & Consumer Sciences teacher at Watauga High School. She later became a facilitator of Career & Technical Education (CTE) for Watauga County Schools where she coordinated high school interns at community facilities, managed instructional content and the testing program, and helped teachers provide an equitable education. She recently earned a Master’s in School Administration and moved into her current role as an assistant principal at Watauga High School and CTE Director. In this position, she works with community members, including Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, to implement and provide industry-aligned training to students while working with high school seniors to make their last year of high school count for their future.

Additional finalists: Brian Bettis (Bethel School); Matt Dull (App State Student Development); Geralyn Mitchell (App State Career Development)

Non-Profit Business Professional: Andy Hill, MountainTrue

Andy Hill serves as the High Country Regional Director and Watauga Riverkeeper for MountainTrue. As a long-time fly fisherman, educator and guide, his intimate understanding of the area’s watershed fuels his ability to provide an experienced layer of protection to many areas. Hill attended Appalachian State University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Outdoor Experiential Education and his Masters in College Outdoor Program Administration. A graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, he thrives on using the outdoors as a source of learning and connecting people with our shared wild places. Hill is active in the community as the founder of Fish Goat Guide Service based in Valle Crucis as well as the Fly-Fishing Program at Lees-McRae College, with a mission to help connect students to clean, cold water. He serves an adjunct instructor at Appalachian State University, teaching courses in Natural Resource Management, Paddlesports and Leadership & Group Dynamics.

Additional finalists: Caroline Gandy (Blue Ridge Conservancy); Charlene Grasinger (Western Youth Network); Dr. Holli Sink (Southmountain Children & Family Services)

Rising Star: Danielle Wade, Jackson Sumner & Associates

Danielle Wade graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she gravitated to the family business, Jackson Sumner & Associates (JSA), Excess & Surplus Lines Brokers located in her hometown of Boone, NC. While working as a P&C Underwriter for nearly a decade, JSA experienced exponential growth during the 2000’s. Her responsibilities grew, eventually pulling her away from underwriting and elevating her to a leadership role in the company. She completed the NAPSLO Executive Leadership School at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in 2014 and after serving for 5 years as JSA’s Chief Operating Officer, she was just recently named President & CEO in January of 2019. She is a Past UFO (Under Forty Organization) President and a Past President of the NC Surplus Lines Association. Currently, she is the Chair of the NC Stamping Office and the Chair of the Brantley Risk and Insurance Program at Appalachian State University. She is also presently serving on the WSIA Education Foundation Board as well as two national insurance carrier’s Advisory Boards. She was also recently recognized by Insurance Business of America as one of the Top Young Guns for 2016.

Additional finalists: Caleb McGuire (Pub Cycle of Boone); Rowen Todd (Mountain Vista Window Washing); Julie Wiggins (High Country Council of Governments)

Respect Your Elder Award: Jeannine Underdown Collins, Underdown & Associates, Inc

Jeannine Underdown Collins is a native of Elkin, North Carolina, and has lived in Boone since 1975. A graduate of Elkin High School, she was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority and the Appalachian Ambassadors as an undergraduate and remains an active mentor for those organizations today. Underdown Collins graduated with a BS in History in 1979 and an MA in History in 1981. She incorporated Underdown and Associates Inc, a real estate appraisal company, in January of 1985 and still operates the business 34-years later. After graduation from Appalachian State, she has remained an active member of the University community. She served leadership positions on both the Yosef Club and Turchin Center Advisory boards and has been a long-time member of the Appalachian Alumni Council, serving as President in 2003. Underdown Collins was a member of the Appalachian State Board of Trustees from 2015-13, serving as Chair in 2009.

Her civic engagement was highlighted by serving on Boone Town Council from 2015-17, where she was a key advocate for the creation of the Boone Greenway Skatepark. Underdown Collins has served as a member of the Watauga Economic Development Commission, the Boone Tourism Development Authority, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, High Country Board of Realtors, and the board of the Southern Appalachian Historical Society during her career.

Underdown Collins is a mentor and champion of students, young adults, and entrepreneurs who are transitioning into their professional careers. Her advice and council bring stability to many during periods of great change and her knowledge of the area helps her to assist others in unlocking countless opportunities within the area.

Each winner was presented their honor by the 2018 4 Under 40 Award recipient from their category. Those presenters included: Tyler Moffatt, (Business Owner), Zack Green (Education), Danny Wilcox (Non-Profit Business), Anna Oakes (Rising Star). James Milner, President & CEO of Appalachian Commercial Real Estate presented the Respect Your Elder award to Jeannine Underdown Collins, along with 2018 winner Dr. Jim Street.

“When you examine the exploits of everyone who was recognized during this ceremony, you see they are all committed to helping Boone and the High Country flourish in their own unique way.,” said David Jackson, President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “These honorees will help further solidify the group of emerging leaders that will guide our region through the next several decades. To bring them into a room and recognize them in front of the business leaders that helped get us where we are today, only makes for a more collaborative relationship for all parties moving forward. We are excited for our four category winners, and Mrs. Underdown Collins, and we are eager to see what this entire group does for our community in the years ahead.”

If you have questions about the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, contact David Jackson at 828-264-2225 or email david@boonechamber.com.