By Nicole Collins
The Spartanburg Young Professionals (SYP) organization recently honored four recipients with connections to Woodruff in its inaugural Forty Under 40 class.
SYP is a program of OneSpartanburg, Inc. which seeks to engage young adults in the Spartanburg community by providing members with social, leadership and civic opportunities. The group created the Forty Under 40 event to honor the young professionals in Spartanburg County for their commitment and contribution in the community, said Daniel Craig, past chair of SYP and a 2005 Woodruff High School graduate.
“I grew up in Woodruff and I am very excited that Woodruff young professionals were well represented in Forty Under 40. Great things are happening for Woodruff and the young professionals that live and/or work in Woodruff that we recognized as Forty Under 40 recipients are playing a part in Woodruff’s success,” said Craig.
Craig was acting chair of SYP when the Forty Under 40 event was conceptualized. Young professionals were nominated by the public and from those nominations, a confidential committee of community leaders selected the 40 winners. (This is event is not affiliated with the GSA Business Report’s Forty Under 40 event.)
The original plan was to hold an in-person event earlier in the year but that was canceled due to COVID-19 so a virtual event was held via Facebook Live on Oct. 20. “We wanted to recognize the winners in 2020, so a virtual event was the best option,” said Craig.
Meet the Woodruff Recipients in the Forty Under 40 class
Lee Bailey, 38, City of Woodruff’s City Manager
Bailey graduated from Woodruff High School in 2000.
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural Forty Under 40 class? “The real honor for me was my nomination by Katherine O’Neill. Katherine is a visionary with the experience and wisdom to navigate to multiple aspect of the position that she is in. To have her nominate me for Forty Under 40 was an honor in itself.” [Note: Katherine O’Neill is the Chief Economic Development Officer at OneSpartanburg, Inc.]
What advice do you have for other young professionals? “It is all about your professional goals. Set your goals high and achieve them. Then things like Forty under 40 will come to you.”
Hunter Brown, 32 (on Dec. 29), Vice President of Palmetto Vermiculite in Woodruff, Owner of Tyger Logistics and Co-Chair of the Woodruff Area Council
Brown graduated from the Spartanburg Day School in 2007, but he grew up working in several different businesses that the Brown family has operated in Woodruff throughout the year, including Brown’s Market and the Do Drive Inn.
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural Forty Under 40 class? “Spartanburg County has such a rich pool of talent under forty, so it was a huge honor to be selected. I love seeing so many deserving people highlighted and know we have a strong group of people to keep building our community with.”
What advice do you have for other young professionals? “Get involved! It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and watch, but it’s much more fun to get in the game. There are opportunities with organizations like Spartanburg Young Professionals or the Woodruff Area Council to network and have a voice.”
Morgan Smith, 33, President and Chief Executive Officer of Woodruff Federal Savings and Loan Association
Smith is 2005 graduate of Woodruff High School. He is connected to many different community efforts, including being a coach for his son’s youth baseball and youth football leagues, on the Planning Commission for the City of Woodruff and a member of Team Heart and Soul, a trio of Woodruff men who raise money through fitness events to give away in the form of gifts to children and financial assistance to the adults during the Christmas season.
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural Forty Under 40 class? “It was a tremendous honor to be a part of the inaugural Forty Under 40 class. I count it a wonderful blessing to be able to live, work, and raise a family in Spartanburg County and specifically Woodruff. To know that young adults are being recognized for their efforts in bettering our communities is fantastic.”
What advice do you have for other young professionals? “I would tell other young professionals to glean as much knowledge as they can from the leaders who came before them. They were successful for a reason and building on that knowledge will make you even better. I would also tell them to be as involved in the community as much as possible. Many times, the success of a business or community depends on the next generation being willing to step up and do their part.”
Savannah Ray, 31, Director of Educational Engagement & Partnerships, United Way of the Piedmont / Spartanburg Academic Movement
Ray graduated from Woodruff High School in 2007 and is the daughter of Woodruff Elementary teacher, Vanessa Ray.
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural Forty Under 40 class? “I feel extremely honored to be chosen in the inaugural Forty Under 40 class. There are so many incredible people working to make a difference throughout Spartanburg County, and I want to make sure I am also doing my part to invest in a community that invested in me. I am very appreciative of those who said, “We see you” and saw fit to honor me along with other young professionals committed to making a meaningful impact in our community!”
What advice do you have for other young professionals? “Don’t focus on being recognized or honored, just remember that whatever you do, give it 1000 percent!” Ray also acknowledges a quote from Martin Luther King, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Martin Luther King