The Columbus and Phenix City area is a pretty big place, with interesting people in fascinating occupations, bringing their talent and the passion for doing unique and quality work to the table.
That’s the prime reason the Ledger-Enquirer focuses on one of those local people every Sunday in a feature that we call Job Spotlight. It’s been running several years, with myriad vocations highlighted to include doctors, lawyers, nurses, business people, musicians, nonprofit executives, bankers and blue-collar people such as a bicycle mechanic and zip-line operator.
This year was no exception with a colorful array of occupations that included a real-estate exec, a professional boxer, a social media and brand specialist, an artist and violinist, a veterinarian and a piano tuner. There also were medical professionals such as an infusion center nurse manager, a neonatal outreach instructor, a veteran window washer, an event planner, a longtime pharmacist, and a Spanish language translator.
Those in the Job Spotlight also included a tree surgeon, an insurance agent, a tower crane operator, an online seller, computer experts, a smartphone repairman, and an errand person. We even spent time with a sweet Christian clown, a former teacher-turned-hospital volunteer, and a paranormal investigator, otherwise known as a ghost hunter.
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And that wasn’t even half of the 52 area residents who found themselves in the spotlight for doing good things in interesting jobs. We now depart 2017 by sampling a few of those that made into the spotlight, with the realization that there are so many more just waiting to be discovered out there in the community. Those reading the print newspaper are urged to venture online to check out the full interviews.
Merri Sherman: “Columbus citizens may not realize that the Sports Council is behind so many of the events that are coming here until they have to wait a little bit longer in the restaurants on those Friday and Saturday nights. ‘What are all of these soccer or tennis people (doing here)?’ And a lot of times they may not realize why the event’s here and how it gets here,” said Sherman, executive director of the organization that was launched in 1995 to prepare for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Jontavious Willis: “I like writing songs. But I like singing other peoples’ songs, too, the unknown people’s songs. I’ve got a voice, so whenever I want to pull one of my songs out it ain’t nothing. I can sell you a CD or whatever. But there are other people in their graves and they didn’t get any money. They got trampled on (by the music industry) and their families didn’t get any money for it. Them are the people that need the voices.”
Gene Perkins: “I really fell in love with banking pretty early, especially when I got to Macon and was able to see how banking really is as an industry. I feel like it does so much for the business community — but just in general and is particularly noticeable to me at Synovus — what we do to invest in the community and really lift up the entire community.”
Kirsten King: “A lot of people really need help in the area of social media, but most people don’t like to be on social media all the time. But in order to generate revenue in your business or to get that exposure or to gain that following that you want, it requires consistency and commitment. A lot of people don’t like that part of it. For the most part, people know how to go on their Facebook and update their status and they’re good, and a lot of people think, if I just post my purse (for sale), they’ll buy it. But there are strategies and different things you have to do to get them to buy that purse.”
Roongsak Griffeth, aka DJ Roonie G: “My first break? The most major break was my contract in Vegas and with Pioneer. Ten years before Vegas I did Pioneer, which is a major electronics company. I was the face of the innovative stuff. I kind of helped innovate DJing with visuals. Why there are so many video graphics here now is because that’s me, it’s part of a unique experience. That’s why I’m still hired even today. I’m opening for acts like Pitbull, Kid Rock, Ludacris. Two weeks ago, I did stuff for GoDaddy. I’m doing the Mardis Gras parade and one of the biggest parties in New Orleans, the Bacchus Krewe. There’s like 10,000 people in the krewe. It’s been a blessing for me to have these opportunities.”
Tracy Degracia: “There’s always a challenge, but I think to me it’s kind of fun to figure out the solution. I’m one of those managers where if you ask me something I don’t know, I’m going to make sure that I find out and find out right away, because I don’t like not knowing. I think that’s a good thing. But I think the challenge in infusion is there are so many drugs and they come out on a regular basis and it’s a challenge for me to stay on top of everything. But that’s what I do, and I make sure that we’re competent in everything that we do.”
Ritchie White: “The most rewarding thing would be documenting people’s lives and creating something that’s going to increase in personal value for them over time. They may just think, ‘Oh, we’re just taking pictures for our Christmas card right now.’ But 10 years from now, looking back on that picture, things may have changed and they’ve grown, and that picture will be priceless to them. I’m constantly freezing a moment in time for people, whether it be a wedding, whether it be a milestone in their baby’s life, whether it be a high-school senior, it’s a milestone for them. I really enjoy doing that.”
Wendy Harding: “I am the co-chairman of the front information desk and I work on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 to 12:30. We are the face of the hospital, the first thing people see when they’re coming in. We greet people, we help them with directions. We answer questions, we problem solve. There are people who come in and say, ‘I’m seeing a heart doctor, but I don’t know their name.’ So that’s one of my favorite things is helping them try to figure that out and taking them to the place they need to be.”
Money Powell IV: “With most guys in the ring, it’s business. Out of the ring, they’re normal people. There’s nothing serious. It’s not like you’ve got to walk around with a mad face and want to fight everybody. Most guys you talk to, you wouldn’t even know they’re fighters unless you ask them, because nobody runs around and says, ‘I’m a boxer,’ all the time. Like I said, when you get in there, it’s your job. When you get out of the ring, it’s a normal lifestyle. We go to the movies and everything just like normal people.”
Hayley Henderson: “This is an exciting time for Columbus. Just think, in the past 10 years what’s transformed the downtown area. We’re going to blink and there’s going to be so much more to offer, and we already have a lot to offer. I think Columbus itself, we have that servant leadership mentality that people feel. In my previous job, I traveled all across the nation. I didn’t really value what was so special about Columbus until I saw that other cities don’t have what we have. We have the caring nature, the ability to want to make a difference in somebody else’s life.”
Byron Thornton: “Five years ago, there were 10,000 bike shops in America. There are 3,800 left. Because of eBay. You can buy parts and get stuff online a lot cheaper than you can from us, and that’s what a lot of people do. They’ll buy parts and components online because they kill our prices, but then they bring it to us to put together. You’ve still got to have a mechanic to build the stuff who knows what they’re doing. You can buy the best stuff in the world, but if you don’t know how to build it, and if you don’t have it right, it doesn’t matter. That’s why they need us.”
Tian Xu: “Nowadays, especially in this country, most of the parents want their kids to learn some music instruments or art, but not necessarily because they want them to become professional musicians or artists in the future. Some of them, it’s because the parents wanted to take violin lessons (years ago), but they didn’t really have the chance or they stopped for some reason, and they want their kids to do the same thing. For the others, the kids really like it.”