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2024 Athens’ Game Changers

By Athens Magazine Staff  |  Photography by Evermore Photo Co.

Athens is an incredible community where passionate compassion runs deep. Many of the challenges and opportunities the community faces today are dramatically different from those of ages past. It is critically important that we have fresh eyes and minds to address our changing environment. It takes all of us — past, present, and future leaders — working together to maximize our community impact.

The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Athens magazine, is pleased to reveal the third annual Gamechangers — 10 Athenians under 40 years of age whose extraordinary efforts are making Athens-Clarke County a better place to live. These leaders exemplify, through their work and other community efforts, a hope that the best Athens is the Athens ahead of us.


— David Bradley
President/CEO Athens Area Chamber of Commerce

D. Lamar Handy


Age: 35

Education: Master of Business Administration (Kennesaw State University),  Bachelor of Science in Business Management (Paine College), Associate Degree in Funeral Service (Gupton Jones College of Mortuary Science)

Employer: Emory University and Jackson-McWhorter Funeral Home

Occupation: Senior Financial Analyst and Part-Time Funeral Attendant

Greatest Athens organization connections: Handy is the founder of The DL Handy Foundation, Inc., a non-profit established in 2022, where they focus mental health awareness. In December 2023, they were able to raise $8,000 for Friends of Advantage in Athens and in 2022 the foundation raised over $10,000 for childhood cancer research for the Rally Foundation of Sandy Springs, Ga. In 2019, they hosted their first charity event raising $1,000 for the Sparrows Nest.  The foundation hosted the very first Mental Health Awareness Prayer Vigil at the arches in downtown Athens in 2023.

Most proud of: Handy’s motivation is in giving back to the community. He truly believe that God gives his toughest battles to the strongest individuals and is proud of his father for his dedication to working toward a better life.

Strongest Influence: His grandmother, Julia, and his Uncle Bobby are two strong influences. As a child Handy’s grandmother always encouraged him, his sister and his cousin to always be honest in everything you do, treat people nicely and keep God first. Handy’s Uncle Bobby has always been the one to give back to his family and do for others in silence. His humbleness as African-American man beating the odds has always been something Handy admires.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Always be the best you and be humble in all you do. Sometimes being the quietest person in the room makes you the best leader ... As a leader we may all fail but never let your failure be your ending.”

A unique fact: Handy was Mr. Paine College 2009-10 and as a child he loved to sing in his church choir. When his parents didn’t take him to church, he would hold his own church gathering  in the backyard and neighbors would come to listen. Handy’s dream is to one day become a successful funeral director and embalmer, and to manage or own his own funeral home.



Age: 31

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a major in Public Relations (University of Georgia)

Employer: The Classic Center

Occupation: General Manager of the Convention Center

Greatest Athens organization connections: DeMott has been a passionate supporter of workforce development programs and hospitality education initiatives. He has regularly mentored students from both the University of Georgia Hospitality and Food Industry Management program and Athens Technical College Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management courses. He has also led classes for high school students at Athens Career Academy and spends time with local teachers for externships. DeMott also serves on the Workforce Development Committee with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and is active in the Athens theatre scene where he has been an active supporter of the Town & Gown Players, earning him the New Member of the Year award in 2023.

Most proud of: From earning the role of Director of Operations at 23 years old and becoming the youngest department head in Classic Center history, to being recognized as one of the International Association of Venue Managers 30 Under 30, his proudest achievements often happen out of the spotlight and behind the scenes. DeMott strives to be a servant leader and anticipate how every decision will impact clients, guests and the team, and ensure that everyone’s needs and expectations are being exceeded. He is proud of the moments he’s helped create along the way.

Strongest Influence: DeMott’s strongest influence is his dad, Jeff, who taught him the values of loyalty and taking ownership, and that we are not defined by the things that happen to us but by the things that we do for others.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Everything is a learning opportunity and there is always time to grow. There will be highs and lows, successes and failures, but even in our failures there is value to be found. Never stop learning.”

A unique fact: From mountain climbing to motorcycle racing, woodworking to theatre, flying airplanes, making music and working on his cherished 1976 MGB, DeMott is always looking for the next thrill.



Age: 21

Education: Lopez is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Georgia.

Employer: Western Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office

Occupation: Legal Assistant

Greatest Athens organization connections: Lopez is involved in supporting and leading several local organizations and feels the most connected with U-Lead Athens, as she once recieved their support. The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC) holds a special place in her heart for its continuous commitment to empowering and supporting the immigrant community of Athens. Lopez is currently an AIRC steering committee member and volunteers with U-Lead Athens as their civic engagement coordinator.

Most proud of: Lopez is most proud of the different ways community leaders in Georgia invest in the healing and prosperity of individuals from marginalized groups. She notes that it is an honor to witness equity and love in action. 

Strongest Influence: Lopez’s strongest influence is her grandfather, Maximiliano Vargas, who founded the Alcoholics Anonymous group in his municipality in Nicaragua and became a symbol of empathy in his community. His commitment to public service and loving thy neighbor allowed her to develop a deep sense of intentionality and responsibility to ensure that her community thrives. 

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Live intentionally and allow life to show you all the ways it can be gentle. Change doesn’t have to be lonely and you deserve the love of community. Surround yourself with loving friends and great mentors who will support your life’s purpose.”

A unique fact: Lopez lived a large percentage of her childhood in her ancestral home located in the northern mountains of Nicaragua. 



Age: 24

Education: : Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work (University of Georgia)

Employer: Books for Keeps 

Occupation: Literacy Mentor Program Manager

Greatest Athens organization connections: In her current position, Craven utilizes her background in social work to run a trauma-informed literacy mentor program through a cross-sector collaboration between Books for Keeps, Creature Comforts’ Get Comfortable and CCSD. She also serves as a Chamber Ambassador and most recently joined the Nuci’s Space board.

Most proud of: She is most proud of hearing two 2nd-grade mentees separately share that they want to be literacy mentors when they grow up. These comments demonstrate that the program is more than just literacy, it creates a sense of belonging and connection to their communities. 

Strongest Influence: One of Colleen’s earliest memories is being read a book called Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born and how much that normalized her experience of adoption. Her family and many supportive friends have inspired and influenced her to now be able to create similar experiences between the mentors and children she works with.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Instead of entering conversations or spaces with the ‘here I am’ mindset, switch to a ‘there you are’ mindset. You have so much to learn from the people around you if you are humble enough to seek it out.”

A unique fact: In her free time, Craven enjoys creating pottery at Good Dirt Clay Studio.



Age: 37

Education: Bachelor of Science in Construction Management (Georgia Southern University), Master of Education in Higher Education Administration, Graduate Certificate in Education Law & Policy, Ph.D. in Workforce Education (University of Georgia) and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration at the University of Georgia.

Employer: University of Georgia

Occupation: Higher Education Administration

Greatest Athens organization connections: One of Daniel’s greatest connections is the Clarke County Mentor Program (CCMP), where he began as a mentor in 2014 and was awarded the 2015 Fowler Drive Elementary School Mentor of the Year. Daniel began serving on the CCMP board in 2021, was nominated to serve as the treasurer and co-chair of the CCMP’s Fundraising Committee in July 2022, and in July 2023 he began serving as Board Chairman. He is also serves on the board of the Athens REACH Scholarship Program where he has helped over 30 students in Clarke County secure scholarships alongside their HOPE Scholarship and/or Pell Grant.

Most proud of: Daniel is most proud of his wife, best friend, and forever date, Grace, who homeschools their children during the week and serves as a RN in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital on the weekends.

Strongest Influence: His strongest influences are his five children: Sawyer (8), Solomon, River (6), Willow (4), and Oakley (2).  Daniel lives intentionally every day in memory of their angel, Solomon, who passed away as a stillbirth baby.  

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Love and serve individuals within your circle of influence. Focus on significance, not success. Do for one what you wish you could do for all.”

A unique fact: Daniel has raised over $8,000 with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training, in honor of his Aunt Renee who passed away due to leukemia, by completing the 2013 Ironman Augusta 70.3 and the 2015 Disney World Dopey Challenge. 



Age: 33

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in Management (University of North Georgia)

Employer: Marti’s at Midday

Occupation: Co-owner/Operator

Greatest Athens organization connections: Marti’s at Midday, Nuci’s Space and Habitat 4 Humanity are some of his greatest connections. Marti was a big supporter of Nuci’s Space and Habitat 4 Humanity and Marti’s at Midday has continued with that support. They’re two of the many incredible organizations that mean so much to the community.

Most proud of: Kloepfer is most proud of carrying on Marti’s Legacy.

Strongest Influence: Kloepfer’s strongest influence has been his mom, dad and five siblings. Life experiences, like traveling as a scuba and sailing instructor, the Athens community where he grew up going to the Athens YMCA and Clarke Central High School have all helped shape him into the person he is today.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Ride the waves. There are plenty of ups and downs in life. Do your best to stay positive and make the most out of every experience.”

A unique fact: Kloepfer crossed the Atlantic Ocean via sailboat from Cape Town, South Africa, to Antigua and then all the way up to Mystic, Conn. 



Age: 35

Education: High School graduate (Cedar Shoals) and Certified Medical Assistant (Everest Institute)

Employer: Athens Clarke County Government

Occupation: County Commissioner District 3

Greatest Athens organization connections: Taylor was a 2004 Miss Black Athens Pageant contestant, is the director of the Mothers of Black Sons Development Program. She has also been a part of the AADM Kickball for A Cause Fundraiser and is a member of the Black Athens Chamber of Commerce.

Most proud of: She is most proud of her children for teaching her the true meaning of love and for giving her a reason to believe that she can be an effective, compassionate leader. Watching them grow into their own personalities and individualities, while being a guide and source of strength drives her to be of service to the community.

Strongest Influence: Taylor’s great grandmother and great-great grandmothers are her strongest influences because they taught her how to have compassion for her neighbor and be proud of where she came from. They taught her to always stand up for what’s right, to pray and hold people accountable.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Leadership isn’t about recognition; it’s about being the change you want to see. It isn’t always easy but do it anyway. People may not appreciate you but do it anyway. Serve the underserved, speak for the voiceless and make wherever you choose to go, or choose to be, a better place.”

A unique fact: She has an uncontrollable desire to please the Lord.



Age: 38

Education: Nanan attended college for two years before deciding to expand her knowledge and ideas regarding event planning at Catersource conferences. 

Employer: Epting Events

Occupation: Event Planner

Greatest Athens organization connections: Nanan was previously part of Classic City Rotary, where she planned and executed holiday parties and their wine fundraiser. Very near and dear to her heart is the Athens Community Council on Aging where she is one of their Meals on Wheels Volunteers, and partakes in other volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Working with Epting Events has provided her the opportunity to collaborate with many nonprofits like the DL Handy Foundation, Athens Pride and Queer Collective, Food Bank of Northeast Georgia and a number of others. 

Most proud of: Nanan’s proudest creation is her two year old son Palmer. He motivates her to continue working towards a better community for his and others’ future. She hopes that her community efforts will serve as an inspiration for him to do the same.

Strongest Influence: Her strongest influence is her mother, Linda Dodson. She’s selfless, kind, caring and very involved in the community and her church. She is always positive and has taught Nanan to treat everyone fairly and with an open heart.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Keep an open mind and an open heart as you work with and meet different individuals. Remember that in the end we are all here for the same goal, so work hard and keep your head up.”

A unique fact: Nanan grew up dancing and at the age of 14 performed at Carnegie Hall singing with the National Youth Choir. Dancing has taught her the discipline and patience needed to work with Epting Events.



Age: 33

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Investigations (West Virginia University), Juris Doctor (University of Georgia School of Law)

Employer: Western Judicial Circuit Public Defender Office and University of Georgia School of Law

Occupation: Assistant Public Defender and Adjunct Professor of Law 

Greatest Athens organization connections: Carter serves as a board chair for Envision Athens, is a mentor through the University of Georgia School of Law’s Alumni Mentorship program and is a member of Iota Psi Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Timothy Baptist Church.

Most proud of: Carter is most proud of her legal career. After graduating law school she failed the Georgia Bar Exam the first time but didn’t give up. Since then, she has passed the Georgia Bar Exam, represented disadvantaged clients in dozens of criminal jury trials and won, supervised and mentored a handful of law students and interns, and spoke on various professional panels about her legal career and journey.

Strongest Influence: Carter’s faith and dedication to God and His Word are some of her strongest influences. Her family is another strong influence, as they are the people that support her, challenge her to be greater and do new things, uplift, guide and love her. Her grandpa and mother paved the way for her to get to where she is.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “Don’t be afraid to show up and be your most authentic self and take up space in everything you do! You are where you’re supposed to be in life and you have the skills and abilities to conquer everything you face, even if you’ve never done it before. Be true to yourself, remember where you come from and remember why you started.”

A unique fact: She has a blog called Off the Record that she runs on her own website, she also shares motivational messages on her YouTube Channel called Lawyer Lady Moni Jay.



Age: 26

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (University of Georgia)

Employer: Synovus Bank

Occupation: Retail Market Manager

Greatest Athens organization connections: Kelterborn has had the privilege of serving on numerous boards and prides herself in connecting people through multiple ways. The LEAD Athens Alumni Association allows Kelterborn to provide people with resources to lead the community and region for the better. The unique focuses of the American Red Cross, United Way and Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful have helped form her into a more knowledgeable citizen. 

Most proud of: Classic City Rotary takes the cake through its local and global connections. Kelterborn is able to make a large difference through Rotary’s seven areas of emphasis. The club prides itself on having an arts, culture and environmental focus and is proud of their annual Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Awards.

Strongest Influence: With his recent passing, she realized of how much of an impact her father had on the person she is today. He was retired by the time she was born, so he was able to show her everything he learned from the Air Force and Department of Defense from more than 25 years of service. He taught her that everyone is worth loving and sacrificing for, that she doesn’t have to put on a face for anyone, and most importantly, having a genuine interest in people’s lives makes a difference.

Best advice for a future GameChanger: “You never know what someone is going through which is why it is crucial to be aware of the impact you might have, especially as a leader. Every second is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted so always come ready to learn about others with an open mind. Who knows what opportunities might present itself!”

A unique fact: Kelterborn has a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo and participated in the National Junior Olympics in 2010. She also very proud of her dual citizenship and Panamanian Culture.