John A. Sowards
Sowards is former chairman of the board for Nexsen Pruet, a position in which he was responsible for shaping the firm’s vision and strategy. A leader within Nexsen Pruet, his practice is focused on the areas of real estate, corporate and finance law. He represents commercial lenders, real estate developers and closely held businesses on a variety of matters. His practice includes extensive experience with all aspects of shopping center and hotel development, as well as all aspects of commercial lending including troubled debt restructuring and workouts. Sowards’ corporate practice consists of general representation of businesses on all matters related thereto including finance, acquisitions, mergers, employment, contracts and business negotiations.
Sowards grew up in Texas. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Tennessee and his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1975 and served for four years on active duty before heading to law school. Sowards spent 10 years as an active reservist.
Sowards is active in his community and served as a leader in a Boy Scout troop for nearly 12 years and as a youth sports coach for almost 14 years.
Sowards has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than 35 years and has two grown sons.
Frank W. Fusco
Fusco assists organizations interested in improving performance and achieving excellence, provided the organization is committed to the endeavor. His primary career interest is organizational performance excellence.
Fusco retired in January 2011 as the Executive Director of the SC Budget and Control Board after serving about nine years in that capacity. He has 37 years of experience in both the legislative and executive branches of state government, including financial auditing, performance auditing, budgeting, performance improvement and leadership roles.
After graduating from Florida Southern College, he completed a two-year tour of duty in the United States Army, from which he was honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant in 1972.
Fusco services on the National Baldrige Foundation Board and received the Milliken Medal of Quality Award from the South Carolina Quality Forum. In the fall of 2011, he was named the Distinguished Public Service Practitioner for the Southeastern Region by the American Society for Public Administration and for South Carolina by the State Chapter.
Fusco writes and performs original rock and roll music with his band, “The Thunder Pigs.”
Stephen M. Heisler
Heisler retired from Sonoco Products Company in 2014 as Staff Vice President, Compensation and Benefits. He was responsible for providing strategic leadership and oversight for all of Sonoco’s global employee benefit and compensation programs.
He joined Sonoco in 1994 as Manager, Compensation and Benefits. In 1996, he was promoted to Director, Employee Benefits. He previously held positions in human resource and employee benefits management with Tredegar Industries and Ethyl Corporation in Richmond, VA, with Joy Manufacturing in Pittsburgh, PA, and at Penn State University, where he was the University’s designated retirement counselor for the State Employees Retirement System of Pennsylvania. He had more than 40 years of experience in employee benefits management, retirement and insurance.
A native of western Pennsylvania, Heisler graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Arts degree. For several years, he served as a board member for the Hartsville YMCA and Metro Board of the YMCA of the Upper Pee Dee. He has been a featured presenter and panelist at seminars and conferences and previously served as Chair of the Paper Industry Benefits Group.
Heisler has three daughters and four grandchildren.
Sheriff Leon Lott
Lott is the sheriff of Richland County. He was first elected to this position in 1996. Lott came to the Richland County Sheriff's Department in 1975 as a patrol officer. He advanced thereafter to various positions, including Criminal Investigator, Narcotics Agent, Lieutenant and Captain of Narcotics Division, Administrative Captain, Uniform Patrol Captain, and Watch Commander. In 1993, Lott took the position of Chief of Police of St. Matthews, SC, which he held until his successful run for Richland County sheriff.
Born in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1953, Sheriff Lott attended the University of South Carolina - Aiken, earning an Associate Degree in Police Administration. He went on to attend the University of South Carolina - Columbia, earning a Bachelor Degree in Sociology and continued with graduate study for a Masters in Criminal Justice. Later, Sheriff Lott graduated from the FBI National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Furman University's SC Diversity Leadership Academy.
Sheriff Lott is a member of various civic and community oriented boards and committees, a sampling of which include: USO Advisory Council, President - SC Law Enforcement Officers' Association, SC Correctional Association - Board of Directors, D.A.R.E. America - Board of Directors, Fight Crime- Invest in Kids - Advisory Committee, Washington, DC, Cooperative Ministry - Advisory Board, Communities in Schools - Advisory Board, Boy Scouts of America - Indian Waters Council - Board of Directors, SC Public Safety Coordinating Council – Chairman, SC Police Corps - Advisory Council, United Way - Local Government Division Chairman, American Heart Association - Industry Leader Division, March of Dimes - Luxury Lockup – Chairman, American Red Cross - Division Chair, and SC Center for Family Policy - Board of Directors.
Since 1996, Sheriff Lott has received numerous awards and honors including:
Sheriff Lott, a member of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, is married and has four daughters.
Steve A. Matthews
Matthews is a former managing director of Haynsworth, Sinkler, Boyd, a position he held for seven years. Prior to holding that position, Matthews practiced corporate law with the Wall Street firm of Dewey Ballantine in its Washington office, and served in the U.S. Department of Justice during President Reagan’s second term. At the Department of Justice, he advised Attorney General Edwin Meese III and the White House on the selection of nominees for federal judgeships and served as special counsel to Attorney General Meese on the Iran-Contra investigation.
Much of Matthews’ current practice is concentrated in the area of entrepreneurial start-ups where he represents both developers and licensee-purchasers of software, hardware and other innovative technology. He is also an active litigator in complex corporate, IP, information technology and appellate matters involving mission critical aspects of our clients’ businesses. Matthews is also a certified mediator for civil court actions in South Carolina.
President Bush nominated Matthews to a judgeship on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. That nomination was one of 10 federal appellate court nominations that expired when the 110th Congress adjourned without Senate action.
Matthews’ professional and civic activities include:
Joe W. "Rocky" Pearce, Jr.
Pearce, now retired, was Head of Student Health for American International Group (AIG).
Pearce has more than 42 years of experience in the insurance industry having begun his career in 1970 with Pearce & Pearce, Inc., the business established by his parents in 1948. His experience encompasses every aspect of claims administration including premium administration, waiver administration and underwriting implementation.
Pearce served two terms as Mayor of Florence from 1983-1991. During his eight years as Mayor, Florence experienced unprecedented economic growth with many new industries locating in Florence County. New construction permit dollar totals in the City of Florence almost tripled during his terms. After serving as Mayor, Pearce became Chairman of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership.
In 2002, Pearce was awarded The Order of the Palmetto by the Governor of South Carolina and was named the 2002 South Carolina Ambassador for Economic Development. He has served as Chairman of Florence County Recreation Committee as well as President of the Florence County Gamecock Club and was instrumental in bringing Habitat for Humanity to Florence County. Pearce served as Junior and Senior Warden of his church and has been the leader of his men’s weekly Bible study group for the last 17 years. He was the President of Pearce & Pearce Coldwell Banker Real Estate Company and President of the Florence Board of Realtors. Most recently, Mr. Pearce served on the South Carolina State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education.
Pearce is married to the former Carolyn Gibbons Coker. They have four sons, three granddaughters and one grandson.
Penn retired from Michelin North America, Inc. in 2014 as Senior Director of Benefits, Compensation, and Employee Services. He was responsible for the development and implementation of the benefits, pension, compensation, payroll and disability management strategies and policies for the United States and Canada.
Penn first joined Michelin in 1984 as an Electrical Design Engineer. He advanced to various positions within the company, including Project/Process Engineer, Technical Recruiter, Industrial Engineer, Production Manager, Human Resources Manager, Director of Human Resources – Michelin Americas Research Corp. and Director of Employee Services. Prior to Michelin, Penn served as a Mechanical Designer at Vulcan Metal Products and Electrical Design and Process Control Engineer at Proctor & Gamble.
Penn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Alabama in
Birmingham. He served two years in the United State Marine Corps and also two years in the United States Marine Corps Reserves.
David J. Tigges
David J. Tigges is the Managing Shareholder and Chief Executive Officer of McNair Law Firm. An Ohio native, David graduated from the University of Toledo. He obtained his J.D. from Capital University and his LL.M in taxation from William & Mary. He practiced law in Savannah, Georgia and practiced with the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until relocating to Hilton Head Island where he began practicing with Bethea, Jordan & Griffin, P.A. until it merged with McNair Law Firm in 2004. From 2004 through 2009 David served as the Unit Manager of the Beaufort County operations of McNair Law Firm.
Tigges served as Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, member of the Management Committee, and managed the Business Law Department of Bethea, Jordan & Griffin, P.A. from 1999 to 2004. He was responsible for the negotiation and implementation of the merger between Bethea Jordan & Griffin, P.A. and McNair Law Firm, P.A. in August 2004.
His practice concentration has been in the areas of business law, tax law, and mergers and acquisitions.
Tigges professional and community activities include:
Tigges was selected for inclusion in Chambers USA, American Leading Lawyers for Business.
Ed Walton has been appointed to serve on the Board of Directors by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jay Lucas, effective February 2017. Mr. Walton serves as the Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief Operating Officer for the University of South Carolina. He is responsible for coordinating the planning and activities across non-academic areas of the university including business affairs, communications and marketing, economic engagement, facilities and transportation, finance, government and community relations and law enforcement and safety.