Serving those who serve South Carolina

Meet the Board

  • John A. Sowards

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    Chairman

     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.

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    Stephen M. Heisler

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    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.

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    Sheriff Leon Lott

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    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:

    • 2012 DEA / DARE America Law Enforcement Executive of the Year
    • 2012 Human Rights Presidential Citation, SC NAACP
    • 2011 Local Government Official of the Year, SC Recreation and Parks Association
    • 2011 Richard Allen Award, Allen University
    • 2010 Columbia Chamber of Commerce Military Advocate Award
    • 2010 New Ebenezer Baptist Church Outstanding Public Service Award
    • 2010 Horatio Gates Honorary Medal
    • 2007 Order of the Palmetto
    • 2006 Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, Community Service Award
    • 2004 "SC Sheriff of the Year"
    • 2004 "Strom Thurmond Award of Excellence in Law Enforcement"
    • 2004 SC Law Enforcement Officers' Association - "Toughest Cop"
    • 2004 SC Vocational Rehabilitation Association - "Citation for Individual Contributions" (accessibility rights for people with disabilities)

     

    Sheriff Lott, a member of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, is married and has four daughters.

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    Steve A. Matthews

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    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:

    • American Intellectual Property Law Association
    • South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority (board member)
    • South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Foundation (board member)
    • South Carolina Chamber of Commerce (board member)
    • National Association of Bond Lawyers (former officer and board member)
    • American College of Bond Counsel (founding member, former officer and board member)
    • Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies (former state chapter president)
    • South Carolina Bar (former member, House of Delegates)
    • Governor’s South Carolina Education Reform Council (chair, 2006-2007)
    • Graduate, The Riley Institute Midlands Diversity Leadership Initiative, Class 1
    • Graduate, Leadership South Carolina, Class of 1995
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    Joe W. "Rocky" Pearce, Jr.

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    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.

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    Audie Penn

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    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.

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    Alex Shissias

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    After graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Law and being admitted to practice in 1996, Mr. Shissias was a staff attorney at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). He represented DHEC’s Solid Waste Section, Bureau of Air Quality, Bureau of Water, Laboratory Certification and Environmental Health Division. He regularly litigated contested cases involving permitting and enforcement matters involving air quality, solid waste, hazardous waste, storm water, laboratory certifications and 401 Water Quality Certifications. He also advised DHEC’s Office of Criminal Investigations and was appointed as a Special Assistant Attorney General to prosecute environmental crimes.

     

    In February 2003, Mr. Shissias joined Haynsworth, Sinkler, Boyd, P.A. as an associate and became a shareholder in 2007. His practice emphasized client counseling; site development; environmental compliance; due diligence; environmental auditing; chemicals and consumer product regulation; brownfields and site redevelopment; contaminated site cleanup; superfund; zoning and land use regulation; state procurement; export control; and the state regulation of health care facilities.

     

    In February 2012, Mr. Shissias established the Shissias Law Firm, LLC, continuing his practice of environmental and regulatory law.

     

    Mr. Shissias was awarded the 2014 Robert D. Spencer Award for outstanding volunteer advocacy by Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc.

     

     

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    Ed Walton

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    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 was named Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief Operating Officer on March 1, 2014.  Prior to that, he served as Chief Financial Officer since March 1, 2011.  Mr. Walton joined the University of South Carolina in 1997.  With more than 30 years of experience in finance, accounting, and auditing, Mr. Walton has spent the past 20 years in positions of increasing responsibilities across a wide spectrum of USC.  His service in various financial positions at the University includes Director of Contract and Grant Accounting; Chief Financial Officer of the University of South Carolina Research Foundation; Chief Financial Officer for Health Sciences South Carolina, Chief Research Administrator, and Associate Provost for Finance and Administration.  Mr. Walton serves on the Board of Governors of My Carolina Alumni Association, and as Co-chair of the Palmetto Health USC Medical Group Management Committee.  Prior to joining the University he served as Audit Supervisor in the State Auditor’s Office; and before joining the accounting profession, Mr. Walton served eight years as a weather forecaster in the USAF.  Mr. Walton graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Accounting from Saint Leo College and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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    Charles Richardson

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    Chuck Richardson graduated from University of Utah with a BS degree in Hotel Management.  He moved to Maryland to work for Marriott Corporation in Hotel Operations from 1993 to 1997. Chuck changed careers and went back to school to get a Masters in Education in Secondary Mathematics from Johns Hopkins, and taught high school math for 5 years in Montgomery County, MD, before moving to Anderson, SC. He earned a Masters in Mathematics from Clemson in 2006, and is certified to teach Project Lead the Way through the University of South Carolina: Engineering Design, Digital Electronics, Aerospace Engineering, and Computer Science. Currently, Chuck teaches Mechatronics, which is a multitasking of Industrial Electronics and Industrial Mechanical in Anderson School District 5. Chuck is married and has two boys.

     

     

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    Page Parsons Lewis

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    Paige Parsons Lewis retired from the State Treasurer’s Office after serving 24 years as Senior Assistant State Treasurer, primarily with Internal Audit responsibilities. Audits included heavy emphasis on the investments of the South Carolina Retirement Systems. Other responsibilities while at the Treasurer’s Office included: administration, banking, college savings programs, and court fines.

     

    Prior to serving in the State Treasurer’s Office, she served seven years as Internal Auditor for the South Carolina Retirement Systems. Some of that time included audit responsibility for the Employee Insurance Program.

     

    A native of Spartanburg SC, Mrs. Lewis received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Wake Forest University. She became a Certified Public Accountant while working with Price Waterhouse & Co.

     

    Mrs. Lewis is married, has three grown children and one grandchild. She lives in Manning, SC.

     

    Professional organizations include:

    South Carolina Internal Auditors Association, founding member.

    South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, retired member.

    American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, previous member.

    State Retirees Association of South Carolina, member.

     

    Board experience includes:

    Two terms on the Board of the Mountain Retreat Association, Montreat, NC.

    Investment Committee of the Mountain Retreat Association.

    Elder and Trustee of Shandon Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC.

    Elder at The Presbyterian Church at Manning, SC.

    Chair of the Wyboo Plantation Ladies’ Golf Association.

     

     

 

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Columbia, SC 29223

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