Board Leadership

South Charlotte Partners Leadership


Wes Jones

As the managing principal of Progressive AE’s Charlotte office, Wes helps lead operational efforts and market growth, and serves as a strategic advisor to clients across the country. Wes is passionate about serving his local community and has been involved in numerous leadership positions with the Charlotte Chamber (now CRBA). Other board positions have included Mecklenburg County and CLT City Small Business Advisory Boards, as well as MeckEd Board Chair. Wes currently serves on the DOWD YMCA and Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance (HTA) Boards and is a CLT Rotary Club member.

Vice Chairman

Benjamin D Mears

A former US Army Tank Crewmember and alumni of the University of Kentucky, Ben serves his community now as the Senior Vice President of TowneBank in South Charlotte. Ben has been involved in Rotary for 9 years, and is a Past President of the Ballantyne Rotary Club. As a member and Past President, he is active in several events in the Ballantyne Community including The Teachers Cup Volleyball Tournament Fundraiser, Clean Water for Haiti and The Polio Plus Campaign. Ben is also a former board member of The Charlotte Community ToolBank, a nonprofit tool lending program that provides charitable organizations with year-round access to our inventory of tools for use in their volunteer projects.


Caryn Johnson

Caryn Johnson is a retired banker who is active in a variety of advocacy and environmental groups. She currently serves as treasurer on the boards of both the Ballantyne Rotary Club and South Charlotte Partners, and is on the Financial Committee at Alliance Center for Education. In addition, she is a volunteer with the Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Trees Charlotte and Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary.

Caryn worked in community banking in Charlotte for over 25 years, most recently as Chief Operating Officer and Regulatory Compliance Officer of Carolina Premier Bank (based in Ballantyne until its acquisition).  She graduated from High Point University with BA in English, resides in Charlotte with her husband Charles and has two adult sons.

Vice-Chair of Communications

Krisha Chachra


Krisha Chachra moved to Charlotte in early 2020 and joined the South Charlotte Partners board a few months later. She is a former elected official and served two terms on the City Council and a term as Vice Mayor of Blacksburg, Virginia, home to Virginia Tech and Krisha’s hometown. 

Currently, she works as international travel writer for Ballantyne Magazine, Charlotte Parent, and several other national and regional publications. She has visited over 50 countries in 6 continents and has reported for USA Today, NPR and PBS. Krisha moved to Charlotte from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, and recently has also been appointed by Charlotte’s Mayor Vi Lyles to serve on the city’s Community Relations Committee. 

She also served as the first Family Council President of Charlotte’s newest charter school, Telra Institute. Krisha lives in South Charlotte with her husband, Dr. Derek Klinedinst and daughter Mina.


Apryl Gruss

Greg served as Chairman from 2020 to 2022 and was prior to that Treasurer for the board. He is the Branch Manager and a Financial Advisor of the Ballantyne Branch of Wells Fargo Advisors. Greg is also a Charter member of the Ballantyne Rotary Club and was the previous chair of the Ballantyne Chapter of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. 

Apryl Gruss

South Charlotte Partners Members

Greg Duckworth

Greg served as Chairman from 2020 to 2022 and was prior to that Treasurer for the board. He is a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Greg is also a Charter member of the Ballantyne Rotary Club and was the previous chair of the Ballantyne Chapter of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

Roy Lindland

Roy continuously strives to make a difference with everyone he interacts with and to give back to his community. He expresses that desire by being extremely engaged with the community by acting as a Board member of Charlotte Business Exchange, member of Regional Leadership Committee for ABC Carolinas, Former Ambassador for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Former member of Charlotte Regional Partnership Business Development Committee and Former Director of Outreach for Glenstone Chapel.

Todd Paris

Todd has previously acted as the South Charlotte Partners Secretary and been a member of the SCP board since 2020. He has a Financial Services practice in Charlotte through MassMutual Carolinas and has worked in the financial services industry for over 21 years. Todd has been involved in many community events and organizations over the years, including serving as an active Board Member of Teen Health Connection and as former Chair of the Ballantyne Chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, now the CRBA.

Jim Vivian

Jim and family moved to Charlotte from Houston in the Fall of 1987. He got his undergrad degree from Texas Christian University and his Masters from University of Mississippi in Land Planning. He has been active in the residential real estate market here since they arrived. He has been on the Weddington Planning Commission for 12 years. He has seen Charlotte develop prior to any I-485 or when Hwy. 51 just had stop signs from Pineville to Matthews. Now, the South Charlotte sphere extends south from Waxhaw, Lancaster and Rock Hill. His intentions with the South Charlotte Partners, will be to assist in the long range plans and integration of a burgeoning system of roads, developments, parks and sustainable growth patterns.

Jim is a residential broker with Coldwell Banker – with an emphasis on the South Charlotte suburbs. He and his wife Lynn have 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren. Life is good!!!

Colleen Brannan

Colleen is a veteran public relations and marketing communications professional with 30+ years of experience that includes top national agencies, large corporations, niche consultancies and her own firm, BRANSTORM PR, founded in 2006. Today, her clients are primarily CRE focused and include developers, general contractors, architects and economic developers.

Locally, she has been named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte by the Mecklenburg Times twice (2010 and 2014), a Top 25 Women in Business by the Charlotte Business Journal twice (2011 and 2022), a Mecklenburg Times ICON (2018) and a member of Charlotte Ledger’s Inaugural 40 Over 40 Class (2020).

In addition to the SCP Board, that she joined in 2023, Colleen is an active member of the Charlotte Uptown Rotary Club, Women Executives (WE) and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). She is a graduate of Leadership Charlotte Class 30, past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO Charlotte) and a 30+ year member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). In 2020, she became a licensed NC Commercial Real Estate Broker.

In the community, Colleen has served on many nonprofit boards including SHARE Charlotte (Chair 2020 & 2021), Uptown Rotary Club (Secretary) and JDRF (7 years) and Providence Day School Charger Club, to name a few. She also pens a popular monthly humor column for The Charlotte Ledger.

A native of Springfield, Virginia, she is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications. A Charlotte resident for the past 18 years, she currently lives in South Charlotte with her husband, Scott and college-aged kids, Nicholas (21 — UNC Tar Heel) and Phoebe (19 — USC Trojan). Email her at

Vinay B. Patel

Vinay Patel currently serves as a Principal for SREE Hotels, LLC.  Prior to that he was appointed President and CEO for SREE Hotels, LLC in June 2012.

Prior to being named President & CEO, Vinay served as the Senior Vice President, Operations and Sales and also VP of Sales & Marketing for SREE Hotels, LLC.  In these roles, Vinay was responsible for the day-to-day operations, sales and marketing for the 25 hotels that are owned and operated by SREE Hotels and franchised with Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental Hotel Group.

Patel currently serves on the board of directors for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Visit Lake Norman and the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.  He is also a franchisee elected member of the TRIA (Residence Inn by Marriott) FAC and a member of the Aloft FAC.  On July 1, 2021, he was appointed to the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees by the NC Legislature.

Luke McDonald

Luke McDonald serves as the External Affairs Liaison for Novant Health, where he leads government relations efforts at the local level throughout the organization’s footprint. Previously, he worked on multiple political campaigns and spent 3 years in consulting. In addition to serving on the South Charlotte Partners Board, Luke is a member of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Advocacy Committee and the Wilmington Chamber Public Policy Committee. Luke has a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Charlotte and received his undergraduate degree from James Madison University.

Christina Thigpen

Christina Thigpen is the SVP of marketing and communications at Northwood Office. She provides leadership, strategy, planning and guidance for the marketing and communications efforts of the firm, as well as economic development and community relations initiatives. Prior to Northwood, Christina was deputy director of economic development with the City of Charlotte. She held previous roles at Northwood Office and The Bissell Companies. Earlier in her career, she worked at Edelman and Lifetime Television. Christina has been active in the community for years, including helping establish SouthPark Community Partners and serving as chair of the Charlotte Chamber’s Ballantyne Chapter and president of PRSA Charlotte.

Marc Bickler

I currently own 2 businesses: TruGuard, a contracting company focused on roofing, siding & windows. The second is Chelsea Building Group, focused on land acquisition & development, and construction of residential homes. I started my career as a lawyer & moved quickly to business. I owned a company, GUSA, Inc, that designed & manufactured bathroom accessories & lighting. It was acquired by MASCO, Inc (NYSE MAS) in 2000. Served as a Masco VP of Design & Product Development until 2000.

I have been on the HOA in the Ballantyne community (BRPOA) for the
last 11 years, several of them as president. We have developed several parks on the property & repaved the walking paths that run throughout BCC. Four years ago we successfully led the initiative to prevent the acquisition of the Ballantyne Club by a private party, which we believed would have put the property at risk of redevelopment.

Matt Britt

Born and raised in North Carolina, Matt has spent his entire life in the Tarheel state. He and his family moved to South Charlotte in 2019, and he joined the Atrium Health Marketing, Communications and Consumer Division in December 2021. In his role, Matt serves as the marketing liaison for all facility executives and hospital-based leaders across the Greater Charlotte Market from Lake Norman to Pineville and beyond.

His career includes leadership roles in hotel operations, hotel sales, brand agencies, retail marketing and currently healthcare marketing & communications. He has invested his volunteer time in organizations like Smart Start, United Way, Rotary, Zoning Boards, and Chambers of Commerce. Inspired by the example his parents set as servant leaders in the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Communities, Matt strives to leave the world better than he found it by establishing effective relationships and being an innovative thinker.

South Charlotte Partners Associates

Kaiti Stewart

Born and raised as a proud Charlottean, my roots are firmly intertwined with the fabric of this dynamic city. From childhood to adulthood, I’ve had the privilege of watching Charlotte evolve and flourish, a journey that mirrors my personal growth. I embarked on my educational journey at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where I not only gained valuable insights but also forged connections that continue to shape my life. As I pursued my online master’s degree while working full-time in Charlotte, I embraced the city’s energy as a source of motivation.

Over the years, my love for this city has deepened, fueled by the remarkable changes and progress I’ve witnessed. My fascination with observing Charlotte’s urban development has led to a unique perspective, appreciating the delicate balance between modernity and heritage. With almost three decades of memories, relationships, and experiences tied to Charlotte, I believe it’s time to give back. Volunteering my time to the South Charlotte Partners, a group dedicated to nurturing and advocating for the South Charlotte community, aligns perfectly with my desire to actively contribute. Their commitment to enhancing the community and fostering positive change resonates deeply with me. As I embark on this journey of service, I’m excited to play a role in supporting the growth and prosperity of the South Charlotte area that I hold so close to my heart.

Looking to get involved with South Charlotte Partners?