Author Archives: Jay Houston

An Insider’s Perspective on the Leadership of J. Scott Steiner

J. Scott Kavanaugh, BSN, RN and Manager of Phoebe Care Command, was recently tasked with an assignment while pursuing his Master of Business Administration. The assignment was, “Choose a CEO or top official who is a strong leader in a public or private organization who has displayed exemplary leadership with current world circumstances” based on the five practices of exemplary leadership found in the book, Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. For Kavanaugh, the choice was evident as he had a front-seat view to watch leadership play out in real-time at the top of his organization. The following is one insider’s view of the inspiring leadership of J. Scott Steiner, President, and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

–Ronald Reagan

An organization often cannot see the full effects of a decision until the time of crisis hits. In the early spring of 2019, as most of southwest Georgia went about their daily routines, Phoebe Putney Health System put two decisions in play that have proven crucial during the current coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic for our community: the launch of Phoebe Care Command Center and the installation of a new CEO.

As an employee of Phoebe Putney Health System, it’s easy for me to choose for this assignment Mr. J. Scott Steiner, our President and CEO – especially amidst the current pandemic we all know as COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, Mr. Steiner was displaying exemplary leadership with only a 1-year tenure with the health system. The mission of Phoebe is supported by his commitment and advocacy for the community we serve, and the individuals we employ. He is a transparent leader, communicating honestly and timely to provide information that aids in alleviating speculation or unrest. While there was preparation for this pandemic for our organization, there was no way to know precisely the impact on our hospital. Though it has impacted our community and health system significantly, Mr. Steiner has promoted and communicated calmness in the storm, as evidenced in national interviews that spotlight his leadership and efforts during this challenging crisis.

When I think about the type of leader that Mr. Steiner is, it is difficult to place him in only one category [as described in the book]. As a charismatic leader, he inspires all within the organization to operate at a higher level of performance as well as consider “out of the box” ideas to best serve our healthcare community. Along with that, Mr. Steiner is diligent in instilling confidence in those to whom he “pins a task.”.

As an authentic leader, he is consistently passionate about the goals and objectives of the health system and is quick to channel our focus in achieving them.

As a servant leader, Mr. Steiner can always be counted on to genuinely interact with all employees working in any capacity. I have witnessed him leading by example over many areas of our health system, and he is engaged in many community activities that the health system employees support.

As a transformational leader, he challenges everyone in his scope to look beyond themselves to see how we can support the best interest of others. By doing this, it further assists in achieving the company’s goals and objectives as well as community credibility. His leadership over the past year has transformed our organization by continuing to push us toward the calling upon which we were founded. As well, during the current pandemic crisis, his leadership has demanded a transformational mindset for the entire organization in a consistently fluid environment. Because of this style of leadership, we are easily able to adapt and be creative because we know we have his support to do so. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to provide the level of support that we’ve demonstrated in our community during this pandemic crisis.

Mr. Steiner’s leadership encompasses all five leadership practices, but the one that seems relevant for the current critical situation is “encouraging the heart.” No matter the circumstance or challenge at hand, he is always the first to provide encouragement at the culmination of any meeting or conversation. For this reason, it is easy to follow his leadership as well as provide credible work inspired by his vision.


Local Attractions Go Online to Stay Connected

With their doors and gates temporarily closed this spring due to COVID-19 closures, local attractions are finding innovative ways to take their messages online and stay connected with the varied audiences they serve.

At the Flint RiverQuarium, curatorial staff are staggering shifts to feed animals, clean tanks, and maintain life support systems, while the marketing and education departments have teamed up to create content that is being shared on social media channels, a new Flint RiverQuarium YouTube channel, and the organization’s website. A new video premieres on Facebook each morning at 11 am. Topics include Creature Features, Exploring Nature, Behind the Scenes, and Bio Bits. Regularly scheduled programs, like the monthly Adventure Seekers family program and Tadpole Time for preschoolers, also are being offered digitally. All of these videos also can be viewed on the aquarium’s YouTube Channel. Additionally, printable coloring, craft, and other activity sheets are constantly being developed and shared on both Facebook and the Flint RiverQuarium website.

Thonateeska Heritage Center is producing Science Shorts videos, which are posted Monday-Friday at 2 pm, on their Facebook page and on the new Thronateeska YouTube channel. Also, for the month of April, several planetarium shows are FREE for families to enjoy at home! Check their Facebook page each Wednesday for a link to a new show.

“The original content that we are creating at both the Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska is designed to provide supplemental educational content for parents who find themselves schooling at home, to provide positive information on the important work we are doing at both organizations for those who are scrolling feeds full of fear and uncertainty, and to build a library of engaging content that will continue to be a future resource when we are able to put this current crisis behind us,” says Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Marketing Manager Wendy Bellacomo.

At Chehaw Park and Zoo, content is offered twice a day via Facebook Live. Every morning at 10 am, viewers can see and virtually participate in the Cubs program, designed especially to fit the interests and attention spans of children ages 3-4, but fun for all ages. Each program includes an animal-related story, craft, and an animal experience. Craft supply lists are posted the night before on Facebook so parents can gather supplies needed for kids to craft along with the video.

Chehaw curatorial staff take over in the afternoons. Keeper Chats, spotlighting different animals at the zoo are aired on Facebook live each day at 4:30 pm. Viewers can go behind the scenes with the animals at the zoo in this fun, virtually interactive session, watching some of their favorite animals, meeting ones they’ve never seen before, and learning about the daily activities that happen behind the scenes.

“School may be over for the year, but parents are still looking for ways to engage their child’s brain, and kids are looking for ways to stay entertained during quarantine,” said Morgan Burnette, Director of Guest and Public Relations at Chehaw. “While our staff still visits daily to care for the animals, it’s a perfect time to create unique digital content that is both educational and entertaining. Staff is using this time to find creative options for guest engagement as well as unique opportunities for animal enrichment.”

The Albany Museum of Art has been staying connected to members and guests through Facebook, Instagram and their website. Each weekday by 5 p.m., Education and Public Programming Director Annie Vanoteghem posts an engaging Staying Inspired! art education activity kids can do with their parents. The AMA Art Lovers Book Club has its first online meeting on April 7. The museum also is asking people to create and share paintings, drawings, photos and sculpture of what they see in their backyard while in shelter in their Art in Residence contest, and to join in a local version of the Getty Museum Challenge, Life Imitating Art, to re-create famous art in photos using common things found around the house. Submissions will be shared on social media and the AMA website.

“As we all face the great challenges presented by COVID-19, we’re continuously working on innovative ways to bring the Albany Museum of Art to our members and guests. While folks are sheltering at home, it’s especially important to keep creativity alive with engaging ideas and activities inspired by art,” Jim Hendricks, AMA director of Marketing and Public Relations, said.

Even though our community is sheltered in place for the time being, this may actually be an ideal time to pay a “virtual visit” to our local attractions!



A Win-win for U-Save-It Pharmacy

With the Covid-19 outbreak, Albany’s business landscape is changing daily. While some businesses are being forced to temporarily close to help slow the spread of the virus, others, deemed as necessary, are seeing increased demand and are adapting to meet the needs of their customers. U-Save-It Pharmacy, owned by the Sharpe family, already offered drive-through and free delivery options at several locations but quickly became overwhelmed by an avalanche of new delivery requests as their customers chose to limit time outside of their homes while scrambling to make sure that all of their essential prescriptions were filled.

“When all of this started a couple of weeks ago, my brother Tommy was helping our principal delivery man, Mr. Charlie, who had more deliveries than he could possibly make on his own,” says business co-owner Jay Sharpe, “Tommy had an idea to call our favorite restaurant server, Mr. Jerry from Villa Gargano’s. Mr. Jerry has become a family friend over the years, and we knew that Villa Gargano’s had just closed their dining room in response to our city’s Covid-19 plan.”

Tommy gave server Jerry Perez a call, and Jerry jumped at the chance to help the Sharpes out.

“I was already bored,” says Jerry, who is accustomed to a busy schedule. “I had cut the grass twice that week, and I was planning to paint the front of my house. But, when I got the call and learned about the situation at U-Save-It, I knew I needed to save the painting for later. It was time for me to give back to the Sharpes who have been such good friends to me and my family over the years.”

Jerry joined the U-Save-It team Monday, March 23.

“On that day, Mr. Charlie broke his all-time delivery record by 40%. Thankfully, Jerry was on board and able to help him get it all done,” says Jay.

Jerry plans to help out until Villa Gargano’s re-opens and he is able to return to job of 11 years. So far, this temporary arrangement has been a win-win for all concerned.

“The pharmacy is able to make sure that our customers get their medications, patients are able to use the delivery service instead of going out, and Jerry is able to have a job during a down time,” says Jay.

U-Save-It pharmacy locations are currently operating with closed storefronts for the safety of staff and patients, but the drive-through windows remain open at all locations. Of course, free delivery is still an option.

While no one knows how long it will be until business as usual can resume, Jay Sharpe notes that our community has withstood difficult times before, and he has confidence that we will do so in this situation as well.

“I’ve lived in Albany all my life and there’s one thing I’ve noticed over and over. Whenever there is a challenge that tests our city, Albany does a wonderful job of coming together to work for the betterment of our community.”

Member Spotlight: Place on the Pointe

Springtime in the South is known for many traditions – Easter, graduation, and weddings. One Albany small business has been part of these traditions since 1985 when owner Susan Wiley opened the doors at Place on the Pointe. Since then, this tiny shop in Northwest Albany has been the place to shop for grandmothers, mothers, and daughters as they passed down traditions and started new ones.

Now, more than ever, the ladies at Place on the Pointe are hard at work to make sure their customers have what they need to continue their traditions this year. Like all small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, creativity in determining new processes became paramount. The staff at Place on the Pointe took their above-and-beyond customer service and combined it with their steady online presence to up their retail game and meet customer needs!

“We began getting phone calls from our customers who were upset about not being able to put together Easter baskets,” said Elyse Brown. “One customer is a first-time mom who grew up dreaming about putting together her children’s baskets, and she thought she was going to miss out on the first one!” Elyse Brown and Honey Bolton, both store co-managers, moved to action and began to post videos and pictures that showcased all the Easter selections from the sales floor. Orders began streaming in right away. The staff worked overtime to assemble the custom baskets – and even added home delivery!

“It makes us feel so good that we can help our customers,” added Honey. “Another question we are asked frequently is about our Easter bunny pictures. And while we can’t move forward with those – don’t count the Easter bunny out! We might have a trick up our sleeve!”

As the shelter-in-place guidelines came down the pipeline from the City of Albany, another group began to call the store, sharing their disappointment and asking for suggestions with another springtime occasion – graduation!

“A sweet grandmother from out of town called and wanted to do something special for her grandchild – a graduating senior this year,” said Elyse. “She had no idea what gifts to purchase, so we created a virtual video tour of all our graduation items to send to her!” That video will soon be added to both Place on the Pointe Facebook and Instagram accounts for more graduation shoppers to do the same. Another plus for graduating seniors who haven’t taken advantage of a gift registry is the ability to watch the videos, make their wish list and email or call it in to the store.

Another group facing uncertainty in these times are brides in the process of making final arrangements for registry and wedding invitations. “We are creative with wedding invitations since we cannot allow brides to come in the store,” Elyse explains. “For these brides, we are printing out drafts of their final invitation and taping them to the front door for them to come by and look. We continue to text, message and email as much as possible.”

“God is our biggest supporter and we are beyond grateful! We want to do everything we can to make sure our customers have the same hands-on experience we’ve always strived to give,” Elyse says.

“While keeping everyone safe!” Honey adds.

In a time when everything seems to be changing, the ladies at Place on the Pointe are making sure at least one thing remains the same.  Each customer receives the same personalized service for which this small business is known, proving that this small biz has a really big heart!

Albany Area Chamber nationally honored with 4-Star rating from U.S. Chamber

For Immediate Release


Contact: Bárbara Rivera Holmes

(229) 434-8700


March 21, 2019



Albany Area Chamber nationally honored with 4-Star rating from U.S. Chamber

Prestigious distinction recognizes the Albany Area Chamber in top 3 percent of chambers in country


Albany, Ga.– The United States Chamber of Commerce has awarded the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce with 4-Star Accreditation for its sound policies, effective organizational procedures and positive impact on the community. The Albany Area Chamber has been accredited with the U.S. Chamber since 1997 and previously held 3-Star status.


“Each day, chambers of commerce are working hard to put the American dream within reach of every hardworking business owner,” said Raymond P. Towle, IOM, CAE, U.S. Chamber vice president of Federation Relations and Institute for Organization Management.  “The Accreditation designation tells chamber members, as well as the greater business community, that this is an organization that has effective programs, sound finances and is a strong advocate for their interests.”


Accreditation is the only national program that recognizes chambers for their effective organizational procedures and community involvement. In order to receive Accreditation, a chamber must meet minimum standards in their operations and programs, and demonstrate core competencies in nine areas: governance, finance, human resources, government affairs, program development, technology, communications, facilities and benchmarking. This extensive and intensive self-review can take six-nine months to complete.


“To be awarded with 4-star Accreditation from the U.S. Chamber is an incredible accomplishment for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, our staff and our volunteers, who work every day to support the membership, stand up for business, build collaborative partnerships and advance economic opportunities for the Albany Area,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “There are more than 7,000 chambers of commerce in the United States; our 4-Star designation puts us in the top 3 percent of chambers across the country and demonstrates excellence in nine core areas ranging from governance and government affairs to finance, communications and technology.I could not be prouder of our organization and of what this designation means for our members and our community.”

The U.S. Chamber recognized with excellence the Albany Area Chamber’s work in a variety of areas, including:

  • its strong government affairs program, through which the chamber has established itself an advocate for the Albany Area business community through its involvement in regional coalitions, policy advocacy and trips to meet with state and federal lawmakers
  • its significant role in business, community and economic recovery and advocacy following the devastating natural disasters of 2017 and 2018
  • its work force development and educational programs and partnerships, including its “Go See” tour of schools and its “Priority One” mentorship initiative
  • its branding and external communications


“I am proud of this community and proud of the great efforts that the Albany Area Chamber has made. To serve as the chairman of the chamber board this year is the very least I could do in light of what this community has given me,” said Scott Tomlinson, CEO of Flint Community Bank and 2019 Chair of the Board of Directors of the Albany Area Chamber. “This accomplishment just confirms what I already knew concerning the hard, diligent work of our staff and team of volunteers.  This recognition is truly an honor.”


Local chambers are rated Accredited, 3-Stars, 4-Stars, or 5-Stars. The final determination is made by the Accrediting Board, a committee of U.S. Chamber board members.


The 4-Star designation ranks the Albany Area Chamber in the top 180 of the more than 7,000 chambers in the United States.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.





The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, established in 1910, advocates for business success through leadership and economic development. Learn more at

Chamber CEO: TSPLOST supports critical transportation improvements

Lagging investment crippling local and national transportation infrastructure. TSPLOST provides local funding mechanism.


By Bárbara Rivera Holmes

Barbara Rivera Holmes

President & CEO

Albany Area Chamber of Commerce


When it comes to moving people or goods, transportation is key.


Transportation is simply defined as transporting someone or something, or the process of being transported. That action or process is facilitated by many factors, including quality roads, roadway signage, efficient intersections and sidewalks. Without maintenance of these factors, the “someone or something” can’t be transported or the efficiency of the transport is significantly diminished. This hurts commerce, and when commerce suffers, so do people and economies.



Now during early voting and on March 19, voters in Albany and Dougherty County can vote to invest in safe and efficient transportation, enhancing the health of our economy and the quality of life for our residents. From roadway improvements to sidewalks, the project list for the $80 million Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) addresses needs that are critical to economic growth.


TSPLOST allows voters to dedicate a 1 percent sales tax for special transportation projects. That 1 percent sales tax would be applied to all goods and services that are taxable; it is an equitable consumption tax shared by all who make purchases in Albany and Dougherty County. TSPLOST is estimated to generate $80 million in revenue during its five-year life cycle. Of that $80 million, nearly half could be generated by out-of-town visitors to the community, diminishing by nearly 50 percent the contribution to be made by local residents and business owners. Full benefit at nearly half the cost.


Areas of needed improvements that are supported by TSPLOST include:



The single largest allocation of TSPLOST funds includes road resurfacing and associated infrastructure for roads in poor/very poor condition, preventing the continued structural deterioration of more than 250 miles of roads in Albany and Dougherty County.



TSPLOST allocates funds to intersection upgrades and road improvements to ease traffic congestion and improve safety. Funds are also dedicated to roadway widenings that impact traffic congestion and safety.



Sidewalk installation and improvements are included in TSPLOST project list. This includes installation of concrete sidewalks to enhance pedestrian safety near schools and other heavily traveled areas where sidewalks are lacking.


Years ago, “All Roads Lead to Albany” was a popular Chamber campaign touting the roadway infrastructure of Albany and Dougherty County. The campaign was effective; the community’s four-lane highway connectivity, interior road grid, quality of roads and accessibility to interstates has proved a selling point for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies that have relocated or expanded locations to Albany and Dougherty County.


Today, the narrative behind “All Roads Lead to Albany” remains a relevant selling point. But those roads, through years and years of increasing wear and tear, are in need of maintenance that far exceeds the available funding.


Nationally, the situation is alarmingly similar. The American Association of Civil Engineers (AACE) gave the American transportation infrastructure a grade of D+ and estimated a $2 trillion infrastructure gap, including investments for surface transportation such as bridges and roadways. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, AACE estimates that four in 10 American roads are in poor to mediocre condition and that by 2025, our nation’s failing infrastructure systems will have cost American businesses $7 trillion.


“Moreover,” the article stated, “roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately a third of traffic fatalities, according to national transportation research group TRIP, while motor vehicle crashes in which roadways were a likely contributing factor cost American motorists $101.1 billion per year


“In large part,” the U.S. Chamber concluded, “our country’s failing infrastructure is due to lagging investment. While population, road congestion and maintenance backlogs have ballooned, investment into maintaining, repairing and upgrading our critical infrastructure systems has slipped.


“You don’t have to be a civil engineer to know that our nation’s infrastructure is falling apart,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue. “All you have to do is leave your house. The evidence is everywhere – and affects everyone.”


Communities close to Albany and Dougherty County, and cities and counties throughout Georgia, are addressing chronic transportation funding gaps through the passage of TSPLOST. If voters in Albany and Dougherty County do not pass the referendum, the needs will continue to go unmet, creating a more challenging and costlier situation for local residents and business owners. These challenges will ultimately need a solution, and without other funding mechanisms that help offset the local investment, residents and business owners in Albany and Dougherty County will, at some point and in some way, likely assume the full expense of updating the community’s transportation infrastructure and assets.


Understanding the need for adequate transportation infrastructure for the economic health of our community and the quality of life of our citizens, the Albany Area Chamber supports passage of TSPLOST and encourages residents of Albany and Dougherty County to “VOTE YES TO TSPLOST” now during early voting or on March 19.


Bárbara Rivera Holmes is president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for business success through leadership and economic development.

Business After Hours

Join us at The Phoenix at Albany Business After Hours! This event is designed to give area business leaders the opportunity to network so don t forget to bring business cards.

Turner Job Corps 8th Annual Commencement Day




Turner Job Corps Center, Students, Staff, Supporters Celebrate 8th Annual National Job Corps Commencement Day

Wednesday February 6, 2019

For Immediate Release

Turner Job Corps Center joined 125 Job Corps centers across the country to celebrate the 8th Annual “National Job Corps Commencement Day” ceremony Friday February 8, 2019 at 1pm to congratulate the Job Corps students who showed Job Corps Works! by completing the program this year.

Recent Job Corps graduates employed in Georgia, employer partners, local policymakers, community leaders, family members and many others recognized these students’ achievements and the investment they made in their futures and community.

“Our people are our future and our passion resource,” said Kenneth Cutts, Sanford Bishop Congressional District Director, the keynote speaker at Turner Job Corps Center’s ceremony.

Turner Job Corps Center is one of 125 Job Corps centers located across the country. A unique national program, Job Corps offers underserved youth a set of diverse academic opportunities and career pathways tailored to meet the needs of business and industry. Each year, Job Corps gives tens of thousands of youth a second chance to complete their education and advance into careers, higher education or the military.

Job Corps has served more than 3 million out-of-work young adults and underserved youth nationally. Many are high-school dropouts or public-assistance recipients, and Job Corps helps them become active contributors to their communities.

“Remember the road traveled and step into your glory!” said William Coleman, the center’s director.

Local business leaders attended the ceremony at Turner Job Corps Center to support a program that benefits the local economy. The average Job Corps center supports 228 local jobs, and every dollar invested in Job Corps returns almost $2 to the local economy. Nationally, the 125 Job Corps centers support about 30,000 jobs, the vast majority of which are with private businesses.

Local community members who have worked with Job Corps volunteers also joined the celebration to congratulate many of their student volunteers. Job Corps students and staff work with local community-based organizations and nonprofits, logging many hours of volunteer service every year. For example, Turner Job Corps Center students collaborate with Open Arms Inc, Albany Housing Authority, The City of Albany, Boys & Girl Club of America, and Albany Technical College to provide needed services to Dougherty County Community.

“The 8th Annual National Job Corps Commencement Day is a very special day for our program,” said National Job Corps Association Executive Director Greg Roberts. “The Job Corps community – our students, their families, center staff, operators, community leaders, employer partners and supporters – worked hard to transform futures that will lead to a lifetime of preparation and success.  The devotion of our community is why Job Corps has such strong bipartisan support in Congress and why it continues to be the most successful job training program for America’s underserved youth.”


Melvin Drake, 229-319-3436,

Brendan O’Hara, National Job Corps Association,

Red Lobster


 Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, Red Lobster! Red Lobster offers full-service casual dining in a relaxed atmosphere serving a wide selection of seafood, including lobster, shrimp, snow crab, and more. They also offer options for our land-lovers, including our flavorful NY Strip and a delicious Cajun Chicken Linguini Alfredo.

When asked what sets Red Lobster apart Damian Skinner, General Manager explains, “Everything we do is a celebration of seafood – from how we source our fish and shellfish to serving up new ways for you to enjoy it. Since 1968, we’ve been committed to bringing you a seafood experience you won’t find anywhere else. That’s how we Sea Food Differently.”

For more information on Red Lobster visit:

Red Lobster

2403 N Slappey Blvd

Albany, Georgia 31701

Contact: Damian Skinner