Presenters & speakers

Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation

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I inherited my passion for taking care of the planet from my dad, Ted Turner, the original Captain Planet. As children, my father instilled environmental stewardship into me and my siblings every chance he got. Growing up, when we took a family beach vacation we had to commit at least one day to picking up litter along the beach. In the winter we put on more layers, before just dialing up the thermostat. Despite his success, my dad drove the same old car he always had. Waste not, want not.

In 1990, my dad created the Captain Planet animated TV series with Barbara Pyle. Captain Planet is still in syndication around the world, and continues to inspire a new generation of Planeteers. Today, I have the honor of acting as Chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation which supports high-quality, hands-on environmental stewardship projects that have enabled more than 1.1M youth across the U.S. and around the world to make significant environmental improvements to their schools or communities.

I have dedicated my life to continuing my father’s legacy of environmentalism and humanitarianism. Captain Planet taught us that the Power is Ours, and I endeavor through education and outreach to leave this planet a place our children and grandchildren will want to inherit 

Amber Suitt, Georgia Organic Programs Director

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Amber Suitt, a graduate of Howard University and Georgetown University Law Center, is a fourth generation Atlantan. She has been working to transform our local food system in different capacities since 2011. Prior to her current role as the Director of Programs at Georgia Organics, she worked as an Outreach Coordinator for The Common Market, a local food distribution company. While at The Common Market, she focused on local food procurement for hospitals, community organizations, early learning centers, public schools, and retail. She has also served on the board for the South West Atlanta Grower’s Cooperative.


Her desire to prevent the diet-related illnesses that many of her family members suffered from stimulated her initial interest to work in the food system. As she continues to work in this field, her desire to also address environmental issues caused by agricultural practices as well as the impact of climate change on food security has grown.  While at Georgia Organics, her goal is to increase farmer prosperity and a healthy environment through her support and development of Georgia Organic’s programming. She also seeks to continue to use her legal background in support of farmers and food businesses.  Amber can be contacted by email at amber@georgiaorganics.org

Gerald McDowell, Executive Director, Aerotropolis Atlanta CIDs

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Gerald McDowell, originally from Hope Mills, N.C., graduated from DeVry University in Atlanta in 1987 with a B.S. in Computer Information Systems.  He spent more than 18 years in the IT industry, managing projects in more than 40 states and 12 countries, and he was also a small business owner for nearly five years. Additionally, Gerald served as a teacher for two years as an evening Instructor at DeKalb Tech.

 In his previous tenure as President and CEO of The JILAS Company, Gerald leveraged his entrepreneurial skills to find a software company to provide software solutions and services to church groups. He raised $600,000 in investment capital to support the establishment of the company and completed projects in Haiti, Argentina, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Ecuador.

Gerald was on staff with the Gwinnett Village CID (now Gateway 85 CID) and Gwinnett Village Community Alliance for four years. His efforts resulted in more than 250 commercial property owners joining the CID, which accounted for $700 million in property value. He also assisted in creating the Gwinnett Village Merchant’s Association. 

Dr. Hilary King, Director of Special Projects for Community Farmer's Markets

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Director of Special Projects, Community Farmers Markets, and Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University Master’s in Development Practice 

Dr. Hilary King is an applied anthropologist and sustainable food advocate. Through her current work as the Sustainable Development Postdoctoral Fellow in the Emory University Masters' in Development Practice, she teaches students in a two-year professional degree program that prepares them for careers in the international development and humanitarian fields. Hilary also works as the Director of Special Projects at Community Farmers Markets (CFM).

Hilary is committed to putting social science research to work to address issues of poverty, inequity and social justice. For more than 15 years, she has investigated how social relationships shape economic interactions, particularly through food.  She has worked with farmers and consumers across the United States, Mexico, Central America, and East Africa with support from Thomas J. Watson and Fulbright Fellowships and raised more than $1,000,000 in research and project funding. Through her research, she has co-developed innovative food system projects and businesses, including the Fresh MARTA Markets at public transit stations in Atlanta and direct trade relationships between farmers in the Dominican Republic and consumers in the United States.

Michael Snipes, Director, Laurens County Solid Waste Management Authority

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Michael was born and raised in Dublin, GA. He began his career in solid waste in 2005 when he was hired by the Laurens County Solid Waste Management Authority as their Director. He initiated the first county-wide recycling program in Laurens County, and operates their Old Macon Road Landfill, the first Georgia landfill permitted to compost biosolids and the only Georgia landfill permitted to compost animal mortalities. 

Michael is a Certified Landfill Operator (Georgia) and a SWANA Certified Manager of “Composting Programs” and “Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems”. In 2009, the Old Macon Road Landfill received the SWANA International Silver Excellence Award for Landfill Management and 1st place for Waste Reduction and Recycling from Keep Georgia Beautiful. In 2013, they were awarded the SWANA International Gold Excellence Award for Composting.

Currently, Michael serves as President of SWANA – Georgia Chapter. He has hosted two SWANA International Truck and Equipment Road-e-o’s (2011 and 2016) and the Georgia Chapter was recently selected to serve as host of SWANApalooza in 2020. Michael has served on numerous stakeholder committees with Ga. EPD including the Compost Rules Stakeholders Committee and most recently, the Solid Waste Trust Fund Stakeholders Committee.Director, Laurens County Solid Waste Management Authority

Roy Taylor, Chair of Greening Georgia, Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party of Georgia

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Roy Taylor is the Chair of Greening Georgia, Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party of Georgia. He is also on the Steering Committee of Quaker Earthcare Witness and was clerk of that organization for three years. He is a green architect and a LEED Accredited Professional by the US Green Building Council. He is known locally as being a green community activist and started the community gardening in Canton more than a decade ago.

John R. Seydel III - Director of Sustainability, Office of the Mayor for City of Atlanta

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 John Rutherford Seydel III (John R.), an Atlanta native, is the Director of Sustainability in the Office of the Mayor for the City of Atlanta. Seydel works with department leads within the City of Atlanta, as well as with external community partners to achieve Atlanta’s sustainability goals.  While in his role, Seydel has helped direct efforts throughout sustainability including projects supporting waste diversion, urban agriculture, energy and water efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles, and renewables towards Mayor Kasim Reed’s goal for Atlanta to continue as a top-tier city in sustainability.

Seydel received his Bachelors in Political Science from the University of Denver. He is an environmental advocate and previously served as the CEO of Revolution Nation, an organization which aims to connect millennials to their elected representatives. He has also worked in the renewable energy space with the United Nations Foundation and Southern Company. In addition, he has worked with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Captain Planet Foundation, organizations which promote hands-on environmental stewardship and education projects worldwide for youth.

Lindy Miller, Co-Founder, Cherry Street Energy and 2018 Candidate, Georgia Public Service Commission

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Lindy Miller is a Georgia native and first-generation American. She has over 15 years of global experience in policy, strategy, and operations. Several years ago, she co-founded Cherry Street Energy, a renewable energy company helping to transform Georgia's energy marketplace. Motivated by a desire to solve social problems and bring her skills to public service, she ran for statewide office in the 2018 midterms. As the Democratic nominee for public service commissioner, District 5, Lindy advanced to a run-off. While she ultimately lost her election, Lindy came closer than any Democrat in a run-off in Georgia in decades. Lindy holds degrees from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and the University of Pennsylvania, and is a board member of Congregation Sheath Israel. Lindy and her husband, Jonathan Crane, an ethics professor at Emory University, are raising three young boys less than 10 miles from where she grew up.

Brionte McCorkle, Executive Director of Georgia Conservation Voters

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Brionte has spent her career training activists, advancing equity and inclusion in the environmental movement, and organizing grassroots voters. She formerly served as the director of engagement at EcoDistricts, and before that, as the Georgia Sierra Club assistant director.


Brionte’s love of the Georgia environment grew from a striking moment in her childhood:

“When I was ten years old, my family and I got in our car and drove away from our military base in the hot, dry Mojave Desert to start a new life in Warner Robins Georgia. I will never forget waking up in the car after four long days of travel and being blown away by the view outside of my window of Georgia’s thick, green forests blanketing the landscape as far as the eye could see. Before that moment, I had only seen so many trees in textbooks. It was this experience that ignited a fire in me to love, explore and protect the environment.”

Representative Hank Johnson, GA Fourth Congressional District

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Now serving his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District – which encompasses parts of DeKalb, Gwinnett and Newton counties and all of Rockdale County – Congressman Hank Johnson has distinguished himself as a substantive, effective lawmaker and a leading national progressive voice.


Named one of the most effective Democrats in Congress by a University of Virginia and University of Vanderbilt study, Rep. Johnson has proven his ability to get things done.

From his seat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Johnson has introduced, co-sponsored and passed legislation to level the playing field for everyday Americans. His bills that protect consumers and citizens’ civil liberties include the Arbitration Fairness Act (AFA) and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.


Prior to taking his seat in Congress in 2006, Rep. Johnson practiced criminal defense law in Georgia for twenty-seven (27) years. He served twelve (12) years as a magistrate judge, and five (5) years as a county commissioner.


Rep. Johnson is married to DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and has two adult children

Gary W. Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture

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For over 38 years Gary W. Black has championed sound state and federal policies impacting food safety, science-based environmental stewardship and agricultural marketing. Now beginning his third term, Commissioner Black remains committed to fostering growth in Georgia's number one industry.

  

Black was first elected to serve as the Commissioner of Agriculture in November 2010. He has improved career paths for employees and established high standards for customer service. Under his leadership, the Department's food safety and animal health regulatory programs have received national acclaim and the Georgia Grown brand's economic impact can be seen in every corner of the state and beyond. His innovative vision to strengthen school nutrition has resulted in expanded markets for Georgia farmers and improved the quality of nutrition for Georgia students. In recognition of these successes, Commissioner Black was named Georgia Trend Magazine's Georgian of the Year in 2017.

Commissioner Black and his wife Lydia continue to raise commercial beef cattle on his family farm in Commerce. Both of his adult children work in the agriculture and food industries. The Blacks are active in the Sunday school and music ministries of Maysville Baptist Church.

Marcus Coleman, Save OurSelves (SOS), Founder/President

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Marcus Coleman has been an advocate for numerous initiatives highlighting the plight of the misrepresented, overlooked and unfortunate individuals in society. While facing a personal period of unjust judicial punishment, Marcus was sentenced in 2001 to 30 months in federal prison for a crime he didn’t commit, thirteen (13) of which were served in solitary confinement. This experience ignited a raging flame and so the journey began.


His dedication and work has gained recognition and has been featured on several national and international (Russian, German and French) television shows to include “The Doctors", "20/20", and "Inside Edition". In 2013 Marcus became the Founder and CEO of Save OurSelves (SOS), a group with four major focal points; prison reform, youth mentorship, homelessness, and elderly outreach. The SOS annual free legal clinic is an event helping hundreds in the community access assistance in any area of law. He is also the founder and former president of Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) Atlanta, earning chapter president of the year award in 2007. Mr. Coleman is responsible for the acquisition of the Southeast Regional Headquarters of National Action Network in October of 2007 located in the Historic West End District in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012, Mr. Coleman engineered a monumental event in Atlanta by honoring living legends of the civil rights movement. Honorees included Rev. Dr. Al Sharpton, Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley, Dr. Joe Beasley, Dr. Amelia Boynton – Robinson, Rev. C.T. Vivian and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery.