Future 10 – Part 2

by Mar 14, 2024People, South Brunswick

Meet 5 more young leaders of Brunswick County.

The future of any community relies on the individual and collective leadership of its citizens to make their communities work for everybody.

Brunswick County is without a doubt well-supplied with an impressive bench of talented leaders who are working to build a strong foundation for growth and opportunity for the next generation of Brunswick County.

Eleven years ago, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine first partnered to introduce the Future 10 Under 40, a group of community-minded and enthusiastic young professionals in Brunswick County who are enthusiastically a part of their county and who live up to the chamber’s motto of Building Community and Supporting Business.

Again, we are bringing together a new group of Future 10 leaders for 2023. We invited coworkers, supervisors, employees, clients, business owners, friends and family to nominate outstanding young men and women who are under the age of 40 and who have a demonstrated commitment to excellence in their personal and professional lives. Who are these remarkable leaders? They are teachers, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, role models, business owners, public servants and other professionals eager to use their passions to inspire and lead the community.

This year’s professionals are helping to shape Brunswick County’s future. They have each individually made a difference in their industries whether that is through their leadership skills or their participation in civic organizations, nonprofits and volunteer work. They all have one thing in common: They are passionate about Brunswick County, and they all are making a positive impact here. In this issue, you will read their stories and come to see that they are all key players in the present and future of Brunswick County.

Here are your 2023 Future 10 Under 40 Leaders of Brunswick County.

Councilmember, Town of Leland
Age 38

Bill McHugh Town of Leland
For Bill McHugh, doing things that really matter is a priority. As an attorney and contract manager for PPD, Part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, he has worked on several drugs and vaccines that have had a positive impact on the world. And as a councilmember for the Town of Leland, “being able to help shape the future of my community is very important to me,” he says.

From an early age, McHugh thought he wanted to be involved in politics. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and social science before graduating from St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens.

“I prepared myself from a skillset level and an education level to enter the political arena,” he says. “I thought our politicians represented the best of us. I saw these men and women who were veterans, war heroes and Rhodes scholars. I thought that was what you were supposed to aspire to be. But as I got older, I realized that a lot of these people were deeply flawed, and I watched the political discourse in America just degenerate into something really ugly and decided I wanted nothing to do with this.”

But then something changed.

One day he caught himself wishing that “the people who were prepared for this, who were ready for this, who understood this, who wanted to conduct themselves with dignity and service would just get some skin in the game and run.” He realized that he was one of those people sitting on the sidelines. “So, I got some skin in the game, and I ran.”

As a councilmember McHugh prides himself on two things: doing what he says and always being available. He shows up whenever he is invited to attend an event and is always ready to answer the hard questions. In one of the fastest-growing areas in the state, there are challenges and concerns that require difficult and complex decisions. McHugh’s personable and professional approach to local politics has helped him gain the people of Leland’s confidence.

McHugh says being recognized by the community as one of Brunswick County’s Future 10 is an honor and a humbling experience.

“I put a lot of work into serving my community, and to know people think that I would be deserving of it really means a lot to me and it motivates me to continue doing what I’m doing,” he says.

McHugh works with many of the local nonprofit and veteran organizations in his capacity as a councilmember. He is also on the executive board for the BSA Cape Fear Council and a member of the North Carolina Coastal Federation and Cape Fear River Watch.

When he is not working, McHugh and his wife, Danielle, are busy being first-time parents to their baby daughter, Riley.

Owner, General Contractor of Fulford Construction Group
Age 33

Christina Fulford Fulford Construction

Only four percent of general contractors in North Carolina are women. Christina Fulford is proud to be a part of that statistic and hopes that her Future 10 recognition, which she considers “a privilege and a blessing,” will inspire other young girls and women to think about a career in construction.

Fulford’s career in construction began when she and her husband, Justin, who owns Fulford Heating and Cooling, decided to build some spec homes on a few pieces of property they owned. She got her general contractor’s license and worked on these few homes. Then, she started getting referrals.

“It wasn’t supposed to turn into a business, but I kept getting referrals,” Fulford says.

That is when Fulford Construction Group was formed. At this writing, she had 12 projects going on at one time across three different counties.

When she earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Fulford had no idea that both degrees would serve her well in this industry.

“Some of my trades speak Spanish so I’m able to make them feel more comfortable by speaking their language,” she says.

As the owner, Fulford runs the show, but she says she has an amazing team of sub-contractors behind her.

“I’m just blessed and excited that I get to work with people that I enjoy doing life with,” she says.

When it comes to her day-to-day, there are the must-dos — a stack of paperwork, phone calls and budget preparations. And then there is her favorite part: seeing the homeowner’s vision come to life.

“On my site visit days, I check on things and meet my contractors to make sure they get their questions answered and have everything they need so we can bring the dream to fruition,” Fulford says.

On the continuous word-of-mouth referrals for her construction company, Fulford credits her reputation as a good general contractor who keeps her word.

“I hear too many stories from people who have had unfortunate experiences with contractors,” she says. “I want to call on contractors to be better and respond to their clients. If you can’t take a job, let them know. Just don’t ignore them.”

Ideally, this mom of four, including three daughters, would also like to inspire women to “go against the grain and do something that might be out of their comfort zone” whether it is contracting or opening their own business: “As women, we can do anything we put our minds to!”

Chief Operations Officer, National Property Inspections
Age 36

Heather Maddox National Property Inspections

I knew eventually that I would join forces with my parents in their business, National Property Inspections (NPI), or take over it completely one day,” Heather Maddox says. “I just didn’t know it would happen sooner than later.”

In 2017 Maddox left her job in the medical field and started answering phones and setting appointments at NPI. She quickly learned the business inside and out, and after a short two-and-a-half-years, she is now the chief operations officer, overseeing both of the company’s offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. She and her husband, Bruce, along with her parents, are now joint owners of the company.

With Maddox’s outgoing and pleasant personality, she is often the face of the business, attending events and networking with area Realtors, mortgage professionals and homebuyers.

“What I like best about my job is meeting new people,” she says. “I’m definitely a people person. I’m passionate about helping companies in the industry with referrals to grow their businesses and helping homebuyers make informed decisions when it comes to their forever homes.”

Under Maddox’s leadership, she has worked to grow NPI into a first-rate, highly respected commercial and residential inspection service provider in the coastal Carolinas.

“I work hard to ensure that we as a team are successful and a reputable resource in the community,” Maddox says.
Maddox’s commitment to the community extends far beyond her professional leadership. She gives her time unselfishly to multiple organizations including Habit for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and local food banks across Brunswick County. Most recently, she became heavily involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I had the opportunity to work with the Cape Fear Realtors Association to grant a wish to a young girl with cancer to redo her bedroom,” Maddox says. “After that, I was hooked. I got connected with a Make-A-Wish rep, and I have since gone to Raleigh several times for training.”

Additionally, Maddox is an ambassador for the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Georgetown and Conway chambers of commerce and a visitor host of the BNI Coastal North Carolina Chapter.

On being selected for this year’s Future 10, Maddox says, “It’s heartwarming. Every day I just wake up and do the best I can for the community and my business, and it’s awesome that other people recognized me for it.”

Her personal life is just as fulfilling. She and Bruce have been married for 13 years and are parents to 16-year-old Charlie. As a family, they enjoy off-roading in their Jeep and boating.

Kindergarten Teacher, Southeastern Christian Academy
Age 39

Shanta Johnson SCA

At the age of five I knew I would become a teacher,” Shanta Johnson says. “I would come home from school, shut the door to my room, line up my stuffed animals, and I would teach them everything I had learned that day.”

Johnson’s passion for teaching was inspired by her teachers who made learning fun and creative, something that she strives for in her class. She enjoys teaching through themes, like the seasons.

“In the fall, I love being able to take them on nature walks and scavenger hunts and incorporating things like pumpkins and apples into our lessons,” she says.

As a singer, Johnson also teaches through songs to help students remember material more easily. Affectionately called Mrs. J by her students, she has been teaching for nearly 15 years in several different capacities. After graduating in 2011 from the University of North Carolina Wilmington—Watson School of Education she started a summer preschool camp called Thee Education Station, a Christian-based preschool program that served children 18 months to 7 years old. The camp offered parents a productive and creative outlet for their children during the summer.

Her gift for teaching comes from her experience as a student and from her mother’s inspiration. Her mother is recently-retired art teacher with Brunswick County Schools and is now the middle and high school art teacher at Southeastern Christian Academy.

“I’ve always seen teachers in a great light, and I just want to pay it forward and hope that I become part of my own students’ memory banks one day,” Johnson says.

On being part of this year’s Future 10, Johnson says, “Teaching is something I do because I love watching those light bulbs go off when my students grasp a concept, but being recognized and given an opportunity to share some things about myself means a lot.”

In addition to teaching, Johnson is a singer and choir director. She is a member of two local gospel groups including Purple Reign, a trio, and Voice of Adonai, a quartet. She also directs children’s choir at her church, Eastside Fellowship, as well as the Kidz-N-Harmony choir at Embracing Christ Fellowship Church.

Johnson is very focused on her family when she is not busy caring for her students. She is a loving wife to husband, Tony, and devoted mother to her two children, 9-year-old Wesley, and 2-year-old Olivia, both of whom enjoy listening to and learning music.

Family Nurse Practitioner, Novant Health Family Internal Medicine
Age 29

Ross Lippard Novant

Before heading off to college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), Ross Lippard was working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at a nursing home while he was still in high school. At UNCC, he earned a B.S. in kinesiology and exercise science with his original goal of becoming a physical therapist. However, he found that he “really enjoyed the hands-on, bedside experience that nursing offered.”

After graduating from UNCC in 2016, he interned in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and worked as a CNA at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center while also attending nursing school. In 2019 he moved to Brunswick County and started at Novant as a nurse. He finished his bachelor’s in nursing and completed nurse practitioner school — all while working full-time during COVID-19. In July 2023 he started his new position as a family nurse practitioner.

Lippard sees his role as a primary care provider as unique.

“We are the gatekeepers of healthcare really,” he says. “Patients come through primary care after a hospital visit and they come back to primary care before they need a procedure done. If they have an issue they’re worried about, we can handle it for the most part until we need a specialist involved.”

Education is a big component of Lippard’s day-to-day responsibilities, as in educating each patient on what they can do on an individual basis to make their health better.

“A lot of my patients have chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension, or they haven’t had healthcare in over a decade, so it comes down to what they can do outside of the doctor’s office, from a daily perspective to be the healthiest they can be,” Lippard says. “That’s why education is so important.”

Lippard’s commitment to education and his dedication to his career in healthcare and all that he has accomplished at the age of 29 speaks to his devotion to his patients and community. The impact he would like to make “in this county and for my patients is to always go above and beyond to make my patients’ voices feel heard and give them the most quality of life they deserve,” he says.

Being recognized this year as part of the Future 10 class is something he says he “definitely didn’t expect, but it comes at a unique time as I just transitioned from nurse to nurse practitioner, so it’s very cool.”

Lippard has also been the recipient of the prestigious Daisy Award, which is given to nurses who have gone above and beyond in service to their patients and their profession.

In his personal life, Lippard is also gratified. He and his wife, Paige, whom he met in college, love spending time with their children Madi and Alden.

Photography by Megan Deitz