Future 10 – Part 2
A leader, in the simplest terms, is someone you want to follow. In this annual feature, we share the stories of those leading by example in our communities. Meet 5 of this year’s Future 10 under 40.
Ten years ago, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine introduced the first Future 10 leaders under 40. Each year since, we’ve continued to recognize 10 new leaders as part of this esteemed group, all of whom live up to the chamber’s motto of “Building Community and Supporting Business.”
This isn’t a competition, but rather a nomination-based search in which we invite coworkers, supervisors, employees, business owners, friends and family to recommend exceptional men and women under the age of 40 who not only contribute to the current and future success of our county with a proven commitment to excellence in their careers, but also provide inspiration and leadership for other young people.
In the following pages you’ll learn their personal stories, dreams and goals and come to see that they, like Future 10 nominees before them, are champions for their communities and committed to making a positive impact on Brunswick County.
Public Safety Lieutenant, Village of Bald Head Island
Steven Barger has achieved something rare: a first responder trifecta. A lieutenant with Bald Head Island’s public safety agency, he is a sworn police officer, registered paramedic and certified fire officer.
“A day in the life for me is very interesting,” Barger says. “One minute, I could be on the fire engine, and the next thing you know, I’m arresting someone, and after that, I could be on the ambulance.”
Barger, who grew up in Ohio, went to college right out of high school with the intention of going into law. But then something changed. He was looking for something where he could make a difference. With the encouragement of a friend who had recently become a paramedic, Barger enrolled in EMT school. Fifteen years later, he holds multiple first responder licenses and certifications.
Along with the variation of responsibilities, what Barger likes best about his job is building relationships.
“We want people to be comfortable with us when we respond to their home, regardless of what the emergency is,” he says. “Bald Head is a small community, which makes it easier to establish those relationships, and I like the intimate nature of that. I always remind everyone on my shift of that.”
As the shift commander, Barger challenges everyone to meet their personal goals and create even bigger ones, and he wants to be known “for helping others get farther than himself.”
What Barger would really like to be remembered for is the impact he makes on the youth in Brunswick County. As chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Education, he sees a direct correlation to his work fighting fires.
“When dealing with issues about children, it’s always a ‘fire’ because it’s such an emotional response,” he says. “In the end, it’s about always doing what’s going to benefit the kids.”
Of his Future 10 recognition, Barger says, “I’m very appreciative of the support of the community and my coworkers and everybody else. I think there are a lot more well-deserving people out there, but I’m very appreciative.”
Sometimes in tragedy, we find our life’s purpose. That’s what happened to Erika Evans.
Everything was perfect. She and her husband, Josh, were expecting their first child, and at their 19-week anatomy scan, they learned that their son had hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“We went into it very hopeful,” Evans says. “I delivered at Duke via emergency c-section. In his first 16 days of life, he had three open-heart surgeries, but in the end, his body couldn’t take it and we lost him.”
Shortly after her son passed, Evans’ parents, Beverly and William Boynton, decided to follow their passion and open a bakery. But they intended to make Evans a part of the business as well, and they weren’t taking no for an answer.
“I honestly wasn’t in the head space for owning a business at all,” Evans says. “But I think we all realized after what we went through that life is too short to not do what you want to do.”
Six years after opening Sweetcakes TBC in Ocean Isle Beach, Evans has uncovered talents she didn’t know she had.
“I’m the one who makes all the decorated sugar cookies,” she says. “Customers will bring in pictures of cookies and ask if I can create them, and I say no problem. And then I say to myself, can I really do this? But every time I pull it off. I don’t know how. I don’t know where it comes from.”
Beyond the sugar cookies, Evans plays a big part in most aspects of the family business, including customer service. She easily establishes rapport with new visitors and regulars alike and has all the people skills that make a neighborhood bakery a special place.
“As soon as I see one of our regulars walk through the door and before they even open their mouth to order, I’m pulling out their favorite treat,” Evans says.
On working with her family, Evans says it’s her favorite part of the job.
“We’re very close,” she says. “Sure, we might get on each other’s nerves, but we let each other know, and then we just get over it. We just give each other a bit of room. It’s wonderful.”
Thirteen months after Evans’ devastating loss of their son came Sophia.
“She’s our rainbow baby,” Evans says. “After a storm comes a rainbow.”
Now five years old, Sophia is a regular fixture at SweetcakesTBC.
Tasheka King Bines
Founder, Mett & Gladys Safe Haven, Inc.
Tasheka King Bines is a very patient person. She knows that getting transitional housing in Brunswick County for the ever-growing homeless population is a challenge, but, she says, “It’s going to happen. It will just take time.”
King Bines has made it her mission since 2020 to bring awareness to the issue of homelessness in our communities. From Shallotte to Leland there are forgotten populations including military veterans and entire families forced to live in tents and cars because they’ve lost everything, she says. King Bines knew she had to do something to help.
“When my father passed away in 2018, I wanted to honor him,” she says. “My parents were always cooking and feeding people in the community or offering them a place to stay. As I became more aware of the lack of transitional housing, I felt this was my calling. I named the organization after my parents, the Mett & Gladys Safe Haven, Inc.” Unfortunately, King Bines lost her mother to cancer just before the launch.
At Mett & Gladys Safe Haven, every day brings something new for King Bines and her volunteers. While they are busy raising support for transitional housing, they also hand out bags with personal hygiene products, gift cards for local grocery stores and gas cards for those living in their vehicles.
“We also provide a three-day temporary assistance program where we can put them up in a hotel for three days and try to help them set goals for beyond,” King Bines says. But these are just small steps toward the bigger picture.
Born and raised in Shallotte, King Bines is committed to making a difference in her home county. She has worked to motivate citizens to get more involved as well as stood up before the Brunswick County Commissioners to ask for support for transitional housing.
“We need more people speaking up,” King Bines says. “That’s how we’ll eventually be heard.”
Honored by the Future 10 recognition, King Bines says she is “very grateful, but completely surprised to be chosen as a leader.” In addition to heading Mett & Gladys, she works as a freight dispatcher, owns an event planning business, sits on the WECT Advisory Board and works with the children and youth choirs at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
Owner, Lil & John’s Sweetreat Ice Cream and Oak Island Sporting Goods
Ice cream might be a part of Diana Keesee’s DNA. She first scooped it for customers at her grandparent’s Southport ice cream shop when she was just 12 years old. Her grandparents, Lil and John, owned their shop from 1978 to 2003, when they retired. Fast forward 13 years, and Keesee opened her own ice cream shop on Oak Island.
“I acquired property and all of sudden, we’re making ice cream,” Keesee says. “I decided to make my own ice cream because there just wasn’t any out there that was awesome. I knew nothing about making ice cream.”
In addition to Lil & John’s Sweetreat, Keesee has nine corporations altogether, including Oak Island Sporting Goods, which her husband purchased in 2006 from the previous owner.
“I took it over in 2019,” Keesee says with a laugh. “I know even less about bait and tackle than I do ice cream.”
A wife and mother of two toddlers under the age of three, Keesee comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Growing up, members on both sides of her family owned their own businesses.
“I’m a big-picture thinker and I knew I couldn’t work a 9-to-5 for somebody else,” she says. “I knew early on that I wanted to be my own boss.”
A business owner since she was 27, Keesee feels a special obligation to the “hundreds of teenage employees” she’s had, giving many of them their first-ever jobs.
“When they first start, they don’t know much about interacting with people or the idea of customer service,” Keesee says. “I like being around them and helping them realize their full potential. I hope they all go on to do bigger and better things, and I hope they look back and think this was the best job they’ve ever had and that they had a good time.”
For Keesee, her Future 10 recognition has her feeling very humbled.
“There are obviously a ton of young professionals in our community who deserve it,” she says. “I see it as motivation to really innovate and exceed my own expectations.”
She also encourages other young women to be business owners.
“Join groups and associations and spend time around people who inspire and support you,” Keesee advises. “And no matter what industry you are in, remind yourself that there is room for you there. Be confident in your ability and why you are in the room in the first place. That’s the best advice I have ever received.”
Owner/Broker-In-Charge, The Capstone Group
Like many, Nicholas Newell found himself in a job after college that wasn’t really where he had planned on landing. He considered switching to a career in law enforcement, going so far as graduating from Basic Law Enforcement Training. But he had always been interested in real estate too. So, he took the classes and got licensed, thinking it might supplement his income as a first responder. He soon realized that he “was good at real estate, and it could really be my main source of income.”
In 2018 Newell began his real estate journey with a Wilmington firm, where he earned multiple agent production awards. In January 2022 he opened his own company, The Capstone Group, LLC, a full-service real estate brokerage firm.
The best part of his job is helping people.
“It’s very rewarding,” he says. “You get to be involved in a crucial part of someone’s life. I’m selling what is to most people one of the biggest investments they’ll ever make financially. But also on a personal level, it’s the place that they’re going to call home.”
Newell likes the challenge and the competitiveness of real estate. But he’s also an entrepreneur, so by his very nature he’s passionate about turning the impossible into possible. Newell is a partner in an electric vehicle charging company, Shark Charge, which is manufacturing a Level 3 DC charger that can charge your car in less than 30 minutes.
“This will be the first fast charger in our region,” Newell says. “The bare minimum for fast charging is 50 kilowatts. Ours will be 120 kilowatts. It’s exciting to be bringing that technology here.”
When you ask Newell what impact he’d like to make on Brunswick County, it has very little to do with real estate or charging stations. What he’s most proud of is his nonprofit, St. Nicholas Christmas Foundation. Newell was born on Christmas Day, and with a name like Nicholas, creating a Christmas-themed nonprofit was a given.
Now in its ninth year, St. Nicholas Christmas Foundation collects donations and raises funds to give kids in need stuffed animals and residents in assisted living facilities gifts for Christmas.
When it comes to his Future 10 recognition, Newell is honored.
“Out of all the amazing potential candidates out there, that I would be even considered, let alone chosen, is, for lack of a better word, cool.”