2014 Young Professional of the Year


Young Professional of the Year Finalists



Hodgen Mainda – With a head for management and the brawn for rugby, Nairobi native Hodgen Mainda is carving a wide path to success. The 36-year-old director of legal operations and government relations for Chattanooga law firm Dale Buchanan and Associates is a champion for the disabled community in the Scenic City amongst other things.

A resident of Chattanooga since 2008, Mainda was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where he completed his elementary and high school education before moving to the United States in May, 1997, after winning a rugby scholarship at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Mainda graduated with degrees in international relations and political science.

A graduate of Leadership Chattanooga (class of 2010), Mainda has found his niche in the community and is affiliated with several organizations. Mainda is the immediate past-president of Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Association and serves on the board as past chair. Mainda is a member of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Memorial Hospital Foundation board of directors. Mainda is also a member of WTCI-PBS station’s government relations committee and also worked with the TV station on their partnership with the Children Advocacy Center of Hamilton County in the child abuse awareness campaign ad that recently won an Emmy Award.

Mainda is married to his beautiful and lovely wife Amber.


Christa Payne – Christa Payne is the Vice President of External Affairs at the Public Education Foundation. Christa is privileged to work every day with amazing educators and community members who are dedicated to helping all students gain access to great public education. She works with the PEF board and staff to implement the strategic vision of PEF, directs PEF’s communications and fundraising plan, and raises awareness in order to build support in the community for public education. Christa’s passion for her work is intertwined with her love for Chattanooga (her adopted home for almost a decade) and her desire to help create a city that embraces and supports all people.

Christa serves on the Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Board and is chair of the community engagement committee. She serves on the board of Youth Leadership Chattanooga as chair of the student selection committee. Additionally, she serves as an advisor on the development and communications committees for Girls, Inc. and as a member of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Invest in Children and Youth Advisory Committee. She is a steering committee member for StyleWorks at Siskin Children’s Institute.

Christa is first and foremost a mom of 3 girls, Haydn (10), Wyeth (7), and Padgett (3), and married to Bill Payne, one of the funniest people on earth. In order to not go crazy or make the people around her crazy, she likes to run, hike, and hang out with her family and friends.


Lucky Ramsey – Lucky Ramsey is the Director of Recruitment for WayPaver which specializes in finding the best and brightest creative tech and design talent and placing them in jobs with innovative companies in Chattanooga, TN. She is passionate about making Chattanooga a more interesting and dynamic place to live and loves that she gets to work towards this every day by bringing in new talent to contribute ideas and vitality to the community.

In her free time, Lucky organizes Pecha Kucha events and is a Trustee with the UNFoundation. Lucky is also a recent graduate of the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute and a member of Rotaract. She resides on the Southside with her husband, Leif, and enjoys her daily walk to work.


Matthew Richman – My earliest dreams in life centered around Ferraris, colossal mansions, and turning the name “Richman” into a reality, and I planned to bring that future about through entrepreneurship (I started my first venture at age 5 when I went door to door selling pictures I colored). 

At 17 I became a Christian and realized that true greatness is not defined by how much a person has, but how much a person gives. This realization prompted me to change my ultimate professional goal from gaining as much wealth as possible to positively impacting the lives of as many people as possible. In order to make a tangible difference in peoples’ lives, I pursued careers in education, Christian ministry, and, now, business. 

In my current role as Vice President of Debo’s Diners & Debo’s Diners Investments, I assist the President in providing leadership over every facet of our 350 employee Steak ‘n Shake franchise (Debo’s Diners is the current Steak ‘n Shake ‘”Franchise of the Year,” has two of the top eight busiest Steak ‘n Shakes in the world, and is one of Chattanooga’s largest locally-owned restaurant groups); our real estate and billboard investment company; and our efforts to start, acquire, and invest in great companies and ideas. 

I am privileged daily to positively impact the lives of our guests through providing award-winning service, delicious food, and unparalleled prices; our employees through providing a positive culture that values people before profit and offers management level benefits for all employees; and our community through my leadership in the Rotary Club of Hamilton Place (current Sergeant-at-Arms and upcoming Vice President), as well as my financial and personal contributions to Bethel Bible Village, La Paz Chattanooga, United Way’s Emerging Leader initiative, KidKlout, and Vanderbilt University’s student recruitment program.

My greatest blessing in life is my beautiful wife, Laura, and our two wonderful children.


Kirby Yost – I am a proud Chattanoogan! I am from here, and I always knew I wanted to be back in Chattanooga—not because it is comfortable to me, or because I could trust it would forever be the same City I always loved; but because I hoped it wouldn’t and I could be a part of the continued growth and renewal. How lucky was I that when I moved home Chattanooga had already become a vibrant, growing place—anything but stagnant, and I get the opportunity to experience the awesome progress of my City.

I believe we can all have a stronger impact on something (or somewhere) about which we feel truly passionate. At Chambliss, I am a member of the Business Section and the Startup Group; focusing my practice mainly on general business, real estate, and work with startups. All this allows me to work with people who are developing—property, projects, ideas—and I get to help clients remove the legal obstacles between their ideas and the success of their development. Chambliss also allows me to dive into the community.

I serve on the Board of Directors for the Baylor School Alumni, Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center, and the Chattanooga Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Division. I am also involved in YPAC, the Downtown Sertoma Club, and the United Way Emerging Leaders Executive Committee. I also work with a group to organize events (like the “Santa Pub Crawl” and “Run Run Rudolph 5K” that benefit the Salvation Army Angel Tree) that enables Chattanoogans to collectively make a contribution toward a cause.