Board & Staff

Board of Directors

Rick Evans, Chairman


Stan Shepherd,
Vice President

Mark Wills, Treasurer
South State Bank


Jean Garniewicz, Secretary
Former Planning
Commission Chair

Kerry Bridges
Georgia Power

Mark Herbert
Herbert Homes


Sanjeev Singhal
CSRA Photography

Jim Cox
Southeastern Marketing

Ben Stapleton



Cheney Eldridge
Executive Director


Anita Patel
Retail/Small Business

Anita joined the Development Authority of Columbia County in 2017.   Prior to joining our team, her professional experiences include commercial and residential real estate development and sales, acquisition/renovation projects in the hospitality industry, supporting her family-owned physical therapy clinic, serving as marketing director for a national medical supplies company, medical practice management and employment in the public school system.

Anita’s commitment to community includes being a graduate of the Leadership Columbia County Class of 2022.  Her volunteer spirit leads her to dedicated positions with the  American Heart Association – Heart Ball and Heart Ball Auction Committee, Lydia Project, HTS Youth Group, HCC of Knoxville, Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout Board of Review, Girls Scouts, Golden Harvest Food Bank, Red Cross, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Fantasy of Trees, LHS PTA, FHS PTSO, FHS Band, WVMS PTSA, and  Lotts PTA, where Anita was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award.

Anita has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, a Masters degree in Business Administration and a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Professional Certificate from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

Fun Facts: Anita did her graduate internship in the office of the Honorable Andrew Young with the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and was selected by the Coca Cola company as one of Georgia’s 35 most influential people to “Welcome the World to Atlanta.”


Linda Peplau
Executive Assistant/Office Manager

Linda joined the Columbia County Economic Development Authority in August of 2023. She comes to us with an extensive work history in banking, finance and municipal accounting.  She worked her way up in the banking industry for 20 years. Linda started her banking career as a Part-Time Teller at the Bank of Canton and ending it as a Branch Manager at Hamilton State Bank before stepping out of the banking arena to work for the City of Woodstock in the Finance Department as a Finance Analyst. As a Financial Analyst with the City of Woodstock, Linda was the lead team member of the entire Property Tax Department & the Manager for the Accounts Receivables Department for the entire City. We know she will be a great asset to the Economic Development Authority team while learning more about her new community and becoming a strong member of it.

Linda is a native of Florida and made the move to Georgia with her family in 1993 as part of Publix Supermarket’s business plan to introduce Publix to Georgia. Linda considers herself a proud Georgia girl now, after living in Georgia for more than 30 years. She has even named her dog she adopted from the Columbia County Animal shelter, Georgia. Though she is not new to Georgia, she is new to Columbia County. She has recently relocated to Grovetown, Georgia from Acworth, Georgia and is looking forward to making Columbia County her home to stay and retire.

Though Linda is very proud of her business accomplishments, her proudest accomplishment is raising her son Geoffery Peplau. Her son Geoffery is a proud Business graduate of Kennesaw State University, an inactive Sargent in the United States Marine Corp and a recent law graduate from Georgia State University. Watching him grow into an honorable and successful man has been Linda’s greatest joy. If she had to mention a second proudest moment, it would definitely be running a half marathon.

Fun fact about Linda is that she is a current member of the United State Parachute Association. She currently has 212 solo skydives under canopy. She feels blessed to be able to jump out of a perfectly good airplane to enjoy the bird’s eye view and live to tell you all how exhilarating it is