"Better Conversations, Better Cities"

About Us

The mission of the Anchor is to connect Midlands communities, spur engagement, and promote a collective voice that will ignite and transform our region. A region “booming with potential” but somehow still lackluster in its demand for greatness. These are the stories that will inspire and unite passionate Midlanders and enable them to find their voice.

We are happy to partner with local businesses, community organizations and individuals in their communications and advertising objectives. Please contact our Advertising Sales Manager, Erica Painter, for more information. Erica@midlandsanchor.com.

Our Team

Tia Williams
Owner/ Publisher

Tia Williams finally found her way into the publishing world after a lifetime of interest in community affairs, entrepreneurship and writing. She has a Masters degree in Economic Development from Virginia Tech and a special place in her heart for emergency preparedness after owning and operating her family’s SERVPRO business. A native Midlander, she’s thrilled to have the unique opportunity to work with folks who adore this quirky community as much as she does.

Natalie Szrajer
Lexington County Events and Stories

Natalie joins Midlands Anchor as a writer who lives and serves in her Lexington community. She graduated from USC with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications and has written for The Newberry Observer, Lexington Life magazine and Free Times. A native of Newberry County and born in southern California, she eventually landed in the heart of Lexington with her husband who hails from Chicago.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr.
Military and Public Service Columnist

A veteran U.S. Marine Corps infantry leader and retired field-grade officer (S.C. Military Dept.), W. Thomas Smith, Jr. is a professional writer, military analyst, military technical consultant, and a New York Times bestselling editor. Visit him at http://uswriter.com.

Patrick Cloney
Startups & Economic Development

Patrick Cloney is a fresh college graduate from the University of South Carolina with journalistic experience through the school’s broadcast journalism program, and as the Executive Producer of SGTV’s Capital City Sports. He possesses a passion for helping a business capture the story of its brand. His ultimate goal is to own, or be the CEO of, a company that helps clients tell that story.

Angela Yong Sellers
Frequent Contributor

Angie’s career includes seventeen years of strength and conditioning experience and education working successfully with high schools, collegiate and professional athletic groups. Her studio in Five Points offers personal training, stretch therapy, wall and aerial yoga classes. Outside of the studio, she’s a working mom and wife, volleyball coach, Spartan racer, yogi, tennis player and on-the-go smoothie maker.

Caroline Surrett
Caroline Surrett

Caroline is a Senior Visual Communications major at USC with a passion for learning and meeting new people. She is both very involved with Student Government and Dance Marathon on the University’s campus, but she loves to get involved with anything that is put in front of her. Originally from Roswell, Georgia, Caroline enjoys traveling and being in the outdoors. She even spent a semester abroad on the beautiful beaches of Australia. She is looking forward to graduating and finding a career that will take her to new places.

Grace DuBose

Grace DuBose is a recent graduate from The University of South Carolina where she majored in Theatre and was able to gain much hands on Broadcasting/ communication experience. She has a strong passion for the arts and film. She also enjoys going to events and traveling to new places. She even spent time after graduating to travel and do Volunteer Mission work in Spain, and Haiti. She hopes to use her passion, love for children and experience to one day make a difference in the world.

Advisory Board

allen wallace
Allen Wallace
University of South Carolina

Allen has been a journalist since 1994, and a journalist in Columbia since 2009, working locally at WLTX, Cola Daily and most recently as Managing Editor at Midlands Anchor in 2016. He currently serves as the Communications Manager for the USC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management. He won a South Carolina Broadcasters Association Award of Merit in 2015 for breaking news coverage. He is currently writing a book on USC Dance Marathon and its partnership with Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, and is committed to telling the stories of the Midlands and the people who make it a great place to live.

Kassy Alia
Heroes in Blue

Kassy is the President and Founder of Heroes In Blue, a nonprofit (501c3) organization committed to promoting police and community relationships through empathy and action. Kassy began Heroes In Blue to honor her late husband, Officer Gregory Alia, who was killed in the line of duty on September 30, 2015. She is currently working for the Institute of Healthcare Improvement as an evaluator for their community health initiative, SCALE, while completing her PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology.

Cindi Boiter
The Jasper Project

Cindi is the Executive Director of the Jasper Project and The Limelight volumes I and II, A Sense of the Midlands, Art from the Ashes, and Marked by the Water, co-editor and founder of the literary magazine Fall Lines – a literary convergence, author of Buttered Biscuits, and literary author of Red Social. A six-time winner of the SC Fiction Project, Cindi is the winner of the Piccolo Fiction Project, the Porter Fleming Award for fiction, and the 2014 recipient of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts.

Reba Campbell
Municipal Association of South Carolina

When not working to promote the interests of SC cities and towns as Deputy Executive Director of the Municipal Association of SC, Reba is passionate about travel, writing and keeping connected with old friends. Reba can be reached at rebahcampbell@gmail.com or through her blog at http://randomconnectpoints.blogspot.com.

Agata Chydzinski
Foltex USA

Agata is Operating Officer of Foltex USA and previously served as General Manager of Cromer’s P-Nuts, LLC and Director of the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator. In 2014 she was selected as one of “20 under 40” most influential people in Columbia, SC by The State Newspaper. In 2015 She was recognized as one of Columbia, SC women to watch by the Columbia Regional Business Report.

J.R. Fennell Headshot
J.R. Fennell
Lexington County Museum

J.R. has served as Director of the Lexington County Museum since 2007, where he led the efforts to restore and reinterpret the Fox House Slave Quarters, which won an Award of Merit in 2011 from the Confederation of South Carolina Local Historical Societies J.R. is a Leadership Lexington County graduate, co-founder of Lexington Young Professionals, organizer of the Lexington Wine Walk and was a nominee for the Lexington Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year award in 2013.

Oliver Hartner
National Advocacy Center

Oliver Hartner is a Louisiana-born resident of Columbia, South Carolina, and an alumni of the University of Mississippi, where he studied Classics and English. He received a Masters of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina, and works for the National Advocacy Center as a Training Technician for Distance Learning. He is a current member of the Palladium Society Board of Directors and also enjoys wingshooting, literature, traveling, Bluegrass music, fine arts, and SEC football.

robert hock usc
Dr. Robert Hock
University of South Carolina

Robert Hock, PhD, LISW-CP, is a Distinguished Assistant Professor of Clinical Research at the UofSC College of Social Work. He is also the lead researcher for the Innovative Intervention Incubator (I3), a community/university initiative that tests innovative social solutions within South Carolina. Prior to this position, Dr. Hock worked in mental health settings, providing child and family interventions to children with developmental disabilities, emotional and behavioral problems, and ADHD.

Ashley Hunter
Ashley Hunter
MPA Strategies

As MPA’s CEO, Ashley has spent more than fifteen years advocating for state and local organizations, non-profits, initiatives and local government entities at the South Carolina Statehouse. Prior to starting MPA in 2010, she was the VP of Government Affairs for the largest association management and lobbying firm in the state. In 2012, Ashley was selected for The State Newspaper’s “Top 20 Under 40ʺ and Leadership South Carolina. She is the former Chairman of the Board for the Healing Families Foundation of Richland and Lexington Counties, a member of the Public Relations Board for the SC Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Convention Committee of SCSAE.

Darius "Czar" Johnson
Boom Room Music Studio

After finding years of success as a solo artist, FatRat Da Czar, whose real name is Darius Johnson, began recording at the Boom Room Music Studio in 2011. FatRat Da Czar has created music in Columbia for nearly a decade. He cut his first demo at the ripe age of 16 and has since created a trilogy of popular albums titled “Da Cold War.” He has used his experience and talent to pave the way for the next generation of musical artists in Columbia. FatRat Da Czar is still creating new music and preforming at different events across the country, including a performance at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Matt Kennell
City Center Partnership

Matt is the founding President and CEO of the City Center Partnership, served two terms on the International Downtown Association (IDA) Board of Directors, is a former President of the Virginia Downtown Development Association, and is a founding member of the ULI South Carolina Center for Sustainable Leadership and a member of the ULI Midlands Executive Committee. He has worked in urban development and management for over three decades in a variety of roles including City Planner, Main Street Manager, Community Development Manager, and in Business Improvement District (BID) management in Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina.

Tom Ledbetter
Midlands Technical College

Tom is currently the Associate Vice President for Midlands Technical College Center for Entrepreneurial Success and Community Engagement and is a management professional with forty-two years’ experience in the rapidly changing advanced manufacturing, technology development, and higher education sectors. His experience includes line, staff, and executive management responsibilities across a broad spectrum of organizational disciplines, in both public sector and private sector organizations, and in launching and running his own businesses.

dickson monk
Dickson Monk
Columbia World Affairs Council

Dickson is the Executive Director of the Columbia World Affairs Council. With prior positions at Columbia Museum of Art and Historic Columbia, he currently serves as vice-president of communications for the International Association of Business Communicators of South Carolina, as well as government relations chair for the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands. He is excited about the trajectory of the capital city towards a thriving and innovative business, arts, and cultural hub in the Southeast and passionate about cultivating a supportive, connected community to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the region.

debbie parker
Debbie Parker
SC Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services

Born and raised in Spartanburg, Debbie Parker graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia in 2005 and has called it home ever since. She began her lobbying career advocating environmental, energy and waste issues for the nonprofit Conservation Voters of South Carolina. For the past 3 years she has served as the Director of External Affairs for the SC Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, where she works to encourage community engagement in the Midlands surrounding criminal justice reform.

mary louise resch
Mary Louise Resch
Harvest Hope Food Bank

Mary Louise has over 30 years of experience working within the non-profit sector in Washington, DC and in the state of South Carolina. Having successfully fundraised for such diverse charities as Harvest Hope Food Bank, Communities in Schools, the SC Lions Foundation and the SC Center for Family Policy, Ms. Resch continues to raise between one and three million dollars annually in support of charitable causes. Ms. Resch also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel with the South Carolina State Guard and serves as an Oxfam America Sisters on the Planet Ambassador where she advocates on behalf of global hunger and poverty.

Patrick Rogers
Savvy Foods

A Columbia native, Patrick earned a BA in Philosophy from the University of South Carolina and an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has worked as an economic development research analyst and as a business consultant specializing in startup companies. Currently he is the CEO of Columbia-based Savvy Foods, a specialty food startup he co-founded in 2016.

joelle ryan cook
Joelle Ryan-Cook
Columbia Museum of Art

Joelle is the Deputy Director and Director of External Affairs for the Columbia Museum of Art. With more than 20 years’ experience at the CMA, she has watched the museum move to Main Street and experience attendance growth of more than 400% in the last decade. In 2016, the CMA was awarded the National Medal for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the S.C. Governor’s Award for the Arts.

jernell simmons
Jernell Simmons

Jernell is techie, traveler and talker. She is either conquering her goal of using all 50 pages in her passport, teaching Midlands girls how to code through community outreach programs, or discussing all things local with her co-host, Shanika Pichey, on Self-Created Podcast. During her working hours, Jernell is a Business Analyst at SCANA Corporation. She is a graduate of Columbia College with a BA in Computer and Information Science.

james walden
James Walden
Riverside Community Church

James Walden graduated from the University of Florida in 1997 with a BS in physics and mathematics. In 2001 he earned an MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary. James presently serves as the lead pastor of Riverside Community Church, the South Carolina coordinator for Acts 29 Southeast Network, and leads Carolina Greenhouse, a network of regional church planters and leaders aiming to renew the Church in the South through church-planting and revitalization.

Anchor Alumni