Board & Staff

Board of Directors

Kerry Bridges, Chairman
Georgia Power

Christina Purkapile, Vice Chair
Booz Allen Hamilton

Rick Evans, Treasurer


Mark Wills, Secretary
South State Bank

Phil Gaffney
Gaffney Management Services

Jean Garniewicz
Former Planning Commission Chair


Hugh Hollar
Colony Bank

Stan Shepherd

Ron Thigpen
Former Commissioner



Robert F. Bennett, MPA, CEcD
Executive Director

Robbie has been promoting economic development for more than 15 years, he has been in the Greater Augusta area for more than 10 years.  In 2013, he became Columbia County’s economic developer, serving as the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Columbia County.  During his career in economic development, the local economic development teams he has supported have announced the creation/retention of more than 5,500 jobs and $1.2 billion in capital investment from companies like Amazon, Club Car, John Deere, GIW, Starbucks, Rural Sourcing, Fuji Film and many others.  Recently, he has led the efforts for the new White Oak Business Park at I-20 and the establishment of redevelopment powers for Columbia County and the City of Harlem. His efforts and impacts in economic development are possible because of the support of his wife and daughters.

Robbie believes in the value of community involvement.  He is the Chair of the SRS Community Reuse Organization, Advisory Board of TAG Augusta, Past-Chair of the Augusta Regional Development Alliance & CSRA Unified Development Authority, and graduate of Leadership Augusta and Leadership Columbia County.  In 2012, he was recognized by Augusta Magazine and the Augusta Metro Chamber as one of “Augusta’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch”.  In 2015, he was selected as Lander University’s Young Alumnus of the Year and in 2019, Development Counsellors International (DCI) selected him as one of the Top 40 under 40 in Economic Development.

Robbie holds a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Lander University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina.  He is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). Robbie is married to Trenney Bennett and they have two beautiful daughters.


Taylor Brittan Edwards, MPA
Project Manager

Taylor has been a life-long proponent of community engagement in the Augusta River Region. Having grown up volunteering across the metro and benefiting from the strong regional assets, she pursued an education that would allow her to have a career serving others. While attending university, she was an avid participant in political action groups, student government association, service groups, and community development projects. She is honored to have earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and to be a Scholar of Distinction. Upon baccalaureate graduation, she was offered a graduate assistantship where she authored a grant worth $30,000  and developed a servant leadership program for the university. She was also the Economic Research Intern with Develop Milledgeville and Baldwin County where she facilitated their Business Retention and Expansion Program and supported ongoing projects.

Taylor joined the Development Authority of Columbia County in May 2017 and is grateful to be a resource for the county’s existing industries and small businesses.  She oversees several programs as part of the authority’s business retention efforts and conducts research.

Taylor graduated cum laude from Georgia College & State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She also holds a Master of Public Administration from her alma mater. She is a graduate of Georgia’s Academy for Economic Development and began the Economic Developer certification process in Spring 2018.


Anita Patel, MBA
Retail & Small Business Specialist

Anita joined the Development Authority of Columbia County in 2017.  She has an entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to joining our team, Anita was in Knoxville, TN.  Her professional experiences include real estate development and sales, medical supplies sales and marketing, and medical practice management.  Highlights to her experience include supporting her family-owned physical therapy clinic, medical supplies company, and acquisition and renovation projects in the hospitality industry.   Her biggest success story and the one that brings her the most joy are her two children and her family.

Anita’s commitment to community includes volunteer positions with the  American Heart Association – Heart Ball and Heart Ball Auction Committee, Lydia Project, HTS Youth Group mentor, 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, Lakeside High School PTA, Farragut High School PTSO, FHS Band, West Valley Middle School PTSA, and  A.L. Lotts PTA, where Anita was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award.

Anita has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Augusta University.  Anita is a proud Lakeside Parent and UCLA Mom.

Fun Fact: Anita did her graduate internship in the office of the Honorable Andrew Young with the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games