Board & Staff

Board of Directors

Rick Evans, Chairman

Jim Cox
Southeastern Marketing

Christina Purkapile, Treasurer
Booz Allen Hamilton


Kerry Bridges, Secretary
Georgia Power

Jean Garniewicz
Former Planning Commission Chair

Mark Herbert
Herbert Homes


Sanjeev Singhal
CSRA Photography

Stan Shepherd

Mark Wills
South State Bank



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.


Garrett Dragano, MPA
Project Manager

Garrett is passionate about public services and strives to serve local communities through economic development and public engagement. Growing up in Aiken, SC he spent a large portion of his time enjoying the regional assets that benefit all residents in the Greater Augusta Region. Garrett attended the University of South Carolina – Aiken (USCA) where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and was heavily involved in student life organizations promoting student engagement on campus. USCA is where Garrett’s career in public service began. While in college, Garrett interned for Representative Joe Wilson and Senator Tim Scott, spending time in the district offices and on Capitol Hill. After graduating from USCA, Garrett continued working for Rep. Wilson as a Special Assistant.  During this time he also attended Augusta University where he obtained a Master in Public Administration. In 2021, Garrett began his career in economic development as Project Manager with the SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance – located in the low-country of South Carolina.  During his tenure, he served as the economic developer for Barnwell, Bamberg, and Allendale Counties. Garrett served the existing industry in the region and directly oversaw the recruitment of $19 million in capital investment and the creation of 288 jobs in the region.

Garrett joined the Development Authority of Columbia County in May of 2022 and is grateful to be a resource for the county’s existing industries and prospects. In his new role, Garrett will oversee several programs related to business, retention and expansion, marketing initiatives, new project support, and research.


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.

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 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.  Her biggest success story and the one that brings her the most joy are her two children and her family.   Anita is a Class of 2021 Lakeside High School mom and currently a proud UCLA mom where both of her children are pursuing their undergraduate studies.

Fun Facts: Anita did her graduate internship in the office of the Honorable Andrew Young with the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games during which time she selected by the Coca Cola company as one of Georgia’s 35 most influential people to be on the “Welcome the World to Atlanta” mural next to the Olympic stadium and she authored a biography on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, George Michael.