TTW Conference Speakers

The 2020 Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Conference has been canceled. Refunds will be issued to all registrants. Please call Mitch Mays at (662) 328-3286 or email with any questions.

Lt. Colonel Sonny B. Avichal
Commander and District Engineer, Nashville District

Lieutenant Colonel Sonny B. Avichal assumed command of the Nashville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on June 28, 2019. As Commander and District Engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Avichal manages the water resources development and navigable waterways operations for the Cumberland and Tennessee River basins covering 59,000 square miles, with 49 field offices touching seven states and a work force of over 750 employees. Before assuming command of the Nashville District, Lieutenant Colonel Avichal served as the Deputy Commander of the New England District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, since June 15, 2017.

On the Cumberland River, the Corps operates and maintains 10 multi-purpose projects for navigation, flood damage reduction, hydropower, environmental stewardship, and recreation. Nine of these projects generate hydro-electric power and four have navigation locks. In the Tennessee River Basin, the District partners with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and operates 15 navigation locks at 10 locations. Throughout both river basins, the District carries out all regulatory activities, stream bank protection, flood control, and operation and maintenance of all navigation facilities and channels.

Lt. Col. Avichal received his U.S. Army commission in 2002 and has served in leadership and staff positions in Iraq, South Korea and multiple locations in the United States. Between 2002 and 2004, he was a platoon leader and executive officer with the 44th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Mechanized) at Camp Howze, South Korea. In 2004-2005, he remained with the 44th Engineer Battalion as they deployed from South Korea to Iraq where he served as Company Executive Officer and Camp Mayor in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. In 2006, Lt. Col. Avichal served as a Strategic Planner for U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, HI. From 2007 to 2009, he commanded the 561st Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion. The company deployed to Iraq in 2008 where they supported coalition forces with both vertical and horizontal construction projects throughout northern Iraq.

In 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Avichal was stationed in Fort Knox, KY where he served as the Engineer Branch Captain’s Assignment Officer at U.S. Army Human Resources Command. In 2012, Lt. Col. Avichal was selected as an Olmsted Scholar, learned Spanish, and spent the following two years studying International Relations at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, in Lima, Perú. From 2015-2017, Lt. Col. Avichal served as the Brigade Planner, Brigade Operations Officer, and Brigade Executive Officer for the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC. In 2017, Lt. Col. Avichal was assigned as the Deputy Commander for the New England District, Concord, MA. While serving in the New England District, Lt. Col. Avichal deployed as a member of USACE to San Juan, Puerto Rico in support of Hurricane Maria Recovery efforts as well as deployed to Erbil, Iraq, where he served as Deputy Commander of the Mosul Dam Task Force for 8 months.

Lt. Col. Avichal’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Iraq Campaign Medal (with three campaign stars), the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Ranger Tab and the Parachutist Badge. Lt. Col. Avichal is also a recipient of the Army Engineer Association’s Bronze De Fleury Medal.

Lt. Col. Avichal holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Arts Degree from Webster University. Lieutenant Colonel Avichal is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the state of Virginia.

Lt. Col. Avichal is married to Urvi and has a two sons, Arjun (6) and Dev (5).

Chad Chancellor
Co-Funder/CEO, Next Move Group, LLC

While growing up in a small Mississippi town in 1991, Chad Chancellor had an experience that would chart the direction of his career. A Fortune 500 company laid off his father to move a manufacturing plant to China. From that day on, Chancellor became interested in economic development particularly in helping small to mid-sized companies and communities growth together.

Chancellor is the Co-Founder & CEO of Next Move Group, LLC. He is responsible for the implementing the company’s big picture mission of creating economic growth for small to mid-sized companies, communities, and nonprofit organizations.

Chancellor has led Next Move Group to securing more than 150 clients since founding in 2014. Next Move Group provides site selection consulting for small to mid-sized companies, executive search consulting for small to mid-sized communities & nonprofits, and offers economic development consulting for small to mid-sized communities & nonprofits. Some of Next Move Group’s most recognized clients include: World Trade Center of New Orleans, Polymer Logistics, Cheyenne LEADS (Wyoming), Schutt Sports, Kansas City Power & Light, Fibrebond, and the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana.

Chancellor, based in New Orleans, is a graduate of Mississippi State University. Additionally, he is an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Entrepreneur Accelerator program with Babson College, the nation’s #1 entrepreneurship college in America.

John C. Driscoll
Director and Chief Executive Officer, Alabama State Port Authority

John C. Driscoll began serving as the new director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority on June 1, 2020. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Mr. Driscoll was the Maritime Director at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, CA. At Oakland, John had operational and marketing oversight of one of the nation’s top 10 container seaports, and credited with improving that seaport’s operating efficiency, financial performance and community relations.

Mr. Driscoll holds over 27 years of global maritime industry experience. Prior to joining the Port of Oakland, Mr. Driscoll served as vice president of export sales for CMA CGM (America) LLC, a leading global container shipping group. His tenure at CMA and CGM included business development in both the U.S. and Caribbean Basin and developed pricing strategies for 19 liner services in the U.S. East/West trade routes. Mr. Driscoll started his career with Sea-Land Service and later joined Maersk Line successfully developing business operations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

John Driscoll earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with an emphasis on Transportation and Marketing from the University of Maryland (College Park). He is a native of Bethesda, MD. John and his wife, Linda, have three children and reside in Mobile, Ala.

William Wynne Fuller
Chief, Operations Division, Mobile District

Mr. William W. Fuller became Chief, Operations Division, Mobile District, May 1996. His responsibilities center on oversight of a broad range of missions including navigation, hydropower, flood control, natural resources management, regulatory, hydrographic survey and mapping and emergency operations. He joined mobile district in 1979 as a Structural Engineer.

He was commissioned into the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970, serving on active duty until 1975. He is an Army Aviator.

Mr. Fuller holds a Master of Science Degree from the National Defense University in National Resource Strategy, and Bachelor of Science Degrees from the University of South Alabama in civil engineering and the University of Tennessee in natural science/secondary education. He is a Graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the Army’s Command and General Staff College.

His Awards include the DOD’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Superior Civilian Service Award, the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. He is recognized as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Manager of the Year for 1989 and as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civilian of the Year for 1991.

Colonel Sebastien P. Joly
Commander and District Engineer, Mobile District

Colonel Sebastien Joly assumed command of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District, in June 2018 as the 53rd Commander. His command includes a workforce of more than 1,100 personnel who provide project management, construction, and engineer support to the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, as well as all of Central and South America. The District manages a $1 billion Military, Civil Works, and International/Inter-agency Support program that responds to disasters, manages water resource infrastructure, protects the environment, and provides facilities for our national defense and inter-agency partners.

Colonel Joly’s previous assignment was with the Joint Staff, J-35 as an Operations Officer in the Directorate of Regional Operations and Global Force Management. Other assignments include Battalion Commander of the 5th Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Assistant Director of Civil Works for the Headquarters United States Army Corps of Engineers, Washington DC; Chief of Strategic Targeting for Headquarters International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan; Brigade Executive Officer of the 130th Engineer Brigade at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Battalion Executive Officer of the 65th Engineer Battalion at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Battalion Military Transition Team Chief in various locations throughout Iraq; Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, West Point, New York; Post Engineer at Fort Richardson, Alaska; Company Commander of C/84th Engineer Battalion at Fort Richardson, Alaska; Company Executive Officer and Platoon Leader in the 5th Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Colonel Joly has earned three Master’s Degrees in Operations Research, Engineering Management, and National Security Studies. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in December 1996 where he received his commission in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. He is also a graduate of the National War College, Ft. McNair, DC; the Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS; the Joint Engineer Officer Course, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO; the Combined Arms Services Staff School, Ft. Leavenworth, KS and the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.

Colonel Joly’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3OLC), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (1OLC), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal (1OLC), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, NATO Medal, Ranger Tab, Sapper Tab, Parachutist’s Badge, Air Assault Badge, and the Joint Staff Identification Badge.

Ritu Linhart
General Manager, Pinnacle Renewable Energy

Ritu Linhart is the General Manager for Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s wood pellet manufacturing plant in Aliceville, Alabama. Linhart comes from a diverse career in chemical engineering and has extensive background in the energy & renewables industries that include coal liquefaction, transforming agricultural waste to fuel-grade ethanol via fermentation, and conversion of paper waste to pulp used for tissue manufacturing. After spending six years in senior management at a large wood pellet plant in Georgia, she was hired by Pinnacle’s first U.S. wood pelletizing plant in 2018 and is now likely the first woman heading up a pellet operation in North America. During her leadership at Pinnacle, she has safely led the Aliceville plant to record-breaking production and profitability.

Having started her career as a Process Engineer at a startup bio-fermentation plant 27 years ago, Linhart has continued to develop expertise in plant startups and scale-ups with a focus on safe management practices and strong team building. She has experience in environmental health and safety, wood products manufacturing, governmental compliance, telecommunications, plastics extrusion, theoretical physics, nanotechnology, R&D, and academia.

Linhart’s interest in R&D has led her to various groundbreaking research projects in the field of biomedical engineering (BME) evaluating polymeric nanofibers blended for targeted drug delivery and testing the biofunctionality of electrospun nanofibers for islet transplantation applications. Her work has been presented at major national and international academic conferences and published in several acclaimed professional journals by leading researchers at the University of Virginia and Georgia Institute of Technology.

But the highlight of Linhart’s career was her work with the CMS collaboration, the group credited with the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. At CERN, she coordinated and implemented the testing and configuring of CCM custom hubs as spares for front-end electronics of the hadronic calorimeter (HCAL) unit of the LHC and had the pleasure of meeting several Nobel prize winning scientists incl. Peter Higgs.

Linhart is a strong proponent of building on synergies between local industry and the community to establish programs that provide a highly skilled workforce for local businesses as they acquire hands-on training at the job site on a pathway towards a career. She has been instrumental in getting a registered apprenticeship program established with the University of West Alabama to provide meaningful experiences that continue to build Alabama’s competitive workforce and create accessible training opportunities for local Aliceville area residents as they develop critical skills and demonstrate new strategies in workforce development.

Linhart is proud to be serving as an Expert on the ISO Technical Committee for Biofuels (TC 238), which oversees and approves the standards that apply to the wood pellet industry. She is also a mentor for the GradSWE program that serves as an avenue for graduate women in engineering to network with a formal mentor in their field. She has served as Counselor for the Univ. of Miami chapter of the Society of Women Engineers(SWE), President of the S. Florida chapter of EVFA, a non-profit raising funds to improve education, and was the VP of Education for the Okefenokee Toastmasters International in Waycross, GA.

Linhart graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, and a Master of Science degree from Auburn University, Auburn, AL with research thesis titled “Coal Liquefaction using iron based slurry phase catalyst.”

Jonathan W. Pote, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University

Jonathan Pote received his B.S. from Hendrix College, his M.S. from Oregon State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas. He served on the faculty of Mississippi State University for 35 years. He has been the Director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute, the President of the Universities Council on Water Resources, and the President of the National Institutes on Water Resources, where he gave congressional testimony. His specialty is Mississippi water use and conservation.

Dr. Robert S. Spalding III
Brig Gen., U.S. Air Force (ret)

Rob Spalding is a national security policy strategist, and globally recognized for his knowledge of Chinese economic competition and influence, as well as for his ability to forecast global trends and develop innovative solutions. He has served in senior positions of strategy and diplomacy within the Defense and State Departments for more than 26 years, retiring as brigadier general. He was the chief architect for the Trump Administration’s widely praised National Security Strategy (NSS), and the Senior Director for Strategy to the President at the National Security Council.

Dr. Spalding has written extensively on national security matters. His book, STEALTH WAR: HOW CHINA TOOK OVER WHILE AMERICA’S ELITE SLEPT (Portfolio; 2019) is an executive summary of his almost decade-long work countering Chinese Communist Party influence. It has been translated into additional languages. His academic papers and editorial work are frequently published and cited, both nationally and internationally. His Air Power Journal article on America’s Two Air Forces is frequently used in the West Point curriculum. He has been interviewed about the economy and national security on FOX News, BBC, OAN and CNBC, as well as numerous radio and YouTube channels, both nationally and internationally.

Dr. Spalding is a skilled combat leader and a seasoned diplomat. Under Dr. Spalding’s leadership, the 509th Operations Group—the nation’s only B-2 Stealth Bomber unit—experienced unprecedented technological and operational advances. Dr. Spalding’s demonstrated acumen for solving complex technological issues to achieve operational success, was demonstrated when he led a low-cost rapid-integration project for a secure global communications capability in the B-2, achieving tremendous results at almost no cost to the government. As commander, he led forces in the air and on the ground in Libya and Iraq. He is a former China strategist for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, as well as having served as the senior defense official and defense attaché in Beijing. During the UUV Incident of 2016, Dr. Spalding averted a diplomatic crisis by negotiating with the Chinese PLA for the return of the UUV, without the aid of a translator.

Dr. Spalding’s relationship with business leaders, fostered during his time as a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, allowed him to recommend pragmatic solutions to complex foreign policy and national security issues, now driving positive economic outcomes for the nation. Dr. Spalding’s groundbreaking work on competition in Secure 5G has reset the global environment for the next phase of the information age.

Dr. Spalding is an Olmsted Scholar, a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C., as well as a Senior Associate Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society of London. He has lectured globally, including engagements at European Cybersec 2019, KAS-ASPI, the Naval War College, National Defense University, Air War College, Columbia University, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and other Professional Military Educational institutions. Dr. Spalding holds a doctorate in economics and mathematics from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He was a distinguished graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey and speaks both Chinese Mandarin and Spanish.

John N. Ward
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association

John N. Ward is Executive Director of the National Coal Transportation Association. He remains active in many other coal-related organizations, including serving on the National Coal Council as appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He also serves as chairman of the Government Relations Committee of the American Coal Ash Association, where he was the first recipient of that organization’s Champion Award. John was formerly Vice President, Marketing and Government Affairs, for Headwaters Incorporated — a leading provider of pre-combustion and post-combustion clean coal technologies and services. John is a former board member and past president of the American Coal Council.

Charles L. Wax, PhD
Professor and State Climatologist Emeritus, Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University

Primary expertise is in weather and climate as it relates to environmental and economic activities, with special emphasis in agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry in the southern region. Served as Mississippi’s State Climatologist 1983-2012 . Served on and chaired the U.S.D.A.’s Southern Region Research Committee for Climatology and Meteorology in Agricultural Production, and served as President of the American Association of State Climatologists. Authored or co-authored 80+ publications on climatological, water resources, and environmental topics. Most recent research efforts have concerned capturing and holding excess rainfall from aquaculture ponds, agricultural fields, and rivers.