Commissioners

Governor Nathan Deal’s Nominations

Jennifer Rippner, Chair
Dr. Jennifer Rippner is an attorney and has spent her career working in education policy. She has chaired the State Charter Schools Commission since 2015, and she currently serves as Executive Director of Policy & Partnerships at the University System of Georgia, as coordinator for the Georgia Alliance of Education Agency Heads, and as a consultant for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  Dr. Rippner holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Georgia, and a B.A. and a J.D. from the University of Florida. She previously worked as a Senior Policy and Legal Advisor at Education Counsel, LLC; as Education Policy Advisor to Governor Sonny Perdue and Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement; as Charter Schools Program Manager for the Georgia Department of Education; and as Director of the Charter School Accountability Center at Florida State University. Ms. Rippner also served as the director of a charter school in Micanopy, Florida.  She resides in Acworth, Georgia.

Clara Keith
Clara Keith currently works with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.  She was a classroom teacher and school library media specialist with Meriwether County Schools in Meriwether County before joining the Georgia Department of Education.  She retired from the Georgia Department of Education after serving 26 years in various roles, including Associate Superintendent for Federal Programs, Deputy Superintendent for Policy and External Affairs and Associate Superintendent for Georgia’s Race to the Top grant. She serves on the Department of Community Health State Health Benefits Plan Advisory Council and is the Chair of AdvancED, (accreditation and school improvement organization) Georgia Council. Clara Keith earned a bachelor’s degree from Tift College, now Tift College of Mercer University and a master’s degree from the University of West Georgia.  She currently resides in Fulton County.

Tony Lowden
Mr. Tony Lowden currently serves as the Manager of the Faith and Justice Initiative within the Reentry Services Unit of the Department of Community Supervision.  He is also the Executive Director of STONE Academy, an after-school enrichment program that serves at-risk children in the Macon-Bibb County area as well as a youth pastor at Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Lowden earned his B.A. degree in Government and Economics from the University of Southern California and his M.Div. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served in numerous civic organizations in the Macon-Bibb area, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development Board and the Board of Directors for the Center for Racial Understanding. He was a member of Leadership Georgia’s 2011 Class. Mr. Lowden lives in Warner Robins, Georgia.
 

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s Nominations

Tom Lewis 
Mr. Tom Lewis has years of experience in state government and economic development.  In his current position as Senior Vice President for External Affairs with Georgia State University (GSU), he provides leadership and direction in the areas of government and corporate relations and serves as the university liaison to federal, state and local governments.  He has led GSU to new levels of public awareness by directing a comprehensive effort to remake the university's identity and communicate its unique urban mission.  In his twenty-two years as vice president and senior vice president, he has advanced the university's legislative agenda, strengthened relations with alumni, engineered an expansive marketing effort and improved GSU’s internal and external communications. Prior to accepting his university position, Mr. Lewis served as Chief of Staff to Governor Joe Frank Harris, as executive vice president of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, and as executive director of the Georgia Franchise Practices Commission. Mr. Lewis resides in Bartow County, Georgia.
 

Paul Williams, Vice-Chair 
Mr. Paul Williams, a native of Cochran, Georgia and a product of Bleckley County schools, is a financial professional with over 34 years of finance and accounting experience. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Accounting from the Terry School of Business of the University of Georgia and obtaining his CPA license from the State of Georgia, Mr. Williams supplemented his financial education with seven years in public accounting before narrowing his focus to the finance field, spending more than 25 years as a senior executive in accounting, operations and loan production with several bank holding companies, wearing the hat of CEO, CFO and COO at various times, before a stint as CFO of a Norcross-based, venture capital-owned technology company. Mr. Williams is currently the Vice President of External Affairs and Advancement at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, with responsibility for all alumni relations, fundraising and grant solicitation for the 109 year-old unit of the University System of Georgia. He has chaired committees and spoken at seminars in the past for the Georgia Society of CPAs and is a former adjunct professor of accounting at Mercer University.

Speaker David Ralston’s Nominations

Jose Perez
Mr. Jose Perez served on the State Board of Education as the 7th Congressional District representative from 2004 to 2011. During those years of distinguished service, he honed his skills as a state-level charter authorizer as a member of the Charter Committee and helped greatly in formulating the current approval processes which prepares him well for service as a State Charter Schools Commission member. Mr. Perez is retired from BellSouth, spent five years in Gartner Consulting, and currently presides over Target Market Trends, Inc. (TMT), a Peachtree Corners, GA business consulting firm that helps clients develop strategies that target market trends to increase earnings. Mr. Perez was born in Havana, Cuba, and his parents sent him to live with his grandparents in Key West, Florida at the age of 12. He and his wife Yolanda have three children who attended the Norcross Cluster of Gwinnett County Public Schools, and the University of Georgia. Mr. Perez has an M.A. in Economics from Florida Atlantic University, and is currently an adjunct professor of Economics in Georgia Gwinnett College. He strongly believes that knowledge and determination are the keys to success.

James Hogg
With more than 30 years in public education at every level from teacher to principal to RESA administrator to state department of education to technical college director, Mr. Jimmy Hogg’s career demonstrates a deep commitment to working to achieve what is best for students. His experience as Interim Director for Charter Schools at the Georgia Department of Education, as well as his work with the Walton County Career Academy in his role as Athens Technical College Walton Campus Director, prepare him well for involvement in the creation of high quality charter schools as a state-level charter authorizer.