2016-2017 YPA BOARD

Meet your current Young Professionals of Asheville board members!

O.E. Starnes


A723207_O_E__Starnes_v1_0-1A native of Asheville, NC, O.E. spent 10 years working around the globe specializing in institutional asset management and securities trading.

Prior to joining Wells Fargo, O.E. served as the Director of Marketing & Investor Relations for JL Squared Group, LLC in Philadelphia, PA as well as Cornerstone Acquisition & Management Company, LLC in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. From 2006-2008 O.E. was part of a small team of professionals that founded and successfully launched the first Middle Eastern domiciled hedge fund management firm within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) as Director of Marketing & Investor Relations for Argent Financial Group International, LLP and was subsequently appointed to the Firm’s Executive Committee. From 2003 – 2005 he worked as an Institutional Sales Trader & Market Maker specializing in convertible securities for McMahan Securities Co. LP in Greenwich, CT.

O.E. is a graduate of Asheville High School and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Justine Wickerman


16470_905834712792621_7944300658772434410_nAs secretary for the YPA Board since 2014, Justine feels privileged to enjoy an added level of involvement with an organization she’s proud to be affiliated with.  Justine recognizes and values that YPA’s membership base is brimming with interesting, motivated peers who not only appreciate, but also regularly engage with Asheville and all it has to offer; making our ‘Connect, Lead, Serve’ mission ring true in consistently new and different ways. She looks forward to continuing management of YPA’s administrative tasks, and distributing the association’s e-news to members and other subscribers for the 2016-2017 term. 

Justine graduated from UNC Asheville in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication. These days, her time outside YPA is primarily spent operating a local, organic-based landscaping company, RootWise Landscape Solutions, with her husband, Jake, getting outdoors as much as possible, and caring for their delightful two-year-old daughter, Veronica. 

Melody Isis Herman

Professional Development Co-Chair

image2It is both Melody’s personal and professional mission to help others thrive and connect! She believes key pieces of professional development are linking one another to opportunities for growth and encouraging stronger bonds. 

As an entrepreneur, young professional, and 1 Million Cups Asheville Organizer, she is tapped into the pulse of the fast growing startup and business community.  She is passionate about helping others utilize the incredible resources available in the city of Asheville in order to learn, enhance personal and business relationships, introduce talent to new opportunities, and expand the young professional network. 

She says, “We are all in this together; by supporting one another in life and business, it is only then that we can truly make an impact!  As Professional Development Co-Chair, it is my honor to assist in driving this mission forward in any way I can.”

Melody is deeply involved in her family’s business; Pine Street Insurance, and Insurance Specialties, Inc. as a Broker and Director of the Small Business & Startup Division, and is the Founder and Entrepreneur’s Agent for Pop Benefits.

Katelyn Mattox

Community Service Co-Chair

Mattox Head Shot for YPAOriginally from the Atlanta area, Katelyn first moved to the mountains of WNC to attend Appalachian State University. After graduating with a degree in Social Work, Katelyn moved to Asheville and fell in love with all that the eclectic city has to offer. In 2010, she began working for United Way’s 2-1-1 program to become more familiar with local non-profit entities, then transitioning to the Asheville Housing Authority where she now helps local residents set personal goals, connect to vital resources within the county, and eventually obtain self-sufficiency and homeownership.  Katelyn began attending YPA events in 2014 and immediately grew fond of the sense of community, value of service, and dedication to professional growth. Katelyn was nominated for a Community Service co-chair position in early 2016, becoming elected to the 2016-2017 board. She hopes to facilitate valuable opportunities for members to volunteer in partnership with local non-profit agencies, and in doing so, affect real change where it’s needed the most.

Carol Steen

Membership Co-Chair


Oby Morgan

Social Co-Chair

IMG_3561Born and raised in Asheville, Oby is a life-long student of business, entrepreneurship, and its supporting philosophies. He founded the region’s only business publication (Capital at Play) in 2011 because, despite its strong tourism economy, he recognizes that there are many thousands of career-focused people here, busy building lives and working full-time jobs. That is also why he serves on the board of the YPA, to help those people—particularly young people—get out and know that they are a part of a thriving community of engaged individuals.

Natalie Ray

Social Co-Chair

IMG_4014 copyNatalie Ray is the owner of Asheville-based marketing agencies, Studio 41 Creative and Natalie Does Marketing.

In 2014, Natalie moved to Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, Justin, a musician that plays both locally and internationally, and teaches Jazz at UNC Asheville.

Natalie and Justin fell in love with the arts and culture of Asheville, and decided it was the perfect place to settle in and raise a family.   They welcomed their first son, Wyatt, in 2014 and are expecting their second son in early spring this year.

Natalie is in her second year serving as Co-Chair of the Social committee on the YPA board.

Nicole Siegel

Community Service Co-Chair

Nicole Siegel is the community service co-chair of YPA. She manages her family’s restaurant, Avenue M, has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from North Carolina State University, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from American University. After living away for 11 years, she is thrilled to be back in the mountains of WNC! Growing up in Asheville, Nicole feels incredibly tied to and passionate about the community here. She has always carved out time for service work – and believes there is no better way to stay connected to the community then by participating in meaningful civic engagement. 

Larry Golson

Professional Development Co-Chair

13726614_10154447861018086_4997567384039847216_nHelping people enjoy life through better eye health and the best vision correction is the driving passion in life for Dr. Larry Golson. As a student at the Southern College of Optometry, Memphis, TN, he participated in three vision service trips to Costa Rica and Bolivia with SVOSH – Student Volunteers for Optometric Service to Humanity. For each trip, Dr. Golson raised his own travel expenses and collected eyeglasses, which he sorted for men, women and children. Dr. Golson then took eyeglasses and medical supplies to clinics, where he conducted health screenings and vision examinations in Spanish. In addition, he graciously provided eye exams for athletes in the Special Olympics in Atlanta, and currently provides complimentary exams for the Lions Club and Prevent Blindness of North Carolina.

Dr. Golson earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Georgia in 1998, focusing on a premedical and physics curriculum. He earned his Doctor of Optometry in 2002 at the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. During his final year, he was specifically chosen to assist staff doctors in instructing third-year students. He served internships at the Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs, a private practice, and the Clayton Eye Center in Atlanta, where he received training in Ocular Disease.

Following graduation, Dr. Golson moved back to Atlanta to practice as a team optometrist at Sugarloaf Eyecare and Georgia Optometry Group. He moved to Asheville in 2006 to pursue his own private practice and a great quality of life in our beautiful WNC mountains.

Michael Stratton

Membership Co-Chair

Michael grew up just over the mountain in Waynesville. One of his favorite past times is exploring national parks and forests in hopes of finding isolated areas where you may be more likely to encounter a black bear rather than another human being. When the “big city” calls him back, he enjoys venturing downtown with his lovely wife, Amanda. They delight in finding new bites and brews and charting out their own tapas trails. Amanda is also from this area; however, they did not meet until they were both attending NC State. After college, Michael began his career in sales while Amanda pursued a graduate degree in Public Administration at UNC. In 2015, after a 7 year stent in The Triangle, they moved back to Asheville.

Michael is a subscriber of the idea that a diverse group of people is always an organization’s most valuable resource. As a YPA Member Co-Chair, Michael’s main focus is to grow the network of people and talent associated with YPA. He believes that as the group grows, so too does the value it offers the community as well as those attempting to become part of the community.

Jonathan Hunter

Vice President