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News Briefs People on the Move

People on the Move: Dec. 17

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People on the Move is a rundown of recent hirings, promotions, appointments and other notable achievements by professionals in the state. If you’re interested in submitting an entry, please contact [email protected].

Stephen J. Gardner will be appointed as Amtrak’s new president and CEO, effective Jan. 17.

Stephen Gardner | PHOTO COURTESY OF AMTRAK

Gardner currently serves as Amtrak’s president, leading the railroad’s day-to-day operations, customer growth initiatives and strategies to modernize Amtrak’s products, services, infrastructure and fleet.

He has been with Amtrak since 2009 serving in a variety of leadership roles including chief operating and commercial officer. He has been responsible for efforts to expand state-supported service partnerships, increase Acela capacity, improve Northeast Corridor infrastructure and develop Amtrak’s strategic plan.

Prior to Amtrak, Gardner worked as senior staff on the Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation & Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. Previously he served as legislative assistant for transportation for Sen. Tom Carper.


Off the Hook Restaurant Group recently announced that company co-founder and owner Kevin Frey has retired. The restaurant group operates Off The Hook in Bethany Beach, Just Hooked in Fenwick Island, and Hooked Up in Millville.

Co-founder and business partner Steve Hagen moved into his new role as owner/operator on Dec. 1.

“It has been my honor and privilege to work with our dedicated and passionate team for the past 10 years. Now is the appropriate time for me to retire from Off The Hook Restaurant Group and for Steve to drive the company into the future. We have built five strong concepts and I am so proud of the culture and quality people that make our restaurant group exceptional. I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that we have received from our employees, both past and present. I have tremendous respect for Steve and I am confident that he will lead Off Hook Group to new heights for our teams and our guests,” Frey said in a statement.


The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law honored Ballard Spahr Senior Counsel Tom Sager with the Whitney North Seymour Award, presented to a member of the organization’s Board of Directors who demonstrates exemplary service and integrity. 

Tom Sager | PHOTO COURTSEY OF BALLARD SPAHR

Sager, a member of the board’s Executive Committee and former board co-chair, was recognized during the committee’s virtual Annual Awards Celebration. The award recognizes a board member who exemplifies the legacy of service and integrity that characterized the life of Whitney North Seymour Sr., who served as president of the American Bar Association and was known for his dedication to civil liberties for underrepresented groups and individuals.

Sager is the former general counsel and senior vice president of the DuPont Company. As an early and strong proponent of diversity in the legal profession, Mr. Sager helped pioneer the DuPont Company Legal Model — an industry benchmark that has received national acclaim for its innovative approach to corporate legal practice. He is a recipient of The American Lawyer’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award and the namesake of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Thomas L. Sager Award, presented annually to law firms that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, headquartered in Washington, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity. For more than 50 years, the organization has mobilized a national network of leading lawyers from the private bar to provide pro bono legal services to tackle the most critical civil rights issues of our time.


Renee Rhem | PHOTO COURTESY OF SUBARU

Subaru of America  announced that Renee Rhem, vice president of customer advocacy at Subaru of America, has been named to the Subaru executive team. Rhem is the first African American woman to hold a C-Suite position at Subaru. 

As vice president of customer advocacy and an executive team member, Rhem oversees the Subaru customer experience across all channels, ensuring the Subaru Love Promise is present at all interactions with Subaru customers. The customer advocacy department works to maintain customer and brand loyalty and foster positive partnerships with Subaru retailers to resolve customer issues. Rhem joined Subaru as Vice President of Customer Advocacy in 2020. Prior, she held positions in operations, sales support, and customer service, including roles at Prudential Financial, Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America. 

The Delaware resident is also a member of the board of directors at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Delaware Charter), as well as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.


Hara Wright-Smith has joined the Wilmington Alliance as director of eEconomic development and inclusion. She will serve as the organization’s convener, helping to bring together local, regional, and national stakeholders to drive equitable economic mobility efforts, and assist with building a culture of inclusion for the city of Wilmington.

Hara Wright-Smith | PHOTO COURTESY OF WILMINGTON ALLIANCE

Wright-Smith brings an equitable lens to current and future economic development in the region which centers on removing barriers to economic opportunity and advancement – particularly for people of color. She is a native Delawarean and passionate about driving transformative community change with a commitment to dismantling social inequality in underserved communities. Her professional background spans over 20 years in housing and community economic development, community reinvestment consulting, entrepreneurship, and education.

Wright-Smith is also the author of the soon-to-be-released book, “African Americans of Wilmington’s East Side,” which chronicles the historic evolution of Wilmington’s East Side, including people, families, children, churches, black-owned businesses, schools and social institutions that shared a rich tradition of African American life and success that made up the fabric of the neighborhood.


Young Conaway’s New Partners Effective January 1, 2022

Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP is pleased to announce that seven new partners have been elected to join the firm partnership, effective Jan. 1:

Travis G. Buchanan is a member of Young Conaway’s Bankruptcy and Restructuring Group, with experience in a wide array of chapter 11 matters, ranging from debtor practice and bankruptcy litigation to mass-tort insolvencies and settlement trusts.

Justin P. Duda focuses his practice in the area of business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings, and financing matters. 

Ashley E. Jacobs concentrates her practice on representing debtors, lenders, and other parties in chapter 11 cases, as well as foreign representatives in chapter 15 cases. 

Allurie R. Kephart concentrates her practice on the wide variety of issues that can arise during the lifecycle of various types of businesses, including corporations and non-incorporated entities. 

Lakshmi A. Muthu focuses her practice on corporate litigation, primarily in the Delaware Court of Chancery, representing clients in connection with corporate governance and contractual disputes, books and records demands, and expedited requests for injunctive relief. 

Nicholas J. Rohrer focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation in the Delaware Court of Chancery — including contractual disputes, corporate governance disputes, books and records actions, advancement proceedings, and litigation involving claims of breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. 

Robert M. Vrana assists clients with commercial litigation and intellectual property matters ranging from litigating patent infringement disputes to copyright, trademark, and trade secret counseling and litigation. 


The Sussex County Council voted to appoint Tracy N. Torbert, of Delmar, as the next clerk of the council.

Tracy Torbert | PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSSEX COUNTY

Torbert, who currently serves as clerk for the city of Seaford, will take over for Robin A. Griffith, who will retire in early 2022 after more than 30 years as the county’s top clerk. Griffith is the longest-serving clerk of the council since the council form of government was established by the Delaware General Assembly in the early 1970s. 

Torbert was selected from a field of six potential candidates for the job that oversees the day-to-day clerical responsibilities of the County Council, including recording meeting minutes, publishing agendas, advertising and cataloguing ordinances, and maintaining the County Code, among other duties. The position is appointed by the County Council.


Becker Morgan Group’s architectural designer, Megan M. E. Kelly, recently earned her LEED AP Building Design + Construction certification. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF BECKER MORGAN

The LEED AP BD+C designation distinguishes those with advanced knowledge in green building design with a specialty in design and new construction of green buildings. Kelly joins 12 other Becker Morgan Group staff members with the designation. The designation requires a series of tests and hands-on project experience. 

Kelly has gained valuable green building design practices on a number of recent projects with the firm including Showell Elementary School and Wor-Wic Community College’s Patricia and Allen Gurrieri Applied Technology Center.


Michael Durstein | PHOTO COURTESY OF DSFG

Diamond State Financial Group financial advisor Michael Durstein has earned the certified financial planner certification. The CFP certification is awarded to candidates who complete a rigorous program of study and fulfill ethical and professional requirements. Candidates receive training in financial planning; more specifically, income tax, cash flow, retirement, estate, and investment planning.

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