The Heather Parady Show

Stand OUT by Promoting Unity (Deke Copenhaver)

leadership mindset Feb 27, 2023
Stand OUT by Promoting Unity (Deke Copenhaver)

"You can be edgy and irreverent without being offensive."

Is it possible for your creative work to STAND OUT without being divisive? The common advice in brand building is to be controversial and it seems as though that those who are ruffling the most feathers are the ones making all the waves.

Today we are talking with Deke Copenhaver an author, consultant, host of the Change Makers podcast, former major in Augusta, Georgia, and a founding partner with Starts with Us a nonprofit movement to overcome extreme political and cultural division in America. 

In this conversation, we dig into how Starts with Us is proving that “empathy is marketable” and how we as creators can learn not only how to diffuse tense situations around us, but actually stand out in our work by promoting unity.


  • Diffusing heated conversations 

  • Promoting unity even in the midst of difficult topics

  • How creators can make a difference through their work


When Deke Copenhaver took over as mayor of his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, the city’s politics were broken and riven along racial lines. Half of the city commissioners were white, half were African American. Neither group trusted the other, so nothing got done.

And who was it that paid the price for all of the political posturings? The citizens of Augusta. As Deke saw it, something fundamental about leadership needed to change. So, when the opportunity arrived in 2005, Deke knew he had to run for office. Against all reasonable odds, Deke and a band of enthusiastic twenty- and thirty-somethings who knew little about running a political campaign won the election. He had his first commissioners meeting as mayor on December 20th, 2005, and began the work of being a Changemaker.

From 2005 through 2014 Deke was a catalyst in helping to transform Augusta, attracting businesses to spur economic development, implementing social programs that impacted the lives of Augustans on a daily basis, and developing communities that for many years had been neglected by the city’s leadership.

Amid all the challenges and setbacks, tragedy and strife, Deke never lost hope. Instead, he’s always been inspired to serve. Since the grassroots days of his campaign of hope and change to currently serving as the Principal of Copenhaver Consulting, Deke remains committed to being a Changemaker while helping others realize the potential they have to be leaders in their community and their lives.

Deke has also served as managing consultant for the Augusta Economic Development Authority. He’s been recognized on multiple occasions by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians and has spoken at many national conferences on topics including city design, economic development, healthcare, veterans’ issues, and the nonprofit industry.

Deke currently authors a monthly column on leadership published by the Georgia Municipal Association. Deke earned a BA in Political Science from Augusta College and is a graduate of Leadership Georgia and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.

A passionate athlete, Deke has completed five Ironman 70.3s and several half marathons. He and his wife, Malisa, reside in Augusta with their dogs Sarah Bet, Buddy, and Johnny.



“You can be edgy and irreverent without being offensive.” @DekeCopenhaver @HeatherParady CLICK TO TWEET

“We can all commit personally to treat each other with curiosity with compassion and courage.” @DekeCopenhaver @HeatherParady CLICK TO TWEET

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