Synergi Partners is made up of partners, executives, leaders, government relations specialists and associates who have made significant contributions to the tax credit and incentives industry. Each one brings a unique set of skills and expertise to our organization. Our team of 280 +, and growing, is comprised of some of the most dedicated and accomplished industry veterans, lawyers, CPA’s, sales all-stars, and six-sigma gurus and focused customer services allies. We are in communication daily with our prospects, clients and internal community to ensure everyone who partners with us are in compliance with the ever-changing legislation.
Owner & Chief Executive Officer
Jim Brown serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Synergi Partners. As one of the leading national voices on tax incentives, he maintains an active pulse on tax credits and incentives as well as federal and state practice and procedure issues.
Jim has over 40 years of experience in the tax credit industry. Prior to starting Synergi Partners with his partners, Jim owned and operated Shelly Management Services (SMS), the largest tax credit practice in the country at the time. SMS was acquired by ADP in 2003. After the acquisition, Jim served as Senior Vice President of Tax Credits and Director of Government Relations at ADP for over 14 years. In 2016, Jim retired from ADP. Realizing there was a need in the industry, Jim set out to start a tax credit and incentive processing company that prioritized customer relationships—Synergi Partners, Inc.
Jim is a former BB&T advisor. Currently, Jim sits on the board of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation (a non-profit organization established by the City of Florence to foster revitalization in Downtown Florence), Trinity Collegiate School, and the National Employment Opportunity Network (NEON).
Owner & Chief Product Officer
Kerstin Nemec serves as the Chief Product Officer (CPO) and is a veteran in the tax services and consulting industry. She has served in leadership positions with several top companies in the country such as ADP, KPMG & GE. She has helped clients build cost saving strategies utilizing credits and incentives and helped companies save well over $3 billion throughout her career. Kerstin’s experience makes her an expert in developing cost saving solutions for businesses.
At Synergi Partners, she oversees and develops strategies for customer service, implementation, and product development. Kerstin assists companies with developing credit and incentive strategies; negotiating discretionary incentives; brokering transferrable credits; and qualifying, calculating, and preparing hiring, disaster, zone based and investment tax credits.
Kerstin holds a B.A. in Management from The University of Texas at Austin. She has been featured in the WSJ, Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Area Development Magazine. Kerstin actively supports the Sebastian Society and numerous other charities associated with animal and children’s welfare. She also sits on the board of the Florence County Airport and First Reliance Bank.
Owner & Executive Vice President
Tim Norwood has upwards of 26 years of experience working with state and federal tax credits, regulatory compliance, and employee screening. He has worked with thousands of clients—from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies—providing education about tax credits and guidance through the eligibility and monetization process. Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Tim worked alongside his long-time colleague Jim Brown at Shelly Management Services (SMS). He later served as Vice President of Sales at ADP Tax Credit Services. In addition to his role at Synergi Partners, Tim is also an entrepreneur and business owner so he understands challenges facing businesses today and can relate to his clients.
Tim graduated from Francis Marion University with a degree in political science and has served on the board of trustees for many years. He continues to be an active member of the Florence community where has served as President of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, President of Florence County Progress, and Chairman of the Pee Dee Area Boy Scouts and chairman of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation (a non-profit organization established by the City of Florence to foster revitalization in Downtown Florence). Tim achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and remains very active with the organization today.
Owner & Chief Operating Officer
Chad Witcher is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of tax credit experience. Prior to joining Synergi, Chad held executive/leadership positions with Walmart, SMS Management Services, and ADP. Chad has his B.A. in Accounting and his expertise includes federal and state tax incentives, financial management, operational efficiencies, audits, acquisitions, and partnerships.
To ensure Synergi drives sustainable growth, Chad is committed to fostering an exceptional client service experience. He is a results-oriented leader known for recruiting, developing, and engaging the most talented teams and helping Synergi remain the largest solely focused tax incentive firm in the country.
Chad is a founding member of Grace Chapel Community Church, leading the finance committee and college ministry. He is very passionate about his faith, his family, and helping students navigate the transition from high school through their collegiate years.
President, CARES Act
As President of Synergi Partners’ CARES Act and former CEO of Hire Dynamics, an award-winning staffing company, his passion for people, development, and innovation helped Hire Dynamics transform to an industry Top 50 Staffing Company and will help propel Synergi Partners to the leading tax credit consulting firm in the country. His passion for developing people and building a winning work culture have been the foundation for his success.
Prior to joining Synergi Partners and Hire Dynamics, he was Senior Vice President of ADP’s Human Resource Outsourcing (HRO) business where he was responsible for a global business serving over 8,000 clients and 800,000 employees. He was also instrumental in the rapid growth of ADP’s Tax Credit Services business.
Larry holds a B.A. in Finance from Muhlenberg College. He is the founder of, and actively involved with, The Spectrum Careers. Their program, via a close partnership with Autism Speaks, helps adults with autism find meaningful employment.
President, Puerto Rico Operations
Rodrigo Masses serves as President of the Synergi Partners’ Puerto Rico business where he oversees providing solutions for Puerto Rican business to regain productivity, employees and focus on growth.
Prior to joining, Rodrigo founded and led A Masses Approach, a consulting firm specialized in business development to support local and international companies in identifying new opportunities to achieve business growth. With that, his transition to President of our Puerto Rico business was the perfect transition. He also served as former Chairman of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association where he held one of the leading voices and was a huge advocate for the economic sector that represents more than 48% of Puerto Rico’s GDP. Rodrigo’s planning and innovative thinking have been instrumental in allowing for businesses in Puerto Rico to regain productivity, retain employees, and focus on growth for the future.
Rodrigo has a B.A. in Accounting. He also has his J.D. from InterAmerican University. He is a founding member of the Alliance for Growth (A4G) an organization created to promote the development of all economic sectors in Puerto Rico. A4G has been active in Washington promoting vital projects related to their economic recovery after the devastating hurricanes and earthquakes.
Chief Technology Officer
Eric Duncan, Synergi Partners’ Chief Technology Officer, has over 25 years of experience assisting clients of all sizes in achieving their business objectives through innovative technical solutions. Specializing in the financial sector, he has designed and implemented systems that calculate federal tax credits for a variety of clients, from small regional businesses to the largest companies in the world. He has also built systems that apply automated financial controls to tax credit data to assist in the analysis and validation of these credits.
Chief Data Officer
Wilson serves as Chief Data Officer where he oversees the collection, management, and storage of data across the organization. He is responsible for developing and governing our data and information strategy in order to drive business decisions and growth. Wilson develops data procedures and policies, and works closely with various departments to collect, prepare, organize, protect, and analyze data while ensuring that the company meets industry best practices. He has a proven track record in data management, leadership, and information technology systems and tools.
Wilson holds a BS degree in Financial Management from Clemson University and has more than 30 years of experience focusing on tax operations and data management. Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Wilson worked at Fleet Mortgage in the tax and data management department and ran many data operations teams at Shelley Management Services (SMS), ADP, and EmployReward Solutions. When data is not his primary focus, you’ll find him riding his Harley Davidson and spending quality time with his grandchildren.
Chief Information Security Officer
As Chief Information Security Officer, Tom is responsible for establishing and maintaining the enterprise vision, strategy, and programs to ensure information assets and technologies are adequately protected.
Tom has 30+ years of experience in the technology sector and a wealth of knowledge and experience in protecting critical infrastructure and cyber assets. He has been a key leader in the cyber education, cyber workforce development, and cyber protection efforts in both South Carolina and across the nation. He holds certifications in information security, information auditing, security leadership, critical infrastructure protection, and project management – Tom is also recognized a FEMA Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) Practitioner.
Providing leadership and guidance, Tom is a member of the FBI’s InfraGard program and serves as an advisory board member for the Dutch Fork High School Cyber program. He has actively participated as a member of the MS-ISAC’s Executive Committee as well as the USC School of Law Cybersecurity Task Force.
Tom serves the academic community through board service to the Industry Advisory Board for the USC Integrated IT program, the ECPI Computer Security program and the Charleston Southern Computer Science program. He is the founding director of the South Carolina Cyber Foundation and Association.
In his community, Tom is working actively as a volunteer and soccer referee for various youth groups.
Ashley joined Synergi Partners in early 2020 as General Counsel. She utilizes her knowledge of law and various tax incentives to assist our clients in interpreting and understanding the written intent of legislation to maximize benefits.
Prior to joining Synergi, Ashley worked as an attorney at a large defense firm where her practice focused primarily on corporate transactions, tax planning, tax controversy, and estate planning. During this time, she also served as outside counsel to Synergi Partners for several years.
Ashley is a graduate of Clemson University (B.S., magna cum laude) and Charleston School of Law (J.D., magna cum laude); and New York University School of Law (LLM, Taxation).
Executive Vice President of Operations
As Executive Vice President of Operations – CARES Act, Jim’s experience building high performance teams with an extreme focus on client success will help ensure continued growth for all. He is known for creating loyalty, trust and followership by fostering an inclusive and empowered culture.
Prior to joining Synergi Partners, he served as Senior Sales Leader for Automatic Data Processing’s (ADP) Compliance Solutions business where he was responsible for the operations, sales strategy and growth of a national business serving all market sizes with a comprehensive solutions portfolio. Jim has proven success leading teams through transformation and solving demanding organizational challenges.
As a graduate of Clemson University with a B.S. in Marketing, Jim will always be a Tiger. He actively supports the college and is passionate about supporting local children’s charities as well as Make-A-Wish Georgia.
Senior Vice President of Sales
Jeff Walker, Senior Vice President of Sales, has spent his entire career in the Human Capital Management space. Jeff’s focus has been helping companies implement solutions that deliver a solid ROI, focused on the recruitment and retention of their employees. Working closely with product, government relations and operations is instrumental to the success of his clients in maximizing their tax incentive portfolio.
As SVP of Sales, Jeff oversees the company’s direct and indirect sales efforts, strategic partnerships, and business development strategies. He uses his successful track record to build a high performing sales team that is focused first on the needs of the customer. Jeff spent most of his career at ADP in a variety of roles. After many years in individual contributor sales roles, he rose to lead the Global Enterprise Solutions team for 10 years.
Jeff graduated Moravian College with a B.A. in business management. He is actively involved in his community and is a committed member of Boy Scouts of America, specifically Troop 994.
Senior Vice President, Partnerships & Strategy
Tom Lutz joined Synergi Partners as Senior Vice President of Strategy & Partnerships. Throughout the past 30 years in the HCM and Payroll industry, his passion around providing thought leadership, developing talent, and strategic thinking have resulted in loyal partnerships delivering exceptional results.
Prior to joining the Synergi team, Tom’s background included focusing on selling and servicing clients HCM tools. He was the founder and CEO of Summit Payroll Services and he also worked at ADP for many years in various sales and leadership roles.
Tom attended Rutgers University and is an advisory board member of Esteemed Inc., a staffing service that provides access to pre-screened specialty candidates. For many years he has volunteered at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research and the Jaycee’s.
Vice President, WOTC Operations
Cindy Martin is an experienced operations leader with over 20 years focusing on the Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC). She is skilled in building and leading client services teams that are focused on putting the client first. Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Cindy held leadership roles in the tax divisions at SMS Management and ADP. Cindy holds a Business Administration and Management degree from Florence-Darlington Technical College.
Vice President Government Relations
Baker has spent the last 20 years focused on tax credit and incentives and regulatory compliance. In his role Vice President Government Relations, he develops strategies to communicate with state elected officials with a goal of improving Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) at the state level as well as liaise between the Synergi team and the federal and state government agency staff and clients to relay legislative updates and our strategy & position on specific issues. Baker’s position in government relations has him speaking with our clients to provide updates on certain state regulation issues and visiting with state workforce agencies to exchange intel, work on processes, help those agencies formulate innovative approaches and implement processing best practices. He leverages the intel to improve Synergi’s strategies to expediate results for our clients.
Prior to joining Synergi in 2018, he spent 13 years at Automatic Data Processing (ADP) in their government relations tax department. Baker’s a graduate of Francis Marion University with a B.S. in business management. He’s an active supporter of the St. Jude’s Children Hospital as well as other local charities associated with children’s welfare. Baker spends as much time outdoors as possible. His go-to is visiting the beach and when not there, you’ll find him boating.
Leaders & Specialists
Director Puerto Rico Operations
Luisa Jaramillo joined Synergi Partners as Director of Operations CARES Act Employee Retention Tax Credit Puerto Rico Team. She oversees the Tax Service Managers operations, development, and pipeline management for the PR CARES Team along with the internal relationship between sales and operations. Her focus is to implement solutions that deliver solid revenue growth in credit deliveries, focused on client relationships and internal processes.
Prior to joining the Synergi Team, Luisa worked at ADP for 16 years where she held multiple roles from Tax Credits Account Management, Call Compliance Management, Smart Compliance Solutions and Sales. Her management experience, entrepreneurship approach, excellent client relations and knowledge of Tax Credits makes her a great addition to the team.
Luisa is a mother of 3 boys, all who are soccer players. When she’s not on the field cheering on her boys, you’ll find her playing golf, running, cooking and listening to music.
Director of Sales
Kirk joins Synergi Partners as Director of Sales where he’ll use his passion for developing people, creating processes & solutions to foster continued growth of our sales organization.
Kirk’s impressive 30-year sales career has been in the Human Capital Management space, with additional focus on tax credits and incentives. He’s helped companies to better compete, maximize resources and protect their business. His outstanding, award-winning sales career encompassed various roles including individual sales contributor & sales leadership at Automatic Data Processing (ADP). Most recently, he was director of sales operations with Hire Dynamics.
Kirk attended Western Carolina University, where he studied criminal justice, and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1988. He has 3 children: Patrick, Morgan & Curtis). When he’s not nurturing his team or out selling, you can find Kirk on the golf course, playing tennis or sitting on a deck listening to live music with his wife, Carrie.
Director of Tax Operations
Ryan joined Synergi Partners in 2018 and serves as the Director of Tax Operations where he oversees the company’s Location Based Incentives Services. He manages all credit calculations for Federal, State, and local tax credits while ensuring the credits are calculated within Federal, State, or local regulations as well as maximizing all credit opportunities for our clients. Ryan is also responsible for responsive client support, training, and mentoring of staff with credit deliverables. Prior to joining Synergi Partners, he worked in a variety of tax positions for First Advantage Tax Consulting and Equifax Workforce Solutions.
Ryan earned his B.S. in Accounting and Finance from Indiana University Kelley School of Business and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. When not a work, Ryan is with his wife and four kids likely at sporting event or out boating on the water.
Director of Implementation, Operations & Pipeline Management
Robert joined Synergi Partners in 2020 to lead the CARES Act Employee Retention Tax Credit Implementation Team and to also oversee operations, development and pipeline management for the CARES Team. Prior to joining Synergi, Robert worked for ADP in its Tax Division, Nestle, Kraft and Signode.
The impact Robert has made since joining Synergi is invaluable. His Lean Six Sigma and analytical background have been instrumental in developing internal processes to achieve the vision of the Synergi leadership team.
Robert earned a B.S. in Biology and MBA from Clemson University. Outside of work, he’s a triathlete. You’ll find him running, cycling and competing in Triathlons.
Laveda Smith Jordan
Director of Implementation, WOTC
Laveda joined the WOTC Implementation Team at Synergi Partners in 2019. Laveda is a dedicated and results-oriented professional with many years of experience in client services.
Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Laveda spent time at ADP implementing WOTC and many years in the financial industry. Laveda holds a B.S. in Kinesiological Sciences from the University of Maryland College Park.
When not at work, Laveda is a team mom. She supports her daughter (and her team) in competitive cheerleading and tumbling, and her son in cross country, track & field. She is also an active volunteer at her local church.
Director of Development
Chris Reeder serves as Synergi Partners’ Director of Development. He has over 25 years of experience in software engineering, development and infrastructure. In this role Chris oversees the delivery of high quality and high-performance systems while ensuring reliability, scalability and efficiency are the core foundations.
Prior to working with us Chris managed development teams at ACS Technologies and before that was a software engineer for 18+ years. Chris is very focused on giving back to the community. He was a church pastor and has served on many college advisory committees helping to shape college and technical schools’ curriculum and classes around technology.
Director of Credit Optimization
Stephanie Gibbons serves as Director of Credit Optimization, heading up the team that works to maximize the CARES Act Employee Retention Credit for our clients. Stephanie joined Synergi Partners in January 2021, and has grown the Credit Optimization team in both size and output immensely since arrival.
Originally from England by way of Charleston, SC, Stephanie brings with her a background in Project Management as well as extensive experience with account management. Her aptitude for organization and process improvement ensures that the Credit Optimization department is always striving for optimal efficiency and success.
Stephanie has an MPA from the College of Charleston as well as an MBA from The Citadel. In her personal time, you can find her either running a race or vacation planning with her wife.
National Sales Director
Ken Machemehl serves as National Director of Sales. He has more than 30 years of B2B sales & leadership experience in the Human Capital Management space. Ken’s focus for 15 plus years has been specifically helping clients procure both state, federal, disaster tax credits and incentives. Ken has provided his clients over $100M in tax credits and incentives with clients of all sizes ranging from the Fortune 100 to small family businesses. His focus here at Synergi is how to increase a business’s profitability by decreasing tax liabilities and increasing profitability.
Ken is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a B.A. in management. He’s a proud father who enjoys spending time outside especially trips to the beach and to the Rocky Mountains to ski. He also is an avid fisherman and hunter.
Catherine Cunningham, J.D.
Enterprise Team Leader & Legal Consultant
Catherine joined Synergi Partners in 2020. She works both as an Enterprise Accounts Team Lead, where she oversees a team of tax service managers, and as a Legal Consultant. Catherine works closely with enterprise clients and advises them on the CARES Act Employee Retention Tax Credit. Prior to working at Synergi Partners, Catherine worked as in-house counsel at a large hospital system and at a large defense firm.
Catherine graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Parks Recreation and Tourism Management. She also earned her J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
In her free time, Catherine enjoys spending time with family, friends, and cheering on the Clemson Tigers. She is a member of the Junior League of Columbia and enjoys volunteering and helping in the community.
Martina Palatto Love, J.D.
Enterprise Tax Service Manager & Legal Consultant
Martina serves as an Enterprise Tax Service Manager and Legal Consultant on the CARES Team. Prior to working at Synergi Partners, she worked as a law clerk for a federal judge and as a business litigation attorney. Her knowledge and experience allow her to assist her clients in understanding tax legislation and, ultimately, maximize their credit.
Martina is a graduate of the University of Georgia where she earned a B.A. in Journalism-Public Relations, with a minor in Sociology. She also earned her J.D. from the University of Georgia. In her free time, you can find Martina running with her dog, Miles, or discussing the finer points of the law with her husband, who is also a lawyer.
Wendy Wilson serves as a tax analyst-manager and has been a valued member of the Synergi team since 2018. Wendy maximizes credits for her clients utilizing her broad knowledge and extensive experience. Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Wendy worked at Equifax for more than 21 years in a variety of tax credit operations, finance & accounting and HR/benefits roles.
Wendy is a graduate of Niagara University where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Travel & Tourism Administration. When not at work, Wendy keeps herself very busy spending time with her son, dog, and volunteering at her local church.
Enterprise Team Leader & Sr. Tax Service Manager
Christal joined Synergi Partners in early 2020. Prior to joining the Synergi Team, she worked as a customer liaison for almost 20 years. Her customer service experience, attention to detail, and knowledge of data utilized to calculate credits and incentives makes her a great addition to the team.
Christal holds an Accounting degree from Florence-Darlington Technical College. When she is not working, she loves to watch HGTV to find ideas for her next crafting or home renovation project.
Ilya Ilienko, CPA
Senior Manager Accounting & Tax Operations
Ilya joined Synergi Partners in 2018. He serves as a Senior Accounting & Tax Operation Manager and has more than 15 years of experience in accounting, reporting & finance, regulatory, and leadership roles. Ilya is a graduate of City University of New York-Brooklyn College where he earned a B.S in Business Management and Finance. He also earned his double M.B.A. in Professional Public Accounting and Finance, with highest distinction, from the Fordham Gabelli School of Business. Ilya is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
Mid-Market Team Leader & Sr. Tax Service Manager
Kaitlan Hawkins joined Synergi Partners in 2020 as a Tax Services Manager on the CARES Act Team and now serves as a Team Lead for the Majors Team. In addition to managing her own clients, Kaitlan leads, develops, and provides guidance to a team of tax service managers.
Prior to joining Synergi Partners, Kaitlan spent many years working for Macy’s. Her background as a district manager, human resources manager, experience in back of house operations, and being responsible for merchandising and sales has provided the foundation for her position at Synergi Partners. Kaitlan’s speed, agility, and knowledge allows her to understand each of her client’s unique circumstances to maximize results. Kaitlan is a graduate of Clemson University.
Mid-Market Team Leader & Sr. Tax Service Manager
Anna serves as a Team Lead for the CARES Act Majors Team. She is responsible for assisting a team of Tax Service Managers with development and education as well as the day-to-day management of their clients.
Anna has an entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to working with us, she worked for many years at Brittain Resorts & Hotels in various front and back-end positions. She also previously held a position working on projects at The Brandon Agency. Her past experience has provided her with the ability to cultivate a great working environment for her team and clients. Anna’s fresh perspective has been instrumental in driving change management initiatives around the implementation and support processes with the end goal of servicing clients more efficiently. Anna holds a B.S. in Marketing from Clemson University.