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More Than Just Good Looks


With more than 200 years of recruiting and human resources experience among the core team, it's no wonder that some of the nation's leading companies are turning to Talent Connections for recruiting advisement, staffing and search. Rest assured that you will receive only seasoned professionals during your engagement. Meet the core team:

Tom Darrow, Principal

Teela Jackson, Vice President, HR Search

Valerie Kennerson, Senior Director

Christina Page, Director, Talent Delivery

Vernesha Smith, Talent Delivery Coordinator

Jim Hartsook, Vice President

Patricia Hughes, Vice President

Susan Kent, Vice President

Gary Shaar, Director

Rod Chally , Vice President

Tom Darrow


Telephone: 770-633-5242

Fax: 770-992-3521

Thomas M. Darrow is the Founder and Principal of Talent Connections, LLC (   Since 1999, the Atlanta based professional services firm has specialized in recruiting—including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, HR consulting, and contract recruiting.  Current and past clients include The Coca Cola Company, Habitat for Humanity International, Mercedes-Benz USA, ADP, Booz Allen Hamilton, the American Cancer Society, Deloitte, Newell Rubbermaid, Microsoft, McKesson, Mercedes-Benz, and the Southern Company. Talent Connections was named in 2007 and 2008 to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing private companies for realizing 1700% revenue growth.

In March, 2009, Tom teamed with nationally recognized recruiting and career transition experts to launch Career Spa, LLC (  The career management company is revolutionizing the way unemployed and misemployed workers are equipped to assess and proactively manage their careers. 

Tom has almost 30 years’ experience in the Human Resources and Recruitment profession -- including 9 years with the global professional services firms of Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  

He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Atlanta Chapter (SHRM-Atlanta).  At the National level, he has served on the SHRM Foundation Board from 2010 to 2017 and was Board Chair in 2015 and 2016.  He also served on the SHRM Staffing Management Special Expertise Panel from 2005-2008 and on the Cost per Hire (CPH) Standard Taskforce. In 2016, he was chosen at Inaugural Board President for the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP).  On a local level, he was the 2006 and 2007 President of SHRM-Atlanta, the largest city Chapter in the country out of 600 Chapters and served on the Board of Directors from 2005-2008.  Under his leadership, SHRM-Atlanta’s membership increased 60% to over 2600 members and the Chapter launched two programs that won a 2007 SHRM Pinnacle Award for membership growth and a 2008 SHRM Pinnacle Award for the Mayor’s Youth Program.  In 2015 he received the SHRM-Atlanta Lifetime Achievement Award and was named the HR Leader of the Year by the SHRM Georgia State Council.  He is the Founder and former Chair of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Recruiting Society and has served on the TAG Board of Directors from 2005 through 2009.  From 2005 through 2007, he was the Inaugural President of the TAG Leadership Council and served on the Executive Committee of the TAG Board. 

Tom earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame.  He speaks internationally at conferences and workshops on topics related to improving corporate recruiting processes and career management best practices, and he has been quoted in publications including BusinessWeek, Inc. Magazine, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Washington Post, and HR Magazine and has been interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) and WXIA TV – Channel 11 in Atlanta.   

In addition to his leadership in the Human Resources and Recruiting profession, Tom is dedicated to community service through many volunteer activities. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.  As a lead volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, he served as a Big Brother from 1991 to 1998 and was honored as the Big Brother of the Year in Gwinnett County in 1996. In 2002 he served on the Board of Directors and was Chair of the Ambassadors for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  In 2001, he was voted the Ambassador of the Year.  In 2005, he was the Co-Chair of the Arby’s Charity Tour golf tournament which raised a record $285,000.  He was Chair of the Board of the Inward Bound Center for Nonprofit Leadership from 2012 to 2015.  From 2003 through 2005, Tom served on the Board of Directors for The Partnership Against Domestic Violence.  He served as a Host Committee Member of High Tech Ministries from 1999 to 2011.  Tom founded and is President of the Atlanta HR Prayer Breakfast, Inc.  Tom has also a leader and frequent speaker in the Crossroads Career Network career ministry since 1997.  In 2008, 2011 and 2016, Tom was nominated for the Turknett Leadership Character Award in the CEO category and was a finalist for the North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year Award in 2008.

Tom lives in Murphy, NC and Atlanta, GA with his wife Anne and parrot, Mango.  He enjoys golf, Notre Dame Football, Christian music, spending time with family and friends, and comedy.  In 2004, he made his stand-up comedy debut at The Punch Line, the premier comedy club in the Southeast.  Tom is also a significant shareholder of the Green Bay Packers. 

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Teela Jackson
Vice President, HR Search

Telephone: 678-522-6131

Fax: 770-992-3521

Teela Jackson has successfully partnered with organizations to identify, attract and acquire key talent.  She is Vice President, HR Search with Talent Connections. Teela has enjoyed a progressive career with the firm since joining in 2005 and leads the HR Search Practice.


Teela received the Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40 Award and is a member of the 10th class of honorees. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and serves as SHRM Georgia District Director.  She has been an active volunteer leader with the largest city chapter in the country, SHRM-Atlanta, for 10+ years and serves as a Board Advisor.  Teela was the first African-American female President of SHRM-Atlanta in 2014.  She has been awarded the SHRM-Atlanta Presidential Leadership Award and SHRM Georgia Volunteer of the Year Award.  She is also the founder of SHRM-Atlanta’s HR Young Professionals Community.  Teela has also served as a Board Member for the Brian Jordan Foundation (retired MLB player), volunteered with Crossroads Career Network, Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency (ACSS), Habitat for Humanity and she gives time and clothing to foster children.


Teela is active across professional social media platforms – LinkedIn & Twitter.  She has been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, WXIA-TV 11Alive News and frequently speaks at professional association meetings and conferences across the US.


Teela earned a Master of Business Administration degree in Management from Mercer University in Atlanta and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources from The University of Tennessee at Martin.


Teela is originally from Nashville, TN and has called the Atlanta area home since 2000. 


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Valerie Kennerson

Senior Director

Telephone: 404-803-1037

Fax: 770-992-3521

Valerie Kennerson is a talent acquisition professional that is passionate about the science and the art of recruiting.  Having led talent acquisition teams globally for companies such as Coca-Cola, Corning Incorporated, Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs, PulteGroup  and Novelis;  as well as having experience in the nonprofit sector leading staff and volunteer recruitment for The American Cancer Society, she possesses a wealth of experience and expertise.

Valerie is an agile leader with the ability to navigate between strategy and operational excellence easily while creating highly engaged teams.  Having worked globally in China, Twain, Canada, Mexico and Europe she understands the importance of navigating cultural competencies, effective communication and accomplishing goals through and with people and partners.

Her expertise in establishing processes, systems, strategic metrics and standards has enabled talent acquisition in her previous companies to move to a best in class operation and be viewed as a respected strategic partner with leadership.   She has a Masters of Business Administration from Kent State University and a BS in Management and Public Relations from Ohio Northern University.

Valerie is involved with the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP) and volunteers with many local organizations in Atlanta.  A native of Pittsburgh, PA Valerie  and her family have called Atlanta home since 2005.


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Christina Page

Director, Talent Delivery

Telephone: 770-820-4692

Fax: 770-992-3521

Christina Page serves as Director of Talent Delivery.  Christina has vast experience in staffing where she worked with large and small companies.  When working with business leaders, she has a passion to guide them to a better understanding of how to best strategize and problem solve in finding exceptional talent.  Prior to Talent Connections, Christina was a Senior Branch Manager for the largest branch at Hire Dynamics in Duluth, Georgia where she led and developed a team of twenty.  Christina has held roles in staffing where she quickly moved from handling MSP’s, Operation Management to Senior Branch Manager in a short amount of time; giving her a vast amount of knowledge in the staffing arena. 

Christina is a dynamic leader who has the ability to grow and develop up and coming leaders.  Christina provides strategic approaches in staffing solutions that serve clients to operate in a more efficient and effective manner.  

Christina is involved with the Association of Talent Acquisitions Professionals (ATAP), holds a Certified Staffing Professional (CSP) and volunteers throughout many local organizations within the Gwinnett county area.  

Christina grew up in the Kansas suburbs and received her Bachelors in Psychology with a Minor in Applied Behavioral Science from The University of Kansas.  Christina has called Atlanta home since 2007, along with her family.


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Vernesha Smith

Talent Delivery Coordinator

Telephone: 404-474-0505

Fax: 770-992-3521

As Talent Delivery Coordinator, Vernesha plays a critical role in enabling our HR Search team to effectively fill open positions in record time.  She sources qualified candidates, keeps our network informed of full-time and contract opportunities, coordinates key human resources and recruiting community events, manages our database and supports our branding/marketing initiatives.  In many ways she’s the “glue” that holds everything together at Talent Connections and Career Spa.

Vernesha earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources from Georgia Southwestern State University.  She serves as the Youth Director for her church and she’s very active in the Pike County School System.   In her spare time, she enjoys spending time her husband, Harland and their three children. 


Jim Hartsook, Certified Coach and SPHR

Vice President

Telephone: 803-439-6055

Fax: 770-992-3521

Jim is currently Vice President of Coaching with Career Spa / Talent Connections. His objective is to help every individual and organization he works with achieve their highest potential and overcome the obstacles that may be holding them back. Jim is a certified coach and holds the HR certification of SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources). His specialties include Executive, Leadership, and Career Coaching.

Prior to his current coaching practice Jim spent most of his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte Touché where he was actively involved in coaching, human resources, training, and administration. His experience included strategic planning, leadership development, mentoring, recruiting, training, compensation, resource deployment, budgeting, benefits, evaluation, diversity/EEOC and legal issues. He holds a Masters degree in College Student Personnel with an emphasis in Guidance & Counseling and a bachelor’s degree in Education.

Jim holds membership in a number of professional organizations including the International Coach Federation; the Georgia Coach Association; and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

If you would like to know more about Jim you can visit his LinkedIn profile at

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Patricia Hughes

Vice President, Metro Washington, D.C. office


Telephone: 770-633-3199

Fax: 770-992-3521

Patricia Hughes is the VP of the Metro Washington, DC office of Talent Connections, LLC. She is an experienced business leader with a background in HR technology and staffing.  She focuses on understanding her client’s requirements and delivering search solutions to help organizations acquire exceptional Human Resources and Executive level leaders that will help them meet their goals.

Patricia has held leadership positions with corporate and early stage technology and staffing providers, where she was responsible for growing revenue and partnerships.  She is recognized for her business acumen and collaborative approach, she focuses on building revenue streams and relationships for long term growth. Patricia has a strong track record in helping organizations realize returns on their talent development investments.

Before joining Talent Connections, LLC, Patricia realized a long-time dream and used her business experience and passion for helping others in the nonprofit space. Patricia spent two and a half years, supporting the launch of a new placement and career coaching organization, working exclusively with Year Up alumni. She was responsible for developing corporate partnerships to secure employment for urban youth and helped the organization grow from $250K to over $5M in revenue. She is passionate about Closing the Opportunity Divide that confronts many young adults today and continues to mentor and coach.

Patricia earned a degree in business management and economics from North Carolina State University and is a certified Strategic Alliance Professional.  She is an active community volunteer, leading fund raising and service projects.  Patricia lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband, Eric, a retired Army Officer and West Point graduate. Their son, Taylor, recently graduated from the University of Alabama and is working in Augusta GA.

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Susan Kent

Vice President, Houston, TX office


Telephone: 713-724-6374

Fax: 770-992-3521


Susan joined Talent Connections in 2007 as Director of Business Development.  She was also strategic in launching Career Spa in Atlanta in 2009, and is now responsible for the Houston, TX office, which opened in mid-2011.  Susan is focused on building customized solutions for clients who are faced with redundancies as a result of shrinking budgets or during a merger or acquisition.  She also delivers strategies for reduction-in-force planning that enables companies to assist transitioning employees in a cost-effective manner while minimizing impact to the organization.

Susan has thirty years of experience in Human Resources within the energy industry at Southern Company, Georgia Power Company, and most recently at Mirant, a global competitive energy provider.  She has led two recruiting functions in these corporate environments and has experienced the challenges of human resources during times of growth and times of downsizing.   Susan is experienced in working through start-ups, acquisitions, and through bankruptcy as well as emergence from bankruptcy.

Susan was also a Principal Consultant in Organizational Effectiveness & Staffing at Southern Company, designing and implementing efficient and compliant transition processes during times of staff reduction.  She has designed and delivered severance packages to employees during multiple downsizing programs.  As a Sr. Human Resources Generalist, Susan understands the client’s perspective, especially when there is a need to balance business need with employee performance, while managing budget constraints and executive expectations.  She’s a proven business ally - - someone who can empathize with both client’s needs and employee’s needs, seek win-win solutions and build business relationships based on integrity.

Susan has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Georgia State University, and has held numerous leadership positions in both professional and community organizations.  In her spare time, she enjoys golf, tennis, volunteering for mission work through her church, and vacationing at the beach.  Susan and her husband, Ron, reside in Houston, Texas where they are fortunate to be near their son who is an engineer in the oil & gas industry in Houston.


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Rod Chally

Vice President, Jacksonville, FL office

Telephone: 904-371-3104

Fax: 770-992-3521

As Vice President of the Jacksonville Practice for Talent Connections, Rod is responsible for business development and project management of executive search assignments.  He focuses efforts in Jacksonville as well as serving clients nationwide.  Rod has worked with clients in professional services, financial services, retail, manufacturing and healthcare.

Rod has an extensive resume of human resources and recruiting expertise.  Prior to Talent Connections Rod served as a Director of Executive search for ATS Services, a Jacksonville-based company providing recruiting solutions for clients.  He was responsible for relationship management and business development of executive search assignments with leading, global clients.  Previously, Rod recruited senior-level sales and marketing executives for Accenture in North America.  At Ernst & Young, he was a human resources consultant providing retained, executive search services and organization development consulting services for clients.   Additionally, he served as Vice President of Human Resources for a division of a leading apparel company, Hart Schaffner & Marx.

Rod received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Personnel Management from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.   He enjoys spending his spare time on the wonderful golf courses of NE Florida.  His wife, Pam, is the Dean of the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida.  Their favorite time away from work is with their children and five granddaughters in Jacksonville and Atlanta.  For 18 years Rod has served as Chair of the Personnel Ministry at Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville Beach.

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Gary Shaar

Telephone: 770-674-4685

With more than fifteen years of experience in contract recruiting and executive search and more than 20 years in government and corporate leadership roles, Gary has a wealth of know-how and professional contacts. He has conducted thousands of successful searches in his career across a number of industries and is excellent at defining job roles and placing long-term candidates in them. He is an expert in IT and Software recruiting for most skill sets and job levels.  Gary has completed successful long-term contract recruiting engagements with Microsoft, NCR, Equifax, Cox Automotive, Internap, Linux (formerly JBoss), Choice Point, Jackson Healthcare, The Georgia Technology Authority and several other well-known companies.

A former Navy officer and pilot, Gary holds a master's in finance and management from Webster University and a bachelor's of science in biology from Rutgers University. He is a member of the leadership team of the TAG Recruiting Society, on the leadership team for the Roswell United Methodist Church Job Search Ministry and a volunteer at Open Hand. Gary enjoys international travel, wine tasting and weight training.  His daughter is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and is a consultant with KPMG.

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