Natalie Crawford brings more than two decades of business experience, public service, and issues advocacy to Georgia First. In her role as executive director, she’ll help advance economic opportunity and health outcomes for all Georgians while adhering to “old-school” Republican principles. This includes building strong faith-based and community coalitions, limiting government overreach, promoting fiscal responsibility, and advancing individual liberty.
An unapologetic moderate, Crawford is a native Georgian and lifelong Republican who served two terms on the Habersham County Commission, filling roles as vice-chair and chair. She held top leadership roles in the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, including as vice president of the Group Health Benefits Board of Trustees, and served on the Board of Managers. During her eight years in Habersham, Crawford is credited with helping save the local hospital, increasing county reserves, and leading economic expansion efforts with the creation of the Habersham Partnership for Growth and completed expansion projects for both the airport and a large industrial park.
Despite her significant accomplishments, Crawford lost her third-term election to a Republican challenger who decried her efforts to reach across the divide following her participation in a 2019, bipartisan voting integrity ad with Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams. Crawford’s historically strong positions on local control and unfunded state mandates, along with her belief that voting is the very bedrock of our democracy and it should be accessible, secure, and easy for every eligible voter, were the primary reasons for her bipartisan participation in the ad.
The overall tone of her final local campaign, combined with the continued rhetoric and hyper-partisan attitudes at both the state and national levels, are what bolstered Crawford’s desire to continue serving not just her community but the state of Georgia. That desire is what would ultimately lead her to form Georgia First.
In addition to her public service and private sector work in community banking, she is president and founder of the Evie Peters Foundation, a non-profit serving breast cancer patients and survivors in Northeast Georgia. Crawford’s advocacy record also includes advancing efforts on health care, jobs and the economy, and good government. Crawford graduated from Piedmont University with her BA and MBA. She was selected for the 2020 Georgia Trend Top 40 Under 40 class and most recently was competitively selected to participate in Georgia Forward’s 2022 Young Gamechangers. Crawford currently resides in Hall County with her family.
Shannon Ferguson, MPA
Director of Strategy, Communications & Community Outreach
Shannon Ferguson, Georgia First’s director of strategy, communications, and community outreach, has more than 20 years of public sector marketing, communications, and stakeholder engagement experience. Additionally, Ferguson spent more than a decade performing legislative tracking, analysis, and reporting on behalf of Georgia state agencies.
Ferguson began her career in state government working for the State Health Benefit Plan under the Georgia Merit System and then the Department of Community Health (DCH). She served as both the benefit unit manager and the lead constituent services representative, administering the health plan’s administrative appeals process and responding to inquiries at the highest levels of state government.
In 2001, she was recruited by the state treasurer to start Georgia’s new 529 college savings plan. Serving as the assistant director for 10 years, Ferguson provided contract management and oversight for the selected investment manager. She was also responsible for the plan’s marketing and communications strategy. Under her leadership, assets under management grew to more than $1 billion in just under 10 years, a time period including two economic downturns with one being the Great Recession. Ferguson and the director were publicly recognized at the state capitol by Governor Nathan Deal for their roles in launching Georgia’s Path2College 529 Plan and achieving milestone asset levels in such a short period.
Transitioning into higher education, Ferguson went on to serve as the communications director for the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. She also served as a part-time instructor through the Institute’s training partnerships with the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. Following her family’s return to the metro-Atlanta area in 2016, Ferguson worked in local government communications and economic development with the cities of Milton and Dahlonega. Immediately prior to joining Georgia First, Ferguson served as a senior public involvement specialist with a Fortune 100 company, assisting with the execution of Georgia Power’s multi-year, multi-billion-dollar grid infrastructure improvement program.
An Alabama native but Georgian at heart, Ferguson relocated to Atlanta after completing her Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has received separate team honors from the American Bankers Association and Georgia Trend’s Four for the Future for her contributions to two rebranding projects. Ferguson currently calls the North Georgia foothills home, residing in north Forsyth County with her family and two dogs.