Thomas Kephart has lived in Newton County since he was 14 months old — practically his entire life.
Growing up on Sears Circle — a place in west Newton County that Kephart described as “normal middle class” Kephart recalled how “simple” life used to be.
“We spent the bulk of time as kids playing outside,” he said. “I mean BB guns, football, baseball … riding bicycles. I mean that was just what we did all day.
“I could ride my bicycle down any street in our area with a .22 rifle attached to my handlebars in case I saw a rabbit or a squirrel or something that needed a little attention,” he continued. “And we would go down to Doster’s store, which was about a 2- or 3-mile trek from my house and get a Coca-Cola and Chick-O-Stick.”
“It was so small town” Kephart said. “Everything was so innocent back in the day. I could go to my neighbor and say ‘I’m out of bullets. Could you loan me some bullets?’ And they’d say, ‘Sure. Here’s five .22 shells. Would you mind bringing me back a rabbit?’ Or something like that. It was so small town and so different than today. You couldn’t imagine allowing your child to patrol the neighborhood with a bicycle today, much less shooting rabbits and squirrels along the way, or borrowing shells from your neighbor. It’s just a different ball game.”
He said church was at the center of his and his family’s social life, unlike the outlets of today.
“We were not involved in clubs and different things like that,” Kephart said. “It was Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any other night that there happened to be an activity [at church]. So much of our socialization occurred in a church environment, and I think that’s a little bit different than what we see today.”
Since graduating from Newton County High School in 1990, Kephart received a BBA from Georgia State University, MBA from Mercer University, and completed the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. Kephart started his professional career with the First National Bank of Newton County, where he eventually served as CFO. The bank was sold to Synovus in 2003, and Kephart served as the community executive for Newton, Rockdale and Henry counties there until 2011 when he took on the role of president of United Bank in Covington.
Kephart has remained active within many civic groups and organizations throughout his 27-year banking career. He currently serves as the Chairman of the United Bank Advisory Board and is a board member for the Covington Family YMCA and Covington Rotary Club (past president). He is a former board member of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce (past chair), Rockdale County Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Friends of Newton County Miracle Field, Arts Association of Newton County and performed with the Covington/Conyers Community Family Orchestra. He is also a graduate of Leadership Newton County.
Kephart has seen Newton County change in a variety of ways. For example, he said the area’s population has more than doubled over the last several decades, and much of the county’s vast amount of farmland has been developed into subdivisions. But in light of those changes, Kephart wants the place he calls home to always be the best community it can be. That’s why he places a great focus on being involved with local organizations and having a positive impact on the community.
“Newton County has been extremely good to me,” Kephart said. “I have never lived — other than when I was 0-14 months old — outside of Newton County. I was here through all of my schooling. I’ve seen the county develop, and I just think you can’t take and not give. You’ve got to be willing to invest time, sweat, blood and tears and do different things if you want to help the community get better.”
Kephart has been married to his wife, Amy, for more than 27 years. Together, they have two sons, Garrett and Weston. Kephart and his family attend First Baptist Church of Conyers.
Kephart said he was “humbled” and “honored” to be nominated and recognized as one of The Covington News’ Men of Newton.
“I’m just an ‘average Joe,’” Kephart said. “But I’m honored that someone would step out on a limb like that and throw my name in the hat.”