At its July 22, 2020, meeting, the PEBA Board of Directors reelected John Sowards as Chairman and Rocky Pearce as Vice Chairman. Sowards was first appointed Chairman in February 2016 following the resignation of Art Bjontegard, the Board's charter chairman. Pearce has served as Vice Chairman since the Board's first elections in December 2012.
Sowards is former chairman of the board for Nexsen Pruet, a position in which he was responsible for shaping the firm’s vision and strategy. A leader within Nexsen Pruet, his practice is focused on the areas of real estate, corporate and finance law. He represents commercial lenders, real estate developers and closely held businesses on a variety of matters. His practice includes extensive experience with all aspects of shopping center and hotel development, as well as all aspects of commercial lending including troubled debt restructuring and workouts. Sowards’ corporate practice consists of general representation of businesses on all matters related thereto including finance, acquisitions, mergers, employment, contracts and business negotiations.
Sowards received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Tennessee and his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1975 and served for four years on active duty before heading to law school. Sowards spent 10 years as an active reservist. He is active in his community and served as a leader in a Boy Scout troop for nearly 12 years and as a youth sports coach for almost 14 years. Sowards has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than 35 years and has two grown sons.
Pearce, now retired, was Head of Student Health for American International Group (AIG). He has more than 42 years of experience in the insurance industry having begun his career in 1970 with Pearce & Pearce, Inc., the business established by his parents in 1948. His experience encompasses every aspect of claims administration including premium administration, waiver administration and underwriting implementation.
Pearce served two terms as Mayor of Florence from 1983-1991. During his tenure, Florence experienced unprecedented economic growth with many new industries locating in Florence County. New construction permit dollar totals in the City of Florence almost tripled during his terms. After serving as Mayor, Pearce became Chairman of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership. In 2002, Pearce was awarded The Order of the Palmetto by the Governor of South Carolina and was named the 2002 South Carolina Ambassador for Economic Development. He has served on various local and statewide Board of Directors. Pearce is married to the former Carolyn Gibbons Coker. They have four sons, three granddaughters and one grandson.