Spotlight on Butler, Covington, Crenshaw & Lowndes: Movers & Shapers

The individuals who help shape the communities in these four counties

Jim Byard Jr. is principal of Byard Associates LLC, a strategic development consulting firm that contracts with the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission and assists with their community and economic development strategy and implementation. He is chair of the Main Street Alabama board and serves on the boards of DesignAlabama and YourTown Alabama. He is a past president of the Alabama League of Municipalities and has served on the boards of the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.

Rick Clifton is president and CEO of Covington County Economic Development Commission. He is a University of Alabama graduate with a law degree from Cumberland School of Law. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a retired staff judge advocate at Maxwell Air Force Base. He is a member of the Economic Development Association of Alabama and the Southern Economic Development Committee.


- Sponsor -


Thomas Ellis is chair of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission. He and his family own and operate Priester’s Pecans. He also owns and operates Triple E Farm, where he raises cattle and poultry. He also is District 1 board representative for Dixie Electric Cooperative, a board member of Pintlala Water Authority and past president member of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition and the Lowndes County Farmers Federation.


Dodd Hawthorne is superintendent of Crenshaw County schools. A veteran educator, he also served as a teacher/coach, assistant principal, principal and director of operations. He is a University of Alabama graduate with a master’s from Troy University Dothan. He is president of the Alabama High School Athletic Association District 2, central board member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, president of the School Superintendents of Alabama District 3, and a member of the Luverne Kiwanis Club.


David Hutchison is executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. Working in economic development since 1975, he has helped start agencies in Louisiana, and in Escambia and Lowndes counties in Alabama. He was a senior project manager and acting director for the Alabama Development Office, now known as the Alabama Department of Commerce. He is a past president of the Economic Development Association of Alabama and in July 2021 he received the David Echols Distinguished Service Award. He is a graduate of Jacksonville State University and the International Economic Development Council’s Economic Development Institute.

Nancy Idland is director of the Greenville Arts Council and has been a community volunteer since high school. Born and raised in Greenville, she owned and operated Elizabeth Wilson Florist for 25 years. She then served with Greenville Main Street, where she spearheaded several initiatives. She also worked with the Greenville Middle School afterschool service program and served as grand marshal for the city’s annual Christmas parade in 2019. In 2020, she was named Citizen of the Year by the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce.


Brock Kelley is president of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, where he has developed the Alabama RISE program to help individuals with disabilities join the workforce. Earlier, he was regional director of workforce development for the Alabama Community College System. Before joining the community college system, Kelley served as director of workforce development for the Alabama Department of Education. Kelley is an LBW graduate with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Troy University and a Ph.D. from Auburn University. He played baseball both at LBW and at Troy.

Charlie King Jr. is chairman of the Lowndes County Commission, where he has served for 29 years. He is a lifelong resident of Lowndes County, where he grew up sharecropping alongside his mother for various landowners. He attended Cornell University and began his career at Hudson Thompson, prior to starting his own contracting business. King serves as co-chair of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission and chair of the South Central Alabama Broadband Cooperative District.

Dexter McLendon is mayor of Greenville, where he has helped bring a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course to Cambrian Ridge, a YMCA and the Hwashin America and Hyundai-Steel America companies. He has received the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow Award and was named Man of the Year by the Greenville Jaycees. He serves on the city’s health care authority; the boards of Trustmark Bank, Southeast Gas District, Butler County Commission for Economic Development and Alabama Black Belt Adventures; and is active in the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and Butler County E-911. He is a member of Leadership Alabama and the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

Meryane Martin Murphy is founder and artistic director of Andalusia Ballet. She is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College with further studies at New York University. Moving to Andalusia in the late 1970s with her husband Mark, Murphy began teaching in the front room of their home and founded the Andalusia Ballet Association Inc. in 1982. Recently, Murphy spearheaded the partnership with the city of Andalusia to renovate the former Church Street School as a center for the arts and home for Andalusia Ballet. She was awarded the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Award and the Rotary Club’s Spirit of Andalusia Award.

Mitchell Myers is CEO of Mizell Memorial Hospital. A native of Covington County, he is a graduate of the University of Alabama with nursing degrees from the University of South Alabama. At Mizell, he works to provide quality rural health care with access for underserved citizens.



Orbuty Ozier is mayor of Gordonville in Lowndes County and serves on the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission. She is also a member of the Lowndes County Industrial Development Board. She is a graduate of Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery and Wayne State Community College in Detroit, Michigan. Ozier is a member of the Alabama Black Mayors Association and the River Region United Way. She is the owner of Ozier’s Designer Plans and O&W General Contractors LLC.


Neal Presley is owner of Larry’s Prescriptions Inc. in Opp. He is a graduate of Wallace Community College Dothan and received his pharmacy degree from Auburn University. He serves on the board of Mizell Memorial Hospital. He is a youth sports coach, sponsors the Opp High School Band, is a Gold Club Booster at the high school, supports city youth sports, is a member of Alabama Pharmacy Association and is president of the Covington County Pharmacy Association.


Hunter Royal is owner of Old Gin Country Store in Brantley, which he opened in 2015. Royal attended the University of West Alabama, playing football, then transferred to Troy University. Royal worked in sales and management for 11 years until he purchased an old, abandoned gas station with a vision of turning it into a shopping destination not only for the local community but also for travelers. Old Gin Creek is expanding by adding a 10,000-square-foot grocery store that’s expected to open this fall.

Tracy Salter is executive director for the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce. Before joining the chamber, Salter spent 18 years in the newspaper industry with Greenville Newspapers LLC. In addition to chamber projects, Salter works with the city of Greenville and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. She is a Greenville native and serves on the council for Mid-South RC&D; the boards of the Butler County Achiever Award Scholarship and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development; and she is active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Central Alabama advisory committee, the Camellia Society and the Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society.

Kathryn Smyth is a Luverne City Council member and rural workforce coordinator for Crenshaw, Butler and Covington counties for Region 6 of Southeast AlabamaWorks. She also owns an antique shop in Luverne. She is retired executive director of Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center representing Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She is a board member of Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce, Crenshaw County Women for Christ, Crenshaw County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers.

This article appears in the April 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox