Spotlight on Fayette, Lamar & Marion: Movers & Shapers

The individuals who help shape the communities in Fayette, Lamar and Marion counties

Valerie Branyon is the Fayette area materials engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation. Prior to her present position, she worked with the Florida Department of Transportation as a geotechnical engineer. She is a University of Alabama graduate. Branyon has served on several ACE citizen committees for the city of Fayette, and she also serves on her local volunteer fire department board of directors.


Penny Davis is an attorney, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Alabama Law School and a legal author. She has more than 30 years of experience drafting legislation and providing legal training for judges and other government officials. She currently serves as one of the trustees for two trusts benefiting the town of Kennedy and South Lamar High School students. She received her JD, MA and BS from the University of Alabama. She has received several professional awards.

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Dr. Joel Hagood is president of Bevill State Community College. Before joining BSCC, he was superintendent of the Walker County schools, where he was District 7 Superintendent of the Year. He also served on the board of the Council of Leaders of Alabama Schools. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a doctorate in education from Samford University. He is active in the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fayette Area Chamber of Commerce, West AlabamaWorks, Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments and Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance.

Zac Hallmark is the chief credit officer and serves on the board of State Bank and Trust. He joined the bank after graduating from the University of Alabama and has since earned additional credentials in banking. He is active in the Winfield Chamber of Commerce, currently serving as the organization’s president. He is a former member of the Winfield Park and Recreation board. Hallmark co-owns Hallmark Furniture and Home Décor in Winfield with his family.


Shane Hughes, who retired as assistant chief after 20 years with the Winfield police department, is now a police officer at Bevill State Community College and a Fayette County commissioner. Active with two key projects, he helped pass Aniah’s Law, which prevents violent offenders from getting out on bail, and also works with Alabama Law Enforcement for Peer Support to help first responders and community members learn to deal with critical incidents.

Donald Jones is administrator of Fayette Medical Center. Prior to coming to the DCH Health System, he was administrator of Marion Regional Medical Center and Nursing Home in Hamilton. Jones is a University of Alabama graduate with a master’s from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a licensed nursing home administrator. He is board certified in health care management and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is active in professional groups including the Alabama Hospital Association West Council and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Hospital Advisory Board.

Robin Mixon is administrator of North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton. She is a fellow of the American College of Health Care Administrators and the American College of Healthcare Executives. She is a graduate of Mississippi University for Women with a master’s from Trident University International. She is a licensed preceptor under the Mississippi Board of Nursing Home Administrators and enjoys mentoring. She is also a certified health safety professional, as well as a certified rural health care professional. Mixon is active in both professional and civic organizations.

Emily Netherton Montague is the executive director of the Fayette Area Chamber of Commerce. She serves as the Fayette Area Kiwanis vice president and works closely with the Fayette Leadership and Tourism Committees. She is a Valdosta State University graduate and worked earlier as a family service worker with the American Red Cross, assisting with disaster relief. She has more than 15 years of experience as a case manager in the Texas foster care system. She and her husband also have started their own company, Montague Drone Operations.

Myra Nichols is founder of Fayette’s Old Fashion Christmas, a popular downtown community event that features carriage rides, train rides, Santa pictures, live music, shopping and more. She taught kindergarten and first grade for 39 years, graduated from Bevill State Community College and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama. Active in community service, she also serves on Fayette’s tourism committee, the city’s DHR board, the Equitable Neighborhood Initiative committee and more.

Rod Northam is mayor of Fayette. He retired from 3M Company after 34 years, the final 16 as plant manager. A graduate of Fayette Academy, he earned an associate degree at Brewer State Community College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. He serves on the boards of Community Services of West Alabama, West Alabama Regional Commission, West Alabama Food Bank and the Fayette Community Foundation. He is active in the West Alabama Mayors Association, the Fayette Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fayette Garden Club.

Ashley Watson Palmer is COO of First National Bank in Hamilton. Earlier she was a staff accountant at Abroms and Associates in Florence. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of North Alabama. She is president of the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce board and a board member of Alabama Bankers Association B2L. She organized and conducted Hamilton’s first “Walk of Trees,” with more than 100 Christmas trees set up around the city’s walking track. A first responder for the Byrd Volunteer Fire Department, she is active in the Hamilton Kiwanis Club and a volunteer assistant softball coach.

Phil Segraves is mayor of Guin. He created the first strategic plan for the city and led projects to revitalize downtown, winning numerous grants for infrastructure improvements. Guin was among the first Alabama Community of Excellence cities, and Segraves was ACE’s  2023 mayor of the year. A past president of the Alabama League of Municipalities, he serves on its executive committee and is a member of the workers compensation fund board of directors. He is a member of North Alabama Mayors Association, North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Your Town Alabama and the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Government.

Hilda Smith is manager of sales and events for Hampton Inn Winfield. She began her career in hospitality at the Holiday Inn Guin. She is a former critical care registered nurse. She has attended Mercer University for the last two years on a hospitality scholarship. She serves on the boards of the Weldy Home, the Winfield City High School advisory board, C3 of Northwest Alabama and volunteers with the Alabama Association of Suicide Awareness and Prevention. She has organized several major community fundraisers and remains active with others.

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

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