Spotlight on Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb & Cherokee: Movers & Shapers

The individuals who help shape the communities in Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb and Cherokee counties


Brian Baine is mayor of Fort Payne. He is a graduate of Fort Payne High School and attended Northeast Community College and Gadsden State Community College. He worked at Bruce’s Foodland Plus for 37 years. He has volunteered for various community events and organizations for many years. He currently serves on the board of DeKalb CAC, Leadership DeKalb, DC Gas and Main Street Fort Payne.


- Sponsor -

Maggie Barnes is the sales director for Lake Guntersville State Park. She previously served as vice president of sales and marketing internationally and Christian education director for the United Methodist Church in Hampton, Iowa. She is a member and graduate of the Marshall County Leadership Challenge and is a member of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and Southeastern Tourism Society.


Jason Barnett is superintendent of Guntersville City Schools. In 2020, Barnett was inducted into the Jacksonville State University College of Education Hall of Fame and also received the Southern Regional Education Board District Leadership Award. In addition, Barnett previously has been awarded the distinction of Jacksonville State University Educational Leadership “Alumnus of the Year” and local school “Teacher of the Year” during his time as a classroom teacher.


Darrell Blaylock is CEO of DeKalb Regional Medical Center in Fort Payne. He earned a master’s degree in health care administration at Mississippi College and a master’s in public administration from the University of Mississippi. He was a member of the Leadership DeKalb County Class of 2022. He is also a member of the Fort Payne Rotary Club.



Jennifer Bray is district attorney for the 27th Judicial Circuit in Marshall County, after working nine years as an assistant district attorney. She graduated from the University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law. She serves on the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Marshall County and Marshall County Community Punishment and Corrections Authority, and she is president of the board of Marshall County Youth Leadership. She previously served on the boards of Family Services of North Alabama and Domestic Violence Crisis Services.

David Campbell is president of Northeast Alabama Community College. Under his leadership, the college increased enrollment and expanded workforce and STEM programs, adding a math, science and engineering tech center and a health workforce complex. Honors include Citizen of the Year in both DeKalb and Jackson counties, a meritorious service award from SACSCOC, Exemplary Leader honors from the Chair Academy and a national service award from Phi Theta Kappa. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama. Campbell is a graduate of Auburn University with a master’s from Florida State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

Daniel Colon is assistant branch manager at Family Savings Credit Union in Scottsboro. He attended Northeast Alabama Community College and Auburn University and is also a graduate of Leadership Jackson County. He is president of Jackson County United Givers Fund and treasurer of Jackson County Children’s Advocacy Center board. He is co-chair of the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Emissary program and serves on the chamber’s board. Colon is active with the Parks and Recreation Department, serving as a volunteer coach for various sports throughout the year.

A. Jason Davidson is superintendent of Jackson County schools. A graduate of Jacksonville State University, he also holds secondary education credentials and a master’s from JSU. Prior to being named superintendent, Davidson was supervisor of career technical education and worked as a classroom teacher and coach. He participated in the first cohort of the Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy conducted by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, the NAESP and CLAS. He was selected for the 2022 University of Alabama’s Superintendent Academy. He also serves on the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

Leigh Dollar is a Guntersville native and became mayor 40 years after her father was elected to the same position. Dollar is a University of Alabama graduate and a CPA. She opened an accounting office, Dollar & Watson, in 1999. She is past chair of the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and has served on many other boards and organizations in the community. She is past president of the Alabama League of Municipalities and serves on numerous boards and committees at the state level. Dollar is a graduate of Marshall County Leadership Challenge and Leadership Alabama.

Eric M. Dudash served more than 30 years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force. He is a Life/Bronze Legacy VFW member and serves as the Department of Alabama senior vice commander and is a member of the DeKalb County VFW Post 3128. He and his battle buddy “Phantom,” a German shepherd, assist combat wounded veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD. He recently was honored with the 2022 Top 20 Community Leaders in DeKalb County, 2022 Spirit of the Eagle Award, Liberty’s Learning Foundation 2022 Super Citizen Award and was awarded the Governor of Alabama Veteran of the Year 2022 award.

James B. Durham Jr. is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Authority. He has served on the Fort Payne City Board of Education for 20 years and is an adjunct business professor at Northeast Alabama Community College. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn University. He has served on the TVA Rural Economic Development Cabinet and is a graduate of Leadership Alabama, TVA Valley Leadership Program and the Auburn University Intensive Economic Development Program. Earlier, he was executive director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in the Shoals and executive director of the Alabama International Airport Authority.

Connie J. Fuller is executive director of Fort Payne Main Street. She serves on the Fort Payne Boom Days Committee and helped secure funding for Life’s Journey Reflection and Meditation Garden on the Susie P. Stringfellow Memorial Garden Trail. She is a graduate of Auburn University and Troy State University. A retired educator, she has worked in reading programs here and abroad and owned a bookstore. She also manages the Fort Payne Main Street Farmers Market. In 2022, the Times Journal selected her as a Citizen of Influence. She is a member of the Optimist Club and the DeKalb Tourism board.

Brian L. Jett is superintendent of Fort Payne City Schools. He is a graduate of Northeast Community College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jacksonville State University. He has overseen several major projects during his tenure — redesigning curriculum, adding the vocational education BEAT Center and adding the Little Ridge Intermediate Facility, a state-of-the-art power over ethernet school, energy saving and environmentally friendly.


Fred Johnson is CEO of the Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in Rainsville. A CPA, he is a graduate of Southern Wesleyan University with a master’s from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is working toward a doctorate. He is vice president of the board of the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative and serves on the Alabama 9-1-1 board, which oversees the funding of emergency communication districts within Alabama. Johnson is active with the Broadband Association of Alabama and Mississippi and has served on the board of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, including a term as its chairman.

David Lee Jones is a Guntersville attorney and chair of the Guntersville Industrial Development Board. An Auburn University graduate, Jones graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Aside from his legal practice, Jones has been a community leader for many years. A past president of the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce, he has served on the Guntersville Airport Board, the Marshall County Economic Development Council and the Guntersville Planning Board. An avid historian, Jones is also former president of Guntersville Historical Society.

Dr. Messalina Jordan is owner of Boaz and Albertville Family Care and is a board-certified family physician and surgical obstetrics fellow after 23 years as a nurse. She graduated from the Medical School-Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine-Georgia campus and trained at UAB Huntsville Family Medicine residency program. She is active in the community, working with Boaz City Schools, the Snead State Community College Foundation, Junior Achievement, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, Marshall County Leadership Challenge, Boaz Rotary and adjunct teaching at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. She was Boaz Citizen of the Year in 2022.

Katie Kirkland is events and marketing coordinator and the Main Street director for the city of Scottsboro. The program has earned seven Awards of Excellence since she began her tenure. The Main Street project includes revitalization of Trade Days, a 120-year-old tradition in Scottsboro. She is a communications graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a degree in biological sciences from Mississippi State University.


Stacy Ledwell is a lifelong resident of Jackson County, where he has been a small-business owner in Scottsboro for the past 25 years. He also serves as the solid waste disposal authority director for Scottsboro. He attended Northeast Alabama Community College and holds three technical degrees. He has previously served on various boards, including past president of Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Scottsboro Rotary Club, Jackson County Economic Development Authority, Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame, was elected to the Jackson County Commission and is the current chairman of the Jackson County Healthcare Authority.

Wayne Lyles is superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. He has 28 years of experience as an educator, including administrative, teaching, coaching and principal positions. A native of Fyffe, Lyles attended Snead State Community College and earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University. He earned his master’s and education specialist degrees from Jacksonville State University.



Maj. Gen. Willie B. Nance Jr. is chairman of the Jackson County Commission. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a master’s from Florida Institute of Technology. Nance is a member of the Northeast Alabama Community College advisory board and of Scottsboro Lions Club. Nance entered the Army as a private and retired after more than 34 years as a major general. He led Cypress International for a decade. In 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey appointed him chairman of the Jackson County Commission, and in November 2022, he was elected to a four-year term.

Jim Olyniec worked 24 years with the TVA. He earned an engineering degree from Christian Brothers University, MS from the University of New Mexico and an MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including one year in Vietnam. His career was in power plant heavy construction. He served more than 20 years on the Scottsboro Planning Commission, 10 years on the Goose Pond Colony Board, 10 years coordinating and building Habitat for Humanity homes and on several other community projects.

Lydia Pennington is executive director of tourism for Jackson County. Previously, she served as director of communications and marketing for the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce and as industry relations and workforce development director at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. She is a native of north Alabama, and a graduate of the University of Alabama.



Joy Perry, who grew up in Cherokee County, is executive director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Centre, Centre Lions Club and serves on the board of Alabama Bass Trail, Alabama Birding Trail, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Alabama Scenic River Trail, East Alabama Works, Industrial Development Authority of Cherokee County, Spirit of Cherokee and TheatreCentre. She served on Cherokee County Board of Education for six years and is a graduate of Leadership Cherokee.

Ashley Pool is president of Highlands Medical Center. A nurse practitioner and administrator, she has more than 25 years of health care experience. Before coming to HMC, Pool spent five years as an intensive care nurse and more than 16 years as a nurse practitioner owning her own clinic in rural Limestone County. She served as CEO and COO of Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her master’s degree in health care management from Vanderbilt University.

Chris Rush is president of Marshall Medical Centers. He was vice president of the Huntsville Hospital Health System’s Physician Network of more than 200 physicians in 30 locations when he took the role of president of Marshall Medical Centers in February 2022. Before joining Huntsville Hospital Health System, he served as the CFO of Rush Health Systems Inc., and previously served as the CEO/administrator of Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, a hospital founded by his great grandfather. He is a graduate of Wofford College and holds two master’s degrees from American University in Washington, D.C.

Stacey White is CEO and general manager of Arab Electric Cooperative. She is on the boards of the Alabama Rural Electric Association, North Alabama Industrial Development, United Way of Marshall County and Marshall County Economic Development. She also serves on the boards of the North Alabama Public Power Association and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, where she works to advance sustainable energy practices. Through her service on the Arab Chamber of Commerce and Arab Education Foundation, White continues to champion educational and economic initiatives. She also is a past graduate of Marshall County Leadership.

Cindy Wigley is serving her third term as superintendent of Marshall County Schools. She graduated from Auburn University and earned a doctorate from the University of Alabama. Wigley has been active in local and state organizations, including the 2021 SSA District 9 president, CLAS board member, Albertville Rotary and Marshall County Workforce Development. In addition, Wigley has been recognized as Superintendent of the Year, won the Marbury Technology Innovation Superintendent Award and completed the National Superintendent Certification Program.

Randi Gaskin Wright is director of Gadsden State Cherokee. Previously, Wright served as the Cleburne County coordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension. She has a master’s degree in adult education from Auburn University, a bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville State University and an associate degree from Gadsden State Community College.

This article appears in the November 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox