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Smedley a ‘blessing’

By Desiree Taylor

Selma Times-Journal

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.”

Sheryl Smedley, the director for the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, takes King’s message to heart.

“She’s one of the hardest working people in Selma,” said Jimmie Coleman, vice president of government affairs for the chamber of commerce. “She really believes in unity and she wants to make common ground with everyone. She continues to build a great team around her.”

Smedley, who celebrated her 1-year anniversary with the chamber on July 6, believes Selma is worth investing in.

“All cities have issues,” Smedley said. “We’re the largest historical district in the state and there’s opportunity here, untapped resources available. We’re trying to give our city a facelift and move forward by revitalizing it. Selma is just a great and unique place, and it has a lot to offer.”

Coleman said Smedley puts her whole heart into what she does.

“Many don’t know this, but in her own time she rides around the city to see how and where she can beautify it,” said Coleman, director of Calhoun Foods. “She always puts in 110 percent and advertises for Selma and Dallas County.”

Smedley leads her staff with vigor and vision and she is a champion for business.

“My main thing is recruiting retail,” she said. “Retailers want me to tell them why they should invest here in Selma, and I’m here to show them around, and liven up the positive highlights of the city.”

Thanks to Smedley’s business savvy and goal-oriented nature, membership participation at the Chamber has increased by 10 percent from last year.

“Sheryl has been a real blessing in her role as chamber director,” said Dennis Palmer, chamber chairman of the board. “She is a joy to work with and our membership has really responded to her. As a matter of fact, under her leadership, membership in the chamber has grown over the last year, which is substantial when you consider the economic factors our local businesses have been challenged with.”

Coleman said people are rethinking the chamber.

“Since her time here, she has helped to bring back old members and increase current member participation,” Coleman said.

The chamber has been in existence for more than 165 years. Its membership directory and buyer’s guide offers newcomers and employers: calendars to upcoming events, lists of top employers, clubs and organizations and tourism hot spots, just to name a few. The chamber also houses a resource room (funded by the University of Alabama’s economic development program), which offers software and tools to help entrepreneurs create successful business plans.

“The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network (AERN) has provided this (room) and it’s great for our community,” Smedley said. “We have sample business plans available to help individuals start a business or expand one. If you can’t find what you need here, we have an outreach coordinator to go the extra mile for you.”

Smedley’s love for people makes a difference in how other Chamber members and businesses respond to her.

“It’s just great working with her,” said Candace Johnson, director of tourism for the Center for Commerce. “We want the same things for Selma.”

Johnson, who has led Selma and Dallas County’s tourism program for two years, said teamwork and communication between members is essential to its success.

“Communication is (Smedley’s) number one thing,” Johnson said. “When we meet daily, we keep each other up-to-date about the happenings of the city. We both rather ‘over talk’ than not talk enough, and it’s great that we can talk often and everyone is on the same page.”

Mayor George Evans noted Smedley’s constant availability and desire to help wherever she can.

“She’s professional and accessible,” he said. “Not only does she have a great personality, but she’s always trying to reach out to the community—whether it’s local business, clubs and organizations or city government.”

In addition, Johnson said Smedley is open-minded to many perspectives.

“We can bounce ideas off of one another,” she said. “She is open to trying anything that will benefit not only the chamber but the community as well. I think she has really opened the door by showing the chamber as personable to outsiders. She not only wants businesses to succeed, but she cares about her members as well. She gives members the opportunity to ask questions and to brainstorm.”

Smedley remains committed to her job. She has never missed a day of work.

“Vacation is not a priority for me,” she said. “My drive is helping people.”

Other members of the chamber notice Smedley’s commitment as well.

“She has a great attention to detail, and a great amount of initiative,” said Catesby Jones, who is the membership and finance chairman for the chamber. “She does a fantastic job in bringing members together. The qualities she possesses has changed the chamber in a positive way.”

Jones said Smedley continues to improve the city through different programs, including after hours events that provide business professionals networking opportunities.

“She partners with and sponsors different groups to have small business seminars,” he said. “She has conducted chamber golf tournaments and business after hours for networking. She does a lot for the chamber and is very professional.”

Smedley enjoys coming to work every day.

“I like being here because I get to meet interesting people daily,” she said. “People give me their business plans, wanting to give back to the community, and I show them how to do that. This job allows me to help people. I really enjoy my time here.”

Smedley believes in Selma and wants it to be alluring to visitors.

“I want the city to be a great place to live, to shop, and to enjoy,” she said. “There’s new markets to explore, and we want to build relationships and connect cultures on a global level.”