Smedley: An advocate for Selma
July is a big month for Sheryl Smedley, because it marks the 25th anniversary of her time in Selma and the fifth year she has served as the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.
She remembers the exact date she moved to Selma, following her husband John as his career maneuvered him to the Black Belt.
Smedley, who grew up in Florida between the beaches of Daytona and historic St. Augustine, said she had visited Selma before and knew the city had a large historic presence. However, thinking back now, she admits that like most people entering a new town, there was a lot she didn’t know.
“I had visited but not for any length of time,” Smedley said. “I knew about the historic district but I had no idea about the bridge.”
It didn’t take long for that to change.
Smedley worked at First Alabama Bank and People’s Bank for her first two decades in Selma, before taking her current job at the Chamber of Commerce. While working at the banks, she often engaged in small talk with customers who walked in. Many of those conversations revolved around Selma and how the city had so many positive features that the outside world wasn’t aware of.
“I used to be over there on that other corner,” Smedley said, looking through the window and flashing back to her past. “People would come in and say ‘We have so much here, how can we market it, how can we get these buses here, how can we get more people in here?’”
Now that she has transitioned jobs and leads the city’s historic chamber, Smedley gets to ponder those questions daily as she helps lead Selma into the future.
“What I’ve learned is we don’t promote ourselves within,” Smedley said. “We all need to be ambassadors for our community, both young at heart and wise at heart. We all need to step back and see it really is a great place to live at the end of the day.”
Smedley grew up loving to look at historic homes and she has always had a knack for interior design, and Selma provides plenty of opportunity to enjoy older buildings.
“I studied interior design for two years down in Florida, learning the different types of architecture and all of that is here so I guess that’s what the attraction is here,” Smedley said.
One day, Smedley said she would love to buy an old home and restore it, but right now she’s content on helping Selma grow towards its future.