A Southwest Alabama Ambassador is someone passionate about Alabama’s Black Belt and shares photos, videos and stories about the region on social media. Ambassadors explore destinations off the beaten path, seek adventure that feeds the soul, capture the beauty of southwest Alabama, and share their story with the rest of us. Their stories encourage others to go out and explore southwest Alabama for themselves.

Using a grant from the Ala-Tom RC&D Council, The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development launched the Southwest Alabama Ambassador program in Selma this November. Inspired by a successful program in north Alabama, the program’s 14 ambassadors promote tourism using social media in Alabama’s Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Washington, and Wilcox counties.

Keep up with the ambassadors by following them and @alabamatourist on Instagram and Facebook and checking out #VisitSouthwestAlabama.

Melanie Andress

I grew up exploring and still enjoy getting out. I love to walk around our small towns and capture both footprints from the past and the things that are open and being used now. We live in a beautiful area and I’m partial to dirt roads, cotton fields, sunsets, water, flowers and historic buildings. I occasionally post a short story, a memory or information about something I’ve seen in my ramblings.

Clay Carmichael

I’m enjoying my home in Selma and my family, which is the most important reason I love this region! I grew up here and have experienced the details on the rivers and creeks, in the woods, and the quaint rural downtowns that bring peace to my life, and I want to show this to others so that they can enjoy it with me! There is still much to explore, so I look forward to this opportunity! Thank you!

Jessica Hammonds

“No matter where I’ve lived or traveled, I’m always sharing what Alabama has to offer and the beauty of the state. Being from Selma originally, a part of Alabama’s Blackbelt, I know that whether it’s the rural roads and farms, the markets and festivals, or the art, food and music scenes, we have a little bit of everything. There is still much more to discover and I can’t wait to share my SW Alabama adventures with you.”

Jessica is the President of River Oak Strategies, a firm dedicated to education advocacy, non-profit  development, campaign management, and public relations. Before moving back to Alabama, she previously served as the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s National Director of Advocacy and supported the team in their work with state leaders and policymakers to transform education and to ensure students are prepared for real life. After graduating from Auburn University, she worked at USDA and the White House while serving under President George Bush in several roles.

After working at a public relations firm in Washington, DC, she moved to Florida and worked to elect Governor Rick Scott to office and became the spokeswoman of the Florida Department of Health and Governor’s Office. Following years in Florida, she wanted to serve her state and became the Executive Director of Alabama GRIT, advocating for Alabama parents, educators and students. She serves on the Montgomery Auburn University Board and is involved in various non-profits and organizations. She enjoys SEC football and spending her extra time with family and friends.

Cooper Holmes

I’m a sixth generation Perry County native with deep roots across the Black Belt. I enjoy promoting all the positive assets our region has to offer. Our history, culture and natural resources are hidden treasures that I love to show off. I’m also on Instagram as @alabamablackbelttourism

Kristin Law

Kristin Law

Touring, traveling, and experiencing the culture and communities around Alabama (especially the Black Belt region) is my life – personally and professionally. I live to capture the stories, personalities, cultural history, artwork, and events in my hometown and neighboring counties through photographs, videos, and sometimes through my art. I especially love to share these images and visual stories with both people who live here and those who have never visited or may plan to visit our beautiful region. People often tell me “I love seeing your photographs because you see things that i just drive past and never see”. Helping others see what is already around them, or the opportunities for travel, recreation, or adventure is just something i have always done, and will always find a way to do. As a Southwest Alabama Ambassador, I will cherish being able to share the amazing outdoors, people, wildlife, culture, and stories of our region with others – and bring a positive image of Alabama to those who are visiting or planning to visit. I am usually “behind the camera” – but am starting to interview artists, guides, and people of interest around the region and have become more comfortable being “on film” and doing interviews.

Other social media accounts include TikTok and a Facebook page dedicated to Possum Pottery.

Alisha Linam Bowen

Hey y’all! My name is Alisha Linam Bowen and I live in Monroeville, the Literary Capital of Alabama. My job as Director of Library Services at Coastal Alabama Community College takes me throughout the region and has me work with the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum in Thomasville and the Monroeville Literary Festival at the Monroe County Museum. I am a champion for the literary arts and take pride in sharing glimpses of the beauty and diversity of this area with the outside world. From the piney hills of Choctaw County to the endless horizons of Escambia, I love documenting our breathtaking sunsets, historic sites, unique art, and of course, our wonderful food. Join me on my Instagram, @amlinam, or @goinwiththebowens as I explore the backroads and hidden treasures of Southwest Alabama!

Collins Pettaway, III

Collins Pettaway, III was born and raised in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama. He returned home after finishing his 2nd degree at Alabama A&M University to be able to give back to the community. He has spent time educating and encouraging the community to become involved more socially and civically. More importantly, Collins has an unconditional love for the city. He truly believes that Selma is the model city that can influence others. Collins has stated that Selma has a natural beauty that many are not aware of, as does the entire Black Belt area of Southwest Alabama. You can also find him on twitter.

Samantha Ramsey

I am a Monroe County native and resident; mom, wife, and nurse, and I love to travel, explore, and adventure! Our rural southwest Alabama cities and counties boast unmatched beauty, exciting outdoor adventures, exceptional people, enriching art, history, and literary influences, as well as fantastic local restaurants and shops. I have an incredible appreciation for all the area has to offer and want to share that love and appreciation with others in hopes of highlighting local tourism and development opportunities for travelers, adventurers, and businesses alike.

Katie Summerville

As a transplant from Birmingham to Faunsdale, rural Southwest Alabama has become my home. Southwest Alabama is often overlooked by traditional tourism, but this region should be highly regarded for its beautiful geography, abundant wildlife, important historical sites that have shaped Alabama and the United States, and most importantly, for the communities which exemplify the present and bright future of this region. I am excited to show others the beauty that lays both on and below the surface of Southwest Alabama, and I’m excited to welcome you to the place I call home.

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