Executive Director Announcement


ABINGDON, VA –Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has named Southwest Virginia native Chris Cannon as Executive Director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation (SWVACHF) and Friends of Southwest Virginia, effective July 5.

Bringing a wealth of experience to his new role as Executive Director, Cannon is returning to his roots after a successful career in tourism and economic development in Georgia. A graduate of Shorter College in Rome, Ga., he served as the Director of Communications for the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau. He then expanded his career through several positions with the Tourism Division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.  From working in a single community to directing statewide programs across 159 counties, Cannon has experience implementing diverse partner-driven projects that complement and build a comprehensive community economy.

“I’ve always felt a calling back to my native Virginia. Even though I’ve called Georgia home for years, this land runs in my blood through roots five generations deep. I’m ecstatic to dive into our shared effort with Southwest Virginia’s 19 counties and four cities to find new ways to expand the economy and create new jobs using our unique Appalachian culture and natural assets as a focal point,” said Cannon.

“After an extensive interview process with a number of highly qualified candidates, we stood unanimously behind Chris. His experience, Southwest Virginia roots and vision for the future made him the ideal choice,” said Bill Shelton, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.

“During the first few moments of Chris’ interview, we knew we had someone special and an excellent fit for our staff members and partners across the region.”

Cannon succeeds Todd Christensen, who has retired as director, but will continue to work in the region as a project manager with Appalachian Spring, Southwest Virginia’s outdoor recreation initiative. Christensen was a founding member of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail in 2003. He served as the organization’s first director and held positions with the Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development for 35 years before retiring in May.

Christensen noted: “I have upmost confidence in the direction of the Foundation by selecting Chris as the new Executive Director. He brings perspective from his past experiences, along with a unique marketing skill set that will lift the Southwest Virginia brand and story.”

Since 2003, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation has worked to develop the 19 counties and four cities that compose Southwest Virginia, promoting its cultural heritage, music, craft and natural assets. In collaboration with regional and state partners, the SWVACHF is helping to develop communities and increase visitation to the region. Countless hours have been spent to create a more sustainable community for residents through increased tourism and economic opportunity. Visit myswva.org to discover “A different side of Virginia,” and learn more about regional initiatives.[/text]