Staff Members

Team Values

We will nurture:

  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Self-empowerment
  • Collaboration
  • Growth & Sustainability
  • Respect & Recognition

Core Purpose

To nurture the #SWVA Creative Economy for future generations with growth sustainability, & sincere purpose.

ADMINISTRATION

  • Chris Cannon

    Executive Director

  • Jenna Wagner

    Deputy Director

  • Krystal Mosley

    Operations Manager

  • Hunter Dannhardt

    Maintenance

Chris Cannon

Executive Director

SWVA Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends of SWVA

Chris Cannon is the Executive Director of the Friends of Southwest Virginia and the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

A native son of Southwest Virginia, Cannon has returned to his roots in the Commonwealth to share his passion for tourism, economic and community development with 19 counties and four cities of the region. He leads a team that helps communities identify, develop and market their unique natural and cultural assets through innovative tourism concepts.  In this role, he also serves as the director of the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace, a 55,000 square foot facility that serves the region as a visitor center, artisan marketplace, restaurant and event space.

Prior to returning to Virginia, Cannon served the State of Georgia as the Assistant Director of Tourism Product Development for the Department of Economic Development and a Tourism Project Manager for the Presidential Pathways Region of Georgia – 20 counties in the West Central region. His start within tourism and economic development was as the Director of Communications for the Greater Rome Convention & Visitor Bureau and City of Rome in Northwest Georgia.

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. He is a certified Tourism Marketing Professional with the Southeast Tourism Society and a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development.

Cannon is a graduate of Shorter College in Rome, Georgia with a degree in Media Studies and Art. He recently became a resident of Bristol, Virginia, and is renovating a 1902 Victorian home in the Solar Hill Historic District to its original glory by following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Outside of work, you’ll find him hiking and exploring backcountry trails all over the South.

Jenna Wagner

Deputy Director

SWVA Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends of SWVA

Born and raised in Bristol, VA, I spend my days promoting the region of Southwest Virginia as an authentic destination that represents true Appalachia with unique experiences. 

Being involved in the community and doing work that has a lasting impact is extremely important to me. I am always looking for ways to serve, and was called to join the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In my current position with the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia, I serve as Deputy Director. My focus is on public relations, marketing, storytelling, community outreach, and program development and strategy around our arts and culinary initiative, ’Round the Mountain. I also oversee the integration of the aforementioned into our facility, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.

Prior to returning to Virginia, I spent six years in Charlotte, NC pursuing my passion for motorsports. Growing up in Bristol, home of the World’s Fastest Half Mile, racing has been in my blood from an early age. I worked for FOX Sports 1, then NASCAR Digital Media, doing graphic design, social media, platform development, and integrated marketing. 

My skills have been honed over the years at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, Elon University in Elon, NC, and Radford University in Radford, VA. I studied Media Arts & Design at JMU and attained my masters in Interactive Media from Elon. Over the past two years, I have been pursuing a Graduate Certificate from RU in Appalachian Studies. I enjoy continuing to learn and grow and am often seeking ways to develop and enhance my skills. I am grateful to have earned the Rising Star Award from Cynopsis in September of 2015 and received one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College scholarships in February 2018 from Miles Partnership. I will complete my Tourism Marketing Professional certification this year.

I am passionate about health, wellness, and how those integrate into the overall quality of life in Appalachia. My certifications in RYT 200 yoga instruction from Yoga Alliance and Adult, Child, Infant CPR & AED / Standard First Aid from Emergency Care & Safety Institute (ECSI), integrate into the balance of personal and work goals and growth. It’s on my bucket list to hike the full Appalachian Trail, and hope to pursue this at little at a time.

Krystal Mosley

Operations Manager

SWVA Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends of SWVA

Krystal was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. She was homeschooled of which she graduated from in 2005.  After graduation, she began attending Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College from 2005-2007 where she graduated with honors with her Associates Degree in Accounting.  She worked as a bookkeeper in a CPA firm while still living in Asheville. In 2009, she moved to Abingdon, Virginia.  Since then she has continued doing accounting work for various types of companies as well as doing bookkeeping for clients of her own.

She enjoys spending time outdoors running, hiking or biking.  She is also a group fitness instructor at Body Works Fitness and Training in Abingdon, Virginia.  Music is another one of her passions.  She took piano lessons from the age of 6 until she was 17. During those eleven years, she was awarded most outstanding student each year.

In April 2018, she began working with Friends of Southwest Virginia as an office manager and bookkeeper.  She is excited to be a part of this amazing team and all the great work they are doing in our communities!

Hunter Dannhardt

Maintenance

Appalachian Reclaimed

Hunter joins the Friends of Southwest Virginia team under his business, Appalachian Reclaimed. Hunter, a ‘Round the Mountain artisan, has helped to design and install works-of-art at Heartwood for the past year.

Hunter, a Bristol native opened Appalachian Reclaimed in 2017 with a focus on telling the story of Appalachia through reclaimed materials from the region.

Appalachian Reclaimed created the LOVE artwork in front of Heartwood, as well as the enhancements to the Southwest Virginia Mountain Brew Bar, located inside of Heartwood in Abingdon, VA. Hunter and his team have also been maintaining the facility of Heartwood and completing the renovations currently underway.

MARKETING

  • Chad Thompson

    Marketing Manager

Chad Thompson

Marketing Manager

Chad Thompson is a SWVA native currently residing in Glade Spring, Virginia. Growing up in SWVA, Chad has always enjoyed hiking, biking, and photography adventures. Chad attended Virginia Intermont College where he studied film and digital photography. After college, Chad became a freelance photographer / videographer where he created work for various clients around Southwest Virginia. After years in the field, Chad started a YouTube channel where he started teaching about his profession. Today, Chad still creates content on YouTube as well as personal and freelance photography / videography.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  • Marcia Dempsey

    Development Programs Administrator

  • Emily Mayo

    Creative Economy Development Specialist

  • Ida Walker

    Creative Economy Development Specialist

Marcia Dempsey

Development Programs Administrator

Friends of SWVA

Marcia Dempsey is the Grants Program Administrator for Friends of Southwest Virginia and provides oversight and support for over $6 million dollars of construction and technical assistance grants through federal, state and private funds. Prior to Friends, Marcia entered the community and economic development field through work in El Salvador through the United States Peace Corps.

Fun Fact:  Marcia can fly a Cessna 172 airplane

Emily Mayo

Creative Economy Development Specialist

Friends of SWVA

Emily is a Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Development Specialist for Friends of Southwest Virginia. She is currently working with 12 counties and 2 cities in Southwest Virginia to identify opportunities, build capacity and connect communities to creative economy initiatives. Emily comes to our team with a diverse background in facilitation, outdoor recreation and natural resources management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Parks and Recreation Administration with a focus on Natural Resources and Recreation Management from Eastern Kentucky University.

The creative economy focuses on innovative business development techniques, and finding successes that no longer rely on limited resources of land, labor and capital.  Through working with the creative economy Emily has been able to work with diverse groups of individuals; from outdoor recreation enthusiast, artisans, and town or county officials. Prior to working with Friends of SWVA she has experienced many forms of leadership. She has been a certified primary group fitness instructor since 2010 and has led unique classes to a wide range of ages; she’s worked at a world class outdoor recreation resort in West Virginia as a guide, manager of zip lines and aquatics, and as team building facilitator.

Ida Walker

Creative Economy Development Specialist

Friends of SWVA

Idalina Walker is a tourism development specialist with a background in environmental education, natural resource development. She is a Native of Floyd County and an Alum of UVA Wise. Throughout her career she has worked to promote the many natural assets of Southwest Virginia and engage with and learn from community partners. After spending a few years in Northern Virginia, Idalina is overjoyed to be back in the mountains working to develop partnerships and share her passion and energy for Southwest Virginia’s world class outdoor resources. Idalina will be focusing with the western front of the Southwest Virginia region and looks forward to meeting you to discuss exciting collaboration opportunities and ideas to benefit SWVA Outdoors.

ROUND THE MOUNTAIN (Affiliate Organization)

  • Jamee Gillespie

    SWVA Artisan Marketplace Manager

  • Jenna Wagner

    Deputy Director

Jamee Gillespie

SWVA Artisan Marketplace Manager

Friends of Southwest Virginia

Jamee is a life-long resident of Southwest Virginia. Before serving as the Artisan Marketplace Manager at Heartwood, she studied Human Services and Early Childhood Education and worked in development art, music, and literature activities for children.
Jamee has always surrounded herself with creativity and has found the perfect niche for that at Heartwood and with the incredible artisans we have in SWVA. At Heartwood, Jamee manages the art inventory and works in artisan relations. She is also an artisan herself, making wooden flowers and bouquets. Her other hobbies and interests include: Creating! (anything from sewing, welding, cooking, painting, and so on), going to concerts, playing guitar and adventuring with her family. Their favorite gem in Southwest Virginia to explore are hidden and well-known waterfalls.
Fun Fact: Jamee has a cat, python, and a mini chicken farm!

Jenna Wagner

Deputy Director

SWVA Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends of SWVA

Born and raised in Bristol, VA, I spend my days promoting the region of Southwest Virginia as an authentic destination that represents true Appalachia with unique experiences. 

Being involved in the community and doing work that has a lasting impact is extremely important to me. I am always looking for ways to serve, and was called to join the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In my current position with the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia, I serve as Deputy Director. My focus is on public relations, marketing, storytelling, community outreach, and program development and strategy around our arts and culinary initiative, ’Round the Mountain. I also oversee the integration of the aforementioned into our facility, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.

Prior to returning to Virginia, I spent six years in Charlotte, NC pursuing my passion for motorsports. Growing up in Bristol, home of the World’s Fastest Half Mile, racing has been in my blood from an early age. I worked for FOX Sports 1, then NASCAR Digital Media, doing graphic design, social media, platform development, and integrated marketing. 

My skills have been honed over the years at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, Elon University in Elon, NC, and Radford University in Radford, VA. I studied Media Arts & Design at JMU and attained my masters in Interactive Media from Elon. Over the past two years, I have been pursuing a Graduate Certificate from RU in Appalachian Studies. I enjoy continuing to learn and grow and am often seeking ways to develop and enhance my skills. I am grateful to have earned the Rising Star Award from Cynopsis in September of 2015 and received one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College scholarships in February 2018 from Miles Partnership. I will complete my Tourism Marketing Professional certification this year.

I am passionate about health, wellness, and how those integrate into the overall quality of life in Appalachia. My certifications in RYT 200 yoga instruction from Yoga Alliance and Adult, Child, Infant CPR & AED / Standard First Aid from Emergency Care & Safety Institute (ECSI), integrate into the balance of personal and work goals and growth. It’s on my bucket list to hike the full Appalachian Trail, and hope to pursue this at little at a time.

SWVA CULTURAL CENTER & MARKETPLACE

  • Jamee Gillespie

    SWVA Artisan Marketplace Manager

  • Gwyn Hill

    Cafe Manager

  • Donna Hensley

    SWVA Artisan Marketplace Assistant Manager

  • Leah Kidd

    Sales, Events, and Programming Coordinator

Jamee Gillespie

SWVA Artisan Marketplace Manager

Friends of Southwest Virginia

Jamee is a life-long resident of Southwest Virginia. Before serving as the Artisan Marketplace Manager at Heartwood, she studied Human Services and Early Childhood Education and worked in development art, music, and literature activities for children.
Jamee has always surrounded herself with creativity and has found the perfect niche for that at Heartwood and with the incredible artisans we have in SWVA. At Heartwood, Jamee manages the art inventory and works in artisan relations. She is also an artisan herself, making wooden flowers and bouquets. Her other hobbies and interests include: Creating! (anything from sewing, welding, cooking, painting, and so on), going to concerts, playing guitar and adventuring with her family. Their favorite gem in Southwest Virginia to explore are hidden and well-known waterfalls.
Fun Fact: Jamee has a cat, python, and a mini chicken farm!

Gwyn Hill

Cafe Manager

Friends of Southwest Virginia

Gwyn was born and raised in the south; however, after a camping trip to Abingdon, VA, she and her family fell in love with Southwest Virginia. Shortly after returning home, they moved to Damascus, VA.

Gwyn has a passion for baking and cooking which stems from her mother and grandmothers, who always encouraged her to bake with them.  Her biggest accomplishment thus far is owning and operating a café.

With more than 20 years in the industry Gwyn brings years of food and beverage experience and knowledge to the leadership team at the SWVA Cultural Center.  Gwyn’s commitment and desire is to provide the best customer experience while leading a team of strong servers by giving them all the proper tools and guidance. Gwyn graduated from I.T.T. Technical Institute in Maitland, FL with a Bachelors degree in Hospitality Management.

Outside of her day-to-day duties at Heartwood, you can find Gwyn baking something up, on the trails hiking or in the woods hunting.

Donna Hensley

SWVA Artisan Marketplace Assistant Manager

Friends of Southwest Virginia

Donna Hensley, born in Wurzburg, Germany, to Air Force parents from SWVA, attended schools all over the world including the longest stints in the Philippines and Napa, California finally making her way back to Wise County to settle and raise her family with 3 children before moving to Abingdon.  After working at a few restaurants in the hotel industry she has found retail and tourism the most enjoyable.  She is currently serving as an Administrative Assistant for Friends of SWVA and will continue to enjoy working in retail for Round the Mountain.
Her hobbies are: flea marketing and antique auctioning all while hunting bargains for DIY shabby farmhouse style projects, helping to flip houses, and her most rewarding pastime is spending time with her grandchildren.
Fun Fact : Donna can operate rollbacks in her sons towing service.

Leah Kidd

Sales, Events, and Programming Coordinator

Friends of Southwest Virginia

Leah Kidd, a dreamer at heart and lover of art and design, is the Sales, Events, and Programming Coordinator at the SWVA Cultural Center. Leah graduated with a degree in Family and Consumers Sciences Education from Carson-Newman College. It was during this time that she discovered her love for event design. Prior to returning to Virginia, Leah taught fashion and interior design as well as owning an event design firm for over 19 years. Through these experiences she shared her talents with others by hosting workshops, seminars, and classes in addition to running a successful, growing business. She is renowned as an expert in her field and has been featured on HGTV, Style Me Pretty, Grace Ormonde Style Magazine, Southern Living Wedding and The Knot. Leah is thankful to be back in Southwest Virginia and share her love and passion for events as well as showcasing the beautiful artistry that is unique to Southwest Virginia.

THE CROOKED ROAD (A Partner 501(c)(3))

  • Carrie Beck

    Executive Director

  • Debbie Holley

    Administrative Support Specialist

Carrie Beck

Executive Director

The Crooked Road

Debbie Holley

Administrative Support Specialist

The Crooked Road

Deb Holley has worked with The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail since 2015. As the Administrative Assistant, she is responsible for providing clerical support for all programs. Deb is also tasked with providing accounting support for the daily operations of The Crooked Road, as well as making posts and announcements on the organization’s websites and Facebook pages. The Crooked Road is the first non-profit organization that Deb has worked for having had experience in banks, savings and loans, public schools, corporations and LLCs. She has enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the heritage music of Southwest Virginia and get to know the musicians, venue operators and economic partners of the region. Deb has also served as a contract employee, Assistant Project Coordinator II, for The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming since it debuted in 2015. Deb attended the University of Florida and received her Associate of Arts degree from Valencia Community College in Orlando, FL.  She is a widow and mother of three daughters, and she enjoys spending time with her six grandchildren. She lives with her two dogs on her family’s farm in Meadowview, VA.

Friends of Southwest Virginia is following recommendations from the Commonwealth and the World Health Organization to practice social distancing. All public meetings will be postponed until further notice.Access Regional Resources Here »
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