top of page


Keynote Speakers

Lauretta Hannon

Bestselling Author & Executive Director of the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Foundation

Named the “Funniest Woman in Georgia” by Southern Living Magazine, Lauretta Hannon is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen–A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life (Gotham Books, Penguin) and has been a commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, where her stories have reached 25 million listeners. Her memoir was named “One of the Top 25 Books All Georgians Should Read” by the Georgia Center for the Book.

Lauretta is in-demand as a keynote speaker and offers writing and self-growth seminars and retreats. She blogs and podcasts at and recently gave a TEDx Talk titled This Sentence Will Transform Your Life. Her Front Porch Views podcast is available wherever you like to listen. Lauretta will have copies of her book available immediately after the presentation.

Lauretta will be presenting Reignite Your Storytelling

Hannon Headshot.png

Garrett Nudd

Associate vice president of marketing and brand strategy, AdventHealth Georgia Market

President, AdventHealth Georgia Foundation

Garrett leads marketing, communications, and philanthropy for the AdventHealth Georgia Market. Previously, Garrett and his wife Joy, owned a storefront wedding and portrait photography studio in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they photographed wedding clients from across the country and around the world, and served a discerning portrait clientele during the week.

Garrett has been an instructor at dozens of state, national, and international photography conferences and his work has been published in more than 50 books, magazines, and online publications. He was named by Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine as one of the top destination wedding photographers in the world. Garrett is a frequent speaker on the topics of marketing and branding, mission, culture, and individual worthiness.

Garrett is a community advocate and enjoys serving in a variety of roles including on the Calhoun Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, Calhoun High School Governance Team, Southern Adventist University School of Journalism & Communications advisory board, and more. Garrett and his wife, Joy, have three daughters: Graycen, Campbell, and Spencer.

Garrett will be presenting Your Story Matters

Kyle Bennett

Tourism Manager at Visit Woodstock GA

In 2006 Kyle was hired by the Woodstock Downtown Development Authority & Visit Woodstock GA to the position of Programs Manager. In 2007 Kyle was promoted to the position of Tourism Manager. This position oversees the major components of tourism policy for the organization. This includes managing the Woodstock Visitors Center, overseeing website & social media pages, and directing tourism marketing efforts for the City of Woodstock. Kyle also manages a variety of popular and successful events in Woodstock including the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market, The WDSTK Scarecrow Invasion, The Discover WDSTK Scavenger Hunt, The Downtown WDSTK Walking Tour Series, and several events at the Woodstock Visitors Center. 


Kyle has been named as one of Cherokee County’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals and was named a Georgia Trend 40 under 40 honoree. Outside of work Kyle is best known for being a huge Star Wars fan which has resulted in him being a panelist at DragonCon the past few years speaking on a variety of Star Wars topics. 

Kyle will be presenting Exploring the World of Food Tourism

Jess Gutman.jpg

Jess Gutman

Creative Director at Big Slate Media

Jess is a storyteller at heart – from sitting in front of a screen crafting content for various brands to bringing others words to life on a stage to posting about her day on her Instagram Stories. Her passion has always been to communicate with others, tell stories that inspire emotion and really, just make people laugh (her mom thinks she’s hilarious). Professionally, she enjoys telling brand stories through captivating visuals, digital content, and social media. When not at work (actually, sometimes at the office, too), you can find Jess singing along to Broadway Cast Recordings, binging Netflix/Hulu/YouTube, snuggling her cat Aaron Purr, or hanging out with family and friends. She loves traveling, fresh flowers, and sour beer.

Jess will be presenting Elevate Your Engagement: Social Media Trends & Strategies

Sadie Krawczyk

Managing Director of GeorgiaForward and Placemaking in the Community and Economic Development Office of the Georgia Municipal Association

Sadie Krawczyk is the Managing Director of GeorgiaForward and Placemaking within the Community and Economic Development Office of the Georgia Municipal Association. She also oversees the Young Gamechangers leadership-action program in her role. Prior to GMA, she served as the Economic Development Director for the City of Monroe for 9 years where she oversaw industry and retail recruitment, downtown development, small business support programs, and the day-to-day operations of the Downtown Development Authority and Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau. Ms. Krawczyk is a Georgia Certified Economic Developer (GCED) and an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council. Sadie, along with her husband, Brian, and their four children, make their home in Monroe, Georgia.

Sadie will be presenting Incentives and Funding for Vibrant Placemaking

Aundi Lesley headshot.jpg

Aundi Lesley

Downtown Development Director for Rome, GA

Aundi Lesley serves as the Downtown Development Director for Rome, GA and has been in the Main Street world since 2017. During her tenure, 68 new businesses have opened, 277 jobs created and almost $20 million in public-private investment has been made in Downtown Rome. Lesley earned a BBA from the University of West Georgia and is currently pursuing an MPA from Jacksonville State University. She is the Region 1 representative and Secretary/Treasurer for the Georgia Downtown Association. She is a wife, mom, true crime enthusiast, bubble gum connoisseur, houseplant hoarder, and Leslie Knope wannabe.

Aundi will be presenting Open Containers: Big Impact on a Small Town

Chris Reidenbaugh

President, Mt. Lebanon Partnership

Google Partner Speaker

Google Maps Photographer

For over 23 years, Chris Reidenbaugh has worked in digital marketing serving clients from small businesses to entire main street districts. Chris has delivered over 190 seminars and marketing sessions that concentrate on marketing and analytics. He has worked with counties, towns, and organizations all over North Georgia. Chris grew up in Buford, Ga, and currently spends his time between Pittsburgh, Pa, and Blairsville, Ga. while chasing around 4 teenagers, 2 dogs, and a guinea pig. Chris and his wife love to cook, tailgate, camp, be outdoors, travel, and immerse themselves in the magicalness of College Football. 

Chris will be presenting G4 Analytics: How to Decipher Data and Grow Your Business

Chris Reidenbaugh_edited.jpg
Laurie Rowe.JPG

Laurie Rowe

President of Laurie Rowe & Company

Laurie Rowe's career spans 30-years in the hospitality industry. She served in the positions of assistant director of the Dahlonega, GA Chamber of Commerce, the PR and Marketing Manager at the Marietta Visitors Bureau, and director of domestic sales for the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Division. Rowe’s experience affords her a keen understanding of the challenges and needs of destination marketing organizations, including CVBs, chambers of commerce, tourism associations, and related tourism entities.

In 2006, Rowe created Laurie Rowe Communications, Inc. (LRC), to put her skills and experience to work for tourism organizations of all sizes and budgets. LRC partners with the Southeast Tourism Society to oversee and implement the Domestic Showcase Media Marketplace. 

In 2015, Rowe’s dream of creating a 24/7 online media resource to connect destinations and journalists was born in the form of the innovative©. This site has proven to be an invaluable tool for both LRC’s clients and a network of more than 5,000 media professionals.

At the 2013 Georgia Governor’s Conference on Tourism, she was honored with the Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award. A graduate of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) Marketing College, she later served on the Board of Trustees for the STS Marketing College as well as an instructor at the annual educational program, where she shared her knowledge of travel media press visits, FAM trips and the fundamentals of tourism public relations/earned media. Rowe lives in Panama City, Florida, where she resides with her husband, Dan, and her two dogs, Maddie and Tripp.

Laurie will be presenting Elevating Destinations: The Strategic Impact of Public Relations in the Tourism Industry

Cheryl Smith

Georgia Department of Agriculture Georgia Grown Agritourism Manager

Cheryl is a native Georgian, born in Atlanta. She attended Clemson University where she was awarded the Outstanding Student in Tourism by the South Carolina Dept of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.


Cheryl has been with the Georgia Department of Agriculture since July 1, 2019 as the Agritourism Manager overseeing the Agritourism Signage Program as well as working with the Georgia Grown program in North Georgia. Before this, Cheryl was with the Georgia Department of Economic Development since 1988 as Tourism Project Manager for the 17-county, Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Region. She is a graduate of Southeastern Tourism Society’s Marketing College, Georgia Academy and Leadership Hall County. She has served on the Georgia Scenic Byway Advisory Board, as well as on the Boards of several organizations, including the Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Association, the Byron Herbert Reece Society and the Appalachian Regional Commission Tourism Council where she represented the state of Georgia.

Cheryl will be presenting Georgia Grown & Agritourism

Cheryl Smith.jpg
Julie Smith.jpg

Julie Smith

Trails and Transportation Planner for the City of Rome and Floyd County

Julie Smith is the Trail and Transportation Planner for the Rome-Floyd Metropolitan Planning Organization. She has the distinction of serving as the first trail planner for the city and county, signifying that trails and connectivity is a priority for city and county leaders. Prior to her role as trail planner, she and her husband owned and operated Cycle Therapy community bicycle shop in downtown Rome where she became passionate about active transportation and the many benefits that trails have in communities, specifically Rome. In 2012 Julie helped establish Trails for Recreation and Economic Development (TRED) for Rome and Floyd County; the first non-profit trail advocacy group in Northwest Georgia to actively enhance and expand Rome’s multi-use trail system. TRED's mission is to enhance the community's quality of life and economic development through an accessible, multi-use trail system that promotes alternative, eco-friendly, recreation and transportation opportunities. Julie is passionate about the positive and transformative impact that trails have in communities and in individuals. Since TRED’s inception, over 20 miles of trails have been constructed in Rome due to TRED’s intentional public-private partnership with the City of Rome and hundreds of residents and visitors have been impacted by these outdoor spaces. She also served as TRED Executive Director before assuming her role as trails planner. 


She is a native of Stone Mountain and graduate of Shorter College where she was smitten by Rome and the ease of small town life. She is a wife, boy mom, music lover, baker, mountain biker and avid reader. Julie is a past board member of Georgia Bikes, helped to co-found the Georgia Trail Summit, and currently serves on the boards of Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful, the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter, and is a Rome High School Band Booster officer. Julie’s life mantra is, “a walk will make you feel better.”

Julie will be presenting The Power of Partnerships - TRED Trail Talk

Sandy White 

President and CEO of the Alliance for Dade Chamber and Welcome Center

Sandy has over thirty years of experience in leadership positions in the tourism and hospitality arena with a major emphasis on marketing and public relations, tourism, customer service, hospitality, as well as downtown and community development. Most recently, she managed Visitor Services for the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce & Visit Sitka in Sitka, Alaska. Sandy has advocated for economic vitality for businesses and communities throughout her career, all the while striving for balance between the needs of the residents in those communities and those of the visitors.


She joined the Alliance for Dade in October of 2022 and fell in love with Dade County.  She has worked with her community to establish trust and cooperation.  Together they have developed a promotional campaign that showcases the uniqueness of this special community and its assets while providing for the community's needs, through print, digital and social media outlets. She serves locally on the board of the Trenton-Dade Optimist Club and regionally as the secretary of the Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway Association. She is also the 2024 President of the Northwest Georgia Travel Association.

Sandy will be presenting Useful Marketing Tools That Won't Break the Bank

Sandy White.jpg
Keith Beauchamp 4_Downtown.jpg
bottom of page