With Carol Cleghorn, lately of the Red Cross, entering a newly created marketing position and Dianna Michaels, a media consultant and longtime television journalist, taking the helm at Spirit of Anniston, officials are hopeful for a partnership between them that can help revitalize and market the Model City.
“That’s going to be a great opportunity,” said City Planner Toby Bennington, who added that working together, the city and Spirit of Anniston can help bring Main Street back to the once vibrant program that it was. A city’s downtown reveals its identity, he said, and brings together the diversity of the community.
“The key to success is having a strong public-private partnership,” he said.
The public side of such a partnership will be Cleghorn, who’ll become the city’s first marketing services coordinator starting April 15. Her office will be at the Anniston Museum Complex.
Cleghorn’s first order of business will be to work with the city departments to put together a message describing what Anniston is and has to offer that is consistent across the city.
Part of that will include work on the city’s website, which she wants to turn into a tool for luring developers, residents and tourists by showcasing Anniston’s resources, including industrial property at McClellan and weekend events like the Noble Street Festival.
“Anniston’s gotten a bad rap for different things over the course of my 20 years in the work industry here,” she said. “This is a new day. We have a new council with so much enthusiasm — I’m just excited to be a part of that.”
Part of what made Cleghorn stand out from other applicants is her varied work experience, said Cheryl Bragg, museum complex director.
Cleghorn will enter the new position from the Calhoun-Cleburne branch of the American Red Cross, where she serves as community executive director. She has also worked in the Talladega city manager’s office, as marketing director and general manager of the Quintard Mall, and as manager of conventions, tourism and retiree recruitment for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.
“She knows our area,” said Bragg. “She will be able to hit the ground running.”
Bragg said that through former positions, Cleghorn already knows many of the people she will be working with when she starts with the museum.
One of those people is Michaels. “She and I have worked closely on other projects, so we hope to create a synergy,” Michaels said of a potential partnership with Cleghorn and the city.
Michaels, who officially begins Monday, said she foresees working together to streamline brand marketing for consistency, providing a strong message while the two entities maintain their separate identities.
Michaels is a former television news anchor and reporter with WJSU-TV40, WBRC Channel 6 in Birmingham and WEAC-TV24. She currently works as a freelance weather anchor with TV24 and owns her own media marketing and consultation business, Graffiti Arts.
Gayle Macolly, chair of the Spirit of Anniston board of directors, said the hiring committee conducted a nationwide search beginning after Thanksgiving and interviewed applicants from Montana and Connecticut.
“I don’t think when you’re looking at revitalizing downtown and partnering with the city,” said Macolly, “you can’t do something like that part-time. We have to be fully vested if we want success.”
As she begins her new role, Michaels said, she wants to use the Main Street four-point approach, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Main Street approach encourages organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring to revitalize downtown areas in towns and cities across the country. Her early ideas include enhancing signage along Quintard Avenue to direct visitors to the historic downtown area, implementing guidelines to preserve the downtown’s historic character, recruiting name-brand retailers to the area and building a sustainable fund for the organization to undertake projects.
“It is my opinion that Anniston is poised for a great renaissance,” Michaels said, “and the Spirit of Anniston is going to play a critical role in this.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.