Finding DeKalb County’s Rising Leaders in our Neighborhoods

By Shannon Smith


My name is Shannon Smith, and I’m the 2020 President of Rising Leaders of DeKalb County. Some of you may already be familiar with me: I was born & raised in Fort Payne, graduated Class of 2007 from Fort Payne High School and Class of 2012 from Auburn University, and am a 6-year employee DeSoto Printing, Mailing, & Signs, where I am Graphic Designer and Social Media Manager. I currently also serve on the Board for Landmarks of DeKalb County, and as an Elder Social Media Manager at First Presbyterian Church. Growing up in Fort Payne, I saw the importance of grassroots leadership, especially from young people. In fact, I was one of the many students who petitioned our local community leaders for the creation of the Fort Payne Recycling Center, which has thrived as an asset to our community for 20 years. I am proof that tomorrow’s leaders are right in our neighborhoods. Nothing I am currently involved in really requires me to travel more than a few miles from my home here in downtown Fort Payne. I have a passion for this community in DeKalb County and for its future, which is why I consider myself a Rising Leader of DeKalb.

Rising Leaders of DeKalb was formed in 2018 as a peer networking group for individuals age 18-35, who are in business in DeKalb County, to help facilitate their involvement in local business and community groups. Although we are thankful to TVA and Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce for guiding the creation and first steps of this group, the point of Rising Leaders of DeKalb is to truly create a county-wide funnel of young talent and enthusiasm to all parts, not just the city of Fort Payne. This could mean anyone from interns at some of our larger companies, to employees and small business owners throughout our communities. Our goal is to encourage young professionals to stay in DeKalb County, and encourage its growth toward the best possible tomorrow.

I have not participated in Leadership DeKalb, but one of the concerns I had regarding the Leadership programs is that they are quite an expense, for young people especially, and, from what I’ve observed from the outside, often businesses or employers will often cover for an individual’s expenses for the program. This means that many of the participants are already involved in business or another community organization, or political position. What we are looking to do with Rising Leaders is encourage that first step for graduating students and young professionals to get involved, develop professionally and socially, and THEN take that initiative for further leadership and professional guidance from programs like Leadership DeKalb.

We are all building a better tomorrow, and Rising Leaders of DeKalb is seeking to be the mortar for the first tier of its foundation. You, as community groups & businesses, are the building blocks that provide the structure. If you are interested in speaking to the Rising Leaders of DeKalb, and helping us to help you, we meet the second Tuesday of each month. We are seeking a variety of speakers in 2020, from businesses, community organizations, and local schools & colleges, so all are welcome to contact us at We are also willing to participate in events and activities throughout the year.

Additionally, we have been hosting monthly trivia nights throughout DeKalb County, so if you are interested in hosting one of these, we are more than open to the possibility. Again, we are seeking businesses and organizations in Fort Payne and throughout DeKalb County to increase involvement from young people in all our communities.