by LAUREE S. PURCELL
At the age of 27, Shelley Pierce Newman has lived in the Harrisonburg area for twenty years and has been a member of Dayton’s Town Council since October 2013. During that time she has worked closely with local merchants and members of the community to create a wide variety of improvements and positive events in the small town of Dayton. Shelley has helped the town create a vision for its future, hanging its new motto: “Discover Historic Dayton: Small Town, Hometown, Downtown,” on banners throughout the downtown area.
In her over two years on council, Shelley has been a key player in organizing Dayton’s Redbud Festival, the “12 Days of Dayton” Christmas celebrations, the Dayton Flea, the Dayton Muddler, the summer concert and movie series at the College Street Pavilion and the Fourth of July town celebration at the pavilion. She has helped attract two new businesses to the downtown district, and is working with local merchants and the town to beautify the area with matching grants for facade improvements, at least six new outdoor murals, a sculpture garden, and two greenways for bicyclists and pedestrians. To learn more about these events and projects, visit Dayton’s Facebook and Instagram accounts run by Shelley, or the mobile app she created for Dayton.
Taking a leadership role on the Park Committee as well as chairing the Economic Development Committee comes naturally to this young, energetic woman. She has always pushed herself to have positive experiences helping others. Her thinking and growth have also been shaped by her former work at Rosetta Stone and her current career in JMU’s Information Technology department. Married to her high school sweetheart Charlie Newman since 2011, Shelley is expecting their first child in March. She knows her life is about to get even busier, but she contends that “community is everything to me, and how I choose to spend my time reflects my beliefs.”
Shelley advises young people to find something they’re passionate about and run with it. “Push yourself to have many enriching experiences that go beyond academics, and never think you are too young to get involved and make a difference,” says Shelley. She remembers a mission trip she took to Mexico while in high school and the two relief trips she took to West Virginia while studying art in college. After being the captain of the cheerleading and gymnastics teams in high school, Shelley coached Turner Ashby’s JV cheerleading team while attending JMU. She had many fundraising and service experiences through her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, and contends that the Greek system shaped her values and gave her great experiences working with others to achieve central goals. When facing challenges today, Shelley draws on these early experiences that shaped her into a community leader and organizer.
Seeing local residents enjoying themselves at local events keeps Shelley motivated to keep planning, organizing and helping events go smoothly. While all her volunteer work is challenging and time consuming, Shelley is often thanked and appreciated by her constituents. When she has an especially frustrating day, Shelley remembers the advice of a trusted colleague to “always have a smile on your face and a song in your heart.” There is so much in life for which to be grateful.
LAUREE STROUD PURCELL is an editorial consultant and writer for Living.
Know someone 30 or under to nominate for a future Shenandoah Spotlight? Requirements are: Valley resident or grew up here, outstanding for their job, community, or church work, and the model they provide. Contact us at [email protected].