Meet our Stay Wise Advocates. These friendly folks live, work, and play in Wise County, and they want to help you do the same! Relocating is a big decision – schedule a conversation, tour, or even grab lunch or coffee with a local who has all the answers to your biggest questions.

Get in touch with one of our Advocates!

Quintin & Kalen Hunter

Hometown: Norton

Occupations: Both Quintin and Kalen work at the local 4-year college, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise! Quintin is the Wide Receiver Coach for the Highland Cavaliers football team and Kalen serves as the Economic Development & GO Virginia Region One Program Director.

Community involvement: Highlands Fellowship Online Community Members, UVA Wise Campus & Sporting Events

Fun Fact: We met at a bar in Bristol (located on the state line in Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia), and we knew it was love from there.

Kalen & Quintin

What Quintin & Kalen love about Wise County:

Quintin – The small-town feel reminds me of home. Kalen and I met in Southwest Virginia, which makes this area even more special to us. We also purchased our first home together here that adds to our love for the area.

Kalen – I was born and raised in Southwest Virginia and was fortunate enough to meet Quintin here, which has made this area a truly special place for us. The natural beauty of Wise County is mesmerizing. Not only do we have wonderful outdoor recreation amenities, but we can also enjoy local coffee, craft beer, and great food!

Tyler Hughes

Hometown: Big Stone Gap

Occupations: Park Ranger at the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park

Community involvement: Big Stone Gap Town Council Member, Mountain Music school, Home Craft Days, The Crooked Road, Christ Episcopal Church, Junior Appalachian Musicians

Fun Fact: I also work as a square dance caller and bajo player!

What Tyler loves about Wise County:

I can’t think of another region where the natural landscape and the character of the people is more beautiful. Wise County has so much to offer, from scenic hikes in the Washington Jefferson National Forest, fiddle tunes and dances at local festivals, to rich history and stories at one of our numerous museums. The mountains here wrap around you like a familiar hug. Rest assured, whether you’re from the holler down the road or a far away nation, Wise County can be home.

Deventae Mooney

Hometown: Coeburn

Occupations: School Counselor at Coeburn Primary School

Community involvement: Coeburn Town Council Member, President/Coach of Eastside Youth Football, Coeburn Improvement Association Member, Eastside Youth Basketball Coach, Mt. Olive Church Member

Fun Fact: My most favorite comfort food is an authentic Mexican dish!

What Deventae loves about Wise County:

Wise County is special to me because, while all the towns are unique in their own way, they all support one another. Friends truly feel like family. The town of Coeburn and its citizens have always supported me, which makes me want to remain and one day start a family of my own. Wise County is a safe place to live and the natural beauty makes you never want to leave. There is so much potential for this area – we just have to work together!

Penny Shumaker Jeffrey, PhD

Hometown: Big Stone Gap

Occupations: Penny is the Owner of The Big Stone Gap General Store & Café, LLC

Fun Fact: Penny is the Founder and Executive Director of Pig Pals of NC, a 50c3 animal sanctuary established in 1996.

What Penny loves about Wise County:

Wise County holds esthetic mountain beauty with numerous outdoor adventure opportunities, benefits of a small town with larger cities within an hour driving distance, and room for business development and growth.

Blake Salyer

Hometown: City of Norton

Occupations: Entrepreneur

Community involvement: Norton Industrial Development Board, Highlands Fellowship Church

Fun Fact: I co-own Lincoln Road Coffee Lounge in downtown Norton, appreciate good food, and love music!

What Blake loves about Wise County:

The Wise County/City of Norton community means so much to me. After some time living in East Tennessee with my wife Kaely, we decided to return home to our mountains. Since then, we’ve been focused on doing our part to contribute to our vibrant community. That starts by taking action on the things we are passionate about. I hope that in my time here, I will see our communities continue to flourish and develop an identity that embodies our culture and untapped resources. Wise County/City of Norton is an open, safe, and loving community to raise a family. Our area is a new frontier full of potential for outdoor enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers. This is home.

Katie Hayes

Hometown: Big Stone Gap

Occupations: Wise County/City of Norton Chamber of Commerce

Community involvement: Through her employment with the local chamber of commerce, Katie works with Wise County’s towns and city to plan events, fundraisers, ribbon cuttings, and grant/loan opportunities!

Fun Fact: Katie loves vintage and antique shopping!

What Katie loves about Wise County:

Wise County is my home. The atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and easygoing everyday life keeps me here. Friends, family, and neighbors make this a wonderful community and I am thankful to be a part of it.

Josh Sawyers

Hometown: St. Paul

Occupations: Owner of Lab 20 Sports Cards in downtown St. Paul

Community involvement: St Paul Town Council, St Paul Main Street Downtown Merchants, Clinch River Valley Initiative Board Member

Fun Fact: Josh has over 1000 sports cards of local SWVA players that have made it to the professional level: Thomas Jones, Julius Jones, Heath Miller, Tracy Stallard and many more!

What Josh loves about Wise County:

In search of a stronger sense of community, my wife, Sarah, and I, along with our three children, Jacob, Isabel, and Caroline, moved to St. Paul in 2015. With its developing downtown, easy access to recreational activities, great neighborhoods, and a top-ranked school system, St. Paul offered exactly what we wanted for our family and more. Since then, we have opened up a business in town and really found the strong community that a small town offers.

Dr. Victoria “Vickie” Ratliff

Hometown: Big Stone Gap

Occupations: Executive Vice President of Commonwealth Connections, Inc.; Vice President of Workforce of Academic Affairs & Workforce Solutions (Retired)

Community involvement: Dogwood Garden Club, John Fox Jr. Museum Ladies Guild; Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research Advisory Board; Virginia Coal Mine Safety Board; Forest Recreation Outdoor Group; Southwest VA Technology Council Board (2012-2021); Workforce Investment Board, Area One (2015-2021); Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges Academic Peer Evaluator

Fun Fact: A proud “Granny” to eight – four boys and four girls! We enjoy going to the lake, camping, fishing, gardening, and all the outdoor fun we can have in this area. I also love to cook for our family as we carry on the traditions of “Sunday dinner” after church and any other time we can get together.

What Vickie loves about Wise County:

The phrase “there’s no place like home” is certainly true for those of us born in Wise County. There is a deep beauty within these mountains that extends beyond what can be seen, even though that in itself is a reason to stay here. It’s a feeling of peace when the sun sets on a day of hard work, it’s knowing that there is a family of support all around you, regardless of the situation, and a feeling of pride in knowing that we are a strong people, we rely on our faith, and are willing and able to do what is needed to ensure the well-being of our family, friends and our community. This is “home” and there’s no better feeling than that.

Dick Houchins

Hometown: Wise

Occupations: Architect/Project Manager at Thompson & Litton, Inc

Community involvement: Wise Co. Chamber of Commerce, Wise Co. Planning Commission, Wise Co. Building Code Appeals Board, Wise Lions Club, Knights of Columbus

Fun Fact: Dick loves live music, classic cars and golf

What Dick loves about Wise County:

Wise County has proven to be a great place to live, work and raise a family. Folks are friendly and honestly appreciate that you have decided to call it home. Nearly 33 years ago when I came for a job interview my wife’s first words were “I’m not moving here!” Now, you could not get her, my two daughters or my seven grandchildren to consider living any place but Wise County. We truly stayed a weekend and ended up staying a lifetime.

Lorenzo Rodriguez

Lorenzo Rodriguez

Hometown: Big Stone Gap

Occupations: Owner of Iron Works Cycling in Big Stone Gap; Assistant Track & Field Coach at Union High School

Community involvement: Big Stone Gap Planning Commission, Gap Partnership, Wise County Chamber of Commerce, Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority

Fun Fact: I’m always ready to learn something new, my previous job experience includes: Military, Personal Trainer, Retail Management, Banking, Physical Therapy Aide, Real Estate, Entertainment, Teaching, Coaching, Entrepreneur

What Lorenzo loves about Wise County:

I was born and raised in a large city in California (San Jose). My wife and I were drawn to Wise County because of a job opportunity, she is an Associate Professor of Biology at UVA-Wise, and the affordability. Since moving here in 2013 I partnered with another local businessman and opened Iron Works Cycling. Starting a small business encouraged me to become more involved with local events and meet more people in my community, and I enjoyed it so much I haven’t stopped. My daughter was born here in 2014 and I can’t imagine raising her anywhere else.