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Fort Payne

My love letter to North Alabama

I’ve lived in Huntsville for six years, and you couldn’t pay me to move anywhere else. Well, maybe… but it would come with a very high price tag.

Before I dive into why you couldn’t make me move, my name is Sarah Macaluso. I was born and raised in Central Florida, and you’re probably wondering how I ended up in Alabama. I took the road less traveled and somewhat unpopular (at the time) after graduating high school and attended the University of Alabama. I pursued my bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism, served on the Executive Committee of my sorority, spent every summer in Tuscaloosa interning at WVUA-TV – the local commercial television station that happened to be on campus, and served as an ambassador for the Telecommunications & Film College. I mention this not to belabor a long list of “accomplishments” but because I was on fire for the experience, opportunity and potential that was available – and I wanted others to experience it, too.

As you can tell, my time at UA was what developed my early love for Alabama and what it had to offer. It introduced me to this spirit of authentic kindness and a willingness to help others that so many seemed to have. This was odd to me at first. I often asked myself, “What’s in the water here?”

In four fast years, I graduated from UA and landed my first post-college job at WHNT in Huntsville, the local CBS affiliate, as a morning reporter and fill-in anchor. Although my professional journey took me in another direction a couple of years later, my time at WHNT introduced me to the Huntsville and North Alabama community. While telling the stories of the Tennessee Valley, I noticed this same intangible “spirit” of the community that I experienced in Tuscaloosa. But just 2.5-hours north, there was this supplementary essence of innovation, progression and growth focus that was swirling around the community, and a recurring theme in the people I spoke with and places I visited.

Fast forward six years, and my life looks very different than when I first moved to Huntsville, but the attributes of this community are steadfast. In 2022, North Alabama is experiencing the results of community collaboration, commitment to economic growth, the impact of working as a region, providing a fulfilling quality of life, and fostering an environment for innovative career opportunities.

(Sarah Macaluso/Contributed)

As a young professional, I value the opportunity to make an impact in my community aligned to the areas I’m passionate about. For example, I serve with Launch 2035 and the Singing River Trail, both regional efforts to enhance the overall quality of life in North Alabama through entrepreneurship, workforce development and land use. Pretty neat, right?

When I eventually left the television news industry, I wondered if Huntsville had other opportunities for me since I wasn’t a rocket scientist or engineer. I knew I didn’t want to move where I would be a number in a major metro, spending hours in traffic daily and where I barely made enough to enjoy the livability offerings in my community. But there she goes again — North Alabama showing me there was opportunity waiting. I searched for communications and marketing positions and ultimately found my dream job. As Director of Client Experience & Strategy for Red Sage Communications, there’s nothing better than working with our team to meet and exceed the expectations of our clients around the country, crafting marketing and communications strategy that yields results.

(Sarah Macaluso/Contributed)

These experiences opened other doors to take my love of North Alabama to the next level. I participated in Leadership Greater Huntsville’s Management Academy – an opportunity designed to develop business leaders through collaborative learning, networking and mentoring. Now, I cherish any opportunity to volunteer with the organization to just give a small piece of what I gained, back to other rising leaders. Another one of those doors includes being a member of Huntsville’s Committee of 100 Young Professionals program – moving the needle with long-term strategies that support economic development, high-quality public education and cooperative local government.

If you’ve gotten this far, I hope my story paints a picture of what’s possible in Huntsville and North Alabama. Our communities have so many ingredients to create a personally and professionally fulfilling life. As I write this, I’m so grateful for that “spirit and essence” I described during my early days in Alabama and I hope you experience it someday, too.

 

Sarah Macaluso

DIRECTOR OF CLIENT EXPERIENCE & STRATEGY

 

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