You were raised in Phenix City, educated there and still live there. How has the community changed in your lifetime?
Phenix City has grown significantly since I was a child, particularly in the past 10 years. I think you always want to hold on to the hometown you knew when you were young, because there are so many good memories. However, I'm proud to look at our community today and see progress on every corner. I especially like the focus on quality of life. The riverwalk was a great enhancement to Phenix City, as well as the new updates to Idle Hour Park. Those are additions that benefit the entire community, and I know many people enjoy them.
Working as director of tourism and finance for the Phenix City/Russell County Chamber of Commerce, has the opening of the whitewater course changed the way tourism is viewed in the city?
It's brought awareness to the effect of tourism on our community. Before the course opened, I think many citizens couldn't imagine travelers coming specifically to Russell County. Now, we know they will, and we are realizing how much our area has to offer visitors that was overlooked before. There is always a sense of, "How can we improve this aspect of our community to appeal to tourists?"
When you talk to people from outside east Alabama, do you still hear questions about the corruption and cleanup in the 1950s?
Constantly. The "Phenix City Story" movie still runs on TMC, so we get questions from people who happen to see it, or from veterans who lived on Ft. Benning during that era. I think what tourists enjoy most about the story is the clean-up and victory for the citizens. It's a story of revival that you don't see much outside of Hollywood, and visitors love to see how Phenix City has changed since then.
As a tourism director, what do you look for when you take a vacation?
I love to travel, so I will visit any location if I have the chance. Once I'm there, however, I want to visit the "local" places, not the traditional tourist stops. I love to eat in the locally owned restaurants and visit the stores you can't find anywhere else. I think the best part of a vacation is truly seeing the culture of that town and immersing yourself in it, even if it's just for a weekend. Every city has places that they take tremendous pride in, sometimes you just have to dig deep to find them.
What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
I think my favorite secret is Russell County's history. Most people hear Phenix City and automatically only think of the "Phenix City Story". There is so much besides that, though. We are a major stop for any Native American history enthusiast. Civil War battles were fought in Russell County. Fort Mitchell was a major stop on the Federal Road, which is huge for history buffs. Horace King, the famous bridge builder, has many ties to our area. People seem to find one part of history and focus on that, but if you look deeper, we have a heritage just as rich and interesting as any city in America.
Name: Kelli Roberts
Job: Director of Tourism & Finance for the Phenix City-Russell County Chamber of Commerce
Hometown: Phenix City
Current home: Smiths Station
Family: Parents, Kenny and Cindy Roberts; grandparents: Chuck and Peggy Roberts
Education: Bachelors of Accounting & Masters of Business Administration, Troy University; Licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA); IOM - Institute of Organization Management, US Chamber of Commerce; Travel Marketing Professional (TMP), Southeast Tourism Society
Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice
Favorite movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Favorite restaurant: Chicken Salad Chick
Favorite quote: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Best concert attended: Reba McEntire