Georgia Impact

Economic developer to steer rural initiatives

Saralyn Stafford

Saralyn Stafford, a community and economic developer with a 30-year career focused on Georgia, joins the University of Georgia in July to link rural communities with UGA’s vast knowledge and expertise.

“Economic prosperity in rural Georgia is a top priority for the state and a strategic priority of the University of Georgia’s outreach programs,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach at UGA. “Saralyn is well known as a collaborative and knowledgeable leader with great passion for rural Georgia, and we are thrilled to have her join our team.”

Stafford will serve as a liaison between UGA and local elected officials, chambers of commerce, economic development professionals, school boards, nonprofit organizations, small business owners and other community leaders.

Based in South Georgia’s Coffee County, her work will focus on connecting communities with UGA’s Public Service and Outreach units, including the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Small Business Development Center and the Archway Partnership, to assist in addressing community and regional challenges.

“Saralyn will do aggressive outreach with all of our constituencies, primarily in South Georgia, to help create jobs, develop future leaders and assist rural communities with using their unique assets to promote economic prosperity,” Frum said.

Stafford has a strong record of working in community and economic development across the state since 1987 with a focus on rural communities, particularly in Southeast Georgia. As a local economic developer and chamber of commerce president for 15 years, Stafford led efforts in the city of Waycross and in Coffee and Pierce counties.

She has served in various leadership capacities at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in Atlanta for the past 16 years. Most recently, she provided technical assistance and oversight for local and regional planning, research and surveys for local governments, downtown development, the state’s AmeriCorps program and the Keep Georgia Beautiful initiative as the department’s division director for community development.

At UGA, Stafford will also offer her expertise in training government officials and community leaders and in strategic planning within rural communities.