The List - September/October 2017
Eric Salas’ career has certainly been filled with variety and change. He currently serves as an active-duty Air Force instructor at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base. His other job titles have included highlights such as surf shop manager, jet engine mechanic and fitness spokesmodel. In 2014, Eric began writing for HUMANFITPROJECT with Men’s Fitness. He decided to leave the company and has not looked back since. In January of 2017, Eric launched his website and decided to follow his love for photography full time. He says, “Documenting life is thrilling to me. Every day is different, people change and nothing stays gold forever but my camera can make sure the memories remain.” Eric’s unique point of view allows him to capture sights in the River Region unlike any other photographer. Eric calls Tampa, Florida, home but has enjoyed living in Montgomery since moving here in 2014. His parents have been a driving factor in his success so far, even contributing to his camera purchases. When Eric is not capturing the sights of Montgomery, he can be found surfing, cooking and salsa dancing. Eric’s rates are very reasonable; in fact, he says he can be paid in mac and cheese.
At 25 years old, Garrett Smith has not wasted any time finding a business he loves. Garrett has served as a realtor and property manager of Partners Realty for the past three years. He says, “The biggest obstacle I have faced in my career so far has been finding my voice; it’s tough to sit down with a client 10 to 25 years your senior as a 25-year-old man and explain the workings of a real-estate transaction. I am continually learning and growing my skills.” He has built many long-lasting relationships with his clients and hopes to continue this practice in the years to come. Garrett is a graduate of Troy University and Hooper Academy. He merits his family with impacting his life most significantly, saying they instilled the value of hard work in him at a young age. In his free time, Garrett enjoys spending time outdoors and cheering on his favorite football teams, Auburn University and Troy University. His favorite part about Montgomery is the rich history and unique feel of the Cloverdale area.
Heather Sansom has been working in the dental field for eleven years and currently works as a dental hygienist at Mathews and Mathews Dental. Heather has also been an instructor for the Central Alabama Dental Assisting School for three years, something she is very passionate about. But, her true passions lie in her nonprofit work. Heather says, “It has been on my heart for a long time to start a nonprofit. In September of 2016, I made that heart-felt dream a reality.” Dentistry Ministry serves those in Montgomery’s community who are in desperate need of dental care. Heather and Dr. Wright Mathews have made a huge impact already and hope to see this success continue. The biggest influences on Heather’s life have been her faith, family and dental mentors. She is the wife of Coley, and together the couple has a one-year-old daughter named Sydney. Heather attends Centerpoint Fellowship in Pike Road, where she enjoys teaching children’s church.
Jessie Rosa serves as the senior director of athletics at Auburn University at Montgomery. During a time where AUM is undergoing a lot of change, such as transitioning to NCAA Division II from the NAIA, Jessie is constantly facing new challenges at her job. But, those challenges do not deter her from what she considers is the most important part: “We bring in 18-year-old young adults and see them develop into educated contributors to their local community and society in general. I love the fact that our student-athletes come into their own when they are a part of our program. And when they come back to campus to visit, you really feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that the result is exactly what it should be — development of the person as a whole.” Jessie’s favorite part of being athletic director is connecting her student-athletes to the community. AUM’s athletes generated over 570 volunteer hours on 26 different community projects last year. As a recent colon cancer survivor, Jessie’s strength is apparent in every aspect of her life. Jessie’s wife, Brittney, and daughter, Charlee Marie, serve as her main supporters as she continues to influence AUM and Montgomery.
When Laura Villalobos discovered her love for the art of ballet, she never looked back. At age 17, Laura decided to pursue a career in dance. She met her husband while dancing at the Nevada Ballet Theater. Since then, the couple has traveled the United States sharing their careers on stage. Laura currently serves as the co-artistic director of the Montgomery Ballet, director of the Montgomery Ballet School, and principal dancer with the Montgomery Ballet. She says, “There are not many minority females in my position; I am currently the only Asian-American female artistic director of a professional ballet company in the United States.” Balancing her career and family is a huge priority in Laura’s life. She is married to Joseph and has two daughters, Lydianna and Angelina. Laura thanks her husband for being the biggest influence in her career and says, “He saw potential in me, and took my drive and helped me to develop, strengthen and refine my abilities; I can honestly say that I would not be where I am now if I had not met him.” During her family’s free time, Laura enjoys going to Blount Park and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. She is an avid small-business supporter and enjoys finding new places to eat in Montgomery.
Michael Fritz certainly stays busy as he juggles working as an attorney for Fritz Law Firm, LLC, serving as an Army Reserve JAG officer, and teaching as an adjunct professor at Auburn University Montgomery. Originally from Clarksville, Georgia, Michael moved to the River Region to attend Auburn University Montgomery. After eight years of working for the federal government, Michael knew he wanted to enter private practice. He says, “When I opened my own practice, I had zero clients and zero income. I had to start from scratch.” Michael thrives on the relief he provides to his clients. He aids them on the path to financial recovery, something he says allows for a “fresh start.” Michael has a love for both law and Montgomery, something evident in the location of his office- sitting right between the place where the Rosa Parks was forced to the back of the bus and the courthouse where Judge Johnson ruled doing so was unconstitutional. In his free time, Michael leads the Montgomery Ultimate Frisbee League and serves on the Montgomery City/County Library Board. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons, 20-year-old Michael Fritz Jr. and 18-year-old William.
At 22 years old, Sydney Foster has not wasted any time becoming influential in the Montgomery social world. She currently works as the staff photographer for Governor Kay Ivey. Sydney is also a full-time student at Alabama State University and serves in the United States Air Force. A native of Montgomery, Sydney is thankful for the influence Montgomery’s community has had on her success. She mentors select high school students in photography, allowing them experience and advice as often as possible. She says, “I love that I can inspire people through my works, not only that but I get to meet so many people and encourage and uplift them.” Sydney has always put God first in her life. An avid event planner, Sydney enjoys interacting with friends and finding new connections and interests within them. She especially loves spending time with her nephew, Isiah, and checking out the new additions to Kru on Mt. Meigs Road.
After seven years of self-doubt, Sonya Griffin finally followed her dream of opening her own boutique. BOA Style Boutique serves as Sonya’s affirmation that her goals have been achieved. She says, “I had a friend who told me many years before opening the boutique, ‘close your eyes and jump’ and eventually I did. I finally told myself, even if it fails; at least you tried.” When Sonya is not running her boutique, she also serves as the Global Clinical Manager for a large clinical research organization.
A graduate of UAB and Troy, Sonya has degrees in biology, cytotechnology, and management. She is from Brundidge, Alabama, but loves living in Montgomery and is thankful for Montgomery’s residents and receptiveness of BOA. She merits the late Dr. Robert B. Adams as the primary driving factor in her success. He bestowed upon her self-confidence unlike anything she had ever experienced. In Sonya’s free time, she enjoys spending time with family, shopping and cooking.