Rural Strategies has a small core of full-time employees and an extensive network of collaborators. This structure, an allies model, using affiliated individuals and organizations, has served us well with its flexibility, allowing the organization to take advantage of opportunities while maintaining a small core staff.

Dee Davis, President

Dee Davis is the founder and president of the Center for Rural Strategies. Dee has helped design and lead national public information campaigns on topics as diverse as commercial television programming and federal banking policy. Dee began his media career in 1973 as a trainee at Appalshop, an arts and cultural center devoted to exploring Appalachian life and social issues in Whitesburg, Kentucky. As Appalshop's executive producer, the organization created more than 50 public TV documentaries, established a media training program for Appalachian youth, and launched initiatives that use media as a strategic tool in organization and development. He is the chair of the National Rural Assembly steering committee; a member of the Rural Advisory Committee of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Fund for Innovative Television, and Feral Arts of Brisbane, Australia. He is also a member of the Institute for Rural Journalism’s national advisory board. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Work and the Economy. Dee is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. Dee is also the former Chair of the board of directors of Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. Dee received an English degree from the University of Kentucky. He lives in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

Whitney Kimball Coe, Director, National Programs

Whitney Kimball Coe serves as coordinator of the National Rural Assembly, a rural movement made up of activities and partnerships geared toward building better policy and more opportunity across the country. In 2017, she was a featured speaker at the inaugural summit of the Obama Foundation and a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett. In 2018, she spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Her focus on building civic courage in communities is directly tied to a practice of participation in her hometown of Athens, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Lucy and Susannah. Coe has a MA in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and an undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Queens University of Charlotte. 

Teresa Collins, Operations Coordinator 

Teresa comes from Carcassonne, Kentucky where several generations of her family maintain a vibrant community life that practices the traditions of quilting and square dancing. Teresa worked as a community organizer for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) for more than six years. She organized members working on strip mining, excessive logging, abuses of oil and gas drilling on private surface property where the mineral underneath is held by companies, and reforming the state’s welfare system. Teresa has worked as the administrator and fundraiser for Mountain Montessori Preschool in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  Teresa lives in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

Tim Marema, Vice President

Tim Marema is editor of the Daily Yonder, a news site published by the Center for Rural Strategies that covers rural economics, politics and culture using professional journalists, community correspondants, scholars, and a wide range of policy advocates. The result is a news publication that is read "from the county courthouse to the White House," Tim says. Tim began his journalism career at a weekly newspaper in Berea, Kentucky, while a student at Berea College. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He edited a daily newspaper for Chapel Hill for several years before returning to Kentucky to serve as development direction of Appalshop, Inc., an Appalachian media arts center. He is vice president and a founding staff member of the Center for Rural Strategies. He is married, has two college-aged children, and lives in Norris, Tennessee, a town of 1,500 residents near Knoxville.

Marty Newell, Chief Operating Officer

Marty Newell is the chief operating officer of the Center for Rural Strategies. Before helping start Rural Strategies, Marty served as an executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, general manager of Austin (Texas) Community Television, development director for the Connecticut Food Bank, and as a private consultant to such organizations as the Rural School and Community Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, numerous private foundations, and many nonprofit organizations. As a 17-year-old, Marty was a founding member of Appalshop, the award-winning media and cultural organization based in his hometown of Whitesburg, Kentucky. He served in a variety of production and administrative rolls for nearly 20 years at Appalshop including creating the Headwaters television series and as general manager of WMMT-FM. Marty received his bachelor's degree in film and Appalachian studies from the Union Institute.

Mary Sketch, Program Associate

Mary Sketch serves as a Program Associate with the Center for Rural Strategies working on national programs, primarily the Rural Assembly. Prior to joining the Center for Rural Strategies, Mary was working on her Master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. Through her Master’s research she worked with multiple rural communities in the western United States to gain a deeper understanding of how farmers and ranchers approach conservation and land management decisions.  She has also spent time engaged with diverse communities across the country to connect people and places across rural America. She worked on rural community development and forest restoration in the Central Sierras of California following a wildfire that tore through the community in 2015. She has also done seasonal work in multiple regions of the U.S., including time with the Nature Conservancy on Block Island, the University of Montana College of Forestry, and a dude ranch in western North Carolina. She now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.