Meet Our Writers

What’s a Connector? We’re so glad you asked!


Your Rowan’s Connectors are our ambassadors to the things that make Rowan County an original place to live, learn, work, and play. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Think of them as bloggers and social media influencers for everything you need to know Rowan. They each represent a different category to focus their storytelling. These categories are called Connections and they include Arts, Attractions, Business, Education, Greenspace, Health, High Rock Lake, and Municipalities.

Our Connectors are focused on leveraging the valuable assets we have right in our own backyard to their full potential so all of us celebrate and rally around Rowan County. We call it a ROCO thing, and it can be your thing too!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter and follow us on social media so you never miss a behind-the-scenes moment or inside scoop from our Connectors!



Joyce Caron-Mercier

High Rock Lake Writer
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After three decades of working in the motorsports industry from track and team management to public relations, and overseeing sponsorship and driver contracts within NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar and World of Outlaws competition, Joyce wanted more.

She came to ACS Charlotte in February 2020 as the staff lead for the annual Taste of Hope Charlotte gala. Joyce’s role encompasses event production, sponsorship cultivation and implementation, public awareness, and interaction with the Charlotte gala Board of Ambassadors, and launched the Young Professionals CLT ABOA in 2022.

Joyce and her husband Paul of 32 years discovered High Rock Lake, situated between Rowan and Davidson Counties, and quickly became full-time lake residents on North Carolina’s second largest lake with their two Great Danes, Max and Molly. Joyce writes a monthly blog for Your Rowan, a county marketing initiative to share the positive attributes of Rowan County with its residents and visitors. Joyce’s blog and social handles are called ‘Joyce on the Lake’.

Being community minded is important and I serve as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the High Rock Lake Association, High Rock Lake Clean Sweep, and assist the Rowan Chamber with their annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Janet Ruffin

Attractions Writer
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I’m an adventurous soul that loves to interact with people everywhere I go. You might say I’ve never met a stranger! I look forward to discovering and sharing all the things Rowan County has to offer because it’s Your Rowan!

Dari Caldwell

Health Writer
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I was born and raised on the northern end of Kannapolis, NC and after college (UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University) I lived away from North Carolina for 12 years, during which I earned a doctorate in Health Care Administration. My career has been in healthcare for over 40 years and in addition to being a Registered Nurse, I have held healthcare executive positions in Los Angeles, California, New York, Concord, Charlotte, and finally completed my career as President of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where I retired in 2020. I live in and love Rowan County and have enjoyed immersing myself in the community on various volunteer boards such as Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Rowan Chamber of Commerce, Rowan Economic Development, Novant Hospice Advisory, Healthy Rowan, and am now Board Chair for the Rowan Board of Health. In retirement, my husband David and I have enjoyed our hobby of vegetable gardening, and visiting our children. We have two sons – Trent, who is the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lenoir Rhyne and is married to Brittany. They have 3 children including brand new twins! Our younger son Chris lives in Shreveport, Louisiana where he is an orthopedic surgery resident physician. We love sports, and also enjoy time at the lake, the beach, and with my 93 year old very spry mother!

Deirdre Parker Smith

Arts Writer
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I grew up in the theater; my father was a set designer and my mother was an actress. My most magical memories are from the days when we worked on stage and backstage together. My father, James “Parkie” Parker was a well-respected member of the theatre arts department at Catawba College for 33 years. Though I was born in New York City, and lived for a time in Washington, D.C., I graduated from Salisbury High School and Wake Forest University and was a writer and editor at the Salisbury Post for 35 years. Watching talented people do their thing is a great joy — acting, singing, playing an instrument, painting, drawing, writing. I’ve been lucky to meet many awesome creative people over the years. Art, in all its forms, heals people, makes connections and gives us a deep joy.

Colleen Smiley

Greenspace Writer
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I am a proud graduate of Catawba College, and I also have my state Environmental Educators certification. I love spending time outdoors with my family and friends. I enjoy kayaking, hiking, boating, cooking, and entertaining. If there is a live theatre production going on, I am there. I think you can find beauty anywhere you look here in Rowan County. Life is an adventure, and I can’t wait to share my love of everything green, sustainable, or environmental with all of you. Everywhere we look there really are some amazing places to see and discover in Rowan County. I’m excited about the chance to meet so many people and discover the sites of our beautiful county with all of you. It’s Your Rowan!

Sherri Hill

Municipalities Connector
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I am a native of Rowan County, having lived here my entire life. I was educated and graduated from the North Rowan School System in 2003 and earned my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Catawba College in 2007. My professional experience has encompassed the roles of being a therapist, clinical director, grant writer, clinical supervisor, and working in program development. Currently, I am a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) Consultant for N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as a family therapist. My professional accomplishments were highlighted in the 2019 edition of Focus magazine in Davidson County, when I was nominated as “A Women Who Inspires”. I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. and also serve as the Board Chair of Communities in Schools of Davidson County/ Lexington City Schools. Additionally, I volunteer with Rowan Helping Ministries, and I am a member of Rowan County Young Professionals. When I am not volunteering, I love spending time outside in the sun playing with my two dogs.

Mollie Ruf

Business Connector
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I am the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Rowan Economic Development Council (EDC) and serve on the Rowan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I have lived in Salisbury, North Carolina since June 2009 with my husband and our three hound doggies. I am passionate about performing arts and love to enjoy the outdoors at our many Rowan County public parks and local lakes. I also love touring wineries with my friends and traveling to new places. I am a motorsports enthusiast and love traveling to IMSA races with my husband and his team.

Michelle Shue

Education Writer
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Michelle Shue has spent 24 years serving students in NC public schools. Shue was a high school English and Journalism teacher for 23 of those years, but recently became the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. A long-time resident of Rowan County, Shue knows the best that Rowan County has to offer and is excited to share all that is truly inspiring and engaging in “Your Rowan” schools.

Pete Prunkl

Business Connector
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After teaching and working for several non-profits, Pete Prunkl found his niche in writing human interest stories. That includes the history of antiques and the people who buy and own them. Pete has written for the Maine Antique Digest, Our State magazine, Antique Roadshow Insider, Salisbury the Magazine and other publications for over 25 years. He is the author of the book, Beyond the Hedges: Historic Salisbury Foundation and the Preservation Movement.