AIKEN --- Don't let Carla Cloud's last name fool you. She's known to have a sunny disposition, and her job is all about ensuring a bright future for downtown Aiken.
"Our mission statement is to improve the economic vitality, enhance the beauty and preserve the historic inheritance of downtown," she said.
It's all part of her job as executive director of the Aiken Downtown Development Association. She has held the position for three years, and in her promotion of Aiken you never know where you'll see her.
Sometimes she might be at a city council meeting. Other times she's heavily involved in downtown events, most recently acting last weekend in a murder mystery dinner theater production that helps attract people downtown and is a big fundraiser for the nonprofit downtown group.
"We try to have the audience involved in some form or fashion," she said of the dinner theater.
The Atlanta native has lived in Aiken on and off for 20 of the past 24 years. She said she loves the city for its charming and progressive nature.
"When people come here, the word they most often use is how unique downtown is," she said.
Mrs. Cloud never misses a chance to sell the city to someone, whether it be working to get more young professionals to the city or instituting downtown family-friendly events. One such event is the Beach Blast in June, which she said is one of the most popular downtown gatherings.
"We thought, 'Let's bring in sand,' " she said. "And everybody was like, 'Well, how are you going to get it in and how are going to get it out?' And I was like, 'I don't know. I just want sand.' "
The end result was an event that included a sand-covered area along Newberry Street that became known as "Newberry Beach" complete with tiki torches and a dance floor.
"The first year I actually tried to shovel the sand back into my pickup truck to get rid of it, and the city had pity on me," she said.
The city needed sand to replenish some recreation sites, she said.
For Mrs. Cloud, event organizing is nothing new. She has a background working as a youth director for a church and an activities coordinator in the business field, so getting in touch with the community while promoting Aiken is a natural fit, she said.
"I enjoy meeting people," she said. "I enjoy making people happy."
Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Executive director for the Aiken Downtown Development Association for three years
FAMILY: husband, Vince; sons John Patrick, 26, and Kobie, 20
QUOTE: "My husband's from North Augusta. That's where he was born and raised. And our kids feel like this is home. So it would take a lot to get us away (from Aiken)."