This award recognizes a person or organization that has made a significant contribution to the rural travel and tourism industry through inspiration, spirit and excellent leadership.

Described as the mother of economic development efforts along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the glue that held the Waterway together, Agnes Zaiontz was a fixture at the Tenn-Tom Waterway Development authority for nearly 35 years. She carried the title of office manager, but her roles reached far beyond her job description and title. She was instrumental in the development of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Tourism Association and the Tenn-Tom Marina Association, where she oversaw grant writing, bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and association management.

And in addition to all that, her vision and passion in establishing the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum, which tells the story of the near-35-year-old waterway that was first envisioned more than 200 years ago, demonstrates her desire to educate present and future generations on the importance of the Tenn-Tom and America’s waterways. She was also the motivating force in bringing the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit to the museum. Columbus was one of 10 U.S. cities chosen to host the Smithsonian traveling exhibit, telling the story of water’s historical, societal and cultural impact on the world.

Through her work, she touched many lives and is one of the most well-known, beloved and respected people connected to the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Recognized by Southern Business & Development magazine as one of “Ten People Who Made a Difference in the South,” our beloved Agnes passed away May 29, 2019.

Download the 2024 Agnes Zaiontz Rural Tourism Leadership Award Form

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