5 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE: 14 powerful and influential leaders in their regions

The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politicsbusiness and state government – the men and women who shape the state.

There are also many others who drive politics and policy in their parts of the state. Today, we take a look at 14 people of power and influence in their respective regions.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

North Alabama

David Reed, president, Whitaker Contracting

David Reed has a network of relationships throughout north Alabama that would be the envy of anyone in business and politics. Reed knows all the power players in the region. Or, put more appropriately, all the power players know Reed. An innovator in his industry, Reed has also demonstrated a sincere desire to see the state maximize its potential in education and workforce development. Alabama needs more local leaders like David Reed.

Dale Strong, chairman, Madison County Commission

Dale Strong is one of the most influential people in a part of the state that is growing more powerful year after year. As chairman of the Madison County Commission, Strong has helped set the region up for success by championing infrastructure improvements and streamlining government. Strong is a first-rate operator who continues to build his power base.

Daniel Wilson, shareholder, Maynard Cooper & Gale

One of the behind-the-scenes power players in the booming Huntsville economy, Daniel Wilson is north Alabama’s preeminent operator when it comes to government relations and commercial development. He is now managing shareholder of Maynard Cooper’s offices in Huntsville and Washington, D.C., reinforcing the strong synergy between successful businesses in North Alabama and federal entities in the nation’s capital.


Metro Birmingham

Mike Hale, sheriff, Jefferson County

Mike Hale has become something of an institution in Jefferson County government and politics. He has seen a lot of changes in his two decades as sheriff and has received recognition and numerous awards for his conduct of the office. The size of the county alone makes for significant law enforcement challenges. Hale has shown the type of leadership that helps keep his area of the state moving forward.

Randall Woodfin, mayor, City of Birmingham

Randall Woodfin has enjoyed a swift ascent to the heights of political power in the state’s largest city. Woodfin defeated an entrenched incumbent in 2017 and has not looked back. In fact, since that time, he has shown a remarkable awareness of which policy battles will help elevate his profile in Alabama and beyond. However, nothing amplifies one’s message quite like opposition. So it will be interesting to see if any conservative politicians in the state actively oppose him on any of his public policy positions. Such a scenario could be politically beneficial to both parties involved.

West Alabama

Carl Jamison, chairman, JamisonMoneyFarmer PC

A longtime executive board member and past chairman of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Jamison’s power and influence extend far and wide. However, it is magnified in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, where the accounting firm started by his grandfather in 1920 has grown into one of the biggest in the region. Couple this with Jamison serving as treasurer for EDUPAC, which is the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees’ political arm, and you get one of West Alabama’s key cogs.

Cathy Randall, chairman, Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC

The epitome of her alma mater’s “Where Legends Are Made” campaign, Dr. Cathy Randall is a hallmark of the Tuscaloosa area, as well as an icon for female leaders throughout the state. Her incredible resume of service ranges from long-serving as the director of the University of Alabama’s computer-based honors program to advising some of Alabama’s corporate titans. Randall currently serves on the boards of directors for the Alabama Power Company and Mercedes Benz USI.


Montgomery Area

John Mazyck, principal, The Frazier Lanier Company

As the Business Council of Alabama’s Montgomery area district chairman, John Mazyck has a strong voice in who the state’s largest business group supports from his region. Mazyck is a principal in The Frazier Lanier Company and has been heavily involved in corporate and municipal finance deals. His influence only serves to rise given his elevated position on the BCA’s executive committee. Look for Mazyck to assume a position as a statewide player.

Dr. Quinton Ross, Jr., president, Alabama State University

Quinton Ross has been on the job for a little less than a year, and he has already received rave reviews from inside the Alabama State family and from key decision-makers and business leaders at the state level. Historically black colleges and universities are an important part of our state’s history and culture, and ASU is a central part of the community in the Montgomery area. Ross, a former state senator, has infused some much-needed leadership into an institution that had too often been a cauldron of controversy. Ross has put in motion a plan that will allow ASU to reach its potential and benefit all of Montgomery.


Wiregrass

Bill Carr, chairman and managing partner, Carr, Riggs & Ingram

Carr may just be an accountant on paper, but this money man has his hand in much, much more. For its relative size in the Wiregrass, Enterprise is gifted considerable pull, as Carr is one of the first phone calls that top-tier statewide candidates make when fundraising and seeking support. Besides the impressive feat of building one of the twenty biggest accounting firms in the nation out of southeast Alabama, his involvement in the road building industry and advising the likes of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) and the Community College System make him the unquestioned czar of Coffee County.

Mark Saliba, mayor, City of Dothan

The relatively new mayor of Dothan, Saliba is continuing a family legacy of public service and influence in Houston County. His father, Alfred Saliba, served two terms as mayor between 1989-1997 and now Mark, the president of the Alfred Saliba Corporation, is leading the Wiregrass’ largest city with a focus on economic and workforce development. Combined with his chairing of the Home Builders Association of Alabama’s heavy-hitting PAC, Saliba packs a punch from the Peanut Capital of the World.


Gulf Coast

Wiley Blankenship, president and CEO, Coastal Alabama Partnership

Having worked across the state in all areas of economic development since 1996, Wiley Blankenship is perfectly suited to help coalesce coastal Alabama’s diverse portfolio of leaders into one juggernaut of an organization. That is exactly what he is doing as head of the Coastal Alabama Partnership, which is becoming a major factor in local and statewide politics, besides its crucial civic and economic development work.

Angus Cooper, III, president, Cooper/T. Smith Corporation

The Cooper family is a staple of power and influence along the Gulf Coast, and Angus Cooper, III is taking the reins of this legacy in exemplary fashion. Now on the powerful board of the Alabama Power Company, Cooper has been active in the leadership of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the State Port Authority, in addition to many civic organizations in Mobile. Look for this prominent corporate leader to keep rising.

Elliot Maisel, chairman and CEO, Gulf Distributing Company

Like the benign godfather of Mobile, Maisel sits in his well-appointed office above his beverage warehouse and pulls more strings than most know exist. Through his leadership in the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association, his power and influence are felt throughout the Yellowhammer State. But when it comes to Mobile, he truly is king of the castle, now serving as the powerful chairman of the Airport Authority to boot.

 

56 mins ago

Bill to repeal Common Core in Alabama passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama passed the State Senate as amended by a 23-7 vote on Thursday afternoon, despite a passionate filibuster by Democrats in the chamber.

The bill, SB 119, now heads to the House to take up after the legislature’s spring break next week.

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SB 119 was given a unanimous favorable recommendation on Wednesday by the Education Policy Committee.

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) introduced a friendly amendment that was adopted by the Senate before they passed the bill. The amendment would move Alabama away from Common Core standards directly to new standards adopted by the state school board in 2021-2022 (instead of using transition standards next school year and then new standards in 2020-2021).

Gudger’s amendment also addressed concerns that the bill would inadvertently bar Alabama from utilizing things like AP tests and national certifications and exams.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), who presides over the Senate, told Yellowhammer News Wednesday that he strongly supports the repeal of Common Core.

RELATED: Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’ bill (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. passed the Senate by a vote of 23-6 on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an organized Democrat filibuster.

The bill, SB 22, now is set for a first reading in the House, which can take up the legislation after the legislature’s spring break next week.

“I thank the Senate for their support on this matter and I look forward to working with the House to give Alabamians a voice and are able to express their desire to support President Trump and stronger border security,” Marsh said in a statement.

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After Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) started a filibuster Wednesday, Marsh carried the bill over.

On Thursday, the bill was named to the Senate special order calendar and was again filibustered when it came up, this time with multiple Democrat senators joining in the effort. Republicans, seeing the filibuster was set to continue for hours, successfully adopted a cloture petition to end the filibuster so the Democrats would not continue blocking the chamber from conducting business.

“People I talk to across Alabama are sick and tired of politicians in Washington D.C. talking and nothing being done about the crisis on our borders. This bill is about sending a message to Washington that we support President Trump and his mission to secure our southern border,” Marsh advised.

He added, “Alabamians overwhelming favor securing our borders, protecting our citizens and their jobs and supporting President Trump. This bill simply allows citizens, if they choose, to send a message that they want to see our borders secured by sending a portion of their tax refund to donate to build the wall.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

BONEFROG, ‘The world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race’ heads to Alabama this Saturday

Do you love anything military, obstacle course or NASCAR racing-related? If so, you’ll want to head down to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for BONEFROG. With obstacles placed every quarter mile, BONEFROG is sure to test even the most seasoned athletes.

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Brian Carney, CEO and Founder of BONEFROG, said the race is designed to push racers past their limits and see that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“We try to replicate the same type of obstacles we trained on in SEAL training but on a smaller and safer scale,” said Carney. “With BONEFROG you can feel the military authenticity throughout the entire event and especially throughout the course.”

This year, the race will offer several options: the 3-mile Sprint, 6-mile Challenge, 9-mile TIER-1, 8 Hour Endurance and the all-new 18+ mile TRIDENT.

For those with children, BONEFROG will also offer quarter and half-mile courses with scaled down obstacles.

Set up at Alabama’s historic Talladega Speedway, Carney says the Alabama BONEFROG race isn’t one to miss.

“There’s so much history here and we utilize every inch of the speedway to make this race stand out from any other. If you’re coming to BONEFROG to race then Talladega tops them all in that department,” Carney said.

At BONEFROG racers can expect not only to be challenged but inspired. Carney says he will never forget watching Alabama veteran, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Noah Galloway complete the race’s Black OP’s obstacle.

“For those who don’t know, Noah’s an army vet who lost an arm and a leg in combat. To see him on the monkey bars in front of our massive American Flag taking on one of our toughest obstacles just sent chills through my body,” Carney said.

Carney continued, saying that moment continues to linger in his memory.

“To say it was inspirational would be a massive understatement. It’s stayed with me ever since and pushed me and my entire team to always strive to put on the best events we possibly can because our racers deserve just that.”

With 20,000 to 30,000 racers expected to participate in this year’s BONEFROG races, it’s safe to say popularity is unmatched.

More than just a fun and challenging race, BONEFROG partners with nonprofits, like the Navy SEAL Foundation, to give back. Carney said the company has raised over $200,000 for charity to date.

If you’re ready to test your limits and join the race, there’s still time. To register or to learn more about the company, visit the BONEFROG website at www.bonefrogchallenge.com

5 hours ago

Marsh: State will see infrastructure improvements within months

For more than a year, state lawmakers have conducted meetings with different groups about Alabama’s infrastructure needs, along with the use of recent university research to help back up a gas tax increase that would raise about $350 million for critical infrastructure projects.

The result – the Rebuild Alabama Act, which took only a five-day legislative session to pass.

“The reason it only took five days is because this had been a methodical process – we met with anyone who had anything to do with infrastructure, from city and county officials, ALDOT, asphalt and concrete groups, the docks – and the meetings were open to all who wanted to attend,” said Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston). “We were looking at our needs 20 years down the road as well. We also looked at studies from the University of Alabama and Auburn University to get the facts. The facts were known.”

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The Rebuild Alabama Act raises the tax per gallon by six cents beginning in September, with two cents more added in October 2020 and in October 2021 that will result in a total of 10 cents more per gallon. The gas tax was last raised in 1992. Every two years, the tax could go up by another cent without legislative approval because of a perpetual indexation. Even so, officials said it is likely that will not happen.

“Had we been using the index – the National Highway Construction Cost Index – for the past 16 years, the tax would actually have gone up a total of about a penny,” Marsh added. “We are still competitive with all our neighboring states, we still have the lowest tax burden in the nation, average median incomes are up 20 percent, yet we are going to have a major investment in our infrastructure.”

The average Alabamian will pay about $200 a year as a result of the increase.

“People have to pay $100 a month for cell phone service and other things, and they will pay only about $200 a year for this,” explained Marsh. “That is cheap, especially for all we will get in infrastructure improvements.”

So, when will they begin to reap the benefits?

“You will begin to see the benefits in about six months,” Marsh said. “This bill also allows for more accountability – it makes sure ALDOT is accountable for each project, and people will be able to see what is being done and how the money is spent.”

The bill allows for a more competitive bidding process between asphalt and concrete, whereas before the state has chosen one kind of road surface based only on the upfront cost rather than long-term sustainment. The law will provide money to deepen and widen the federal channel at the Alabama State Docks to allow for larger ships to travel to the port. There also is a system for the money to be distributed to cities and counties.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a journalist whose contribution is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Alliance for Infrastructure

5 hours ago

Alabama legislature honors Mike Spann, opposes releasing of ‘American Taliban’ responsible for his murder

MONTGOMERY — Both chambers of the Alabama legislature on Thursday passed a joint resolution honoring Winfield native Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

The resolution also condemns the early release of John Walker Lindh, commonly known as the “American Taliban,” who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2002 but is now set to be released from a federal penitentiary on May 23.

Spann’s mother, Gail, was present at the State House on Thursday, escorted by her local state representative, Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), and state senator, Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia). She delivered a powerful speech on both the Senate and House floors, speaking to members of the press in between. Estes added that he thinks Lindh should have been executed for his crimes.

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Gail Spann speaking on the Senate floor (S.Ross/YHN)

Gail believes that Lindh bears responsibility for the death of her son, who was killed in the line of duty during a prison riot at Mazar-e Sharif. The charges originally filed against Lindh included a murder conspiracy role in the slaying of Americans, including Spann, in an uprising at this Afghan prison where Lindh and others had been sent after their capture.

Gail explained that Spann interviewed Lindh shortly before the riot broke out, and that Lindh did not warn him that the prisoners had weapons and were primed to attack both him and another American operative, as well as allied guards.

“I want him to spend the rest of the three years [his remaining sentence time]. I do not want him out,” she said, adding, “I would [ideally] like him to spend the rest of his life in prison, but that’s not possible.”

“He could have saved my son’s life, he knew [of the weapons and prisoners’ plan] and Mike had brought him out because he thought he was a prisoner [being held wrongly] and he was going to save John Walker Lindh’s life. John Walker Lindh had the opportunity to tell Mike right there… he chose not to because he was working [with them], he was a Taliban [member]. He’s a traitor to our country,” Gail advised.

Despite the odds, Spann managed to kill seven terrorists before being overrun by the rioting masses. He was executed “cowardly” shortly after, as the Alabama legislature’s resolution explains.

The resolution said Lindh’s release is an affront to American values and everyone who has ever served under the nation’s flag.

Spann’s mother also warned that Lindh is still a threat to Americans domestically and abroad if allowed to go free.

She described the level of support she and her family have received from state and federal government officials – as well as the citizens of Alabama – since Spann’s death as “amazing.”

“America’s the greatest country in the world,” Gail emphasized.

Spann was also an Auburn University graduate and Marine Corps captain when he joined the CIA as a paramilitary officer. He was a father of three at the time of his death at age 32.

Gail explained that now-CIA Director Gina Haspel had served as Spann’s partner on many occasions.

The two women spoke recently, and Gail shared an emotional moment from that visit.

“When I went last year to her first [appearance as director], she said, ‘You know [Spann] would have been director now instead of me if he had been here.’ That’s how good of an agent that he was,” Gail outlined. “They loved him. They still love him. They honor him all the time.”

You can read more about his life and heroism here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn