2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 11-20
Yellowhammer Multimedia on Thursday released the third segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.
Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.
Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.
Read more about the event here.
20. Greg Albritton
Greg Albritton is an old-school legislator trapped in a second-termer’s body. He is particularly clever in how he goes about working his issues and navigating the legislative process. And he is dogged in pursuit of passing his legislative priorities. Take for example his bill reforming the marriage license process in Alabama. Albritton ran into roadblocks to the passage of that bill in multiple legislative sessions, but he kept at it and now it is law.
Albritton often finds himself in the middle of some of the more controversial legislative fights while representing the interests of his district. There are at least a few times a session where he will dig in and not move – all with a smile on his face.
Those things make his power and influence notable. However, Albritton also chairs one of the two budget committees in the State Senate.
As the Senate’s lead appropriator for the general fund (the poor cousin to the education trust fund), Albritton is in a position where it is impossible to make everyone happy. Sometimes, though, power and influence rests in the ability to tell people “no.” He’s pretty good at that, and it’s necessary given the fact that requesting general fund appropriations is about like standing in a bread line in a former eastern bloc country.
Albritton is conservative and thoughtful in his budgeting practices and crafty with his deal-making. So it’s no surprise to see him land on this list.
19. Horace Horn
Horace Horn is an unsung hero of Alabama’s current economic boon.
His record of longtime dedicated service could fill up a book, and the brighter future he has helped pave the way for will be celebrated through Yellowhammer’s 2019 Power of Service Award.
However, make no mistake about it: Horn has not just accomplished a lot over time – he is still one of the state’s most powerful and influential people.
As PowerSouth’s vice president for external affairs, Horn continues to be a gladiator for rural Alabama. He played a major role behind the scenes in historic broadband legislation passing this session, and the PowerSouth Playbook continues to help deliver economic development wins – as evidenced by Site Selection’s recent praise of the company.
A legend still at the top of his game, there is no better advocate to have on your side than Horace Horn.
18. Dax Swatek
Dax Swatek is one of the smartest people in Alabama politics. Some people simply have a natural ability to see all the angles, exits and useable space when they enter a room. Swatek is like that when it comes to political issues and public policy initiatives.
He’s an elite strategist whom clients call and say, “Tell me what my plan needs to be to pass this bill.” In the same way Frank Stitt rolls up his sleeves when asked to plan a seven-course meal, Swatek is the guy people come to when they want to know all the ingredients to success and stay six steps ahead the whole time.
With more than two decades now in Montgomery power circles, he has assembled a strong team behind him at his firm Swatek, Vaughn & Bryan and has long-standing relationships with leadership in both chambers and the executive branch. His client list is chock full of blue-chippers, and his alliance with the downtown Birmingham business community is especially strong.
Add it all up and you get a lobbyist who has figured out the recipe for sustained power and influence.
17. Will Ainsworth
People jest about the lieutenant governor’s office in Alabama having essentially no real power; “light” governor, some quip.
Will Ainsworth has completely changed this narrative, just in his first year on the job.
Political observers and industry titans around the Yellowhammer State have marveled at how Ainsworth has carried himself since winning in 2018 – and how he continues to maneuver every day, increasing his power and influence, growing his network.
Ainsworth has displayed poise and wisdom well beyond his years, and the result is a lieutenant governor who has become a kingmaker rather than an afterthought. His endorsement is coveted in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.
Whether it was stepping in to give the Mobile I-10 Bridge toll project a death blow or his stalwart, forward-thinking leadership on workforce development, small business and veterans issues, Ainsworth has picked his battles – and policy endeavors – perfectly.
His career is still just getting started, and Ainsworth will be elected to whatever job he wants in 2022.
16. Greg Reed
When you get into the upper echelon of power players, distinguishing traits become even more important. Greg Reed has exhibited many on his way up the tower of influence and into the position of majority leader for the Alabama Senate.
Reed has a palpable, strong presence evident to anyone who spends more than a minute with him. He is poised under pressure and demonstrates a statesman-like demeanor whether in the company of few or of many. And the best thing about this is that, with Reed, it’s real.
Leading the majority caucus in the state senate can be the most challenging position in the statehouse. By virtue of being in the majority, each caucus member is in a position to influence the body in individual ways. That’s tough to manage. Reed has stepped in and not only helped maintain order but has guided some ambitious agenda items to passage.
One area where he excels and probably does not get enough credit is his grasp of policy. On issues affecting the coal industry, small business, economic development and agriculture, Reed could teach a semester class if he were afforded the time.
Reed’s star is bright and is set to get even brighter.
15. Steve Marshall
From the first second he stepped to the microphone after being appointed attorney general in 2017, Steve Marshall has dazzled.
Charisma. Intelligence. Compassion. Fortitude. Integrity.
Marshall has passed every test imaginable and made Alabama a safer, better place because of his service.
And for him, that’s the only thought.
This is a public servant who could do whatever he wanted – U.S. senator, governor, you name it and Steve Marshall would win that election in a heartbeat and serve with distinction.
However, Marshall has the only job he ever wanted right now. A career prosecutor with a true passion for serving as attorney general, he is one of the most real elected officials you will ever meet.
From that authenticity comes a level of power and influence that politics cannot manufacture.
An even better man, Marshall will go down as one of the best attorneys general in state history.
14. Jabo Waggoner
Jabo Waggoner is always the coolest guy in any room. He possesses a magnetism which has served him to near perfection throughout his political career. He’s the gentlemen senator and the smoothest of operators, but mainly people just want to be around him.
Of course, there’s also the fact that he holds the power of legislative process in the palm of his hand. Guess who determines what does and does not get debated on the floor of the Alabama Senate? Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner. Every. Single. Bill.
In the most deliberative body, the place where it is hardest to pass a bill, that’s a monumental – and immeasurably powerful – responsibility.
Whether visiting the chairman as a constituent, a friend or someone looking to have a bill placed on the calendar, our advice would be to soak it up. Learn something. Allow yourself to get a civics lesson from someone who has served in the Alabama legislature for more than 50 years. Pay attention to how vital personal skills are to effectiveness.
There are a lot of things to learn from Jabo Waggoner. At the very least, know that he is a very powerful man.
13. Steve Windom
Steve Windom might just be the perfect case study for those looking to make it big in the world of governmental affairs and lobbying.
He is a tireless worker, but the real marvel is his deep, ever-growing network of connections on and around Goat Hill. From administrative support staff to lifelong civil servants all the way up the halls of power, Windom knows just about everybody by name – and works his Rolodex non-stop.
Windom is one of the go-to lobbyists if you want a bill passed. In addition to his relationship building, his first-hand knowledge of the process and status as a former legislator and lieutenant governor give him a special edge over many contract firms.
However, his expertise does not stop in the public policy arena.
Windom’s reputation as a fundraising machine continues to grow every election cycle – and for good reason. He can raise statewide candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars before lunch if he wants to, making him a political powerbroker unmatched in power and influence by all but a handful of colleagues.
12. Robbie McGhee
Robbie McGhee starts every day with the same mission: represent and protect the interests of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.
What might seem to be a narrowly-focused approach can actually be an arduous task. McGhee and his tribe sit in a position of great strength in Alabama. They have established a thriving gaming and entertainment business across the state. From this success has sprung a healthy corporate citizenship through charitable endeavors, job creation and electioneering.
The challenge for McGhee comes when others set out to siphon off the strength of the tribe. This causes him to be on constant alert for people trying to harm their interests.
During those occurrences, McGhee brings a certain intensity to his representation not prevalent in the everyday machinations of the statehouse. It means something when he walks into the building, and other people know when he is there. That in itself is a sure sign of power and influence.
The experience he brings also counts for something. He worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.
The wins for McGhee continue to pile up year after year. And so does his power and influence.
11. Bob Geddie
It has been said that Joe Fine invented lobbying in Alabama.
That being well established, his longtime business partner Bob Geddie may have just perfected the craft.
Geddie, reverently known as the firm’s House of Representatives specialist, has lobbying down to a science.
Institutional knowledge, skill, charisma and relationships – it sounds like a formula. But Geddie makes it look like an artform.
Some of Alabama’s biggest businesses trust Geddie on policy advocacy issues, and for good reason. However, his power and influence does not stop at being one of the – if not the very — top contract lobbyists in the state.
Aided by Fine Geddie’s network of PACs and Geddie’s own chess master-like strategic vision, he is one of the best minds political candidates and elected officials could hope to have advising them.
Geddie has been a high-ranking fixture on this list since its inception, and his stature only looks to continue rising.
Check back on Friday for the final segment: 1-10.