8 months ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 31-40

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Tuesday released the first 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.

The ranked list is being released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 finishing the week out.

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.

40. Clyde Chambliss

Through thick and thin, State Senator Clyde Chambliss was at the center of seemingly every major legislative battle this spring.

The Autauga County legislator carried the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package in his chamber, also taking a leading role on the crucial accountability and transparency portions of the legislation.

His session certainly did not end there.

Chambliss’ real 15 minutes came as the Senate point person on HB 314, the abortion ban legislation.

A meticulous, detail-oriented public servant, Chambliss has steadily become one of the most powerful and influential members of the upper chamber to start the quadrennium – including serving as the GOP floor leader.

He is expected to play a major part in the upcoming criminal justice and prison reform debate, so do not anticipate this status changing this upcoming session.

39. David Cole

David Cole must have been born to lobby.

While this was already evident during his time at the Alabama Farmers Federation, Cole has seized the opportunity of working for the better-than-ever Business Council of Alabama with both hands.

Cole is a natural people’s person, someone adept at building genuine relationships and making real connections. In the governmental affairs world, these traits are hard to find.

However, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt struck gold when she hired both Cole and Molly Cagle to lead the organization’s governmental & political affairs shop.

These two are no longer rising stars. They have made it, and Britt has built a tenacious powerhouse for years to come.

38. Greg Butrus

Most lawyers are like the highway patrol: You only want to see them when you need them.

Greg Butrus is the exception.

It’s impossible not to learn something during a conversation with Butrus. Once a Senate staffer for legendary Alabama political figure Howell Heflin, Butrus displays the type of personality rare among the silk stocking law firms in downtown Birmingham.

He holds extensive knowledge in the areas of state and federal legislation, public policy, government relations, campaign finance law, state and federal energy policy, regulatory affairs and economic development. By no means is that an exhaustive list of Butrus’ areas of expertise, which leads him into the middle of countless pieces of legislation and agency actions.

Astute business leaders pursue Butrus’ counsel rather than wait until they really need it.

37. Cam Ward

Cam Ward, a perennial member of this annual Power & Influence list, is poised to have his biggest day in the spotlight yet.

When the Alabama legislature takes on a monumental criminal justice and prison reform package in the spring, Ward will be at the forefront – and at his most powerful and influential moment of his career thus far.

Serving in the Alabama Senate since 2010, Ward is known throughout Montgomery as a legislator eager to cross the aisle on issues of importance. Look for him to be one of the driving forces trying to get Republicans and Democrats on the same page in 2020 amidst the presidential election cycle doing quite the opposite.

While Ward as the Senate Judiciary chairman is known for his bipartisanship, his district includes a very red chunk of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. As evidenced by his social media posts (and his accessibility across these platforms), much of this is a result of his diligent work back at home.

36. Mike Cole

Mike Cole has been omnipresent in the halls of the legislature and the buildings around Montgomery for decades. Cole belongs in the category of powerful and influential people who quietly go about their business with a steady approach to lobbying within a wide swath of state government offices.

Few can match the breadth of subject matter in Cole’s governmental affairs practice. From healthcare to utility regulation to economic development to county and municipal issues, his experience and versatility put him in a position to pull levers inaccessible to others in the industry.

And he’s a big-game hunter when it comes to clients. Cole counts some of the state’s largest employers among his client base. His roots in Huntsville have allowed him to serve as a go-to connection in Montgomery for the many of the state’s tech leaders.

35. Mark Tuggle

After choosing not to seek reelection to the State House in 2018, Mark Tuggle has found an even better gig in the chamber – chief of staff to Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Tuggle seems right at home on the dais. Whether it be his ingrained knowledge of the body’s rules and procedures or his built-in working relationships with many of the current members, Tuggle’s status as a former member helped him slide right in to a role of tangible power and influence to kick of this quadrennium.

This Alexander City Republican is now the lead gatekeeper to one of the most powerful people in the state. With contentious issues like criminal justice and prison reform coming up, along with the constant specter of lottery and gambling issues, Tuggle plays a crucial part behind the scenes in the legislative process.

34. Nathaniel Ledbetter

Following its conclusion, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter wrote that the 2019 legislative session may go down as “the most important and influential of its time.”

It is fitting then that political observers around the State House are widely taking notice of the integral role Ledbetter had in its success. To put it succinctly, Ledbetter may go down as one of “the most powerful and influential” majority leaders of his time.

His rise to power has been almost meteoric. Elected to the House in 2014, he became the Republican leader in the chamber almost two full years before the end of his first term.

A former mayor of Rainsville, this DeKalb Countian has carved out his role as a staunch conservative and tireless champion for rural Alabama.

With the leadership duo of him and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) at the helm, the House GOP Caucus has real pull in Montgomery.

33. Derek Trotter

Spoiler alert: The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate is a powerful man. And so it’s no surprise that his chief of staff also wields significant power and influence.

Derek Trotter has served as Del Marsh’s chief of staff for nearly a year and maximized his influence quickly.

Trotter brought with him a useful blend of experience. He has served as a communications director for a statewide campaign and for Marsh in an earlier term. His background as a legislative liaison for the executive branch as well as a governmental affairs consultant in the private sector allowed him to hit the ground running as the pro tem’s chief of staff.

More than anything, though, Trotter is an operator in the statehouse on behalf of his boss. He knows Marsh’s priorities, he knows the bills that will be on the calendar and he is tasked with being Marsh’s point person in communicating with other senators.

This activity gives Trotter the two most valuable commodities in the statehouse: relationships and information. The person who knows the secrets – however mundane they may seem – automatically owns influence.

And that is where Trotter finds himself.

32. Josh Blades

Josh Blades has been ahead of the curve at every point in his life. The Sylacauga native was recognized as the city’s youngest entrepreneur at age 15 after opening a full-service archery shop, and he has never looked back.

One of the most visibly focused lobbyists in the statehouse, Blades is a member of the Bradley firm’s Governmental Affairs and Economic Development practice group. He has worked for a governor, a speaker of the House, a successful statewide campaign and established a thriving lobbying practice at an age before most people accomplish one of those things.

An avid bow hunter, Blades possesses the type of background and personality that relates to almost everyone, which is one of the most overlooked traits to successful lobbying. The depth of his work in the executive and legislative branches of government provides him the institutional knowledge to service his clients, but his influence comes from having the relationships to bring about results.

31. Ted Hosp

Normally, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend. However, Ted Hosp is someone who has never backed down from a challenge.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama named Hosp its new vice president of Governmental Affairs earlier this year. Hosp replaced the retiring Robin Stone, a longtime fixture among Alabama’s political power players.

Hosp had previously worked for a governor and was the lead partner for the Maynard, Cooper & Gale governmental affairs practice. During his time as a lawyer/lobbyist for Maynard, Hosp had a reputation for taking on some of the biggest issues and toughest issues on behalf of his clients looking to affect public policy. Not to mention Hosp has probably written more pieces of legislation that are now Alabama law than anyone in the statehouse would like to admit.

Hosp is now the governmental affairs point person for a company that has 3 million members in Alabama and employs 3,600 people. With the weight of that presence behind him, his power and influence will only increase.

Check back on Wednesday for the next segment: 21-30.

9 hours ago

‘The Bama’ at KBC restaurant is one of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama

KBC are the initials of Kelsey Bernard Clark, the winner of the 16th season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and the chef and owner of KBC restaurant in Dothan.

What began as a butcher shop and grocery evolved into a restaurant based largely on the popularity of the sandwiches Clark started serving customers.

“Some of the sandwiches on our menu are named after people and The Bama was actually named after my mother-in-law, who is known by her grandchildren as ‘Bama,’” Clark said.

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The Bama at KBC in Dothan is one of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Bama sports pimento cheese, thick slices of tomatoes and crispy bacon. It’s about as Southern a sandwich as you can get and is so delectable it has made its way onto the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, KBC tried curbside service but Clark said it wasn’t as fulfilling as the experience of dining in the restaurant. So, KBC stopped doing curbside until the dining rooms were allowed to reopen under new guidelines. She said KBC is operating well and safely under the new rules and business is good again.

And The Bama is as popular as ever.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

15 hours ago

Coach Bill Clark: UAB ready for football season preparations to start

UAB football coach Bill Clark is like many fans who are waiting for a clear sign that the college football season is on the horizon this year.

With less than 90 days until the start of the season, that sign will be next week when UAB players report for voluntary individual workouts and training. Clark said that will progress into the more familiar pre-season camp between now and August.

“I’m excited to get them back, even in small numbers right now,” Clark said.

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Coach Bill Clark: UAB ready for football season preparations from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

It’s been a challenging few months for everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic and football was not immune. It eliminated the normal spring training and spring football scrimmages for all collegiate teams, and officials from all schools and conferences have been weighing whether and how to proceed with preparations for a season that at one time seemed uncertain.

Clark said he is confident the plan UAB has in place is a good one and he has one of the premier institutions to draw on for medical expertise.

“Rule No. 1 has always been athlete safety, so this is not something new for us,” Clark said. “Obviously, the COVID crisis was something new for us to deal with. The support of our athletic trainers obviously being at UAB with the medical school helps.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

Hero German Shepherd from Alabama vies to be country’s top dog in American Humane contest

A mom’s reaction to being reunited with her lost child – found by Küsse, a German Shepherd rescue dog – was to smother both with kisses and hugs.

Indeed, the name Küsse – German for “kisses” – fits Corey Speegle’s rescue dog to a “T.” With her innate ability to find lost people, Küsse has earned huge praise during her short career.

Nearly half a million dog lovers across the country have cast their votes for Küsse, one of three semifinalists for the American Humane Hero Dog prize in the Search and Rescue category. Other categories include Therapy Dogs; Service Dogs; Military Dogs; Law Enforcement Dogs; Shelter Dogs; and Guide/Hearing Dogs.

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Küsse and Speegle live in Sheffield, Alabama, and she’s the only dog representing the Yellowhammer State. Supporters can vote for Küsse once a day through July 16.

Training the nation’s ‘top dog’ 

Speegle got Küsse as a pup and began training her at a year old. Küsse’s innate ability to find individuals has primed her to win the national contest this fall, which concludes with a gala and a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel.

“Küsse is a beautiful dog, and she loves to serve and help find missing people,” said Speegle, state coordinator for the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons and a volunteer firefighter for Spring Valley and White Oak Volunteer Fire departments. “Her mother is a German Shepherd from the Czech Republic and the father is a second-generation explosives dog out of Fort Hood, Texas.”

Speegle has trained with the Federal Emergency Management Association, and he and Küsse have completed numerous search and rescue classes.

“I’ve taken advanced building search classes through detection services, and I’ve had boat training to locate bodies in the water,” Speegle said.

He’s accustomed to receiving calls for help from Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson. On March 4, Speegle and Küsse were called to work search and reconnaissance efforts in Cookeville, Tennessee, after a powerful EF4 tornado decimated the town in the early morning. Cookeville is the county seat of Putnam County, 79 miles east of Nashville.

“Küsse and I worked for hours on end to help find survivors and bring closure to families with missing loved ones,” said Speegle, who volunteers with the White Oak Volunteer Fire Department’s K-9 Search and Rescue crew. The team also uses highly trained cadaver dogs.

“It was like a bomb went off there,” he said. “We stayed until the last person was accounted for – it wasn’t pretty, as you can imagine.” Despite their round-the-clock search March 4-6, Küsse and Speegle found no survivors among the 27 people missing.

Speegle trained Küsse with the “recall/refind” method.

“I say, ‘show me,’ and she will return to me and lead me to the person,” he said. “When she finds somebody, she gets her purple kong wubba, her favorite toy in the whole world.”

“The new thinking is you don’t want the dog to bark at someone and scare them, so she’s trained to find them and, depending on the distance, she returns to me and makes me know she found them,” he said.

Speegle uses a handheld detection module linked to Küsse’s GPS-monitored collar, which can track her up to 9 miles.

“Occasionally, with small children, the dog won’t leave the child,” he said. “It will lay down and stay with the subject, so we can still track where the dog is.

“She also does scent article finds,” Speegle said. “Küsse locates a person using a scent article – a sock, hat or shirt, for instance.

“Küsse will work on- or off-lead,” he said. “If you have someone lost in a national forest, she can use that scent to find them.”

Küsse recently helped in the search for a 20-year-old marathon runner from Colbert County near Muscle Shoals, Alabama, whose family reported him missing.

“He’d gone running in the evening and it had stormed all night,” Speegle said. “We tracked him 200 to 300 yards but Küsse lost his scent because of the rain. But she assisted law enforcement to go in the right direction to find him.”

Using video, the sheriff tracked the man’s run. The marathoner had been caught in the storm and sheltered overnight in the field house at Muscle Shoals High School. He borrowed a phone the next morning to call his parents.

Honoring the past at LaGrange Cemetery

Colbert County Commissioner Darol Bendall asked Speegle to locate unmarked historic graves at the historic LaGrange Cemetery in Leighton, Alabama. He and Küsse volunteered a weekend in April.

“The descendants would like to know where they’re at – it’s rough terrain,” said Speegle, who assisted other members of the LaGrange Living History Association. “There are probably 100 graves that are unaccounted for, some of which date to 1815.”

The project was an excellent training opportunity. Speegle, Küsse and his other dogs located nine lost gravesites. During the years, headstones for a man and his wife, dating to the 1800s, had been moved about 50 yards from their resting place. Volunteers reset the headstones properly. Other graves were found outside the cemetery.

“My cadaver dog found an unmarked grave in a wooded area,” he said.

During the work, a volunteer’s child went missing.

“This little 6-year-old girl had wandered off 200 to 300 yards,” Speegle said. “Küsse found her at the back of the cemetery, at the wood line. It was a little scary for all of us.”

Speegle finds a lot of satisfaction in helping others.

“There was no happy ending in Tennessee, but finding the little girl was a good one,” he said. “Küsse is at the beginning of her career. I hope she serves her community well. If she wins in her overall category, I will be one proud daddy.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

Florists decorate Birmingham Rotary Trail in an act of beauty and healing

Flowers bring joy, and they can heal the soul.

On Friday morning about 25 florists joined in decorating the Rotary Trail in Birmingham. As a beautiful start to the weekend, said Cameron Pappas, florists swathed the trail in greenery, roses and colorful blooms of all sorts. People even brought flowers from their yards.

The effort was to bring “light and joy” to Birmingham residents. And the 46-foot-tall sign with the words “Rotary Trail in the Magic City” was the perfect place to begin.

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“I was laying in bed Sunday night, watching these scenes unfold where Birmingham was in chaos. Seeing this was so sad,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist in Birmingham.

When Carolyn Chen called Pappas later, an idea was born. The owner of Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities in Homewood, Chen thought that decorating the entrance of the Rotary Trail could be a start to bringing emotional healing to the Magic City.

Area florists put Birmingham’s Rotary Trail in full bloom from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Random acts of botany

“Carolyn wanted to figure out how to help the city heal after this past weekend and the coronavirus,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist for more than four years. Between the two, giving flowers in a difficult time is a natural response: “Flowers bring joy. Whether it’s a sad time like a funeral or a happy occasion like a birthday, flowers bring happiness,” he said.

Pappas and Chen invited more than 50 florists from a 40-mile area around the city to help. Three wholesale flower distributors in Birmingham – DavisR&W Wholesale Inc. and Hall’s Birmingham Wholesale Florist – donated flowers and greenery.

“It’s cool to have everyone in an industry come together,” he said. “We want to make people happy, and give them something to look at besides broken glass and boarded up windows.”

What started as a simple gesture bloomed into something memorable. Several of the participating florists were livestreaming to Facebook. Several people from outside of Birmingham saw the videos and posts on social media, and came to take their own pictures.

Pappas said that seeing people join together to help was an amazing sight.

“People were cutting flowers, using their talents to help,” he said. “Everyone was busy beautifying the Rotary Trail with one thought: We love Birmingham. We love this city and our people.”

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

18 hours ago

Auburn University expert discusses COVID-19’s impact on sales projections, consumer costs

Brian Gibson, the Wilson Family Professor and executive director of the Center for Supply Chain Innovation in Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, recently commented on the impact of coronavirus on sales projections for retailers and suppliers, how supply chains are adapting and how consumer costs will be affected.

Gibson leads multiple industry studies, including the Logistics 2030 project, the annual State of the Retail Supply Chain Report and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ talent management project. He has published numerous articles in supply chain journals, co-wrote “The Definitive Guide to Integrated Supply Chain Management” and co-produces the “Supply Chain Essentials” video series.

Q: How is coronavirus affecting sales projections for retailers and suppliers?

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Gibson: The COVID-19 pandemic has created quite the challenge in the retail sector. U.S. retail sales plunged nearly 9 percent in March as shoppers began to follow shelter-in-place measures. The situation has created a “Tale of Two Cities” scenario. For many retailers it has been the worst of times, with all stores closed due to state government emergency orders. Small retailers lacking the resources to support online selling, and large discounters like TJ Maxx and Ross Stores with minimal e-commerce operations are generating no sales. Retailers with a large online presence are generating e-commerce sales, but it is not enough to make up the loss of in-store revenues. Only the small group of retailers selling essential products like groceries and household goods items are in the best-of-times category, relatively speaking. In March, Kroger and Walmart experienced double-digit growth of same-store sales due to consumers stocking up on essentials. AmazonCostcoTarget and other select retailers also generated higher revenues.

The situation is much the same for suppliers. It all depends on the type of product being produced. Manufacturers of essential food, paper and cleaning products are working overtime to handle demand surges. In contrast, the apparel and automobile industries are largely shut down due to lack of demand, key parts or available labor. Some of these companies are now making personal protective equipment, ventilators and other necessary products that are in short supply.

Q: How have coronavirus-affected supply chains adapted to this situation?

Gibson: The news headlines and stories certainly paint a bleak picture of a broken supply chain that is plagued by product shortages. The reality is that there is no single supply chain. Products flow through different channels from their raw material sources to manufacturers to retailers and distributors. As consumption patterns for certain products have spiked to historic highs, there have been temporary shortages while companies work to restock their inventories. It is an ongoing challenge. If a meat processor shuts down for two weeks, that link in the supply chain is broken temporarily, but the whole supply chain is not broken.

Supply chains are resilient; they bend but typically don’t break. Adjustments are being made by companies to continue serving demand. Distribution centers and grocery stores are working overtime to fulfill orders. Product is being redirected from commercial channels to consumer channels. Production lines are being modified and alternate sources of supply are being tapped to alleviate inventory shortages. Collectively, these solutions from organizations along the supply chain will bring supply and demand back into sync.

Q: Will supply chain costs increase and, thus, increase the cost of consumer goods?

Gibson: Without question, supply chain costs are rising. Retailers are paying front-line store and distribution center associates an hourly wage premium. It costs more to fill and deliver an e-commerce order than to have consumers do their own shopping. Facilities are going through expensive deep-cleaning protocols on a regular basis. And the cost of some commodities is rising. It’s logical to expect that some of these costs will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher product prices. How much they will go up and for how long is the tricky question.

Q: Will we see changes in supply chains and will this actually help certain companies?

Gibson: In the wake of COVID-19 disruptions, “Massive Shifts in Supply Chains Forthcoming” is a popular headline but one that is almost clickbait status. Change will happen, but in a more methodical and incremental fashion than is currently being predicted by pundits. Production will continue to shift from China to other low-cost countries. We will possibly see more domestic production with flexible capacity built in. Some companies will increase safety stock inventories of key materials. And companies will likely cultivate additional strategic supplier relationships. Companies that succeed with these initiatives will achieve greater supply chain agility and resiliency without dramatically increasing their costs. They will be the ultimate winners.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)