8 months ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE: Who’s next?

Yellowhammer News on Wednesday released the 2019 “Power & Influence: Who’s Next?” list.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and today, we’re taking a look at a new group of Alabama leaders poised to be part of the next generation of power and influencers.

This follows last week’s publication of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists. These honorees will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

The 2019 Power of Service Award will be presented to Horace Horn.

Read more about the event here.

Curtis Bowden

A recent engineering graduate of the University of Alabama, Curtis Bowden already seems destined for power and influence in the state. Currently working in the regulatory affairs division of Alabama Power, Bowden is perfectly placed for success in a company known for churning out top-notch governmental affairs professionals. He was a natural presence in the statehouse this past session and is set to steadily rise in responsibility and stature in the coming years.

Bradley Cox

Fundraising might just be the nichiest niche in politics. Luckily for candidates and elected officials in Alabama, EBW Development, led by owner and principal Elizabeth Bloom Williams, is the best of the best. Bradley Cox is a relative newcomer to the fundraising world, but he has hit the ground sprinting since joining EBW Development following the 2018 cycle. He is learning from a master of the craft, and coupled with his impressive background in political consulting and campaign work, Cox is poised to become a household name within the #alpolitics world.

Dalton Dismukes

There are very few people in state politics who manage to keep a strong foothold in both political consulting and governmental affairs work. Dalton Dismukes, even at a young age, is one of those few. This past session, he lobbied for the Jones Group and was an omnipresent figure in the House gallery. However, he is also a go-to campaign professional, including being a trusted advisor to the House Republican Caucus’ political operation this past cycle. Dismukes currently has his hand in at least one federal race and is one of Leverage’s top operators. He’ll be an influencer in state politics for decades.

Will Fuller

You’ll be hard pressed to find a governmental affairs operation with more knowledge or integrity than Alabama’s Capitol Resources office, led by Toby Roth and John Hagood. Adding Will Fuller to their team this session only reinforced this reputation. Fuller, also a razor-sharp campaign consultant, is extremely well connected in the state’s judicial circles — which sets him apart from his peers in a major way. However, observers in Montgomery were blown away this spring at how Fuller navigated the statehouse circus. Poise. Honesty. Work ethic. No will out work — or out prepare — him and his ability to handle complex policy issues would make someone thrice his age jealous. Fuller could become one of the best lobbyists in Alabama before long.

Nick Lawkis

In Alabama’s ultra-competitive higher education world, normally the University of Alabama System and Auburn take all the air out of the room when it comes to lobbying. Yet, Nick Lawkis in recent years has been building relationships right and left, steadily giving the University of South Alabama a real seat at the table in Montgomery. His hard work was recognized this year when South promoted him to executive director of governmental relations, however his star is just beginning to rise. South will do well to keep Lawkis long term.

Grace Newcombe

Speaking of the University of South Alabama, this recent grad and former student government association president is already making waves just months after starting work at the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. Promoted from assistant to the chief of staff to press secretary recently, Grace Newcombe has the kind of naturally inquisitive personality needed to thrive in the realm of governmental affairs and public policy. She is expected to also handle legislative affairs duties in the statehouse for the office during the 2020 session, and her charisma, intelligence and resolve will be readily apparent from the very first drop of the gavel. Newcombe has the kind of presence that can’t be taught — and could one day easily make the leap to become a candidate herself. Either way, she will be at the very top of the ones to watch in her generation.

Jess Skaggs

Jess Skaggs should be on the short list for any statewide officeholder in Montgomery looking to build an elite staff. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth recognized this, making Skaggs a seemingly immediate hire from the Department of Agriculture and Industries after he won in 2018. Skaggs handles a broad array of important duties for the lieutenant governor’s office, including communications. This puts him on the front lines when it comes to public visibility. With Ainsworth’s ceiling seemingly limitless in politics, this puts Skaggs in prime position to continue his ascent. He seems born to be a power player in Alabama and could soon be a fixture on the Power & Influence 40.

Adam Thompson

With the resume of someone twice his age, Adam Thompson has seemingly already done it all. Now serving as deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, Thompson has served as Governor Ivey’s appointments director and deputy chief of staff for policy, as well as the regional advocacy director for the education non-profit founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. If that’s not enough, Thompson was Beth Chapman’s right hand when she served as state auditor and later as secretary of state, giving Thompson an experience and knowledge base in state government unsurpassed in his age group. Thompson has run for public office before, too, and whether his future is behind-the-scenes or not, he is undoubtedly one of his generation’s preeminent public servants.

1 hour ago

Alabama Lt. Governor Ainsworth comments on death of George Floyd

The death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police Department custody on Monday evening has sparked bipartisan national outrage, including in the Yellowhammer State.

The situation on-the-ground in Minneapolis has gradually deteriorated since video footage of Floyd’s death surfaced. Four officers have been fired, however no one had — as of Friday morning — been charged. What began as peaceful protests demanding justice for Floyd have escalated into heavily publicized rioting, looting and arson.

President Donald J. Trump on Friday tweeted that the Minnesota National Guard has arrived in the city to get a hold of the situation.

This came shortly after Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) in a social media post warned, “Chaos rules without law and order.”

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“The death of George Floyd In Minneapolis was inexcusable and angers me greatly, but we must remember that all but a few officers are dedicated servants who risk their lives daily,” Ainsworth said. “My thanks to those who serve in law enforcement. Your brave service is appreciated. Chaos rules without law and order.”

Earlier in the week, Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge shared a photo of the since-fired officer who was video taped kneeling on Floyd’s neck, with Partridge saying, “This is not a police officer. This is not American law enforcement. This is someone who has no integrity, honor, emotion, or respect.”

Partridge currently serves as president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police.

“These four people have stained every professional law enforcement officer who swore an oath to protect and defend the communities they serve,” he continued, referring to the former Minneapolis PD officers.

“It is up to every officer, supervisor, and administrator to stand against this type of abuse of power. Each of these four officers will be prosecuted, as they should,” Partridge advised.

“As a police officer, I do not see color; I see human beings with thoughts, feelings and I will be the first to stand and say enough is enough to this type of rogue behavior by anyone,” he added. “To see this type of brutality makes me sick and disgusted. But, I know justice will prevail in this case. We just need to allow the system to work.”

Partridge remarked, “While Americans have the right to peacefully assemble and protest, they do not have the right to riot, loot and destroy innocent people’s property.”

“Please know that 99.9% of American law enforcement officers do the job flawlessly every day and risk their lives doing so. We work extremely hard to make inroads into the community and build strong relationships,” the Alabama police chief concluded.

UPDATE:

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis PD officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, media outlets reported Friday afternoon.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Alabama’s OWA to reopen amusement park on June 5

OWA this week announced that it will officially reopen its popular amusement park on Friday, June 5, at 11:00 a.m. CT, incorporating enhanced health and safety measures that were developed based on guidance from the CDC and health officials.

The heightened health and safety measures are being implemented for guests and team members to ensure the well-being of everyone visiting OWA, which is located in Foley, Alabama.

The new policies, which can be found here, will include health screenings for guests before entering The Park at OWA, installation of additional hand sanitizing stations throughout the resort, enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices, and added signage to encourage social distancing.

“Our entire team has worked tirelessly the past few months to get The Park ready for guests. We are excited to see guests enjoying the rides and share special family moments once again,” stated Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of marketing/PR.

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“We have always taken great pride in our Parks’ safety and cleanliness,” she continued. “The upcoming Park reopening will be no exception as we continue to implement recommended health and safety practices to ensure our guests have a great experience.”

Additional steps are being implemented to accommodate social distancing, such as limiting the number of guests allowed in the amusement park at one time. Riders will continue to purchase an attractions wristband to enjoy a day filled with unlimited access to amusement park rides. Guests wishing not to partake in any attractions can purchase a $5.00 Non-Rider Pass, which allows guests to enjoy strolling The Park and watching loved ones without having to purchase a full-priced ticket.

Downtown OWA businesses began reopening in April consistent with state health orders and continue to welcome guests using recommended health and safety standards.

Restaurants now open at OWA include Groovy Goat, Crazy Donuts, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, Trattoria Pizza & Italian, Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor, C’est Le Vin Wine Bar & Shop, Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon.

Retailers currently open include Fairhope Soap Company, Parker & Co. (a women’s boutique), Alvin’s Island, The Spice & Tea Exchange and Body Tune Plus.

Brandon Styles Live is currently welcoming guests to both his Magic and Variety shows six days a week. Clash eSports Center, OWA’s state-of-the-art video gaming venue, and Sweet Tooth at OWA are set to open on June 5 in conjunction with the amusement park.

The Park will be open seven days a week during the summer season. Learn more at OWA’s website here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Auburn offering on-campus instruction beginning with second summer mini-term

Auburn University on Friday announced plans for its second summer mini-term that include a variety of instructional delivery methods, including on-campus instruction.

In March, the university announced its decision to suspend on-campus instruction for the full 10-week summer session and the first of two summer five-week mini-terms following guidance from public health officials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision announced Friday comes following months of careful preparation, with the recently amended State Health Order allowing for increased access to educational institutions beginning June 1.

Beginning June 29, Auburn plans to offer multiple course sections during the second summer five-week mini-term through a variety of instructional delivery methods. Consistent with the updated order, the university’s options incorporate important measures designed to protect students, faculty, staff and the broader campus community.

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“Following the Governor’s guidelines, Auburn is preparing to start re-opening our campus to students slowly,” stated Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave.

“While the pandemic has not affected our ability to offer quality instruction, it did restrict our options for delivering instruction,” he continued. “With the new guidance from the state, we can utilize instructional delivery modalities that will enable our campus to implement important protocols as we prepare for the broader re-entry of students this fall.”

In addition to the face-to-face and online options Auburn traditionally offers, the university will also offer blended and Hyflex courses. With blended courses, students utilize both face-to- face instruction and remote learning. Hyflex courses provide a structure that gives students the flexibility of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online or doing both through synchronous delivery. As the university prepares to implement physical distancing guidelines across campus, both blended and Hyflex options will reportedly enable students to experience some face-to-face instruction while remaining flexible to accommodate the institution’s safety protocols.

Auburn advised that more than 3,000 students are currently registered for courses in the second summer mini-term, with almost 150 faculty slated to teach. By working with their colleges and schools, faculty can select which of the four modalities best align with the learning outcomes for their courses to deliver instruction. The type of delivery method will be published so students can make informed choices when building their course schedule.

Opening academic buildings and offering face-to-face instruction during the latter part of the summer will allow the university to begin implementing several new protocols developed for students preparing to return in the fall.

Among these, the university will employ a mobile COVID-19 health check for all students and faculty, and appropriate social distancing will be followed in classrooms.

Following the university’s transition to remote teaching this spring, all faculty going forward are being asked to create a “syllabus B” in the event of a resurgence of the coronavirus that requires the institution to once again transition to full remote instruction.

“The second summer mini-term will allow us to glean important information for the fall,” Hardgrave concluded. “The current plan is to implement some key elements for summer that we see as necessary for fall and prepare to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to learning environments that support the well-being of our campus.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

What Jobs to Move America misses as we reopen Alabama

As the economic crisis due to the coronavirus has impacted our state, Alabama’s job creators and our state’s workers have been focused on reopening our state and getting back to work.

Before the coronavirus, Alabama’s economy was strong and one of the biggest challenges many Alabama businesses faced was filling vacant jobs with skilled workers. The gap in skills and lack of training prevented many in our state from connecting with Alabama’s job creators to receive a good-paying job.

That is why I was encouraged to see companies like New Flyer, North America’s largest bus manufacturer with a world-class manufacturing facility in Anniston, released a Community Benefits Framework (CBF). Among many principles of the CBF were increased opportunities for Alabamians with apprenticeship programs in addition to the execution of sustainable business practices and diversify hiring for management and manufacturing jobs.

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But like many businesses in Alabama, this pandemic quickly shifted priorities for New Flyer. New Flyer focused on short-term survival to ensure their long-term viability in Anniston so that many Alabamians would have a job waiting for them.

Like many businesses across the country, New Flyer of America made the difficult choice to halt production and idle their facility in Anniston due to the speed and gravity of coronavirus. While there was short-term pain for many in our community, New Flyer’s decision to reopen earlier this month has put many in Anniston back to work.

Sadly, Jobs to Move America (JMA), a progressive Astroturf organization with a chapter here in Alabama, chose to amplify their self-righteous campaign against New Flyer. JMA since engaging in Alabama has worked alongside out-of-state labor unions to spread baseless mistruths and targeted Alabama’s job creators, including Mercedes-Benz that employs over 4,000 in our state.

While Alabamians were concerned where they would get their next paycheck, JMA accelerated the pace of their baseless and unfounded attacks. As Alabama business fought to stay open, JMA elevated the attacks that only proved their intense focus on pursuing anti-jobs and anti-Alabama policies far outweighed anything else.

Be sure, JMA’s self-serving game here in Alabama is not over. As New Flyer has judiciously moved to reopen the Anniston facility and put our neighbors back to work with good jobs that offer economic mobility with extensive on-the-job and classroom training, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, JMA continues to employ its same tactics to endanger workforce morale when all people want is to work again and earn a living.

New Flyer has undertaken extensive measures to protect employees with stringent social and physical distancing guidelines, continuous cleaning and sanitization measures and additional Personal Protective Equipment requirements for employees, while JMA in return, continues to strike fear through false claims.

450,000 people in our state are out of work. Now is not the time to take advantage of a crisis but rather it is time to reopen and give employees their jobs again without outside groups like JMA setting up even more obstacles between Alabamians and their next paycheck.

If we want good-paying jobs in Anniston and across our state, especially as our country faces historic job loss, vilifying companies that provide those jobs and mentorship opportunities puts no one at an advantage. On the contrary, it damages our state’s reputation of being pro-business and pro-jobs that could stunt further job creation when so many in our state need a good-paying job.

Sen. Del Marsh is President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. He represents District 12, including Calhoun and Talladega counties. Marsh was elected to the Senate in 1998 and was reelected for a fifth term in 2014. He was first elected President Pro Tempore in 2010.

8 hours ago

7 Things: Doug Jones blames Trump for the coronavirus pandemic, Alabama Public Health Department dispels rumors about numbers, no ‘rush’ to press charges in Minnesota and more …

7. Sessions supporters still argue he did the right thing in recusing himself

  • In 2017, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference into President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and Trump has used Sessions’ recusal as a point to criticize him regularly. 
  • Despite Trump’s criticism, Sessions has maintained that recusal was required due to federal regulations, and now he’s said that these regulations “basically has the impact of law” and “you’re not able to investigate yourself,” adding that U.S. Attorney General William Barr, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Attorney Generals Mike Mukasey and Ed Meese, and U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) all agree with Sessions’ decision to recuse himself. 

6. Birmingham may extend mask ordinance

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  • Friday, the Birmingham City Council is going to vote on whether to continue the mandatory mask city ordinance until June 12, which is set to expire on May 29 after first being put in place back on April 28.
  • Birmingham is the only city that requires people to wear a mask in public. Council President William Parker said that wearing a mask “is an intentional act of kindness because you’re helping to protect those around you.” He added that while they “can’t legislate morality, we just want our citizens to understand the importance of covering their face when they are in a public space.”

5. It’s looking more and more like we’ll have football by fall

  • State Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) has said that while Auburn University and the University of Alabama don’t make the decision to have football this fall, but “every indication is that is going to happen.”
  • Whatley also said he’s hoping Auburn can have students return to campus by the end of June, adding that the university is “committed to getting students back on the Auburn campus.”

4. Trump has signed an executive order against social media companies

  • President Donald Trump was fact-checked by Twitter, which he said were “editorial decisions,” and now it has escalated to him signing an executive order to challenge the liability protections that prevent social media sites from lawsuits due to the content on their platforms.
  • Twitter responded by targeting another Trump tweet. They are granted these protections because they’re considered “platforms” instead of “publishers,” but Trump said that he’s “fed up with it” since Twitter has a reputation of targeting conservatives.

3. Charges against officers involved in Floyd death won’t be rushed

  • The four police officers in Minneapolis that were involved in the death of George Floyd have been fired, but now, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that they aren’t going to “rush” to press charges on officers.
  • Freeman said they’re going to “do this right,” and went on to ask the public to “give me and give the United States attorney the time to do this right, and we will bring you justice. I promise.” However, after the death of George Floyd there has been an outbreak of looting and rioting throughout the city.

2. No, your whole family won’t be counted if you test positive

  • The Alabama Department of Public Health has put rumors to rest that if you test positive for the coronavirus then everyone in your household will be counted as positive, clarifying that those who are counted in the case numbers are those who test positive through a clinical lab, commercial lab or the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories.
  • In Alabama, the ADPH is also not including antibody tests in the positive coronavirus cases, and while they aren’t counting people who live in the same house as someone who tests positive in the case count, they do suggest that those people consider themselves positive and “[e]veryone in the home is instructed to quarantine for 14 days from the date of the case’s onset of symptoms.”

1. Jones doesn’t just blame Trump for the coronavirus

  • In a live-stream with Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) to discuss the coronavirus, Jones answered the question of what he would say to people about how high the death toll in the United States has gotten. Jones said that he doesn’t “think we’re at a point where we should be pointing a whole lot of blame.”
  • Throughout his comments, Jones said that there is blame to be placed on China, the Worth Health Organization, and President Donald Trump and “the administration and their early responses.” Jones went on to say that reopening states right now is “premature.”