Welcome to the third installment of Yellowhammer Multimedia’s peek behind the curtain into the most powerful and influential leaders in Alabama politics.
Drawn from conversations with insiders across the state, and the most recent developments in politics and public policy, the list recognizes the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence for those they represent and the Yellowhammer State.
The ranked list is being released in five segments. Numbers 50-41 published Monday, Numbers 40-31 Tuesday and below is a ranking of numbers 30-21.
Joe Lovvorn, Alabama House of Representatives
Among the most likable and trustworthy you’ll find in Alabama politics is Joe Lovvorn (Luv-ern).
At first glance, his power and influence is unassuming. A career firefighter, family man and ambassador for all things Auburn – one might wonder how such a good guy is able to compete in a cut-throat habitat of political animals.
But that question would be sorely misplaced.
As chairman of the all-powerful House Committee on Rules, Lovvorn literally sets the agenda.
In addition to maintaining the trust of those whose trust matters – his expertise on process is highly sought-after and his blessing is an important feature of any bill that hopes to become law.
When things get heavy in the lower chamber, Lovvorn is more comfortable running directly toward danger than most.
Ginger Avery-Buckner, Alabama Association of Justice
Some days at the Alabama State House matter more than others. There are even certain hours which carry an inordinate amount of weight. These are the times when legislation faces a critical vote in committee or when the decision to place a bill on the calendar hangs in the balance.
When these same days, hours or moments involve some aspect of Alabama’s civil justice system, Ginger Avery-Buckner becomes a sheer force of nature.
Avery-Buckner is CEO of Alabama’s largest voluntary legal association. She has mastered the strategy of engaging her members to further the organization’s agenda. She knows the legislative process better than members of the Legislature. Her ability to see countless steps ahead on legal issues is uncanny.
And then there is her commitment to the cause. Avery-Buckner is tenacious, bordering on ferocious, when it comes to protecting the interests of her members.
Avery-Buckner’s influence on the political process never ceases.
Bobby Singleton, Minority Leader, Alabama State Senate
The silver-tongued gentleman from Greensboro is an artist at leveraging his natural talents to ensure his own indispensability among fellow senators, bringing everyone along for the ride.
When Singleton steps up to the mic, you know you’re in for it. Sometimes difficult to tell if it’s real talk or shenanigans – his ability to talk as craftily as Da Vinci painted is always the case.
His canvas is topics and bills important to him and the minority caucus he leads. His paintbrush is a keen understanding of the legislative process and the ability to speed up or slow down that process when it suits him.
The end result is often a masterpiece – leaving others to unravel its meaning.
There is an axiom which states that it is the work behind the scenes, when no one is watching, which determines one’s success.
Mike Cole has spent more than four decades building a stellar career based on that proposition.
It is impossible to keep tabs on Cole’s movements and activities. He counts some of Alabama’s largest employers as clients, and he operates quietly on their behalf across all branches of government. Agency heads, legislators and judges all seem to know Cole, and his personal and professional approval rating with them is off the charts.
As one insider remarked, “I need to quit being surprised when I find out Mike Cole is working behind the scenes on some issue and then it ends up going his client’s way. It’s the best way to get things done if you can pull it off.”
No one should be surprised to see Cole retaining his place on this list.
Josh Blades, Bradley
Josh Blades arrives at the State House every day during a legislative session to lobby on behalf of his impressive Bradley client list.
The truth is, though, one could easily mistake Blades for an executive at a large corporation or one of the high-powered elected officials he deals with on a daily basis.
Blades is one of the most universally talented governmental affairs professionals in Alabama politics. He has a vast reservoir of experience from which he pulls to maneuver the halls of power. He has been a senior advisor to a governor and a chief of staff for a speaker of the House.
So he has built a superb foundation for power and influence in state government.
At the same time, one can easily imagine Blades leading an earnings call or delivering a key policy speech from a high office.
This elite skill set has vaulted him to the top levels of his profession.
Bill Poole, Office of the Governor
Bill Poole is the subject of more dream hiring scenarios than anyone else in Alabama politics.
Influential people in and around the state’s political world have seemingly spent years trying to figure out ways to plug Poole into their organizations. This dates all the way back to his first term in the House of Representatives and having reached a fever-pitch after seeing his mastery of state finances.
Poole served several years as chairman of the Ways and Means Education Committee, which appropriates the $8 billion education budget. In his current position as Finance Director, he is now charged with funding the operation of state government and all of its agencies and programs. That amounts to a lot of money being sought by very few people.
His potential likely knows no limits. He has cemented his reputation as an intelligent, discerning and ambitious public servant.
So the thought of being the company or association to pull Poole out of public service is tantalizing for many.
Success for this past recipient of Yellowhammer’s Power of Service Award has been etched in stone.
Steve Raby, Direct Communications
A mainstay of the list, Raby has reinvented and expanded his spheres of influence while staying entirely on brand. He’s never short on reasons to hang out at the State House. To the benefit of his clients and the dismay of opponents – Raby is a political and legislative mastermind.
His apperception in the field of polling translates to long-term strategic value for everyone in his orbit. But also, his role as Chief of Staff in the halls of power at the U.S. Capitol continues to translate effectively on the agenda at the Alabama State House.
Raby is a testament to the North Alabama influence in Montgomery that isn’t going away anytime soon. He learned from the region’s greats like Sen. John Sparkman and now advises those who wield the same sort of power. His farm in Harvest is HQ for ideas that make their way all across the state.
The Steve Raby School of Influence is always in session.
R.B. Walker, Alabama Power
Anyone waiting for R.B. Walker to put forth less effort and have less power and influence is going to be sorely disappointed over the course of the next several decades.
As Director of Legislative Affairs for Alabama Power, he has established himself as one of the most recognizable and effective power players in Alabama. It’s doubtful that there exists an elected official on the state level who does not have a strong relationship with Walker.
He is ostensibly everywhere, all the time. Walker is the Alabama Power voice that policymakers hear most frequently. He is in their offices and monitoring their committees. People who believe they are in a key meeting should probably look around to see if Walker is in attendance. If he’s not, then chances are it’s not actually a key meeting.
When the Legislature is out of session, Walker is constantly moving around the state representing his company within individual districts. He’s a company man through and through, and he’s always working.
Walker is a rare breed of operator.
Liz Filmore, Office of the Governor
In the fabric of a governor’s administration, while each thread serves a vital function – none hold the fabric together as reliably as Liz Filmore does.
After all, proximity to power isn’t just about being close to the throne. It’s the responsibility of offering a stabilizing, clear-eyed source of good counsel. And it always helps to have an appreciation for the journey it took to get there and a vision for the road ahead. That’s what Gov. Kay Ivey finds in Filmore day in and day out.
Ivey’s longest-tenured confidant, extending back to her time in the lieutenant governor spot, Filmore’s blend of dedication and competence has made her a constant asset to the governor personally and, by extension, the people of Alabama.
In this sense, Liz Filmore wields a power not spotlighted, but no less potent.
Clay Scofield, Majority Leader, Alabama State Senate
Striding into his second term as majority leader, it’s not a bad time to take stock of a consistent presence on this list – who we think is not even close to hitting his peak.
A lot of dynamics are in play for Clay Scofield. Confident yet calculated, young but wise, respected among colleagues and revered by constituents. Elected to the Senate by age 30, he’s made good on early success by being someone who thrives in the arena, both in politics and policy. A true case study in “you either got it, or you don’t.”
Recent wins continue to solidify him as the “Father of Broadband” in Alabama, while a growing bloc of political influence from the county seat of Guntersville makes him a Don in what is affectionately known in Montgomery as the “Marshall County Mafia”.
Like a blue-chip company in a volatile market, Scofield is generating constant value in a political world too quick to cash in short-term wins over long-term victory. What he does next is totally up to him.
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