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2024 Power & Influence 50: Numbers 30-21

Today, we’re proud to introduce the third installment of the 2024 Power & Influence 50 – the twelfth annual tradition from Yellowhammer News.

As the dust settles from this year’s legislative session, our team has spent time talking with key leaders and operatives across state government to offer an inside look into the top individuals who are leveraging their power and influence for those they represent in the Yellowhammer State. The list factors recent policy and political developments and includes Alabama business leaders, lobbyists, consultants, and elected officials.

2024 Power & Influence numbers 40-31 can be found here and 50-41 can be found here. Our 2024 ‘Who’s Next?’ list can be found here

Garlan Gudger, Alabama State Senate

In Cullman, Garlan Gudger is a rockstar. He played college football and hosts a blockbuster tailgate at Rock the South every year. He and his wife are the proprietors of one of the nation’s top architectural salvage firms, which doubles as a marketplace that people travel far and wide to visit. He’s involved in his local sports teams, local school district, local businesses, and promotes Cullman everywhere he goes. In 2018, when he challenged a two-term incumbent for the State Senate, Cullman said ‘that’s our guy’ and decisively elected him to the seat he currently holds. In Montgomery, Gudger is the next coolest State Senator. His hard work, creativity and conservative principles make him a powerful legislator. But it is his personality that sets him apart. We think his political career is just getting started.

Kevin Savoy, Great Southern Wood Preserving

This distinguished Alabamaian is not interested in the credit. He gets results. In his first appearance on the list, that’s precisely why we’re so confident in recognizing the influence he wields. Those familiar know that Kevin Savoy is a powerhouse businessman, strategist, leader, collaborator, and friend. Those who aren’t familiar still recognize his work. He’s vice president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. and Greenbush Logistics, Inc. He serves on the boards of the Alabama Power Company, the Alabama Trucking Association, the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC, the Alabama Wildlife Association, and many others. Calling Kevin Savoy is the right step for candidates who want to run for statewide office and win. As the right-hand man to Yella Fella himself – his roots dig deep.

Tom Saunders, Alabama Forestry Association

Alabama’s forestry industry has a $28.9 billion annual economic impact on the state. As the legal, political, and legislative authority of the Alabama Forestry Association since 2009, Tom Saunders speaks and acts with the gravity of that force. Between the association and its political action committee, Forestry’s support has evolved into one of the most sought-after indicators of influence for any campaign or legislation under Saunders’ watch. Saunders is a mainstay in the halls of the Alabama State House and leverages his influence to the gain of his members effectively.

Clay Scofield, Business Council of Alabama 

Former Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield sits on a new perch on this year’s list after making one of the biggest plays Montgomery has seen. First elected to the Alabama Senate in 2010 as one of the youngest elected officials in the state – Scofield played a role in virtually every major conservative reform victory since that time. Scofield entered office at a time when the state was facing debt, proration, and financial crisis. Broadband connectivity was a barely-known concept. Scofield and his class of Republican lawmakers used their majority to change the course of the state. Today, he leverages that entire experience as Executive Vice President of the BCA. Still young, it’s worth taking stock of Scofield’s trajectory since he is yet to top out on this list. If that isn’t an influence – we’re not sure what is.

Ginger Buckner-Avery, Alabama Association of Justice

There are many reasons why Avery-Buckner has appeared on this list for a decade straight. As CEO of Alabama’s largest voluntary legal association, she’s the voice of Alabama litigators and those who operate within the civil justice system – a profession you don’t exactly get into because you know or love politics. But on the state legislative level, when lawmakers can impact reform on the courts and civil litigation with the stroke of a pen, it’s wise to have a political juggernaut running defense for you. Avery-Buckner has executed that responsibility for her members better than any other lobby that required a strategic shift to accommodate a new legislative majority in 2010. She remains deeply relevant, friendly, tenacious, and tough as nails in all her interactions, perhaps more today than ever before. In fact, as this quadrennium lurches forward, expect to hear much more from her.

Dave Stewart, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Dave is one of the most influential lobbyists in Alabama because of the trust and effectiveness he’s known for — much of which stems from his time as Chief of Staff to one of the most successful Governors in state history. He works hard and intentionally to build trust-based relationships with his clients and key government members. He works consistently and diligently – oftentimes upstream – until the job is done, which is the best way to be effective in Montgomery. To Dave, success is his client achieving their objective and a legislator simultaneously looking good in their district.

Helena Duncan, Business Council of Alabama

Helena Duncan has spent her entire career in business. Her role as President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama was shaped by her work with Alabama leaders like Bobby Lowder. Her board includes influential names like John Turner from Regions, Jeff Peoples from Alabama Power, Will Wilson, Mike Kemp, and Kevin Savoy, just to name a few. Duncan champions a solid pro-business agenda that has attracted more legislative fanfare than ever before. She mastered the game quickly and made a powerful move by bringing Clay Scofield into an executive role at the BCA. In her first two years on the job, her team has ushered the passage of two massive legislative packages, The Game Plan and Working for Alabama. Both of which are meaningful to businesses of all sizes and on track to fortify the state’s economic future for many years into the future.

Josh Blades, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings 

Plenty of lobbyists can stop a bill in its tracks. But when it comes to getting consequential legislation across the finish line, Josh Blades is the best in the business. Preparation is his calling card, his knowledge of legislative procedure is unrivaled, and lawmakers know his word is bond. Clients and allies come to expect that he’s always two steps ahead of the opposing side. And once they realize who they’re up against – it’s too little, too late. Blades is a passionate entrepreneur and campaign operative who’s always eager to talk strategy. Just as important as his political tact is the credibility he brings to each interaction. When Blades talk, everyone listens.

Anthony Daniels, Alabama House Minority Leader

For someone so effective in his role as the top Democrat in the Alabama House, Leader Daniels could go anywhere from here, and we would not be surprised. During this year’s primary election cycle, he made a strong case that the place would be Washington, D.C. In fact, he had too many state-based accomplishments to point to in such little time. This speaks to his ability to accomplish anything he puts his influence – and his caucus – to focus on and work toward. In his time as the youngest House Minority Leader in Alabama history, Daniels has worked with everyone and kept everyone on the same page. He plays a key role in the overall legislative process and ensures his ideas also have a seat at the table. This, we feel, is the true nature of power and influence.

R.B. Walker, Alabama Power Company

His phone never quits ringing. This is no surprise, considering the number of decision-makers who call him to check the score. As we’ve said for years on this list, he is irreplaceable at the Alabama State House. Even outside of the session, R.B. gets as much, if not more, done than anyone in Montgomery. A company man through and through, R.B. leverages the full force of his talent and experience to ensure the power company and business community’s interests are fresh on everyone’s mind. Which oftentimes just seems like catching up with an old friend. We’ll take stock of R.B. Walker’s accomplishments for many years if we ever get to the end of the list. Which is fitting for someone who is Always On.

RELATED: 2024 Power & Influence 50: Numbers 40-31

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