3 months ago

Alabama’s top 10 most powerful and influential local officials

Alabama’s local officials wield a tremendous amount of influence on public policy and how business gets done. Recent events only serve to underscore the importance of the state’s local officials in improving the everyday lives of those they serve and helping their communities prosper.

After an extensive examination of local governments, and the men and women who occupy positions within them, Yellowhammer has compiled and ranked a list of the 10 most powerful and influential local officials from around the state. Some on the list have a heightened level of power and influence inside city limits and county lines, others extend farther out into the Yellowhammer State.

All move the needle in Alabama politics and policy.

Mayors from midsize cities

Frank Brocato, Hoover. The over-the-mountain city is all grown up, and Brocato became its 10th mayor in 2016. Known for being business-friendly with a strong school system, Hoover has become a hub for a variety of commercial activities in the Birmingham area. Following 42 years of service in the city’s fire department, Brocato is the consummate advocate for Hoover.

Walt Maddox, Tuscaloosa. Having the state’s largest university within the limits of your city raises the stakes on your job performance, and Maddox has received resounding praise for his work in the West Alabama city. The Tuscaloosa native and former UAB football player has leveraged the strength of the University of Alabama to maximize the city’s economy and improve quality of life for its residents.

Gulf Coast mayors

Robert Craft (Gulf Shores) and Tony Kennon (Orange Beach). Tourism in Alabama is a $17 billion annual business, and the state’s beaches are the largest source of that revenue. So while their cities may not have the large population numbers of others, Craft and Kennon have significant influence because of their statewide value, and both mayors are perpetually working to ensure nothing stands in the way of those visitors who flock to their cities in droves. Balancing development with maintaining the beauty of their coastal beaches, and taking care of residents and tourists, alike, present challenges to which both have risen.

 

Patrick Davenport, probate judge, Houston County Davenport had several years of experience as an attorney specializing in probate law before becoming his home county’s probate judge. The Navy veteran and former Marine police officer has quickly developed a strong voice on some of Alabama’s most critical public policy initiatives, such as dealing with mental health issues within the state’s healthcare system. Davenport has also created models for greater efficiency at polling places for statewide implementation.

 

Elisabeth French, presiding judge of Jefferson County Circuit and district judges tend not to enjoy as much power and influence as other elected officials in Alabama. However, Jefferson County is different. The county’s judicial system is massive and intricate, and French is tasked with oversight for all the court system’s employees and is charged with maintaining an orderly and expeditious process through which justice can be administered. A Cumberland School of Law graduate, French is also the first African-American woman to serve as presiding judge for any judicial circuit in the state’s history.

 

Bill Partridge, chief of police, City of Oxford Partridge throughout his tenure has sought to stay on the forefront of law enforcement methods and technologies, and his work has impacted more than just his city. A graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Partridge currently serves as president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police. As a founder of the East Area Metro Crime Center, Partridge says of its impact, “What this center will be able to do is, we’ll be able to bring in 23 different local, state, and federal agencies under one roof to share intelligence, and to share what’s going on on a day to day basis, to help solve crimes faster and hopefully prevent crimes.”

10. David Money, commissioner and probate judge, Henry County Money is one of the few remaining occupants of both the office of probate judge and chairman of the county commission. The Abbeville native has lived his entire life in Henry County, yet his influence reverberates throughout Alabama. He currently serves as president of the powerful Alabama Association of County Commissions, a position through which he has engaged prominently in state policy. Money was a vocal proponent of Rebuild Alabama and has a track record of economic development success for his area. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he formerly owned a Ford dealership prior to entering public service.

 

9. Steven Reed, mayor, City of Montgomery Reed was sworn in as Montgomery’s 57th mayor in November 2019. His term brings with it much hope and anticipation for a more holistic approach to governance in Alabama’s capital city. In a short time, Reed has already exhibited an ability to communicate effectively with people from all corners of the city. A former football player at Morehouse College, he received a Master of Business Administration at Vanderbilt University and has shown a keen understanding of how to meet the needs of the business community while tending to essential city services.

 

8. Connie Hudson, commissioner, Mobile County A commissioner in Alabama’s second-largest county, Hudson has spent more than two and a half decades building a power base in her area. She served nine years on the Mobile City Council before her election to the county commission. A graduate of Troy University, Hudson has had an impact on commerce along the Gulf Coast. She served on the board of the Alabama State Port Authority and as an advocate for the many large economic development projects Mobile has seen in recent years. A 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact and current board member of the Alabama Association of County Commissions, Hudson continues to make her mark along the Gulf Coast.

 

7. Jimmie Stephens, commissioner, Jefferson County Stephens is the president of the county commission in the state’s most populous county. Few know the area they represent quite like Stephens. He grew up in Jefferson County and has never really left, having attended Bessemer High School and Samford University. That connection to his community has carried him to a position where a leads a commission which oversees a $700 million budget for its citizens. Stephens had a long career in the food and grocery industry prior to entering public service and has sought to implement business principles into county governance.

 

6. Derrick Cunningham, sheriff, Montgomery County While the capital city has struggled with its law enforcement effort over the last decade, Cunningham has built one of Alabama’s most effective and admired departments in the surrounding area. He has been a leading advocate for juvenile justice reform and better outcomes for children who enter the state’s criminal justice system. Cunningham was elected by his peers to the position of president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association. His infusion of technology and innovation into Montgomery County’s policing techniques has drawn praise. The Troy University graduate oversees a 300-person agency and a $27 million budget.

 

5. Dale Strong, commissioner, Madison County There will never be a power vacuum in Madison County so long as Strong is in office. He is a bit of an old-school politician trapped in a young man’s body. He looks for every opportunity to exert influence and pulls every lever of power available to him. As chairman of the county commission, he occupies the lone position elected county-wide. For those wanting greater efficiency in government, the Strong-led agencies in Madison County should serve as models. He has a professional background in banking and pharmaceutical sales, and he is an emergency medical technician. His relentless advocacy for improved infrastructure in the fast-growing county of 375,000 people will be one of the cornerstones of his legacy.

 

4. Hoss Mack, sheriff, Baldwin County Mack is a must-have relationship for current and aspiring statewide elected officials. This speaks to his political strength and influence in Baldwin County and to the respect he commands on law enforcement issues. Serving his fourth term in office, Mack has worked for the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department in various capacities since 1989. He is a past president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association and a director of the National Sheriffs Association. He has been a voice on national initiatives such as the Blue Lightning task force which aims to stop human trafficking. Well over 6 million visitors trek through the 2,027 square miles that make up Mack’s jurisdiction, endowing him with tremendous responsibility for which he has proved highly capable.

 

3. Tommy Battle, mayor, Huntsville Battle leads a city chock-full of engineers, scientists, military veterans and entrepreneurs. On one hand, this is a group of natural rule-followers who consistently remain open to new ways of doing things. On the other hand, expectations are sky-high. Battle has managed to thrive in this environment and become one of the state’s most prominent elected officials. With the winds of innovation at his back, Battle has brought major economic development projects to Huntsville — and helped existing businesses grow — through his commitment to infrastructure and willingness to work with other governmental bodies throughout the Tennessee Valley. With a triple-A credit rating and a double-A baseball team, Battle’s Huntsville will continue to be a city many others across Alabama desire to replicate.

 

2. Sandy Stimpson, mayor, Mobile Stimpson spent more than 40 years in the building industry as a lumber manufacturer. That experience served him well as one of the enduring traits possessed by those at the top of this list is an ability to build consensus. Stimpson is the chief executive officer for a city that has diversity among its population and its interests. Manufacturing, tourism and professional services drive the city’s economy. International investment is critical. Public safety and revitalization are chief concerns in Mobile communities. Stimpson has effectively tackled them all and received strong reviews along the way. With the entire state getting back to work, the Port of Mobile expanding to accommodate additional shipping demand and Stimpson launching several other initiatives to improve quality of life for Mobilians, the city is poised to prosper in the coming years.

 

1. Randall Woodfin, mayor, Birmingham Woodfin will be exceedingly successful in whatever he decides to do when he finishes his tenure as mayor of Birmingham. If he chooses to start a business, practice law, launch a hedge fund or pursue a charitable endeavor, his ability to build coalitions and get people to buy into a common purpose is nearly unmatched in the Yellowhammer State. Woodfin became the city’s 30th mayor in 2017, and he has not looked back. The Morehouse College and Cumberland School of Law graduate immediately forged partnerships with some of the state’s largest employers, as well as with leaders on the neighborhood level. Woodfin has found a way to initiate programs, such as Birmingham Promise and BhamStrong, which benefit the entire spectrum of people, families and businesses calling Birmingham home. He has fostered a spirit of entrepreneurship in the city and revitalized areas previously thought lost. The sky is the limit for Woodfin, but for right now, he is the most powerful and influential local official in Alabama.

1 hour ago

License plate to support Alabama business proposed — Must meet 1,000 application benchmark

A license plate that will support Alabama small businesses will be created if 1,000 apply for one by July 31.

Funds from purchasing the plate will be given to Main Street Alabama, which will in turn provide workshops and grants to small businesses around the Yellowhammer State.

The tag can be applied for here. A $50 fee accompanies the application.

“With this program, individuals can show their dedication to their favorite small businesses, who in many cases are their friends and neighbors, with a tag that gives back to them with workshops and grants focused on strengthening their business,” said Main Street Alabama state coordinator Mary Helmer in a statement.

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Helmer added, “Small businesses keep it local by consistently sponsoring the local baseball team, providing gift baskets for the local charity drives and creating jobs in their community.”

Main Street Alabama is a non-profit entity and an offshoot of Main Street America organization.

The artwork on the tag was created by Chris Seagle, a graphic designer based in Birmingham.

The idea for a car tag supporting small business originated among a group of elected officials in Jefferson County.

Casey Middlebrooks, a member of the group and a Hoover City Councilman, said that his fellow officials “felt Main Street Alabama had the statewide presence and resources to facilitate support to small businesses throughout the state.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 hours ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to complete Census — Billions in funding, congressional seat at stake

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Friday released a video public service announcement urging Yellowhammer State residents to complete the 2020 Census.

The deadline to complete the Census recently was moved up to September 30, meaning there is less than seven weeks left for Alabamians to either self-respond or respond to Census Bureau field staff.

Leaders from the public sector, as well as industry, economic development, charitable and civic organizations, have warned for months that Alabama has a lot on the line during the 2020 Census response period.

Projections have shown the state will lose a congressional district and corresponding electoral college vote — likely to a far-left state such as New York, California or Illinois — if Alabama’s response rate continues to lag.

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“Complete your 2020 Census today,” Ivey said to begin the new PSA. “We only have until September 30.”

“Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities,” she continued. “It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail.”

The governor concluded, “Be counted — if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”

Watch:

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

2 hours ago

Report: Birmingham golf tournament Regions Tradition canceled for 2020

A report from WBRC in Birmingham on Friday says that the yearly golf tournament Regions Tradition has canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organizers say it will be back in early May of 2021.

WBRC says they were told by a “source close to the tournament” about the decision to cancel the 2020 version.

The tournament had previously been rescheduled from its normal late spring/early summer slot until September due to COVID-19 concerns.

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Regions Tradition is a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, a series of competitions held each year for golfers over age 50.

According to Alabama NewsCenter, the annual Regions Tradition tournament has an economic impact on the Birmingham area between $20 million and $25 million every year.

The Tradition was first held in 1989 and is one of the five major golf tournaments on the Senior Circuit.

Regions took over as the event’s sponsor in 2010 and relocated the tournament to the Birmingham area beginning in 2011.

Steve Stricker won the tournament in 2019, a title he will now keep for two years.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 hours ago

Jefferson County health officials say coronavirus pandemic precautions will continue into 2021

Two impactful figures in Jefferson County’s healthcare system advised on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting precautions such as mask-wearing will remain a major factor in public life at least through the end of 2020.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson and CEO of the UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance Will Ferniany briefed reporters on coronavirus information during a Friday morning videoconference.

“This pandemic is not going away by the end of December,” warned Ferniany.

Wilson said it was “very likely” that he would push to keep a mask order in place across Jefferson County “through the flu season” which would indicate the ordinance would stay in place at least through the spring of 2021.

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“We have pretty good evidence that our face-covering orders, and our help from the public wearing face coverings, has made a difference,” remarked Wilson.

“We still have a ways to go but we’re starting to bend the curve downward,” Wilson told reporters.

The remarks made by Wilson and Ferniany are similar to what Mobile County epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree told Yellowhammer News in recent days.

Ferniany said that UAB is making a significant investment in rapid testing that should be ready for action by the end of the year, the availability of which should make dealing with the virus more manageable.

Wilson highlighted a standard he felt more people should understand.

The county health officer said that any person exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, even if they go out and get a test showing they do not have the virus.

“Fourteen days is the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus where you could still develop symptoms,” Wilson said to explain the policy.

Ferniany said UAB Hospital is currently treating around 90 patients, down from a peak of 130. He relayed that 40 of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

RELATED: Alabama coronavirus update: Hospitalizations begin to decrease, new cases falling

The executive also said that the toughest aspect of caring for COVID-19 cases currently is the shortage of nurses. He said the hospitals he oversees are down “several hundred nurses” with the partial explanation that traveling nursing companies are luring workers away with higher wages.

Wilson reported additional good news for Jefferson County. He said that the area is not experiencing a higher rate of black citizens dying from COVID-19 than white citizens.

“So far we’re not seeing a racial disparity in terms of deaths in Jefferson County,” he relayed.

“Forty-one percent of our deaths in Jefferson County with COVID-19 are African American. The African American population is 43%,” Wilson stated.

Yellowhammer News asked Wilson what kind of benchmarks he would need to be passed to trigger a loosening of coronavirus precautions and whether that would be dependent on a vaccine.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for quite a long time,” Wilson responded.

“The bottom line will be the amount of disease activity we have in the community, and the trajectory of that,” he continued.

With respect to the vaccine, Wilson replied, “It is really hard to predict what is going to happen with the vaccine: How effective is it going to be, how widespread we’re going to be able to vaccinate people and how soon. There are way too many unknowns for us to say much about that.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

7 hours ago

Rep. Aderholt: GOP control of House not out of reach, Senate should remain Republican

Before the onset of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were optimistic about the possibility of recapturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate.

However, the mood of the body politic has changed with the arrival of COVID-19 and has made the future a bit murky. Still maintaining a level of optimism is U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who thinks Republicans could make gains this election but is unsure if they can make enough gains to assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Aderholt offered his view of those prospects on both sides of the U.S. Capitol as they stand now.

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“Republicans always want to be optimistic,” Aderholt said. “We’ve got about 18 seats that we’re down right now. And the question is, can we pick up that and plus a seat or two to get the majority. To say it is a sure thing — it’s not. It’s going to be a tough election year, especially in the congressional districts where the Biden folks are going to be getting out, or the anti-Trump. I don’t think they’re so supportive of Biden, but they’re just anti-Trump.”

“I think we can pick up seats,” he continued. “I think it is entirely possible because of Donald Trump. He is going to be at the top of the ticket, and he is going to really help some members that really get the vote out to help them. The question is nobody knows will there be how many we can pick up. I won’t be surprised if we do pick up some seats. The question is, will we pick up 18 to 20, enough to take the majority. And that’s something we won’t know until closer on.”

Aderholt did not think Democrats could regain the U.S. Senate and added that he saw the seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) flipping to a Republican seat, which makes those prospects more difficult for Democrats.

“I’m still optimistic the Senate can stay Republican,” Aderholt added. “I know there are three or four seats that are still toss-ups, so to speak that are Republican-held now. Obviously, I think we’re going to win the Doug Jones seat. That will be a pick-up for us. I don’t think the ones that are questionable, Republicans that are having a hard time right now, I don’t think we’ll lose all of them. We might lose one or two. But I think at the end of the day, we’re still going to stay over 50.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.