The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 months ago

Watch live: Alabama House takes up medical marijuana, gaming bills on Thursday

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Thursday, starting at 8:00 a.m., will meet to consider two controversial topics: medical marijuana and gambling.

Read more about the day’s agenda here.

You can watch the proceedings live below:

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3 months ago

The Yellowhammer 15 announced for 2021-2022

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Tuesday released the second class of the Yellowhammer 15, the preeminent honor for those in the private sector that are moving Alabama forward to better days.

The class of 2021 follows the inaugural class of the Yellowhammer 15, which was launched in 2019.

Unlike Yellowhammer’s annual Power & Influence 40 list, a person can be recognized in the Yellowhammer 15 only once in a lifetime. Not only will this honor be exclusive, but the accumulation of inductees over time will also compile a “hall of fame” type list synonymous with the pinnacle of professional and civic achievement.

Through job creation, economic impact, community involvement and philanthropic endeavors, these exemplary leaders in their professional fields make our great state a better place to live, work and raise a family:

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Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes

Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes is a true homegrown success story in the state of Alabama.

Sister began baking her rolls, commercially, on her sun porch at home in Troy, Alabama. When the 100-year old family recipe gained popularity, she moved her operation to her father’s furniture warehouse.

All the while, she marketed her unique product the old-fashioned way – she loaded up her wood-paneled station wagon with frozen bread products and delivered them personally to grocery stores.

Then in 1994, she opened a bakery facility in Luverne, Alabama, that quickly grew to an 80,000 square-foot facility. Then in 2000, she sold her stock to Lancaster Colonial Corporation.

Sister is the official culinary ambassador for the state of Alabama. She is on the board of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and a member of the Alabama Business Hall of Fame.

Service to others is as much her product as her rolls.

From the beginning, her rolls allowed her to provide something to those in need. From food banks to animal shelters – she helps charities using her gifts.

In 2011, Sister Schubert trucks delivered more than $500,000 in donated food after the tornadoes. In order to avoid laying off employees during slow times at Christmas, she has turned bakeries into assembly lines for toys and blankets for needy families.

Sister has taken service to her state to heights rarely seen.

Deborah Barnhart, Ph.D.

Dr. Deborah Barnhart has achieved widespread acclaim for her generational leadership as CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a role through which she was the public face of and mastermind behind Alabama’s top tourist attraction.

However, her story goes well beyond her nine-year transformational tenure leading the Space and Rocket Center, which is the largest spaceflight museum in the world, the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

Barnhart’s illustrious career spans four decades of service across commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense.

She earned her doctorate at Vanderbilt University and also holds degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of Maryland and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was a Sloan Fellow.

Barnhart’s resume includes 26 years of service in the military — achieving the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy and becoming one of the first 10 women certified to serve aboard Navy ships. Before she served as CEO of the Space and Rocket Center from 2010 through 2019, she worked three other stints there, including as the director of Space Camp and Space Academy from 1986 until 1990.

In between her Space and Rocket Center gigs, she served as vice president of three Dow 30 aerospace and defense companies, including for what is now Boeing.

Named a Yellowhammer Woman of Impact in 2018, Barnhart is a recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest form of recognition awarded by NASA to a non-governmental individual.

She has been an active civic leader in the Tennessee Valley as well, including through her service as a trustee on the board of the UAH Foundation. She has also been a member of the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council.

Barnhart now serves as CEO emeritus of the Space and Rocket Center following her retirement in December 2019.

John Nerger, chairman of the Alabama Space and Science Exhibit Commission, at the time praised Barnhart’s “strong leadership, creative vision, devoted service and unmatched legacy.”

“She has earned the respect and admiration of so many throughout the Tennessee Valley, the State of Alabama and across the country,” he added.

Louis Breland

The Huntsville area’s rocketing growth is certainly no secret in Alabama – or across the nation.

However, a lesser-known fact is the revolutionary role that real estate developer Louis Breland has played in the region’s incredible growth.

Breland, who has been called a serial entrepreneur, is perhaps best known recently as the developer behind Town Madison, which is anchored by the Trash Pandas’ minor league baseball stadium.

His start in Alabama real estate, nevertheless, actually began along the Gulf Coast with a homebuilding company he owned in the 1970s.

With then-President Ronald Reagan pouring money into the military, defense and aerospace sectors in the early 1980s, Breland decided to visit Huntsville – then a much smaller community. During that visit, Breland witnessed a booming market and saw the massive potential for exponential growth to come – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, Breland has been an integral part of positive, strategic growth for Huntsville, Madison and surrounding areas. With all of the jobs and industry popping up, there has been corresponding demand for residential, commercial and entertainment options to recruit needed workforce and create an environment in which families can prosper.

Luckily for the Tennessee Valley, Breland has been a step – or three – ahead of the curve. His visionary leadership in the development space has helped make the Rocket City one of the hottest places to move around the country and reinforced Huntsville’s nickname as the “Star of Alabama.”

Overall, Breland – while active civically and philanthropically — has developed more than 30,000 single/multi-family homes and lots as well as office buildings, high-rise condominiums, retail centers and self-storage facilities throughout Alabama and the Southeast. He has sold three of his companies to members of the New York Stock Exchange.

A recipient of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Leadership and Service award, he sold Breland Homes in 2012, when it was ranked the 38th largest homebuilder in the United States by Builder Magazine. However, he has only picked up steam since then through Breland Companies and Smart Living.

With Huntsville continuing to boom, expect Breland to be a major part of the area’s success for years to come.

Angus Cooper, III

Angus Cooper, III has rapidly become one of Alabama’s top titans of industry. However, he has also cemented himself as a selfless leader in various nonprofit, civic and sustainability causes, as well.

As president of Cooper/T. Smith, Cooper is the fourth generation in his family to run the iconic Mobile-based company — one of America’s oldest and largest stevedoring and maritime related firms with operations on all three U.S. coasts and international operations in Mexico. The company maintains ownership in numerous satellite entities, including in the timber and forest products industry.

Through its maritime transportation and logistics enterprises, Cooper/T. Smith impacts a tremendous array of industries throughout the world, from agriculture, energy and chemicals to construction, food service and tourism. Overall, the company has diversified its business interests, which now include warehousing, terminal operations, tugboats, push boats, barging, barge fleeting, floating terminals, logistics, marine and timberlands, vessel repair and restaurants.

In addition to his leadership of the company, Cooper is well known for donating his time and talent to serve a myriad of organizations in the Mobile area and around the state.

He is past chairman of the Alabama State Port Authority, current chairman of the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC and serves on the board of directors for Alabama Power Company, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and Bryant Bank, among others.

Known as an avid conservationist, Cooper has served on the Alabama Wildlife Federation board of directors for 20 years, including two years as president. He is also on the Delta Waterfowl board of directors.

Cooper could be a major player in Alabama’s corporate and civic spaces for decades to come. While he has already reached the zenith of achievement, Cooper’s ascent is seemingly never over.

John England, Jr.

There are few, if any, that embody the spirit of Alabama more than Judge John England, Jr.

A native of Uniontown who grew up in Birmingham, England received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tuskegee University. He then became one of the first-ever African-American students admitted to the University of Alabama School of Law, where he earned a law degree in 1974. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Tuskegee some 25 years later.

The exhaustive list of England’s career and civic accomplishments is too long to include here, but every single one of the innumerable bullet points on his CV come back to an unrelenting passion for serving his fellow citizens. He served in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman during the Vietnam War, served two terms on the Tuscaloosa City Council, and served about 28 years combined as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama and circuit judge on the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

Since 1998, England has also represented the Seventh Congressional District on the University of Alabama System board of trustees. His tenure has been marked with incredible successes for the System and its three distinct institutions, however it is what England’s colleagues have to say about him that best captures his profound impact.

UA System Trustee Emeritus John McMahon has said, “When I think of Judge England, I don’t have the words to express what John has meant to the board of trustees, to the University of Alabama, to UAB, to UAH. He was the heart and soul of the board of trustees while I served.”

England’s legacy at the Capstone, among other ways, is reflected by a brand-new dormitory now bearing his name.

Yet, the barriers England has broken – and doors he has opened for those following him to access – can never be properly put into words. At a place that is known for creating them, Judge England stands above the crowd as a legend for the ages.

Jim Hudson

Alabama is home to legends that not only reach for the stars, but take us there time and time again.

There is no better exemplar of the state’s bold spirit of curiosity and ingenuity than Jim Hudson.

A native of Huntsville, Hudson received his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a master’s degree in Physics from the University of Alabama, as well as a master’s degree in Biology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Equal parts entrepreneur and scientist, Hudson’s life has been marked by selfless service. It began in Tuscaloosa at his alma mater, where he served in the ROTC. After graduating, he served as an officer and pilot in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. During his tour, Hudson flew many missions over North Vietnam, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross — the highest honor awarded to a military aviator.

The experience shaped his life and, as a result, changed the course of history for all of mankind.

In 1987, Hudson founded Research Genetics, which quickly blossomed into a biotechnology business juggernaut. The company was a chief partner in the Human Genome Project, the international effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health to identify the sequence of the DNA found inside human cells. Simply put, this initiative was the ultimate pursuit of knowledge at the time; the real-world advances that stemmed from the knowledge and data resulting from the Human Genome Project are innumerable, having profound positive impacts on not only human health and disease but also diverse fields like renewable energy development, food and agriculture, and industrial biotechnology.

Hudson led Research Genetics until 2000, when he sold the company – then the world’s leader in genetic linkage products — in a deal valued at $138 million.

From there, Hudson co-founded the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology in Huntsville, a nonprofit which continues to carry the torch of the work Hudson started at Research Genetics. To this day, Hudson continues to chair the institute, with a core mission to use biotechnology to improve human health, stimulate economic development and inspire Alabama’s youth to seek careers in science.

HudsonAlpha is at the center of the Rocket City’s growing biotech campus, as well as the state of Alabama’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem. The institute works in close proximity to researchers to bridge the gap from the laboratory to life applications, making landmark strides when it comes to understanding diseases and improving health.

Throughout his career, Hudson has also advised and incubated many other successful companies from internet services to genetics research that focus on benefiting society.

Governor Kay Ivey has said, “HudsonAlpha is a critical component to Alabama being in position to expand our bioscience activity. The positive impact of HudsonAlpha and the 40-plus biotech companies to Alabama’s economy is remarkable, but there is so much more that they do for our state. HudsonAlpha is making breakthroughs on cancer, working with Alabama farmers for better crops, diagnosing rare diseases for children and educating students, teachers and the public. I can’t wait to see what’s next for HudsonAlpha.”

Del Marsh

Del Marsh has attained the rare status of having his contributions to the betterment of the state measured as both a public servant and a successful entrepreneur.

As a public servant, Marsh is the type for which the electorate often craves and our founding fathers envisioned. Marsh originally ran for office simply because his state senator was not responsive to the needs of small business. Once elected, Marsh became a tireless advocate for greater efficiency in government.

During his decade of service as President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate, Marsh built a record of pursuing common sense solutions to the problems facing our state. He led the charge to provide education freedom to Alabama families; he formulated the largest reductions to the size of state government in history, and no one has cut taxes and red tape for small businesses quite like Marsh.

Then there is the entrepreneurial spirit which drives Marsh.

Aerospace Coatings, which he founded, became a renowned international supplier for its industry right from its home in Calhoun County, Alabama. Contractor, developer and investor, Marsh seemingly has the Midas touch when it comes to his business ventures.

He is as comfortable in a tree stand as he is a committee room and feels as much at home in his machine shop fabricating gun parts as he does working in a boardroom.

Marsh’s particular brand of leadership only comes around every so often. Alabamians would be wise to take it in and stop to appreciate his contributions to the Yellowhammer State.

John Mazyck

John Mazyck is the owner of a business whose mission is to facilitate growth in both the public and private sectors. His firm is The Frazer Lanier Company, an Alabama-based investment banking firm, one which owns the largest market share of investment banking business in the state.

While Mazyck has been involved in numerous major economic development projects across Alabama, it is his firm’s work helping local communities secure funding that continues to have a lasting impact on the state.

Guiding cities and counties through the process of issuing bonds for critical infrastructure, rural hospitals and schools has been a staple of his activity in the state for many years.

Participating in state and local policymaking is a priority for Mazyck. He is a member of the Business Council of Alabama executive committee, having served a term as chairman of the state’s largest business organization. He is a board member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the board of the Jackson Hospital Foundation and the board of the Montgomery Community Development Foundation. He is a 2019 graduate of Leadership Alabama.

Mazyck has positioned himself to exercise significant influence on how Alabama’s cities, counties and job creators prepare for the 21st-century economy.

Charles McCrary

Charles McCrary is an icon in the Alabama business community.

The retired chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power completed an illustrious career at the company in 2014. It was a career which earned him induction into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame.

Yet, he has continued his service to Alabama and the advancement of its economic prosperity in the years that have followed.

McCrary is now the chairman of the board of Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank. Headquartered in Birmingham, Regions is one of Alabama’s largest employers and the state’s only Fortune 500 company.

McCrary has exhibited the same advanced leadership in his community and numerous institutions committed to moving the Yellowhammer State forward.

A zealous advocate for Auburn University and its essential role in the development of our state, McCrary has completed two seven-year terms on the university’s Board of Trustees. The university recognized McCrary for his contributions with its naming of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security.

His service on boards of directors has extended to the Children First Foundation, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Alabama Archives and History Foundation.

An avid outdoorsman and protector of Alabama’s environment and natural resources, McCrary has served on the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

McCrary continues to build on his hall of fame career to the benefit of the state of Alabama.

David Pursell

From his family’s property in East Alabama, David Pursell has guided the evolution of a company which is one of Alabama’s most celebrated success stories.

The land is a crown jewel property within the Southeast United States. And the company is what happens when Alabamians dream big.

What began as the Sylacauga Fertilizer Company, became an international supplier of cutting-edge agricultural technology. Founded in 1905, by Pursell’s great-grandfather, the company developed and patented technology which is now used in fields, golf courses and nurseries around the world.

When Pursell took the reins at the company nearly 25 years ago, he began implementing an innovative sales and marketing strategy which has ultimately resulted in his family’s land becoming a travel destination.

To demonstrate the benefits of his company’s agriculture technology, Pursell developed his family’s land into the world-class FarmLinks golf course at Pursell Farms.

Thousands of visitors have now made their way across the country and the world to Sylacauga to see the stunning views and play golf at Pursell Farms.

Pursell’s contributions to the state go well beyond the course. Crediting his parents, the late Jimmy and Chris Pursell, with setting an example with their philanthropic spirit, David Pursell has set out to engage in life’s worthwhile pursuits.

The four pillars of faith that Pursell incorporates into his business are: honor God first, respect our employees, serve our guests with excellence and honor our owners.

Vapor Ministries, whose mission is to bring social, economic and spiritual life to communities dying from extreme poverty, is headquartered at Pursell Farms.

Pursell and his family exemplify all that is beautiful about Alabama.

Randy Owen

Perhaps no one has more visibly served as an ambassador for his home state than the man whose band bears its name.

Randy Owen is a son of DeKalb County and a generational music talent who will forever be a part of the state’s cultural identity.

Owen and his band released 21 gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums as well as forty-two number one singles before announcing retirement in 2002. The band also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were named the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade in 1989 and the Recording Industry Association of America’s Country Group of the Century in 1999. Alabama was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Owen, though, has been a stalwart philanthropist upon whom his fellow Alabamians can depend.

For two and a half decades, Owen and his fellow band members put on the June Jam to benefit countless charities and schools. The band has been the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards, as well as the Spirt of Alabama medal.

Owen and his wife, Kelly, helped fund the Kelly Owen Women’s and Children’s Pavilion at DeKalb Regional Medical Center, and his golf tournaments have raised more than $1 million for the Alabama Sheriffs Departments Youth Ranches.

He is also co-chair of the World Games 2022 in Birmingham, an event poised to leave a tremendous impact on the state’s economy.

Owen has left an indelible mark on his home state of Alabama.

Quinton Ross, Ed.D.

The 15th president of Alabama State University has implemented a bold vision for his alma mater since taking the helm in 2017.

Dr. Quinton Ross possesses a keen understanding of the role Historically Black Colleges and Universities have played in Alabama’s history and the necessity to strengthen these vital institutions as the state moves further into the 21st century.

Ross has focused intensely on fundraising for the school. That focus, and the clout that he brings to the position, have resulted in a 130% increase in donations through individuals, corporations and other appropriations.

Following his mantra “Moving ASU 150 years forward,” the former four-term state senator has opened doors for the university’s students through partnerships across Alabama, the nation and the world.

Under Ross’ leadership, the university has obtained a grant from the Department of Defense to establish a state-of-the-art research facility. A Hyundai partnership has enhanced the studies of ASU STEM students through the use of a first-of-its-kind hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. ASU has teamed up with IBM to establish the nation’s first quantum education and research initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And, recently, two ASU students were among the first enrolled in a prestigious cybersecurity and STEM training program at the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville.

Not surprisingly, Ross’ work has earned him national recognition as an expert on the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and he was elected by his peers in the Yellowhammer State to serve as vice chairman of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education’s Council of Presidents.

Ross’ efforts at one of Alabama’s most valuable institutions of higher learning stands to make a difference for current and future generations.

Terry Saban

If you follow college football at all, or even if you don’t in Alabama, you’ve probably heard of “Miss Terry.”

The endearing nickname for Terry Saban underlines a simple truth: she is the head coach of Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban’s household.

After all, who can forget when Coach Saban told the story about how if Miss Terry had married her ex-boyfriend instead, he’d now be the one coaching the Tide.

However, her impact goes well beyond athletics and the tremendous economic impact therein.

The first lady of Alabama football has become one of the state’s top philanthropists, making an impact in West Alabama and beyond through civic, charitable and volunteer service.

As the co-founder and CEO of the Nick’s Kids nonprofit foundation, Terry Saban has helped raise almost $10 million for a litany of worthwhile local causes dedicated to children in the Yellowhammer State and Coach Saban’s other career stops.

In West Alabama alone, Nick’s Kids has completed projects including the career tech classrooms at the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center, the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk Playground, renovating the STTEP Building of Brewer Porch Children’s Center, building 17 Habitat for Humanity homes and the Alberta School of Performing Arts playground. The foundation is also a major donor of the Tuscaloosa All-Inclusive Playground, the Saban Center and the YMCA of Tuscaloosa.

A former teacher herself, Terry Saban also serves on the Stillman College board of trustees and is a major supporter of educators and students through her diverse range of philanthropic activity. She serves on the local Tuscaloosa board for SmartBank, as well as numerous community non-profit boards and committees.

The positive impact Miss Terry has on the University of Alabama community, the Tuscaloosa area and the entire state will be felt for generations to come.

Selwyn Vickers, M.D., FACS

Dr. Selwyn Vickers is a world-renowned medical mind sculpted right here in Alabama.

Born in Demopolis, Vickers grew up in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville before earning baccalaureate and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University. He also completed surgical training there, including a chief residency and surgical oncology fellowship. Vickers’ impressive pedigree was then augmented by the completion of two post-graduate research fellowships with the National Institutes of Health and training at John Radcliffe Hospital of Oxford University. After serving as an instructor of surgery at Johns Hopkins for one year, he returned home to Alabama, where he started his first stint at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 1994.

Vickers in 2006 left UAB when he was named the Jay Phillips Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School, one of the oldest, most prestigious departments in the country.

His home state called once again in 2013, when Vickers was named Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President for Medicine at UAB.  He has served in these roles since then, and next year he will also add the title of CEO of both UAB Health System and the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance to his responsibilities. UAB operates one of the 10 largest public academic medical centers and the third largest public hospital in the U.S.

Throughout his journey, Vickers has received numerous accolades as a practicing doctor, professor and researcher. He is especially recognized across the globe for his service as a pancreatic cancer surgeon, pancreatic cancer researcher and pioneer in the study of health disparities.

The internationally acclaimed doctor also serves in a variety of leadership roles across the Yellowhammer State, including as chair of UAB Medicine’s Joint Operating Leadership Committee as well as the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation Board. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (Institute of Medicine), the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars and Alabama Power Company’s board of directors.

Vickers previously served on the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine board of trustees and Johns Hopkins University board of trustees. He has served as president of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract and of the Southern Surgical Association and is president-elect of the American Surgical Association.

Of course, Vickers has played crucial roles in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic across the state — and the nation. He served as co-chair of the University of Alabama System’s related task force, as well as on the executive committee of Governor Kay Ivey’s coronavirus task force.

Once named “America’s Top Doctor,” Vickers is a shining star of the transcendent bio tech and research ecosystem forming in the Magic City. His service has saved countless lives and continues to make Alabama proud on the world stage.

Edgar Welden

Sports, and the Alabamians who have played them, are as tightly woven into the state’s culture as anything else which makes us unique.

Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Satchel Page, Bart Starr, Will Mays, Hank Aaron, Ken Stabler, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley and Mia Hamm are but a few native Alabamians who enjoy legendary status in the world of sports. Not to mention the fact that our state collectively puts out the “Do Not Disturb” sign on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in the fall.

No one has done more to promote Alabama sports, at all levels of participation, than Edgar Welden.

Welden is the chairman of the board of directors of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and the group named him a Distinguished American Sportsman in 2016.

In addition to a successful business career, Welden founded the Birmingham Athletic Partnership, a non-profit that helps fund equipment, education and facilities for sports and other extracurricular activities for middle schools and high schools.

He has served as the chairman and president of the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program which annually awards more than 100 college scholarships to high school senior student-athletes.

Welden also co-chaired the committee that submitted the winning bid for the World Games 2022, beating out Russia and Peru. In what will surely be a huge economic boon for Alabama, the World Games will take place in the United States for the first time since the inaugural event in Santa Clara, California in 1981.

Having grown up playing football, basketball and baseball in his hometown of Wetumpka, Welden later became an avid tennis player. It was that sport which carried him to all 67 of Alabama’s counties in 2003 to promote the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. When tennis courts were unavailable, he played in the street and once played in the hallway of a courthouse.

Welden’s steadfast service to his state has not gone unnoticed by his fellow Alabamians. He is a member of the Alabama High School Athletics Association Hall of Fame and the Alabama Academy of Honor. He has received the Alabama Humanities Award and the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Alumni Award

Edgar Welden’s place of honor among Alabamians who have contributed to the well-being of their state has been carved in stone.

3 months ago

Yellowhammer News presents the 2021 POWER & INFLUENCE 40

(YHN)

It would stand to reason that one of Alabama’s most influential media outlets would have a keen sense of which state political figures fit the same bill.

That’s why Yellowhammer Multimedia, once again, is publishing its Power and Influence 40.

Taking into account countless conversations with political insiders, as well as the most recent developments in politics and public policy, the list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence on behalf of those they represent and the Yellowhammer State.

Welcome to a peek behind the curtain.

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40. Anthony Daniels

Anthony Daniels has seemingly done the impossible in the Alabama House of Representatives. As House Minority Leader, he has increased his power and influence in the lower chamber despite a reduction in numbers within his caucus.

Sometimes in the House, it is harder to lead that smaller number of people because personalities and agendas become magnified. But Daniels has deftly handled his current leadership position.

Possessing a natural intellect for legislative process and politics, Daniels has figured out how to best channel his caucus’ energy to leverage a permanent seat at the policymaking table.

The Rocket City can count Daniels among its growing list of powerful and influential politicians in state government.

39. Greg Butrus

What we said in 2019: 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.

The question is not “what does Greg Butrus know about legislation, ethics opinions and campaign finance laws?” Instead, the question usually asked by Alabama political insiders is “what doesn’t he know?”

This Balch & Bingham attorney has incomparable knowledge in the areas which matter most to lobbyists and principals trying to navigate the Alabama political waters.

His ability to be such a valuable resource among power players makes him one of their peers.

38. Greg Jones

Anyone who thinks bipartisanship is dead has never encountered the governmental affairs practice of Greg Jones.

Possessing an innate ability to connect with policymakers of both parties and all backgrounds, Jones has built one of the most durable practices in Montgomery. This experienced lobbyist and entrepreneur has set up a firm ready to engage on a wide range of issues at all levels of government.

A former Arkansas State defensive back, Jones’ ability to see the entire political field keeps his services in high demand.

37. Sommer Vaughn

What we said in 2019: Vaughn has hit her stride as a lobbyist who consistently delivers results for her clients. No issue is too big or too complex for her to handle.

Being a lobbyist comes naturally to Sommer Vaughn. An ingrained interest in public policy and an ebullient personality allow her to get locked into the decision-making process on any issue in state government.

Perhaps just as important for getting work done in politics is that hint of “don’t mess with me” that Vaughn possesses. Being able to evoke a tinge of fear in people behind an otherwise relatable personality is what delivers results for clients and amounts to longevity in the industry.

The ingredients are there for Vaughn to maintain her power and influence for decades to come.

36. Jeremy Walker

While his members have enjoyed a stellar year in the real estate market, Jeremy Walker has worked to position them well in the realm of Alabama politics.

Walker leads a thriving business association which now has more than $2.5 million in its political action committee. Coupling his ambitious leadership style with those resources will make Walker and his association one of the most impactful players during the upcoming 2022 election cycle.

An attorney and former football player for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Walker should continue to widen his trail of power and influence.

35. Bobby Singleton

Bobby Singleton could teach a master class in how to maximize the power and influence available to an Alabama state senator. He squeezes every ounce of available juice out of his position from start to finish each legislative session.

A commanding presence at the microphone in the well of the chamber, lobbyists and staffers – as well as many of his fellow senators – never quite know whether he is speaking from the heart or with the wink of an eye.

That ability to keep other stakeholders off balance, and a willingness to utilize his influence, necessitates their inclusion of Singleton throughout the policymaking process.

“Let’s work!”

34. Josh Blades

What we said in 2019: 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.

When Josh Blades’ clients gain his representation, they get way more than just a guy who walks up and down the hallways of the Statehouse.

Blades has an ability to think about issues and their impact more globally than most, and he could just as easily be running a business or an organization as he could be doing his present job as one of Alabama’s top lobbyists.

It is fascinating to think of how much is left out there for a talent like Blades to accomplish even with how much he has done already. Yet, his work is just beginning.

33. Ben Patterson

What we said in 2019: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable governmental affairs professional in Alabama than Ben Patterson. And there’s a good reason for this…Patterson holds a doctorate and quite literally taught classes in state and local government, as well as American politics, at the University of Alabama.

Lobbyists come in varying forms. One type is the lobbyist who can open a door and get a meeting scheduled but has no idea what their client actually needs. Another, although somewhat rarer, is the lobbyist who understands the issues but not the personal and political nuances that must be taken into account.

Ben Patterson is the perfect mix of what is good from both of those scenarios.

Patterson is a scholar and able to easily grasp complicated issues. He is also a relationship-builder by nature and has connected with the state’s power players on a personal level.

Being able to leverage that combination of influential traits puts Patterson in a unique position in Montgomery.

32. Paul Pinyan

What we said in 2019: With an impressive phone banking and polling operation, along with the best grassroots network in the state, Pinyan has the top tools at his disposal to continue increasing his power and influence.

Paul Pinyan has drawn up the blueprint for becoming powerful and influential at a business association in Montgomery.

A native of Holly Pond, Pinyan was appointed in 2010 by former Alabama Farmers Federation president Jerry Newby to replace legendary executive director Mike Kilgore. Since that time, Pinyan has effectively consolidated power both within his own building and externally.

Pinyan is particularly proficient in the art of subtle influence in advancing his cause and that of current president Jimmy Parnell, who relies heavily upon Pinyan’s guidance and counsel.

Pinyan’s organization has a little more than $750,000 in its state political action committee. With that tidy sum, the trust of his members and a variety of campaign tools at his disposal, Pinyan has the opportunity for continued success.

31. David Cole

What we said in 2019: 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.

Few have seen their stock shoot up in recent legislative sessions the way David Cole has.

Cole transitioned from a single industry constituency to the diverse industry interests of the Business Council of Alabama a little more than two years ago. He has thrived under that change of scenery.

Cole came charging out of the gate as senior vice president of governmental affairs at BCA. He was the tip of the legislative spear on the business community’s support for the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package.

There is no question he will be at the forefront of many legislative fights in the future. All Cole needs is a white board and a phone and he will relentlessly pursue votes on behalf of his group.

Meanwhile, his stock continues to climb.

30. Mike Cole

What we said in 2019: 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 many of the state’s tech leaders.

It feels as if every year we utilize this space to describe in some way the stealthy nature by which Mike Cole goes about his business of influencing the political process in Alabama. Then, throughout the subsequent 12 months, we discover more previously unknown issues or situations through which he is moving the needle on behalf of his clients.

This is one of the surest measures of determining someone is in the upper echelon of the industry. Very quietly being a serious mover and shaker keeps the competition off-guard and creates a clearer path for your clients to achieve success.

Look closely enough, and you will find that Cole delves into everything from health care to utility regulation to economic development to county and municipal issues.

With his vast experience, and the manner in which he goes about his work, Cole will remain one of Alabama’s power players for as long as he so desires.

29. Clay Scofield

Clay Scofield is becoming a regular on lists in Alabama politics.

He first appeared earlier this year on a list assessing the likelihood of potential U.S. Senate campaigns. At the time we wrote, “He is still young with plenty out ahead of him, but the man is a pure political animal.”

The reality is that the newly-installed Senate Majority Leader will see himself included in any sort of list judging stature among the Yellowhammer State’s political leaders.

Scofield has championed the cause of rural broadband expansion, one of the state’s most pressing public policy needs. He also relishes both the operational aspects of politics and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering required to gain traction in the legislature’s deliberative body.

Regardless of whether he maintains his track on the state level or diverts to the federal level, Scofield will have “plenty out ahead of him.”

28. Dave Stewart

What we said in 2019: Dave Stewart has laid out the blueprint for how a law firm’s lobbying practice can prosper and leverage influence in every corner of state government. In doing so, he has led his firm’s governmental affairs practice to entirely new heights.

One would think there is not a whole lot left for Dave Stewart to conquer.

He has been successful in business, on Capitol Hill, as chief of staff to the governor of Alabama and now heading up the governmental affairs practice for one of the Southeast’s largest law firms. And, still, Stewart has shown an unwavering focus on delivering for his clients and moving his home state of Alabama forward.

Tackling economic development, tax laws, education policy and more on behalf of international businesses and local initiatives, there is no issue or corner of state government out of Stewart’s reach.

At this point in his career, Stewart has the expertise to solve almost any problem a client brings through the door with his eyes closed. That’s how someone keeps a standing reservation on a list like this.

27. Steve Raby

North Alabama is riding a hot streak, and Steve Raby is emblematic of its rise in recent years.

The Huntsville-Madison area is home to the Speaker of the House, as well as his trusted confidante and savvy political operator – Raby.

Unsurprisingly, Raby represents some of the key entities in the area and has ensured their priority status in the policymaking process.

One of Raby’s strengths is his ability to convey to legislative leadership the electoral implications of each of their major moves. And his work on state-level House races puts him in an exceptional position relative to his peers in the industry.

Putting together that special combination of relationships and added value makes Raby an extraordinarily powerful and influential figure.

26. Steve Clouse

What we said in 2019: This veteran cat wrangler oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House.

Serving as chairman of the General Fund Committee brings with it the requisite power and influence to receive the label of top-shelf power player. The general fund is a $2.4 billion state budget, and Clouse shepherded through his chamber the largest-ever version of it this session.

Clouse carries all the qualities of a statesman. He is patient, prudent and experienced.

However, he also knows when to draw the line and tell a stakeholder, agency head or fellow legislator to take it or leave it.

Those traits keep him among the state’s most powerful and influential year after year.

25. Ted Hosp

What we said in 2019: Hosp has probably written more pieces of legislation that are now Alabama law than anyone in the statehouse would like to admit.

Practicing lawyers generally do not have the best grasp of politics and the policymaking process.

Ted Hosp has been an exception throughout his career. He has an acute understanding of what it takes to protect or advance a client’s interest in what can be a complex web of personalities and methods.

And this is the reason why he has gone from serving as the lead partner for the Maynard, Cooper & Gale governmental affairs practice to vice president of governmental affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, a company that has 3 million members and employs 3,600 people.

As Hosp has gotten busy delivering wins for Blue Cross, his position in politics continues to strengthen.

24. Ginger Avery-Buckner

What we said in 2019: Gifted with a friendly, engaging personality, she can flip to all-business mode in a hurry in front of someone whose issue contains the wrong color-code on her legislative spreadsheet.

Maybe this has been stated before: “Practicing lawyers generally do not have the best grasp of politics and the policymaking process.”

In fairness to Avery-Buckner’s Alabama Association of Justice members, politics is not their business. They are litigators. Their expertise lies in their ability to operate within the civil justice system.

But, goodness, have they found the right person to represent them inside the political process.

Channeling her tenacity towards advocacy and awareness of anything which could affect her members, Avery-Buckner has exactly what it takes to run the state’s leading legal organization.

The impact of Avery-Buckner’s work continues to be felt throughout Alabama politics and its court system.

23. R.B. Walker

What we said in 2019: Walker’s profile could easily have been something drawn up in a lab. He is tenacious in pursuit of results, disciplined in his approach and never distracted by the noise that can often consume the energy of others in the world of state governmental affairs.

R.B. Walker is well on his way to indelibly stamping his name into Alabama political lore the way several others on this list already have.

Walker is driven to succeed. There are no days off for him. Frankly, there may not even be any hours off. The number of leaders and influencers with whom Walker has built a lasting relationship could fill Bryant-Denny to the brim.

And the quantity of information Walker absorbs in a day exceeds that which most governmental affairs professionals gather during an entire legislative session. It’s how he is essentially able to capture satellite imagery of the political landscape and properly equip Alabama Power to make policy decisions.

Subsequent generations of political players are going to talk about Walker and his power and influence.

22. Clay Ryan

What we said in 2019: The University of Alabama might soon need to make room for another star in its “Where Legends Are Made” lineup.

Clay Ryan’s inclusion on this list of the state’s most powerful and influential political figures was one of the easiest calls.

When any serious candidate decides to run for political office in the Yellowhammer State, it does not take long before they are attempting to gain an audience with Ryan.

And the text of his title as Senior Vice Chancellor for External Affairs does not even do his role proper justice. Ryan is the gatekeeper for one of the state’s largest employers when it comes to all things related to politics and economic development. Also charged with oversight of the System’s public relations effort, there are times when carefully crafted messages come directly from him.

Ryan will undoubtedly return to his position on this list on an annual basis.

21. Dax Swatek

What we said in 2019: In the same way Frank Stitt rolls up his sleeves when asked to plan a seven-course meal, Swatek is the guy people come to when they want to know all the ingredients to success and stay six steps ahead the whole time.

Dax Swatek is committed to the process.

Whether earlier in his career when he was a sought-after campaign consultant, or in the succeeding years as he built an impressive lobbying practice, his strength has been found in a natural ability to chart a path for success on behalf of his clients.

Swatek’s experience has allowed him to occupy some rather exclusive territory when it comes to merging electoral politics and public policy.

He is skillful at interpreting complex polling data and using it to gain the upper hand in a policy fight. Through his campaign experience, he has developed a knack for sharp messaging which has proven vital to clients and sets him apart from many other lobbyists.

Armed with a high-profile client list and the smarts it takes to deliver, expect Swatek to continue being a major player.

20. Houston Smith

What we said in 2019: From his position on Yellowhammer’s Power and Influence 40, Smith can look up and see some of his predecessors. Given his ambition and rare intellect, he would be well-served to prepare for a similarly steep career trajectory.

If there were ever a public servant in the private sector, it is Houston Smith.

Take his mindset toward service and blend it together with Alabama Power’s sustained strength in the governmental affairs realm, and you get one of the 20 most powerful and influential people in the state.

Smith has extraordinary vision and a genuine desire to see his home state of Alabama reach new heights.

Having worked to build relationships that matter like so many of his peers on this list, Smith’s ability to think big and apply that vision presents a differential trait. His persistent focus on concepts for growing the economy and enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians has become second nature. In examining Smith’s approach, one cannot help but recall Isaac Newton’s remark: “If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.”

The state of Alabama has benefitted from Smith’s role in politics and public policy in recent years, and in the process, he has become entrenched on this list.

19. Twinkle Cavanaugh

Twinkle Cavanaugh has built one of the most trusted brands in Alabama politics.

In 2020, she received 1.38 million votes, the most by a non-presidential candidate in Alabama history. Few things send a stronger signal of a formidable statewide presence than that kind of stout vote tally.

It is also evidence of how Yellowhammer State residents have gone from viewing her as the woman with the memorable name to one they can count on.

Never someone to back down from a fight, Cavanaugh believes that acting in the best interest of her beloved state and the people she serves will inevitably require making someone mad. Most often, she draws the ire of out-of-state lawyers and activists during their annual pilgrimage to the Alabama Public Service Commission.

This is a good lesson for aspiring elected officials: taking a hard stand only makes you stronger.

Farmers, miners, manufacturers and main street Alabama are among those who call on Cavanaugh’s leadership to help keep the state’s economy humming.

There will be no shortage of options for her to build upon her statewide electoral achievements.

18. Nathaniel Ledbetter

What we said in 2019: 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.

Yellowhammer began receiving some pretty strong returns on Nathaniel Ledbetter following the 2019 legislative session.

Statehouse insiders recited instances of the House Majority Leader flexing his muscle to ensure the success of some of the legislature’s biggest priorities in recent memory, including Rebuild Alabama and broadband expansion. Those who witnessed his work spoke with some amount of awe and a heavy dose of respect.

Maybe everyone should have seen Ledbetter’s ascent coming, but that’s not the way he would have wanted it. He goes about his work not looking for any fanfare, only endeavoring to take care of the people in his Tennessee Valley district and to leave behind a better state.

In the interim, he has bolstered the role of the majority leader within the House of Representatives. In recent years it had evolved into a largely ceremonial position. That is not the case under Ledbetter’s leadership.

He has taken a far more aggressive approach and results have followed. A shrewd operator and exceptional strategist, Ledbetter is driving in the fast lane of power and influence.

17. Greg Albritton

What we said in 2019: Greg Albritton is an old-school legislator trapped in a second-termer’s body. He is particularly clever in how he goes about working his issues and navigating the legislative process. And he is dogged in pursuit of passing his legislative priorities.

For students of statehouse politics, it’s always a treat to observe Greg Albritton’s wry smile at the microphone, a gesture that usually signals something is amiss.

He is proficient in the art of offering up the rhetorically shiny object, all the while going after what he wants like a boulder rolling downhill or digging in for a long night of trench warfare.

Parliamentary fun aside, Albritton stands out even more so because of his willingness to handle the general fund and the institutional baggage that a chairman has to deal with in the budget that keeps state government agencies in operation. Difficult decisions have to be made in order to efficiently administer the $2.4 billion budget. Those are decisions from which Albritton has not shied.

He’s tough and fair and a conservative reformer at heart. Alabama is in a better place with Albritton in charge of its general fund budget.

16. Steve Marshall

What we said in 2019: A career prosecutor with a true passion for serving as attorney general, he is one of the most real elected officials you will ever meet. From that authenticity comes a level of power and influence that politics cannot manufacture.

It may not be possible for Steve Marshall – or anyone, for that matter – to do a better job than he already is performing.

He is batting a thousand when it comes to decision-making, law enforcement and standing up for Alabama on the national level.

Marshall has challenged the constitutionality of court-packing, fought for religious liberty and against public corruption. He has taken President Joe Biden to task for killing energy jobs and creating a border crisis.

He has surrounded himself with a talented, highly qualified team inside the attorney general’s office, and he is predictably popular in the law enforcement community and among his conservative base. Yet, he is not the least bit scared to take a principled stand in the face of criticism.

The formula is there for Marshall to continue increasing his stature in state politics

15. Steve Windom

What we said in 2019: He is a tireless worker, but the real marvel is his deep, ever-growing network of connections on and around Goat Hill. From administrative support staff to lifelong civil servants all the way up the halls of power, Windom knows just about everybody by name – and works his Rolodex non-stop.

Former elected officials who enter the lobbying world have to overcome the unfamiliarity of being the one in pursuit. Unlike the glamorous (and false) depictions of lobbying activity, the practice involves a lot of standing in line and hanging around. That’s a tough adjustment for some who are used to being the ones who make the lobbyists wait.

That has never been a problem for Steve Windom.

Renown for his work ethic, Windom frequently sends emails and texts at all hours of the night and starts making calls as soon as the sun is up. He is usually one of the first to arrive at the statehouse in the morning and zips around the place like it is his first year on the job.

Then there are his relationships. There is seemingly no one Windom does not know.

Windom’s connections to elected officials are deep given his prodigious fundraising abilities. Go to an obscure office in any state agency, and you will probably find someone whom he knows and with whom he has banked a relationship — just in case.

The former lieutenant governor and state senator has found a worthy running mate in one-time House of Representatives Rules Committee Chairman Blaine Galliher. Together they have changed the narrative about former members and have made their firm, Windom Galliher & Associates, a heavyweight in the Alabama governmental affairs market.

A member of the business community who is not currently a principal recently remarked to us, “If I was going to hire a lobbyist, I would hire Steve Windom.”

Windom flies in some pretty thin air as one of Alabama’s most successful contract lobbyists.

14. Arthur Orr

What we said in 2019: If someone wanted to make a movie about the story of the deliberative upper chamber, Orr might be the best choice to go on the poster. He has an incredible tolerance for details and is methodical in all of his actions. He is representative of the chamber’s approach to governing.

Arthur Orr is one of the two people in charge of the largest pot of money in the state of Alabama.

Orr is the state senate’s chairman overseeing the nearly $7.7 billion education budget. Carrying the weight of that checkbook around in his suit pocket affords him an elite level of power and influence.

Every school district, all of the state’s public institutions of higher education and countless education-related programs depend upon Orr’s fiscal decisions on an annual basis. The steady stream of advocates from those entities marching into his office to state their case for funding is illustrative of why he maintains an elevated position on this list.

The Decatur native and Wake Forest graduate is one of four remaining state senators who served as Republicans in the minority. That experience is still visible in the way Orr conducts his business in the upper chamber.

A bit more circumspect than most, Orr works to avoid getting pinned down on any issue when dealing with his fellow senators and the building’s many lobbyists. He also frequently returns to his roots as one of the original conservative reformers as he chases ABC privatization and welfare reform during most sessions.

Chairing the education budget committee, and years of legislative experience, provide a potent combination resulting in power and influence for Orr.

13. Jabo Waggoner

What we said in 2019: Jabo Waggoner is always the coolest guy in any room. He possesses a magnetism which has served him to near perfection throughout his political career. He’s the gentlemen senator and the smoothest of operators, but mainly people just want to be around him.

The one-man institution that is Jabo Waggoner continues to function in a most impressive fashion.

The Senate Rules Committee chairman is the epicenter of pretty much everything in his chamber. He sets the calendar. If you are a lobbyist, your bill receives no consideration without the approval of Waggoner. That is an immensely powerful and influential place to be if you are him.

The reality is, though, that as much as everyone wants to be like him, none of us are. You can’t force cool. You can’t fake importance. As much as young legislators want to grow up and be like Jabo, it is just never going to happen.

Waggoner is simply one of one.

An Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished Sportsman, Waggoner’s popularity among his colleagues is matched only by that in his over-the-mountain district. One of his constituents contacted Yellowhammer recently and told us, “I’ve been begging Jabo to run again. We couldn’t ask for a better senator than him, and he’s an important asset for our state.”

Waggoner is an all-time great.

12. Robbie McGhee

What we said in 2019: McGhee brings a certain intensity to his representation not prevalent in the everyday machinations of the statehouse. It means something when he walks into the building, and other people know when he is there. That in itself is a sure sign of power and influence.

Whether people want to admit it or not, gambling legislation in Alabama goes through the Poarch Band of Creek Indians – including the 2021 version so heavily debated.

And the person at the center of all that wrangling is Robbie McGhee.

As the elected vice chairman of the Tribal Council, McGhee represents the tribe in what he calls “government-to-government” at the local, state and federal levels.

He has done a stellar job at that.

Prior to becoming a heavy hitter in Alabama politics, he worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.

Bringing that experience to bear in the state of Alabama has been critical to his effectiveness. And he has the full weight of the Tribe behind him as they have established a thriving international company headquartered right here in the Yellowhammer State. This success has sprung a healthy corporate citizenship through charitable endeavors, job creation and electioneering.

All of these things translate into an uninterrupted presence at the highest levels of state policymaking for McGhee.

11. Bob Geddie

What we said in 2019: It has been said that Joe Fine invented lobbying in Alabama. That being well established, his longtime business partner Bob Geddie may have just perfected the craft. Bob Geddie’s uninterrupted run on the mountain top of the Alabama lobbying world is one for the history books.

Geddie has exhibited every element of a successful lobbying practice for decades.

His tactical lobbying skills are born out of a precise knowledge of the process and the players. He knows every member, every rule and every tactic necessary to pass legislation through the Alabama legislature, and he works just as easily throughout the executive branch.

When he gets a legislator one-on-one for a final pitch on an issue it invariably goes in the Fine Geddie win column.

Recounting such a persuasive encounter, one House member told us, “I’ve been on the receiving end of Bob Geddie’s pitch a bunch of times. He doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer unless that’s the way he actually wants you to vote. I’ve never had anybody quite like him lobby me on issues.”

Unlike many governmental affairs specialists, his clients are practically part of his firm. He is a trusted advisor to some of Alabama’s titans of industry, and they are his friends. Nearly all have empowered him to make campaign finance decisions for them through a network of Geddie-controlled political action committees.

His firm’s client list is the envy of the industry. He has a track record of supreme success.

Bob Geddie lands on the list as 2021’s most powerful and influential contract lobbyist.

10. Quentin Riggins

What we said in 2019: The work Quentin Riggins does outside of politics would probably land him on any list of influential Alabamians. He is a pillar of the community and has involved himself in a myriad of different causes aimed at improving his home state.

Quentin Riggins has charted a remarkable path for himself to reach the heights of Alabama’s corporate community.

He can now point to more than 25 years of experience which has led to his current position as senior vice president of Governmental and Corporate Affairs at Alabama Power.

Riggins has served as a member of a governor’s cabinet, a senior staffer for a Speaker of the House and a senior vice president of the Business Council of Alabama. Then he did what most would do with that impressive resume — he built a private governmental affairs practice.

But Riggins did not stop there.

He instead entered the corporate world where he now leads Alabama Power’s extensive state and federal government relations program. He also coordinates the company’s grassroots and corporate relations effort throughout the state and nation, a critical function for a company with 1.4 million customers.

One of the truest ways to gauge power and influence is to look at how many “so goes this, so goes the state” entities and issues with which someone is involved.

Riggins has many.

The reason is that when leaders want to add heft to their effort and ensure its success, they tap Riggins.

There is a palpable reverence shown toward Riggins by his peers and the next generation of governmental affairs professionals. The fact is that they know power and influence when they see it.

9. Will Ainsworth

What we said in 2019: Ainsworth has displayed poise and wisdom well beyond his years, and the result is a lieutenant governor who has become a kingmaker rather than an afterthought. … His career is still just getting started, and Ainsworth will be elected to whatever job he wants in 2022.

We said it when he took Montgomery by storm after his election in 2018, and we’ll say it again: Will Ainsworth has completely transformed what a lieutenant governor can be — and accomplish — in a role that has largely been scoffed at by insiders over the past two decades.

Already a statesman at his young age, Ainsworth has quietly but rapidly become an out-front leader on some of the policy issues most important to the present and future of the Yellowhammer State. Whether it be chairing the Alabama Military Stability Commission and the package of pro-military bills he spearheaded to enactment this session, leading the charge to reopen the economy last spring, or heading up the 21st Century Workforce Commission, Ainsworth has made a name across Alabama as a pro-jobs conservative willing to tackle thorny, in-the-weeds policy challenges.

However, he has also started to grow a national profile, including as chair of the national Aerospace States Association and by bringing the National Lieutenant Governors Association annual meeting to Alabama for only the second time ever.

The world is his oyster, and it is only a matter of time before Ainsworth makes the leap to serve as governor or a United States senator. He has said that he will not run for the Senate this coming cycle, nor will he run against Gov. Kay Ivey, yet his endorsement will be at the top of the list for any candidate in 2022.

Ainsworth is well-positioned to be one of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people for decades to come.

8. Bill Poole

What we said in 2019: Bill Poole might just be the most powerful non-Speaker member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Ever.

Somehow, Bill Poole has outdone himself again.

As chair of the House Ways and Means Education committee, Poole has inherent power and influence. However, it is how he wields these responsibilities — and how he conducts himself on an interpersonal level — that makes him stand out above every other legislative chairperson, without exception.

We’re going to have more to say about him in the coming weeks, but know this: Bill Poole is in the type of rarified air that few before him have ever walked. Across party lines, by lobbyists and constituents alike, year after year, Poole earns the unquestioned respect and trust of everyone who watches him work for the people of Alabama. And he does it all without fanfare or fuss.

It’s time the University of Alabama, his alma mater, cuts a new “Where Legends are Made” commercial that shows a highlight reel of Poole’s legislative accomplishments — although that would be impossible in a 30-second spot.

This session alone, he has shepherded the largest-ever education budget in state history to passage, sponsored a bill signed into law reauthorizing and improving vital economic development incentivizes, and — through his chairmanship of the Alabama Innovation Commission — is one step away from passing two related bills to help grow the state’s tech and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Any time a trade association or principal has a crucial bill that they need pass, their first thought is to see if Poole would carry the legislation. He’s simply the best at what he does.

The only question left about Poole is, “What’s next?”

7. Katie Boyd Britt

What we said in 2019: Britt has brought an energy, an excitement and an optimism back to BCA through her buoyant leadership. Through vision, determination and an undefinable charisma, she is setting the organization and its member companies up for unparalleled successes. However, her personal star also shines brightly. People are mentioning Britt at the very top of the list of contenders to succeed U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, whenever the venerable senator does decide to call it quits.

Well, when you’re right, you’re right.

Britt was thrown into the fire in 2019 when she took the helm as president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. And, like the phoenix out of the ashes, her vibrant leadership has seen the BCA reborn anew, transformed for the betterment of its member businesses and hardworking families across the state of Alabama.

Very quietly, Britt has rebuilt BCA piece-by-piece into an organization that in mission and function is totally different from just three years ago. While still operating as the state’s foremost advocacy organization for businesses of all sizes and sectors, Britt’s BCA has also become more member-facing, now putting an overarching priority on ensuring Alabama businesses have the resources, tools and expertise at their fingerprints to thrive in a 21st-century economy.

Her tenure at BCA has coincided with record bests for Alabama in key economic measurables, including unemployment and businesses confidence.

However, while she has certainly helped make the good times even better when it comes to the state’s recent success, her legacy at BCA might boil down to the past 14 months, as Britt was the tip of the spear when it came to tirelessly advocating for businesses and employees during the historic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the list of initiatives, conversations and meetings Britt was an integral part of on behalf of Alabama jobs this past year or so could fill a chapter in a book, there is one example that cannot be passed up. Britt launched and championed the Keep Alabama Open campaign in November; as other states shut down, this effort led to our state staying open safely and responsibly, allowing hardworking Alabamians to safeguard their lives and livelihoods.

The results are clear. Alabama currently boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast and one of the best in the nation. Meanwhile, the state’s COVID numbers are also among the nation’s lowest. We’re open for business and poised to bounce back to reach greater heights than before the pandemic.

Britt is Alabama’s brightest rising star, and regardless of what comes next, her continued leadership is a reason for optimism that our state’s best days are ahead.

6. Greg Reed

What we said in 2019: When you get into the upper echelon of power players, distinguishing traits become even more important. Greg Reed has exhibited many on his way up the tower of influence and into the position of majority leader for the Alabama Senate.

What we said in 2019 no longer holds true for Greg Reed.

To clarify, the part about him having distinguishing traits of a power player is truer than ever. However, Reed has taken that last giant leap in his chamber and now serves as the president pro tempore of the Alabama Senate.

Having assumed the office earlier this year, Reed is now the most powerful member of the legislature’s upper chamber.

None of this is a surprise, either. He is a natural leader who has a discernible presence about him. And now he is running the show.

As pro tem, he oversees every aspect of the legislative process in the Senate. From committee assignments to legislative priorities to the time of adjournment. Reed is in control.

In 2011, a swell of new legislators flooded the halls of the statehouse after having been elected the previous fall. Reed is the first among them to rise to the top of the power structure in their respective chambers.

Hindsight makes it plausible to have pegged Reed as the first to do so. He entered the building confident in his abilities and his having earned the right to be there. But not too confident in the way that would create problems with his colleagues.

Reed understands the political process in a way that few others do. Furthermore, he is highly attuned to the public policy challenges which Alabama currently faces and has a knack for carefully weighing solutions to any problem. He is particularly adept at understanding the state’s economic and workforce needs.

Only a few months into the job, these things probably forecast his leadership style in the years to come. What is certain is that Reed now occupies elite status among Alabama’s most powerful and influential people.

5. Joe Perkins

What we said in 2019: Joe Perkins is unspeakably powerful and influential. So much so – and in such a way – that we probably should not even be speaking about it.

One cannot help but marvel at the depth and breadth of Joe Perkins’ impact on Alabama politics.

It is especially remarkable considering his specialized approach. In practical terms, it is difficult to describe what he does because discretion is so fundamental to his business model.

Perkins is Alabama’s top political and corporate strategist. That much we do know.

While a visible client list exists only behind the tightly secured walls at Matrix, Perkins’ firm which he founded, he is known to represent a variety of interests. These run the gamut from some of the state’s largest companies to individuals who sought him out because they had a problem to solve.

With a reputation for having nearly unlimited intellectual capacity, he is constrained only by the number of hours in a day.

The tools he has at his disposal are both comprehensive and largely uncatalogued. There are entire collections of people, companies and interests which he quietly guides to the ultimate benefit of his clients.

A wide range of campaigns, initiatives and public and corporate policy have been shaped by Perkins’ involvement in recent years even as the man and his methods fall more into the realm of the mysterious.

Perhaps reputation truly is the cornerstone of power.

4. Mac McCutcheon

What we said in 2019: McCutcheon has dedicated his life to the people of Alabama. From protecting and serving as a career law enforcement officer in Huntsville to leading the rambunctious lower chamber of the Alabama legislature, McCutcheon has led with integrity and compassion every step of the way.

The 66th speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives has become a stalwart leader during some of the state’s most trying times in recent memory.

Mac McCutcheon’s ability to project stability and follow a common-sense approach to governing has led to gains for the Yellowhammer State and to his own strengthened position in the speaker’s chair.

McCutcheon is one of the all-time good guys who (oh, by the way) controls coveted committee assignments and the legislative process.

He hails from the technology-rich Tennessee Valley, and he has a healthy respect for the aerospace and defense industry, its benefit to the state and its importance to America.

This may partly explain why McCutcheon feels so strongly about responding to Alabama’s infrastructure needs to keep pace with the demands of a 21st-century economy.

He also listens to his members, though. As speaker of the House, he has been responsive to the needs of his members – a crucial aspect of holding down one of the single most powerful positions in Alabama. That’s why when there are roads and bridges across the state that need attention, or gaps in broadband access, McCutcheon thinks big to fix the problem.

His legacy is beginning to take shape as that of a public servant with a sincere desire to utilize his power and influence for the betterment of his entire state.

3. Jo Bonner

What we said in 2019: There are very few people who have served Alabama in a more exemplary way this century than Jo Bonner. Congressman. Vice-chancellor for the University of Alabama System. And now the immensely powerful and influential chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey.

Jo Bonner is one of the most gifted power players the state has seen in a long time.

His versatility in the political world is virtually unmatched. He was a five-term congressman from the Gulf Coast and served as vice chancellor in the University of Alabama System.

He could easily be a candidate for a major statewide office. In our analysis of potential U.S. Senate candidates earlier this year, we wrote of Bonner, “He exudes statesman qualities.”

In the next sentence, we wrote, “He has been as active on Alabama’s pressing issues as possibly any chief of staff to the governor, ever.”

Therein lies the reason for his sky-high position on this list and maybe the reason why he would resist a return to electoral politics. Bonner is as powerful and influential as anyone who has been similarly situated inside of a governor’s office.

Governor Kay Ivey’s unwavering trust in Bonner is the foundation of his elevated status. Ivey counts on Bonner to implement her agenda on a daily basis.

Seldom does one person in politics have the skill set Bonner possesses. He has a mastery of political communications and a thorough understanding of public policy. Following years of exposure to national political figures, he is awed by very little.

Known as a stickler for always having a plan of action, Bonner assuredly has designs on his next power move.

2. Zeke Smith

What we said in 2019: One of the most impressive and useful traits that Smith displays is an unmatched capacity. His knowledge of Alabama Power’s massive operation extends to every corner of its business. Layered on top of that is a continual awareness of Alabama’s political climate, its power players and what makes each tick.

In the governmental affairs domain, Alabama Power is at the top of its game.

Zeke Smith, as executive vice president of External Affairs, has overseen the company’s current run of success as the state’s leading corporate citizen in politics and public policy.

Smith is tasked with a vast array of responsibilities all of which have an appreciable impact on his company’s position with policymakers and elected officials. Everything from lobbying to public relations to regulatory affairs to charitable giving falls on Smith’s desk.

Each of those areas of the company’s activity are intertwined with the next which is why handling them requires the type of comprehensive approach that Smith has employed.

The Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inductee has assembled a team of unrivaled talent and installed an aggressive but well-planned process befitting his background.

Smith has an innate ability to see over the horizon and understand the conditions which will impact his company’s mission to grow Alabama’s economy, create jobs and broaden its customer base. Always looking for avenues to improve the state’s competitive advantages, he was appointed by the governor to chair Alabama’s Workforce Council, and he serves on the College and Career Ready Task Force.

He fields a steady stream of calls from those wanting to enhance their own positions on the political ladder. Elected officials and other power players around the state have taken notice of Smith’s leadership on issues they know will help them.

To paraphrase a well-tested maxim, much is to be gained from the dependence of others on one’s power and influence.

1. Kay Ivey

What we said in 2019: Governor Kay Ellen Ivey will go down as one of the most consequential leaders in Alabama history. And she’s not even close to being finished yet. From the second she put her hand on the Bible and became the state’s 54th governor, Ivey has been laser focused on governing and nothing else.

It has been nearly four decades since Alabama has seen a brand as strong as Kay Ivey’s in state politics.

After 20 consecutive years holding statewide elected office, Ivey remains wildly popular and seemingly unsusceptible to attacks aimed at diminishing her standing. Her lofty approval ratings have given her the freedom and confidence to engage on some of the most precarious issues the state is facing.

Ivey kicked off her first full term in office by taking control of a long-awaited infrastructure initiative, tapping into her vast reserve of political capital to pass the Rebuild Alabama Act. She has tackled other thorny issues such as updating the state’s prison system and expanding broadband access. Her handling of the COVID-19 crisis has drawn praise from both ends of the political spectrum.

Ivey has now found her next major undertaking in the form of the comprehensive gambling legislation. Her elevated involvement has been pivotal to the movement of the package through the Alabama Legislature.

There is a long list of individuals who have thought they could get the upper hand on Ivey. It is difficult to even find one of them for whom it ended well. That’s one of the classic traits of a truly powerful and influential person.

With reelection in 2022 all but assured, the Ivey brand is poised to assume a place of high honor in the pantheon of Alabama politics.

3 months ago

Watch: House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, Minority Leader Anthony Daniels featured in Our Yellowhammer 360 video series

The third video in the Our Yellowhammer 360 series was released on Monday and features Alabama House of Representatives Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville).

Our Yellowhammer 360, announced at the beginning of this year, is a partnership between Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences.

Part of the Our Yellowhammer Speaks storytelling aspect of the series, videos like the one released Monday, will highlight prominent elected officials in Alabama speaking about times they have worked across the aisle to address the needs of all of their constituents.

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The conversation with McCutcheon and Daniels centered on building bridges. Both leaders spoke about the shared public service and community values that extend beyond political affiliation and strike at the heart of what it means to be southern — and human.

WATCH:

RELATED: Watch: Gov. Kay Ivey featured in first video of Our Yellowhammer 360 series

Watch: Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin featured in Our Yellowhammer 360 video series

4 months ago

Coming soon: 2021 POWER & INFLUENCE 40, Yellowhammer 15

(W. Miller/YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Friday announced that the annual POWER & INFLUENCE 40 and Yellowhammer 15 features will return in the coming weeks after a hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic last year.

For the past decade, Yellowhammer has released an annual list of the most powerful and influential people in Alabama business and politics. That tradition lives on through a format newly introduced when the lists were last published in 2019.

The POWER & INFLUENCE 40 list recognizes the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

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Meanwhile, the Yellowhammer 15 is the preeminent honor for those in the private sector that are moving Alabama forward to better days.

Through job creation, economic impact, community involvement and philanthropic endeavors, these exemplary leaders in their professional fields make our great state a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Unlike the Power & Influence 40 list, a person can be recognized in the Yellowhammer 15 only once in a lifetime. And, not only will this honor be exclusive, the accumulation of inductees over time will compile a “hall of fame” type list synonymous with the pinnacle of professional and civic achievement.

Be on the lookout for both lists being published in the coming weeks.

6 months ago

WATCH: Alabama Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon discuss 2021 regular session

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Yellowhammer News editor-in-chief Sean Ross on Thursday afternoon sat down with Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and House of Representatives Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) following the third day of the legislature’s 2021 regular session.

The two legislative leaders reflected on the beginning of the session, including how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting proceedings.

McCutcheon and Reed also previewed some of the major issues likely to be considered by the legislature in the coming days and weeks. Topics included broadband expansion, criminal justice reform, medical marijuana and gaming.

WATCH:

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Normally, this annual Yellowhammer legislative preview is held as in-person event in downtown Montgomery. The format was moved to video this year because of the pandemic.

Be on the lookout for more from the interview throughout this week.

6 months ago

Watch: Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin featured in Our Yellowhammer 360 video series

(YHN)

The second video in the Our Yellowhammer 360 series was released on Wednesday and features Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin.

Our Yellowhammer 360, announced at the beginning of this month, is a partnership between Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences.

Part of the Our Yellowhammer Speaks storytelling aspect of the series, videos like the one released Wednesday, will highlight prominent elected officials in Alabama speaking about times they have worked across the aisle to address the needs of all of their constituents.

WATCH:

RELATED: Watch: Gov. Kay Ivey featured in first video of Our Yellowhammer 360 series

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6 months ago

Watch: Gov. Kay Ivey featured in first video of Our Yellowhammer 360 series

(Yellowhammer News/Our 360 News)

The first video in the Our Yellowhammer 360 series was released on Tuesday and features Governor Kay E. Ivey.

Our Yellowhammer 360, announced at the beginning of this month, is a partnership between Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences.

Part of the Our Yellowhammer Speaks storytelling aspect of the series, videos like the one released Tuesday, will highlight prominent elected officials in Alabama speaking about times they have worked across the aisle to address the needs of all of their constituents.

WATCH:

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7 months ago

Yellowhammer News announces Our Yellowhammer 360 partnership

(Our Yellowhammer News 360)

Yellowhammer News is pleased to partner with Our 360 News in presenting a new series: Our Yellowhammer 360.

Between a global pandemic, monuments toppling and a heated national election cycle, 2020 saw Alabamians spending a lot of time divided.

Our Yellowhammer 360 was created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences. The forward-thinking series will focus on race, justice and — most importantly — reconciliation, all through the lens of constructive dialogue and action.

The mission of Our Yellowhammer 360 is to utilize the uniquely positioned partners to promote unity and advance Alabama.

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Be on the lookout for Our Yellowhammer Speaks to kickoff in mid-January. This video-centric storytelling feature will highlight prominent elected officials in the state working across the aisle for the good of all Alabamians.

And, when it is safe to do so, the partnership will also rollout Our Yellowhammer Town Hall: a live event portion of the series that elevates productive conversation on issues such as race, justice and corporate responsibility.

Our Yellowhammer 360 looks forward to Alabamians joining in this impactful endeavor to unite for the betterment of our state.

You can view the video announcing Our Yellowhammer 360 here or below:

Follow Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News on social media as the series progresses.

‘Greatest ever’ describes the biggest news in college football this weekend

(YH)

The Alabama Crimson Tide just completed the greatest regular season in college football history with a first-ever 10-0 record in SEC play. The Tide dominated each of its opponents, and no game seemed even remotely in doubt.

On the offensive side of the ball, Mac Jones has put together the greatest season of any quarterback in the program’s storied history. His go-to target, DeVonta Smith, could end up being regarded as the greatest wide receiver to ever suit up for the Tide.

Alabama now heads to Atlanta, and then the College Football Playoff, looking to complete the greatest season in college football history.

On the other side of the state, Auburn University made the move to fire the greatest coach in its program’s history. In announcing Gus Malzahn’s termination, Auburn let go of a coach who averaged nearly nine wins per season and totaled 39 conference victories in his eight seasons leading the program.

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Malzahn had eight wins against top-10 teams and was the only active head coach in the nation to have three wins over Nick Saban. His offenses at Auburn included five 1,000-yard rushers.

The strength of Auburn’s schedule during his eight years may be the toughest run of games for any single head coach in college football history.

Names of replacements being bandied about in the early stages of the search include Mario Cristobal, Hugh Freeze, Dan Quinn, Billy Napier, Scott Satterfield, Brent Venables, Tony Elliott, Bill O’Brien and Mike Gundy.

Here are our experts’ ballots for this week’s power rankings.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Florida

The lowdown: What Alabama is doing under head coach Nick Saban this year is remarkable. Hearing so many other coaches lament the struggles of 2020 (which are very real) and then watching Alabama dismantle opponent after opponent creates a huge dissonance. Even on a day when the Tide’s passing attack was grounded, Alabama returned to their traditional formula of dominant defense, special teams and rushing en route to a seven touchdown conference win. Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only teams in the country that might be able to stay within two scores of Alabama… maybe.

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Coastal Carolina

The lowdown: Game cancellations due to COVID-19 made for another weird weekend with just a few games, but that didn’t stop some CFB excitement from unfolding.

Florida’s loss to LSU shook things up this week in the power rankings, knocking the Gators out of the top eight and subsequently making the SEC Championship game less exciting while giving Texas A&M a very legitimate shot to make the final four.

Additionally, Miami fell out of the power rankings after North Carolina smoked them. Coastal Carolina—still undefeated—had a great win against a solid Troy team; therefore, they slide into the No. 8 spot.

Speaking of sliding in, USC also slid into the rankings for the first time after their fifth game and a decisive win against UCLA.

1 year ago

Live election blog — July 14 Alabama primary runoff

(Pixabay, YHN)

The state of Alabama is voting Tuesday, July 14. Follow along for live coverage throughout the evening regarding the Republican primary runoff contests for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House in AL-01 and AL-02, Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and more.

Polls close at 7:00 p.m.

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In the runoff for the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District, former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) vies for the nomination with Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl.

In AL-02, former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) squares off against Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman.

Incumbent Judge Beth Kellum is being challenged by former Lauderdale County Commissioner Will Smith for a spot on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

There are also local races — both Republican and Democratic– on the ballot in certain precincts.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office on Tuesday announced that they now estimate turnout for the runoff will be between 10-15%. This is down from their estimate of 17-22% heading into the day.

“With Alabama voters exercising extreme caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, we now believe turnout for today’s Runoff Election to be somewhere between 10-15%,” Merrill stated. “I encourage anyone who is interested and eligible to go vote today, while also practicing CDC recommendations. To find your polling place or check your registration status, visit AlabamaVotes.gov.”

Update 10:13 p.m.:

Long shot no Moore — Coffee County Republican takes congressional primary runoff

Update 10:01 p.m.:

Another race of note:

Update 9:44 p.m.:

Update 9:37 p.m.:

Bill Hightower concedes AL-01 to Jerry Carl

Update 9:13 p.m.:

Tuberville speaks after his big win.

Update 9:07 p.m.:

Tim Howe weighs in: Winners and losers — Election day fallout

Update 9:01 p.m.:

In conceding, Sessions backs Tuberville against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

Update 8:48 p.m.:

The president reacts to Tuberville’s victory.

Update 8:45 p.m.:

Update 8:39 p.m.:

The scene at Tuberville’s watch party:

Update 8:35 p.m.:

Looks like Moore in AL-02.

Update 8:26 p.m.:

National Republican Senatorial Committee tips its cap to Tuberville.

Update 8:23 p.m.:

BREAKING: Tuberville wins Republican nomination in Alabama Senate contest, handing huge win to President Trump

Update 8:11 p.m.:

Moore hanging on to a close lead

Update 7:46 p.m.:

Barry Moore out to an early lead in AL-02.

Update 7:39 p.m.:

Tuscaloosa appears to have not forgotten about “Fear the thumb.”

Update 7:19 p.m.:

Tuberville out to a very early lead.

Update 7:15 p.m.:

You can’t spell Baldwin without “win.”

Update 7:05 p.m.:

Eggs-actly where they want to be?

Update 6:57 p.m.:

For election night coverage and analysis from some Yellowhammer contributors over the airwaves:

1 year ago

Sheriff: Assisted living employee fatally shot by resident

(Autauga County Jail/Contributed)

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man living at a residential facility was arrested and accused of fatally shooting the house supervisor, authorities said.

Devonta Wayaire Brown, 22, was arrested Monday and charged with murder in the death of Marcus Wayne Warren, news outlets reported.

Autauga County court documents said Warren was the on-duty house supervisor for Magnolia Wood Therapeutic Assisted Living, an assisted living facility for the developmentally disabled. Warren repeatedly told Brown to go bed, which made Brown upset, documents said. Brown went to his room, pulled out a handgun from under his mattress and shot Warren, documents said.

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Brown then forced a housemate to drag Warren’s body outside but when the two failed, they called 911, documents said.

It’s unclear how Brown got a gun into the home. The Autauga County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing.

Brown’s being held at the county jail on a $60,000 bond. It’s unclear whether Brown had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Alabama Senate approves medical marijuana bill

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill cleared its first floor vote Thursday in the Alabama legislature as advocates hope to make headway after years of setbacks.

The Alabama Senate voted 22-10 for the bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson after five hours of debate. The legislation now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The proposal would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions — including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It also would allow them to purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

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The Senate approval was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances this legislative session.

“Things have changed. We learn as we go in life and people have realized there are benefits,” Melson said before the debate.

An anesthesiologist by training, Melson said he grew to support the idea of medicinal marijuana after hearing the stories of people who had been helped by it. Advocates packed an earlier public hearing on the bill to tell lawmakers their stories.

The legislation faced some opposition on the Senate floor.

Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician, said medical marijuana laws bypass the normal processes for drug approval. Sen. Arthur Orr, a Republican from Decatur, stayed at the Senate microphone for more than an hour, introducing amendments.

Republican Sen. Dan Roberts said he could support an expansion of Alabama’s existing law allowing the use of CBD oil, but not a full medical marijuana law.

“We have an FDA that has a process. … I just believe we are doing irreparable damage to the children of our state and to our state by doing what we are doing,” Roberts said.

The bill also faces opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. He sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The bill faces an uncertain future as it heads to the House of Representatives. In prior sessions, a Senate-passed bill stalled in the House.

“We are just in a wait and see mode,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Alabama to exhibit artifacts from last US slave ship

(Alabama Historical Commission/Facebook, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama will provide artifacts from the last slave ship to dock in the United States for a special public exhibition later this year, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Historical Commission, in a statement, said an exhibit named for the slave ship Clotilda is set to open this fall in Mobile, where the schooner arrived with African captives in 1860.

The artifacts include pieces of wood and metal taken from a muddy river bottom where the ship was discovered, said Jim Delgado, a maritime archaeologist who helped identify the wreck.

The History Museum of Mobile will add pieces from its own collection to help tell the story of the port’s maritime history, the commission said. The city is working on plans for a new facility to house the exhibition.

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“Through this exhibit and collaborative effort, everyone will have the opportunity to experience the moving story of the Clotilda and its survivors,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the state agency.

To settle a bet between wealthy white men on whether slaves could be imported into the South in defiance of a federal ban, the wooden ship illegally transported 110 people from west Africa to Alabama, where they became slaves.

The freed people later settled in a community called Africatown, which still exists and will be the site of the exhibition.

The United States banned the importation of slaves in 1808, but smugglers kept traveling the Atlantic with wooden ships full of people in chains. Southern plantation owners demanded workers for their cotton fields.

Remains of the twin-masted Clotilda were discovered in late 2018 near an island where the ship was believed to have been scuttled and burned north of downtown Mobile shortly after unloading the captives. Only a few artifacts were removed from the wreck, and a judge awarded custody of the items to the Alabama Historical Commission.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

4-year-old red panda dies at Birmingham Zoo

(The Birmingham Zoo/Facebook, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — One of the two red pandas at an Alabama zoo has died, the zoo said Monday.

The Birmingham Zoo said in a news release that Parker, a 4-year-old male red panda, was found dead Sunday morning. There there was no sign of physical injuries or illness and an examination didn’t immediately reveal the cause of death, the zoo said, adding that more test results were pending.

There were no signs of illness in its other red panda, a 9-year-old female named Sorrel, the zoo said.

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Red pandas, much smaller than black and white pandas, grow to about the size of large house cats, with long bushy tails. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund list the red panda, which is native to Asia, as an endangered species.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Police: Alabama girl lied about assault from fake officer

(Opelika Police Department/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Police in east Alabama say a teenage girl was lying when she claimed a man impersonating a police officer sexually assaulted her.

The Opelika Police Department tells WTVM-TV that detectives recreated the incident, which was reported Feb. 19. They say that once the teen who claimed the assault was confronted with surveillance video from multiple sources, she admitted she was lying.

Police say they’re continuing to investigate, now focusing on the false report. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

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Because the teen involved is a juvenile, police say they won’t release any more details about the investigation or its outcome.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Alabama hospital to close; 17th to shut down in 10 years

(Pickens County Medical Center/Facebook)

CARROLLTON, Ala. (AP) — Pickens County Medical Center, located in rural West Alabama near the Mississippi line, will become the latest state hospital to shut down when it closes for good on Friday, news outlets reported.

The Pickens County Health Care Authority announced the shutdown in a news release that said the hospital’s finances were no longer sustainable. It cited too few patients, reduced federal funding and large numbers of uninsured patients.

The shutdown of the hospital, which opened in 1979, will be a twofold blow since residents will lose both their closest option for health care and jobs. About 200 people work at the hospital, making it one of Pickens County’s largest employers, according to its website.

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The shutdown is only the latest in a wave of hospital closings nationwide. The Alabama Hospital Association said 17 privately run hospitals have closed in the state over the last decade, and only one of those reopened.

Carrollton is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Birmingham. The city of roughly 1,000 people is about halfway between Tuscaloosa and Columbus, Mississippi, which both have hospitals. Pickens County has a population of about 20,200.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Police investigate after slurs painted in Alabama park

(CBS 42/Twitter)

LINCOLN, Ala. (AP) — Police are investigating after someone painted racial slurs on a park building in central Alabama and claimed a county commissioner said it.

Lincoln police on Friday asked people with information about what happened at Richard George’s Ball Park to contact them.

George, an African-American man who owns the private park that he lets the community use, says the message in bright red paint appeared before dawn Friday on a building at the baseball field.

Talladega County Commissioner Jackie Swinford’s name was added to the bottom of the message, attributing the quote to him. Swinford, who is white, denies saying what was painted.

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“This is somebody that’s angry. Angry at me, and if they have something to say to me, come tell me. Don’t be a coward. Come look me in the eye and tell me what the problem is,” Swinford told WIAT-TV.

Swinford and George say they’ve been friends for almost 15 years.

The graffiti was painted over on Friday.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Watch live: Alabama Republican Party holds 2020 winter meeting

(YHN)

PRATTVILLE — The Alabama Republican Party on Saturday is holding their annual winter meeting.

The meeting is set to start at 10:00 a.m.

You can watch the meeting live below courtesy of Alabama Straw Poll:

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1 year ago

Medical marijuana bill clears Alabama Senate committee

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the Alabama legislature, giving hope to advocates after years of setbacks.

Audience members applauded as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 for the bill, putting it in line for a Senate floor vote later this session.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions — including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain — and purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, gummy cubes, oils, skin patches, gels and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

Advocates crowded into a public hearing at the Alabama Statehouse to watch the debate and tell lawmakers their stories.

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“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Colorado doctor who described the success of using medical marijuana on people with seizures and cancer.

Cristi Cain said her son Hardy’s debilitating seizures have been helped by CBD oil, now legal in Alabama, but said the higher doses that could help him more aren’t legal in the state. Hardy had as many as 100 seizures per day before trying the oil, and now has about 20 to 30, she said

“An area code shouldn’t affect one health’s care. If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees,” Cain said.

Another woman described how patches used in another state were the only thing that relieved her husband’s leg pain from Parkinson’s

The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement and conservative groups. They expressed concern about dosing, safety and the potential for abuse.

“Just because we put the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Capt. Clay Hammac said.

The Rev. Rick Hagans described addicts he buried. He said that although they obviously didn’t overdose on marijuana, they started their drug use with pot.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition that noted marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The vote was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is hopeful about the bill’s chances in 2020. He said there are multiple steps in the process of obtaining medical marijuana that should limit the danger of abuse.

“You are going to have to go to a physician. You are going to have to get a card. You are going to be on the (state) register,” Melson said. He defended the bill’s allowance of marijuana for a variety of conditions.

“I’m sure some people look at that 15 (conditions) and go, ‘Ýeah, really, that one?’ That’s because they don’t have it or don’t know the literature,” he said.

Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician who cast the lone no vote on the committee, said state medical marijuana laws circumvent the process of drug trials usually required to introduce a new medicine

Stutts said other medications have been “through the process and been through the trials that study its effectiveness and side effects” before patients get them.

Before the vote, Sen. Cam Ward described his late father’s battle with cancer.

“I would have given anything, anything, had he had a tablet to take, something to chew on, some drops to put in his food to avoid the nauseousness from the chemotherapy. That would have changed his life. As a human being, who am I to say … you can’t have that to make you feel better?” Ward said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Alabama House okays proposed teacher retirement change

(Pixbay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As the state faces a teacher shortage, the Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that proposes changes to retirement benefits to try to lure people to stay in the classroom.

Representatives voted unanimously for the bill called the Education Workforce Investment Act, which would alter the retirement structure for public education employees hired after 2013. The changes include allowing employees to retire with benefits after 30 years even if they haven’t reached age 62.

The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

“We have a shortage among educators, particularly we recognize the teachers in the classroom but it goes beyond that,” Republican Rep. Alan Baker of Brewton said. Baker said there are also shortages of bus drivers and other school employees.

The bill would reverse some of the changes lawmakers implemented in 2013 when they changed retirement structure for new hires because of concerns about the long-term cost of pension benefits. “It’s been deemed that might have been a slight over-correction,” Baker said.

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Currently, participants in the teachers retirement system are classified as Tier 1, if they were first hired before 2013, or Tier 2, if they were hired on, or after, Jan. 1, 2013. The tiers have different contribution rates, formulas and service requirements to collect benefits.

The bill would create anew Tier 3 retirement level and allow employees to retire at any age after 30 years of service with up to 80 percent of their final salary, Baker said. The bill alsoproposes increasingthe multiplier used in retirement calculations and allows employees to convert unused sick leave, similar to the Tier 1 system.

The bill would raise what employees must contribute to their retirement to make it the same as the old system. Tier 2 employees would be automatically shifted to Tier 3 unless they opt out of the change.

The bill passed without a dissenting vote, although Rep. Thomas Jackson criticized Republicans’ past cuts to educators’ benefits.

“It’s you all that took all that good stuff away from these good teachers in the state … I’m glad to know that you all saw the light and see where we are losing good teachers,“said Jackson, a Democrat.

Republican Rep. Bill Poole, who chairs the education budget committee, said it is a “reasonable” action.

“We’ve looked really hard at it. It’s part of the component of teacher recruitment and retention efforts to address a teacher shortage,” Poole, a Tuscaloosa Republican, said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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1 year ago

Alabama House passes bill limiting cities’ ability to levy occupational taxes

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala, (AP) — Alabama cities would be prohibited from enacting new occupational taxes without legislative permission, under a proposal approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers voted 74-27 for the bill that now moves to the Alabama Senate. The measure comes as the city of Montgomery explores the possibility of creating a 1% occupational tax.

The bill by Republican Rep. Chris Sells of Greenville would prohibit cities from enacting occupational taxes through their city councils. Local occupational taxes could still be enacted but would require the approval of a local bill in the Alabama legislature.

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The bill would not impact any existing occupational taxes.

Occupational taxes are taxes paid by people who work within the city limits.

Sells said many people work in a city, but live outside city limits. He said they have no representation on a city council debating an occupational tax.

“My goal is to give a voice to the people,” Sells said.

Opposed lawmakers said the proposal takes away from the autonomy of cities.

“It bothers me for us to play Big Brother in a sense to say, ‘OK, this is what you can and you cannot do,’” Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard) said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 year ago

Watch live: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers 2020 State of the State Address

Gov. Kay Ivey delivering the 2019 State of the State Address. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday evening will deliver her 2020 State of the State Address, and you can watch it live online here.

The address is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. CST in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol.

As previewed by Ivey recently, major topics of the address are expected to be the 2020 Census; criminal justice and corrections reform; healthcare in general; mental healthcare; and education reform.

Ivey will have five special guests attend the address:

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  • Brandie McCain was previously incarcerated and was among the first group of J.F. Ingram State Technical College students to earn the nationally recognized Certified Logistics Associate credential from the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council.
  • John Carroll is a retired Army Veteran that was struggling to find gainful employment until he was assisted by the Alabama Department of Labor and the Decatur Career Center.
  • Carl Flemons is a veteran’s representative at the Department of Labor and helped Carroll find a place of employment.
  • Joanne and Shanice Williams are the wife and daughter of the late Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams, who tragically lost his life in the line of duty in November 2019.

The State of the State Address will conclude the opening day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2020 regular session.

The live stream will begin at 6:00 p.m. CST below.

WATCH:

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2 years ago

Watch: Republican Women of Huntsville’s U.S. Senate candidate forum

(Screenshot/WHNT)

On Tuesday, the Republican Women of Huntsville hosted a U.S. Senate candidates forum at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens.

The forum featured former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs). It was moderated by Yellowhammer News’ Jeff Poor.

The candidates were given two minutes to open, followed by questions regarding various topics including trade, foreign policy, marijuana, debts and deficits, term limits and abortion with minute-and-a-half responses, and a two-minute close.

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