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.

1 week 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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3 weeks 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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3 weeks 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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3 weeks 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 month 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 month 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 month 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 month 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 month 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 month 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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2 months 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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2 months 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 months 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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3 months ago

Vigil held to pray for return of missing Trussville woman

(Pixabay)

TRUSSVILLE, ALA. (AP) — Dozens of people gathered at an Alabama church to pray for the safe return of a 29-year-old woman who disappeared in December.

Relatives and friends of Paighton Laine Houston gathered Monday night with worshipers at the Clearbranch United Methodist Church in Trussville, news outlets report. Parishioners were given candles and black bracelets that had a yellow bead “to remind you remind you that every time you see this bracelet it just takes one little light to overcome the whole darkness,” said Vaughn Stafford, the church’s lead pastor.

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Authorities have said Houston was last seen on Dec. 20 leaving a Birmingham bar with two men. It was reported that she left willingly, Birmingham police Sgt. Johnny Williams told Al.com. She reportedly texted a friend later that night saying she didn’t know who she was with and she felt like she was in trouble.

Authorities still are reviewing surveillance video, and it’s unclear if foul play was involved in Houston’s disappearance, Williams said.

“We’re pretty much in the same place that we were when we first reported her missing,’’ he said. “We don’t have any other leads. We’ve exhausted the ones we’ve had to this point, but we’ll continue to investigate and try to develop new leads.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has offered a cash reward in the case. That’s in addition to a $5,000 reward offered by Crime Stoppers.

“Unfortunately, another female is missing in the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. She referenced the disappearances of Aniah Blanchard and Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, both later found dead.

Ivey said the $5,000 reward is “to help encourage anyone with credible information to contact the appropriate authorities and help make that happen.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 months ago

Alabama police deaths rise; 5 of 6 killed with stolen guns

(Pixabay)

Six Alabama law enforcement officers have been shot and killed in 2019. State statistics show that’s the highest number in a year dating back to 1987.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says five of the six slain officers were killed with stolen guns.

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In addition to the shootings, a seventh Alabama police officer was killed in a car accident while responding to a burglary.

Nationally, 128 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the first 51 weeks of 2019. Only Texas, New York and California had more police deaths than Alabama.

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4 months ago

Judge orders DNA testing in Alabama teen’s disappearance

(Escambia County Jail/Contributed, Blanchard Family/Contributed)

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — A judge ordered DNA testing Wednesday for a man suspected in the kidnapping of an Alabama college student missing since last month.

Lee County District Judge Russell Bush granted a prosecution request to force Ibraheem Yazeed to submit DNA, which prosecutors said they wanted because male DNA was found in the missing teen’s car.

Yazeed, 29, is charged in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris. She was last seen Oct. 23 at a convenience store in Auburn.

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Blanchard’s father, mother and stepfather appeared tense as they watched a preliminary hearing for Yazeed, who sat shackled a few rows in the front of them wearing a white jail uniform.

The judge ruled there was probable cause for the case to proceed and said it will go to a grand jury.

Recounting evidence, Auburn police Detective Josh Mixon testified that convenience store video footage showed a man later identified by tipsters as Yazeed look at Blanchard in the store. A man at the store told investigators he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into her car and drive away.

“He observes Yazeed forcing Blanchard into her vehicle against her will,” Mixon said.

Mixon said the witness, who was staying at a hotel near the convenience store, didn’t immediately tell police what he saw after his girlfriend told him not to get involved. He said the witness cried over his delay in talking to police.

Blanchard’s car was found abandoned more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Mixon said Blanchard’s blood was in the car, and it appeared she had suffered a life-threatening injury.

Bush denied a defense request to grant Yazeed bail.

He also denied a defense request to have prosecutors disclose the identity of the witness whose testimony is the main evidence linking Yazeed to the girl’s disappearance. Prosecutors said they wanted to keep his identity closely guarded for his safety.

Defense lawyer Elijah Beaver noted the girl’s parents had done media interviews, including an appearance on the “Dr. Phil” television show despite a gag order that bars lawyers and potential witnesses from speaking with the media.

“Folks are going to remember stuff like that,” Beaver said. Beaver said that although he supports a gag order, it should be evenly enforced or the defense should also get to talk to the media.

District Attorney Brandon Hughes said the teens’ parents are just trying to find their daughter.

“They are grieving parents. They are trying to find their little girl,” Hughes said.

The judge said he would hold a hearing next month on a request from news organizations to lift the gag order.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 months ago

University of Alabama gives AD Greg Byrne raise, contract extension

(University of Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has given athletic director Greg Byrne a raise and one-year contract extension.

The university’s board of trustees compensation committee approved the new deal Tuesday. Byrne will make $1.3 million this year in the deal which dates back to July 1. That will go up to $1.54 million in the final year, 2025-26.

Byrne will also receive a supplemental retirement contribution rising from $300,000 in the first year to $450,000.

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He had received a raise and three-year extension in August 2018. That deal called for him to make $980,000 with annual $25,000 raises.

Byrne’s new deal also calls for the university to forgive the balance of an interest-free $400,000 loan Byrne received initially for relocating from Arizona to Tuscaloosa.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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5 months ago

Veteran helped by Alabama deputies could reconnect with son

(Morgan County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

JASPER, ALA. (AP) — A social media post about a veteran wearing an oxygen mask while walking down a road may help connect the man to his estranged son.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that the Gulf War veteran attempted to walk about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Walker County to Huntsville for an appointment Wednesday because his car wasn’t working.

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A Walker County deputy worked with other deputies to transport him to and from his appointment at the VA. News reports identify him as Gerald Baldwin.

The post has more than 150,000 shares. Baldwin’s son Lance in Pennsylvania saw the story and recognized his father. He told news outlets Sunday that the two hadn’t spoken in about five years. He now plans to reach out to his father.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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Editor’s note — The aforementioned Facebook post is as follows:

5 months ago

As expected, federal judge blocks Alabama abortion ban from taking effect

(PIxabay)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Alabama’s near-total abortion ban from taking effect next month, saying the law, part wave of new abortion restrictions by conservative states, is clearly unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an expected preliminary injunction temporarily blocking Alabama from enforcing the law that would make performing an abortion a felony in almost all cases. The ruling came after abortion providers sued to block the law from taking effect Nov. 15. The injunction will remain in place until Thompson decides the full case.

“Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Case Court precedent,” Thompson wrote in an accompanying opinion. “It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy. It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions. It defies the United States Constitution.”

Energized by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama and other conservative states have attempted to enact new restrictions on abortion in the hopes of getting Supreme Court justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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A number of states attempted to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Alabama law went further by attempting to ban almost all abortions with no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

Passed by the Republican-led legislature, the 2019 Alabama Human Life Protection Act would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exceptions would be when there is a serious health risk to the mother or the fetus has a lethal anomaly that would cause it to die shortly after birth.

None of the state bans has taken effect. Some have already been blocked, and elsewhere courts are considering requests to put them on hold while legal challenges play out.

“This is not only a victory for the people of Alabama — it’s a victory for the entire nation. We said it from the start: this ban is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight it every step of the way,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. Planned Parenthood was one of the groups that sued to block the law.

Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama said the decision was expected.

“Abortion remains legal in Alabama. The state’s repeated attempts to push abortion out of reach by enacting unconstitutional laws restricting abortions has already cost taxpayers nearly 2 ½ million dollars,” Marshall said. “This ill-advised law will cost taxpayers more money.”

Supporters of the Alabama law have also said they anticipated the action but hope to eventually convince the U.S. Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights. Alabama Republican Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the ban, said the ruling “is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey.”

“As we have stated before, the state’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in statement.

In a measured statement, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the ban reflects Alabamians beliefs, but that she also supports the “rule of law.”

“This legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Alabama Legislature and was signed into law as a testament to Alabamians’ longstanding belief that every human life is sacred. We must continue doing all we can to protect life,” Ivey said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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5 months ago

Body of Alabama’s Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney found; Two being charged

(Fred Davenport/Twitter)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Investigators searching through garbage found the body of a 3-year-old girl who was missing more than a week, and authorities are charging two people with murder, police said Tuesday.

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith told a news conference that the remains of Kamille McKinney were located in a trash bin that had been taken to a landfill. Police had been watching garbage deposits from a certain part of the city, he said.

Smith said police were obtaining murder warrants against two people previously identified as persons of interest in the case, 39-year-old Patrick Devone Stallworth and his 29-year-old girlfriend, Derick Irisha Brown.

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Lawyers for both have said they are innocent.

The child, known as “Cupcake” to relatives, vanished while outside a birthday party on Oct. 12. Investigators know of no link between the suspects and the girl or her family, Smith said.

“We believe this was something they thought about and acted upon. They saw an opportunity to take a young child, and they did,” said Smith, who did not reveal a potential motive.

Stallworth, arrested after officers located a vehicle seen near the abduction site, previously was charged with child pornography, but authorities said the charge wasn’t related to the missing child.

It wasn’t clear how long the child might have been dead. Mayor Randall Woodfin said the girl’s parents were experiencing “unimaginable” pain.

“This is a tough moment for our city, a tough moment for the family,” he said.

Gov. Kay Ivey, in a statement Tuesday night, offered her condolences to Kamille’s family.

“The heart of our state is broken…,” Ivey said. “Our prayers remain with Kamille’s family and all who have been touched by this nightmare.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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6 months ago

Yellowhammer Power Poll after college football week seven

With week seven of the college football season in the books, here are the top five teams in the Yellowhammer Power Poll:

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6 months ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE: Who’s next?

(YHN)

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

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

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

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

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Read more about the event here.

Curtis Bowden

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

Bradley Cox

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

Dalton Dismukes

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

Will Fuller

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

Nick Lawkis

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

Grace Newcombe

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

Jess Skaggs

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

Adam Thompson

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

6 months ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Saturday introduced the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list was released in four segments throughout the week, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 being published on Friday.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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

Read more about the event here.

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1. Kay Ivey

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.

She’s steered the ship through all of the noise – the politics, the gossip, the fluff – like a warm knife through butter, staying on course to a better future for our great state.

Ivey quickly became known as Alabama’s education governor through her Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, adding onto this legacy through her historic push to add 500,000 more skilled workers by 2025.

However, the progress certainly does not end there. From landmark economic development wins to increasing foreign trade opportunities, Alabama is winning big under Ivey’s steady hand.

The Rebuild Alabama Act will go down as a crowning jewel of her administration – not just the merits of the forward-thinking infrastructure package itself, but how she got it done. The legislation passed in stunningly overwhelming fashion because of Ivey’s personal ownership of the issue. She bulldogged the package to passage – certainly with the tremendous help of organizations like BCA, ALFA, the Road Builders, etc., but it would not have happened without the governor.

She faces two more big issues this coming year and through the end of her term: the prison system and rural healthcare/Medicaid.

How will Ivey continue to utilize her position as one of the most powerful and influential governors ever?

2. Del Marsh

It was 87 years ago this week when Babe Ruth called his shot during the third game of the World Series. In the top of the 5th inning, with two strikes on him, Ruth pointed to the centerfield wall then promptly hit the next pitch over the fence.

Del Marsh called his shot twice this year – and hit home runs each time.

In the months leading up to the 2019 legislative session, Marsh told anyone who would listen that he intended to pass a huge infrastructure package and a historic education reform proposal. Insiders viewed Marsh’s plans with skepticism, while many supportive stakeholders even continued to express pessimism.

If conventional wisdom was supposed to dictate action, someone forgot to tell Marsh.

The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate immediately powered through the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure legislation during a special session. In doing so, he left no doubt about his clout in what may prove to be a generational, game-changing boost to the Yellowhammer State’s roads, bridges and waterways.

During a conversation with Yellowhammer News following the passage of Rebuild Alabama, we asked Marsh if the collective temperament of the legislature would allow for any other major pieces of legislation. He reacted as if we were speaking in tongues.

Marsh was not finished. He next set out to pass legislation enabling a constitutional amendment reforming the state school board and abolishing Common Core. Once considered an issue no one would even attempt to take on, Marsh whipped the bills through the legislature and onto the next statewide ballot.

Two for two out of the park.

Like so many others on this list, Marsh never stops. So while his next power move may not be readily apparent, do not expect him to slow down. He is a reformer and a wildly successful businessman who has a genuine interest in seeing his state improve.

In the meantime, Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people within his generation of public servants.

3. Zeke Smith

Zeke Smith has worked to establish the largest and most comprehensive external affairs effort in the state. Everything from lobbying to public relations to regulatory affairs to charitable giving falls under his purview as executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power Company.

An array of responsibilities that affect 1.4 million customers and 7,000 employees in Alabama require that Smith have an abundance of exceptional traits.

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.

As with most high-performing individuals, a function of his success has been his ability to extend beyond the discipline in which he trained. An Auburn University graduate with a degree in engineering, Smith has had a distinguished career and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame earlier this year. Now, at this point in his career, he finds himself in a position where a mastery of politics and a firm grasp of people’s motivation are essential to the job.

Assembling a top-notch team to carry out the external affairs mission has been a key component to his success. To work for him means you have been vetted, and it has been verified that you can deliver. Smith carries with him a calm urgency to his actions, and he expects results.

All of this has contributed to the end result, which is that he, perhaps more than anyone else in Alabama, receives the first phone call from aspiring office-seekers. Nothing speaks more to power and influence than when people operate under the premise that they need your support to succeed.

For most of us, the names and numbers on our “Recents” call screen are in black to designate outgoing calls. We imagine Smith has nothing but red on his.

He operates at a level of power and influence where the air is thin.

4. Mac McCutcheon

You will find no kinder a person, no more of a gentleman in elected office than Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.

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.

Honored with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service Award last year, McCutcheon has continued in 2019 to be an ideal role model for people young and old looking for the best of humanity in their public servants.

How he carries himself only adds to the considerable, inherent power and influence of his office.

The members of the House listen to McCutcheon not just because he has the gavel – but because they like him and respect him. This stems for the personal interest that he takes in all of the members. For McCutcheon, being speaker is a solemn duty – and the House membership is like a family.

McCutcheon will have another tough challenge ahead as the criminal justice and prison issue comes to a head in 2020 (with Medicaid still hovering). But if anyone can handle it, it’s him – with empathy and patience.

5. Jo Bonner

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.

Bonner has been the epitome of a statesman throughout it all and now runs the day-to-day operations of state government. A third act that would beat the first of most in politics and government.

He not only has the governor’s ear but is, in effect, the governor’s ears and voice on many matters.

Everyone with dealings on Goat Hill knows that Bonner is the gatekeeper to Ivey, and he has put together a top-notch staff that runs the governor’s office like a well-oiled machine with him leading the charge.

Bonner’s contributions to the state’s current historic success might be behind the scenes, but they are well recognized by those in the know. Bonner is by far the most impactful non-elected official in state government right now and will continue to be as long as he serves.

6. Katie Boyd Britt

Talk about a baptism by fire.

Katie Boyd Britt and her newly assembled BCA governmental affairs team were thrown into a legislative battle for the ages to kick this year off.

Working together seamlessly – and tirelessly – the Britt-led BCA helped guide Rebuild Alabama to passage. The work was not easy. In fact, it was the stuff of lobbying lore, an accomplishment to be bragged about for decades to come. But they did it with a smile on, a gleam in their eye. The only acceptable result was going to be success, and the end result was the final vote exceeding all expectations.

It all starts with Britt. From the very first day on the job, this ex-chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby effortlessly looked like the power and influence he wields rubbed right off on her.

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 Shelby, whenever the venerable senator does decide to call it quits.

Whether she is interested or not remains to be seen, but regardless she is going to be one of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people quite possibly for the next half-century.

And the people of our state will be better off because of it.

7. Bill Poole

Bill Poole might just be the most powerful non-Speaker member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Ever.

Talk about a guy who could do whatever his heart desired – Poole’s blend of intelligence, charisma, work ethic and integrity have led him to be a rising star in Alabama politics since his freshman year in the House.

Every year, that star has gotten brighter, and this past session just exacerbated that trend.

Poole’s stalwart leadership as sponsor of the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was one of the most impressive feats in recent legislative history.

However, his performance really came as little surprise to those who had observed the statehouse this decade.

Everyone in the chamber likes Bill Poole – and they respect him without exception.

His reputation inside and outside the membership has been well earned. He treats people right, leads by example and delivers results time after time.

His excellent chairmanship of the education budget committee in the House wields him power and influence already, but Poole exponentially has increased his stock over recent years well beyond a normal leader in the House.

What’s next for Poole? Well, the sky is the limit.

Could we soon have another statesman-like U.S. senator from Tuscaloosa?

Whatever he chooses to do, Poole will excel – and Alabamians will continue to reap the rewards.

8. Joe Perkins

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.

Perkins founded the robust, yet mysterious, Matrix firm. He and his firm occupy a unique space in the world of Alabama politics. The variety of clients he serves is remarkable. From some of the state’s biggest companies to some that could be construed as ‘mom and pop shops’ if not for their success. His work is not limited to industry, and he has a hand in the activities of trade and business associations from small, specialized groups to the very biggest.

And what he does is different.

He’s not a lobbyist. He’s not engaged in a governmental affairs practice. He consults on strategy and direction for different organizations. He provides public relations expertise carefully calculated to position his client in just the right space.

And it all goes back to the people, companies and campaigns at which he is directing his focus. He is the invisible guiding hand behind major initiatives, campaigns and state institutions of higher education. He is quiet counsel to high-ranking officials and regional decision-makers.

Trying to explain Perkins’ power and influence is far more difficult than his ability to exert it.

9. Quentin Riggins

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.

His service on the powerful Auburn University Board of Trustees is plenty for one person. However, Riggins also serves on the boards of Grandview Medical Center, the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC, the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Institute. He has previously served on the boards of Leadership Alabama and the Baptist Foundation.

Then there is the work he does as senior vice president of governmental and corporate affairs for Alabama Power Company. He heads up the company’s state and federal government affairs program, which is a vast and yet intricate undertaking. Riggins is able to pull from more than 25 years of service in the arena in representing the interests of one of the state’s largest employers.

Not to be forgotten, though, is his orchestration of one of the purest flexes of political muscle in several years.

Riggins oversaw the forceful changing of the guard at the Business Council of Alabama which set in motion a series of events resulting in the implementation of two monumental policy initiatives enacted to move Alabama forward: Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion. Riggins’ plan for new leadership at BCA allowed the organization to establish the type of clout and cohesion necessary for success.

Riggins’ ability to look out over the horizon is a scarce commodity and produces uncommon power and influence.

10. Arthur Orr

Is there a single penny spent in the state of Alabama on education that Arthur Orr does not know about? Short answer: no.

Orr is the chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee. This means he is the point man for his chamber on the $7 billion pot of money which funds Alabama’s education system. The size of the budget brings with it a hefty responsibility – and tremendous power and influence.

Almost halfway through his second decade as a member of the State Senate, Orr has now also clocked enough time as budget chair that he knows every corner of education funding and every mechanism available for appropriation. He has established near-total control of his chamber’s spending and priorities.

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.

With the clout of the education budget in his corner, he is also not afraid to take on tough budget reform fights from which others shy away, like ABC privatization and welfare reform.

Brick by brick, Orr has built a fortress of political power and influence.

11. Bob Geddie

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.

Geddie, reverently known as the firm’s House of Representatives specialist, has lobbying down to a science.

Institutional knowledge, skill, charisma and relationships – it sounds like a formula. But Geddie makes it look like an art form.

Some of Alabama’s biggest businesses trust Geddie on policy advocacy issues, and for good reason. However, his power and influence does not stop at being one of the – if not the very — top contract lobbyists in the state.

Aided by Fine Geddie’s network of PACs and Geddie’s own chess master-like strategic vision, he is one of the best minds political candidates and elected officials could hope to have advising them.

Geddie has been a high-ranking fixture on this list since its inception, and his stature only looks to continue rising.

12. Robbie McGhee

Robbie McGhee starts every day with the same mission: represent and protect the interests of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

What might seem to be a narrowly-focused approach can actually be an arduous task. McGhee and his tribe sit in a position of great strength in Alabama. They have established a thriving gaming and entertainment business across the state. This success has sprung a healthy corporate citizenship through charitable endeavors, job creation and electioneering.

The challenge for McGhee comes when others set out to siphon off the strength of the tribe. This causes him to be on constant alert for people trying to harm their interests.

During those occurrences, 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.

The experience he brings also counts for something. 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.

The wins for McGhee continue to pile up year after year. And so does his power and influence.

13. Steve Windom

Steve Windom might just be the perfect case study for those looking to make it big in the world of governmental affairs and lobbying.

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.

Windom is one of the go-to lobbyists if you want a bill passed. In addition to his relationship building, his first-hand knowledge of the process and status as a former legislator and lieutenant governor give him a special edge over many contract firms.

However, his expertise does not stop in the public policy arena.

Windom’s reputation as a fundraising machine continues to grow every election cycle – and for good reason. He can raise statewide candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars before lunch if he wants to, making him a political powerbroker unmatched in power and influence by all but a handful of colleagues.

14. Jabo Waggoner

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.

Of course, there’s also the fact that he holds the power of legislative process in the palm of his hand. Guess who determines what does and does not get debated on the floor of the Alabama Senate? Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner. Every. Single. Bill.

In the most deliberative body, the place where it is hardest to pass a bill, that’s a monumental – and immeasurably powerful – responsibility.

Whether visiting the chairman as a constituent, a friend or someone looking to have a bill placed on the calendar, our advice would be to soak it up. Learn something. Allow yourself to get a civics lesson from someone who has served in the Alabama legislature for more than 50 years. Pay attention to how vital personal skills are to effectiveness.

There are a lot of things to learn from Jabo Waggoner. At the very least, know that he is a very powerful man.

15. Steve Marshall

From the first second he stepped to the microphone after being appointed attorney general in 2017, Steve Marshall has dazzled.

Charisma. Intelligence. Compassion. Fortitude. Integrity.

Marshall has passed every test imaginable and made Alabama a safer, better place because of his service.

And for him, that’s the only thought.

This is a public servant who could do whatever he wanted – U.S. senator, governor, you name it and Steve Marshall would win that election in a heartbeat and serve with distinction.

However, Marshall has the only job he ever wanted right now. 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.

An even better man, Marshall will go down as one of the best attorneys general in state history.

16. Greg Reed

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.

Reed has a palpable, strong presence evident to anyone who spends more than a minute with him. He is poised under pressure and demonstrates a statesman-like demeanor whether in the company of few or of many. And the best thing about this is that, with Reed, it’s real.

Leading the majority caucus in the state senate can be the most challenging position in the statehouse. By virtue of being in the majority, each caucus member is in a position to influence the body in individual ways. That’s tough to manage. Reed has stepped in and not only helped maintain order but has guided some ambitious agenda items to passage.

One area where he excels and probably does not get enough credit is his grasp of policy. On issues affecting the coal industry, small business, economic development and agriculture, Reed could teach a semester class if he were afforded the time.

Reed’s star is bright and is set to get even brighter.

17. Will Ainsworth

People jest about the lieutenant governor’s office in Alabama having essentially no real power; “light” governor, some quip.

Will Ainsworth has completely changed this narrative, just in his first year on the job.

Political observers and industry titans around the Yellowhammer State have marveled at how Ainsworth has carried himself since winning in 2018 – and how he continues to maneuver every day, increasing his power and influence, growing his network.

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 endorsement is coveted in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Whether it was stepping in to give the Mobile I-10 Bridge toll project a death blow or his stalwart, forward-thinking leadership on workforce development, small business and veterans issues, Ainsworth has picked his battles – and policy endeavors – perfectly.

His career is still just getting started, and Ainsworth will be elected to whatever job he wants in 2022.

18. Dax Swatek

Dax Swatek is one of the smartest people in Alabama politics. Some people simply have a natural ability to see all the angles, exits and useable space when they enter a room. Swatek is like that when it comes to political issues and public policy initiatives.

He’s an elite strategist whom clients call and say, “Tell me what my plan needs to be to pass this bill.” 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.

With more than two decades now in Montgomery power circles, he has assembled a strong team behind him at his firm Swatek, Vaughn & Bryan and has long-standing relationships with leadership in both chambers and the executive branch. His client list is chock full of blue-chippers, and his alliance with the downtown Birmingham business community is especially strong.

Add it all up and you get a lobbyist who has figured out the recipe for sustained power and influence.

19. Horace Horn

Horace Horn is an unsung hero of Alabama’s current economic boon.

His record of longtime dedicated service could fill up a book, and the brighter future he has helped pave the way for will be celebrated through Yellowhammer’s 2019 Power of Service Award.

However, make no mistake about it: Horn has not just accomplished a lot over time – he is still one of the state’s most powerful and influential people.

As PowerSouth’s vice president for external affairs, Horn continues to be a gladiator for rural Alabama. He played a major role behind the scenes in historic broadband legislation passing this session, and the PowerSouth Playbook continues to help deliver economic development wins – as evidenced by Site Selection’s recent praise of the company.

A legend still at the top of his game, there is no better advocate to have on your side than Horace Horn.

20. Greg Albritton

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. Take for example his bill reforming the marriage license process in Alabama. Albritton ran into roadblocks to the passage of that bill in multiple legislative sessions, but he kept at it and now it is law.

Albritton often finds himself in the middle of some of the more controversial legislative fights while representing the interests of his district. There are at least a few times a session where he will dig in and not move – all with a smile on his face.

Those things make his power and influence notable. However, Albritton also chairs one of the two budget committees in the State Senate.

As the Senate’s lead appropriator for the general fund (the poor cousin to the education trust fund), Albritton is in a position where it is impossible to make everyone happy. Sometimes, though, power and influence rests in the ability to tell people “no.” He’s pretty good at that, and it’s necessary given the fact that requesting general fund appropriations is about like standing in a bread line in a former eastern bloc country.

Albritton is conservative and thoughtful in his budgeting practices and crafty with his deal-making. So it’s no surprise to see him land on this list.

21. Houston Smith

Every organization needs an individual who can maintain a full-view awareness of where it needs to go. In Houston Smith, Alabama Power Company has found that person.

Smith is equipped with a discerning vision for the direction his home state needs to go in order to become the best version of itself. A solver of big problems, he is skillful at utilizing contacts throughout the country to understand best practices that can be brought to Alabama on the major issues such as economic development, infrastructure and quality of life enhancement.

The Alabama legislature has taken on several large-scale initiatives in the past year, and Smith served as a field general for stakeholder involvement. On issues like Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion, Smith managed the totality of the effort including public relations, lobbying and assessing the policy impact.

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.

22. Clay Ryan

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

Clay Ryan, now the UA System’s vice chancellor for governmental affairs and economic/workforce development, has his finger on the pulse of Alabama politics like few others in recent memory, to go along with the exhaustive list of pressing policy issues that he covers.

From healthcare to workforce development to infrastructure, Ryan and the many unique strengths of the System’s three campuses have been integral recently in the major issues facing decision-makers in Montgomery.

Well-known for his relationship building, Ryan is near the very top of the list when candidates begin their fundraising calls.

He’s got the keys to the well-oiled juggernaut that is the System’s political operation, making him one of Alabama’s most sought after contacts. Ryan should be a fixture on this list for years to come.

23. Steve Clouse

This veteran cat wrangler oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House.

With all of that thankless responsibility comes overt power and influence.

This coming year, that responsibility will be even heavier – and his sway even greater – with funding of the state’s corrections system and CHIP as two of the biggest hurdles of the session.

Clouse will be in the spotlight – just as he was this spring when carrying Sen. Albritton’s clean lottery proposal.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse might need every ounce of his statesmanship to navigate the potential land mines of 2020.

He has been adept at doing so before and shows no sign of letting up.

24. R.B. Walker

R.B. Walker’s ascension on Alabama’s ladder of power and influence has been an impressive watch for political observers – yet entirely predictable.

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.

Walker does not just have relationships, he knows people well. And that is why he is a reservoir for everyone’s favorite political currency: information. All of which is a testament to his work ethic. It would not take much to convince us that Walker works 24 hours a day. He is seemingly “always-on,” while maintaining a fierce loyalty to his company and its objectives.

It is impossible in the business of politics to accurately measure what someone’s ceiling looks like until they actually hit it. But we’re pretty confident Walker’s ceiling is Sistine Chapel level stuff.

25. Ginger Avery-Buckner

Ginger Avery-Buckner possesses the traits one would expect from someone running one of the state’s largest legal organizations and representing it in front of state policy-makers. Her approach on behalf of the Alabama Association for Justice is highly organized and never strays from the best interest and mission of the group.

She has the strong support of her members which has allowed her to perfect the method of harnessing their grassroots support for the association’s agenda.

And then there are the times when she achieves results for her members through sheer will. 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.

This has resulted in the frequent practice of other legislators and other lobbyists – who don’t want to end up on the wrong side of her spreadsheet – proactively seeking Avery-Buckner out on issues that they think might affect her members.

That’s evidence of the type of power and influence that has landed Avery-Buckner on this list.

26. Mike Jones

The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Mike Jones carries a big stick in the State House.

His committee determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, with the well-respected Jones having the ability to set legislative priorities. This enviable negotiating position puts Jones in a prime spot to best serve his constituents’ local priorities in south Alabama.

Firm but fair, Jones unquestionably has a strong hand on the lever of power as the House’s legislative gatekeeper.

If another ethics reform package is to come up in 2020, expect Jones to take a more proactive role this time around in what is sure to be one of the session’s most important debates.

However, there is a rumor going around that Jones could be in line for another gig soon. Right now, Jones clearly remains one of the House’s most influential members.

27. Dave Stewart

In the world of law firms, lobbying has long been thought of as merely a value-add in the service of existing clients. Heavy-lifting, it was thought, should be left to smaller firms dedicated solely to the practice.

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.

Perhaps it is Stewart’s business background and his statewide contacts in the business community that have contributed significantly to the growth of the Bradley firm’s lobbying practice. Those things, combined with a relentless work ethic and his commitment to grow his business, matter.

It could also the product of someone who has a reputation for being trustworthy and possessing an uncanny grasp of the issues. Regardless, Stewart has earned his spot among Alabama’s most powerful and influential.

28. Sommer Vaughn

Author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that the key to being successful at something is 10,000 hours of practice. We don’t know where Sommer Vaughn is on that timeline, but she must be close judging by the success she has enjoyed thus far.

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. For some lobbyists, the House of Representatives can seem like a daunting body in which to work based on the outright numbers and the work it takes dealing with 105 members.

Not Vaughn. Her deep roots in the lower chamber have allowed her to flourish. She also works seamlessly across party lines and in multiple agencies and branches of government.

Vaughn is driven to be great. So the rest of Alabama’s political world is on notice as she continues to hone her craft hour by hour.

29. Paul Pinyan

The Alabama Farmers Federation made the first major move in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race by endorsing Tommy Tuberville over a handful of former and current elected officials last week.

Pinyan, as the organization’s executive director, finds himself right back in the thick of another heated statewide race. He was integral in the 2018 election cycle getting an incredible number of FarmPAC endorsed candidates over the finish line – and Tuberville will now hope that Pinyan’s hot streak continues.

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.

With a team that includes the likes of rising star Matthew Durdin and former Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Pinyan is one of the most influential behind-the-scenes power players in Alabama.

30. Ben Patterson

He’s “The Professor” in Montgomery.

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.

While most know him for his diligent work with his current firm, the powerful Fine Geddie & Associates, Patterson holds a doctorate and quite literally taught classes in state and local government, as well as American politics, at the University of Alabama.

His experience in both the public and private sectors lend to his library of knowledge, too.

Prior to joining Fine Geddie in 2004, he served as the state’s deputy finance director under two governors. Patterson also had a stint as the state’s chief information officer in the 1990s and worked in governmental affairs for both the BCA and the Alabama Bankers Association.

Already powerful and influential, Patterson is poised to soon play an even bigger role in the State House.

31. Ted Hosp

Normally, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend. However, Ted Hosp is someone who has never backed down from a challenge.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama named Hosp its new vice president of Governmental Affairs earlier this year. Hosp replaced the retiring Robin Stone, a longtime fixture among Alabama’s political power players.

Hosp had previously worked for a governor and was the lead partner for the Maynard, Cooper & Gale governmental affairs practice. During his time as a lawyer/lobbyist for Maynard, Hosp had a reputation for taking on some of the biggest issues and toughest issues on behalf of his clients looking to affect public policy. Not to mention Hosp has probably written more pieces of legislation that are now Alabama law than anyone in the statehouse would like to admit.

Hosp is now the governmental affairs point person for a company that has 3 million members in Alabama and employs 3,600 people. With the weight of that presence behind him, his power and influence will only increase.

32. Josh Blades

Josh Blades has been ahead of the curve at every point in his life. The Sylacauga native was recognized as the city’s youngest entrepreneur at age 15 after opening a full-service archery shop, and he has never looked back.

One of the most visibly focused lobbyists in the statehouse, Blades is a member of the Bradley firm’s Governmental Affairs and Economic Development practice group. He has worked for a governor, a speaker of the House, a successful statewide campaign and established a thriving lobbying practice at an age before most people accomplish one of those things.

An avid bow hunter, Blades possesses the type of background and personality that relates to almost everyone, which is one of the most overlooked traits to successful lobbying. 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.

33. Derek Trotter

Spoiler alert: The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate is a powerful man. And so it’s no surprise that his chief of staff also wields significant power and influence.

Derek Trotter has served as Del Marsh’s chief of staff for nearly a year and maximized his influence quickly.

Trotter brought with him a useful blend of experience. He has served as a communications director for a statewide campaign and for Marsh in an earlier term. His background as a legislative liaison for the executive branch as well as a governmental affairs consultant in the private sector allowed him to hit the ground running as the pro tem’s chief of staff.

More than anything, though, Trotter is an operator in the statehouse on behalf of his boss. He knows Marsh’s priorities, he knows the bills that will be on the calendar and he is tasked with being Marsh’s point person in communicating with other senators.

This activity gives Trotter the two most valuable commodities in the statehouse: relationships and information. The person who knows the secrets – however mundane they may seem – automatically owns influence.

And that is where Trotter finds himself.

34. Nathaniel Ledbetter

Following its conclusion, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter wrote that the 2019 legislative session may go down as “the most important and influential of its time.”

It is fitting then that political observers around the State House are widely taking notice of the integral role Ledbetter had in its success. To put it succinctly, Ledbetter may go down as one of “the most powerful and influential” majority leaders of his time.

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.

With the leadership duo of him and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) at the helm, the House GOP Caucus has real pull in Montgomery.

35. Mark Tuggle

After choosing not to seek reelection to the State House in 2018, Mark Tuggle has found an even better gig in the chamber – chief of staff to Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Tuggle seems right at home on the dais. Whether it be his ingrained knowledge of the body’s rules and procedures or his built-in working relationships with many of the current members, Tuggle’s status as a former member helped him slide right in to a role of tangible power and influence to kick of this quadrennium.

This Alexander City Republican is now the lead gatekeeper to one of the most powerful people in the state. With contentious issues like criminal justice and prison reform coming up, along with the constant specter of lottery and gambling issues, Tuggle plays a crucial part behind the scenes in the legislative process.

36. Mike Cole

Mike Cole has been omnipresent in the halls of the legislature and the buildings around Montgomery for decades. Cole belongs in the category of powerful and influential people who quietly go about their business with a steady approach to lobbying within a wide swath of state government offices.

Few can match the breadth of subject matter in Cole’s governmental affairs practice. From healthcare to utility regulation to economic development to county and municipal issues, his experience and versatility put him in a position to pull levers inaccessible to others in the industry.

And 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 the many of the state’s tech leaders.

37. Cam Ward

Cam Ward, a perennial member of this annual Power & Influence list, is poised to have his biggest day in the spotlight yet.

When the Alabama legislature takes on a monumental criminal justice and prison reform package in the spring, Ward will be at the forefront – and at his most powerful and influential moment of his career thus far.

Serving in the Alabama Senate since 2010, Ward is known throughout Montgomery as a legislator eager to cross the aisle on issues of importance. Look for him to be one of the driving forces trying to get Republicans and Democrats on the same page in 2020 amidst the presidential election cycle doing quite the opposite.

While Ward as the Senate Judiciary chairman is known for his bipartisanship, his district includes a very red chunk of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. As evidenced by his social media posts (and his accessibility across these platforms), much of this is a result of his diligent work back at home.

38. Greg Butrus

Most lawyers are like the highway patrol: You only want to see them when you need them.

Greg Butrus is the exception.

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.

He holds extensive knowledge in the areas of state and federal legislation, public policy, government relations, campaign finance law, state and federal energy policy, regulatory affairs and economic development. By no means is that an exhaustive list of Butrus’ areas of expertise, which leads him into the middle of countless pieces of legislation and agency actions.

Astute business leaders pursue Butrus’ counsel rather than wait until they really need it.

39. David Cole

David Cole must have been born to lobby.

While this was already evident during his time at the Alabama Farmers Federation, Cole has seized the opportunity of working for the better-than-ever Business Council of Alabama with both hands.

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.

However, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt struck gold when she hired both Cole and Molly Cagle to lead the organization’s governmental & political affairs shop.

These two are no longer rising stars. They have made it, and Britt has built a tenacious powerhouse for years to come.

40. Clyde Chambliss

Through thick and thin, State Senator Clyde Chambliss was at the center of seemingly every major legislative battle this spring.

The Autauga County legislator carried the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package in his chamber, also taking a leading role on the crucial accountability and transparency portions of the legislation.

His session certainly did not end there.

Chambliss’ real 15 minutes came as the Senate point person on HB 314, the abortion ban legislation.

A meticulous, detail-oriented public servant, Chambliss has steadily become one of the most powerful and influential members of the upper chamber to start the quadrennium – including serving as the GOP floor leader.

He is expected to play a major part in the upcoming criminal justice and prison reform debate, so do not anticipate this status changing this upcoming session.

6 months ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 1-10

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Friday released the fourth and final segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list has been released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first followed by 21-30 and 11-20.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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Read more about the event here.

10. Arthur Orr

Is there a single penny spent in the state of Alabama on education that Arthur Orr does not know about? Short answer: no.

Orr is the chairman of the senate education budget committee. This means he is the point man for his chamber on the $7 billion pot of money which funds Alabama’s education system. The size of the budget brings with it a hefty responsibility – and tremendous power and influence.

Almost halfway through his second decade as a member of the state senate, Orr has now also clocked enough time as budget chair that he knows every corner of education funding and every mechanism available for appropriation. He has established near total control of his chamber’s spending and priorities.

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.

With the clout of the education budget in his corner, he is also not afraid to take on tough budget reform fights from which others shy away, like ABC privatization and welfare reform.

Brick by brick, Orr has built a fortress of political power and influence.

9. Quentin Riggins

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.

His service on the powerful Auburn University Board of Trustees is plenty for one person. However, Riggins also serves on the boards of Grandview Medical Center, the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC, the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Institute. He has previously served on the boards of Leadership Alabama and the Baptist Foundation.

Then there is the work he does as senior vice president of governmental and corporate affairs for Alabama Power Company. He heads up the company’s state and federal government affairs program, which is a vast and yet intricate undertaking. Riggins is able to pull from more than 25 years of service in the arena in representing the interests of one of the state’s largest employers.

Not to be forgotten, though, is his orchestration of one of the purest flexes of political muscle in several years.

Riggins oversaw the forceful changing of the guard at the Business Council of Alabama which set in motion a series of events resulting in the implementation of two monumental policy initiatives enacted to move Alabama forward: Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion. Riggins’ plan for new leadership at BCA allowed the organization to establish the type of clout and cohesion necessary for success.

Riggins’ ability to look out over the horizon is a scarce commodity and produces uncommon power and influence.

8. Joe Perkins

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.

Perkins founded the robust, yet mysterious, Matrix firm. He and his firm occupy a unique space in the world of Alabama politics. The variety of clients he serves is remarkable. From some of the state’s biggest companies to some that could be construed as ‘mom and pop shops’ if not for their success. His work is not limited to industry, and he has a hand in the activities of trade and business associations from small, specialized groups to the very biggest.

And what he does is different.

He’s not a lobbyist. He’s not engaged in a governmental affairs practice. He consults on strategy and direction for different organizations. He provides public relations expertise carefully calculated to position his client in just the right space.

And it all goes back to the people, companies and campaigns at which he is directing his focus. He is the invisible guiding hand behind major initiatives, campaigns and state institutions of higher education. He is quiet counsel to high-ranking officials and regional decision-makers.

Trying to explain Perkins’ power and influence is far more difficult than his ability to exert it.

7. Bill Poole

Bill Poole might just be the most powerful non-Speaker member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Ever.

Talk about a guy who could do whatever his heart desired – Poole’s blend of intelligence, charisma, work ethic and integrity have led him to be a rising star in Alabama politics since his freshman year in the House.

Every year, that star has gotten brighter, and this past session just exacerbated that trend.

Poole’s stalwart leadership as sponsor of the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was one of the most impressive feats in recent legislative history.

However, his performance really came as little surprise to those who had observed the statehouse this decade.

Everyone in the chamber likes Bill Poole – and they respect him without exception.

His reputation inside and outside the membership has been well earned. He treats people right, leads by example and delivers results time after time.

His excellent chairmanship of the education budget committee in the House wields him power and influence already, but Poole exponentially has increased his stock over recent years well beyond a normal leader in the House.

What’s next for Poole? Well, the sky is the limit.

Could we soon have another statesman-like U.S. senator from Tuscaloosa?

Whatever he chooses to do, Poole will excel – and Alabamians will continue to reap the rewards.

6. Katie Boyd Britt

Talk about a baptism by fire.

Katie Boyd Britt and her newly assembled BCA governmental affairs team were thrown into a legislative battle for the ages to kick this year off.

Working together seamlessly – and tirelessly – the Britt-led BCA helped guide Rebuild Alabama to passage. The work was not easy. In fact, it was the stuff of lobbying lore, an accomplishment to be bragged about for decades to come. But they did it with a smile on, a gleam in their eye. The only acceptable result was going to be success, and the end result was the final vote exceeding all expectations.

It all starts with Britt. From the very first day on the job, this ex-chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby effortlessly looked like the power and influence he wields rubbed right off on her.

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 Shelby, whenever the venerable senator does decide to call it quits.

Whether she is interested or not remains to be seen, but regardless she is going to be one of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people quite possibly for the next half-century.

And the people of our state will be better off because of it.

5. Jo Bonner

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.

Bonner has been the epitome of a statesman throughout it all and now runs the day-to-day operations of state government. A third act that would beat the first of most in politics and government.

He not only has the governor’s ear but is, in effect, the governor’s ears and voice on many matters.

Everyone with dealings on Goat Hill knows that Bonner is the gatekeeper to Ivey, and he has put together a top-notch staff that runs the governor’s office like a well-oiled machine with him leading the charge.

Bonner’s contributions to the state’s current historic success might be behind the scenes, but they are well recognized by those in the know. Bonner is by far the most impactful non-elected official in state government right now and will continue to be as long as he serves.

4. Mac McCutcheon

You will find no kinder a person, no more of a gentleman in elected office than Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.

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.

Honored with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service Award last year, McCutcheon has continued in 2019 to be an ideal role model for people young and old looking for the best of humanity in their public servants.

How he carries himself only adds to the considerable, inherent power and influence of his office.

The members of the House listen to McCutcheon not just because he has the gavel – but because they like him and respect him. This stems for the personal interest that he takes in all of the members. For McCutcheon, being speaker is a solemn duty – and the House membership is like a family.

McCutcheon will have another tough challenge ahead as the criminal justice and prison issue comes to a head in 2020 (with Medicaid still hovering). But if anyone can handle it, it’s him – with empathy and patience.

3. Zeke Smith

Zeke Smith has worked to establish the largest and most comprehensive external affairs effort in the state. Everything from lobbying to public relations to regulatory affairs to charitable giving falls under his purview as executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power Company.

An array of responsibilities that affect 1.4 million customers and 7,000 employees in Alabama require that Smith have an abundance of exceptional traits.

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.

As with most high-performing individuals, a function of his success has been his ability to extend beyond the discipline in which he trained. An Auburn University graduate with a degree in engineering, Smith has had a distinguished career and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame earlier this year. Now, at this point in his career, he finds himself in a position where a mastery of politics and a firm grasp of people’s motivation are essential to the job.

Assembling a top-notch team to carry out the external affairs mission has been a key component to his success. To work for him means you have been vetted, and it has been verified that you can deliver. Smith carries with him a calm urgency to his actions, and he expects results.

All of this has contributed to the end result, which is that he, perhaps more than anyone else in Alabama, receives the first phone call from aspiring office-seekers. Nothing speaks more to power and influence than when people operate under the premise that they need your support to succeed.

For most of us, the names and numbers on our ‘Recents’ call screen are in black to designate outgoing calls. We imagine Smith has nothing but red on his.

He operates at a level of power and influence where the air is thin.

2. Del Marsh

It was 87 years ago this week when Babe Ruth called his shot during the third game of the World Series. In the top of the 5th inning, with two strikes on him, Ruth pointed to the centerfield wall then promptly hit the next pitch over the fence.

Del Marsh called his shot twice this year – and hit home runs each time.

In the months leading up to the 2019 legislative session, Marsh told anyone who would listen that he intended to pass a huge infrastructure package and a historic education reform proposal. Insiders viewed Marsh’s plans with skepticism, while many supportive stakeholders even continued to express pessimism.

If conventional wisdom was supposed to dictate action, someone forgot to tell Marsh.

The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate immediately powered through the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure legislation during a special session. In doing so, he left no doubt about his clout in what may prove to be a generational, game-changing boost to the Yellowhammer State’s roads, bridges and waterways.

During a conversation with Yellowhammer News following the passage of Rebuild Alabama, we asked Marsh if the collective temperament of the legislature would allow for any other major pieces of legislation. He reacted as if we were speaking in tongues.

Marsh was not finished. He next set out to pass legislation enabling a constitutional amendment reforming the state school board and abolishing Common Core. Once considered an issue no one would even attempt to take on, Marsh whipped the bills through the legislature and onto the next statewide ballot.

Two for two out of the park.

Like so many others on this list, Marsh never stops. So while his next power move may not be readily apparent, do not expect him to slow down. He is a reformer and a wildly successful businessman who has a genuine interest in seeing his state improve.

In the meantime, Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people within his generation of public servants.

1. Kay Ivey

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.

She’s steered the ship through all of the noise – the politics, the gossip, the fluff – like a warm knife through butter, staying on course to a better future for our great state.

Ivey quickly became known as Alabama’s education governor through her Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, adding onto this legacy through her historic push to add 500,000 more skilled workers by 2025.

However, the progress certainly does not end there. From landmark economic development wins to increasing foreign trade opportunities, Alabama is winning big under Ivey’s steady hand.

The Rebuild Alabama Act will go down as a crowning jewel of her administration – not just the merits of the forward-thinking infrastructure package itself, but how she got it done. The legislation passed in stunningly overwhelming fashion because of Ivey’s personal ownership of the issue. She bulldogged the package to passage – certainly with the tremendous help of organizations like BCA, ALFA, the Road Builders, etc., but it would not have happened without the governor.

She faces two more big issues this coming year and through the end of her term: the prison system and rural healthcare/Medicaid.

How will Ivey continue to utilize her position as one of the most powerful and influential governors ever?

Check back on Saturday for the entire list published in one article.