5 months ago

Gen. Ed Crowell wants to bring military, leadership experience to Montgomery mayor’s office

MONTGOMERY — The August 2019 mayoral race in Alabama’s capital city is heating up and already features a highly competitive lineup of candidates.

Perhaps most well known among the motley field are former Congressman Artur Davis, Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed and WCOV’s David Woods. Reed is the son of Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) head and liberal political powerbroker Joe Reed.

However, it is two political outsiders that are taking the race by storm thus far: Brigadier General Ed Crowell (Ret.) and local attorney JC Love.

Yellowhammer News recently sat down with Crowell at his downtown campaign office, right off the historic Court Square Fountain, and discussed his decorated background, leadership style and motivation for entering the race and policy goals.

‘On the shoulders of giants’

Quiet but commanding, Crowell’s nickname could very well be “The Genteel General.” As he dove into the interview, his background in military logistics was not easy to miss. For each topic that came up, I could see the wheels turn in Crowell’s mind as he thoughtfully considered his response. Genuine yet measured, everything he said fit together neatly.

“We have the old saying in the military: ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants,'” Crowell said. “Well, the backbone of our services is the enlisted force … but there always has to be a leader. And when you’re thrusted into a leadership role, you don’t become a leader just because you’re thrusted into that role. You’ve got to earn your keeps. You’ve got to demonstrate your mettle.”

“And you do that by, first of all, being a good listener,” he explained.

This was a theme throughout the interview — his emphasis on listening as a leader. Whether it was heeding the advice of enlisted sergeants in the Air Force, subject matter experts in the private sector or other community leaders involved with the countless board and organizations Crowell has served, he stressed the importance of operating from a place of knowledge – and how to get there.

This skillet, and mentality, earned Crowell the reputation as being a fixer in the Air Force. He would go into dysfunctional units, listen to the service members, assess the situation and meticulously and personally work solutions.

This kind of experience served him well in his parallel career trajectory in the corporate world. Crowell served both as an active and reserve duty officer at various intervals, which allowed him to build quite the legacy at Blount International and then VT Miltope, where he eventually became president and CEO before retiring.

Whether at one of these distinguished Alabama companies, in a civic or charitable organization or in the military, Crowell has always led by example. One of his core tenets of leadership is that you never ask of someone what you yourself would not be willing to do. It was that frontline mentality that sometimes got him derided by fellow officers in the Air Force, as Crowell would do chores normally reserved for enlisted men and women. However, the same attribute also garnered the respect of the people he was meant to lead, with Crowell noting that troops would walk through fire for him because they knew he would first walk through himself.

“We’re a team, and we’re going to work this as a team,” he added.

Giving back

For someone who has always been on the civil service side of public life, dipping his toes into politics is not necessarily a natural thing. However, when members of the community started approaching Crowell to run, his modus operandi kicked in.

“I made a decision years ago that I was going to be on the giving end rather than the receiving end,” he explained.

And Crowell has been doing so ever since he came to Montgomery in 1968. His work in the community is renowned, best exemplified by his being named the city’s “Man of the Year” in 2018. From the YMCA to the Shakespeare Festival, Crowell has served on the board or been chairman of just about every civic or philanthropic organization possible in Alabama’s capital city. Each step along the way, his leadership style and dedication to bettering the community one cause at a time has earned him the respect of his peers, which just kept getting him recruited to serve in more and more ways.

He sees being Montgomery’s mayor as the last recruitment destination on his journey — one final, hugely impactful way to give back to the community he and his family love.

Crowell also views his longtime service as a personal investment into the community and future generations. In his opinion, Mayor Todd Strange’s administration has the city moving in the right direction, and the retired general wants to keep this momentum going and protect his investment the best way he knows how – through serving.

“I feel I’ve made a sizable investment in this community, and I think the train is on the right tracks right now,” Crowell shared. “And I don’t want to see any regression in it. The only way I can be assured that it continues, because I’ve never been one to be on the sidelines: if you’re not in the game, you can’t play.”

“So, I made a decision that I’m going to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And you do that by being in the game. If I’m in the game, I can ensure that my investment does not go astray. … I’m pretty passionate about helping. And I’m pretty passionate about making certain that there is follow-through on whatever we decide we want to do,” he continued.

‘Neighborhood mayor’

While noting there are several policy issues and goals he has, Crowell stressed that there are two priorities that stand above the rest for Montgomery right now.

“[T]hey’re visible … education and crime,” he said. “I think the root of crime is education. If individuals are not educated, or they don’t feel like they can be educated, then we’ve got a problem.”

Crowell said he will be a “neighborhood mayor,” visible and personally engaged with each area of the city. He wants to restore hope to the neighborhoods that are in a state of decay — both by addressing vacant buildings and cleaning up overgrown, neglected lots, as well as instituting tangible programs that ensure opportunity is accessible for hardworking people in Montgomery, regardless of their lot in life.

He also said he is “not going to be defensive about crime.” Crowell openly acknowledged the problem and explained that he wants to tackle the problem head-on.

“I’m going to lay the gauntlet down where it is,” Crowell advised.

He also noted that government alone cannot be the solution to Montgomery’s present or future. He urged others to get involved just as he has been for the last half-century: volunteerism. Crowell also shared some advice for those looking to make a difference.

“You learn that you’ve been given opportunities that others may not think that they have, although they were there – they didn’t take advantage of them,” he said. “You should be a spark for some of these others who’ve given up, who feel like they can’t excel. They need somebody like you to show them the way.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

State Sen. Figures: ‘I didn’t ask’ to be on ATRIP-II — ‘Very ironic I end up’ on it

Last week when State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) was dismissed by Gov. Kay Ivey from the ATRIP-II committee and was replaced by State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile), it raised a few eyebrows.

The consensus was that Elliott was being punished for his outspoken opposition to the Alabama Department of Transportation’s proposed I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge, which was in part to be financed by a toll.

During an appearance on this weekend’s broadcast of Alabama Public Television “Capitol Journal,” Figures reacted to her appointment by Ivey. She noted the nature of these appointments and that she also lost an appointment when Lt. Will Ainsworth took her off of the Joint Transportation Committee earlier this year and said it was a result of comments she had made “at the microphone.”


“He’s not the only one that’s been taken off of a committee,” she said. “It happens all the time. It happens in the House. It happens in the Senate. It goes back and forth, and that is the governor’s prerogative to do such.”

Figures had not taken an outspoken position on the I-10 bridge project but said that she did not think the burden should be put on local residents in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

“I don’t think it should be the responsibility of the citizens of Mobile and Baldwin Counties to pay for that I-10 bridge,” Figures said. “It is an interstate. I think it should be the state and the federal government that should bear the cost of it. At the same time, if we are to pay for it, let the people decide if that’s what they really want since they say it’s in the very high percentage rates of local citizens using that bridge. It’s a lot to work out. But I’m a consensus builder, and I’m going to work with the governor to try to do that.”

The Mobile County Democrat said she was grateful for the appointment by Ivey, adding that she would bring “diversity” to the ATRIP-II committee.

“I was very humbled and honored when she called and asked me to serve,” she said. “It really was to my surprise that there was not a Democrat nor an African-American legislator on the ATRIP-II committee. Now there’s definitely diversity. Of course, there is an African-American — County Commissioner Tony Cherry from Butler County is on that committee. So, I was very pleased to add that diversity. I want to take to that committee a voice for the voiceless if you will. We have a number of counties in this state that don’t have the resources or revenues to give that skin in the game, if you will, in terms of matching funds. But then, they have priorities, too. And we are supposed to be about protecting the health, safety and welfare of all of our citizens. So that is the voice I want to bring to that committee.”

Host Don Dailey alluded to the “irony” of Figures appointment, particularly given Figures opposed the Rebuild Alabama Act passed earlier this year, which resulted in a hike of the state’s gas tax. She acknowledged the irony, but said she did not actively seek a spot on that committee.

“I stand by that vote,” she said. “I voted against it. I did tell the governor that I would vote if she would expand Medicaid because this state did not expand Medicaid, therefore they left $1.3 billion on the table along with 30,000 jobs. It chose not to expand Medicaid. Had we expanded Medicaid, we would not have needed this gas tax. And to me, this gas tax is a very expensive and regressive tax, which will be on the backs of people who can least afford it.”

“Let me just say this: I didn’t ask to be on this committee,” Figures added. “And it is — it is very ironic I end up on the committee that decides it. But you know, for me — I’m a very spiritual woman of deep faith. God is in control. I was asked to be on it and although I voted against the tax, I want to be that voice for the voiceless.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

5 hours ago

VIDEO: Ivey punishes toll opponents, ongoing impeachment talks, Madison shows the state how to raise taxes and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Should Governor Kay Ivey be punishing toll opponents like State Senator Chris Elliot (R-Daphne) for their disagreements?

— Why not just admit that Democrats are trying to impeach President Donald Trump?

— Why did 70% of voters in Madison say “YES” to a new tax increase?


Jackson and Burke are joined by State Senator Sam Givhan to talk about road projects and how Alabama Department of Transportation and Governor Ivey move forward after their big defeat.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” where he argues that companies banning their customers from carrying weapons in their stores aren’t really doing anything but chasing good press by placating a mob and their media.


Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

8 hours ago

Itty Bitty Bakers makes cooking fun and informative for Alabama kids

It starts with a special ingredient – in this case, registered dietician and educator Jessica Hamby.

Combine with the children willing to learn and participate. Flavor in a mix of art, crafts, reading and hands-on learning. Then top off with the capable hands of proven instructors and assistants, and you have Itty Bitty Bakers.


Hamby started Itty Bitty Bakers in 2018 to bring her own love of cooking with healthy and fresh ingredients to children in her neighborhood. The belief was that if the children had a hand in preparing healthy foods, they would be more inclined to try and then enjoy foods that are better for them.

It worked. Hamby, who has a master’s in health education, created a curriculum that reinforces the recipes and helps teach children about where food comes from, how ingredients are used to make a dish and how cooking can be a fun and creative outlet for people of any age.

Itty Bitty Bakers has the recipe for making cooking fun and educational for kids from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

What started as a couple of summer camp classes quickly grew into monthly classes and then multiple classes for students of different ages.

“It really took off,” said Melissa Carden, an instructor with Itty Bitty Bakers. “It seemed to be something that the community really had a need for. There was always a demand.”

Today, the program has two instructors, teaching assistants, a team of youth helpers and even students from the University of Alabama nutrition program who intern during the summer.

At one recent bakers camp, the students picked basil, used it in a recipe, learned about growing fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables during story time, colored pictures of herbs and even took recipes and basil seeds home with them. The basil was used to make basil-cheddar biscuits, which they got to enjoy during snack time.

Each class and camp teaches children to be comfortable in the kitchen, builds on their understanding of where food comes from and encourages creativity.

“It’s really fascinating how much they enjoy the hands-on – the mixing, the pouring – every child gets to add at least one ingredient to the recipe,” Carden said. “It’s fun to see how capable they are. They’re capable of a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for.”

Itty Bitty Bakers offers classes for preschoolers, grade schooler and pre-teens. There are camps during the summer, classes during the school year and special workshops throughout the year. Prices vary and registration is done online. Itty Bitty Bakers will even organize parties.

Itty Bitty Bakers can be found online, on Facebook, on Instagram and Pinterest.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Birmingham’s Alie B. Gorrie puts spotlight on disabled performers in new Amazon series

When Alie B. Gorrie moved to New York in 2015 after graduating from Belmont University, she was not unlike other young performers trying to find their way in the big city.

Armed with a resume that included shows at Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC), Gorrie taught yoga and worked part-time as a teacher, all the while auditioning for (and getting some) roles at theater companies in the area.


But look at Gorrie’s resume, and you’ll see something listed that provided some extra challenges. Under “Special Skills,” she notes that she’s “legally blind/visually impaired,” having been diagnosed at an early age with low vision.

“When I moved to New York, casting directors would say, ‘Why is one of your eyes crossed?’,” Gorrie says. “I didn’t expect to hear that after singing a song. … I’ve faced having to learn how to speak about it and articulate what I needed around it very quickly.”

Gorrie is not alone, and her latest project showcases other performers dealing with their own disabilities in the arts world. Gorrie co-hosts and co-produces, with Kallen Blair, “ABLE: a series,” which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. There are eight 15-minute episodes, each of which focuses on a performer with a disability, including recent Tony Award winner Ali Stroker, who is in a wheelchair.

The series was conceived after Gorrie saw a musical called “Sam’s Room” off-Broadway.

“I‘ve never been so moved by something,” she says of the show about a teen with non-verbal autism. “I had this impulse to buy 10 tickets and invite people I knew to see the show.”

One of those people was Blair, who has a brother with non-verbal autism.

“After the show, she was weeping, and she said that it was the first time she had seen her brother represented so well in a story,” Gorrie says. “That got us started in these inclusion discussions.”

Later, when Gorrie was working in California and Blair in Boston, Blair sent her an email.

“She pitched a documentary series shedding a light on inclusion in theater,” Gorrie recalls. “I said, ‘Yes, yes, sign me up.’”

Each episode features one guest interviewed by Gorrie and Blair. The guests include Evan Ruggiero, a dancer who lost a leg to cancer at age 19; John McGinty, a deaf actor who starred on Broadway in “Children of a Lesser God”; and Danny Woodburn, an actor with dwarfism known best for his role on the sitcom “Seinfeld.”
The two interviewed Stroker prior to her Tony nomination and win for “Oklahoma!”

“She is the one who is truly paving the way for disabled artists everywhere now,” Gorrie says.

Gorrie and her family created Songs for Sight, an event that raises money for the Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The fundraiser, which has included performers such as Vince Gill, Sara Evans and Grace Potter, celebrates its 10th anniversary with a free concert at Red Mountain Theatre Company in October.

Gorrie really found her calling at RMTC, where she performed for a number of years. She counts RMTC Executive Director Keith Cromwell among those who helped her realize she could pursue a performing career while dealing with her vision issues.

“It took me a while to find teachers and mentors who knew how to not make too big a deal out of it while also not ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t exist,” Gorrie says.

Cromwell is one who recognized Gorrie’s talents early on.

“When you meet ‘special,’ it has no age, it’s timeless,” he says of Gorrie, who is now 26. “As I watch her grow into a magnificent adult and amazing artist who is changing the world, I could not feel more privileged to witness her advancing her cause, her art, her center – the truth of who she is.”

That’s really what’s at the core of “ABLE,” too, as artists talk about embracing their disabilities and finding opportunities to shine, even though it’s still an uphill battle to get casting directors to cast disabled actors.

Gorrie and Blair are already planning Season 2 of “ABLE,” looking to focus less on individuals and more on theaters and other groups that are embracing inclusion of disabled performers.

“We want to go to theaters and film sets and do documentary-style episodes going into the places that are inclusion champions,” Gorrie says.

“ABLE: a series” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

Alabama Habitat for Humanity chapter builds 14 homes in 1 week

To say Tonya Torrance is happy would be an understatement.

“It feels great. It’s a feeling that can’t be explained.”

Torrance and her family are one of 14 families who received a new home Thursday as part of this year’s Home Builders Blitz from the Greater Birmingham chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The chapter chose to celebrate its 14th anniversary by building 14 homes, a new record according to chapter President and CEO Charles Moore and a task that requires a tremendous amount of organizing and planning.


“We knew if we followed that plan and stuck to schedule with everybody doing their part, we could complete it on time,” Moore said. “We have hundreds of volunteers helping us, along with skilled tradesmen, professional homebuilders and many more behind the scenes helping with meals and sponsorships. Some of the big corporations in Alabama, such as Wells Fargo and Alabama Power have been with us year after year, as well as the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders — we couldn’t do it without our home builders who volunteer and give us this week of their time and help direct the house that they’re building.”

One of those home builders for this year’s blitz was Danniell Burton, a superintendent and project manager at Taylor Burton Company. Burton grew up helping his dad at Habitat builds, but this was his first year leading a build. He said the experience of building Torrance’s home was awesome.

“It gets stressful throughout the week — tons of subs and your mind is going a bunch of different ways, but to be done with it is awesome,” Burton said. “Seeing the homeowners’ faces walking in and just getting done with it is such a relief.”

Torrance said working with Burton was great.

“He didn’t ask for nothing he wouldn’t do,” Torrance said. “I love him.”

“It really does feel great,” Burton added. “As you make progress every day and seeing their faces is just a great feeling. You work late hours but the drive home at night you realize what you got done for the day and knowing they’re happy is what it’s all about.”

Moore said seeing people come together to help each other is what makes him most proud of the blitz builds.

“There’s no way we could do this without people pitching in to help,” Moore said. “We like to see ourselves as coordinators, as people who bring people together to help make it happen. We recognize that without the volunteers, without the financial support, without all of the folks that make this happen, that this would not happen.”

To learn more about the Home Builders Blitz program from the Greater Birmingham chapter of Habitat for Humanity, visit habitatbirmingham.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)