8 months ago

Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon is a 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

Major General Sheryl Gordon’s motto perfectly encapsulates this trailblazing Alabamian: “Have a mentor and be a mentor.”

Gordon, the first female to ever command the Alabama National Guard as the state adjutant general, followed her father’s and brother’s footsteps when she entered officer candidate school after graduation from Selma High School and then college. She has been breaking down barriers ever since, whether it was being commissioned as second lieutenant in 1981 or becoming the first female general officer in state history in 2009.

However, at every point along the way, Gordon has done more than carve a path for others to follow — she has gone out of her way, as a personal mission, to bring others along with her throughout her leadership journey.

This has been evident not just in her estimable military service, as Gordon was also an educator for two decades at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City where she taught chemistry for 10 years before becoming vice principal.

Whether it was helping military subordinates or her students, day-in, day-out, Gordon has exemplified what it means to be a true public servant.

“The most rewarding part of my journey has been witnessing the military, civilian, and personal successes of young soldiers and airmen,” she told Yellowhammer News. “It is very similar to my experiences as a high school teacher and administrator. You are always pleased to see that your students have become confident and productive members of society. I view my job now, just as I did in education, to provide the soldiers and airmen the proper training and opportunities for them to excel in their lives.”

For aspiring professionals and students alike, it certainly does not hurt to have a role model like Gordon to emulate, too.

She assumed her duties as the 42nd adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard on July 28, 2017. In this position, she advises the governor on military affairs and commands the Alabama Army and Air National Guard and its more than 12,000 citizen soldiers and airmen.

Gordon’s resume is as impressive as you will come across. Immediately prior to her current role, she respectively served as executive director of the National Guard Association of Alabama, assistant adjutant general and commander of 62nd Troop Command in Montgomery. Having been awarded over a dozen different medals and ribbons, including the Meritorious Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and the Humanitarian Service Medal, leading by example has always been important to Gordon, especially with the increased scrutiny of serving in a historically male field.

One of the keys to overcoming some of the unique challenges of being a woman in the military, Gordon advised, was pushing her educational attainment higher and higher. She holds a BS in secondary education and MAS in administration from Auburn University Montgomery, a BS in biology from Birmingham Southern College and a MSS in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

While it was not always easy going, Gordon explained how times have changed over the years with “qualified females” now holding specialty assignments across the board in the armed forces.

“Early in my career, women were relegated to more traditional female roles, i.e. personnel, administration, medical, clerical. Many of the military occupational specialties were closed to women and many units were closed to women,” she outlined. “Through the years, more specialties and units became open to females. We now have female aviators, and infantry, armor, field artillery, etc.”

Gordon said, “I always made sure that I was educationally qualified (military and civilian) for the next higher level. When I would move to a new unit, the process of proving my competency would start anew. I also took the job assigned to me and did it to the best of my ability with a positive attitude.”

“Things became easier as I rose in rank and continued to serve with many males with whom I had previously served and already demonstrated my competency and abilities. The younger soldiers accepted me because the older ones accepted me.”

Gordon has come a long way from struggling for acceptance. Gov. Kay Ivey, in appointing her to command the state’s National Guard two years ago, quite rightly hailed Gordon as “a trailblazer and visionary leader.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to add another superlative on top of the governor’s plaudits, naming Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

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

26 mins ago

Pete Buttigieg’s silly grievance tour in Alabama is a joke

Any time a candidate for president comes to Alabama we should be thrilled.

It gives them a chance to meet voters that normally don’t factor into presidential elections and it gives the state the chance to put its best foot forward.

But that’s not what 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s trip to Alabama was about.

He is here because he has no black support in a primary where black support is very important, so he comes to Alabama to rip on the state.

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He swings by the National Memorial for Peace and Justice outside of Montgomery, not to learn anything, but to attack a fictional problem of “white supremacy.”

No one in the press dared to ask what he has done about this in his current position, or even what he will do if he becomes president. They acted like the dutiful scribes and staff photographers that they are so he can say, “I went to the lynching memorial” the next time his lack of black support is questioned.

And what better way to gain street cred nationally among black voters than to attack Alabama lawmakers for passing an abortion ban that the citizens of this state solidly support?

Buttigieg said, “What we see in Alabama unfortunately among legislators is a refusal to follow the law of the land.”

But this is not true.

Alabama lawmakers passed a law that was specifically meant to challenge the interpretation of the “law of the land,” which is, obviously, not a law at all but a Supreme Court ruling.

Supreme Court precedent is challenged all the time. He should know this.

Again, expecting the American press or their less competent Alabama counterparts to question him on these things is a mistake; they don’t have the knowledge necessary to do so.

But Buttigieg’s pandering was so broad he needed to be in the state for more than one day to get it all in.

While appearing at an event in Birmingham, he made the point that raising the minimum wage would disproportionately benefit non-white Americans.

How he reconciles that argument with his suggestion that we bring in more immigrants to compete with low-income workers is beyond me, but again, no one in the media seems interested in drilling down on these poorly thought-out arguments.

This is all just a PR trip and nothing more. Buttigieg is bumping up in some polls but is still struggling with black voters.

The first state with a large number of black voters is South Carolina, where he is polling fourth overall with 6% of the vote and a whopping 0% among black voters.

Remember why Buttigieg came to Alabama: It wasn’t to court voters here. It was solely to pander to black voters in other states.

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

Alabama’s innovative reform to Medicaid is paying dividends

One of the toughest, yet least-talked about, challenges facing the U.S. today is how to effectively deliver affordable health care to America’s growing population of senior citizens. The U.S. Census Bureau has predicted that by 2035, the number of adults over the age of 65 will exceed the number of children under the age of 18. The graying of America’s population especially creates a challenge for what, at times, can be a fractured and overly complicated health care delivery system.

In Alabama, over 90,000 senior citizens’ health care is funded in part via Medicaid, the federally-mandated insurance program that serves the elderly, the poor, and the disabled. Even though Medicaid is federally-mandated, that definitely does not mean that the federal government covers all of the costs — Alabama’s portion of the costs provided by the general fund was $755 million in Fiscal Year 2019, a figure which eats up 37% of all non-education spending by the State of Alabama.

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Over the past several years, I have worked closely with the past two governors, other legislative leaders, Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar and private sector partners to identify new delivery models that will bend the cost curve down for Medicaid, while ensuring Alabama’s senior citizens on Medicaid still receive good medical care.

In early 2017, I went to Washington, along with Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, Medicaid Commissioner Azar and other state leaders, to meet with Dr. Tom Price, who then served as President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.

That trip and subsequent phone calls and data presentations paid off: in 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington granted Alabama the opportunity to pursue a new delivery model of health care services for the more than 20,000 senior citizens in Alabama who are receiving long-term care through Medicaid.

Let me tell you: it is not an easy thing to persuade a federal agency to grant a state a waiver from any program’s requirements. Federal government employees – even the hardest-working and best-intentioned – are not necessarily keen on innovation.

In October of 2018, Alabama launched the Integrated Care Network (ICN). In this new model, Medicaid contracts with an Alabama-based healthcare provider to serve the 22,500 patients who are receiving long-term care through Medicaid. These senior patients and their families have expanded choices through the ICN: most are in nursing homes, but about 30% have chosen to receive care in the comfort of their own homes.

Where are we nearly a year down the road from the ICN launch? A few weeks ago, I convened a meeting of Medicaid, the Department of Senior Services, nursing home owners and health care providers. Their reports were encouraging. According to Medicaid’s estimates, the ICN model has already saved the state $4 million — and Medicaid projects the savings to grow over the next few years.

In 2039, if trends hold, 42% of Alabamians will be 60 years or older. For the senior citizens who will need Medicaid’s assistance, it is imperative that we continue to modernize and innovate in the area of health care, especially for programs like Medicaid that are funded by the taxpayers.

Newton’s first law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion along a straight line, unless it is acted upon by an external force — inertia, in a word. That is a concept that often applies to government programs and agencies. In this instance, the innovation of the Integrated Care Network represents the external force that is moving Medicaid to a sounder fiscal footing.

Greg Reed is the Alabama Senate Majority Leader, and represents Senate District 5, which is comprised of all or parts of Walker, Winston, Fayette, Tuscaloosa, and Jefferson counties.

3 hours ago

Ivey invites Alabamians to join as she lights Alabama’s official Christmas tree

Governor Kay Ivey has invited Alabamians to join her for the official state Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The program is scheduled for Friday, December 6 at 5:30 p.m. on the front steps of the Alabama State Capitol.

“I invite all Alabamians, friends, and neighbors to join us here at the Capitol for that special occasion. This is always a wonderful event and serves as such a great reminder of the spirit of hope that Christmas brings,” said Ivey in a news release.

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According to the release, Alabama’s 2019 Christmas Tree is a 40-foot-tall Eastern Red Cedar. It was grown on Mr. and Mrs. Ray Allen’s Farm in Bullock County. When lit, the tree will have around 37,000 lights strung on its branches. It will also be decorated with special bicentennial ornaments to celebrate Alabama’s 200th birthday.

At around 5:00 p.m. on Friday, the 151st Army National Guard Band will begin playing. At 5:30, the ceremony will begin. The program will also have a performance by the Forest Avenue Elementary School Choir.

Ivey will be joined in making remarks by commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Airforce Base Lieutenant General James Hecker and others.

The citizens assembled are invited to join the governor in counting down before she flips the switch to light the tree.

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

3 hours ago

Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

It’s a tradition that’s now over 40 years strong.

Every year, the Regions Center tower in Birmingham, Alabama, is transformed into a brilliant holiday display – with Christmas trees, a massive wreath and a giant stocking celebrating the season every evening.

The lights are visible for miles – from vistas along Red Mountain, to travelers crossing through town on nearby interstates, and to airline passengers about to land at the airport a few miles to the east.

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“Every year, we’re asked how we do it, and while we’ve made a couple updates over time, the process is still very similar to the way it was in the late 1970s,” explained Emilio Cerice, Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for Regions Bank. “The lighting display didn’t begin until the late 70s, but it turned out, the stage was set for the display about 10 years earlier.”

While the building was under construction between 1968 and 1971, Cerice said a light tube was placed in a small area above each window starting on the fifth floor. Initially, the idea was to light the building in bright white every night. But the energy crisis of the 1970s brought that to an end.

“The history of using the lights as a Christmas display started after the energy crisis was over,” Cerice said. “Back then, the building was owned by First National Bank of Birmingham and a company called Sonat – or Southern Natural Gas. The details have been hard to pinpoint, but it’s been said that a Sonat executive was in Houston and saw a building that used its ‘curtain wall’ design – similar to what we have – for a Christmas display. That executive came back to Birmingham and led the effort to get a display here.”

Over time, the building has gone on to carry the AmSouth name; then, following the 2006 merger of AmSouth and Regions, the Regions name and its updated logo were placed atop the tower. But through it all, the holiday lights have remained.

“It’s something we look forward to every year – and it’s something the city looks forward to,” Cerice said. “In recent years, it’s been fun to watch social media and see people sharing creative photos of the building or sharing their memories of coming downtown to see the lights.”

Preparations for the display get underway around late summer or early fall each year.

“The images are created by placing red and green ‘gel sleeves’ over the white light tubes above each window,” Cerice said. “Crews operate with a grid showing the pattern of the display on each side of the building, and that lets them know which windows need which colors. Then, they change the display in February or March every year to the golfer image that we display during the Regions Tradition golf tournament. That one uses some different shades of green, as well as blue, so there’s a lot of changing and re-changing of the gel sleeves that takes place.”

Testing of the Christmas display takes place during the early morning hours in the days before Thanksgiving. If needed, any corrections are made. Then, at 5pm on the day after Thanksgiving, the display comes to life. It remains illuminated until midnight each evening through Dec. 31.

“If you’re near a window from the fifth floor and up when the display comes on each night, it’s very noticeable,” Cerice said. “A lot of people like to try to figure out where their office is in the tree, or the wreath, or whichever side of the building they’re on. We had a team that moved offices two years ago, and not long after they moved in, they looked at the lights above the windows and tried to figure out, ‘So where are we within the tree here?’ They compared the colors of the lights to a video of the building on YouTube and determined they were almost halfway up the tree in their new offices.”

Besides the holiday display and the golfer, the tower has hosted two other displays.

“In 1991, there was an American flag and the letters ‘USA’ in support of those serving during the Gulf War. Then, in 1996, there was an Olympic torch and the Olympic Rings when Summer Olympic soccer was being played at Legion Field,” Cerice said.

The Regions Center tower rises nearly 400 feet over 5th Avenue North at 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham. Some of the best views are from Birmingham’s Railroad Park, as well as from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain.

“Birmingham is our headquarters city. We’re proud to occupy a prominent spot in the city’s skyline,” Cerice said. “And we’re proud to carry on this tradition.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

You’re invited!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place on December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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