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Leadership Alabama

Leadership Alabama Announces Retirement of Founding Executive Director, Names Kate Cotton Successor


Leadership Alabama Announces Retirement of Founding Executive Director, Names Kate Cotton Successor

Leadership Alabama has announced that Kate Cotton will be its next Executive Director. She will succeed Barbara Larson, who has served for more than 28 years as the only Executive Director since the organization was founded in 1989. Ms. Cotton joined the Leadership Alabama team in January and will become the organization’s leader on June 1, 2018.

Under Ms. Larson’s leadership over the last 28 years, more than 1,500 established leaders have become members of Leadership Alabama. Through a nine-month program, participants are exposed to the challenges and opportunities facing Alabama, and they recognize the need for citizen leadership. Leadership Alabama was founded to provide the network necessary to activate those citizens as they seek vital solutions to the challenges that define the future of our state.

“Barbara Larson’s legacy is the creation and direction of one of our state’s most significant nonprofit institutions, known proudly as Leadership Alabama. During her tenure, Leadership Alabama has become a highly respected statewide organization, and participation is sought by statewide and community leaders from all constituencies and walks of life. Members include governors, lieutenant governors, attorney generals, state senators and representatives, federal and state judges, CEOs and many metropolitan and rural community leaders. Barbara has knit this organization into a powerful influence in our state,” said Leadership Alabama Board Chair, Tyrone Fenderson, Jr.

“As founders, Mike Jenkins and I both feel one of our most significant accomplishments was to persuade Barbara to take on the organizational responsibility for a new, unimagined statewide leadership organization,” said Bill Smith, co-founder of Leadership Alabama.

Fenderson added, “Our mixed emotions about this transition have been calmed through a careful selection process that has yielded the best possible successor. Kate Cotton is a proven professional and leader whose understanding of this state and our organization uniquely empowers her steps forward. As we honor Barbara’s service, we celebrate Kate’s appointment as the future executive director.”

Prior to joining Leadership Alabama, Ms. Cotton spent more than 30 years at Protective Life Corporation in Birmingham, serving most recently as Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Protective Life Foundation. Prior to being selected as Leadership Alabama’s next executive director, Kate was a member of its Board of Directors, participated in LA’s Class XVII, and served on the Birmingham Area Regional Council and the selection committee for the first class of the expanded Alabama Leadership Initiative. Her community involvement has included membership on numerous nonprofit boards and advisory councils.