About Us


Ashley Kaplan

Executive Director Cell: 205 905-9415

Born and raised in Montgomery, Ashley Kaplan graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She began her career with the Auburn University Foundation in Major Gifts Development, working and meeting strategic alumni across the country. She returned to Montgomery and served as an admissions counselor at Huntingdon College, recruiting students around the state of Alabama. Ashley joined the Leadership Alabama team in December 2007 and has been instrumental in every aspect of our organization as she has practically grown-up in LA.  Since 2018, when Ashley was named the Membership Director, she quickly advanced through the organization.  Subsequently, she was named the Membership and ALI Director, the Director of Programs and Membership Engagement and the Director of Operations and Engagement, ultimately achieving her current role as Executive Director.  She has led the growth, expansion and success of Leadership Alabama’s ALI (Alabama Leadership Initiative) program.

Ashley has served on UAB’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Young Supporters Board and the PARCA Roundtable. She is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and served on the Kiwanis Connect Committee.

Ashley and her husband Kent live in Birmingham with their children, Tripp and Lexie. They are active members of St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church and thoroughly enjoy their community and its many activities. Ashley enjoys volunteering at her children’s schools, running, watching football, live music, and spending time with family at Lake Martin.

Kate H. Cotton

Operations and Development Director Cell: 205 515-6515

Kate Cotton joined Leadership Alabama as the Executive Director in January 2018 following a long career at Protective Life Corporation.  She was a member of LA Class XVII and was serving as a LA board member when chosen for this role.  During her tenure, the Leadership Alabama team achieved some incredible milestones relative to growth and organizational & financial efficiencies.  As of July 1, 2023, Kate stepped down as ED and enthusiastically assumed the role of Operations and Development Director in support of Ashley’s leadership and the LA team.

She has served on various boards of directors, including PARCA, Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Institute, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Birmingham Education Foundation, the Woodlawn Foundation, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and the YWCA Central Alabama. Additionally, she is a member of Leadership Alabama, Leadership Birmingham, UAB’s Leadership Cabinet, UAB’s Educational Foundation Board and PreSchool Partners’ Advisory Council. She was named one of the BBJ’s “Top Birmingham Women for 2020,” in addition to being named one of Birmingham’s “Women Who Make a Difference” in 2014 and being honored as a “Woman of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts.

Kate, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business, is married to John, and they have three grown sons. She enjoys spending time at Lake Martin, reading, walking, and silently cheering for the Oklahoma Sooners amidst the sea of Alabama and Auburn Fans.

Melissa N. Sherer

Membership, Communications, & Operations Associate Cell: 205 919-6864

Melissa Sherer has dedicated her life to public service in Alabama. She began her career in 2008 as operations director for Better Basics, where she strategically planned the nonprofit’s literacy programming for 42 high-need schools across seven school systems. In 2016, Melissa launched the Helping Families Initiative of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and served as director.

Melissa is a graduate of the University of Mobile with a Bachelor of Science in organizational leadership. She serves on the board of directors for the Children’s Policy Cooperative of Jefferson County and previously was an Action Network Lead for the Bold Goals Coalition of the United Way of Central Alabama. Melissa honed her adult education skills as facilitator for a successful three-year cohort of educational leaders focused on improving school attendance. She is a proud member of Alabama Leadership Initiative Class III.

Melissa and her husband Jeremy live in a historic home in Birmingham with their children, Ryland and Finn. They are active members of Redeemer Community Church. Melissa is an avid reader and enjoys playing piano and besting her husband in word games.