Year: 2020

Announcing LA Class XXXI

September 11, 2020

It’s always an exciting time at Leadership Alabama to officially announce the newest class.  Welcome LA Class XXXI!

Leadership Alabama, a statewide program of Alabama leaders engaged in creating a network of relationships that seeks mutual understanding of problems and priorities for Alabama’s future, is pleased to announce the 76 members of Class XXXI for 2020 – 2021.  Due to the ongoing restrictions surrounding COVID-19, the opening retreat is scheduled for January 2021 in Montgomery.

During the program year, class members will convene in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery, where they will hear challenging presentations and participate in class discussions that encourage them to make critical, thoughtful assessments of our state and its issues – both challenging and successful – while learning of some extraordinary initiatives that are addressing those issues.  “Leadership Alabama is an organization comprised of our state’s most accomplished and forward-thinking leaders who share a strong commitment in serving the people of Alabama.  The outstanding members of Class XXXI continue that legacy.  We need strong leadership now more than ever as we push Alabama to live up to its immense potential and offer all of her citizens the opportunity to maximize theirs,” expressed Gordon Martin, Leadership Alabama’s board chair.

Kate Cotton, executive director, added, “I continue to be amazed by the caliber and leadership experience of each new class, and once again, Class XXXI includes remarkable leaders who will definitely remain engaged and keep our state moving forward.  By bringing these individuals together, Alabama is sure to benefit from their collective passion, knowledge and influence.”

Class XXXI members —
Ryan Austin, EVP & COO, Hoar Program Management (HPM)                                                         Birmingham
Will Barrois, VP & Regional Manager, Stirling Properties, LLC                                                            Mobile
Chris Blankenship, Commissioner, AL Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources             Montgomery
Tommy Brigham, Chairman, ARC Realty                                                                                                        Birmingham
Katie Boyd Britt, President & CEO, Business Council of Alabama                                                    Montgomery
Kenyen Brown, Shareholder, Maynard, Cooper & Gale                                                                          Mobile
Anna Buckalew, President & CEO, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce                       Montgomery
Dawn Bulgarella, CFO, UAB Health System                                                                                                 Birmingham
Greg Butrus, Partner, Balch & Bingham, LLP                                                                                                 Birmingham
Greg Carnes, Dean, UNA’s College of Business                                                                                           Florence
Ronnie Chronister, SVP, Dynetics, Inc.                                                                                                             Huntsville
Brooke Coleman, Principal, Daniel and Brooke Coleman Charitable Fund                                Birmingham
Susan Comensky, VP, Alabama Power Company                                                                                       Birmingham
Allison Black Cornelius, CEO, Greater Birmingham Humane Society                                          Birmingham
Tommy Coshatt, EVP, Alfa Insurance                                                                                                                 Auburn
Derrick Cunningham, Sheriff, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office                                              Montgomery
Mike Daria, Superintendent, Tuscaloosa City Schools                                                                              Tuscaloosa
Cathy DeLaGarza, SVP, Uniti Fiber                                                                                                                     Mobile
Michael Douglas, Superintendent, Decatur City Schools                                                                       Decatur
Jed Downs, President, Qualico Steel Company, Inc.                                                                                  Dothan
Trey Echols, President, Highland Associates, Inc.                                                                                       Birmingham
Rebekah Elgin-Council, SVP & CMO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama                         Birmingham
Chris England, AL State Representative & Chairman, Democratic Party                                        Tuscaloosa
Ed Fields, Senior Advisor & Chief Strategist, City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office                      Birmingham
Marquis Forge, CEO, MRaine Industries, LLC                                                                                             Autaugaville
Brian Gary, Chief Robotic/Minimally Invasive Surgery, Jackson Hospital                                       Montgomery
Leigh Grantham, VP, PowerSouth                                                                                                                     Andalusia
Joe Hampton, President, Spire AL, MS & Gulf Coast, Spire, Inc.                                                       Birmingham
Scott Harris, State Health Officer, Alabama Department of Public Health                                Montgomery
Ben Harrison, General Manager, Cullman Regional Airport                                                               Cullman
Sharon Haynes, County Extension Coordinator,  Auburn University – ACES                            Rockford
Betsy Holloway, VP, CMO & Professor of Marketing, Samford University                                  Birmingham
Todd Jackson, Operations Group President, Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC                                             Birmingham
Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, Proprietor, COO & CMO, Church Street Family                              Huntsville
Felicia Long, Attorney,  Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco, Cole & Black, PC                                               Montgomery
J.C. Love, Probate Judge, Montgomery County Commission                                                           Montgomery
Delbert Madison, SVP,  ServisFirst Bank                                                                                                    Montgomery
Emily Marks, Judge, U.S. Courts                                                                                                                      Montgomery
Keith Martin, Tribal Council Member, Poarch Band of Creek Indians                                        Atmore
Scott Mayo, Executive Director, Cook Museum of Natural Science                                            Decatur
Steve Miley, Associate Director, NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center              Scottsboro
Anoop Mishra, Regional Executive & VP, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta                           Birmingham
John Montgomery, Founder & CEO, BIG Communications                                                            Birmingham
Mac Moorer, Retired Managing Partner, Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC                            Birmingham
Chris Newlin, Executive Director, National Children’s Advocacy Center                               Huntsville
Tim Parker, President, Parking Towing Company                                                                                Northport
Craig Perciavalle, President, Austal                                                                                                             Mobile
Russell Pigg, CEO, North Alabama Medical Center                                                                           Florence
Kelli Powers, President, Decatur Morgan Hospitals, Huntsville Hospital Health System     Decatur
James Rane, VP, Great Southern Wood Preserving                                                                                Abbeville
Amy Rauworth, Chief of Development & Strategic Partnerships, Lakeshore Foundation    Birmingham
Jim Richardson, Partner, RSM US, LLP                                                                                                      Birmingham
Lashunda Scales, President Pro-Tem Commissioner, Jefferson County Commission       Birmingham
Tuerk Schlesinger, CEO, AltaPointe Health                                                                                           Mobile
Tasha Scott, Owner, Maximized Growth, LLC                                                                                       Montgomery
Chad Scroggins, County Manager, Shelby County                                                                              Columbiana
Jack Sharman, Partner, Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC                                                              Birmingham
Jeb Shell, CFO, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors                                                                       Mobile
Andrea Smith, Birmingham Market CEO, BBVA USA                                                                        Birmingham
Bryson Stephens, Chairman, EBSCO                                                                                                        Birmingham
Renee Story, Executive Director Plant Management, GE Appliances                                        Decatur
Hal Taylor, Secretary, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency                                                           Montgomery
Chad Tindol, Chief Administrative Officer, The University of Alabama                                  Tuscaloosa
Will Trapp, SVP, Morgan Stanley                                                                                                                Florence
Lynn Troy, CEO, Troy 7, Inc.                                                                                                                           Huntsville
Susan Waldrop, Partner, Larimer, Waldrop & Associates                                                            Birmingham
Steve Walker, EVP & CFO, Protective Life Corporation                                                               Birmingham
Bestor Ward, President, Ward Properties, Inc.                                                                                  Mobile
Karockas Watkins, CEO, Ability Plus, Inc.                                                                                           Huntsville
Phil Webb, President & Owner, Webb Concrete & Building Materials                                Heflin
Clare Weil, President, C. Weil Enterprises, Inc.                                                                                 Montgomery
Ray White, Office Managing Member, Warren Averett, LLC                                                      Huntsville
Ashli Wilkins, VP & Dean, Wallace Community College                                                             Dothan
Charlie Williams, President & CEO, Citizens Bank & Trust                                                        Guntersville
Elizabeth Winter, SVP, Regions Bank                                                                                                   Tuscaloosa
Bob Woodall, President, Bob Woodall Air Care Systems                                                          Dothan

Don't forget your LA Membership

September 11, 2020

Dear LA Member,

We are thrilled to share that in response to the previous email, 137 of you have paid your 2020 – 2021 membership dues, with many making an additional contribution.  And, 56 of those became Gold Circle Donors by contributing $500 or more (click gold circle link or button below to see!).  We are extremely grateful for all of you, for as we previously expressed, your annual support is THE lifeline of Leadership Alabama, and we will never take it for granted.

This year, more than ever before, we are so appreciative of your online payments and the checks being sent to the post office box.  We have continued to work together every day since mid-March, albeit by phone and ZOOM, and it would definitely be a challenge to coordinate and physically assemble a large mass mailing under the current circumstances.  So, please know how much we appreciate everyone’s quick and efficient response to Leadership Alabama’s annual dues solicitation.

Thanks to our partnership with SWELL Fundraising, you can make an immediate and secure payment online by utilizing this link or by clicking the pay online button below.  Or, if you prefer a printed invoice for mailing a check, click the invoice button below.

Plus, exciting news is right around the corner!  Leadership Alabama Class XXXI members will be announced this week, and an engaging and impactful opening retreat is being planned for January 2021.  Additionally, Leadership Alabama’s new, improved and updated website will “go live” within the next week or so, and we will send another email about its launch very soon.  This week, since we were unable to host Alabama Leadership Initiative’s (ALI) Class III graduation session in the Black Belt, the speakers graciously agreed to present to the class via ZOOM, and we thank members and partners Tommy Bice, Kia Debnam, John Dorsey, Alex Flachsbart (ALI), Andrew Freear, Mary Helmer, Tammy Montgomery, Emily Schultz and JJ Wedgworth (ALI) for sharing their time and talents with ALI.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Kate and Ashley

Leadership Alabama -- Continuing the Mission

September 1, 2020

Dear LA Member,

As we all continue to adjust to the daily challenges resulting from the ongoing pandemic, Leadership Alabama continues to adapt to the circumstances by rescheduling previously-planned retreats, creating and scheduling programming and speakers for upcoming retreats and membership activities, staying in contact with Class XXX (yet to graduate due to COVID), finalizing Class XXXI (soon to be announced – will start in January 2021), reorganizing the “30th & Holding!” anniversary celebration postponed until August 2021 and implementing the newly-created “Leadership Alabama Commission on Race and Equity,” on which more information will follow in the next few weeks.

As the work continues, we started this fiscal year (July 1) with a streamlined budget, eliminating $26,000 in general operating expenses and keeping all other expenses level, if not less, wherever possible. We obtained a small PPP loan and are waiting for instructions as to how to proceed with the loan forgiveness, and we have been very deliberate and conservative when planning for future expenses. We understand that we work for you, our members, and we will always strive to be prudent stewards of your investment in Leadership Alabama.

Last year set a record for dues paying members – 664 of you paid your annual dues of $175, with many making contributions, as well, and we are extremely thankful! Without question, your annual support is the lifeline of our organization, and we humbly ask you once again to submit your dues. In the fall of 2018, a new category of donors was established for those contributing $500 or more through their dues/contribution – Gold Circle Donors – and we are thrilled to share that 80 members (click above or click attachment below) were Gold Circle donors last year.

Through our valued partnership with SWELL Fundraising in Birmingham, you can make an immediate and secure payment online simply by utilizing this link or click below. Or, if you prefer a printed invoice for mailing a check, please note that an invoice is attached below, as well.

We raise a toast to each of you in heartfelt appreciation as we continue to look to the future.

Kate Cotton                           Ashley Whatley
Executive Director                 Director of Programs and Membership Engagement

Helpful Attachments and Links

205-515-6515 ot 205-905-9415

News from Leadership Alabama

July 2, 2020

Dear Leadership Alabama members,

Throughout the past several months, as all of us have adjusted to very challenging circumstances, we have remained focused on Leadership Alabama’s overall objectives and mission, including the planning for upcoming events and retreats, finalizing retreat programming and speakers, orchestrating the selection process for LA Class XXXI, conducting board elections and carefully managing the financials. As such, we respectfully offer the following update.

“An Important Message”

We hope all of you read “An Important Message” sent on Monday, June 1, regarding the need for more action on social justice and racial equality. Without question, we are in a difficult time demanding heightened leadership, action and results. In response to that demand, we are working to create a group of Leadership Alabama and Alabama Leadership Initiative members who can provide invaluable insight and help guide Leadership Alabama forward on a positive, effective path. More details will follow in the weeks ahead – we simply wanted you to know that we are actively delving into these important issues that continue to keep our state and its citizens, particularly African Americans, from reaching their full potential.

Original email message sent on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Leadership Alabama’s Financial Outlook

With profound gratitude to all of you for your continued and valued investment in Leadership Alabama, we are “faring the storm” relative to our budget/income/expenses. We met fundraising & membership dues/contributions goals for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, eliminated $26,000 of expenses moving forward when finalizing the 2020 – 2021 budget (after greatly streamlining the budget last year), obtained a PPP loan, and are actively creating our fundraising plans and membership dues solicitation campaign for the upcoming fiscal year (beginning July 1). Additionally, we offer a huge round of applause and appreciation to Mr. Rich Bielen, president & CEO of Protective Life Corporation, for generously providing Leadership Alabama with donated office space. It has been such an incredible gift and has alleviated financial concerns regarding rent, especially during the pandemic when everyone has been working from home.

Rescheduled Graduation for Current LA & ALI Classes 

(2019 – 2020) 
  • The current LA Class XXX’s May 2020 graduation retreat was rescheduled for late October in Birmingham.
  • The current ALI Class III’s April 2020 graduation session was rescheduled for September in the Black Belt.

Status of Selection of Leadership Alabama Class XXXI (2020 – 2021)
As you may remember, we purposely delayed the selection process due to the urgent circumstances surrounding COVID-19. As of this week, we started extending invitations to the candidates selected for Class XXXI, and the final class will be announced no later than Monday, August 10. The opening retreat is in October in Montgomery; however, in the event we are NOT able to convene as a group due to ongoing COVID restrictions, the program year will begin in January and extend through June.

Postponement of Alabama Leadership Initiative (ALI) Class IV
(Young professionals aged 25 – 40)

Due to ongoing COVID guidelines and concerns (furloughs, layoffs, unknowns about school calendars, the availability of young professionals, etc.), ALI Class IV has been postponed until the 2021 – 2022 program year. When nominations open next year, the maximum age (for that year only) will be 41, not 40.

Continuation of Current LA Board Officers
Since the LA board is not scheduled to be together again until Wednesday, October 7, it was decided that Gordon Martin (chair/Birmingham), David Nast (vice-chair/Huntsville) and Melissa Morrissette (treasurer/Mobile) would remain in their current roles until that meeting. Typically, all LA board changes (officers, new members, etc.) align with Leadership Alabama’s fiscal year, which is

July 1 – June 30.

With great pleasure, we announce the election of the following members — 
Election of LA Board Officers  (ultimately becoming chair of LA)
  • Linda Young/Treasurer
    Wallace Community College, Dothan
    (Chair 2022 – 2023)
  • Michael Patterson/Secretary
    Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Birmingham
    (Chair 2023 – 2024)
Current Board Members Elected to a Second, 3-Year Term
  • Chip Bivins                   The University of Alabama System, Birmingham
  • Trey Clegg                     Brasfield & Gorrie, Birmingham
  • Melissa Craig               Bank Independent, Decatur
  • Helene Hassell            Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation, Mobile
  • Grits Morris                  Walker360, Montgomery
  • Sheron Rose                 Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery
  • Kennon Walthall        Avenu Insights & Analytics, Birmingham
  • Danny Windham        HudsonAlpha Institute/Biotechnology, Huntsville
LA Members Elected to the Board for First, 3-Year Term
  • Doug Bachuss                Nowlin, Bachuss & Gray, Decatur
  • Michael Kirkpatrick   DESE Research, Huntsville
  • Vanessa Leonard         Attorney, Rockford
  • Eva Robertson              Protective Life Foundation, Birmingham
  • David Silverstein         Five Stone Group, Birmingham
Emeritus Status – LA Board

Two of our highly valued board members, Preston Bolt/Mobile and Mike Warren/Birmingham, elected emeritus status as of October.

Rolling Off LA Board

After serving two consecutive terms, it is difficult to say farewell to the incredible board members rolling off in October – Jeffrey Bayer/Birmingham, Kelly Bownes/Birmingham, Sara Graves/Huntsville and Bill Wallace/Montgomery.

“30th and Holding…” – Rescheduled Anniversary Event
Simply as a reminder, our fabulous 30th anniversary celebration originally scheduled for this month has been rescheduled for next summer on Friday, August 13, through Sunday, August 15, 2021 at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, AL. More information will be sent in the next few months, and we hope you will plan to join the festivities!

Wishing you a healthy, safe and fun 4th of July!

With heartfelt thanks,

Kate Cotton                                       Ashley Whatley

Executive Director                        Director of Programs & Membership Engagement
205-515-6515                                 205-905-9415 *new cell*

Important Message from Leadership Alabama

June 2, 2020

As Leadership Alabama advances into its fourth decade of providing established leaders across Alabama exposure to our state’s many facets, both uplifting and challenging, we remain acutely sensitive to the issues adversely affecting the people of Alabama – particularly our African American citizens. Each year, the class programming strategically incorporates sessions dedicated to a wide range of topics, from education and workforce development to urban issues, the environment and civil rights, and it constantly evolves and is updated in order to remain relevant in today’s climate.

In response to the tragic death of George Floyd and the national crisis that has ensued since we all watched him die, Leadership Alabama remains steadfast in our commitment to expose and eradicate racial and social injustice. We stand firm in our mission of bringing together a network of passionate, engaged and forward-thinking leaders who will seek mutual understanding of Alabama’s obstacles and inequities and then work, individually and in concert, to move our state forward. And, Leadership Alabama’s class programming will continue to candidly and compassionately deal with these difficult issues with a heightened awareness. May the recent events in Minneapolis and around the country inspire in all of us a commitment to actively advocate for justice and equality for ALL Alabamians.

LA Update from Board Chair Gordon Martin

April 30, 2020

Dear Fellow Leadership Alabama Members,
As all of us continue to monitor the current situation, I wanted to share an update regarding Leadership Alabama’s scheduled activities and retreats. As of today, all activities planned for this spring and summer have been rescheduled for this fall, so we are definitely moving ahead and planning for the future. Listed below is a recap of the changes to the schedule.

1 – Selection of Leadership Alabama Class XXXI – 2020/2021
As most of us continue to shelter in place, even as the state begins to phase in the reopening of our economy, we feel it is best to wait until June to start the final process of approving the class. By delaying our actions by just a month or two, we hope the leaders ultimately chosen for the class will be in a better situation to consider and accept the invitation to join Class XXXI. We plan to announce the class members in August.

2 – Current Leadership Alabama Class XXX’s Final Retreat
Class XXX’s final retreat originally scheduled for May in Birmingham has been rescheduled for Thursday, October 22, and Friday, October 23. This will be a first for Leadership Alabama – the current class will graduate after Class XXXI launches in early October in Montgomery, and we are thrilled that we were still able to schedule both retreats.

3 – Current ALI (Alabama Leadership Initiative) Class III’s Final Session
Class III’s final session originally scheduled for this month in the Black Belt has been rescheduled for Wednesday, September 9, and Thursday,
September 10 .

4 – Nominations for ALI Class IV – 2020/2021
Nominations will open on Wednesday, July 1, and close on Friday, July 31. Information will be available on the Leadership Alabama website.

5 – “30 and Holding!” Leadership Alabama’s Anniversary Celebration NEXT Year
Even though we will be a year older, we still plan to celebrate as if we were 30, so save the date! The anniversary event has been rescheduled for Friday, August 13, through Sunday, August 15, 2021 at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear. More information will be sent in the months ahead.

Finally, as will come as no surprise, Kate and Ashley haven’t missed a beat. We are so fortunate to have their passion, dedication, and incredible work ethic. Thank you for your continued support of Leadership Alabama; it truly sustains us through this very difficult time.

Gordon G. Martin
Chair, Board of Directors
Leadership Alabama

Looking Ahead with Hope

April 16, 2020

Dear Leadership Alabama members,

As we all continue to grasp today’s frightening and challenging situation, we are constantly reminded of how much we need and cherish one another. Our daily routines of the past are now valued more than ever as we isolate and distance ourselves from everyone in our lives, and one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with this insidious pandemic is not knowing when it will “end.”

However, with great anticipation and profound gratitude of when that time will come, Leadership Alabama is looking ahead with hope as we reschedule all of the recently postponed events and retreats, most notably our 30th Anniversary celebration (see below) originally planned for this June. Of course, we will continue to monitor and adhere to CDC guidelines and will make any needed changes to the schedule below as directed/advised.

As such, please know that this note is sent with the deepest concern and regard for you, your families, your organizations and our beloved state, and we pray that we will be together again soon.

With hope as we look to the future,
Kate & Ashley

Updated Schedule of Recently Postponed Events & Retreats

(As of Monday, April 13, 2020 – Subject to change based on CDC updates & guidelines)

“30 Years and Holding!” Anniversary Celbration

Next Summer!
Friday, August 13, through Sunday, August 15, 2021
The Grand Hotel
Point Clear, AL

Leadership Alabama Class XXX

Graduation Retreat in Birmingham
(Based on availability, class members will choose to attend in either July or August. The retreats will mirror one another and offer the same content to the extent possible.)
Wednesday, July 22, and Thursday, July 23, 2020 or Wednesday, August 5, and Thursday, August 6, 2020

Alabama Leadership Initiative Class III

Graduation Retreat in the Black Belt
Wednesday, August 26, and Thursday, August 27, 2020

Nominations for Alabama Leadership Initiative Class IV

Nominations (via the LA website) will open on
Monday, June 1, and close on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

30 and holding... FAQs

March 25, 2020

Covid-19 is shaking things up…

Leadership Alabama is postponing our June 2020 Celebration, so we’ll continue to celebrate 30 and holding in 2021.

Save The Date: Augest 13–15, 2021
The Grand Hotel: Point Clear, Alabama

Changes to Scheduled Events

March 25, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leadership Alabama has rescheduled the following events:

  • Alabama Leadership Initiative Class III Session III (initially planned for April 23-24, 2020) has been rescheduled for August 26-27, 2020 in the Black Belt.
  • Leadership Alabama Class XXX’s final retreat (initially planned for May 7-9, 2020) has been rescheduled with two options; July 22-23, 2020 AND August 5-6, 2020 in Birmingham.
  • Leadership Alabama’s 30th Anniversary Celebration (initially planned for June 12-14, 2020) has been rescheduled for August 13-15, 2021 in Point Clear.

All class members and attendees will receive correspondence from the LA office regarding agendas, logistics, and plans.  If you have any questions, please contact or

Leadership Alabama welcomes 2020 with gusto!

January 15, 2020

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