Important Announcement from Melissa Morrissette, Leadership Alabama’s Board Chair

Important Announcement from Melissa Morrissette, Leadership Alabama’s Board Chair

May 15, 2023

Important Announcement from
Melissa Morrissette, Leadership Alabama’s Board Chair

As some of you may know, Kate Cotton’s husband John has been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past four years. As such, Kate has decided to step down as Leadership Alabama’s Executive Director as of June 30, the end of our fiscal year.  I know you join me in thanking her for everything that has been accomplished during the past 5½ years.  Her infectious spirit, commitment to professionalism, attention to detail and passion for Leadership Alabama’s mission have fostered record-breaking growth, operating and financial efficiencies, enhanced retreat programming and expanded membership engagement opportunities.


Kate joined Leadership Alabama in January 2018 after a long and successful career at Protective Life Corporation in Birmingham. She was a member of LA Class XVII and was serving as a LA Board Member when chosen to be the Executive Director. During her tenure, Leadership Alabama has reached some incredible milestones. With a staff of only two until the recent addition of Melissa Sherer in October of 2022, the dynamic duo of Kate Cotton and Ashley Kaplan has:


  • Achieved the best financial strength in the organization’s history.
  • Realized increased results year over year in corporate fundraising and overall support.
  • Established tiered recognition levels for corporate gifts and acknowledgement on LA’s website and printed material.
  • Created the Gold Circle Donor recognition (dues and contribution of at least $500), increasing from 52 member donors in 2018 to 195 this year.
  • Greatly decreased operating expenses, established an efficient payroll & benefits system, expanded employee benefits, implemented a 401(k)-retirement plan, and updated and streamlined LA’s accounting/monthly reporting system.
  • Secured donated office space in Birmingham and eliminated office rent and operational overhead.
  • Created LACRE (Leadership Alabama’s Commission on Race & Equity) to facilitate candid and challenging conversations focused on historical issues still challenging Alabama.
  • Facilitated a new, more robust, secure online membership dues payment system through SWELL.
  • Hired a new auditor with reduced fees.
  • Continually increased a record number of nominations for each LA class, growing the class size and number of participants in each LA class.
  • Met with LA members to reassess all retreat programming and introduced new venues and topics relevant to today’s Alabama.
  • Incorporated “success stories” of initiatives that could be replicated or expanded throughout the state and incorporated many current and past class members to speak and facilitate sessions.
  • Managed and implemented the expanded ALI (Alabama Leadership Initiative) program to have more sessions, leading to increased annual nominations and remarkable growth.
  • Created more opportunities for membership engagement events by incorporating membership dinners with each LA class in each retreat city.
  • Invited LA graduates to join LA classes at optional “fieldtrips” scheduled on days leading up to the retreats.
  • Spearheaded, redesigned and updated LA’s corporate website in partnership with BIG Communications.
  • After being scheduled and cancelled two times due to COVID, planned, facilitated, and implemented a very successful and well attended “30th and Holding” Anniversary Celebration at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear.  The reunion featured four outstanding speakers, two of whom were LA members and revered leaders in their fields – Dr. John Dorsey, Founder and Executive Director, Project Horseshoe Farm in Greensboro, LA Class XXI and Ms. Jody Singer, Director, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, LA Class XXVIII.

As Kate relinquishes the reins as Executive Director, the Leadership Alabama Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that Ashley Kaplan will assume the role of Executive Director as of July 1, 2023.

Ashley, who is known by all of you for her remarkable knowledge of our organization, is well positioned and ready to lead Leadership Alabama in this new role.  She has been with Leadership Alabama for 15+ years and has been instrumental in every aspect of our organization as she has practically grown-up in LA.

Since January 2018 when Ashley became the Membership Director, she advanced to become the Membership and ALI Director, the Director of Programs and Membership Engagement, ultimately achieving her current role as Director of Operations and Engagement.  She has led the growth, expansion, and success of Leadership Alabama’s ALI (Alabama Leadership Initiative) program.

Ashley has always been an extremely valuable, positive, and knowledgeable resource concerning all aspects of Leadership Alabama.  No one knows our members or the intricacies of planning retreats better than Ashley. She is committed to fostering continued growth, increased membership engagements, as well as orchestrating compelling and relevant retreat programming for future LA and ALI classes.  Ashley’s gracious demeanor personifies Leadership Alabama in every way, and we are certain that Ashley is the perfect person to lead our organization.

As Ashley moves into her new position as our Executive Director, Kate will remain part of the team, working part-time in an operational and development role in support of Ashley along with Melissa Sherer, who is also an extremely valued addition to the organization.  So, what great news!  The unbelievable momentum and forward-thinking vision of Leadership Alabama will continue to get stronger with Ashley at the helm along with Kate and Melissa supporting her as Ashley leads the team working in concert to serve LA’s mission and goals of bringing established leaders across our great state together to seek mutual understanding of problems and priorities for Alabama now and in the future.

Please join me in offering our most heartfelt congratulations to Ashley Kaplan on her new position as the Executive Director of Leadership Alabama.

Best Regards,