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Todd May retires, Jody Singer acting Marshall Space Flight Center director

Brandon Moseley

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Marshall Space Flight Director Todd May is retiring. Jody Singer will take over as acting director.
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, who is Vice-Chair of the House Space Subcommittee, praised Director May and congratulated incoming acting director Jody Singer on her appointment.

Brooks said, “Throughout his career, Todd May’s work at NASA has been key to expanding America’s space exploration. Todd has been an exceptional leader and excellent partner to me on numerous issues important to the Marshall Space Flight Center in the Tennessee Valley— one of NASA’s largest field installations. His leadership at Marshall as center director, deputy center director, and SLS program manager helped propel NASA’s overall mission success and helped guide Marshall as policy changes in Washington impacted the center. I wish Todd well in his next endeavor, and I am pleased he will remain in the Tennessee Valley.”

Todd May has been the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center since February 1, 2016 and was the acting director since November 13, 2015. He was named deputy director in August 2015.

Since its inception in 2011, May led the Space Launch System (SLS) program through a series of milestones, including a successful in-depth critical design review. SLS, now under development, is the most powerful rocket ever built, able to carry astronauts in NASA’s Orion spacecraft on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and ultimately on a journey to Mars. May’s NASA career began in 1991 in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at Marshall. He was deputy program manager of the Russian Integration Office in the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1994. May managed the successful integration, launch and commissioning of the station’s Quest airlock in 1998. He also joined the team that launched the Gravity Probe B mission to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

May earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, in 1990. He is a native of Fairhope, Alabama, May and his wife, Kelly, have four children and live in Huntsville.

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Joan A. “Jody” Singer who takes over as acting director was appointed deputy director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, by Director May.

The Marshall Space Flight Center is one of NASA’s largest field installations, with nearly 6,000 civil service and contractor personnel, an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion and a broad spectrum of human spaceflight, science and technology development missions contributing to the nation’s space program. Those include the Space Launch System — the most powerful rocket ever built, able to carry astronauts in NASA’s Orion spacecraft on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and ultimately to Mars.

“I offer my congratulations to Jody Singer on being appointed as acting director of Marshall Space Flight Center,” Rep. Brooks said. “Jody has a tremendous depth of experience at NASA, and as Vice-Chair of the House Space Subcommittee I look forward to working closely with her to maintain and expand Marshall’s role in current and future missions. With a career spanning 30 years at NASA, most recently as deputy director of Marshall, Jody has extensive knowledge of the projects most important to the center and she has the proven ability to lead Marshall during America’s exciting return to manned deep space exploration.”

Singer has over 30 years with NASA, Singer has held leadership positions in a variety of engineering, propulsion and spaceflight development programs. Singer was the Deputy Director at Marshall. Before that she had been manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at Marshall, where she held primary responsibility for the center’s work with human exploration projects, flight mission programs and International Space Station hardware integration and operations, including life support systems, research facilities, and payload integration and operations. The office also develops and maintains partnerships with other government agencies and international and commercial partners that will help achieve NASA’s vision.

Prior to that, Singer was appointed deputy program manager of SLS in August 2011. She was deputy manager of the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at Marshall from 2007 to 2011, helping lead the organization responsible for manufacturing, assembling and operating the space shuttle main engines, external tank and solid rocket boosters. In 2010, she assumed additional responsibilities as deputy for the Ares Project Office. In this dual leadership capacity, Singer helped ensure the successful conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011 and the transition of the workforce and assets to support the work of NASA and its partners for the development of SLS.

She was manager of the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project Office from 2002 to 2007, supervising NASA and contractor engineers and technicians responsible for the flight safety, performance and hardware integrity of the space shuttle reusable booster hardware. She also was responsible for ensuring safety through the critical ground test program and led the team through Return-to-Flight activities after the Columbia accident.

She was named assistant manager of the Shuttle Projects Office in 2000. In 2002, after being appointed to the Senior Executive Service — the personnel system covering top managerial positions in federal agencies — she was named the office’s deputy manager.

From 1990 to 2000, Singer served in progressively responsible positions in the External Tank Project Office, including business manager, assistant manager, and deputy manager. Prior to that, from 1986 to 1990, she was an engineer in the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office. She joined NASA in 1985 as an engineer in the professional intern program.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with six and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook.

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Elections

King pauses campaign after opponent’s wife’s death

Bill Britt

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After learning about the death of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, his opponent, former Attorney General Troy King, announces a pause in his campaign out of respect for the Marshall family’s loss.

“Paige and I just learned of the tragic death of Brigette Marshall,” said, King. “Today is a sad and difficult day. Today we are not in different political campaigns or camps. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. We cannot imagine the deep sense of loss and grief the Marshall family must face.”

King further offered condolences saying, “We offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers for Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family and pray that God’s grace and peace and hope will enfold and sustain them.”

King’s campaign also said, “Out of respect for the Marshall family, I have paused my campaign during this time of mourning. I have directed that all of our advertising be stopped. May God hold them in the palm of His hand.”

King and Marshall will face each other in the July 17 Republican runoff for state’s Attorney General.

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Alabama Attorney General’s wife dead

Bill Britt

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News of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall’s, death began to be reported on Twitter early Sunday morning. Elected officials and ranking Republicans are confirming the news. A close friend of the Marshalls who asked not to be identified confirmed her death was either accidental death or suicide. According to the friend, personal issues had been weighing on Mrs. Marshall in recent months. He said the issues were personal and not related to the campaign.

Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and Albertville Police Department would not confirm or deny her death.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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Elections

Alabama Supreme Court Candidate Donna Wesson Smalley talks Justice with APR

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the Alabama Political Reporter went to Jasper for an extended interview with Democratic candidate for Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Place 4.

Donna Wesson Smalley grew up on a cattle farm in Etowah County near Attalla. She is an attorney with four decades of experience with the law. She earned her law degree from the University of Alabama Law School. Smalley is 62 years old.

APR asked: Why are you running for Alabama Supreme Court?

“The real truth is that I feel a real calling for it,” Smalley said. “I have dedicated my whole life to the law, and this is a natural next step.”

APR asked: What are your qualifications to serve on the state Supreme Court?

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“I offer a lot with the breath of my experience. I have 40 years as a practicing attorney. I am a former adjust instructor at the University of Alabama School of Law. I am a former adjunct professor in writing in the English Department. I relocated to Walker County in 2005 after being in Tuscaloosa for 23 years. I have done a lot of different things in the practice of law, which I think is important.”

“That I am a woman brings another experience to the court and Alabama needs more women in leadership positions,” Smalley said.

APR asked if the Judicial Inquiry Commission  and the Court of the Judiciary should be tasked with disciplining judges, or should judges be treated like every other constitutional office and the legislature be the body tasked with impeaching judges (like in the federal system)?

“I think the JIC is much better equipped to handle disciplining judges with an eye of protecting the sanctity of judges and the courts than the legislators. They are not as well equipped by education and experience. There is a balance between popular opinion and a more studied reasoning. That is one of the aspects of our code that has been used as a model used around the world.”

Smalley credited Howell Heflin with modernizing that section and felt that it, “Should be kept.”

APR asked: Does the state of Alabama have an ethics problem?

“Yes, obviously we have an ethics problem when three of our top elected officials have had to be replaced,” Smalley replied. “One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“We have pretty good ethics laws, but we need better enforcement of them,” Smalley said. “For the few public officials that do break the public trust – they need to be punished.”

APR asked: The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) has been very active in endorsing and contributing towards judicial races. Is there a conflict of interest there in judicial candidates accepting contributions and donations from business interests that routinely have business before the court system?

“It is hard to avoid the appearance of impropriety when any one group contributes large amounts of money to the judges that settle disputes that often involves companies that are members of that group,” Smalley said. “This is a big problem and we need to figure out how to solve it.”

“We really need for the legislature to come up with a plan to deal with campaign finance laws in a fair and effective matter,” Smalley added.

APR asked: Should judicial races in Alabama be partisan political races?

“Not in my opinion,” Smalley said. “Politics really shouldn’t have any place in the review of elected races at all. I have practiced with judges who have been both Democrats and Republicans in different points in their careers; but they ruled the same way.”

Smalley said that running judicial races without the party affiliations would be very difficult; but there needs to be some campaign finance reform by the legislature. Our current system has no limits on dark money and allows unlimited donations from businesses and individuals. The appearance of impropriety should be avoided in judicial races.”

APR asked: There is a wide range in caseloads from circuit to circuit across the state. Should the legislature reallocate the judges from areas that have experienced population declines to areas that have experienced growth?

Smalley said no, that we should be adding judges to those areas of the state that are growing faster than other areas not taking judges away. “Getting more judges across the state would streamline how fast cases could come to trial. Justice delayed is justice denies.”

APR asked: Do the poor get treated fairly in our court system, or is there two sets of laws? One for people with money to have the best representation and another system for those who can’t afford the same defense.

“No, the poor are not treated fairly in our court system,” Smalley said. “I don’t know of anyone who can seriously argue otherwise. That is a problem we continue to struggle with, and that is not just a criminal court matter but also in the civil courts.”

APR asked: Do poor people get trapped in the court system being assigned penalties and court costs they can not afford and then additional fines and fees for not paying the previous fines?

“Absolutely, yes, people do get trapped in that system and in my opinion it is indefensible,” Smalley said. “Some agencies like the courts are not supposed to be self supporting. They are supposed to be supported by all of us so that everyone regardless of their station in life can seek justice for wrongs created by others. Justice for all is a basic tenant of our society. It is depressing how the poor are treated in our state and our country.”

APR asked: Republicans have dominated Alabama judicial races for well over a decade because there is a perception that Democrats are soft on crime. Are you strong enough to punish criminals and get justice for victims of crime?

“I don’t think that is why Republicans have dominated judicial races,” Smalley said. “That is a false premise. Republicans have dominated judicial races because they have spent more money to influence the voters. Democrats are like Republicans: they don’t want crime in their families or neighborhoods,” Smalley continued. “We need to do some of the things that we know will reduce crime. We need to be spending more money on early childhood education, job training, and mental health. They all dramatically reduce crime. That is where we need to be focusing instead of creating a cottage industry of private prisons. My hope is that everyone including Republicans will join in solving the problems. Republicans have had the House the Senate the executive branch, the courts, and their approach has not worked. People are still concerned about crime.”

APR asked: Alabama recently executed a man in his eighties. Is there something administratively the courts can do to expedite the appeals process so that death penalties can be performed in less than 20 years of sentencing?

“If there were enough judges and a better system for providing competent defense attorneys, that would streamline it some,” Smalley said. “I don’t think we should change the defendants’ protections.”

“Sometimes justice delayed is justice denied,” Smalley said. “We know it is less costly to have life without parole than the death penalty.”

APR asked: Does the state legislature need to find more funding for the Alabama Court System, particularly the circuit clerks offices?

“It is ridiculous,” Smalley said. “They lost manpower consistently. There is a third of the manpower that they had when I started practicing. ”

APR asked: There has been a popular perception, that in the past, some of the Justices on the Alabama Supreme Court have been a little lazy. If you are elected to the state’s highest court, can the public trust you to put in a full week’s work and not get behind on your work?

“Yes, and I pledge to write opinions,” Smalley said. “One of the things that I have heard across the state, particularly from lawyers, is that they don’t receive a reason written response on their filings. They deserve that much from the appellate courts.”

APR asked: There is a perception that whoever wins the GOP nomination for a statewide judicial race will win the office. Is that making it hard for you to fund raise in this race?

“I just don’t believe that paradigm is true anymore,” Smalley said. “The pendulum has begun to swing, and I don’t really need for somebody to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy my vote. I intend to work my campaign at the grass roots level. That will win voters over.”

Smalley said, “I am confident that I am the most qualified candidate in this particular race. I am 62 years old, and I have been practicing law for 40 years. I have a breadth of experience that my opponent lacks. Most of his work has been with lobbying and governmental affairs. Most of my work has been with real people with real problems.”

“I don’t think either party should have every appellate judgeship, and that is what we have now.”

Donna Wesson Smalley (D) is running against James “Jay” Mitchell (R) for state Supreme Court Justice Place 4.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. (D) is running for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court against Associate Justice Tom Parker (R).

Smalley and Vance are the only Democrats running for any of the statewide judicial offices.

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Todd May retires, Jody Singer acting Marshall Space Flight Center director

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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