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Sponsor says better House leadership could have saved racial profiling bill

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, speaks to reporters after the Senate adjourned Thursday. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

A piece of legislation that would have implemented a method to track racial profiling data in police stops didn’t make it out of this year’s legislative session after House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, pronounced the bill dead on a radio show Thursday morning.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, who sponsored the legislation, said better leadership in the House could have saved the bill, which earlier this session received a unanimous vote in the Senate.

“It’s very obvious there’s not any coordination. There’s not any kind of guidance that needs to be used in the House when you have 105 people,” Smitherman said. “Frankly, I’ve never seen the House scattered in the way it is right now.”

Smitherman said the chamber was disorganized and the rules of order that have been established in the Legislature “clearly weren’t adhered to.”

“I had to wake up this morning by a call telling me that leadership in the House was on talk radio and they made a statement that they aren’t going to bring the bill up today and didn’t even have the protocol and the common courtesy to even text me and tell me first, the sponsor of the bill,” Smitherman said.

Much of Wednesday was spent in a tit-for-tat scenario between the two chambers of the Legislature as the Senate waited on the House to pass Smitherman’s bill before taking up the Education Trust Fund budget for concurrence.Smitherman was slowing down the Senate in the hopes that the House would pass his bill in time for it to get back up to the Senate for final passage.

A series of short recesses followed and so did tension.

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Senators openly and boldly express frustration with the House’s pace this year — a pace that resulted in the death of several Senate bills. At one point, McCutcheon even came to the Senate chambers to confront a senator about his disparaging comments directed at the House.

Smitherman did the same Thursday, making his way to the House after the Senate adjourned sine die.

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon presides over the Alabama House of Representatives. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

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McCutcheon said Thursday that the bill died because the Senate abruptly adjourned Thursday night before the House could get to the bill. The speaker, who finished his second session handling the gavel, said Thursday that there was never any orchestrated effort or strategy to kill the bill.

Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, who carried the bill in the House, echoed Smitherman’s disappointment.

“That’s not generally how things are done here,” Coleman said. “Generally, the sponsors of the bills would have been told what was going to happen before we read it in the media.”

The Senate passed the bill in February. It would have defined racial profiling, prohibited law enforcement officers from engaging in it and required law enforcement agencies to track the race of those pulled over for traffic stops. Agencies would have also needed to adopt written policies.

“Everything that they asked to put in this bill, we compromised,” Smitherman said.

Local police departments, county sheriffs and ALEA would have been directed to file annual reports with the Attorney General’s Office from a complaint system created to allow for individuals to submit suspected instances of racial profiling.

“We don’t have a way right now to log every single stop. We don’t have that anywhere. So say if someone feels as if they were racially profiled, where is the data that is going to back that up,” Coleman said.

Agencies already submit reports about their traffic stops but will now need to include the race, ethnicity, color, gender and age of those stopped and the same statistics for the officer who performed the stop. The hope was that the statistics would allow the state to identify if there’s a problem and in which agencies and departments.

Officers are already required to collect racial data in arrests and citations.

Coleman said there seemed to be a concerted effort in the House to kill the bill.

“We had promises over and over again, and the only thing we can go on here is someone else’s word,” Coleman said. “Of course things happen, delays happen, but that bill could have come up on a previous special order and we would have had time to hear that bill yesterday.”

Opponents of the bill have said it would burden law enforcement officers in the field.

Smitherman and Coleman said they plan to refile the bill next year and have higher hopes that the bill will pass outside of an election year.

“In this situation, the necessary courage to just bring it forth did not prevail in the House,” Smitherman said. “I think once you get new leadership, in some areas, that will allow that to take place.”

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Congress

Roby says that resources are available to persons damaged by Hurricane Sally

Brandon Moseley

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Hurricane Sally struck on the Alabama Gulf Coast as a Category 2 Hurricane on September 16; but authorities, property owners, and farmers are still assessing the damage.

“As Hurricane Sally moved through Alabama last week, I remained in close communication with Governor Ivey’s office regarding recovery efforts, and she ensured us that the appropriate state agency resources will be available to our counties and municipalities in the Second District,” Congresswoman Martha Roby said. “My team also stayed in contact with leaders and elected officials across the district to communicate with them our readiness to assist.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with those throughout our state who have been affected by this powerful storm,” Rep. Roby added. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices if you or someone you know needs assistance.”

“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries launched a survey to gather information from farmers and producers who experienced agricultural damages due to Hurricane Sally,” Roby said. Separately, the Alabama Farmers Federation is also collecting information from affected farmers. For more information on disaster assistance, visit https://www.farmers.gov/recover.”

Prior to and after Hurricane Sally hit our state, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has been hard at work to assist Alabama farmers and consumers. The Department is gathering information from farmers who experienced agricultural damage from the excessive winds, rainfall and flooding caused by Hurricane Sally. This information can be helpful to federal and state leaders in the aftermath of the storm.

To collect the most accurate damage assessments, the Department has established an online reporting survey to simplify the process for producers who have experienced agricultural damage. Producers should visit agi.alabama.gov/HurricaneSally to complete the survey.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate (R) said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane. Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Many farmers had a crop that was ready for harvest. Many of those farmers lost that entire crop.
“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way.”

According to the Department of Ag, reportable damage would include structural, crop and livestock losses. Producers are also encouraged to take photos of damage.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “Feeding the Gulf Coast has a number of distribution and pantry options for those in who need food assistance due to Hurricane Sally. You can find the locations on their website.” https://www.feedingthegulfcoast.org/find-help/find-a-pantry?fbclid=IwAR1i87s0pvDwhIhEaVA-63lGTYwMN5m10Ln9kbIiNHnaHrckoD5UII16S30

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‪”More information on registering with FEMA for damage related to #Sally,” Byrne added on social media. “If you have insurance, you should file a claim with them first before registering with FEMA. That will allow for the quickest response. Even if you have made a claim with your insurance company, you can still register for FEMA assistance.”

To apply for FEMA disaster assistance https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362.

They eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores; but the damage stretches across much of south Alabama and the western Florida panhandle. Baldwin, Mobile, and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster by FEMA.

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Congress

Brooks supports the DOJ decision to declare New York City an “Anarchist Jurisdiction”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, on Tuesday said the New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and other “Socialist Democrat elected officials” have “Utterly failed to maintain law &order.” Brooks said that the lack of leadership has led the U.S. Department of Justice to declare New York City an “Anarchist Jurisdiction.”

“Socialist Democrat elected officials running some of America’s largest cities have utterly failed to maintain law & order— one of the most basic functions of government,” Rep. Brooks said. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have willfully allowed violent anarchists to rampage so badly that the U.S. Department of Justice has designated New York City as an “Anarchist Jurisdiction.” Let Cuomo and DeBlasio’s leadership failure be a warning to American voters everywhere. Placing feckless Socialist Democrats in charge is tantamount to turning your city over to violent anarchists.”

On Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that New York City, Seattle, and Portland have been named as “anarchist jurisdictions” by the Justice Department. The three cities are targeted to lose federal money for failing to control protesters and for policies defunding the police.

“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Barr said in a statement Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance.”

“It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr added.

White House budget director Russ Vought is set to issue guidance to federal agencies on withdrawing funds from the cities in less than two weeks.

The DOJ said that the list of cities eligible for defunding will be updated periodically.

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It is not yet clear what funds are likely to be cut. New York City gets $7 billion in federal subsidies.

President Donald J. Trump (R) had issued a memo ordering financial retribution against cities which have bowed to violent mobs and slashed funding for their police departments.

New York City Council passed a budget this summer that cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion annual budget despite growing violence in the streets.

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Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks has no Democratic opponent in the November 3 general election.

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Elections

Tuberville says it is Americanism versus anti-Americanism

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville said on Tuesday, that this election is about Americanism versus anti-Americanism. Tuberville’s comments were made to the influential St. Clair County Republican Party at their September meeting in Pell City.

Tuberville said that the schools have not been educating; but have become about indoctrination.

“America is about capitalism, not socialism,” Tuberville said. I think we are going to decide which direction we are going to go in the next few years.

“Everybody needs an education,” Tuberville said, but not everybody needs a four year degree. For some people they need an associate’s degree, trade school, an apprenticeship program, or other skilled training. Too many people think they can get a sociology degree and then a job that pays a $million a year without working. It doesn’t work like that.

“We need to get back to working with our hands,” Tuberville said. We need to restore a work ethic in this country.

“I am not a Common Core guy. I believe in regular math,” Tuberville said. “We need to get back to teaching history.”

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football Coach.

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“I was lucky to have a job that I loved,” Tuberville said. Every day I got up with a smile on my face even if we got beat on Saturday; because I enjoyed teaching young men.

Tuberville said that we need to get family back in this country. Half of the young men who are playing for Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn have one or none parents. It makes it harder to teach discipline.

Tuberville said that 76 years ago his father was 18 years old when he fought at D-Day and then drove a tank all over Europe in World War II.

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Tuberville said that he supports President Donald Trump and has gotten quite close to the President in the morning, saying that the President has even called him at 2:34 in the morning. Tuberville asked if they had clocks in the White House. Trump responded, “Sleep is over rated.” Tuberville praised the President’s work ethic.

Tuberville said that he supports following the Constitution and appointing a replacement for Judge Ginsburg who died recently.

Tuberville said that we have experienced a loss of some of our liberties during the pandemic and that everybody was eager to see their lives return to normal.

Tuberville added that he visited Orange Beach and the Alabama Gulf Coast impacted by Hurricane Sally. Many have lost homes. Some people have lost everything, Farmers who have been working for six months to grow a crop have seen it all destroyed, A total loss.

Tuberville promised if elected to work every day to bring God, the Bible, and Christianity back into our schools.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November 3 general election.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R) said that Alabamians who are concerned with the coronavirus can vote absentee.

Merrill said that voting by mail would be too costly and would increase the risk of voter fraud.

Merrill said that 96 percent of Black Alabamians who are eligible to vote are registered, 91 percent of eligible White Alabamians are registered, and 94 percent of Alabamians are registered.

Merrill said that the state has set records for voter participation under his tenure and predicted record participation in November.

St. Clair Republican Party Chairman Ren Wheeler thanked Tuberville and Secretary Merrill for speaking to the over 90 St. Clair Republicans gathered at the court house.

Wheeler said that the Steering Committee had recommended that the party transfer $500 to the St. Clair Young Republicans. The Executive Committee voted in favor of the motion.

St. Clair Young Republican Chairman Logan Glass thanked the Executive Committee for the support and invited everyone to an election night victory party at the Pell City Steakhouse on November 3.

St. Clair County Vice Chair Deborah Howard said that the St. Clair GOP bass tournament will be next month and it is time for boat sponsors to pay their money. The party is also looking at adding a crappie tournament.

Judge Phil Seay (R) announced that the party had lost two of its longtime members. St. Clair County Commissioner Jimmy Roberts (R) died on June 24. Roberts had been in office since 1994. Former St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Mike Fricker passed away on Sunday after a long illness. Seay said that when Fricker took over the St. Clair GOP there was only one Republican officeholder, County Commissioner Bruce Etheredge, in the county. By 2010 every St. Clair County officeholder was a Republican.

Wheeler asked the party members to keep former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman Paul Thibado in their prayers as he is suffering from kidney disease.

Howard said that the next meeting of the St. Clair Republican Party Executive Committee would be on October 15 at the Courthouse in Pell City.

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Crime

Governor establishes Prison Repurposing Commission

Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn have said that as many as 11 of the state’s 13 existing men’s prisons could close.

Eddie Burkhalter

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St. Clair Correctional Facility near Springville, Alabama (VIA GOOGLE)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed an executive order establishing the commission that will be tasked with deciding what to do with the state’s existing men’s prisons, once three new prisons are constructed, at a cost that’s been estimated to be more than $2 billion. 

According to the order, the 15-member Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission will have until Sept. 1, 2023, “or 90 days after the Commissioner certifies to the Commission that construction on the final prison is complete” to submit a report detailing their recommendations for the state’s prisons. 

Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn have said that as many as 11 of the state’s 13 existing men’s prisons could close. Ivey’s order Tuesday states that the commission is to determine which prisons could be renovated and used as prisons, which could be renovated for other purposes for ADOC and “which should be repurposed to serve a new function, whether by another public entity or the private sector.” 

“The Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission will provide recommendations based on in-depth facility analysis considering both the impact on the state and local community as well the financial ramifications to potentially repurpose or decommission some of our current prison infrastructures,” Ivey said in a statement. 

“As our Alabama Prison Program moves forward in building three new prisons to provide additional safety for correctional staff and inmates, we will simultaneously need to smartly and safely repurpose or decommission these outdated, aging prisons, many of which were never designed or constructed to be correctional facilities for their current use or capacity,” Ivey continued. “I’m confident this commission, which is comprised of a broad, experienced and diverse group of individuals who represent all regions of our state, will accomplish its mission effectively on behalf of the people of Alabama. This process will allow both public officials as well as members of the general public to have a meaningful voice in the future of our existing prison infrastructure.”

Ivey’s order states that the commission should hold at least one public meeting “in a local community near each existing male prison” but that “other meetings of the Commission shall be open to the extent practicable but shall, in all events, be closed to the extent necessary to protect information related to the Department’s ongoing or anticipated security operations and other confidential information.”

Ivey on Sept. 3 announced the two developer teams that are to build the state’s three new mega prisons, and said those prisons are to be located in Bibb, Elmore County and Escambia counties.

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The private prison company CoreCivic is to build and lease back to the state two of the three prisons, according to Ivey’s office; one in Elmore County, where several locations are under review, and the other to be located near Bell Fork Road in Escambia County.

The prison to be located near AL-139 and County Road CR-2 in Bibb County is to be built by a group called Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, made up of Star America, BL Harbert International, Butler-Cohen, Arrington Watkins Architects and Johnson Controls Inc.

ADOC has said the department won’t release financial details of the more than $2 billion prison build-lease plan with the private companies until after the deals are signed. Once those leases have run their course, the state won’t own the three prisons, Dunn told state legislators in June. 

The Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission members include:

  • Neal Wade (Chair) is the former director of the Alabama Development Office, the precursor to the Alabama Department of Commerce, and currently serves as the Managing Partner of Advanced Economic Development Leadership for the National Economic Development Education Program.
  • Sen. Greg Albritton is Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee and was elected to represent District 22 in the Alabama Senate, which includes Baldwin, Clarke, Escambia, Monroe, and Washington counties. Senator Albritton previously served in the House of Representatives and is a retired Commander in the U.S. Navy.  He is an attorney and a graduate of the Thomas B. Goode Jones School of Law.
  • Ben Baxley currently serves as Chief of the Opinions Division in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division in the office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. After graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law, Baxley began his legal career with the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office and worked as Chief Deputy District Attorney for Dekalb and Cherokee counties.
  • Ted Clem is the Director of Business Development for the Alabama Department of Commerce.Clem joined Commerce in February 2014 as a senior project manager and played a key role in two projects in Opelika that involved $340 million in capital investment and nearly 400 new jobs. Clem began his career in Evergreen, as the first Executive Director of the Conecuh County Economic Development Authority. He later served with the Covington County Economic Development Commission before moving on to a business development post at the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, followed by a stint the Bay County Economic Development Alliance in Panama City. Clem holds the Certified Economic Developer certification and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Troy University, and received a Master’s degree in Economic Development from the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison was elected to represent District 20 of the Alabama Senate, which includes Jefferson County. She previously served one term in the Alabama House of Representatives and three terms on the Birmingham City Council. She recently retired from the City of Birmingham as the Americans with Disabilities Compliance Administrator. Sen. Coleman-Madison received her Bachelor of Science degree from Alabama A&M University, and her Master of Arts degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  She serves as the Ranking Minority Member of both the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund and Governmental Affairs Committees.
  • Harold Crouch is currently the mayor of Chatom where he has served for 24 years. He was previously on the City Council for two terms. He has also taught government, history, and economics.
  • Darius Foster is the CEO & Co-Founder of H2T Digital. He received a BS in Business Administration from Miles College and a GC in Business Strategies for Social Impact from The Wharton School. He is a current member of the Board of Directors for the Business Council of Alabama as well as a former Commissioner of the Alabama Commission of Higher Education.
  • Annette Funderburk is the President of Ingram State Technical College which serves a 100 percent incarcerated adult population that delivers career technical, GED and job skills training at six locations across Alabama. She previously served nearly 10 years within the Alabama Community College System where her most recent role was Director of External Affairs. Before working within the two-year college System, Funderburk served in several roles related to local government including a Municipal Consultant, responsible for securing grant funds for infrastructure and development projects, as well as a County Administrator for the Tallapoosa County Commission. Funderburk has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Montevallo and a Master’s in Public Administration from Troy University.
  • Rep. Kelvin Lawrence was elected to represent District 69 of the Alabama House of Representatives which includes Autauga, Lowndes, Montgomery and Wilcox counties. He previously served as the Mayor of Hayneville and worked as a home builder as well as owning several Subway sandwich shop franchises.  He serves on the Ways and Means General Fund and State Government Committees in the House of Representatives.
  • Merceria Ludgood currently serves as a Mobile County Commissioner, District One, attorney and civic leader. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama, followed by a Master of Arts degree. She earned her law degree from the Antioch School of Law An avid supporter of higher education, Ludgood also earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Alabama Interdenominational Seminary in 1990.Ludgood is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being selected for Leadership Mobile, Leadership Alabama and the prestigious Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship. The commissioner has distinguished herself as a member of the inaugural class of “Herstory of Mobile,” a Museum of Mobile project recognizing the outstanding contributions of women to the social, economic and cultural heritage of the Gulf Coast region.
  • Walter Givhan, Maj. Gen., USAF (Retired) currently serves as Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development at Troy University. He is also the Commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education and Vice Commander of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. The center is responsible for the research, development, and production of Air Force doctrine and input for joint and multinational doctrine development activities. The center is also responsible for advocating the proper doctrinal representation of airpower in exercise scenarios, war games, models and simulations, and providing policy and guidance of Air Force doctrine through education and focused outreach. Air University is responsible for Air Force enlisted and officer professional military education, professional continuing education and graduate education, as well as officer commissioning through Officer Training School and the Reserve Officer Training Corps. General Givhan, a native of Safford, Ala., graduated from Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala., and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was a National Merit Scholar. 
  • Allen G. Peck, Lt. Gen., USAF (Retired) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Airpower and General George Kenney Chair at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). In addition to instructing the Airpower Studies courses, Peck has taught the Joint Warfighting and Leadership Development core curriculum courses at ACSC. He also serves as co-facilitator for the joint Air War College/ Air Command and Staff College Airpower Vistas Research Task Force joint elective. Peck served for 36 years on active duty in the USAF, flying the air-to-air and air-to-surface variants of the F-15. He was a key planner for NATO’s Kosovo operation, and later served as Deputy Combined Force Air Component Commander at Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar. Peck holds an MS in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology, an MA in International Relations from Salve Regina University, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  • Rep. Connie Rowe is the Vice Chair of the Majority Caucus in the House of Representatives.  She also serves as Vice Chair of both the Rules Committee and Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Representative Rowe was elected to represent District 13 of the Alabama House of Representatives, which includes Blount and Walker counties. She previously served as Police Chief for the City of Jasper as well as a criminal investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office.
  • Kyes Stevens is the Founder and Director of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University.  Starting in 2001, she has worked to design and build an innovative and sustainable outreach program that works with the underserved adult prison population in Alabama. Stevens oversees all aspects of APAEP programming. She has served as a grants reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, was an inaugural member of an emerging arts administrators organization in Alabama, and works in advisory capacities nationally for individuals and programs seeking to develop arts and education programming within prisons. She is the fourth generation of her family to work in Outreach at Auburn University and was awarded an Auburn University Young Alumni Award for her efforts building APAEP. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Lillian E. Smith Writer in Service Award and continues to publish poems.
  • Willie Williams, Lt. Gen., USMC (Retired) is a senior consultant and Owner/President of Williams Consulting, LLC based in Huntsville assisting the Department of Defense-supporting contractors and industries in strategic business development. Williams previously served as the Chief of the Marine Corps Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC, where he was responsible for day-to-day operations at headquarters, coordinating decision-making association activities across internal and external staffs of, in addition to the Marin Corps, principal assistant and adviser to the Commandant and the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps as they led and managed its 200,000 members, and their military readiness effectiveness. Willie was commissioned into the officer ranks after earning his Bachelor of Arts (Cum Laude) in Business Administration from Stillman College. He also holds a MBA from National University and a MS in Strategic Resources Management from Industrial College of the Armed Forces at National Defense University.
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