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Ainsworth appoints Jeff Peoples, Gary Smith to 21st Century Workforce commission

The commission was created in 2019 to continually assess and strengthen Alabama’s workforce.

Alabama Power CEO Jeff Smith, left, and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith, right.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth announced Thursday that he has appointed Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith to serve on the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce.

The commission was created in 2019 to continually assess Alabama’s current workforce and make recommendations that will increase its competitiveness with other states. The panel released its initial report and recommendations, entitled “Alabama Workforce Development – Accelerating the Transformation to Excellence,” in 2020.

“Because their companies are committed to meeting the needs of employers ranging from small businesses to large industrial operations and also play an important role in economic development, Jeff Peoples and Gary Smith understand the skills and training that a 21st Century workforce must possess,” Ainsworth said. “By combining their insight and experience with that of the other commission members, we can ensure Alabama remains the nation’s leader in recruiting, retaining, and expanding the long-lasting, well-paying, 21st Century jobs that every state desires.”

Smith joined PowerSouth in 1989 and was named President and CEO in January of 2000. He was previously employed by Pemco Aeroplex and also practiced law.

A former chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, he currently serves on the boards of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the University of North Alabama, the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, the Southern Independent Bank, and the South Alabama Regional Airport Board.

Peoples has held several leadership positions at Alabama Power and the Southern Company. Prior to his current role, he was the executive vice president of Customer and Employee Services, where he oversaw customer services, marketing and economic development strategy and operations, as well as the company’s six geographic business divisions. In addition, he was responsible for Alabama Power’s labor relations, human resources, safety, wellness, health and disability management functions.

In 2018, Peoples became a founding member of the Alabama Power Council on Culture and Inclusion, which focuses on building an environment of inclusion, respect and fairness, while leveraging the talent of all employees.

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Ed Catile, director of the state workforce training and development agencyAIDT, praised Peoples’ focus on workforce when Peoples became CEO in May.

“With the workforce issues confronting all states today, having Alabama Power involved in many of our initiatives to find and implement solutions represents a huge advantage for us,” Castile said.

In 2020, Peoples was named to the U.S. Council on Competitiveness’ advisory committee for the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers.

“Addressing the challenges facing innovation in the U.S. and developing a workforce prepared for future jobs is essential for economic growth,” Peoples said at the time. “This work aligns with Alabama Power’s focus on building economic and workforce development partnerships that strengthen communities and elevate Alabama. The work of the commission is a catalyst for the U.S. to be more competitive internationally.”

Recognized as a national leader in labor relations and workforce development, Peoples serves on numerous industry and nonprofit boards, including the Business Council of Alabama, Paths for Success Foundation, and TradesFutures. He currently chairs the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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