The Sunday Birmingham News served up what it calls the city’s “forthcoming cadre of leaders.” The newspaper’s selection process was mysterious. As columnist John Archibald commented, “you could smell the bloodlines and the corporate clout.” But that doesn’t explain all the selections.
Here are the favored 15 in alphabetical order:
- Brooke Tanner Battle, Foundation Fund Management Co. managing director*
- Michelle Clemon, McWane Inc. vice president of human resources and community affairs
- Corey Ealons, a “Birmingham native” (meaning, I guess, that he no longer lives here) “who served on President Barack Obama’s transition team.”
- Bing Edwards, attorney and Balch & Bingham partner
- Jeremy Erdreich, Erdreich Architecture owner
- Brian Hamilton, Saber Engineering president and CEO
- John Hudson, Regions Financial Corp. senior vice president responsible for diversity and public affairs
- Carrie Kurlander, Alabama Power assistant to the president and CEO
- Bill Ritter, Regions Financial Corp. senior executive vice president and regional president
- Guin Robinson, Jefferson State Community College coordinator of institutional development, and former mayor of Pell City
- Nick Sellers, Alabama Power vice president for corporate relations
- Dalton Smith, Region 2020 executive director
- Cedric Sparks, Mayor’s Office of Youth Services executive director
- Deborah Vance-Bowie, Birmingham Mayor’s Office chief of staff
- Charlie Williams, Druid Hills Neighborhood Association president
Archibald noted wryly that of the “top leaders” chosen 10 years ago, seven have moved on for one reason or another, one is in federal prison, and another — our current mayor — is under federal indictment. Only three of the top 10 leaders (William Bell, John J. McMahon Jr., and Mike Warren) are still influential 10 years later.
Read into that what you will.
I try to meddle in local affairs, but don’t remember ever being in the same room with any of these people. But I’m learning that even more than most places, Birmingham has separate social spheres — no longer defined by race alone, but still separate, and almost never impinging on one another. It’s a serious problem. You can see the effects in our politics and governance.
Over the last 10 years, though, I’ve felt that Birmingham citizens are more involved and interested in local politics than they were before. It would be a shame if we sat back now and let Obama and our “leaders” make the decisions for us. We’re just getting started.
* This company is a division of Founders Investment Banking on Lakeshore Drive.