Take me to our leaders

itsnicelogoThe 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:

  1. Brooke Tanner Battle, Foundation Fund Management Co. managing director*
  2. Michelle Clemon, McWane Inc. vice president of human resources and community affairs
  3. Corey Ealons, a “Birmingham native” (meaning, I guess, that he no longer lives here) “who served on President Barack Obama’s transition team.”
  4. Bing Edwards, attorney and Balch & Bingham partner
  5. Jeremy Erdreich, Erdreich Architecture owner
  6. Brian Hamilton, Saber Engineering president and CEO
  7. John Hudson, Regions Financial Corp. senior vice president responsible for diversity and public affairs
  8. Carrie Kurlander, Alabama Power assistant to the president and CEO
  9. Bill Ritter, Regions Financial Corp. senior executive vice president and regional president
  10. Guin Robinson, Jefferson State Community College coordinator of institutional development, and former mayor of Pell City
  11. Nick Sellers, Alabama Power vice president for corporate relations
  12. Dalton Smith, Region 2020 executive director
  13. Cedric Sparks, Mayor’s Office of Youth Services executive director
  14. Deborah Vance-Bowie, Birmingham Mayor’s Office chief of staff
  15. 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.

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3 thoughts on “Take me to our leaders

  1. I think that I can say that most of the folks on this list do reach out and touch more of the community than most would realize. The interesting difference I’d say about this current list is that most of their goods deeds happen away from the camera. In this age where we’re obsessed with knowing what every person is doing every minute of the day, there are times when it’s better to do and not sound the alarm of attention instead of blaring the horn and calling someone to look only to make more noise and provide little substance.

    The ability to connect more people together is something that I hope gets improved this year, though it will be a tough task in a town that has all of the different social spheres putting up walls to keep folks out that they don’t want.

  2. That’s an astute comment. I was just involved in a group discernment process (to describe it briefly) about Birmingham, and the single greatest barrier we found to positive change was the strong habit of separation — i.e., maintaining the boundaries between social spheres. We tend to assume that keeping people separate is the key to prosperity, security, and preserving our separate ideas of what is most meaningful. So how do we motivate each other to recognize that habit and break it? What will make it worth doing? Especially when some of us are doing pretty well with things as they are.

  3. It is called “The Biggest Small Town in the World” for a reason. Atlanta is only a little bit better, which you will see if you try to ride public transportation from country to county. The short answer is, you can’t.

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