The Yellowhammer Local Leader 20 is a collection of 20 of Alabama’s brightest local leaders. The criteria for making this list was fairly broad. Some members of the LL20 are up-and-coming elected officials who will likely go on to higher office in the future. Other members of the list are grassroots leaders who organize activists on the ground and influence elections and elected officials. Others we are featuring are just doing such a good job in their current role that they deserve some recognition or are notable business leaders who are primed for a run in the future. No members of the legislature or statewide office are included in this list (see our Power & Influence 40 for that).
Over 150 individuals were nominated for the LL20 by a wide range of people including Representatives, Senators, Montgomery insiders, Republican Party leaders, activists, judges, district attorneys, county commissioners, mayors and more.
In the end, we did our best to narrow the list down to a diverse group of 20 local leaders who should be on your radar — even including a few Democrats from their beleaguered ranks. We will be releasing the list 5 at a time throughout the week. Enjoy a look at some of Alabama’s most notable local leaders.
[Editor's note: Yellowhammer does NOT agree politically with all of the members of the LL20. Remember, Henry Mabry made our Power & Influence 40. We obviously don't support much of what he does but can't deny his power and influence. Bottom line: inclusion on this list is not an endorsement.]
11. Garlan Gudger, Jr.: Cullman City Council President
Gudger’s family owns a small business in Cullman and he is well-liked by people across the political spectrum. Insiders have noted that he has been very patient about his next move. He probably could have already run for either the Senate or the House but he is picking his spots carefully. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
12. Corley Ellis: Shelby County Commission Chairman
Ellis is serving his second term on the County Commission after being appointed by Governor Riley in 2008. He’s the son of former State Senator Butch Ellis who several people told us is known as the “Godfather” of Shelby County politics. Ellis is close to Governor Bentley and the Bentley crew in Columbiana. He’ll have opportunities to move up. Sen. Cam Ward said of Ellis, “He brings a temperament to the county commission that makes him admired and respected by all other officials in Shelby County.”
13. Brandon Falls: Jefferson County District Attorney
Falls took over for longtime Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber when Barber resigned unexpectedly in 2008. Few people thought he’d be able to win election in 2010 — but he did. It’s pretty strong for a Republican to win the DA’s race in Jefferson County. Having that kind of power in the state’s most populated county means there’s a good chance you’ll be a force in the future.
14. Heather Sellers: Montgomery County School Board, District 1
Sellers is a ball of energy and wasn’t afraid to make some waves when she was elected to the School Board. She’s a longtime conservative activist and was previously appointed by Governor Bob Riley to serve on the state’s Textbook Committee. There has been talk among some insiders about approaching her to run for higher office.
15. Richard Minor: St. Clair Co. District Attorney
People around the state may know Minor as one of Attorney General Luther Strange’s biggest supporters, but he’s also one of the state’s best District Attorneys. He’s likely in line to run for anything Rep. Jim McClendon passes on. “He’s the most popular Republican in St. Clair county after Doc (McClendon),” said one insider.