It’s true the words “powerful and influential” can be vague and subjective. However, it’s fair to say among the universally accepted definitions within politics and policy is an individual’s ability to create change, start a conversation, influence the public or public officials, move an agenda forward or stop one in its tracks.
There’s no doubt that a good number of people are moving Alabama forward in politics and business. Recently, Yellowhammer published its 2021 annual list of who they consider the most influential and powerful. They noted it was a “Peek behind the curtain.” That it always is – a peek into the mind of the editorial team, writers, and friends of the site.
With the same people on it year after year, often in the same companies and offices and the standard members of the legislature and statewide offices. Dozens of whom certainly would belong on any list of power or influence: Jo Bonner, Katie Britt, Bob Geddie, Dax Swatek. No one can deny the influence any of them have. Others on the list begged the question “Why?” while others were glaringly missing. This list purposely does not duplicate any name already appearing on that list.
Not all influencers within the public arena are lobbyists or lawmakers. Some within the media or in advocacy organizations can shape or change public opinion. In addition, some influencers have the ability to position themselves, loved ones, or friends to the front of the line for coveted appointments or jobs.
There’s so much to power and influence; while it may hard to describe, you know when you see it, and you know who lacks it.
It could be argued that 1-5 are no brainers and would be list repeats, but heck, I say repeat them until it changes.
So with that, let Alabama Today offer 32 additional notable people who were nominated by a ragtag group of incredibly biased judges. Did I mention how incredibly biased we are? This, combined with the YH list, might give one a better view of the movers and shakers with power and influence in the state’s political world.
Worth noting, some of them are the bosses, mentors, elders statesman, and wise counsel of many on the YH list, while a couple of others are up and comers.
- Jimmy “Yellow Fella” Rane, President/CEO at Great Southern Wood Preserving
Not only is the Yellow Fella the wealthiest man in Alabama and Board of Trustee at Auburn, but there’s also no doubt he’s used his financial success to the betterment of the state, giving him great power and influence. His contributions are well documented, politically, economically, and through philanthropy.
From 2013 to May 2021, his company has given 178 contributions totaling $2,079,316.40. He also has the Jimmy Rane Foundation, which has more than doubled his political donations with $4.7 million in scholarships.
His influence is undeniable and unmatched, which is why he is number one on our list.
- Mark Crosswhite, CEO Alabama Power
Crosswhite’s voice carries a lot of weight, so much so that multiple people on the YH list answer to him in one way or another. Which begs the question, how can anyone deny his place on any list of power and influence?
He chaired the BCA board during a critical time when the organization’s future was in peril, saving a key organization critical to the state’s business development, growth and success, and ensuring a better economic future for the state. As the organization continues to grow and evolve, there’s no doubt he’s still helping steer the ship.
3. Fess St. John IV, Chancellor of The University of Alabama System
Finis “Fess” St. John IV comes from a storied line of Alabama influencers, including his father and grandfather. He’s currently the Chancellor of The University of Alabama (UA) System. Which makes him the chief executive officer of Alabama’s largest employer with multiple school campuses and a massive healthcare system.
According to the school’s website, “Total enrollment in the UA System achieved a new record this fall, with more than 70,400 students enrolled at UA, UAB, and UAH. The System’s annual economic impact surpasses $10 billion annually, and upwards of 1.7 million patients are served every year in the System’s hospitals and clinics.”
4. Chris England, House of Representatives, District 70
While many have tried over the last couple of decades, England was able to stop the further deterioration of the Democrat party (with a reputation that was nationally marred by chaos, a lack of structure, oh, and that one toilet story) and begin its rebuilding. One long-time democrat described the infrastructure as stronger now than it has been since the days of Bill Baxley.
England is a graduate of Howard University and the University of Alabama School of Law. His father grew up in Circuit Court Judge John H. England Jr., who served as a justice on the Alabama Supreme Court in 1999-2000.
To leave him off the Top 5 of any influential list is to deny reality.
5. Stephanie Bryan, Tribal Chair and CEO for the Poarch Creek Indians
No one should question the top female on this list. It’s no coincidence that she heads one of the biggest political powerhouses in the state of Alabama. PCI has capitalized on the shift in public attitudes towards a more tolerant attitude towards gaming and lottery to push for changes in the law that would allow their tribe’s operations to grow. This session’s gaming proposal wasn’t successful, but it got further than expected and may come up again in a special session. She is a political player that many say could be the most powerful over the next couple of campaign cycles.
6. Tom Coker, The Southern Group
Rare can someone survive with the longevity and respectability of Tom Coker. His strength is the state senate, but he can get things done.
His firm’s website names him as President of Tom Coker & Associates since 1982. Tom Coker offers a full range of governmental affairs services. In addition to lobbying the Legislature, he consults with clients, monitors legislation, and represents the interests of a diverse group of entities before various governmental agencies. He is also well-known for his fundraising abilities and is a first stop for many candidates to plan their campaign finance strategies.
He took a short break from owning his own business to serve as Vice President of Research and Membership at the Business Council of Alabama. While at BCA, Tom formed ProgressPAC, a political action committee that is a top giver in every election cycle. In 1986, during his first year as Fundraiser and Staff Director of ProgressPAC, Tom raised more than $1.5 million in direct contributions to candidates. He was also instrumental in merging BCA with the State Chamber while also recruiting new members, lobbying the legislature, and conducting political research.
7. Chris Pringle, House of Representatives, Dist.101
If being co-chair of redistricting doesn’t rise to the occasion of power and influence, then the words have no meaning. Representative Chris Pringle is a tried in true conservative.
Beyond redistricting, he’s also the Chairman of the State Government house committee, where Pringle sees some of the most important bills that come out of the legislature. He’s also known to ask tough questions during contract review committee.
Pringle is a crowd favorite for his sense of humor, and his tell it as it is attitude. He has no problem being on the right side of history, even if it puts him on the wrong side of those in his own caucus. That’s a true influencer.
8. Clyde Chambliss, Alabama State Senate, Dist. 30
Senator Clyde Chambliss had a great session tackling criminal justice, education, and other big pieces of legislation.
Chambliss is the Principle Engineer for Chambliss Engineering (CE), which provides civil engineering services to local governments, developers, and water systems, primarily in Elmore and Autauga Counties. He was elected to the Alabama State Senate in 2014 and currently serves on the following committees: Confirmations (Chairman), Children, Youth and Human Services, Finance and Taxation…