ACE 2015 Star Awards Announced

AUBURN, ALABAMA- The Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) presented the 2015 ACE Star Awards at the annual Alabama Community Leadership Network (ACLN) Conference Award Luncheon, October 6, 2015 in Auburn, Alabama.

The ACE Star Awards recognizes individuals who have performed above and beyond the call of duty and embody the principles of the ACE Program, a comprehensive development program designed to assist Alabama’s smaller communities in their efforts to plan, grow and prosper.

The 2015 ACE Star Award recipients are:

  • Mr. Robert (Bobby) Avant, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Fayette)
  • The Honorable Ken Sunseri, Outstanding ACE Mayor (Haleyville)
  • Ms. Yolanda Johnson, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (Orange Beach)
  • Mr. Lucas Blankenship, Outstanding ACE Team Captain (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments)
  • Ms. Mary Mason Shell, Exceptional ACE Leadership (Alabama Historical Commission)

These “rising stars” bring outstanding leadership and a passion for small-town Alabama to all that they do.  They are recognized for their commitment to making their communities better places and for their support of the ACE process.  ACE offers communities a “one stop shopping” experience by centralizing community development programs and tools in one organization.

Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) is a nonprofit organization created in 2002 for the purpose of utilizing the collective expertise of its partner organizations.  Throughout the ACE process, ACE Partners work with each community to successfully achieve specific goals.  The ACE Program would not be possible without the funding, hard work and participation of the ACE Partner organizations.

ACE Partner organizations include: Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, Alabama Association of Regional Councils; Alabama Department of Commerce; Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs; Alabama Historical Commission; Alabama League of Municipalities; Alabama Municipal Electric Authority; Alabama Power Company; Auburn University Economic & Community Development Institute; Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc.; Information Transport Solutions, Inc.; PowerSouth Energy Cooperative; Regions Financial Corporation; Southeast Alabama Gas District; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development; USDA Rural Development and the University of West Alabama.

Thirty-one communities have previously been certified as Alabama Communities of Excellence and are located throughout Alabama. (Southeast Alabama): Eufaula, Evergreen, Headland, Alexander City and Valley;   (Southwest Alabama): Atmore, Brewton, Demopolis, Elba, Fairhope, Foley, Gulf Shores, Jackson, Livingston, Monroeville, Saraland and Thomasville; (Central Alabama):  Childersburg, Graysville, Millbrook, Leeds, and Montevallo; (North Alabama): Arab, Fayette, Guin, Guntersville, Haleyville, Hartselle, Heflin, Jacksonville and Rainsville.  Currently, seven additional communities are working through the process of becoming certified as ACE communities: Abbeville, Geneva, Helena, Jasper, Oneonta, Red Bay and Spanish Fort.  For additional information about the Alabama Communities of Excellence Program, please visit www.alabamacommunitiesofexcellence.org.
2015 ACE Star Award Recipients:

  • Mr. Robert (Bobby) Avant, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Fayette) – Fayette was designated an ACE community in 2007.  Mr. Avant has devoted many hours to leading Fayette in the position of ACE Local Coordinator.  He is an outstanding planner and communicator of the ACE mission to promote Fayette in all areas of community life.  Mr. Avant provides strong citizen leadership for Fayette.  He is a retired educator, and serves on various boards in the Fayette Community.
  • The Honorable Ken Sunseri, Outstanding ACE Mayor (Haleyville) – Haleyville was designated an ACE community in 2005.  Sunseri served as the Local Coordinator when Haleyville was accepted into the ACE pilot program in 2003.  Under his leadership as Local Coordinator and Mayor, Haleyville has developed an active youth and adult leadership program, a historical society, completed a two-phase downtown revitalization project, three strategic plans and a comprehensive plan.
  • Ms. Yolanda Johnson, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (Orange Beach) – Ms. Johnson has volunteered unlimited hours to the promotion of ACE in a personal but professional manner.  Her expanse of knowledge has enabled her to volunteer services for ACE in a comprehensive array of capacities.  Ms. Johnson is a Business Counselor with the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network.
  • Mr. Lucas Blankenship, Outstanding ACE Team Captain (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments) – As Team Captain, Mr. Blankenship’s wealth of knowledge, dedication and hard work has been unmatched as Rainsville has worked through the ACE process.  Mr. Blankenship is Planning Director for the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments.
  • Ms. Mary Mason Shell, Exceptional ACE Leadership (Alabama Historical Commission) – Ms. Shell has provided a valuable source of information on historical preservation for the ACE Program as well as to ACE communities.  She has served as a vital link between the Alabama Historical Commission and ACE and has repetitively proven her leadership skills and talents through her service on the ACE Board of Directors.  Currently Ms. Shell serves as the Vice President of the Board, and has also held the position of Secretary to the Board as well as officer positions on the Associates Council throughout her tenure with ACE.  Additionally, she has served multiple terms on the ACE Executive Council.  Ms. Shell is a Preservation Planner with the Alabama Historical Commission.