The Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) announced the recipients of the 2020 STAR Awards at the November 11, 2020, Associates Council Meeting. The ACE Star Award recognizes individuals considered to be the “shining stars” of the ACE Program and have performed above and beyond the call of duty. ACE acknowledges the work of their Partners and Associates Council Members, Community Participants, and Volunteers for their work to assist the organization and the communities we serve.
The 2020 Outstanding ACE Mayor is Tom Henderson of Center Point. As the first mayor after the city incorporated, Mayor Henderson served for eighteen years. The ACE Board recognized him for his inclusive style of leadership and focus on safety and quality of life issues to improve the Center Point community. He successfully completed the program and Center Point was designated an ACE Community in 2020.
The 2020 Outstanding ACE Volunteer is Landra Siegfried with USDA-Rural Development. Landra served as the USDA-RD liaison to the ACE Board and assisted with work in several communities and introduced them to programs available from her agency. She encouraged ACE to apply for funds from their Rural Business Development grant program to provide services to our existed communities. Her guidance was essential to submitting a successful application that is funding work in ten existing ACE communities to update their strategic plans.
The 20202 Outstanding ACE Ambassador is Ben Wieseman with REV Birmingham. Ben is a member of our Associates Council and is recognized for his work with ACE communities and our partner organizations. He provides expertise on design, planning, downtown revitalization and housing to our existing towns and during assessments. He promotes ACE with his work with the other statewide nonprofits – Your Town Alabama and DesignAlabama.
The 2020 Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator is Jeremy Griffith of Hartselle. As city planner, Jeremy worked with the ACE team to move the community through the ACE process. He steered the community strategic plan to adoption and has kept their comprehensive plan up to date and relevant. In 2020 he provided documentation to show the city was maintaining their planning and leadership programs for Hartselle to qualify for recertified as an ACE Community.
The 2020 Outstanding Leadership Award was presented to Ephraim Stockdale, Project Manager for the Community Development Team at Alabama Power Company. Ephraim has served on the Associates Council team and facilitated and developed the majority of strategic plans for the ACE Communities. He has been on the ground working with local leadership to help them focus their efforts and be successful. He is a mentor to many ACE professionals and his support and work with the ACE program is part of its success.
Sidney Hoover was presented the Outstanding ACE Leadership & Service to ACE Communities Award to recognize her years of work as a Board member and as Executive Director. Her years of leadership as director have helped ACE grow and support more and more communities. She has developed special projects for the exiting communities and is always helpful to the towns in the process. She has served as a mentor for many ACE professionals. Sidney stepped down from the director role in 2020 and is being recognized for her steady hand and quality leadership. She leaves the organization in a good place to continue growing and assisting Alabama’s communities.
The ACE program offers a systematic three-phase approach with technical resources and the tools needed to help Alabama’s small towns foster growth and prosperity by focusing on their distinctive assets and resources. The ACE comprehensive program includes: Phase I, known as the assessment phase. During this time, a comprehensive report card detailing community assets and weaknesses will be prepared by an ACE Team and presented to the community along with recommended strategies and actions.
During Phase II, the Leadership Development and Strategic Planning component, each community must establish a leadership development program, prepare an up-to-date strategic plan, and identify a local nonprofit development organization.
Phase III is the Implementation and Comprehensive Planning segment. Issues addressed during Phase III include comprehensive planning, commercial business development, education enhancement, infrastructure, health and human services, retiree attraction, tourism, economic development, and quality of life.
Throughout each of these phases, ACE Partners work with each community to successfully achieve their goals. “The ACE program would not be possible without the financial support and expertise provided by our partners. We thank all of our partners that range from state agencies and associations to banks, utilities, universities and others – to foster unique community development programs to assist smaller towns to plan, grow and prosper” remarks Brandon Bias at the Alabama League of Municipalities Annual Convention.
The ACE Partner organizations for 2019 include: Alabama Department of Commerce; Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama League of Municipalities; Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Alabama Municipal Electric Authority; Alabama Power Company; Alabama Small Business Development Center Network; Auburn University – Government and Economic Development Institute; Byard Associates, LLC; David Mathews Center for Civic Life; Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.; Regions Bank; Spire; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development; The University of West Alabama, and the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD). ACE also receives grant funding from the USDA-RD program.
ACE was created in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation organized to provides technical assistance to select communities with populations ranging from 2,000 to 18,000 that helps to strengthen the communities’ long-term economic success. This year marks 17 years of ACE providing the resources and knowledge for small communities across the state to focus on the importance of planning, leadership development and broad-based community engagement. Community leaders are provided with training and workshops to develop vision and mission statements, implementation strategies and a sustainable leadership development program. ACE assigns each community with a team of experts from the ACE Associates Council that guide them with an implementation strategy as they work through the program.
ACE principles include the active involvement by community stakeholders across a broad demographic spectrum coupled with development of local leaders and leadership capacity and an emphasis on the importance of developing and implementing short- and long-term plans to further the realization of the municipality’s vision.