ACE Presents 2019 Star Awards at Annual Community Reunion

CLANTON, ALABAMA. The Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) presented the 2019 ACE Star Awards at the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) Annual Community Reunion September 20th in Clanton, Alabama, at the Alabama Power Company – Clanton Conference Center. This was the fourth annual ACE Community Reunion, with highlights on financing projects in new and existing buildings, marketing communities inward and outward, challenges in rural healthcare, and best practices used in the ACE community of Montevallo.

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 2019 ACE Star Award recipients include:

  • Joe Sumners, Exceptional ACE Leadership
  • Miriam Boutwell, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Foley)
  • The Honorable Howard Rubenstein, Outstanding ACE Mayor (Saraland)
  • Pastor Bo Bell, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (Brewton)

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.

ACE is a 501(c)(3) organization that 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 15 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.

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. The ACE Partner organizations providing funding in 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; David Mathews Center for Civic Life; Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.; Jacksonville State University; Regions Bank; Spire; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and The University of West Alabama.

Southeast Gas was our generous sponsor for the 2019 annual community reunion

Thirty-nine communities located throughout Alabama have previously been certified as Alabama Communities of Excellence. These communities include: Alexander City, Arab, Atmore, Bay Minette, Brewton, Childersburg, Demopolis, Elba, Eufaula, Evergreen, Fairhope, Fayette, Foley, Geneva, Graysville, Guin, Gulf Shores, Guntersville, Haleyville, Hanceville, Hartselle, Headland, Heflin, Helena, Jackson, Jacksonville, Jasper, Leeds, Livingston, Millbrook, Monroeville, Montevallo, Oneonta, Rainsville, Saraland, Spanish Fort, Tallassee, Thomasville, and Valley. Other communities currently in the process of working through the ACE program include: Abbeville, Boaz, Center Point, Chelsea, Florala, Gardendale, and Red Bay.

For additional information about the Alabama Communities of Excellence Program, please visit our conference resources page here.

2019 ACE Star Award Recipients:

  • Dr. Joe Sumners, Exceptional ACE Leadership – A founding ACE board member who greatly contributed to the conceptualization and establishment of the program and its continued success, Dr. Sumners is recognized for his exceptional leadership. A champion for rural communities, he supported more progressive economic development, community leadership, and healthy local democracy throughout Alabama.       He has served on state advisory councils under four governors and worked at the local, state, regional, and national levels. For over thirty years, he has worked with economic development and governmental organizations at Auburn University, served on various boards and task forces, and written numerous research papers and publications.  At his retirement in July of 2019, he served as Executive Director of Government & Economic Development Institute.  Constantly updating and improving outreach programs to rural communities, he previously directed Auburn University’s Economic & Community Development Institute to educate local leaders.  That Institute’s mission to “improve the quality of life and economic prosperity in communities throughout Alabama” is a good description of Dr. Sumner’s work in Alabama and beyond.
  • Ms. Miriam Boutwell, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Foley) – – When the City of Foley received their ACE community designation in 2012, Miriam Boutwell was the local coordinator and continues to fill that role and so many others.  As city planner, building official and floodplain manager, Boutwell makes sure Foley does not miss out on any opportunities to use its assets to improve and prosper.  Establishing the Foley Main Street program, managing the Historic Preservation Commission, and forming the Planning Lower Alabama Network (PLAN) group are a few examples of local programs she has developed and nurtured.  Boutwell is also very active in state organizations as the Gulf Coast Members Representative on the Executive Community of the Alabama APA and she served in the leadership of the Alabama Association of Floodplain Managers. Her nominator states, “She lives in the realm of above and beyond. Planning is a part of who she is.”  She has orchestrated the city’s budget process to include three years so everyone can see the plan for the “Big Picture.” She disseminates information regarding planning to all on a regular basis. Leadership is an integral part of who she is in her profession as a department head.
  • The Honorable Howard (Doc) Rubenstein (Saraland) – Described as a leader and visionary with a servant heart for the community, Dr. Rubenstein has led Saraland through a time of rapid growth and prosperity. Serving as mayor since 2012, he has been integral to the formation of the city school system, chaired the committee to develop a comprehensive plan, and recruited a medical center, hotels, restaurants and quality retail stores to Saraland. Dr. Rubenstein recently served as President of the League of Municipalities and led the development of their comprehensive plan. He is one of the few Alabama officials to receive the National League of Cities Platinum Certificate Award. Dr. Rubenstein is currently working with Design Alabama and other professionals to plan the infrastructure and design for a town square park on the site of a blighted area.
  • Pastor Bo Bell, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (Brewton, AL) – Pastor Bell is a stalwart supporter of all the city’s efforts volunteering his own time and organizing teams from his own congregation to help the city accomplish their goals. They help weed flowerbeds, operate shuttle buses at events, operate a thrift store, and help rehabilitate houses for economically changed people. These activities provide jobs and skills to the community. His church purchased an abandoned industrial site and made it a church home that serves as a meeting place and provides activities from free movies and anti-drug addiction events to food giveaways. Pastor Bell and his organization have cheerfully met or exceeded any request to assist the city with their ACE efforts.


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