ACE Presents the 2018 Star Awards at the Annual Community Reunion

Contact: Ms. Sidney Hoover, (205) 567-3248

MONTEVALLO, ALABAMA. The Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) presented the 2018 ACE Star Awards at the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) Annual Community Reunion July 20th in Montevallo, Alabama at the Liberty Hall Ballroom at the American Village. This was the fourth annual ACE Community Reunion, with highlights on WORKFORCE. Dr. Joe Sumners, Executive Director of Government and Economic Development Institute at Auburn University provided the big picture of Building Workforce; Roger Fortner of the Alabama Department of Commerce/AIDT gave an overview of Workforce Development in Alabama, followed by a presentation by Dr. Mark Wilson of Jefferson County Department of Health on Opioid Epidemic in Alabama and a panel discussion by staff of various regions of AlabamaWorks! Ian Thomas of America Walks provided an overview of how to make small towns walkable & vibrant. The program adjourned after hearing from representatives on resources that are available including: AARP, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Trails – 100 Alabama Miles Challenge and the USDA – Rural Development.

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 2018 ACE Star Award recipients include:

  • Connie Baggett, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Brewton)
  • The Honorable Rudy Rooks, Outstanding ACE Mayor (Heflin)
  • Joey Hester, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (NARCOG)
  • Ephraim Stockdale, Outstanding ACE Ambassador (Alabama Power Company)

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 Alabama 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 16 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 2018 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.; Regions Bank; Southeast Gas; Spire; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and The University of West Alabama. ACE also is receiving grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

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

2018 ACE Star Award Recipients:

  • Ms. Connie Baggett, Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator (Brewton) – The City of Brewton was designated an ACE community in 2006. Ms. Baggett has worked for six years dedicating and volunteering her time to improving the City of Brewton through the lens of the Alabama Communities of Excellence. After attending the Your Town Alabama workshop years ago, with a scholarship from ACE, Baggett set plans in motion to utilize the city’s heritage, natural resources and people to draw more retail business, industry and people to the city. Design and quality of life have been her focus as she worked to build the community through improved communications and coordination of more than a dozen events annually in the city. Ms. Baggett is most deserving of this award.
  • The Honorable Rudy Rooks, Outstanding ACE Mayor (Heflin) – The City of Heflin was designated an ACE community in 2007. Mayor Rooks took office in November 2012 as Mayor of Heflin and took the already productive ACE community to another level of excellence. Mayor Rooks and the Heflin ACE team strive to achieve excellence in leadership, planning, economic development and quality of life in everything they do for the community. Mayor Rooks steers the ship and has assisted in the creation of a community where people love to live, volunteer, and want to play a part in the development of its future. Heflin has been designated the safest city in Alabama, and economic development is on the rise; the economic activity generated in Heflin is unlike any in a community its size. Mayor Rooks has utilized many opportunities that ACE provides and put the knowledge, ideals, and leadership skills to work in Heflin.
  • Joey Hester, Outstanding ACE Volunteer (NARCOG) – Joey Hester, Director of Planning and Economic Development at North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG) in Decatur, AL has been an avid supporter of the Alabama Communities of Excellence for many years. He is very active in the ACE Program and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Associates Council, as well as Mentor for Hartselle. Additionally, Hester serves as the Captain of the Hanceville team, and a member of the Chelsea team, both of which were accepted in the 2017 class of ACE communities. Joey Hester is an exceptional volunteer for the Alabama Communities of Excellence Program.
  • Ephraim Stockdale, Outstanding ACE Ambassador (Alabama Power Company) Mr. Stockdale has worked tirelessly for many years providing assistance to ACE communities to develop and reestablish Strategic Plans as well as detailed action plans to guide them as they strive for success. Stockdale currently serves as Captain of the Center Point ACE team, which was accepted in the 2017 ACE class. Additionally, he served as Captain of the Jacksonville ACE team, which was accepted in the 2006 ACE class and was designated in 2011. Stockdale is a Project Manager with the Alabama Power Company’s Economic and Community Development Division and is a true asset to ACE and the communities they encompass. He is continuously ready to step in to offer assistance and provides support in multiple dimensions. He brings a wealth of knowledge to ACE and his devotion to the program has been outstanding.

ACE 2018 Star Award Recipients – pictured left to right: Connie Baggett (Brewton), Joey Hester (NARCOG), Brandon Bias (ACE President), Ephraim Stockdale (Alabama Power Company),
Sidney Hoover, (ACE Executive Director), and Mayor Rudy Rooks (Heflin)