The “A” List

the people who rose to the top in 2010

The men and women on our inaugural “A” List represent the region’s best hope: People who care, People who are good at what they do, People who are making this city feel great again. In the words of Birmingham’s sentimental graffiti artist, “You are beautiful.”

Mayor William Bell

Mayor William Bell

Photo by Liesa Cole

In a newspaper column News editor Tom Scarritt recently quoted Mayor William Bell from an article the mayor wrote for The Birmingham News early last year. “My tenure as mayor has opened my eyes to what really makes a leader,” Bell wrote, “It is not the pomp and circumstance or the events and meetings. It is looking for and finding solutions through collaboration and consensus building, especially in a tough economy.”
We don’t know about all that; we’re just glad there are grown-ups in City Hall again. From Railroad Park to the Barons to projects coming down the pipeline, everything the mayor has been doing seems carefully calibrated to create a city that really believes in its future. That is a priceless talent we’re ready to reward with a standing ovation. Keep it coming.

Pam Siddall

Pam Siddall,The Birmingham News

Photo by Beau Gustafson

For us, it was the pink paper that sealed the deal. It told us the paper was alive, vital, and that it cared. The Birmingham News on Monday, October 4, 2010, was printed on pink paper in support of breast cancer awareness. It was an outward sign of a vitality and a willingness to embrace the new that had been glimpsed from the time Pam Siddall took over as president and publisher of the newspaper in January of last year.
“I believe this community is on the verge of something great. We are gaining momentum. But, our greatest challenges are also our best opportunities—regional collaboration, public education and economic development.  The News is proud to play a role in shaping our future. We don’t just cover this community; we care about making it better.
“I am honored to be the first female publisher at the state’s largest news gathering organization. It comes with a tremendous sense of responsibility that is unique and special. The role of a newspaper is three-fold: First, we must succeed as a business. Second, we must act in the public interest. We will conduct ourselves ethically, both as leaders and as an organization, we will use journalism to expose ethical lapses and spotlight generosity and we  will give generously to our community.  Third, we must encourage others to do the same. Our leadership must set the example, and we must hold ourselves to higher standards and use our editorial voice to encourage others,” Siddall says.
“What I love about  a newspaper is that no two days are ever the same. It’s constantly changing in order to exceed the high expectations  of our customers. We are in the midst of a multimedia transformation, and my role is to lead the charge with a sense of urgency, vision and optimism. We are embracing change, capturing more audiences, expanding to new channels and developing more innovation. And, we are fighting. And, we intend to win.”

Suzanne Durham

Suzanne Durham, YWCA

Photo by Beau Gustafson

Suzanne Durham sees the world for what it is—a place of promise and pain. She’s been underpinning the promise for more than 30 years at the helm of the YWCA of Central Alabama. What she loves about this city is “the community’s generosity and compassion for others. We need more leaders with the political will and resources to bring about some systemic changes that are desperately needed to improve the quality of life for all of us,” Durham says. Under her leadership, the YW has become a critical community agency known for meeting dire needs. Under the tagline eliminating racism and empowering women, the YW’s major programs revolve around affordable housing, affordable child care and a broad array of domestic violence services.
The organization’s work in the Woodlawn area of the city is a classic study of leaders and volunteers bending to their will a seemingly intractable problem of crime, drug houses, prostitution and abuse. It’s far from perfect, but the neighborhood is better for the YW’s work. And as Durham will tell you, there is plenty more where that came from.

Jay Grinney

Jay Grinney, HealthSouth CEO

Photo by Liesa Cole

First he brought HealthSouth back from the dead, then he started to turn his attention to his adopted home. “I think it’s an exciting time to be in Birmingham. Our region has a lot going for it—great people, natural beauty, an abundance of recreational and cultural amenities—all of which contribute to an impressive quality of life.  But, we also have our share of challenges: stagnant growth; wide disparities in the quality of our schools; and a highly fragmented region with multiple municipalities. What’s exciting is that local businesses and government officials are coming together to address these challenges in a coordinated manner.  That’s real progress,” Grinney says.  Grinney came to HealthSouth at the depth of its accounting scandal, and managed a remarkable turnaround. More recently he’s been active in community development projects such as the BBA’s Blueprint Birmingham. “I’ve lived in many places, but Birmingham is the first place I’ve wanted to establish ‘roots.’ Because of the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made, I’m proud to call Birmingham ‘home.’”

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