Spotlight: Movers & Shapers in Montgomery County

Sonya Berryman is senior vice president of insurance services at Palomar Insurance Corp. and a certified insurance service representative. A native of Montgomery, she is a graduate of Carver High School and Huntingdon College. She has been a board member for the Family Guidance Center, YMCA Goodtimes Center, Dalraida United Methodist Church and the Huntingdon College Alumni Association. She is a volunteer with River City Church Neighbors in Need, Joy To Life Foundation, Montgomery Lions Club, Nellie Burge Community Center and Habitat for Humanity. She is also the past president of the Family Guidance Center of Alabama board.

Anna Buckalew is president and CEO of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, after serving as executive vice president. She serves on the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama and is a director of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives Foundation. A graduate of the University of Alabama, she also graduated from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institutes for Organization Management at the University of Georgia.

Cedric Campbell, a civil engineer, is regional vice president for Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood’s Montgomery office and serves on the firm’s board of directors. He is a Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce director and serves on the Baptist Medical Center South advisory board and the City of Montgomery Architectural Review Committee. An Auburn University graduate, he is also a graduate of Leadership Montgomery, Leadership Alabama and the Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Leadership Institute. He is a member of Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society, American Society of Civil Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers and National Society of
Professional Engineers.

Tommy Coshatt is executive vice president, operations, of Alfa Insurance. He began his career with Alfa in 2006 as an agent in Hoover, working his way up to his present role including a recent assignment to help transition the firm from product orientation to customer orientation. Coshatt earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has served on the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association board of directors since 2014.

Elton Dean Sr. is chairman of the Montgomery County Commission. He is a graduate of Selma University and Alabama State University, with additional credentials from the American Real Estate Institute and the Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent Technologies Corporate Education Center. He owns Dean Realty and 21st Century Hair Studio, after a career as manager with Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent Technologies. He is a board member for several civic organizations and has received many awards for his service. The commission cast the important vote to allow the county’s successful election to raise ad valorem taxes for Montgomery public schools. 

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Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon is adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, commanding both Army and Air National Guard and advising the governor on military affairs. She became the Alabama National Guard’s first female general officer in 2009 and is the first female adjutant general in Alabama National Guard history. She is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and Auburn University at Montgomery, and also the United States Army War College. 

Lt. Gen. James Hecker is commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, which trains military personnel and civilian support staff, as well as commissioning programs through the Officer Training School and the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He is a command pilot with more than 3,500 hours flying various aircraft. He is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate with master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Air War College, Maxwell AFB. 

Paul Hodges is vice president of Hodges Warehouse + Logistics, where he has helped the firm grow by increasing real estate holdings and entering new businesses. He graduated from Auburn University at Montgomery. He is a past director of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery and past president of the Auburn University at Montgomery alumni board. Hodges is an active member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Montgomery Homebuilders Association, Business Council of Alabama and the National Association of Realtors and is involved with many local charities.

Jake Kyser, a lifelong resident of Montgomery, is president of Jerry Kyser Builder Inc., owner and qualifying broker for Kyser Property Management Co. and owner of Central Restaurant, Tower Taproom and Lower Lounge in downtown Montgomery’s Alley Entertainment District. He is a charter board member of River Bank & Trust. An Auburn University graduate, he serves on the board of the Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association and is active in Associated General Contractors of Alabama, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 and the Wright Flyers. He and his wife, Anna, received the 2020 Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts award.

Steven Reed is mayor of Montgomery. A graduate of Morehouse College, he holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University. Key to his goal of making Montgomery a leader in the New South, he helped pass an ad valorem tax to support public schools. He has been a probate judge and served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Election Integrity Commission. A Leadership Alabama graduate, he volunteers as a YMCA football coach and other community service initiatives. He serves on the boards of the River Region United Way, the Metro Board of the Montgomery Area YMCA, Trustmark Bank and Valiant Cross Academy. He is moderator at Community Congregational United Church of Christ and active in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc. He received the Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award for Governmental Service and was chosen as a New Deal Leader. 

Carl Stockton is chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery. Stockton holds bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. Under his leadership, AUM was the first university to join the Montgomery Internet Exchange in 2017. Its enrollment has grown and it has built partnerships with community colleges. He has been a board member for Child Protect, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and YMCA Metro and served on Mayor Reed’s 13-member “Montgomery United” Transition team committee. He has received numerous awards. 

Pamela Swanner is director of Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, a public/private nonprofit working to market the region’s outdoor recreation opportunities from fishing and hunting to hiking, canoeing, birdwatching and an array of cultural sites. She came to the Black Belt group after developing the Alabama Birding Trails for the Alabama Tourism Department and from tourism work in North and South Carolina. She is active with the Alabama Bass Trail and Southern Outdoor Press Association board of directors, co-chair of Hunting Works for Alabama, and has received several awards for her work.

Marshall Taggart Jr. is executive director of the Montgomery Regional Airport. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, he also holds a master’s degree and expects his Ph.D. this spring. A 2008 graduate of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Executive Leadership Program for aspiring Senior Public Executives, he received NFBPA’s 2007 Steven E. Ford-Young Public Administrator of the Year Award and served as the youngest national president of the Conference of Minority Public Administrators in 2002. He is a Certified Member of the American Association of Airport Executives. 

The Rev. J. Cameron West is president of Huntingdon College. Before he started at Huntingdon in 2003, he was vice president and dean at Brevard College from 1999-2003 and a parish minister in North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, he holds an M.Div. from Yale University and a Th.M. from Duke University. He also is a graduate of Leadership Alabama. He is an ordained elder in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and in 2013 was presented the Francis Asbury Award by the Alabama-West Florida Conference. He is on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts and the Duke Divinity School.

Mike Williams is president of Faulkner University. Under his leadership, Faulkner has added a College of Health Sciences, which will act as the foundation for Williams’ vision to create an autism center on campus. He has also helped Faulkner develop partnerships with Davis Elementary School and HEAL Alabama. Williams came to Faulkner from Harding University, where he worked as director of admissions, assistant vice president of enrollment services and most recently as vice president of advancement. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harding and a doctorate of education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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