Spotlight on Jefferson County: Movers & Shapers

The individuals who help shape the communities in Jefferson County

Anupam Agarwal was named dean of the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, senior vice president of medicine and chair of the Health Services Foundation Board in February 2023. Dr. Agarwal serves as the program director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases-funded O’Brien Center for Acute Kidney Injury Research, and his contributions providing critical insights regarding acute kidney injury have been recognized through election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians and the American Clinical and Climatological Association. He also has served as president of the American Society of Nephrology.

Edward Aldag is chairman, president and CEO of Medical Properties Trust Inc., a health care company he launched in 2003 that has since grown to more than $22 billion in assets. The Eufaula native earned a degree in finance at the University of Alabama. Aldag serves on the board of Children’s of Alabama and its foundation. He also serves on the boards of Mitchell’s Place, the Birmingham Education Foundation and the American Sports Medicine Institute and is an executive committee member of the Birmingham Business Alliance.

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Steve Ammons is CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Ammons previously served as Jefferson County Commissioner for District 5, where he was also the chairman of both the Economic Development and the Information Technology committees. He also managed the recruitment of the J.M. Smucker Co. to Jefferson County, which led to a $1.2 billion capital investment, the largest in the county’s history. Ammons is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.



Rich Bielen has served as president and CEO of Protective Life since 2017. Bielen is a Certified Public Accountant and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University. Bielen is chairman of the board of Children’s of Alabama and at-large director of Innovate Alabama. He also serves on boards for The American Council of Life Insurers, United Way of Central Alabama, Birmingham Business Alliance and Leadership Birmingham. In 2020, Bielen was nominated to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce board, and in September 2024, he will become chair of the board of ACLI.

Melanie Bridgeforth is the president and CEO of Women’s Foundation of Alabama. She is a nationally recognized thought leader, a 2021 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow and serves on the Federal Reserve Board – Birmingham Branch. She also serves the Alabama Women’s Health Commission. Bridgeforth earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama.



Frank Brocato is mayor of Hoover. A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, he also earned a paramedic license from UAB and a degree in fire science from Jefferson State Community College. Brocato worked with the Hoover Fire Department for 42 years before becoming mayor. In 2003 he received the Chief Fire Officer Designation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation, and in 2008 he was awarded the Chief Medical Officer Designation and was also named Commander of the State of Alabama Incident Management Team.

Dawn Bulgarella was named CEO of the UAB Health System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance in February 2023. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a master’s in health administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Teaching Hospitals board and she is active in the Healthcare Financial Management Association.


Meredith Calhoun is the founder and CEO of Tessa Commercial Real Estate. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she is chair of the REV Birmingham board and former board chair of both the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and the Literacy Council and Children’s Aid Society of Alabama. She is also Kiwanis Club secretary. Calhoun served on Mayor Randall Woodfin’s Inaugural Small Business Council for the City of Birmingham and was recognized by the Birmingham Business Journal as one of the Top 40 Under 40 of the Decade in 2021.

Mylah Calhoun is vice president of the Birmingham Division of Alabama Power and previously served as president of the Alabama Power Foundation and vice president of Charitable Giving for Alabama Power. She is a graduate of Spelman College and the University of Alabama School of Law. Calhoun is a 2018 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow and serves on the boards of Children’s of Alabama, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Opportunity Alabama, Ed Farm, Indian Springs School, the United Way of Central Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

Josh Carpenter is president and CEO of Southern Research. Earlier, he served as director of innovation and economic opportunity for the City of Birmingham. Carpenter is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and serves on the boards of Birmingham Promise and the American Association of Rhodes Scholars. A Rhodes Scholar, he earned a doctorate in political economy from the University of Oxford.


Daniel Coleman is president of Birmingham-Southern College. He is also an adjunct professor of finance at the college and previously served on the board of trustees. He currently serves as co-chair of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s financial advisory team and has also served on the boards of the Alabama Symphony Endowment and of Build UP, an early-college workforce development program. The Birmingham native earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale and his MBA at the University of Chicago.


Greg Curran is chairman of Maynard Nexsen and a member of the corporate and business transactions practice. He serves on the boards for Junior Achievement of Alabama, United Way of Central Alabama, the UAB Research Foundation Board and the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. Curran has been recognized across multiple areas by Best Lawyers in America and Best Lawyers has named him “Lawyer of the Year” multiple times, including this year for venture capital law. Curran attended Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama School of Law.

Matthew Dent is president and CEO of Buffalo Rock Co. where he started working as an intern while earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama. Dent is chair of the American Beverage Association and an executive committee member for the Pepsi Cola Bottlers Association and serves on boards for Fenwick Brands and the Alabama State Parks Foundation.


Brooke Gillis is CEO of Innovation Depot, a Birmingham-based business incubator. The tech startup veteran previously served as program manager for the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator. Gillis earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Alabama.

Joe Hampton is president of Spire’s Alabama and Mississippi natural gas utilities. Hampton earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Stillman College, a bachelor’s degree in engineering at the University of Alabama and a master’s in business administration and management at Troy University. In 2022 Hampton received the Shelby County NAACP Man of the Year Award and in 2019 was named one of Birmingham’s most influential leaders by the Birmingham Business Journal.


Tom Hill is president, CEO and chairman of the board for Vulcan Materials Co. He has been with the company for more than 25 years. Hill serves on the Regions Financial Corp. board of directors and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and the Wharton School of Business Executive Management Program.




Cathy Sloss Jones is president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate Co., an urban redevelopment firm founded by her grandfather in 1920. Jones serves on multiple boards, including the Lakeshore Foundation, the Birmingham Museum of Art and Sloss Furnaces; she chairs the Lakeview Business Association and the Alabama Chapter of the Urban Land Institute; and she serves on the National Steering Committee for Locus, Smart Growth America’s Coalition of Real Estate Developers and Investors. Jones attended Harvard University as a Loeb Fellow in 2007 and was a visiting scholar at Harvard’s graduate school of design in 2008.

Bobbie Knight is president of Miles College and CEO of her own company, Bobbie Knight Consulting LLC. She is chair of the board of managers of Birmingham Times Media Group and vice chair of the Birmingham Airport Authority. She served earlier on boards of key civic organizations in Birmingham. Knight is a University of Alabama graduate with a law degree from the Birmingham School of Law, plus credentials from Northwestern University’s Management Executive Leadership Program.

Joe Knight, a Jefferson County commissioner, is president pro-tem and chairs several committees. Knight served on the executive committee for the World Games 2022, is the vice-chair of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, a board member of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham and a past member of the Cooper Green Mercy Healthcare Authority. In addition to being a practicing attorney for 30 years, Knight is a former certified registered nurse anesthetist and serves as general counsel for the Alabama Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Ronald Mathieu is president and CEO of the Birmingham Airport Authority where he oversees the operations of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. He is a certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives, where he serves on the policy review committee. He is also a private pilot and board member of the International Association of Airport Executives. Mathieu earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Shegun Otulana is the founder and CEO of Harmony Venture Labs, a Birmingham software company, and also serves as CEO of Copysmith AI, one of HVL’s first ventures. Otulana, who left Nigeria to attend college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a recipient of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year and the Aspen Global Institute’s Henry Crown Fellowship. An investor and advisor to companies, he coaches and speaks with entrepreneurs, corporate teams and other groups around the country.


Jeff Peoples is chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Co. The Alabama native earned a bachelor’s degree from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. He is chairman of the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and serves on numerous industry and nonprofit boards, including the Alabama Power Foundation, Business Council of Alabama, Southern Research, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, Paths for Success Foundation and TradesFutures.


James “Jimmie” Stephens is president of the Jefferson County Commission. A Samford University graduate, he is a former Bessemer city councilor. He has worked with Exit 108 Commercial Development District and the Legacy YMCA board. Stephens serves on the boards of the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority, Jefferson County Department of Health, Birmingham Business Alliance and the Rotary Club of Birmingham.


Beck Taylor is Samford University’s 19th president and also served as dean and professor of economics in Samford’s Brock School of Business from 2005 to 2010. He earned his undergraduate degree at Baylor University and a master’s and Ph.D. at Purdue University. Taylor has published in several economics journals and has also published research in public health and child development psychology.



Jefferson Traywick is Jefferson County’s first economic development advisor. Previously he worked for the Birmingham Business Alliance for 12 years and the Bessemer Industrial Development Board for 10 years. Traywick is a University of Montevallo graduate with a master’s from UAB. He serves on the Red Mountain Greenway and Recreational Commission, the Alabama Chapter of NAIOP board and the PARCA Leadership Roundtable. He is also a member of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, the Alabama-Germany Partnership, the Southern Economic Development Council and the International Economic Development Council.

John Turner is president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp. Turner joined Regions in 2011 as president of the South Region, was named president in 2017 and became CEO and was appointed to Regions’ board of directors in 2018. Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Georgia. He serves on the board of Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, A Plus Education Foundation and Infirmary Health System. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and a former board member of Leadership Mobile.

Tim Vines has been president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the largest provider of health care benefits in the state, since 2018 and serves as chairman of the board for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. He also serves on the board of Regions Financial Corp., is a trustee for Auburn University and Samford University, and serves on the boards of the Birmingham Business Alliance, Leadership Birmingham, Business Council of Alabama, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and Prosper.


Ray Watts is president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Birmingham native is a graduate of the UAB School of Engineering; earned his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine; completed a neurology residency, medical internship, and clinical fellowships at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital; and completed a medical staff research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Watts chairs the boards of UAB Health System and Southern Research and is a board member of Prosper Birmingham, Innovation Depot, Birmingham Business Alliance and the UAB Arts/Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts.

Cornell Wesley is director of the Birmingham Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunities. The Birmingham native previously worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration as economic development representative for Oklahoma and North Texas. Wesley graduated from Morehouse College. He has been named a “Top 40 Under 40” by Oklahoma Magazine and the Oklahoma Journal Record and is a past fellow at the Delta Entrepreneur Network.

Randall Woodfin is in his second term as mayor of Birmingham. The Birmingham native is a graduate of Morehouse College and Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law and previously served as president of the Birmingham Board of Education. Some of his accomplishments as mayor include increasing Birmingham’s national rating for LGBTQ+ equality from 12 to a perfect 100, establishing the Division of Social Justice and Racial Equity to oversee the nation’s first Office of Peace and Policy, implementing the Pardons for Progress initiative, the Tuhska Lusa Initiative and Birmingham Promise.

This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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