BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND STAFF
CHRISTY CAIN deGraffenried, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Challenges facing children within the state of Alabama have been a particular passion for Christy Cain deGraffenried. She grew up in LaFayette, AL where small town life influenced her greatly. She attended Auburn University where she studied Family and Child Development. During her time at Auburn University, she volunteered for a non-profit program that served unwed teenage mothers and her first job after college was Lead Teacher in a Head Start program. These experiences brought into focus for her the issues of poverty and the plight of children and families in Alabama. It became clear to her that her life’s work would involve shaping the lives of young individuals and assisting their family members.
Christy has held numerous positions within the field of education and has taught or interacted with students from 6 weeks old to college age. She received her master’s degree from Troy University in Public Management so that she would better understand the processes and agencies that directly affect the lives of children within the state. This led to her interest in politics and how state agencies provide the services children and families need.
She has been Executive Director of Children First since March 2006. Her hope and the hope of Children First board is that substantive change can be made in the lives of Alabama’s children by helping to shape legislative policy and by insuring that monies designated towards children’s programs are well-spent.
Christy is married to Ryan deGraffenried, III and they have two daughters.
EVEY BELL OWEN
Nonprofit communication has always been an interest of Evey Owen. After moving to Montgomery from her hometown of Mobile, she worked with several statewide nonprofits before gaining a full-time position at Children First. She attended Troy University where she received her bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism with minors in Public Relations and Sports Information. While studying journalism at Troy she found her passion for communication and focused more keenly on that through the rest of her studies.
Evey attended the University of South Alabama where she earned her Master's degree in Communication. While she was also a graduate assistant, she most enjoyed being a tutor to the school's athletes. She learned firsthand the effects that a “good or bad” foundation can have on a child's life as they grow into adults.
Evey has been Director of Communication of Children First since February 2012. She hopes to bring more light to the important work that Children First does to positively impact the lives of Alabama's children.
CHIEF JUSTICE SUE BELL COBB
Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, who grew up in Evergreen, AL resides in Montgomery, Alabama. She graduated from The University of Alabama, where she obtained a degree in History, receiving the highest scholastic award in that field of study, the Phi Alpha Theta Scholarship Key. In 1981, she earned her Juris Doctor Degree from The University of Alabama School of Law and was a member of the Bench and Bar Honor Society, Farrah Law Society and the Moot Court Board.
Immediately following her admission to the Bar, Chief Justice Cobb was appointed as District Judge of Conecuh County, becoming one of the State's youngest judges. She was elected to that position in 1982 and re-elected in 1988. During her tenure on the bench, Chief Justice Cobb accepted trial court assignments in approximately forty counties. She was elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994. In 1997, she was appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to serve as the Alternate Chief Judge of the Court of the Judiciary. Chief Justice Cobb is also a faculty member in the Alabama Judicial College.
Chief Justice Cobb served as President of the Alabama Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Children's Trust Fund. As a result of her efforts in the field of juvenile justice, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Juvenile Detention Association, the Juvenile Probation Officer Institute Outstanding Service Award, and the Children's Voice Award. She is a founding member of Children First Foundation, which is dedicated to securing direly needed funds for the juvenile justice system and services for children and families. She is also a lifetime honorary member of the Juvenile Justice Association of Alabama and the Alabama Council on Crime and Delinquency. Judge Cobb also weekly tutors two children as a volunteer for Partners in Education.
Chief Justice Cobb is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and is a Stennis Center Pacesetter. She received the 1999 Public Citizen of the Year Award by the Alabama Chapter of National Social Workers Association, the 1996 NAACP Political Achievement Award from the Conecuh County Branch of the NAACP, the 1995 Montgomery Advertiser Woman of Achievement Award and the 1992 Judicial Conservationist Award of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. Judge Cobb was recently named State Winner of the Bishop Barron State Employee Public Service Award. Judge Cobb is a past member and officer of the Evergreen Industrial Development Board. She is a member of the Farrah Law Society Board of Directors, the Montgomery Kiwanis Club, and First United Methodist Church of Montgomery where she plays the piano for the children's choir.
Chief Justice Cobb is the Past Chair of the Board of the Alabama Division of the American Cancer Society. She has held numerous positions with the American Cancer Society and consequently received the Volunteer of the Year Award, the Wes Nowlin Award, and the highest national award, the St. George Medal. She serves on the National Assembly of the American Cancer Society.
She is married to William J. Cobb and they have three children Caitlin, Bill, and Andy.
DR. KEVIN CORCORAN
Areas of Interest and Expertise
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Mental Health
- Social Work and the Law
- BA, Colorado State University
- MA, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs
- MSW, University of Pittsburgh
- PhD, University of Pittsburgh
- JD, University of Houston
Co-Editor of the journal Best Practices in Mental Health with Dr. Vikki Vandiver, professor and dean of The University of Alabama School of Social Work. Best Practices in Mental Health is a premier, peer-reviewed journal that represents the highest quality scholarship in the field of mental health. It is published by Lyceum Books, Inc., twice a year in the winter and summer.
WENDY BROOKS CREW
Wendy Brooks Crew is an attorney concentrating her practice in Family Law and Civil Rights issues. She is a graduate of Cumberland School of Law and is certified in International Law from King's College London, England. She is one of two lawyers Alabama Board Certified in Matrimonial Law. She is the immediate past president of the Family Law Section off the Alabama State Bar, a Fellow and on the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a Fellow in the International Academy of Matrimonial Law. Crew represented the original plaintiff in R.C. vs. Alabama Department of Human Resources. She began the Street Law program at Cumberland School of Law and contributed to Play By the Rules, a learning tool used by students in schools throughout the state. Wendy and her husband Richard live in Birmingham.
HEATHER COLEMAN DAVIS, Chairwoman
Heather Davis started her career in the business community where she managed an international telecommunications company. In 1996 she was recruited to manage a $15 million non-profit organization, Reading Alabama, Inc. This entity was formed to coordinate a partnership between government, business, and educators to provide the most fundamental building block of learning –the ability to read. Capitalizing upon the growing need for technology integrated curriculum, Reading Alabama provided technology rich reading and writing programs to all kindergarten through second-grade public schools in Alabama.
As Executive Director, Mrs. Davis developed a public policy initiative focused on reading education. She managed the public-private partnership between the Governor’s Office, State Department of Education, Local Boards of Education, local schools and private contributors. Mrs. Davis awarded grants to more than 460 schools in 101 school systems in Alabama. She provided more than 6,200 computers to Alabama schools. She organized, designed, and conducted curriculum and technology training for more than 7,300 teachers and administrators. She contracted more than 20 trainers to train teachers to integrate technology into curriculum and manage a technology rich classroom. She did research for and managed the activities of the Joint Legislative Committee on Higher Education Governance. She went on to become one of four individuals to conduct the research to start the Alabama Reading Initiative, a nationally recognized state-wide reading program.
In October 2002, Mrs. Davis was recruited to be the Governmental Affairs Director for Alabama River Pulp Companies and Parsons & Whittemore, Inc. with the responsibility of establishing and organizing this department. In this position she was charged with establishing relationships with state officials, legislators, and other persons influential in state policy, legislation, and regulation. She was responsible for establishing contacts and taking action to influence state government while strategically positioning her companies as industry leaders in the regulatory, government and political arena. Mrs. Davis lead the State Governmental Affairs function on all matters effecting Alabama River Pulp Companies, Parsons and Whittemore, and Independence Renewable Energy and was the sole advocate and direct contact for her companies in the state legislature, executive and administrative offices, and regulatory agencies.
In July 2010, Mrs. Davis was named the Senior Manager for Government and Public Affairs for PowerSouth Energy. She represented her company in Florida, Alabama, and Washington D.C. She was responsible for developing, establishing, and managing her companies’ governmental affairs policies, procedures, plans and programs including prioritizing issues to balance Company needs with the political environment. She monitored all legislative and regulatory activity and anticipated policy or political challenges and opportunities and advised internal stakeholders as appropriate. She participated in association activities and influenced association policy setting to ensure that it was in line with Company principals.
In February 2012, Mrs. Davis was recruited by Parsons & Whittemore, Inc. to direct their External Affairs activities including the Governmental Affairs Division, Public Relations& Marketing Departments. In addition to her work with Parsons & Whittemore, Mrs. Davis owns a consulting firm that specializes in governmental affairs, public relations and business development.
Mrs. Davis has worked to successfully implement a number of legislative initiatives including protecting the Alabama Competitive Bid Law, promoting laws that sustain existing industry, and has generated significant funding for economic development, education, and all of the major river systems in Alabama. Additionally, Mrs. Davis was the campaign fundraiser for “Bentley for Governor” for Central Alabama and served on the “Bentley for Governor” statewide campaign.
Mrs. Davis has over 20 years experience in all phases of governmental affairs, government regulations, policy, public relations, publicity, and developing communication programs designed to build awareness, understanding and support for key initiatives.
Mrs. Davis received her undergraduate degree in English and her master’s degree in education from Auburn University in Montgomery. Mrs. Davis is the 2015 River Region United Way Campaign Chair. She is a founding member of the Alabama Communities of Excellence, Destin Harvest and the Montgomery Botanical Gardens at Oak Park. She has served as Board President for Alabama World Trade Association, The Family Sunshine Center, Alabama Dance Theatre, The Rotary Club of Montgomery and the Jr. League of Montgomery. Mrs. Davis currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Capitol City Club as Vice Chair, Children First Foundation Board as Treasurer, 4-H Foundation Board and the Family Sunshine Center Board and on the Governance Committee for the Girls Scouts of Southern Alabama. She is the Sustaining Advisor for the Junior League of Montgomery. She has served as vice-president of the board for the Alabama 4-H Foundation and the River Region United Way. Mrs. Davis has served as Vice Chair of the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy –Environment and currently serves on the Board of the Alabama International Airport Authority. In 2008, Mrs. Davis received the Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in Community Service Award. In 2010, Mrs. Davis was named a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. Heather Coleman Davis is married to Greg Davis and together they have five children.
SENATOR PRISCILLA DUNN
Senator Priscilla Dunn taught in the Bessemer City School System for 29 years after graduating from J.S. Abrams High School in Bessemer, earning a B.S. degree from Alabama State University and a M.A. degree from the University of Montevallo. In 1998 Mrs. Dunn was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives for District 56. When she is not in session in Montgomery, she works as a Homeless Education Coordinator for Bessemer City Schools.
She serves as president of the Humanistic Challengers Federated Club: member of Girl’s Inc. of Central Alabama; President of the Domestic Violence Task Force for the Bessemer Cutoff; Member of the State Democratic Executive Committee; Trustee and teacher as Shady Grove Baptist Church; Instructor in the Jefferson County District Congress of Christian Education; Chaplin of Bessemer Business and Professional Women.
Mrs. Dunn serves on the following legislative committees: Chair of local legislation (one of only three women serving as a chairperson of a standing committee in the House of Representatives): Judiciary (Chair-Children Issues Subcommittee); Education (Chair-Personnel Management Subcommittee); Internal Affairs; Jefferson County Legislation: Interim Committees (Alabama Electronic Voting Rehabilitation Services, SCL-Education, Children Trust Fund, and Department of Youth Services).
Mrs. Dunn is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. Among them are Teacher of the Year, 1989-1990; the prestigious Charles A. Long Outstanding Community and Civic Award; the Bessemer Association of Women’s Clubs “Women of the Year” Award, and the Birmingham Business Journal Top Ten Women Award: Legislator of the Year 2004-2005; YMCA Board of Directors; Business and Professional Women- Woman of the Year 2005 and many others.
JUDGE AUBREY FORD, JR.
Judge Aubrey Ford, Jr., a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received his undergraduate degree from Lincoln University, Lincoln Pennsylvania, in 1970. He is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and a former Assistant Attorney General. Judge Ford practiced law with the law firm of Gray, Seay and Langford in Tuskegee, Alabama until September 2, 1977 when Governor George Wallace appointed him to serve as District Judge for Macon County.
Judge Ford served as President of the Alabama Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association and the Alabama District Court Judges Association. Judge Ford has been recognized as a leader in our judicial system and every chief justice since 1977 has appointed him to serve on a number of committees and task-forces for the improvement of judicial system. Judge Ford is a charter member and former Chair of the Alabama Supreme Court’s Commission on Dispute Resolution and he is the only Alabama trial judge to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is also a past Chair of the Board of Directors of the East Alabama Task Force for Battered Women, and he currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Children’s First Foundation. Judge Ford is the chair of the newly organized Alabama Board of Court Reporters. He is an active member of the Alabama State Bar and he has been appointed to serve on several committees. Judge Ford has been a member of the screening committee for American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for more than 15 years. Judge Ford is a graduate of the National Juvenile College and he has completed several courses presented by the National Judicial College, and he has lectured at a number of state and national meetings on various legal issues.
Licensed to practice law in Alabama and Pennsylvania, Judge Ford is a member of a number of legal and civic organizations and he has received a number of awards for his service to his community, the legal system and the children of the State of Alabama. He has been named Man of the Year by the YMCA, Judge of the Year and he received the Outstanding Service Award from the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia. Judge Ford is a Sunday school teacher and Chairman of the Deacon Board of the Greenwood Missionary Baptist Church in Tuskegee. Judge Ford is a family man and he and his wife Barbara are the proud parents of four children and one grandchild.
Hall was born in Birmingham. Currently an elder law attorney with Legal Services of Alabama, John formerly owned the Law Offices of Hall & Hall, LLC. In the three years between 2006 and 2009, he took a leave of absence from his 24 year law career to return to his previous profession of teaching public high school.
Prior to returning to teaching, he was founder and partner of the law firm Hall & Hall in 1998. Before starting his own firm, he was shareholder and partner with the law firm of Rives & Peterson for 16 years. Previous positions also include Social Studies teacher in the public schools of Birmingham and Denver, Colorado; Director of an inner-city day camp (Camp Fire Boys and Girls of Birmingham and JCCEO); and Director of male staff and camp counselor with the "South Carolina Camp for Mentally Retarded Children."
John received his J.D. degree from the Cumberland School of Law, engaged in post graduate studies work at Colorado State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham in secondary education and history. He graduated from the University of Georgia with an ABJ degree in Journalism (Public Relations).
In 2003, for the second time, Mr. Hall received the “Alabama Citizen of the Year Award” from the Alabama Coalition against Domestic Violence and was appointed by the Governor to Chair the Alabama Council on Violence against Women in 2002. This Council developed and published the Alabama’s first ever Plan to Combat Violence against Women. He served as Co-Chairman and Moderator of the 1996 Alabama Media Summit, “The Media and Our Children – The Good, the Bad, and the Solutions,” held in Montgomery and sponsored by the Governor; and the Alabama Press Association. John served on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, United Way agency, the Central Alabama Council of Camp Fire Boys and Girls (serving as President from 1998-1999), and the A+ Research Foundation (working for education reform), and the Summit Children’s Foundation.
In 2013, John received the Birmingham Bar Association's Burton Barnes Public Service Award. He has received numerous awards for his dedication and service to the poor children, women, and families of our state, including the “1996 Children’s Advocate Award,” by Childcare Resources; the “1996 Jefferson Award,” for public service from WBHM, Channel 42 in Birmingham; the “1996 Good Shepherd Award,” from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham; the “1998 Child Advocacy National Certificate of Recognition from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division;” and was chosen by The Birmingham News Editorial Board as one of six 1996 “Unsung Heroes” in recognition of volunteer community service. John also received the “1997 Distinguished Service Award,” from the Alabama Chief Probation Officers’ Association. In 1987, he received the “Alabama Citizen of the Year Award” from the Alabama Coalition against Domestic Violence.
John is a graduate of the 1996-97 class of Leadership Birmingham. Other notable honors include working as a Special Assistant Attorney General and serving as Chairman of the Attorney General’s Crime Victim’s Task Force, between 1987 and 1990, which resulted in the passage of 19 laws and was hailed as a “Model for the Nation”. Statutes John drafted protected the victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, spousal rape, drunk driving, child abuse and elder abuse.
Between 1988 and 1990, he helped lead a team of physicians, forensic experts, and district attorneys to revamp and develop the “Alabama Rape Evidence Collection Kit,” which was utilized in all Alabama hospitals that performed sexual assault exams in Alabama. In the late 1990’s, John chaired a group at the request of Democratic Governor Siegelman and Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor, to update the Evidence Collection Kit in order to make it compatible with the new use of DNA evidence.
As an attorney, John was awarded membership in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum in 2002, an honorary forum in which membership is extended by invitation only, to attorneys throughout the U.S. who have won two or more multi-million dollar verdicts or settlements. Since becoming an attorney, John has contributed well over 3,500 pro bono hours on behalf of numerous public service efforts. These include authoring and working on the Children First legislative program, co-founding and serving as Chairman and President of Children First Foundation, Inc., Co-Chairman of the Lt. Governor’s School and Youth Violence Task Force, working with the Alabama Senate Education Committee to enhance the 1995 Alabama Education Accountability Act, and serving as Chair of the Alabama Council on Violence Against Women.
In 2010, he helped found and was chosen to be the first Board Chair of the Children First Alliance of Alabama, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporations. He has helped to lead a weekly Bible study in a prison ministry at Bibb County Correctional facility.
He is married to Jane Greene Hall and is the father of five children, three step-children, and three grandchildren - Kasza, Isis and Ethan.
Mr. John Houston received his Bachelor’s degree in 1971 and earned his MA and MSW from the University of Alabama. He has a 30+ year career in the human services field and 20+ years in the mental health system in Alabama. During his career, he gained substantial experience in areas of children’s services, interagency relations and multi-system planning.
As the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health for six years he oversaw the management and operation of one of the largest state agencies with an operating budget of over $900 million, seven state facilities, over 2600 employees and, in partnership with community provider organizations, annually served over 130,000 Alabama citizens with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and substance abuse/addiction treatment needs.
Mr. Houston’s major accomplishments at the Department included: establishing a regional planning process for all treatment divisions that incorporated expanding participation of previously excluded participants including judges, private hospitals, local officials and others; implementing improved data systems linking contracted DMH funding to client and program outcomes in Divisions of Substance Abuse and Intellectual Disabilities Services; relocating the inpatient adolescent psychiatric services from Bryce Hospital to UAB Hospital; installing video teleconferencing equipment at all facilities decreasing travel costs and improving staff and stakeholder participation in conferences, meetings; achieving the largest increase in Department history of state funding for Substance Abuse Treatment; and working with judicial system to expand drug courts and community corrections programs.
His diligent efforts at the Department of Mental Health moved the state agency in a positive direction
ELIZABETH “LIZ” HUNTLEY
Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley was born in Huntsville, Alabama. She received her Bachelors Degree in Political Science from Auburn University and her Juris Doctor from The University of Alabama School of Law. She was also recently appointed to the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
In 1994, while beginning her first year in law school, Mrs. Huntley co-founded Project GEAR in Chilton County. Project GEAR is a non-profit organization which works to remove barriers to learning from at-risk youth. Mrs. Huntley has received statewide recognition for her work with the youth in Chilton County. After being featured in articles in the Alabama Lawyer and the Addendum, the Alabama State Bar adopted a resolution honoring her efforts.
Mrs. Huntley’s drive for creating a program for the youth in her county came from her pre-law school internship with A+, The Coalition for Better Education. While at A+, Mrs. Huntley worked at the grassroots level and traveled the state to promote a better quality of education for the children of Alabama. She also served as the Education Liaison to the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus. Mrs. Huntley won the National Young Careerist Award in 2000-01 for the Business Professional Women/USA Organization. She has worked in various leadership capacities with the Family Law Section of the Alabama State Bar and is a member of the Farrah Alumni Law Society Board of Trustees for The University of Alabama School of Law.
Mrs. Huntley and her husband Tony have two children, Ada Ruth and Sarah Beth. They reside in Clanton, Alabama. She currently practices law at Lightfoot, Franklin & White.
CHIEF JOHNNIE JOHNSON, JR.
Chief Johnnie Johnson, Jr. was born in Birmingham, AL. Mr. Johnson is retired as Chief of Police for the Birmingham Police Department. Chief Johnson dreamed of becoming a police officer, but was told by his father that he would have to leave the south to do so because colored people would never be hired for that position. His father died three years before Chief Johnson’s dream became a reality. He began his law enforcement career in 1966 as the department’s second black officer. He advanced through the ranks as sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief and chief.
Chief Johnson is a graduate of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Criminal Justice Program, FBI National Academy and the National Executive Institute (NEI). His past professional experiences include: Civil Defense Officer; member of the Alabama Board of Pardon’s and Paroles; and Bessemer Chief of Police. He is a founding member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Birmingham Guardians Association (past president and treasurer), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Leadership Birmingham Alumni Association. Other organizations of which Chief Johnson is a member include: Community Affairs Committee (CAC); Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education; Children First Foundation Board of Directors; Leadership Birmingham Steering Committee; Birmingham Rotary Club; and Northeast Branch of YMCA. Chief Johnson has received the following awards for his dedication and service to the community: Police Officer of the Year; Excellence Citizen’s Award; Community Service Awards; Police Outstanding Achievement Award; Man of the Year, 1993; and 1998 NAACP Honors Award.
Chief Johnson and his wife, Brenda, have four children: Natalie Woodall; Johnnie, III; Geoffrey; and Dawn. They have five grandchildren. They are life long members of Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church where Chief Johnson serves as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, church financial secretary and chairman of the church’s building program.
MARIAN LOFTIN, SECRETARY
Marian Loftin served as the Director for the State of Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, which oversees the Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama (CTF) funding 200 community-based prevention programs. After 17 years as an elementary classroom teacher, Mrs. Loftin worked in government relations for the University of Alabama for 13 years. Prior to her appointment to the current position with CTF, she was Director for the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Loftin has long been actively involved in child and family advocacy. She served on the founding boards of the Alfred Saliba Family Services Center of Dothan, the first “one stop” for human services in the state of Alabama, and the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center. In March 2004, Alabama Governor Bob Riley appointed her to his Task Force for Strengthening Alabama Families. In April 2007 Mrs. Loftin was awarded the Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families for Alabama for her significant contribution toward the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Other Board memberships have included VOICES for Alabama’s Children, the Alabama Partnership for Children (the state’s zero-5 initiative), the A+ Education Foundation; the Children First Foundation; and on a national level she is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds.
Mrs. Loftin, a Rotarian (first woman inducted into the Dothan-Houston County Rotary Club) and a Paul Harris Fellow, has also been involved in her state and community as past chairman of the Wiregrass United Way; Alabama Citizens for Constitution Reform Board; the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation Board (Volunteer Hall of Fame, 1998) and Past Chairman of the American Heart Association, Alabama Affiliate. Due to her civic involvement, Mrs. Loftin ran as an Olympic Torchbearer in the 1996 Olympics and was selected for Leadership Alabama in 2002.
An Alabama native, she holds a BS in Education from the University of Alabama (named the Distinguished Alumna in 1988) and a MA in Education/Reading from Troy University Dothan (named the Outstanding Alumna in 1993). She is a graduate of John Carroll High School (recognized as Outstanding Alumna 2002). Marian Loftin has 4 children and 6 Grandchildren. Her husband of 46 years, Jim Loftin, is deceased.
ROBERT "ROBBIE" MCGHEE
As an enrolled member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Robert McGhee has been involved in an advocate for Native American issues at all levels of government. Mr. McGhee is currently serving his second term on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council. In this capacity Mr. McGhee is honored to represent his people "government-to-government" at the Local, State, and Federal levels regarding issues of Education, Health Care, Economic Development and Sovereign Immunity.
Prior to moving back to Atmore, Robert McGhee worked in Washington, D.C. for approximately five years at the Department of Interior-Beureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.
Before accepting the position of Governmental Relations Advisor for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Mr. McGhee served in several capacities for the Tribe. He was employed by the Tribe as the Tribal Administrator, Governmental entity of the Tribe, and President of Creek Indian Enterprises (CIE), the Economic Development entity of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Mr. McGhee received a bachelor's degree from the University of South Alabama and a BSW from the University of Alabama. He also holds a MSW from WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, MO. Mr. McGhee has also completed the Georgetown Executive Leadership Program in Washington, D.C. and a course at American University Public Policy Institute regarding Congress and Effective Lobbying Practices. During his tenure in DC and here at the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Mr. McGhee has had the opportunity to serve on numerous White House Initiatives and boards. Currently he serves on the Tribe's Governmental Affairs/Rules Legislative Committee, the Budget/Finance Committee, the Creek Indian Enterprises Board and the United South and Eastern Tribes as Secretary. Civically, he has served as the Vice President of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce and the Vice Chairman of the Episcopal Council of Indigenous Ministries.
Robert McGhee currently resides in Atmore, Alabama.
DR. MARTHA MORROW, vice chairwoman
SHERI MCKEAN, VICE PRESIDENT
Sharon (Sheri) Paulk McKean was born in Montgomery, AL and graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communications. Mrs. McKean is currently a member of the following boards: Junior League of Montgomery Sustaining Advisor; Children First Foundation; Montgomery Area Council on Aging; Montgomery County Department of Human Resources Quality Assurance Committee; Auburn University’s Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority Parent’s Club (Chairman). Mrs. McKean was previously a member of various community boards: Leadership Montgomery President; Success by Six; Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, BONDS (Building Our Neighbors for Development and Success); Montgomery Area United Way Community Council Chairman; Alabama Promise Initiative Chairman; Montgomery Promise Chairman; Junior League of Montgomery President; Trinity Presbyterian School Parent Teacher Organization President; VOICES for Alabama’s Children President; Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae Province Director; First Baptist Church Youth Sunday School Director; Squires Board; Camellia Ball; Montgomery Area Cancer Society; Children’s Trust Fund Statewide Advisory Committee; State Public Affairs Committee Chairman for Junior League of Alabama and Governor’s Commission on Child Welfare Services.
Mrs. McKean has received numerous awards for her volunteer efforts. These awards include: Girl’s Scouts 2005 Women of Distinction Award; Montgomery Chapter of Daughters’ of the American Revolution Outstanding Community Service Award; Rose Award for Service and Leadership to Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae; 2000 Mathews-Altheimer-Smith Award from Montgomery Area United Way Community Council; 2000 Friend of Children Award from Child System of Alabama; 2001 Sustainer of the Season for the Junior League; 1997 Alpha Gamma Delta Outstanding Alumnae Award; one of the Jaycees’ “Outstanding Young Montgomerians” for 1990.
Mrs. McKean and her husband, Rory, have two children, Landon and Rory. Landon is a senior at Auburn University and serves as Miss Auburn for 2006. Rory is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi majoring in biochemistry on a baseball and academic scholarship.
Sheri serves on various State Committees dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children and families in Alabama.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN MERRILL
On November 4, 2014, John was elected as Alabama's Secretary of State with 65% of the vote and carried 53 of Alabama's 67 counties. He was inaugurated as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State on January 19, 2015. He previously served one term in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010-2014. He is a graduate of Cleburne County High School and The University of Alabama where he served as President of the Student Government Association in 1986-1987.
While attending The University, John served as a Congressional Intern for Congressman Bill Nichols (1983) and Senator Howell Heflin (1984). After his term as SGA President, John became the governmental affairs intern at The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 1987-88; National Advertising Account Executive and Manager for Randall Publishing Company (now Randall-Reilly); Assistant Director for the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority from 1990-93 where he assisted in the recruitment of Mercedes-Benz; Director of Business Development for The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 1993-94; and was the Director of Community Relations and Community Education for the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education from 1994-2010; and served as Business Development Officer for 1st Federal Bank in Tuscaloosa from 2011-2015.
In 2011, he was presented the "2011 Axe Award" by the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments and became the only freshman ever to be recognized as their Legislator of the Year. John was a member of the inaugural class of NCSL Early Learning Fellows in 2011 (1 of 30 Legislators selected nationwide - only one from Alabama). In 2012, he was named the Alabama House Legislator of the Year by the Children’s Trust Fund, he was recognized by the Alabama Republican Party as a Rising Republican Star and he was presented with the 2012 Tuscaloosa All-Star Award for Excellence in Caring for Veterans. In 2013, he was selected as the Soil and Water Conservation District Area III Outstanding Elected Official for 2013, 2013 Outstanding Legislator by the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads, and he was named as the Child Advocate of the Year for 2013 at the Early Intervention and Preschool Conference. In 2014, John was awarded the Silver Beaver by the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of America for outstanding volunteer service in Scouting. John was identified by the Sunlight Foundation as the Most Effective Republican Member of the Alabama House of Representatives from 2011-14 and he was named Legislator of the Year by the Tuscaloosa County Young Republicans in 2014. In 2015, he was selected as one of 48 leaders from around the nation to attend and graduate from the Council of State Government’s prestigious Henry Toll Fellowship Leadership Program.
John Merrill is very active in his community and has served in many leadership capacities. John is a Deacon at Calvary Baptist Church, where he has served as a Sunday School teacher and a member of the Sanctuary Choir. He was on Emmaus Walk # 68 and has assisted with several Emmaus Walks and Chrysalis Flights. He is a member of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the Republican Association of Secretaries of State. He is the Co-Chair of the NASS Voter Participation Committee and serves as the NASS Representative to the Steering Committee of the National Voter Registration Day. He is also a member of the United States Election Assistance Commission Standards Board. He is or has been a member of numerous community organizations such as, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Children First Board of Directors, Friends of the Alabama Archives Board of Directors, Alabama YMCA Youth in Government Board of Directors, State Republican Executive Committee, National Rifle Association, Leadership Tuscaloosa, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, March of Dimes, Hillcrest High School Athletic Boosters Club, West Alabama Literacy Council, Alabama Constables Association & others. He has also served as Southeastern Regional Vice President for the National School Public Relations Association and President or Chairman of many groups, which include the Alabama Children’s Trust Fund, Alabama School Communicator’s Association and the Alabama Community Education Association, American Red Cross, Leadership Tuscaloosa Alumni Association, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama, Youth for Christ, Druid Civitan Club, the Tuscaloosa City School’s Vocational Advisory Council, past Chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Executive Committee.
John has been married to the former Cindy Benford of Phil Campbell for thirty years. She is a career educator and the former principal at Westwood Elementary School in Coker. The couple has two children, Brooks (25), is an Event Coordinator Manager for The University of South Florida Department of Athletics, and Allie Grace (22), who is an International Flight Attendant with American Airlines.
DR. MARSHA RAULERSON
Dr. Marsha Raulerson, came to Brewton in 1981 and began a pediatric practice. At that time, there was a real need for an organized Child Health Services program in the Escambia County Health Department. The Alabama Medicaid program left many children in rural areas without the advantage of pediatric services. She volunteered to conduct a free monthly child health clinic at the Health Department in Brewton and began what continues to be the medial home for hundreds of children in the county. The open door policy at her office has enabled many children to receive care who otherwise would not have access to pediatric services. She never turns anyone away. Funding availability is not the major question with which she or her staff are concerned.
In 1990, she began a county wide visitation program for newborn infants and established the “Partners for Tomorrow” program. The program makes available prenatal and postpartum home visits by community workers during which parenting skills are taught to new parents. This program has fostered positive early childhood development for the parents of newborns in the county. Known as the pediatrician that mothers an entire community, those who work with her say that she and her work are “awesome.” Her generous contributions of her time, insight and pediatric expertise continue to enrich this important program.
Four years ago, in view of her great concern over the dentally under-served children in the area and state, and aware that there would soon be a new health department constructed in Brewton, she initiated the involvement of two local foundations. Working with the local and area health department staff, the foundations contributed approximately $400,000 to add a three operatory dental clinic as a part of the new building. Further, through the collaborative efforts of a federally qualified health center in the area, funds were obtained for the staff, including an experienced dentist and support staff. The dental clinic began operations on March 19, 2001. This is a tremendous addition to the public health services offered in this public health area and Dr. Raulerson was at the helm of the planning effort.
She has also been, throughout her tenure in the state, a major support for and advocate of the public health system, both organizational public health and community based public health activities. She is a charter member of the Coalition for Healthier Escambia County, and has been instrumental in identification of major activities, which have served to improve the quality of life for citizens of Alabama and Escambia County. Her philosophy and the motivation for all that she does, simply stated, are that “every child deserves to be wanted and loved, and a family needs to see their child as a wonderful gift from God to be nurtured and cherished.”
Marc Reynolds was born in Fairfax, Alabama. He received his Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Auburn University and his Juris Doctor Degree from the Jones Law Institute.
Marc began his employment with the Retirement Systems of Alabama in 1975 with the teacher’s benefits section and moved to the position of Legislative Counsel in 1979. In 2001 he was named Deputy Director and recently retired from RSA in 2012.
Marc serves on the Board of Directors of the Capital City Club and the Alabama Prescription Cost Initiative Board. He has also served on the Board of Directors of The Children’s First Foundation and the Capital City Senators Girls Softball Program.
He has one child, Joanna.
LESLIE D. SANDERS, PRESIDENT
Leslie D. Sanders, born in Tuscaloosa, AL, is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in Public Relations. Mrs. Sanders is Vice President of the Southern Region for Alabama Power Company.
Mrs. Sanders is a board member of numerous organizations: Alabama Department of Human Resources, Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association, Montgomery Riverfront Development Foundation, St. James Performing School Arts Guild and the Nellie Burge Center. In addition to her current board positions, Mrs. Sanders has served on the following boards: Alabama Women’s Leadership Consortium (President), Brantwood Children’s Home, Partners in Education, Safe Kids Coalition, Public Relations Council of Alabama, March of Dimes, Alabama Council of Child Abuse, FACTS (Family & Child Training System), Coordinator for the 45th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott for Montgomery Improvement Association, Faith & Politics Institution, Washington, D. C., Department of Children’s Affairs Task Force and Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics Forum Steering Committee
Mrs. Sanders, her husband, David, and their two children, Brittany and Blake are members of Frazier Memorial United Methodist Church.
DR. VIKKI VANDIVER
Dr. Vikki Vandiver is currently the Dean of the University of Alabama School of Social Work. Vandiver has served as associate dean for academic affairs at the Portland State University School of Social Work since 2012 and has been a faculty member at PSU since 1992. She also served as an affiliate professor at Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine, within the department of psychiatry. Additionally, she has served on numerous community and state boards, including a long-standing role as chairman of the board of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, formerly Oregon’s largest community-based behavioral healthcare organization.
She has extensive clinical and academic experience, including within programs for persons with severe mental illness and in cross-cultural mental health systems. Her additional research interests include: evidence-based mental health practice, traumatic brain injury, health promotion and equine-assisted activities with tribal youth. Dr. Vikki Vandiver has extensive clinical and academic experience, including within programs for persons with severe mental illness and in cross-cultural mental health systems. Her additional research interests include: evidence-based mental health practice, traumatic brain injury, health promotion and equine-assisted activities with tribal youth.
She is currently the co-editor of the journal Best Practices in Mental Health, Vandiver also serves on the editorial boards of three social work journals. Author of the book, “Integrating health promotion and mental health: An introduction to policies, principles and practices,” published by Oxford University Press in 2009, Vandiver also edited “Best practices in community mental health: A pocket guide,” published in 2013 and co-authored “Maneuvering the maze of managed care,” published in 1996 by Free Press.
Vandiver holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Houston. She earned her Doctor of Public Health from the University of Texas – Health Science Center.
She lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Dr. Kevin Corcoran.
Dale Wisely, Ph.D. is Director of Student Services at Mountain Brook Schools (Alabama) and is a clinical psychologist. At the school system, he directs counseling and guidance, nursing and student health, at-risk programs and parent and community education, among other duties.
Dr. Wisely earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Memphis. He also holds a Master's in Theological Studies from SpringHill College. He served his clinical internship in psychology at West Virginia University's Department of Behavioral Medicine in Charleston, West Virginia. Subsequently, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama and, for 14years, the senior psychologist at Children's Hospital's Vaughan Clinic. He practiced clinical psychology including assessment, psychotherapy, and pediatric psychology in Birmingham from 1983 to 2006 before joining Mountain Brook Schools. Dr. Wisely has taught and held adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Spring Hill College.
He is a past President of the Alabama Psychological Association and was long a member of its Executive Council. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Crisis Center / Mental Health Association of Central Alabama, the Jefferson County Children's Policy Cooperative, and the Alabama Child Death Review System.
Dr. Wisely writes and operates a public service website, Parenting Teen Drivers, which includes a free parent-teen contract which has been in wide use for 10 years. He is a popular adult educator and speaker on family matters, parenting, and provides workshops and other professional development to a range of professional groups.