The List - January/February 2017
Many people born and raised in Montgomery want to go on to bigger and better things, but Sarah Adkins is living proof that sometimes home is exactly where you’re meant to be. After graduating from Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, Sarah, who currently serves as the patron services manager, marketing and public relations associate, and actor at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, went on to graduate from the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago. Determined to continue her artistic pursuit, Sarah made the move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television, struggling to make ends meet and doing as much acting as possible while also working as a production assistant for MTV and Showtime. “The entertainment industry is a hard industry anywhere, but in L.A., it seemed particularly cold. It’s all business and no art. No heart or soul. And you get torn down time and time again over things that have nothing to do with your talent or ability,” she says. After seven years, Sarah packed up her car and drove back to Montgomery where she started doing community theatre at the Cloverdale Playhouse and working part-time in the box office at ASF, which eventually led to her current position. Sarah lives with her dog Phoenix and is continuing to live out her dreams in the city that started it all.
Tyrone Banks, police major with the Montgomery Police Department, attended Alabama State University. Originally from a small town in West Alabama, Tyrone has seen Montgomery grow from nine patrol districts to 24 districts in the 22 and a half years he has served with the Montgomery Police Department. His great-grandfather had a huge impact on his life, and a young state trooper named Hugh McCall, who he met when he was 12, introduced him to law enforcement and what it meant to a community. While it was an adjustment to go from a small town to a larger city, he learned with each rank he gained that his leadership abilities expanded not only to his subordinates, but also to the citizens and business community of Montgomery. He says, “The love and gratification of my job is helping others each day that I’m able to put my uniform on to serve the citizens of Montgomery. Being that voice of reason and reassuring a sense of safety to someone or a family that has experienced a tragedy in their life.” Tyrone also serves the community through the Capital City Kiwanis Club, where he has served on the board for four years. His hobbies include traveling, spending time with his two kids, Tyler and Logann, watching Alabama football, and drag racing.
Dr. Felicia Bell
Felicia A. Bell serves as the director of the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University Montgomery. Felicia has always set high standards for herself - academically and professionally. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Savannah State University, a master’s degree in historic preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design, and received a Ph. D. in U.S. history from Howard University in Washington D.C. As a public historian, Felicia creates an opportunity to reach a larger audience and to use objects or places to teach about the past. She says, “I love making history accessible to the public through exhibits and educational programs at museums and historic sites. There are so many people who do not have access to a college classroom or who want to learn beyond what they can read in a book.” Her drive to succeed comes from a number of family members, mentors, professors and supervisors who have nurtured her over the years with knowledge, a strong work ethic and the encouragement to dream big. Felicia notes the significant impact this community has had on the success of the Rosa Parks Museum, and she loves the interesting mix of historic sites in Montgomery, spanning a wide range of American history including the slave trade, the Civil War and the Modern Civil Rights Movement.
Driven by a desire to succeed, Brandon Burleson is the culinary mastermind behind in the kitchen at Central 129 Coosa. Serving as executive chef, Brandon’s passion is fueled by the smiles and laughter in the restaurant’s dining room and the sense of pride in his staff when they learn something new. After graduating from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management, Brandon served as executive sous chef at The Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center as well as at the Perdido Beach Resort. He may be new to Montgomery, but he didn’t let that stop him from immersing himself into the community and his new job. He says, “From getting food at the wonderful farmer’s markets around town to pairing up with E.A.T. South and helping spread their message, I have met some wonderful people and learned about them too. The community gave me a shot to express myself and opened its arms to me and has made me feel as if I have been here for years already.” That family feeling is reminiscent of his own family as his parents and grandparents influence his life by challenging him to set the bar high for himself. In his spare time, Brandon enjoys hanging out with his blond lab named Chip.
Candace Grice Cofer moved to Montgomery from Andalusia thirteen years ago and works as an interior designer and lighting consultant at Inline Lighting. She started her career at The Lighting Fair and has been with Inline Lighting for the past six years working very closely with builders, architects and other designers on new construction and remodel projects. She also enjoys working on complete design projects through her company, Candace Cofer Design, and recently designed the 2016 Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association Ideal Home. Seeing a project come together from the ground up is so rewarding to Candace and truly makes her heart smile. She says, “My mother’s strong work ethic and grandmother’s never-ending subscriptions to any and every home decorating magazine have inspired my love for design as well as being self motivated.” She enjoys being involved with the Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association and attending The Church of The Highlands. Her charismatic daughter, 8-year-old Madisen, is her entire world. She is inspired by Montgomery’s old Southern charm and its continuing revitalization. In her spare time, Candace loves traveling, cooking with her daughter and looks for any reason to plan a party.
As a CPA for the Alabama Farmers Federation and owner of Prevail Union Montgomery, a craft coffee shop in downtown Montgomery, Phillip Lee Johns is nothing short of busy. He stays motivated daily by Christ and his inherit desire to build others up to be the best they can be. This led to his love for community, and Phillip always longed for a true community coffee shop in Montgomery. Prevail Union opened in September of 2016, and he was blown away by the love and support it has received. Phillip graduated from the University of Alabama in 2010 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in business administration. He says, “In my day job, I love that I am a problem solver. I am able to help people see through the weeds in problems, while handling complex transactions and make sure items are recorded correctly. On the coffee shop side, I love that we get to be a part of the community directly and help bring people together over a quality cup of coffee.” In his occasional spare time, Phillip loves playing golf, running, writing, making coffee and walking with his family around their neighborhood, Hampstead. He and his wife, Brooke, welcomed their first son, Beckett, born in September.
Allison Muhlendorf has a passion for early childhood education. As executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, Allison works with partner organizations and stakeholders to promote high quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten as a top statewide priority. Since joining ASRA in 2012, she has advocated for a visionary set of recommendations for expanding high-quality pre-k in Alabama and has had great success. Under her leadership, state investments in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program have grown from $19 million to $64.5 million, and the percentage of children enrolled has grown from six to 25 percent of four year olds statewide. She received the prestigious 2016 President’s Award from the Southern Early Childhood Association for her significant contributions to fostering the growth and development of early childhood professionals. Her passion started as a pre-k assistant at La Mesa First United Methodist Church in her hometown of San Diego, California and was fueled by her mother, who worked in the early childhood field. Allison says, “All children deserve the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential. I love knowing that I play a small part in making that happen.” Allison has also served as president of the Junior Executive Board of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. She lives with her husband, Adam, and their dog, Gypsy, and the couple loves live music, food and wine.
Brad Shaw, a self-professed tech and gadget nerd, has a passion for taking business challenges and turning them into technical solutions. As CEO and information technology director at Wilson Shaw I.T., his business is a hobby turned career. He says, “I get to wake up every day, go to a job that I love and work with outstanding team members and customers.” Brad has two bachelor’s degrees, one in business administration and one in network administration, and dozens of industry certifications. He has worked in this industry since he was 16 years old. For almost 20 years, Brad’s career has given him the opportunity to work in retail, with Fortune 100 businesses, local government and information technology consulting. His many mentors have helped guide him, but the most important advice he received is that good customer service and relations is the number one driver for success in business. Wilson Shaw I.T. has grown tremendously since its start in 2010, and he gives thanks to the support from the Montgomery community. He gives back by serving on the board of the Cleveland Avenue YMCA, as co-chairman for the YMCA Golf Tournament and as a board member for Music Education on Wheels. Brad and his wife, Jessica, have two children, 9-year-old Madison and 7-year-old Matthew.
As director of communications at the Alabama State Department of Education, Michael O. Sibley possesses an optimistic outlook on life, as well as in his career. He received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Troy University, a master’s degree in management from Troy Montgomery and a Doctorate in education leadership, policy and law from Alabama State University. He says, “We owe it to ourselves to stretch…go just a little beyond what we think is doable. It requires faith and hard work, but it not only demonstrates our own abilities, achieving a goal once thought unobtainable also teaches us we need each other and we need God. All things really are possible.” He enjoys promoting the wonderful things going on in Alabama’s public schools such as the innovation and technology, the arts and career technical education, to name a few. Michael is very active in the community and his church, Unity United Church of Christ, and participates in monthly S.W.A.G. Sessions (Students with Adult Guidance) that allow young people an opportunity to talk to adults without judgment. In his spare time, he enjoys graphic arts and publication layout design. He’s a founding member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Troy Alumni Chapter, and loves to spend time with his wife, Jameshia, and three daughters, Bria, Lauren and London.
Dr. LaKeshia Thomas
Dr. LaKeshia Thomas was born and raised in Montgomery. She attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, graduating magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She then attended the University Of Connecticut School Of Dental Medicine. After receiving her doctorate of dental medicine (D.M.D) in 2012, she furthered her dental training and education by attending an Advanced Education General Residency Program at the University Of Tennessee College Of Dentistry in Memphis. She has always had a passion for treating children and was elated to return to Alabama to begin her specialty training in pediatric dentistry at the University Of Alabama School Of Dentistry and the Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Dr. Thomas was thrilled to then return home and work as a pediatric dentist at her childhood dental office, Dentistry for Children. The community has been so receptive and warming, and she would like to thank the awesome parents and children at Dentistry for Children for trusting her to deliver high-quality oral care. She loves to support her community by volunteering at health fairs, participating in charity events and supporting local children’s sporting events. She enjoys biking, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends in her leisure time.
Desmond Wingard has been infatuated with television news since he was a kid watching Bob Howell on the 6 p.m. news. As assistant news director at WSFA 12 News, he is living out his dream. Desmond graduated from Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism in 2000, where he got real life TV news experience daily. He credits much of his success to the preparation he received at Troy. His parents and grandparents instilled a hard work ethic in him, which proved valuable while working the overnight shift as a morning news producer before he even graduated college. Desmond has worked in the television news industry in varying positions for 17 years, and he loves it. He says, “I have always had a big appetite for knowing what’s going on first and being the first to tell people about it. As long as I have been doing this, I still find it fun to find out something is going on, confirm it and get it out to our viewers.” Desmond serves the community through many WSFA sponsored events such as the Summer Fund and Food Drive for the Montgomery Area Food Bank, Toys for Tots, Christmas Clearinghouse, Montgomery Humane Society Adopt-a-thons and job fairs with the Alabama Department of Labor. He loves Southern food, football and working out at Orangetheory Fitness.