Oct. 20, 2022–Jim Smith / Chairman, Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission & Executive Chef, The Hummingbird Way “Alabama Seafood”

Bio: Chef Jim Smith


Chef Jim Smith is the Executive Chef and Owner of The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar in Mobile, AL.  The Hummingbird Way opened January 7, 2020 and is committed to serving the best local and sustainably sourced foods available.

Smith served as Executive Chef of the State of Alabama for 8 years.  As the state chef, he has placed an emphasis on Alabama ingredients and made strides to support Alabama farmers and fishers. He used his position to be an ambassador for Alabama foods, to promote farmer’s markets, and events that support Alabama food products.

In 2011 he was crowned the King of American Seafood by winning The Great American Seafood-Cook-Off and became the national spokesperson for Alabama Seafood, American Sustainable Seafood, Gulf Seafood and the NOAA.  As the winner he traveled the country educating Americans about the benefits of sustainable seafood.

Chef also serves as the Chairman of The Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission.  In his position as Chairman, Chef Smith is proud to be a part of the great work being done to promote Alabama Seafood.  He is also a Chef Advocate for Wild American Shrimp.  He has been working closely with The James Beard Foundation for years as a Boot Camp for Policy and Change Alum and supporter of James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch Sustainable Seafood and Scholarship Programs.  He is also an active member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

Chef Smith is best known for his appearances in seasons fourteen and sixteen of the Bravo television cooking competition show, Top Chef.  Smith finished in the top ten and was a fan favorite.  He is very proud of the time he spent on Top Chef and how he represented himself and the state of Alabama.


Oct. 27, 2022–Bradley Byrne / CEO, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce “Business in Mobile”

Bradley Byrne has been named the next president and chief executive
officer of the Mobile Chamber. He has more than 30 years of experience
as an attorney in private practice and more than two decades of public
service. He is widely regarded as a thought and action leader who gets
things done.
Bradley spent four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives serving on
the Armed Services Committee and the Education and Labor Committee,
where he chaired the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. He was
appointed by two Speakers to the prestigious Rules Committee.
In Congress, Bradley was known as a fierce supporter of business and
industry, often leading on important issues where his experience in labor
law, workforce training, and education policy gave him a unique
perspective. Bradley has led initiatives that have increased access to
education and job training, benefiting Alabama’s workforce and
businesses alike.
Education Honors
Prior to serving in Congress, Bradley was an elected member of the Alabama State Board of Education and the
Alabama State Senate and was appointed as the Chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system. He also chaired
Alabama’s Workforce Planning Council.
As a lawyer, Bradley has represented numerous clients before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As a
member of Congress, he frequently dealt with these agencies and with the Department of Labor, including its Wage
and Hour Division.
Bradley is married to Rebecca Byrne, who is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of South Alabama,
and together they have four adult children.

Oct. 6, 2022–Dr. Charles Wu / Professor, Univ. of South Alabama “Taiwan”

Charles Wu Biography

Dr. Charles Wu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at South. His primary research interests fall into the intersection between International Relations and American Politics, and his research agenda focuses on the factors that influence public opinion on military operations overseas. Dr Wu’s academic and policy work have been published in Social Politics, Scientific Data, Journal of East Asian Studies, Journal of Asian and African Studies, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, The National Interest, The Diplomat, and The Pacific Forum. His latest coauthored book is Presidentialism, Violence, and the Prospect of Democracy (Lexington Book, 2021).

Sept. 29, 22–Candace Cooksey / City of Mobile “How to Grow Mobile”

Candace is a seasoned message management and communications professional for government agencies, political campaigns, elected officials, and corporations. Candace has managed or worked with over 70 political campaigns, including leading Mayor Stimpson’s two successful mayoral campaigns and building a strategy and winning team for his 3rd successful campaign in 2021.


Through the campaign consulting company she co-founded, Alexander Cooksey, she has run successful local, statewide and federal elections in all branches of government.


With 15 years of public opinion experience, she is battle-tested in crisis communications, campaign management, strategic communications, and political strategy. Candace has a strong track record of managing dynamic teams through complex and high-pressure operations.


Through the work of her company, Candace ushered in an era of data-driven campaigning to the South Alabama area. Using data from surveys, voter files, predictive modeling, and raw data sources has allowed her to develop successful micro-targeted communication strategies that can be emulated in many competitive market industries.


In August 2020, she accepted the position of Director of Communications for Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the City of Mobile. At the city, Candace oversees an award-winning communications team of talented professionals who are dedicated to serving the citizens. Since taking this role, Candace has implemented a new texting service for citizens to communicate with city government and instituted the “No Wrong Door” philosophy, allowing citizens multiple avenues for communicating with their city government.

Candace is a member of the Rotary Club of Mobile. She and her husband (Will Cooksey) attend Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mobile.


Sept. 22, 22–Dr. David Bronner / RSA

Bronner Bio

David George Bronner was born in Cresco, Iowa, on January 22, 1945. He obtained his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Mankato State University, now Minnesota State University. From 1967 to 1969 David Bronner was an instructor in the School of Business and Finance at Mankato State University.

In 1973, Dr. Bronner was invited to accept the CEO position with the Retirement Systems of Alabama where today he is Chief Executive Officer. It is his responsibility to invest the funds of that organization. Under his direction, these funds have increased from over $500 million to over 25 billion dollars, making the RSA the largest financial organization in Alabama. Dr. Bronner’s expertise in the field of finance is recognized throughout America.

For many years, Bronner has encouraged Alabama to increase tax revenue to provide adequate service for mental health, prisons, public safety, Medicaid, education, and seniors. He has urged the state to reform its 1901 Constitution, which is widely considered to be the longest in the world. Bronner constantly defends RSA from frequent efforts by politicians and interest groups who seek to gain access to RSA’s funds, reduce contributions, reduce benefits, and change the plan from a defined benefit to a defined contribution fund.

Bronner was named the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished Alabama Sportsman in 1994 (for developing Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail) and Citizen of the Year by the Alabama Broadcasters Association in 1999.


Sept. 15, 22–Chandra Brown / Lifelines

Chandra Brown is Executive Director of Lifelines Counseling Services, a United Way multi-service, nonprofit organization since 1958.  Lifelines Counseling Services provides crisis, emotional, financial and housing counseling and education to community members in southwest Alabama.  She became Executive Director in 2005.


A graduate of McGill-Toolen High School and an inductee into the McGill-Toolen Hall of Fame, Chandra majored as a dual major in pre-medicine and psychology at Xavier University in New Orleans. She has a Masters in community counseling from the University of South Alabama, where she was honored with the Lisa Bethea Kavanaugh, 40 Under 40 Award, along with Mobile Bay Monthly. She was recognized as a Gulf Coast Leader to Watch, a “Soul of Mobile” in November 2019 and FOCUS WC, 40 Over 40, in 2021..


Chandra serves as a board trustee on the University of South Alabama; serves on the regional advisory board for BB&T Bank; serves as the past board president for the Alabama Coalition Against Rape; served as the 2019 Class Dean for Leadership Mobile; is a graduate of Leadership Alabama XXX; served as JLM President in 2014-2015; and serves on the Alabama Contemporary Art Center Board of Directors along with the Alabama Humanities Alliance. She is married to Leonard Stewart, Jr., a native of Mississippi and is the proud “puppy” mom to Red, a lab-hound mix.


9-8-22–John Valentine / Executive Director, Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Dr. John Valentine, Executive Director

Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Biographical Information



Dr. John Valentine is the Executive Director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL). Before that, he served as Chair of the Sea Lab’s University Programs. Since arriving at DISL, he has written or co-authored over 90 grant proposals for research. Support for his research has come from both federal and state agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) and The Nature Conservancy. Some 75 students, technicians and post-doctoral students were supported by these efforts. He has been lead or second author on over 70 scientific articles. In addition, Dr. Valentine serves as an academic editor for the scientific journals Marine Ecology Progress Series and PLoSOne. He has also served as a panelist for U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, and NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program. He currently serves on the Executive Boards of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the MBNEP, and Alabama’s Forever Wild Program. Dr. Valentine is also a graduate of Leadership Alabama.

Sept. 1, 22–Cade Kistler / Mobile BayKeeper “Defending and Reviving our Coastal Waterways: A Job for All”

Bio – Cade grew up on Guntersville Lake in north Alabama. He got his degree in environmental science from Auburn and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service and at the former BAE shipyard in environmental compliance before coming to Mobile Baykeeper. In his spare time, Cade likes to kayak and bike, and snow-ski whenever he can. Cade, who served as Mobile Baykeeper’s Program Director for six years, now fills the Baykeeper role previously held by Casi Callaway. Cade is married and has two children, ages 5 and 2.

Aug. 25, 2022–Cart Blackwell & Tom McGehee / “George B. Rogers, Architect”

George B. Rogers

Architect George B. Rogers:  His Designs and His Clients

George B. Rogers was Mobile’s most prominent architect during the first decades of the 20th century.  Although a Chicagoan by birth, his marriage into an established Black Belt family gave him entre into Mobile’s Mardi Gras hierarchy and he became the architect of choice for the residential and commercial projects undertaken by the city’s elite.  As a charter member of the Rotary Club of Mobile it’s not surprising to find that many of those clients were also Rotarians.

Today architectural historian Cart Blackwell will highlight the designs chosen for a few of those projects while Tom McGehee will focus on the history of the clients themselves.